May 22, 2019

Franken Berry Monster cereal. A RETROspect

by Darrin Vindiola

Franken Berry was brought to life in late 1971 by General Mills. It was the second Monster cereal General Mills produced after Count Chocula, and preceded Boo Berry.

Due to the popularity of Monster movies since the 1950s and 60s, General Mills saw an opportunity to benefit from the monster phenomenon. Hence, the Monster cereals were born. Franken Berry is obviously styled after Frankenstein's Monster, but this gentle giant wouldn't hurt a fly. This most timid of the General Mills monster cereal mascots would often get spooked very easily in the commercials.

Franken Berry's voice was reminiscent of Boris Karloff's (The original actor who portrayed Frankenstein) and the person who provided his eerie yet kind sounding voice, was voice over specialist Bob McFadden. Sadly, Mr. McFadden died on Jan. 7, 2000 at the age of 76.  McHadden also used his talent to sell Geritol, Campbell's soup, Wisk, Mountain Dew, as well as numerous other products. He also did voice overs for many cartoon characters.  One you may remember, was Snarf from the 80's cartoon "Thundercats". You can see a great tribute to Bob McFadden Here.

I'll never forget when I first discovered Franken Berry. The year was around 1976, and I was watching Saturday morning cartoons when a commercial came on for General Mills Monster cereals. I couldn't believe it, a Monster cereal? Furthermore, one of the cereal mascots was based on one of my favorite movie monsters... Frankenstein's Monster! I immediately knew that I MUST satisfy my palate with these strawberry and chocolate delicacies! I sampled the "BIG THREE" being Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo-Berry, but Franken Berry won me over with its strawberry taste.

Unfortunately (in this case) my mom was a very caring parent, and would not allow me to regularly eat cereals that would "rot my teeth out" so the times that I was able to enjoy eating it, were a bit sporadic. Nonetheless, I looked forward to watching the new Monster cereal commercials, and trading various toys with my friends for their in box surprises. I came to enjoy collecting the toys, and watching the commercials every bit as much as eating the cereal! Once I started to earn my own money from mowing lawns etc., I was then able to buy all the Franken Berry I wanted!

Fast forward forty some odd years later. While I can still satisfy my craving for this great cereal, it's only on shelves around Haloween.  However, a few things just aren't the same.  I'm a big fan of the old Franken Berry box art and animation from the 70's and 80's. That being said, I don't care for the facelift that General Mills gave old Frankie in 1995. There's also the issue of the in-box surprises being pretty much non-existent.  Mazes and puzzles printed on the backs of boxes are amusing, but it just isn't the same as having to dig through a box of cereal for that in box surprise. Children of the 60s, 70s and 80s know exactly what I'm talking about.

Finally, the lack of imagination that goes into marketing for this cereal (and most cereals for that matter) simply disappoints. You just don't see ingenious commercials, advertisements, and merchandise that uniquely promote breakfast cereal anymore. When I was a kid, there was a slew of promotional items that you could buy right off of the shelves in the grocery stores, like vinyl figures, school supplies, etc. based on many of the General Mills cereal mascots.

Granted, The monster cereals of today are only mere shells of what they once were, but I'm very thankful that they are still available. Can you buy back, or somehow get back a piece of your childhood? I believe so, and how you do that is entirely up to you. Starting off with a bowl of Franken Berry or your personal favorite childhood cereal sure can't hurt.

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