Cocoa Puffs: A Little Crazy Is Never Enough

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Don't let the bowtie fool you. The bird is fucking crazy.
Cereal Philanderer is a weekly feature in which Jason Sheehan talks about cereal more than he probably should.

Cereal du Jour: Cocoa Puffs, favorite cereal of unmedicated psychotics. And birds. Big, stupid, loud-mouthed birds.

History: In 1937, General Mills thought they had a winner with Kix: the world's first extruded and expanded pulverized-grain cereal. As a matter of fact, that was the extent of the initial Kix advertising campaign: "Kix cereal: Industrially pulverized, machine-extruded, and with that wholesome machine-oil taste that means progress!"

General Mills hung a lot of hopes on Kix, figuring that no child alive wouldn't be impressed by the clank and clatter of heavy machinery involved in the production of what was essentially a round and tasteless breakfast nugget. I mean all children love extruding dies and pneumatic chaff separators, right?

Right?

Wrong. What children are impressed by is paralyzing amounts of sugar, bright colors, and loud mascots with no respect for their elders and betters. Kix had none of this. But no one at General Mills really thought about any of this until they'd already produced several million metric tons of pulverized, extruded, and puffed-grain cereal spheres, at which point they found themselves in what is referred to in the cereal trade as "another goddamn Corn Flakes kinda situation." They had to come up with a way to move all these wheat testicles, and fast.

This was how Cocoa Puffs were born--out of desperation and the terrible need to realize a profit on silos full of grain balls that no child in America wanted to eat because they weren't neon-colored and didn't come with prizes.

The General Mills marketing geniuses tried many things (some of which we will talk about in coming weeks), but in 1958, they hit on their best solution, which was basically to turn all the little breakfast orbs into candy. Following the Cathy Guisewite Principle, they took all the Kix that no one was eating, shot it up with chocolate (because people will eat anything so long as there's chocolate in it), and rebranded them as Cocoa Puffs. Along with the help of Sonny, a shit-talking cuckoo bird with ADD, addictive tendencies, and severe mental problems, Cocoa Puffs became one of America's favorite methods for guiltlessly eating chocolate for breakfast.

The Box: The Cocoa Puffs box almost always features an altered-perspective image of a giant bowl of Cocoa Puffs with the cereal sloshing over the rim, presumably because no mere ceramic vessel could ever contain all its delicious awesomeness. In the background, there will be Sonny, doing something active like skateboarding or parachuting--things which no mentally unstable bird would ever be allowed to do in the real world, even when on a day pass from whatever full-lockdown facility he is currently residing in.

In television commercials, Sonny's catchphrase is "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!" It is generally delivered in a screeching, crazy, pubescent shriek when it becomes apparent that he cannot go one more second without a hit of his favorite cereal. It's basically the same kind of behavior exhibited by cranked-out meth-heads, and if you've ever known a psychotic with serious substance-abuse issues, you know for sure that Sonny is exactly the kind of bird that will break into your house, steal your PS3, and pawn it for money to buy another box the minute his supply starts to run low. I wouldn't turn my back on that bird for one second. That sonofabitch would shank you for the change in your pockets in a second if he was a buck short and headed out to the Piggly Wiggly to score.

The Product: Don't delude yourself. You're eating chocolate for breakfast. You might just as well pour some milk over a bowl full of Hershey's kisses and crumbled-up Kit Kat bars.

But hey, if that's your thing (and I am in no position to judge one's choice of breakfast foods, what with my breakfast beers and bacon addiction), then Cocoa Puffs taste pretty good. The only trouble? They're not quite chocolatey enough these days--a situation easily remedied by dousing them in chocolate milk rather than the normal white stuff, or by topping the bowl with a squeeze of chocolate syrup.

Best Feature: Less completely wrong, breakfast-wise, than just eating fudge right out of the box with your fingers, you fat, waddling bastard.

Worst Feature: Sonny the cuckoo bird is just one bad day away from winding up on the 11 o'clock news with blood on his beak and a bus full of hostages.

Fun Fact for Hipsters: Sonny was originally voiced by Larry Kenney, who also did the voice of Lion-O on Thundercats. Thunder...Thunder...Thundercats, ho!

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: Worse in almost every conceivable way, but will kill that middle-of-the-night chocolate craving when no other actual cocoa-based foods are available.

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