Halloween Countdown ’08: Old Count Chocula.

Today’s topic: Old Count Chocula. Hold your applause.

In 1987, General Mills faced public backlash upon releasing the revamped (ah ah ah) Count Chocula box design seen above. What at first glance seems only to be a whimsical pairing of Chocula and Dracula unveils a more sinister truth if you look hard enough. Apparently, Count Dracula was Jewish.

Yes, Dracula’s medallion, which I’ve seen realized in symbols ranging from X-shaped crosses to metal skulls, took on the unmistakable form of the Star of David. To be fair, I’ve seen Dracula’s medallion in this shape before, but for whatever reason, it just seems so much more Jewishy here. I’m not sure why people were in such an uproar over the suggestion that Dracula was Jewish; I know I’d be pretty elated if I found out he was Catholic.

Many people complained about Dracula’s newfound faith, and General Mills felt compelled to redesign the box. Bah. The kind of people who complained about what Dracula’s necklace looked like were not the kind of people who’d buy their kids Count Chocula cereal anyway. General Mills should’ve rebutted by adding a bindi to Franken Berry’s forehead.

I’m usually surprised by how well my collection of antique cereal holds up, but that isn’t the case here. The cereal smells really, really bad — akin to a pair of damp socks rotated over the feet of Earth’s 50 most disgusting men. The old school Count Chocula paw-shaped marshmallows have either disintegrated or simply fossilized to the point where they’re indiscernible from the more numerous frosted ghost oats.

Part of the reason for Count Chocula’s rancidity is that the cereal was forged from far more hardcore ingredients in 1987 than it is today. The second most prominent ingredient was sugar — and not some wacky sugar substitute with an eighteen-syllable name, either…REAL sugar. Real sugar is awesome, but when it goes bad, it means it. Almost every sugary marshmallowy kiddy cereal has seen its recipe changed for the healthier over the years. Count Chocula still tastes good today, but in 1987, it could be bartered for baseball cards and handheld assault weapons on the black market.

The General Mills “Monster Cereals” debuted during a time when the classic Universal Monsters were the focus of virtually every small boy’s imagination. That long-lived fad was in a coma by the time I was growing up, so it was nice to see something so consistently horrific — even if it was just breakfast.

Even the freebies that came with the Monster Cereals tended to have a ghoulish slant. In specially marked boxes of Jewish Dracula cereal, kids were given sets of “Real Monster Disguise Stickers,” which were pretty simplistic and yet totally admirable for giving us permission to put stickers all over our faces.

I don’t know how we came upon the subject, but last week, a friend at work was complaining about how none of today’s cereals actually put the premiums inside the cereal bag. They’re always tucked in the box outside the bag, thereby eradicating the gleeful literalness of the “free inside” messaging.

Like palaeontologists excavating the jawbone of a mighty allosaur, digging our hands through edible pebbles in search of prizes was the best part of the breakfast process. Even if the toy completely sucked (and let’s face it, a simple set of facial stickers wasn’t going on anyone’s Christmas wishlist), the thrill of sifting our fingers through twelve ounces of oaty obstacles was enough to make breakfast seem like a day at the fucking circus. I don’t know why cereal companies have ended this tradition, but I assume it has something to do with people not wanting the filthy hands of six-year-olds fondling each and every chocolately morsel in the family cereal box.

Through some miracle, the stickers were still adhesive after all these years. There were three sets available, and since the other two came with stickers representing everything from bloody eyeballs to giant bats, I seem to have received the worst of them. Oh well. There’s at least some small conversational merit in getting eyebrow stickers. I’m happy enough. Mazel tof.

108 thoughts on “Halloween Countdown ’08: Old Count Chocula.

  1. Phenlandia

    I just found the coolest Count Chocula prize ever.

    http://www.wfmu.org/MACrec/choc.html

    Apparently, they used to print little cardboard records on the backs of cereal boxes that you could cut out and play on your record player. I’d never heard of this, as the fad died out in the seventies. My childhood suddenly seems one tenth of a percent more deprived for the lack of such miraculous marketing gimmicks, which makes me feel one tenth of a percent more shallow.

  2. kindersczenen

    BJ, I did notice those differences–also, I could’ve sworn that there was one of those “Witch” themed ones where the witch turned into a human woman and had bunches of guys chasing her as she ran from the castle. I KNOW that that wasn’t just used as an ending gag in a Three Stooges short.

    You know, I always thought that Blanc did Elmer’s voice too–he seemed to age similarily to Bugs in the late 70s, early 80s, but I guess it was a case of two guys being/sounding older. I remember a Valentine’s Special, and in fact, I remember being rather pissed that Bugs didn’t say his signature “Aren’t they all witches?” (or something like that). Geez, if I wanted to watch lame dubbing and poor film matching, I could’ve just popped in a “Fake Shemp”-era Stooge short.

  3. Turtle Lovin Zombie Boy

    I recommend not watching the film “The Invasion” while eatting dinner. I was expecting cool sci-fi, but wound up with a mediocre film where every 5 seconds someone is throwing up. And with a big bowl of Lo-mein  in front of me, I quickly lost my appetite BLEH! 

  4. Another Matt

    Speaking of prizes/promotions, you know what else blows, can’t remember if we discussed it here or not? How you have to register online and receive 6000 pieces of junk mail to find out if you’ve won anything. Bye bye, instant win. WTF? I didn’t care so much when I lived with my parents, but since I bought a house, I could seriously wallpaper the whole place with the shit I get from these people.

  5. Jeremy Whatsisface

    I’ve posted that Monster Cereals disco record on a previous post.  Those paper/cardboard records rarely ever played correctly…I remember you needed to place a coin in the middle near the spindle to stop the record from slipping.  I remember Burger King’s Alf puppets each came with a cardboard record…doin’ the Melmac Rock!

  6. Adam

    I recently bought some Cinnamon Toast Crunch that contained hot-wheel-esque cars, and they actually were mixed in with the cereal. It was a bittersweet experience since retreiving them out meant spilling cinnamon and sugar all over the counter…

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