Monday, September 16, 2013

General Mills Monster Cereals -- Retro Box Blowout!

The iconic breakfast cereals limited-edition retro box form, no less!

Unless you've been living underneath a rock on Pluto for the last two months, you've probably heard about General Mills' genius plan to bring back its' two long-shelved (yet long-clamored for) "lost" monster cereals -- that being, Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy. Proving yet again that our side has won the Culture War, not only did General Mills re-launch the two horror cereals for Halloween 2013, they even released some special edition boxes of the delectable foodstuffs, modeled after the iconic packaging of the 1970s and 1980s!

My adulation for the General Mills family of monster cereals is well-documented, and really doesn't need reiterating at this point. That said, count me in as part of the legion of fans that are absolutely ECSTATIC about the relaunched brands, not to mention these Target-only exclusive boxes which, in all sincerity, probably deserve to be framed in the Louvre and shit.

Oh, Frute Brute. Oh Yummy Mummy. How we've longed for your return! The boxes here look spot on, and from what I recollect, the cereals themselves taste pretty dadgum similar to the original products, too. Let's take a look at these individual boxes in greater detail, shall we? 

What more needs to be said about Count Chocula? Clearly, his cereal is perhaps the most iconic of the bunch, and this box, despite being simplistic, is downright beautiful in its minimal aesthetics. You get some brown, some white, and just enough peach to make the Count look quasi-Anglican. I also really like how he's holding the spoon in such a dainty fashion -- no doubt, this choco-vampire has the austere charm and delicacy of a Bela Lugosi. Well, pre-doing a whole bunch of morphine and making Ed Wood movies Bela Lugosi, I suppose. 

The attention to detail on this box of Franken Berry is just amazing. Note the retro smattering of pink on the strawberry, like it was a printing smear or something. That's what I call going above and beyond the call of duty right there. Theoretically, going with a strawberry flavored Frankenstein is something of a risky move -- since Frankenstein's monster is typically depicted as green in hue, it perhaps would have been more conventional to have gone with a lime scheme -- but General Mills definitely succeeded with their gamble. I also really like how Franken Berry doesn't look anything at all like the Boris Karloff iteration of the character -- in fact, it's almost as if Franken Berry looks a tad robotic, as something of a steam-punk forerunner. And perhaps scoring LGBT rights points 40 years years before it was cool, this Frankenstein, apparently, don't feel no shame in sporting a bright pink manicure, neither.

Of all the General Mills monster cereals, I'd probably pick Boo Berry as my absolute favorite. For starters, it's pretty much the only good artificial blueberry flavored cereal on the market, and secondly, the character himself is modeled after Peter Lorre's character in "M" -- so, quite literally, the fine marketing folks at the other GM decided to create a children's breakfast mascot based on one of the most notorious child murderers in cinema history. That's kinda' like finding out the Pillsbury Dough Boy was modeled after John Wayne Gacy or something. As for the design of the box, I once again dig the simplistic pattern, which is more or less a two-color scheme of blue and white (and for reasons I really can't explain, I absolutely ADORE the little blue bubbles acting as a hyphen between "Boo" and "Berry" text.) Now, if only modern science could fully explain how one's digestive tract turns the purple cereal spinach-green in one's lower intestine, I'd be 100 percent satisfied with life as we know it. 

And now we come to Frute Brute, the first of two General Mills horror-cereals that's making their triumphant return to store shelves this Halloween. Out of all of the packages, I think this one might just be my favorite. For one, it's definitely the most colorful of the five, and there are just so many subtle -- yet awesome touches -- like Frute Brute's multi-colored suspenders and the orange and dark red strawberries positioned right next to the logo. I guess there's not too much you can do with an anthropomorphic wolf character, but I think GM did a pretty good job here. I especially dig the spiky fur and the almost but not quite uni-brow the titular mascot has going on. If they ever make a live-action movie, I think either of the Gallagher brothers would do nicely in the role.  

