Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, originally called Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes, came out in 1952. Believe it or not, Tony the Tiger, in the beginning, had to share equal billing with a Kangaroo named Katy. Both Tony and Katy the Kangaroo appeared on boxes of the cereal for the first year. They weren’t the only ones up for the job. Elmo the Elephant and Newt the Gnu were also part of a contest run by the company to find it’s advertising mascot. As for Katy, she wasn’t as popular as Tony proved to be, so she was forced into early retirement after a year. She received a nice engraved ink pen, and, according to a company spokesman at the time, a “sizable severance package.”
If you are as old as me, you might just remember another time in Tony’s life. He wasn’t always the care-free bachelor he is today. Once, for a time during the 1970’s, he had a wife and family, plus a mom. His mother was Mama Tony, and his wife was Mrs. Tony, His daughter was named Antoinette, and his son was named Tony, Jr. Can you say ego?
Alas, Tony’s wife wasn’t the kind of female to sit at home while Tony gallivanted around the world talking up Frosted Flakes. She wanted to get an education, and she even started insisting on using her own name. This progressive stance did not fly with Tony and the two eventually got divorced. Tony has yet to pay alimony and Mama Tony was forced to put the kids through college by herself, although helped tremendously by selling her story to the media. Tony, soon after the divorce, was seen at several Hollywood parties, a supermodel on each arm. When asked if he planned to get into another serious relationship, he replied, “Women” They’re grrrreat! But Tony’s a Rollin’ Stone, man!”
Okay, so the truth is Kellog’s original plan was to have a bunch of different animals, including Tony, Katy, and the aforementioned Elmo and Newt. It is said that they wanted to have a different character for every letter in the alphabet. Only Tony and Katy ever made it onto a box, though. Tony was given a more wordy version of the slogan that exists today: “I’m here to proudly state, Sugar Frosted Flakes are grrreat!” It was a bit formal by today’s standards, but in those days was catchy enough to make Tony the more popular character. Kellogg’s, during the 1950’s also bought the licensing rights for Superman, who appeared on boxes for a time, as well. Kellogg’s didn’t actually drop the “Sugar” part of the name until 1984.
During the 1970’s, when we were introduced to more of Tony’s family, he was given more of a humanized history, including an Italian-American nationality. And don’t worry kids, the story above about Tony’s divorce and subsequent free-willing ways, is fiction. The family may have faded into the background, since people really weren’t very interested, but they were never really done away with. In fact, Tony Jr. was around in the early days, and you can see him on one of the ads illustrated through the links below. He became the mascot of Kellog’s Frosted Rice Cereal in 1975, but that didn’t work out very well. And today, well, he’s actually the tiger you know as Tony the Tiger today. He took over the job from his dad in 2000. Check out the old commercial featuring Tony and Tony Jr. below, from 1959. It was a full-fledged cartoon for kids. Tony, it seems to me, had a Foghorn Leghorn quality.
The original Tony was designed by children’s book illustrator Martin Provenson and his original voice was done by Dallas McKennon, later taken over by Thurl Ravenscroft, who voiced the character until his death in 2005. Former wrestling announcer Lee Marshal was then signed on as the voice of Tony, with a ten year contract. Tony has changed in appearance many times over the years, he has beefed up, slimmed down, and his features have been rounded out. He’s also changed out his signature ascot a few times.
Here are some links to pictures of old Sugar Frosted Flakes Ads by mrbreakfastcereal.com: