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.
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.
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.
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.