4 Food Mascots Who Have Surprisingly Deep Lore
The business of fast food has risen from a convenience to an inescapable presence in modern life. Show even the ghost of the beginning of a single hunger pang and grinning, focus-tested faces in neon and plastic will focus their dead gaze on you, willing you inside for a microwaved patty of some variety. Our streets are littered with the viscera of a fast-food meal devoured, from abandoned KFC chicken bones to fry boxes stamped flat under the force of foot traffic. When the modern world is one ruled by gluttony and impatience, it’s no wonder that a multiple course meal that can be ordered and received in the space it would take to boil a pot of water has become such a force.
It extends to our mornings and our snacks as well, with things like boxed cereals and bagged chips providing an injection of calories at any moment and from practically anywhere. These, too, are almost always represented by some sort of anthropomorphic grinning face, providing emotion and allowing you to connect with your canned ravioli on a more personal level. Many of these food mascots exist solely to sell their food of choice, as though they were a golem summoned for a single purpose, the failure of which will result in a banishment back to a realm of technicolored hell.
Some food mascots, however, have a history and a life, whether created as part of their character or built through their extracurricular actions. Here are five food mascots with surprisingly deep lore…
Chuck E. Cheese Is An Orphan
Ah, Charles Entertainment Cheese, the beloved party rat of children across the nation. Unfortunately, it turns out that Chuck’s backstory is not nearly as fun as an afternoon at a strip mall outpost filled with Skee-Ball machines. In fact, his love of partying may be an attempt to drown the sorrows of his traumatic past in liters of cola. Apparently, a young Charles was an orphan, who was raised in an orphanage called… St. Marinara’s.
He loved birthdays at the orphanage, but was never able to celebrate his own, because he did not know his own birthday. Jesus Christ — just pick the date he showed up there and give the guy a cake, no need to get all pedantic about it, nuns of Marinara. He lived a birthday-less orphan life until the orphanage kicked him out for, well, not being a kid anymore. He then hid in a pizzeria, where the owner, Pasqually, discovered him, but before he could brain him with a pizza paddle and toss his lifeless carcass into the dumpster, Chuck began to sing, and Pasqually saw dollar signs in his eyes. So began a fruitful, fictional partnership that sustains to this day.
It turns out the dead eyes of that mascot costume are more accurate than you ever would have guessed.
There Is A Whole Island of Grimaces
McDonald’s, because of its totemic presence in the fast-food world, escapes a lot of scrutiny to exactly what the fuck is going on with its nightmarish collection of mascots. Their strangeness is undeniable, as perfectly laid out by comedian Hampton Yount. Even among this rogues’ gallery of sleep-paralysis demons, there is one that is more inscrutable than the rest: Grimace. A guy who steals hamburgers? Weird, but okay, I follow. A clumsy purple lump who doesn’t even seem particularly interested in food is an enigma.
What exactly he is is still a point of contention. A McDonald’s manager said in an interview that he is a taste bud, which would be a weird pairing with something named Grimace. McDonald’s official Twitter then rebutted this, explaining (which is a generous word choice for something that only makes the subject more confusing) that Grimace is “the embodiment of a milkshake.” The milkshake is the closest food connection Grimace has, as his original design, “The Evil Grimace” was a four-armed monstrosity that stole milkshakes from children, which they changed to a friendly amorphous purple guy because it was, unsurprisingly, terrifying to children.
That’s Grimace’s real-world origin, but McDonald’s did, at one point, give us some information on his canonical background, through an episode of The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald entitled “The Legend of Grimace Island.” In it, Grimace receives a letter begging for help from the Grimaces of Grimace Island. Apparently, all Grimaces originate from this island, and at first were a happy group of purple things that loved to dance. Unfortunately, humans landed on their island, scared all the Grimaces away and stole all the most precious treasures of the Grimace race. Grimace and the gang return to the lost island, where he saves it from a pirate, and in doing so, earns the Grimaces’ last remaining treasure — the Golden Cup of Grimace Bravery, only awarded to the bravest Grimace of all. Also, he apparently has an Irish uncle named Uncle O’Grimacey who used to come every March to provide the Shamrock Shake.
Ah, now it all makes sense.
Cap’n Crunch Is Native American
The character of Horatio Magellan Crunch, known more commonly by his abbreviated rank of Cap’n, was created in 1961, when General Mills hired Jay Ward’s animation studio to create a mascot for them. The man responsible for actually creating the Cap’n and his surrounding world, though, was Allan Burns. In hindsight, General Mills got the deal of a lifetime with an original character by Allan Burns, the same Allan Burns who would go on to create The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Yes, the Mary Tyler Moore Show that hoovered up Emmys like Froot Loops from carpet and is considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.
When that’s your creator, it’s not that surprising that Cap’n Crunch is a more three-dimensional character than a cardboard box might suggest. Burns provided not only a name, but a fairly detailed backstory for our seafaring friend. According to a biography from a 1961 press release, Horatio inherited his sea legs from his father, Sven Crunch, who was a Viking navigator who found himself and his boatmates marooned in what is now New England. There, he met and married a Native American woman named Gidget Running Star. They bore a child, and that child was Horatio Magellan Crunch. Unfortunately, America’s school system was lacking, and it was decided that he would be sent to England for his studies. On his way, however, the boat Horatio was riding on was captured by pirates, who then adopted a young Crunch and taught him to be a sailor, beginning his rise to the captain we know and love today.
In 1965, General Mills retconned this story, replacing it with “Cap’n Crunch was born on Crunch Island :)” because they’re fucking cowards who belong in the brig or better yet, the sea floor.
Mr. Peanut Fought in World War II
Okay, this one is a brief aside comparatively, but I think it’s important for everyone to know that, according to a World War II era poster, Mr. Peanut very possibly felt the last breath of a Nazi soldier whisper across the pocks of his shell.