Snap!, Crackle! & Pop! Read-Along Record Book

By the mid-1980s, read-along record books were becoming less and less relevant to kids.  Between the advent of cable television and widespread adoption of VCRs, if kids wanted to relive the excitement of their favorite movies, TV shows, and cartoons they could just tune in to HBO, catch reruns on TBS, or go down to the corner video store.  That doesn’t mean record books or tape cassette books were dead – in fact, some are still published today as compact discs – but they were making up a smaller part of the market.  

For example, in 1982, Peter Pan Records produced 11 story albums for nine different intellectual properties, including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Conan the Barbarian.  But by 1985, they only produced seven albums for four different properties, like Pound Puppies, Robotech, and Betty Boop.  The big names were getting out of the record book market and Peter Pan was feeling the crunch.  Or maybe I should say the Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

The WK Kellog Company first released Rice Krispies in 1928.  The cereal was made from crunchy rice which made a crackling sound when milk was poured on top.  It was this signature sound that inspired illustrator Vernon Grant to create a pixie-like character named Snap to be the cereal’s advertising mascot starting in 1933.  Snap’s friends Crackle and Pop were added six years later in 1939.  Since then, the three have become marketing icons that are still in use today on the boxes of a variety of Rice Krispies cereals.

Twenty years after the introduction of Snap, Kellog’s created another mascot for their new Sugar Frosted Flakes cereal, Tony the Tiger.  While he first debuted in print advertising in 1952, he later became a staple of Saturday morning TV commercials thanks to his famous catchphrase, They’re grrrr-eat!  

In the 1970s, Kellogs began to humanize Tony by giving him a backstory.  Audiences were soon introduced to his mother, Mama Tony, his wife, Mrs. Tony, his daughter, Antoinette, and his son, Tony Jr..  It was also revealed that Tony was Italian-American, which will come in handy the next time you’re at a trivia night fundraiser.

1963 brought us another animated animal mascot, Toucan Sam, who asked kids to “Follow your nose!” to Kellog’s new cereal, Froot Loops.  The character was first voiced in commercials by the legendary Mel Blanc, but would later be voiced by Maurice LaMarche (AKA The Brain from Pinky and the Brain).

Now, at this point you’re probably asking yourself, “Why is he giving us a history of Kellog’s cereal mascots?”  Well, that’s because all of these animated pitchmen appeared in the 1985 read-along record book, Snap! Crackle! And Pop! in The Midnight Mystery by Peter Pan Records.

The Rice Krispies trio were haphazardly shoehorned into a story about two cousins trying to solve the mystery of music coming from an abandoned house next door.  But it gets better because, by the end of the story, Toucan Sam, as well as Tony and his two kids, show up too…for…some…odd…reason.

What’s great is that one of the boys calls Snap, Crackle, & Pop on the phone to come help them with the mystery of the music.  No one bats an eye when three elves arrive.  And then later, none of the other characters even mention that there is now also a talking tropical bird and three talking, bipedal tigers.  It’s just a typical day in this town, I guess.

Surprisingly, none of the cereals that these characters promote are even mentioned. There are a couple of drawings in the record book that show the corner of a Rice Krispies box, but otherwise there’s no reference to the cereals at all. In fact, the boys’ aunt doesn’t make them Rice Krispies treats, she makes them the more trademark dodge-sounding, “Marshmallow Treats” instead.  So, if they’re not there to sell cereal, what are they doing there?  I honestly have no idea.

I’d love to know who approached whom to get this record book made.  Was Kellog’s a cheap license that Peter Pan tried to capitalize on during the waning days of record books?  Or was Kellog’s trying to get some of that sweet, sweet Reagan era de-regulated kids advertising money? Either way, it was a very strange pairing and seems to only serve as a sign that record books were on the way out.  

This record has to be one of the weirdest ones in my collection, so if you’d like to check it out, head over to my podcast When You Hear This Sound and give it a listen!  If you’d like to grab yourself a snack a snack before you go – might I suggest a heaping bowl of Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, or Rice Krispies?  

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