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Cutesy, huggable mascots are a shockingly new corporate strategy. Up until recently, it was perfectly acceptable to toss a wretched byproduct of Satan's sperm bank right in the paying customer's face, watch them scream and cry in a puddle of their own fear-vomit, and then calmly ask, "Will that be cash or credit?" How these characters survived their annual exorcisms to become so adorable and beloved today is beyond us.

7
Early Mickey And Minnie Mouse Costumes Were Just The Worst

Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The Look We Know And Love:

It's Mickey and Minnie Mouse. If we have to describe them to you, your parents clearly didn't love you enough to fork over hundreds of beans to fill your childhood with magic.

David Livingston/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"It's either this or college, kids, huh-hah!"

Their Nightmarish Beginnings:

Disneyland didn't open until 1955, but failed theater majors were dressing up as Mickey and Minnie for decades before. And failing at that, too:

Walt Disney
Why is this child on his knees?

Not one damn bit of that picture makes sense. Why are their eyes slit like that? It just makes them look pissed off to be there. And, dear God, those mouths. Modern Mickey And Minnie sport warm and welcoming smiles, while these guys look like they're ready to roast and eat that poor boy the second the photographer walks away.

Here they are looking even worse somehow:

Walt Disney
Try to spot just one smiling face.

Up close, you could at least see their pupils. But here, all you see is black. Large, black pools filling up dead, soulless sockets that swallow any approaching joy, like they're the Happiest Dementors On Earth. It's why precisely zero of those party guests look even the tiniest bit happy. They got too close.

Worse still was when they tried to be romantic and adorable:

Walt Disney
"Will you make me the happiest affront to God and nature in the world?"

She looks like she's contemplating not whether to say yes or no but rather the best place to bury Mickey's body and not raise Walt's suspicions. What's truly amazing here is they were basing those costumes on these characters:

Walt Disney
The only possible explanation is that Walt's designer watched "Steamboat Willie"
while eating a big bag of peyote.

Speaking of Walt: Upon opening Disneyland, he thankfully realized that making his most popular characters look like monsters might not be the best business decision. So, instead, he made them look like burn victims:

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Walt Disney
"Onsh your parentsh bank accountsh are in ashes, then you have my permission to have fun."

Look, we get it was just Day 1, but why? Not one person realized that giving Mickey and Minnie multiple Glasgow smiles might be a terrible idea? Are they suffering from cleft lips? And that first pic ... where the fuck is Mickey's eye? Did he lose it in a knife fight with Goofy? Disney borrowed this costume from the Ice Capades -- perhaps he lost it in a hockey brawl. Shit, make that canon. Goon Mickey makes about as much sense as Jedi Mickey, anyway.

It wasn't just talking rodents that got the shaft, either -- Walt apparently had like two bucks in the costume budget, judging by how terrible virtually every character looked back then. Here's Pinocchio, looking like the Blue Fairy got drunk and forgot the second half of her "real boy" spell:

Walt Disney

Walt Disney
He would soon be sent to a room with the rest of the botched Real Boy spells
and failed Ripley clones.

That's to say nothing of poor Pluto, who looks like he could really use a Sarah McLachlan campaign right about now. These looks didn't last long though, as Walt quickly saw the light and began making his mascots look less menacing, as there's way more money to be made when kids ride Space Mountain rather than jump off the roof of it in a fit of utter despair.

6
The Hamburglar Looked Like Stealing Burgers Was The Least Of His Crimes

McDonald's

The Look We Know And Love:

Greasy fast-foodies of the '80s and '90s fondly remember the Hamburglar as an adorable, rosy-cheeked scamp who simply wanted to munch on as many burgers that his one tooth could let him chew.

McDonald's
Today, he should probably be the poster boy for America's childhood obesity epidemic.

This was not the case when the character debuted in the early '70s ...

His Nightmarish Beginnings:

McDonald's
One, two, Hamburglar's robbling for you ...

Dear God, what the deep-fried shit is that? Why would McDonald's, charged with giving Ronald an arch-nemesis to play with -- settle on a look that was less "cute and innocent" and more "if Voldemort had sex with a zebra." He's just so ... old. And dead-eyed. Also, he'd probably rather fuck those burgers than eat them. There's a very good reason they're trying their damnedest to avoid looking at him. They want to be part of a Happy Meal, not a happy ending.

