BOO BERRY, FRANKEN-BERRY, COUNT CHOCULA, FRUTE BRUTE & YUMMY MUMMY
In 1971, General Mills decided to create new cereals centered on mascots inspired by the classic Universal Monsters. That March they debuted Count Chocula (Jim Dukas impersonating Bela Lugosi who was best known for his role as Dracula, later Larry Kenney). Created by copywriter Laura Levine and first drawn by George Karn, he was a brown, single-fanged vampire who preferred the taste of chocolate to blood. It was touted as the first chocolate cereal to have chocolate-flavored marshmallows. The ads were produced by Dancer, Fitzgerald and Sample ad agency. In 1987, a bit of controversy arose when Chocula’s box featured an image of Lugosi as Dracula sporting his customary medallion. Jewish groups believed it was the Star of David and an insult to their faith, resulting in the medallion being edited off of the boxes.
Joining the Count that October was Franken-Berry (Bob McFadden, impersonating Boris Karloff who had played the Monster on film, later Rob Pruitt); a pink version of Frankenstein’s Monster who loved strawberries (which was fitting since that was his cereal’s flavor). The two began appearing in ads together, often fighting over whose cereal was the best. The Count probably got a bit of an advantage in that argument when the red dye originally used in Franken-Berry’s cereal proved unable to be digested, resulting in eaters’ excrement turning pink, causing a bit of a health scare. This was known as (what else?) “Franken-Berry Stool.”
In 1973, the next addition to the monster family came in the form of Boo Berry (Paul Frees, impersonating Peter Lorre, later Peter Waldren and Chris Phillips). Boo Berry’s cereal was blueberry flavored with blueberry-flavored marshmallows. He wore a straw hat with a bowtie, and could often be found scaring the Count and Franken-Berry.
The following year, the final monster in the official monster family was introduced with Fruit Brute; a werewolf who adorned a fruity cereal with lime-flavored marshmallows. Fruit Brute would become the first casualty of the monstrous quartet as his cereal underperformed in comparison to the others. The cereal was discontinued in 1982, although it did attain a cult status and fans often clamored for it to return. Fruit Brute cereal would go on to make an appearance in the movies Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.
In 1987, General Mills attempted to give the fruity cereal a new (after)life with a new mascot and name: Yummy Mummy, who blended Jamaican music with a traditional Egyptian sound in his commercials. While the fruity pieces were retained, the marshmallows were changed to vanilla-flavored. Unfortunately, it seemed like the public was against the fruity cereal and it was discontinued once again in 1992.
Over the years, the remaining monsters had their designs updated to coincide with the animation style of the times, featured a variety of premiums, and engaged in pop culture tie-ins by introducing Casper and Wendy marshmallows in 1998 for the film Casper Meets Wendy and Goosebumps and Scooby-Doo marshmallows in 1999. However, sales for the cereals began to steadily decline, gaining a massive spike only in the fall season; particularly in October. As a result, the cereals began to only be featured in select markets rather than being widely distributed; especially the less-popular Franken-Berry and Boo Berry. In 2010, the same year Betty Crocker released Franken-Berry and Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups and General Mills released Count Chocula cereal bars, General Mills began producing the monster cereals on a seasonal basis in the fall months.
|The five monster cereals, together again for the first time. Retro (above) and modern versions.|
In 2013, for the first time since their ending, Fruit Brute (renamed Frute Brute) and Yummy Mummy were bought back with the other cereals; making it also the first time all five cereals were available at the same time. Target exclusively carried the cereals with retro packaging, reminiscent of the cereals’ debuts. Even the aforementioned Fruit Roll-Ups and cereal bars received the retro touch despite not existing when the cereals began.
|The 2014 DC Comics editions of the boxes.|
In 2014, General Mills partnered with DC Comics to feature a re-imagining of their boxes using DC artists. Terry and Rachel Dodson rendered Count Chocula, Dave Johnson did Franken-Berry, and Jim Lee tackled Boo Berry. The boxes also featured a comic strip by Brent Schoonover. Target once again carried the retro versions of the box, each with a cut-out mask of the mascots.
|The 2022 KAWS boxes.|
In 2020, they teamed-up with special effects artist Karlee Morse to create busts of Chocula, Boo and Franken for a sweepstakes giveaway. For the line’s 50th anniversary in 2021 a special Monster Mash cereal was released, which combined elements from all five cereals into one. For 2022, Frute Brute returned as his own cherry-flavored cereal. General Mills also partnered with street artist KAWS and had him provide the art for the boxes in his distinctive style as part of a promotional giveaway for a set of miniature figurines designed by him.
|Monster Cereal bobble head statues.|
The cereals remain popular, with countless fan websites dedicated to them. Not popular enough for year-round production for General Mills, but enough to keep them coming back every year. Many of the boxes have become sought-after collector's items, on top of the merchandise featuring their respective characters. New merchandise continues to be made with them, including bobble-head statues, vinyl figures and action figures.
Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2020.