Once a year I get to indulge my love of the Monster Cereals—Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry, and once a year I’m disappointed that they never bring back Yummy Mummy or my personal favorite Fruit Brute.
Not that going retro is necessarily bad, but just repeating the past is lazy even if it is the 50th anniversary. There’s a reason the 1988 remake of The Blob is still worth watching Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of Psycho isn’t.
Then I turned a corner and there was this:
NO NO NO. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? THIS IS AN ABOMINATION AND SHOULD NOT EXIST. NOT IN ANY SIZE.
So when I got home the first thing I did was check out the “ghosts”, which seem to have replaced the standard crunch berries.
If you look carefully the ghosts have green spots because, hey, if there’s one thing kids love it’s green stuff in their food.
These become more pronounced when you add milk. I also let it sit for a few minutes because Cap’n Crunch is also known as “the mouth shredder”.
And I’ve gotta give ‘em credit—truth in advertising. The cereal turns the milk a sea foam shade of green that’s almost but not quite entirely unappetizing. It also makes the milk a little slimy in a wow-do-I-need-to-brush-my-teeth kind of way.
It does the same if you add it to water.
That’s where the real fun comes in. You can make the milk, or water, an even darker shade of green by filtering out the cereal and adding more. I didn’t go too far because I was already getting a sugar buzz by my seventh bowl, but this is a fun cereal for the mad scientist, or pretty much anyone who likes to play with their food. And check out the artwork on the box: the shading, the coloring. They’ve turned the staid old cap’n into a demented Victor Frankenstein unleashing a slimy green milk horror on the world. Every part of it is a damn work of art.
Monster cereals are my once-a-year indulgence. Well, I have throughout-the-year indulgences, but monster cereals are only available in the fall. I also limit myself to only one box of each which is why it’s probably just as well they only bring back Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and BooBerry—although I would welcome the return of Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy. And I think I’m showing pretty remarkable restraint considering I wasn’t allowed to have monster cereals when I was a kid—my mother went on an anti-sugar kick because she thought it was making me hyperactive and moody and she gave me shredded wheat that made me just moody because it was like eating the inside of a used tea bag, but that’s another story. And of all the sugary cereals in the stores monster cereals were really the ones I wanted. It didn’t help that I remember when they were on the shelves all year. It helped even less that we would go to the now-defunct Opryland every summer and for a few years they had a deal with General Mills and people dressed up as Franken Berry and Count Chocula wandered around in the sweltering heat and I thought, wow, they must get free cereal for doing that, and not, wow, I’m surprised they’re not passing out because they’re wearing heavy costumes and it’s ninety degrees out here, or maybe I should have thought, what do Count Chocula and Frankenberry have to do with country music? I did wonder why it was always those two. They never had a BooBerry costume, or even Fruit Brute, and the costumes were dropped from Opryland’s cast of characters before Yummy Mummy was released. In its final few years–Opryland shut down for good in 1997–they had Halloween events and I think a small parade of monster cereals would have been kind of fun.
Count Chocula turns the milk chocolatey.
General Mills also purchased the Opryland property and replaced the theme park with a giant mall, but at their flagship mall in Minnesota in 2000 they opened a 16,000 square foot “Cereal Adventure” where you could get a bowl of BooBerry at the “cereal bar” and it was so successful they shut it down three years later.
Here’s an even more fun fact: in 1984 the monster cereals got new theme music played by a full orchestra that included a harpsichord, a wood block, a glockenspiel, a marimba, a toy piano, tubular bells, and a slide whistle. And also stock music from The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms for overkill.
Boo Berry turns the milk blue berry-ish.
Yes, it was just advertising, but there were adults who put real thought into it—there was, so to speak, more depth in the packaging than the cereal itself. Count Chocula isn’t just a one-toothed chocolatey vampire: his voice is based on Bela Lugosi, who played Dracula. Franken Berry is based on Boris Karloff, who was Frankenstein’s monster. And Boo Berry is based on Peter Lorre who was, um, a supporting character in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. How many cinematic ghosts can you think of? And Peter Lorre was a cool guy who worked with Bertolt Brecht, and how often do you get to connect your breakfast to German Expressionist theater? Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy should have been based on Lon Chaney Jr. and also Karloff, or possibly David Gale, but I’ll let that go, just like I don’t mind that they never got around to my favorite Universal monster because, let’s face it, a Creature From The Black Lagoon cereal would probably taste like the inside of a used tea bag.
Franken Berry turns the milk blue. WHY DOES IT TURN IT BLUE?
These nuances were lost in me when I was a kid but they add to the pleasure of eating monster cereals as an adult—well, they’re really the only pleasure because the cereals don’t taste that good, but it makes me happy to finish a bowl and use the leftover milk to sweeten my morning coffee, blending young and old.
The other day I was browsing a local market. Well, actually I was looking for something specific but I completely forgot what it was I was supposed to get because I turned a corner and there was this:
And I said, no, no, no. That is wrong. That is wrong on so many levels. Specifically it’s wrong on three levels. Or five in some years, and really it should be five all the time, but the powers that be, or rather the powers that produce, only occasionally release two of their charges.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, and if you don’t know, don’t worry, because most of the time I don’t know what I’m talking about either, I turned another corner and there they were.
Yes, it’s that time of year again: time for Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry to make a welcome return appearance. Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy remain in the vault for at least another year, which is sad because they could tie in nicely with The Addams Family too. And it bugs me that you have to download the pumpkin carving stencils, but not nearly as much as the fact that the clock on the back of the boxes goes to thirteen but skips from one to three. Why, cereal box artist, could you not have a clock with thirteen hours?
