The Cereal Bowl - Breakfast Cereal Parody Skate Art from the Early 1990's Onward

Anyone who grew up in the 1980's will remember Saturday morning cartoons and after-school cartoons. It was an absolute staple of one's youth in those days. Part in parcel with that were all of the breakfast cereal commercials that went with it; the result of the cereal wars of the time. Who can forget Toucan Sam, Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Boo-Berry, Count Chocula, Frankberry and countless others? There was a Pac-Man cereal, a Donkey Kong cereal, even a Mr. T cereal. It was one of the most fun aisles to visit in the grocery store and pop culture and cereal frequently intermixed thus making it all the more so -- pure marketing genius. 

Given that skate culture was strongly defined by 70's, 80's and 90's youth culture as well, it should likely come as little surprise that these two spheres might eventually overlap, especially once the 1990's came along and skate art started to expand beyond VCJ's Powell Peralta art or Jim Phillips art for Santa Cruz. Younger skaters themselves started to take over the reins and in the process established their own frame of reference which was defined by youth pop culture. Gone were the skulls and in came the cartoons and comic books -- and yes, cereals, but generally with a parodic wist of some sort.

Perhaps the single most iconic (and perhaps very first) example of cereal inspired skate art came in 1992 from the infamous Big Brother magazine when they released an issue of their magazine in a full fledged faux cereal box that was an obvious riff on another popular cereal during this time period, Kellogg's Corn Pops.

A year or two later, in 1993 and 1994 respectively, the theme continued, first under Foundation skateboards and next under Blind, with Ronnie Creager's two Trix inspired decks featuring Trix's Silly Rabbit (TM) who always just misses out on enjoying a bowl of fruity-flavoured Trix because, as he's reminded as the bowl is pulled away from him by the kids, "Trix are for kids!" -- clearly the marketing worked because I can remember all these slogans as though it were yesterday. 

Foundation and Blind had a different story planned for their own version of the silly rabbit than did the General Mills company however, contributing in the process to one of most interesting and enjoyable genres in skateboard art: the popular culture parody deck -- a genre earlier popularized by the underground comic book world which made obscene riffs on popular cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse.. Foundation and Blind's macabre silly rabbit finally gets his Trix (and, in the first instance, his revenge on the kids who always took it away from him) but his fate was a little different in the Blind board which sees him being hanged, drawn and quartered by them, who for their efforts come away with two rabbit's feet lucky charms.  This is, of course, the essence of popular culture parody art; take familiar, popular characters and themes and completely turn them upside down into less innocent, Bizarro-world caricatures of themselves.

On the Chrome Ball Incident blog in 2018, Creager was asked about the Trix theme; here's what he had to say:
Why the running theme of Trix in your graphics? What was the thinking there? Just a big fan of Trix?

Actually, no! But we were trying to figure out something to do for my first pro board… which, Josh Beagle is the one who actually turned me pro. Tod asked me if I wanted to turn pro and I didn’t even know what to say so Josh said yes for me. (laughs)

But yeah, we were trying to figure out what to do for my board and those Trix commercials were on TV all the time back then.

“Why don’t we just have the Trix rabbit killing all the kids so he can finally eat the cereal? He’ll be happy for once.”

So that’s how it came about. And, of course, I ended up facing the same problem after I’d switched over to Blind. Returning to the Trix theme felt like the best option.

“Let’s just cut the feet off the rabbit.”

I’m sure Rocco and McKee had something to do with that as well. McKee was the reason for pretty much all of my Blind graphics.

This cereal theme was expanded upon further by Birdhouse in 1994 when they released two decks for Jeremy Klein and Ocean Howell featuring Count Chocula and Toucan Sam. 

These were less parodies however than they were simply references, which makes them less interesting to my mind, but they are part of the picture all the same. 

A more Creager like approach would once again be taken up in 2013 however when skate company DGK released their own cereal series which included riffs on Trix's Silly Rabbit (now a drug dealer), Kellog's Honey Smack's Dig'Em Frog (now a crack addict), Lucky Charm's leprechaun Lucky (now a drunkard), and once again, Froot Loops Toucan Sam (portrayed as a gang-banger).

The art on these, while obviously commercially inspired, still has something of an old school feel about it that makes it work.

More contemporaneously, Stain Industries also took their own pass at this, once again turning these beloved characters into murderous, sociopathic versions of themselves:

Similarly, Baker skateboards recently produced the Mr. TK "I pity the fool that don't ride Baker" deck for skater Terry Kennedy which borrowed its design from Quaker's Mr. T breakfast cereal -- right down to the Baker/Quaker logo. Well played.

Finally, I have to share this one which I regrettably know nothing about; for all I know its a one off and it also appears to be a topside graphic if the curve at the tail is any indication, but it comes off quite well.

Of course there are other examples (I'll show you a few more in the addendum below) but what's interesting to me is how often this breakfast cereal theme has arisen in skateboard art and, what's more, how eighties and early nineties focused the expressions tend to be even now. I suppose that should hardly come as a surprise given that the breakfast cereal wars of that period resulted in heavy marketing that would ultimately push these into the realm of popular culture -- thereby making them a clear target for a skateboarding culture that has frequently turned to parody since the 1990's.  

In that regard, why wouldn't the youthfully driven culture of skateboarding co-opt it for itself, just as it did with Dr. Seuss, Burger King, and countless other icons of modern American culture.  Dog Bowl meet the Cereal Bowl.

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For the sake of being reasonably thorough, I wanted to at show these additional examples coming from within this same genre. To my mind they aren't as appealing as many of the examples shown above, but I'd at least like to acknowledge their existence and help show how prevalent this theme has become over the years.

The first are some more recent passes by DGK. I personally prefer it when boards in the parody genre stray a little further, design wise, from the commercial roots of what they're parodying, but to each their own. 

Next we have Primitive's 2014 and 2016 Cereal Killers team decks which have turned beloved cereal mascots, Snack, Crackle and Pop, as well as Boo Berry, Franken Berry and Count Chocula into horror icons Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, Ghost Face, Leatherface and Hannibal Lecter.

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