Lucky Charms was a favorite cereal of my childhood. It’s the less spooky vanilla version of Count Chocula, one of General Mills’s monster-themed breakfast cereals which were first released in 1971 with the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry. Count Chocula is more difficult to find these days, especially outside of Halloween season. As for Lucky Charms, which are in no short supply, the last box of sugared oats and marbits that I saw had a wonderfully simple back-of-the-box game:
The Power to Fly activity (2011):
Fold the book at line A to make the launch ramp that will send your star marbit on its way. Flicking your star is allowed to see how many times you can follow Lucky through the cloud.
In this digital age, Lucky the Leprechaun believes he can entertain kids by asking them to cut out a piece of cardboard from a cereal box, fold it, and flick it into the hole in the box. Simplicity: scissors, sticky fingers, and adult supervision = breakfast fun.
To gain the Power to Fly, kids do not need their parents’ permission to access a promotional URL or download an app requiring access to Facebook. They need not dig through the lightly sweetened settled contents for a compact disc which must be inserted into a computer (obsolete but memory lane). All they have to do is cut and flick. That’s so refreshing. (Note: naturally, luckycharms.com does have an online game.)
To that end, enjoy this Count Chocula commercial from 1980:
The ad depicts the joy that kids experience from the activity of applying fake Count Chocula tattoos on their friends (again, no electricity required). Now that I’ve covered the first point about simple pleasures, in Part 2 I discuss the specious health positioning of major cereals and other food products so that this is not an advertisement for empty calories.
Fun cereal facts:
1) In 1963, microbiologist Pamela Low developed the original flavor for Cap’n Crunch by recalling a recipe of brown sugar and butter that her grandmother Luella Low served over rice at her home in Derry, New Hampshire.
2) Apple Jacks cereal was invented by William Thilly, a member of Delta Upsilon Technology Chapter and now a professor at MIT. It was introduced to the U.S. in 1965 as “Apple O’s.” In 1971 advertisers renamed it “Apple Jacks.”
It is considered acceptable to add an apostrophe to a single letter in the case of “Apple O’s.”
Original 3/22/11 post updated 6/25/14
This was an enjoyable read and took me back to childhood! (1) I love Lucky Charms (2) I remember playing paper football at lunch (3) also remember lunch boxes with games on the back where you spin a wheel to advance squares. I love the digital age, however simple is sometimes better! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
Paper football at lunch indeed. Simple can be so much better. At the lunch table, a food box is all kids have — at least until all third graders have smart phones they carry at school. This Lucky Charms activity is an instant gratification for kids, whereas requiring them to go online and register to play a little game is less gratifying and less social.
Never underestimate a cardboard box’s ability to entertain a child more than what it contained. Great article, Em! I love your writing.
Thanks Everett. I am so glad kids can still be entertained by cardboard boxes. I wrote another post about Shining Stars cereal (Kroger brand). I am developing a fixation on cereal branding. Let me know if you see anything.
I dread chewing on a Lucky Charm marshmallow dry… that sensation eerily reminds me of chalkboards.
Cereal prices keep going up somehow, even in a time when corn is subsidized to the point farmers are paid not to grow it.
With the prices of cereal these days kids should be getting cell phone cases in the boxes.
Yet… I have not seen a plastic toy in a box for years.
Exactly: Where did the plastic toys go? Yes, dry Lucky Charms marshmallows are chalky, just like Valentines conversation hearts. Yet they are delicious. General Mills should vitamin-fortify the mallows because kids pick out the oat bits and eat just the chalky part.
Takes “playing with your food” to a new level. Love it. Fruit Loops was my favorite until they added that nasty blue one and totally changed the dynamic of flavor. Why must they mess with a good thing? Lucky Charms may change a shape/ color but has stuck w/ tradition on taste..Kudos!
Sticking with tradition can be a great thing. There have been several snafus in the last couple years when big brands tried to change their logos – e.g. Gap, Tropicana, and Starbucks. General Mills has banked on the recognizability of Lucky the Leprechaun and keeping the same font even though the look and feel has modernized gradually since the cereal’s debut. You’re right that the taste hasn’t changed and that is a selling point. There are often too many flavors and varieties of products at the grocery store. Simple works.