The Monster Cereals are the only ones that deserve to be called spooky because a Monster Cereal commercial gave me nightmares when I was a kid and, let’s face it, no matter how you dress ‘em up Froot Loops are never going to be spooky. You could pour live maggots over your Froot Loops and it wouldn’t make them spooky, although it would make them taste better and be a great way to add protein to your breakfast, but that’s another story. And if Tony The Tiger got anywhere near The Addams Family he’d be skinned alive and turned into a rug. And I have no idea what’s going on with Apple Jacks, a cereal whose mascots appear to be a walking stick insect and a shrunken head. Okay, that is a little bit spooky.
It’s that time of year again—specifically the time of year that makes my wife ask, “How old are you?” And she’s got a point. It’s one thing to eat an entire box of sugary cereal when you’re young—say, thirty-seven—but it gets more difficult as the years go by and I think more and more about my health. This is especially true of the Monster Cereals. Boo Berry turns the milk a bluish color, Frankenberry turns the milk pink, and Count Chocula makes the milk a pale brown, all of which, these days, makes me think of various bodily fluids. And also a little glad that they haven’t brought back Yummy Mummy or my personal favorite Fruit Brute because multicolored milk is more than I can handle on some mornings depending on what the night before was like, but that’s another story.
For that price it should be in perfect condition. But not “mint condition” because mint is terrible flavor for cereal.
And then of course once all the cereal bits are gone and there’s nothing but colored milk left I tip up the bowl and drink, because I’m still young enough to do that, and expect to be for at least six or seven more decades.
Everyone except Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy.
Anyway I hope I haven’t ruined the annual return of the Monster Cereals for anyone because 18.1 ounces may not sound like much, but that’s dry weight and also more than half a kilogram, and at my age I could really use some help finishing all this.
It’s that time of year and also time for another quiz. Halloween is the season of monsters and death and ghosts and skeletons and demons and scary clowns and also the only time I can get the Monster Cereals, all of which makes it my favorite holiday. The candy is just, er, the icing on the cake. And the cake filled with blood and entrails and releases bats and ravens and tarantulas and hideous creatures from another planet when you cut into it, but that’s another story.
For this particular quiz I reached into the darkest, deepest, most horrifying recesses of my subconscious–in other words to my childhood.
The truth is I get excited about Halloween because it’s the only time of year I can get the monster cereals. When I was a kid Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry were available year-round, and for a while there was even Yummy Mummy. For my own particular reasons I’d also welcome the return of Fruit Brute, but that’s another story.
Even though they were available I couldn’t have monster cereals when I was a kid. This was mainly because my mother had read Why Your Child Is Hyperactive by Benjamin Feingold and concluded that sugar was making me not only hyperactive but also frequently moody. And to her credit I did seem to feel a lot better when I was switched to shredded wheat—although for some reason she didn’t buy the regular shredded wheat cereal that came in little tiny squares but a mutant shredded wheat that came in huge biscuits and had the same texture and taste as steel wool. Two were enough to fill a bowl and I could rarely finish one, so maybe things changed because I didn’t have the energy to be hyperactive.
Hey, they’re actually healthy!
It’s also probably a good thing I never had monster cereals when I was a kid because one of the commercials—I swear this is true—gave me nightmares. Or at least a nightmare. At the end of a commercial Boo Berry, who’s switched off the lights, says, “I’m in the dark!” Frankenberry says, “Me too!” An unseen three-eyed monster adds, “Me three!” The other two run off in terror.
Shortly afterward I had a nightmare that a man came into my room and hypnotized me so I could be eaten by a giant three-eyed monster.
Shredded wheat did nothing to diminish my hyperactive imagination.
I didn’t really miss the monster cereals having never had them, but at times it did feel like they were taunting me. For a brief time General Mills had some kind of commercial agreement with the now-defunct theme park Opryland and you could occasionally see Frankenberry or Count Chocula strolling among the rides. I never did see Boo Berry but I guess he was floating around somewhere. Boo Berry was the one I always wanted to try, partly because it was blue and therefore the most clearly unnatural of the monster cereals, but also because he sounded like Peter Lorre. As a short overweight kid with a funny voice I always felt a kinship with Lorre.
Now that I’m an adult I can enjoy the monster cereals and if I get hyperactive or moody I can go for a run or do something to clear my head. Admittedly even at this time of year the cereals still aren’t exactly easy to find. My regular grocery store doesn’t carry them. The only place I found that does is a big box store that shall remain nameless because I’ve given out enough free advertising as it is. Last year the monster cereals were in with the Halloween costumes because they’re basically made from the same material. This year they weren’t so I tried looking—strange as it may seem—in the food section. No luck. Finally a helpful employee directed me to a temporary stand in the middle of the baby clothes—again, basically the same material.
Eating the monster cereals has even been an educational experience. Here are some things I’ve learned:
-In milk Count Chocula will quickly go from dark brown to light brown and tastes a lot like shredded wheat. The other two don’t taste like any berry I’ve ever tried, but are pretty sweet. And fortunately Frankenberry’s head has been redrawn so it looks less like an ass.
From the back of the box: a series of pictures showing how his ass-head has evolved.
-One of the advantages of being a grownup is I can eat a bowl of each one right after the other.
-One of the disadvantages of being a grownup is if I eat a bowl of each one right after the other I get sick.
-All three use the same design. I guess really they’re all ghosts.
Also the marshmallows have been replaced by 100% recyclable packing material.
The most annoying thing is the cereals only come in mutant “family size” boxes. Who am I going to get to help me eat all this cereal?
Yeah, I admit it, I’ll eat it all myself. And then I’ll be hyperactive and moody and need shredded wheat or maybe just eat some steel wool to detox.
Here’s a collection of monster cereal commercials. The one that gave me a nightmare starts at around the 9 minute mark.