Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Tribute to General Mills’ “Monster Cereals!”

Count Chocula! Boo Berry! Franken Berry! Hooray! 

Whenever people ask me why I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian god, I have no problems pinpointing my first grievance with the supposed almighty.

“If there really is a god, then how come he doesn’t let them sell Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry all year round?”

Richie Dawkins himself couldn’t drum up a better argument against the existence of intelligent design. If I had to come up with a list of the greatest cosmic tragedies of them all, I’m pretty sure the fact that you can only score General Mills’ “Monster Cereal” for one measly month of the calendar year would be really high up there. With all of this nonsense going on about corporate bailouts and warfare in sub-Sahara Africa, where is the United Nations council on this modern atrocity? Surely, this has to qualify as a human rights violation to some degree, right?

The really sad thing here is that I recall a day not too long ago where you could waltz into any big box mart store in the country and amble out with a box of horror-themed chocolate, blueberry AND strawberry flavored cereals for about the same cost as a 2 GB travel drive. As a kid, I was never really the biggest consumer of cereal (unless the proof of purchase mail-in was really tempting - fourteen years down the road, and I’m STILL waiting for that Nickelodeon glow-in-the dark football, Kelloggs!), but for what should be glaringly obvious reasons, the General Mills “Monster Cereals” were a totally different story.

As a wee young lad, I loved any and all things horror and Halloween related. A decade and a half later, and I STILL love any and all things horror and Halloween related, and that youthful fervor for the Count, the Boo, and the Franken (no, not THAT kind of Franken) has yet to subside. In fact, I probably dig this super-sugar-soaked stuff NOW more than I did during the first Bush administration - and believe you me, we ALL needed our super-sugar-soaked breakfasts back then and then some.

As part of some horrible, horrible deal struck up by General Mills and undoubtedly Satan and the late Osama bin Laden, the company signed some sort of arrangement with Target so that the trifecta of horror cereals - once so widely available to all, is should be in a truly democratic society - have been relegated to seasonal items only. That means if you want Count Chocula, Boo Berry or Franken Berry, you’re going to have to stock up come the middle of October, or you’re S.O.L. for the next 365 days.

[HOARDER NOTE: A few years ago, I got a tip-off from a reader that told me that you can net surplus “Monster Cereal” up until Christmas at overstock stores like Big Lots, and for relatively cheap prices, too. So if you ABSOLUTELY feel the need for Boo Berry come St. Patrick’s Day, you know where to go.]

A lot of people have asked me what the appeal of these cereals is, exactly. To me, this is as absurd a question as I can dare ponder, because I reckon it’s so GULDARN obvious: eating any of the “Monster Cereals” is like eating a bowl of Halloween for breakfast. Forget your Captain Crunch or your Fruity Peebles, when you chow down on Franken Berry or Count Chocula, it’s like wolfing down the first three Castlevania games as a meal. More so than just about any breakfast cereal I can think of, the “Monster” selection from General Mills makes breakfast feel like an experience: the first time you scoop up a spoonful of blood-colored milk and cram rice puff ghosts and marshmallow bats into your maw, it’s like ingesting the unholy Eucharist of some Pagan ritual, the breakfast equivalent of having one of those evil earwigs from “Star Trek II” jammed into your cochlea. Typically, that’s the sort of food-based sensation that you’d only get if you ate bad meat or really good feta cheese, and with the General Mills assortment, you get to experience such ON A DAILY BASIS.

You know what I think you need? I think you need a role call of the “Monster Cereal” icons. Let’s begin with the most famous of them all, shall we?


Count Chocula is the great granddaddy of the “Monster Cereal” movement, and his claim to fame is that HIS cereal boasted the first chocolate-flavored marshmallows of ANY cereal on the market. As soon as you open up a bag, you get a whiff of chocolate ghosts and marshmallow bats. . .essentially, what a chocolate graveyard would look and smell like. Although originally modeled after Bela Lugosi, the redesigned Count these days looks more like that stupid bird from the Cocoa Puffs commercials: I suppose it could be worse though - a few years down the line, and they may just go ahead and remodel him as a glittery, metro sexual teenaged vampire. SHUDDER.


Purportedly, Boo Berry was the first blueberry flavored cereal on the U.S. market. What’s even more awesome, however, is that the eponymous character was actually modeled after Peter Lorre’s character in “M.” That means that Boo Berry, the mascot for a children’s breakfast cereal, is modeled after A REAL LIFE CHILD MURDERER. And if you think that’s bad, just wait until you hear who Smacks the Frog was patterned after. . .

