BOO BERRY, FRANKEN-BERRY, COUNT CHOCULA, FRUTE BRUTE & YUMMY MUMMY
the late 1960s, General Mills had developed new chocolate and strawberry-flavored formulas
that would not only could be infused into cereal and marshmallow pieces,
but would turn the milk into those flavors. They tasked their ad agency, Dancer, Fitzgerald
and Sample, with developing new mascots that
could adorn the cereals they hoped to launch with these new flavorings. In 1969,
Laura Levine would run through a gamut of famous fictional characters and pop
culture pairings before settling the classic Universal Monsters of Dracula and Frankenstein’s
monster. The concept and cereal-themed names were handed off to the art
department consisting of George
Karn and Bill Tollis to
come to life (so to speak).
of 1971 they finally debuted their first Monster Cereal: Count Chocula. 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, and also turned the milk into chocolate milk. Joining the Count
that October was Franken-Berry; a pink version of Frankenstein’s Monster that loved strawberries.; a pink version of Frankenstein’s
Monster who loved strawberries (which was fitting
since that was his cereal’s flavor).
animated commercial for the cereal, animated by Bill Melendez Productions, saw the two
monsters arguing with each other over whose cereal was better. However, they
were both frightened by a passing kid before they got very far into it. This
was Levin’s contribution, a twist to make both of them scaredy-cat monsters so
as to diminish their potential to frighten children. Jim Dukas supplied the voice of Chocula by doing an impersonation of Bela Lugosi; who was best known for his role as Dracula. Larry Kenney would replace him in 1978 upon his retirement. Bob McFadden was Frank, impersonating Boris Karloff who
had played the Monster on film. In 2009, 9 years after McFadden’s death, Rob Pruitt was brought
on by DFS’s successor, Saatchi &
Saatchi Advertising, to assume the role.
The Count likely got an advantage in their eternal 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 until doctors deduced the cause. This was known as (what else?) “Franken-Berry Stool.” However, Chocula would take his own bite out of controversy in 1987. As part of a promotion with Universal, they featured an image of Lugosi as Dracula sporting his customary medallion, which Jewish people saw as the Star of David and an insult to their faith as it seemed to imply validity to “Jewish Blood Libel”: the anti-Semitic belief that Jews would steal the blood of non-Jews to use in rituals. The medallion was edited off of the boxes in later shipments.
aside, both cereals proved immensely popular and General Mills tinkered with
adding another cereal to the line-up. In 1972 they tested out a
blueberry-flavored cereal before making it national the following year. The name
and mascot for this one was Boo Berry, a blue ghost who wore a straw hat and bowtie
and was adorned with chains tethered to a bowl and his cereal. In the
commercials, he could often be found putting a fright in Chocula and Frank. Paul Frees provided his voice, impersonating Peter Lorre who starred in a number of horror films. Peter Waldren would take over from Frees and Chris Phillips would inherit the role in 2009. Like Franken-Berry, Boo Berry’s
original dye was undigestible and turned stool green.
following year, Fruit Brute was introduced; a werewolf who adorned an unspecific
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 Quentin Tarantino movies Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In 1983, the remaining
cereals gained larger marshmallows with distinct shapes, that of their
corresponding monster’s head (they would change shapes in years following), and
in 1985 the cereal pieces became ghost-shaped.
General Mills attempted to give the fruity cereal a new (after)life with a new
mascot and name: Yummy Mummy, a colorfully-wrapped mummy that 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. However, Frank and Boo soon joined him as
they were quietly phased out with all the focus placed on Chocula’s cereal.
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. General Mills contemplated introducing a new mixed berry cereal, with Saatchi
& Saatchi art director Peter Bregman
designing several possible characters including Phantom-Berry, BerryPatchra,
Dr. JekyllBerry and Bride of Franken-Berry. They ultimately decided not to do
the cereal, stopped production of the commercials in the early 2000s, and
changed the cereal pieces from oat to corn. Eventually, 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
bars, the monster cereals were made available
only on a seasonal basis in the fall months where they experienced a massive
|The five monster cereals, together again for the first time. Retro (above) and modern versions.
for the first time since their ending, Fruit Brute (renamed Frute Brute so as
to avoid legal complications about declaring the cereal contained any real fruit)
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 their
debuts. Even the aforementioned Fruit Roll-Ups and cereal bars received
the retro touch despite not existing when the cereals began. Since
having two non-descript “fruit” cereals in the same line made no sense, Yummy
Mummy was now an orange creamsicle flavor while Frute Brute became cherry.
|The 2014 DC Comics editions of the boxes.
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
Mash cereal was released, which combined elements
(though not flavors) from all five cereals into one. For 2022, Frute
Brute returned and General Mills partnered with street artist KAWS to have
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.
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
Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2022.