So, of course, rather than shitcan this guy in favor of literally anything else, McDonald's turned him into a crucified plaything:

McDonald's
There is no way that child didn't die within seven days of swinging on that thing.

In the late '70s, McDonald's got the point and changed his look. And by that, we mean they simply swapped out his ghoulish mug for another, even more ghoulish one:

McDonald's
McDonald's
If you hang the cookie box on a wall in an old mansion, the eyes will follow you.

While the first Hamburglar was missing a nose altogether, this one appears to have sewn a hamburger to his face in the spot where his nose should be. Or at least that's how he looks in profile. With a full-frontal view it becomes clear his nose is actually a dick.

McDonald's
"Now with vibrating cranial action!"

Finally, around 1984, the character evolved into a wacky, half-pint ginger misfit that kids could look at without requiring a diaper change. And there he stayed, until some predatory piece of shit who shouldn't be allowed within 500 feet of a McDonald's (or anywhere else people and animals dwell) wormed his way into McDonaldland and upped the creep factor straight back to 11.

McDonald's
"While we're on the topic of keeping secrets ..."

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5
The Michelin Man Was A Horrifying Monster

Michelin

The Look We Know And Love:

The Michelin Man -- Bibendum if you're nasty -- is a big, friendly, fluffy buddy who wants to sell you tires that hopefully won't explode while you're mindlessly barreling down the freeway. Also, he apparently just won a beauty pageant, judging by that sash that doubles as the only piece of clothing he owns.

Michelin
It was an inner-beauty pageant. Thrown by his mom. He came in second.

His Nightmarish Beginnings:

Michelin
"And you can be sure that Michelin tires HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT?!
RUN, JIMMY! RUNNNNNNN!"

The original Michelin Man, who debuted in 1898, was all tires and no humanity. He looked like the Oogy-Boogie Man before his morning coffee. There is no way that poor child isn't ready to burst into tears, both because of what stands before him and because he's basically sitting on that thing's ass.

What's that, you want more Michelin Monsters? No? Too bad, you're getting them anyway:

Michelin
Leonardo and Michelangelo vowed to eat only vegetarian pizza from that day forward.

Amazingly, he was even more terrible in print. Here's his grand debut, sharing a shattered-glass cocktail with other, even more disgusting tire goblins:

Michelin
Abbott and Costello are standing just out of frame.

Never mind how a fucking tire wouldn't want to come near sharp objects, much less ingest them -- can you imagine an ad like this today? A character whose only purpose in life is to help you drive, celebrating being a drunken lush? Granted, people had only been driving drunk for a year by this point, and it wasn't actually illegal for another decade or so, but it's still amazing to look back and wonder how we've made it this far without stupiding ourselves into extinction.

When Rich Uncle Mummybags wasn't guzzling shards on the beach, he was smoking up a storm, like in this ad, where he's happily chomping away on a cigar while some guy steals his abdomen:

Michelin
"Ooooh yeah, now put it back in ... slooooowly ..."

Gradually, the Michelin Man quit drinking and smoking, lost weight, gained an actual face, and overall stopped looking like an overgrown water bear. But the memory remains for many. Like this guy, whose traumatic meeting with the tower of tire terror probably dominated his psyche until his dying day. Especially if the tire man was the one to kill him.

Michelin
"Don't set him on fire! He'll burn for days!"

4
1940s Mr. Peanut Could Bayonet You To Death

Planters

The Look We Know And Love:

The Planters mascot, Mr. Peanut, is a friendly, monocled, top-hat-wearing, sharp-dressed legume who acts so much better than everyone else, despite the fact that he's basically begging you to eat his entire species to extinction.

Planters
Every girl crazy 'bout a sharp-dressed snack.

His Nightmarish Beginnings:

Unlike other mascots, Planters got Mr. Peanut right almost from the start. A 1916 creation from a little boy (whom Planters paid a whopping $5 for the multi-billion-dollar idea), the nut's first draft was basically the final version only with smile lines and shell grooves that looked like pubes.

Planters
"Ladies love au naturale."