If you held me at gunpoint and forced me to pick just ONE of the “Monster Cereals” to call my favorite, I would probably go with this one, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I am a HUGE mark for any and all things blueberry scented, and secondly, I swear, this thing packs more fiber in one bowl than you would get from a lifetime of snorting Metamucil. Dieters, take note: before I went on my first major Boo Berry kick, I weighed 300 pounds. Nowadays, I think my BMI number is lower than the number of Gs on most smart phones, so take it from me: THE ALL BOO MEAL PLAN WORKS.


Franken Berry, if you believe the Internet, was the first strawberry flavored cereal in North America. It’s also perhaps the least appreciated of the “Monster Cereals”, which is a major shame; aesthetically, I think those neon-pink ghosts are probably the prettiest looking cereal bits I’ve ever encountered.

Franken Berry, of course, is modeled after a certain iconic Boris Karloff character (that’s right, that dude from "Targets.") The thing I always loved about this cereal was that if you added skim milk to the bowl, the entire dish would turn into a blood bath, with the red cereal chunks dying the liquid a deep crimson hue. Franken Berry, most certainly, is perhaps the most violent cereal ever marketed toward a child audience. . .which is sort of a mixed message, seeing as how the titular character seems to have a fondness for painting his fingernails to resemble strawberries. Hmm. . .an allusion to “Psycho,” perhaps?

As an added bonus, this year’s cereal boxes contain a SECRET comic book that tells the tale of how Boo Berry scared the bejeebers out of the Count and Frankie. Disappointingly, the comic is the exact same on each box, which makes you ponder just WHY General Mills didn’t go all out as far as premiums go. I mean, these are items that are only mass marketed for a few weeks, and the best they could spring for was a crummy comic sans even a real punch line? I guess a glow in the dark key chain or wind-up toy is probably asking too much, but you honestly mean to tell me that it was impossible to throw in a cardboard cut-out mask, or finger puppets, or something? Sheesh, we must REALLY be in a recession if the titans of breakfast cereals can’t whip out the A plus premiums.

And just for good measure, here’s two side by side shots, in case you were wondering what the cereals would look like if you stacked them in volume formatting on your bookcase. And if you genuinely wondered what that would look like, congrats on maintaining your virginity for the next decade or so.

Since this is the spookiest time of year, we also get two ADDITIONAL products: if you can believe it, BOO BERRY AND FRANKEN BERRY FLAVORED FRUIT ROLL-UPS. 

Now, admittedly, I’ve never really been a big fan of Fruit Roll-Ups, but then again, those Fruit Roll-Ups haven’t been endorsed by Boo Berry or Franken Berry before, either. If you’re unfamiliar with how such a delicacy works, it’s basically this space age food stuff that’s really nothing more than artificial fruit flavored wax paper. According to some in the know, you’re supposed to be able to pop out certain markings and logos on the roll-up, but yeah, we we’re supposed to have buildings that weigh less than your standard cookware by now, too, so take that sagacity with a grain or two of salt.

As far as the roll-ups themselves, the packaging is pretty nice, I suppose. . .even if at first glance, they look more like Boo and Franken Berry endorsed tampons than chewy candies.

All in all, I really cannot say I was too impressed by Boo and Frank’s foray into non-cereal ventures. To be fair, it is sort of cool that Boo’s roll-ups have super feint, ghost like images on them, but that’s probably just a printing error passed off as a product feature. Now, I’m a pretty big fan of processed food, but this stuff was just too plastic even for my liking. As you chew the stuff into smithereens, it really doesn’t feel like you are imbibing anything of considerable nutritional merit - or anything that is even REMOTELY organic, for that matter. I’m not really sure what kind of mood you would have to be in to enjoy these things, but if you ever get the hankering to chew on blueberry scented leather, this is probably your safest outlet to do so. 

The roll-up may be nothing more than a novelty, but I have ZERO complaints about the cereals themselves. Say what you will about the lackluster packaging decisions, the fact of the matter is that all three of these cereals flat out RULE and unless you had your taste buds singed off in some horrific childhood accident, you ought to find them just as tantalizing and tasty as I do. 

In fact, I’ll let you in on a secret that only me and a few other Free Masons (plus a couple of REALLY stoned college kids) have figured out. If you want an absolutely unforgettable gustatory experience, try merging all three of the cereals into a single meal

Seriously, how can you not watch that and automatically feel your tummy rumbling? Well, OK, if you have diabetes or something, maybe, but that’s a point of digression. The important thing is, the big three “Monster Cereals” are here, and in a few days, they’ll be whisked away to some warehouse in New Jersey somewhere, as us General Mills fans will have to anxiously await another year to our grubby, sausage like mitts on Count Chocula and Franken Berry.

Sigh. . .like life in general, the Monster Cereals are fleeting. Best enjoy both while you still have the capacity to do so. 

But if you only have time for one, yeah, I’d vouch for picking up the cereals.


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