While strawberry flavored cereals really aren't that atypical, you really don't see that many cherry-flavored cereals on store shelves. On the surface, it's somewhat understandable -- traditionally, cherry has been one of the harder fruit flavors to recreate faithfully in artificial breakfast form -- but Frute Brute actually does taste pretty damn delicious, with a sweet cherry flavor that, while definitely noticeable, isn't too overwhelming, either. Really, that's the great thing, gustatorily, about these GM cereals -- it's not just that they have decent fruit flavors, it's the fact that they have such fine-tuned flavors that DON'T taste like novelty air-fresheners. The flavor chemists at GM deserve a pay raise, I tell you what.

And lastly, we come to Yummy Mummy, the other returning favorite for 2013. The design of the box is absolutely gorgeous, with lots of red and yellow and light pink -- in essence, it's like starring at an edible mural of the old Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo, or Mario after he eats a fire flower in "SMB 3." Yeah, it's kitschy as all hell, but when was that ever a negative for the All Hallow's Eve season?

As far as the cereal itself goes, it is indeed quite groovy, with a solid orange cream-sicle taste that, surprisingly, isn't nauseating or too artificial tasting. My great fear was that the stuff would taste really super-duper saccharine, like Fruity Pebbles and its ilk, but it actually has quite a subtle taste and texture. Traditionally, I'm not a fan of the citrus-flavored breakfast comestibles, but I'll be damned if Yummy Mummy didn't convert me. 

The back of all five packages are identical, with each featuring updated character designs in a comic that sorta' explains the background of Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute. And of course, the story ends with all five characters battling over a single container of milk, which, if you ask me, is actually a sly commentary on wealth inequity in America. Or not, but it probably is. 

Getting so many bonus points you would not believe, General Mills not only included some fine "Mega Monster Trivia" on the side panels of each cereal box, they even went the extra mile and made EACH set of questions on the brands different. That means if you buy all five retro boxes, you're going to learn at least 25 nuggets of wisdom that you didn't know earlier, like what Frute Brute's original catchphrase was ("the howling good taste of frute!") AND the fact that, at one point, BIGFOOT appeared on the packages of General Mills monster cereals. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent a good hour scouring the Internet to find photo- or video-graphic evidence of such. Anybody out there want to confirm this thing for us audiovisually?

And here's our rich panoply of multi-hued, multi-flavored monster cereals. As you can no doubt see, there's something of a "dark to lightest" spectrum going on here, with Count Chocula serving as one endcap of the rainbow and Yummy Mummy acting as the other.

Of course, with all of the cereals housed together in one room, I suppose it's only inevitable that I would get the urge to merge all of them into a single bowl of Halloween good cheer. Well, Halloween good cheer, with a side of soy milk, anyway. 

And here's the end dividend of dumping five boxes of limited-time only retro cereal into one translucent container. There's definitely a Fruity Pebbles vibe going on here, but the cereal bits certainly appear a whole lot bulkier. The hard part after this, I guess, is finding a way to begin my mornings WITHOUT slaking upon a heaping bowl of artificially flavored rainbow ghosts once these things officially go out of season.

And for good measure, here's an up-close shot of the Transylvanian pell-mell. If you're wondering what the dish tasted like, it's pretty hard to describe. Peculiarly, I don't think any one flavor took dominance over the others, so I could actually taste each and every individual cereal as I chewed it WITHOUT the combination as a whole merging into some weird-ass torrent of orange-choco-cherry-berry. It's a hard sensation to describe, I know, but trust me -- it's a really unique and, even stranger --not really all that gross of one, either.

So, at the end of the day, what more can be said about these delicious breakfast delicacies? As we all know, Count Chocula and the two Berries are among the finest individual breakfast cereals out there regardless of season, and I have to say I am quite pleased with how Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute turned out as well. As stated earlier, these retro boxes are Target exclusives, so if you don't have any chains in your neck of the woods, well, you might want to hit up the Google Maps and see what's around you. I'm not quite sure if General Mills will trot out Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute every year (even though they should), but a positive fan reaction this Halloween ought to be more than enough to get them to make them an annual offering. And hey, why stop there? If these things sell well enough, we might even have some NEW General Mills monster cereals on store shelves next Halloween. Creature from the Black LIME-goon, Phantom of the Oreos or Caramel Cthulhu cereals? Yes, and more yes, please...



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