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5 Best Food Mascots of the 80's and 90's

Fast Food and snack companies have always known that the quickest way into our wallets is through a colorful mascot who can shill for their brand in 30 second TV commercials. 30 years ago these iconic characters were most often created through the forgotten art of stop-motion animation and sometimes took on a life of their own in the public consciousness. Today let’s look back at 5 of the best food inspired mascots of the 80’s and 90's.

5. The Mouths, TANG

When speaking of iconic lips, most people’s minds go immediately to Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones logo, but for a brief moment in the 80’s big lips, meant big flavor from Tang. You remember Tang, right? This orange drink powder made famous by astronauts, tried to give Kool-Aid a run for it’s money by inventing their own mascot, “The Mouths”. These runaway stop motion lips with arms and legs were seen cavorting around on Tang commercials from 1988-1990 and eventually appeared as stickers, t-shirts, plush figures, wind-up toys and novelty phones.

Then Hardees fast food restaurants took it to the next level by peddling plastic figurines for 99 cents with any purchase. Obviously inspired by The Smurfs, these little guys were granted individual characteristics like "Lance", the muscle man or "Awesome Annie", the girl.  It's really a very odd tie-in, if you think about it. It’s like Snap, Crackle and Pop being thrown into a Happy Meal out of nowhere. Eventually the "Mouths from Tang" faded away, but their startling appearance had burned them into our collective consciousness.

4. Chester Cheetah, Cheetos

A pair of sunglasses went a long way in establishing a character's "Cool Factor" and Chester Cheetah used this to full effect. Appearing as a cross between The Fonz, the Trix Rabbit and Wile E. Coyote this spotted, sneaker wearing "Cool Cat" was always in pursuit of crunchy, orange snacks while narrating his own actions with jazzy, rhyming lyrics.  Never successful at obtaining the cheese-dusted object of his desire, Chester usually ended up severely maimed and closed out his adventure by stating, "It's not easy being cheesey".

While Chester inspired several different varieties of Cheetos, including the awesome PAWS snacks, he also managed to star in not 1, but 2 video games for the Super Nintendo and Genesis. At the end of his initial run in pop culture in 1996 he even appeared in a KFC kids meal. But for me Chester Cheetah really made his mark by inspiring many hours of imitation on the playground. I remember cruising around the swing set repeating, "It's not easy being cheesy" followed by the cartoonish, "Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi" sound effect that Chester would make as he shook himself back to normal. If imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, then I salute you, Mr. Cheetah!

3. Keebler Elves, Keebler

The magical taste of Keebler snacks could only be created by supernatural means or so their television commercials in the 80's would have us believe. The heirarchy of the Elves was pretty clear, as each new visitor coming to the Keebler tree had to speak with Ernest, the head baker. Maybe the other elves could talk, but mostly they were seen mixing dough and carrying trays in background while "Ol' Whitey" yammered on about the latest cookie innovation. But you've gotta admit, their treehouse factory was pretty amazing, I can see why so many people wanted to get a look for themselves.

I really give these guys props for staying power, where most mascots came and went over time, the Elves hung in for the entire decade. It was mostly the same crew promoting delicious cookies like E.L. Fudge, but at the end of the 80's the amazing Pizzerias chips were introduced. Being promoted as a "wild" junk food for young people, Uncle Ernest's slacker teenage nephews rocked their air-guitars with reckless abandon to represent the spicy flavor. I feel like I didn't see much of them after the "next generation" was introduced and though they never got a primetime animated special out of the deal, being immortalized in a novelty character phone is pretty awesome.

2. The Spots, 7-UP

Literally jumping off the 7-UP can they were promoting, The Spots captured our hearts with their simple design and adventurous nature. When they weren't surfing, playing pool or escaping a refrigerator, they were sucking the cola out of soda glasses as official ambassadors of "the Uncola". They made some high pitched noises, but The Spots never spoke, instead they let their actions do the talking. We got the message loud and clear, these Spots were cool.

I remember feeling like the red, black and white of The Spots was everywhere from 1988-1991 and it really was. Plastic and plush toys, novelty phones (are you seeing the trend yet?) and clocks, even multiple video games across many consoles. Having any one of these items in your possession made you cool by association. It wasn't even tied to whether or not 7-UP tasted better than Coca-Cola, they transcended the association with their parent product. In the end they were just "Cool Spots" and could have just as easily been representing pepperoni pizza or poker chips, as far as we were concerned.

1) The Noid, Domino's Pizza

Wherever pizza was warm and delicious, there lurked The Noid. Laying in wait to chill or destroy, this maniacal, red-garbed villain stalked our slices with evil intent from 1987-1989. Looking like the illegitimate offspring of The Flash and Bugs Bunny, this clay animated madman giggled his way across our TV screens on behalf of Domino's Pizza and got our attention in a big way. We were told to "Avoid The Noid", but it seemed like merchandisers wanted us to do anything but that. 

The Noid had his own candy, frisbees, bendy toys and dolls. My personal favorite was The Noid face puppet. Do you remember these things? For a while there, sticking your fingers in holes on the back of a foam rubber character face was all the rage, The Noid was just one of many who got the treatment. Finally there was the notorious NES game Yo Noid! from 1990, which introduced a Luigi meets Wario version of The Noid, Mr. Green. Unfortunately the video game seemed to be the the swan song for The Noid. Once the 90's hit, he walked off into the sunset, laughing maniacally all the way.

So there you have it, my 5 favorites from the decade where consumerism was king. I really miss seeing these colorful creations popping in and out of view for 30 seconds at a time, giving me a chuckle then fading to black. Luckily YouTube has kept them alive, so I suggest giving some of these old favorites a watch and reliving those fun days of youth.

So who did I miss? Were you a big Fido Dido fan? Loved the Cinnamon Toast Crunch bakers? Sound off in the comments below or tweet loud and tweet proud @hojukoolander.
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Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 18, 2015 at 02:45 PM

Wow. Very nice list Hoju. This was a fun recap of some of my favorite mascots from the good old days.

I would have to say that the Noid was also on the top of my list. He had that great quality of being the loveable bad guy. And that's hard to achieve, especially for something like an ad campaign. I wish they would bring him back in full force. I might consider buying a Dominos Pizza if they did. LOL

I would only add two honorable mentions here... those being the California Raisins, and Spuds McKenzie. I liked Spuds a lot (I had a couple Spuds McKenzie t-shirts in my youth). Even though he was the mascot of a product I could not purchase (nor did I want to), he was fun and cool.

You know, I think I may actually STILL own one of those Spuds McKenzie t-shirts. LOL

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