Mr. Peanut suffered a quarter-life crisis, however, and here's where the creep factor kicks in. During World War II, he decided he'd had enough of the Germans and Japanese impeding on American's God-given right to smash him into spread and mix him with jelly. So he pumped up, ditched the cane and monocle, grabbed a bayonet, and went off to fucking fight:

Planters
They took him off flamethrower duty after he kept "roasting" POWs.

We realize the war ended 70 years ago, but still ... we surrender. That is fucking scary. It's bad enough that a giant, gun-toting peanut is marching our way with hatred and death in his eyes, but did they have to give him a grizzled, blatantly human face as well? Was the U.S. propaganda department concerned that a baby-faced, happy-go-lucky fictional soldier would make the public conclude fascism is A-OK? Because they didn't do that with anyone else, even Santa:

War Production Board
A travesty that we couldn't risk revisiting until the year 3000.

It gets even weirder when you realize that the intent of the poster wasn't a call to arms -- it was a call to foodies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wanted to promote how important peanut oil was to the war effort, and they did so by creating this nightmare beast who probably just watched his best friends die and would love for you to join them. Honestly, the best part of the war ending wasn't that Hitler lost or that families were reunited with their loved ones -- it was that Mr. Peanut could finally lay off the 'roids and go back to wooing the belles of the ball with talk of being "extra chunky."

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3
1960s Mr. Clean Was A Live-Action Weirdo

Procter & Gamble

The Look We Know And Love:

Mr. Clean certainly looks like the beginning of an American hentai -- a muscular bald man in a tight white T-shirt who regularly chills with desperate housewives who were otherwise left alone with a grimy toilet and shattered dreams. But he's actually as clean and friendly as his name implies, and all he wants to do is leave your home sparkling.

Procter & Gamble
"The castrators made sure of that."

His Nightmarish Beginnings:

He works as a cartoon, but for a while in the early '60s they turned him into a live-action human being (technically, a genie in a cheap suit), and he lost all his charm in the process. For one thing, this version talked, and it turns out there's a very good reason he doesn't do that anymore: Because he's a dick.

Look at this asshole. He just waltzes up to some harrowed cleaning lady, steps right on her work, and smugly tells her she sucks at her job because she doesn't use Mr. Clean. We understand this was the '50s and putting women down was almost as much a national pastime as baseball, but even still, some weirdo grinning maniacally at your very best girl, condescending at her with, "Excuse me lady, the floor cleaning doesn't have to be that tough," would quickly earn at least a few uppercuts to the jaw.

Procter & Gamble
They never were able to find his right ear lobe, which is why he now has only one earring.

But at least that woman was legal to creep on. How about the commercial where Mr. Creep approaches a small girl in a park, with her parents nowhere to be found?


He hates boundaries almost as much as he hates dirt.

Never mind that the little girl is on her hands and knees scrubbing her dollhouse, which we're pretty sure is early-onset germaphobia at its most blatant. Why would any adult just walk up to a random little girl and start chatting with her about anything, unless the end goal is to get her in his basement?

Procter & Gamble
"Mister, this makes my lungs feel like fire!"
"That's how you know it's working!"

But the ad saved its most disturbing part for last: When a little boy runs up and asks who the little girl was talking to, she simply replies, "If I told you, you wouldn't believe it." There is no way that's not exactly what Mr. Clean told her to say, before reminding her that his house has the cleanest candy in town.

2
Kellogg's Cereal Mascots Used To Be Across-The-Board Creepy

Kellogg's

The Look We Know And Love:

Outside of boring old-people bran orgies, it's virtually impossible to find a cereal box that doesn't rely on a fun, cutesy mascot to sell its soggy innards. And Kellogg's is the master of it, with cartoons like Tony The Tiger, the Apple Jacks Kids, and Cornelius Rooster adorably staring down your child until they beg you to bring them all home.

Kellogg's
And it's pretty clear that if you don't Tony is gonna smack you.

Their Nightmarish Beginnings:

Kellogg's has been in the cereal business for 100 years, and for most of that time their mascots were further away from cute than we are from Alpha Centauri. Like the original Apple Jacks mascot -- an actual apple wearing an ugly fedora that was so damn creepy, kids would forget to eat the cereal and jump straight to puking it all over Mom's new shoes:

Kellogg's
"You can win a portable GE radio that comes from the same lab that created me!"

