Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sugar Crisp Ad – January 19, 1950

Breakfast cereal is one of my favorite topics on this blog. (I’ve written about Rice Krispies, Rice Krispies Marshmallow Treats, the Rice Krispies Song, General Mills Monster Cereals and Shreddies.)

So naturally, when I saw the ad above for Post Sugar Crisp – which ran in the Lorain Journal on January 19, 1950, 66 years ago today – I knew I had to feature it on the blog. (Another introductory ad that was in the Journal on Feb 9, 1950 is at right.)

Post Sugar Crisp was brand new back then, having been launched in 1949, and featured three bears on the package instead of the beloved Sugar Bear still seen on the Post Golden Crisp box today.

You didn’t know that there were originally three bears? Then read my article all about the history of Sugar Bear, which appears here courtesy of the HKM Grapevine.


The Bear Facts About Sugar Bear
After more than 50 years, this bear still can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!
By Dan Brady
Some advertising mascots spring from the imagination fully formed and go on to promote a product for decades. Other mascots, like Post Cereals’ Sugar Bear, take a little longer to evolve. The story of Sugar Bear’s creation is an interesting one that bears repeating.
In 1949, Post launched one of the cereal industry’s very first pre-sweetened cereals, a sugarcoated wheat puff called Sugar Crisp. It was a spectacular success. Three identical cartoon bears named Dandy, Handy and Candy appeared on the first cereal packages. The bears were featured in magazine and newspaper ads in which the copy used their names to reinforce the cereal’s attributes: “As a cereal it’s dandy! For snacks it’s so handy. Or eat it like candy!”
The three bears created a sensation when they appeared as puppets in some stop action animated TV commercials for Sugar Crisp, convincing some of the rival cereal companies (like Kellogg’s) that they needed some animal pitchmen as well.

As you can see, the original cellophane bag in which Sugar Crisp was sold eventually gave way to a foil-lined box (below) that helped prevent the cereal from solidifying into a sugary brick.
A 1954 box
During the 1950s, the in-house Post creative team tinkered with the design of the bears on the cereal box. There were the original Betty Boop-like bears with large wide heads, as well as another version in which the bears were rounder and hairier. The bears on the cereal boxes seemed to alternate randomly between the two versions throughout the decade.
Eventually Bob Traverse, the commercial artist who worked on all of the Sugar Crisp boxes, got tired of creating layouts with three bears, and conspired to send two of them into permanent hibernation. He gradually reduced two of the bears to a secondary position on the box before eliminating them entirely.

For the next several years, he explored different layouts with the single “Betty Boop” style bear.
A 1963 box
Finally, Traverse and his art director decided to redesign the single bear to look less wimpy. 
The box in 1964
But this new, beady-eyed bear wasn’t quite Sugar Bear yet, even though he appeared in some TV commercials.
It wasn’t until this “new bear” was planned to part of the Linus the Lionhearted TV show that he received a makeover by the advertising agency and became Sugar Bear.
Linus the Lionhearted was a half-hour weekly cartoon that hit the airwaves in September 1964. It featured all of the Post Cereals ad mascots in their own animated adventures, including Linus, who was on Crispy Critters, an animal-shaped cereal; Lovable Truly the postman (from Alpha-Bits); So-Hi (from Rice Krinkles); Rory Raccoon (from Post Toasties); and Sugar Bear.
Sugar Bear was given the personality of a jive-talking disk jockey, as well as a Bing Crosby voice that was provided by nightclub comic Gerry Matthews. The unflappable bear became an immediate hit on the Linus the Lionhearted show, becoming more popular than Linus. 
A 1965 box
Unfortunately, while the show was a ratings success, the lagging sales of the Post cereals did not justify the show’s expense. It continued in syndicated reruns until 1969, when the Federal Communications Commission ruled that children’s programs could not feature characters based on products. This meant the end of the line for Linus the Lionhearted. A few years later, Linus and Crispy Critters were both extinct, but Sugar Crisp continued to be popular.
A box from 1969
(From the Dan Brady collection)
Sugar Bear continued his cereal commercials for decades as the last of the original Post cereal mascots. In the long-running spots, he outwitted characters including Granny Goodwitch, a kindly witch (voiced by Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In fame), the Blob, a loose-limbed gangster, and a menagerie of bullying foxes, tigers and other animals. 

Sugar Bear enjoyed a brief recording career with the Sugar Bears.
Sugar Bear’s signature tune – “Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp” – had to be adjusted a few times: when the addition of extra vitamins changed the name of the cereal to Super Sugar Crisp, and when the name of the cereal was changed to the more nutritionally friendly Super Golden Crisp (strangely, the cereal is still known as Sugar Crisp in Canada).
More than 50 years after his introduction, Sugar Bear is still around. In one of his last TV commercials, he was seen hanging out at a breakfast table with live action husband-and-wife Baby Boomers, nostalgically cajoling them to try Golden Crisp again. He also received a makeover on the box when Post Cereals was spun off on its own.
The current box
Today, Golden Crisp is somewhat of a cereal anachronism, a leftover from a time when Post seriously challenged Kellogg’s and its other rivals. But although his beloved cereal is known now as Golden Crisp, Sugar Bear retains his own sweet moniker.

Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp history? Check out this massive collection of vintage Sugar Crisp commercials featuring our old pal Sugar Bear! There’s one with the three original bears as well.


-Alan D Hopewell said...

Look up the song, "You Are the One" by the Sugar Bears on YouTube ; Kim Carnes was one of the singers. "Can't get enough of that Sugar Crisp....keeps me goin' strong ".

-Alan D Hopewell said...

The song was on a record that was on the back of the Sugar Crisp box.

Phillip stringer said...

Really wish I could photo comment a picture of this record I'm sure very few exist

phillip stringer said...

dandy handy and candy
Sung by Rosemary clooney
Roy roger message on side two

Dan Brady said...

Hi Phillip! Thanks for your comment. I went back and added a photo of the record that was on the back of the cereal box that Alan mentioned.