With Halloween come and gone, the window to stock up on Franken Berry, Count Chocula, and Boo Berry breakfast cereal is closing. Now an annual Halloween treat that hits the shelves at the end of August throughout the spooky season, General Mills has turned the monster cereals into a powerhouse brand tied into the holiday. This year even marked the addition of merchandise in the form of board games and puzzles, targeting those in particular who have been clamoring for the elusive Fruity Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute. For decades, the core trio were available year ‘round until they became relegated to seasonal treat, but their extensive history means they’re forever part of pop culture, Halloween or not.
In 1971, General Mills introduced chocolate flavored Count Chocula cereal and strawberry flavored Franken Berry cereal. The two cereal mascots, cartoonish versions of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff’s classic monsters, argued with each over which cereal was best, and proved to be scaredy-cats themselves when a child entered the scene. Count Chocula was voiced by voice actor Larry Kenney, and spoofed his Universal monster counterpart with taglines like, “I want to eat your cereal!” Franken Berry was voiced by Bob McFadden. The cereals became an instant hit.
The following year, Franken Berry earned a reputation for turning kids’ poop pink thanks to an indigestible pigment, which was lovingly dubbed “Franken Berry Stool.” It didn’t slow the brand down in popularity at all, though, and 1973 brought the introduction to a new monster; Boo Berry, the first blueberry flavored cereal. Boo Berry may have rocked the odd couple dynamic of Franken Berry and Count Chocula, but it worked. He became a mainstay, rounding out the core trio that would be the face of the brand for the decades to come. For Disney fans, Boo Berry’s first iteration was voiced by legendary voice actor Paul Frees, who is behind the booming Ghost Host from Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride and several pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
1974 brought a werewolf into the mix, Fruit Brute. The frosted fruit-flavored cereal, albeit a bit nondescript, ran for only eight years before disappearing into the vault in 1982. Similarly, 1987 brought Yummy Mummy, a fruit cereal with vanilla marshmallows heralded in by a colorful mummy with a penchant for jingles. Yummy Mummy only endured until 1992 before discontinuation.
As with all cereals of the ‘70s and ‘80s, it wasn’t just enough to have endearing mascots and colorful, sugary cereal, kids also made their breakfast choices based on prizes. Of course, monster cereals offered some of the best. 1979 saw the monsters get in on a cereal box trend at the time- the cutout cardboard records from cereal boxes known as flexi-discs. On select boxes of Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry, you could find quick adventures like “The Monsters Go Disco,” “Count Chocula Goes to Hollywood,” and “Monster Adventures in Outer Space.” They warped easily, and the sound quality wasn’t the greatest, but these were still among the coolest collectibles. Stickers and mini figures were common in box prizes, but mail-in prizes like bath kits, beach towels, disguise kits and more were featured on the boxes throughout the years.
For a very brief period in 1987, the monster cereal line was met with controversy when Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was used in marketing for Count Chocula. His enhanced image on the Count Chocula cereal box drew ire from the Jewish community due to a medallion around his neck that looked an awful lot like the Star of David. General Mills pulled the boxes immediately, and you can occasionally find a retro box sold online for an obscene amount of money.
Throughout the ‘80s, the monster cereal brand would play around with the shapes of the grain cereal and marshmallows, adding and removing ghost shapes to each one. Around 2004, the cereal manufacturing team dropped the oats and rice from the recipe, shifting into a corn only base. So, for those who grew up with the monster cereals, nostalgia doesn’t quite taste the same.
By 2010, monster cereals ceased to be produced all year long and slipped into seasonal only fare. Betty Crocker helped soften the blow with the introduction of monster cereal Fruit Roll-Ups while General Meals released Count Chocula cereal bars. 2013 revived Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy temporarily, and with new makeovers. Fruit Brute returned as Frute Brute with a pompadour and crooning expression. His cereal shifted from fruit flavored to a more specific cherry flavor. Fruity Yummy Mummy’s return marked a new orange creamsicle flavor.
In 2014, monster cereals partnered with DC Entertainment for exclusive new designs for the core mascots. Artist Jim Lee tackled Boo Berry, while illustrator Dave Johnson handled Franken Berry and artists Terry and Rachel Dodson gave Count Chocula a new countenance. Two years later, General Mills unveiled a clever marketing campaign that coincided with the election year. All of which demonstrated just how integral Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry have become in our pop culture collective. While many other cereal mascots have withstood the test of time, none of managed to achieve quite as much as the Monster brand. Though we may have to wait for the best time of the year to get reacquainted with these monster cereals, Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry have proven to be worth far more than just Halloween staples.