The implications of this box are terrifying. That is a bowl of eyes, and he's ready to gobble them all up. Where did he get them? Did he knife them out of the skulls of other apples who failed the audition? And what happens when he's all out? Will he turn to autocannibalism, sacrificing his sight and probably life for one more hit of apple-cinnamon goodness?

Let's move on to something more wholesome, like a gigantic Scotsman named Big Otis, who's apparently about to lift his kilt and show some poor children his king-mattress-sized ball sack:

Kellogg's
"Aye, get a good look ya wee anes. Otis'll give ya a free teabag wit' avery bowl."

Otis hawked a now-defunct Kellogg's cereal called OKs (as in, each piece was either an O or a K), and he was no less "why don't you have a seat over here" when away from print. Here he is, having lured several unsuspecting children into the woods, all alone with just him and his goddamn Seven Percent Alpha-Bits:

Even some of today's mascots survived some very, very rough and nasty drafts. Tony The Tiger, for instance, couldn't have looked more grrrrrropey:

Kellogg's
You don't want to know where his tail is.

That boy's face says it all. He put a tiger on his team, and now the tiger wants to put him in an unmarked van. Where's a poacher when you need one?

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1
Aunt Jemima Was Both Incredibly Racist And Terrifying

Quaker Oats

The Look We Know And Love:

Despite the sad implication that her kitchen skills are useless beyond pancakes, Aunt Jemima is still a beloved character. Just a kind, helpful woman who's only a twinge racist.

Quaker Oats
Like a soft breeze of racism.

Her Nightmarish Beginnings:

Note the phrase "since 1889." Now, brace yourselves:

Quaker Oats
Like a "Roland Emmerich nature event movie" level of racism.

Yeah, never mind "a twinge racist." Early Aunt Jemima was 100 percent Klan-approved. Adopted from an 1875 minstrel showtune called "Old Aunt Jemima," Jemima was the very worst kind of racist caricature. The company didn't just make her look stupid -- it made her look absolutely hideous. Naturally, they gave her teeth longer than a horse's and a gigantic mouth that even a sea lamprey would find unnerving. You might ask yourself, "Why the fuck would this company want to sell their pancake flour with a cartoon that's objectively scarier than Nosferatu?" Presumably, because the company started in Missouri, which was full of Confederates despite technically being a Union state, and they simply read their audience perfectly.

Quaker Oats
A hypothesis that's supported by the fact that this could
only result from actively NOT looking at black people.

Somehow, the character actually managed to get worse as time went on. She started looking more human but also gained a shitload of weight and devolved into a full-blown kitchen mammy. Here she is in promotional mask form, which is great if you ever want to get your ass kicked for Halloween. Her blank glare (plus complete lack of nose) is upsetting on basically every level ever invented:

Quaker Oats
The inclusion of the nose hole is almost as perplexing as the lack of eye holes.

This version of the Aunt -- fat, happy to serve, and blissfully ignorant of how much others laugh at her -- continued for decades. Here she is in 1956, portrayed by blues singer Edith Wilson with all the enthusiasm of a child thanking their grandparents for socks at Christmas.

T.P.Chittenden
We can only hope she at least got a hold of their shoes afterward.

Surely the company must have ended this shitty character shortly thereafter, right? After all, the Civil Rights Movement was just around the corner! Nope ... try 1989. It took them 100 years to realize that selling pancakes on the back of a subservient slave archetype was kind of a shitty idea. To put it another way, they didn't turn Aunt Jemima into an uninsulting human being until after Reagan left office, just before the fall of Soviet Russia. Look, we're glad you finally crossed the social evolution finish line, but it's pretty damn clear that, for most of the race, you didn't give even the slightest shit about running.

Stalk Jason's Facebook enough and you'll find the creepy early version of him. Follow him on Twitter too, because that site's just plain creepy no matter what.

Be sure to check out The 6 Most Clearly Disturbing Mascots In Marketing History and Seanbaby's The 8 Most Baffling Food Mascots Of All-Time.

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