Of the many modern urban myths that tangentially involve breakfast foods, there is one universally accepted truth that has been handed down unchanged from successive generations since its inception in 1962. Unaffected by the march of time, immune to the threat of the frozen microwave breakfast brigade, this truth goes marching onward in the whispers of knowing children, and in the late-night binge by their parents who remember too late to save themselves: if you eat Cap’n Crunch too quickly, or for too long, you will experience the dreaded Cap’n Crunch Mouth. CCM is an unfortunate malady that shreds the gums and roof of the mouth, rendering the subject useless for the next four to eight hours. Depending on the severity of the damage and the sensitivity of the subject, one conceivably could suffer for several days, unable to chew anything more complicated than oatmeal, which, incidentally, is where Cap’n Crunch got his start.
Oatmeal giant Quaker Oats approached renegade animation pioneer Jay Ward in 1962. Ward was the hottest thing going at the time – his Rocky and Bullwinkle series was a hit, and Quaker was feeling the squeeze from Kellogg’s lucrative tie-ins with Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. After some wrangling, Ward signed on, and in 1963, Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch was born. His ship was christened The Good Ship Guppy, and for his crew he was awarded four presumably orphaned children: Alfie, Brunhilde, Carlyle, and Dave. The ship’s mascot was a dog, not surprisingly named Seadog. Jean La Foot the Pirate was the Cap’s nemesis, who, (much like his distant future cousins the Trix Rabbit and Lucky the Leprechaun) was always trying to find a clever way steal the chemically enhanced (“Stays crunchy even in milk!”) cereal. La Foot never got what he wanted, because in the Cap’n’s own words: “You can’t get away with the Crunch, because the crunch always gives you away!”
Voiced by veteran voice actor Daws Butler, the initial Saturday Morning TV spots were so successful that supermarkets couldn’t keep the cereal in stock. Quaker built a new plant to meet the demand in 1964. Cap’n Crunch was a hit as kids across America got their crunch on. Premiums, such as rag dolls, treasure chests, hand puppets and telescopes were given away in specially marked packages. Soon, the Cap’s family expanded to include the Crunchberry Beast (Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries), Smedley the elephant (Peanut Butter Crunch), Wilma the Whale (Vanilla Crunch), and Harry S. Hippo (Punch Crunch). Harry, as legend has it, was a rather fey looking pink hippo in a sailor suit who, as depicted on the box, was allegedly making goo-goo eyes at the Cap’n. This caught the attention of a right-wing media watchdog who declared the hippo not only to be gay, but actually trying to hit on the good Cap’n. Punch Crunch was unceremoniously retired.
In the early 1970s, another kind of Captain Crunch made headlines. John Draper discovered that a toy whistle premium found in specially marked boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal could be easily modified to emit a tone at 2600 hertz—the frequency used by AT&T. Draper eventually went to prison for his Crunch crimes – hacking into long distance carriers – and he used his time in the slammer to write the Easy Writer program. Draper is still active today, and still answers to the name “Captain.”
In the years that followed, Cap’n Crunch battled the Soggies, went AWOL (Where’s the Cap’n?) and had apparent lapses in judgement (Oops! All Berries!). He has survived a makeover, and is actually younger and more vibrant than ever. In the pantheon of middle-aged fictitious pitchmen, the Cap’n reigns supreme – far more inspiring than Colonel Sanders, more useful than King Vitamin, and more effective than Mr. Whipple. Cap’n Crunch Mouth aside, this sugar-packed tradition has kept kids entertained, energized and vitamin-fortified for over forty years, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
If you have been the occasional victim of Cap’n Crunch Mouth, or if you just love this tasty line of cereal treats, we welcome your memories in our comments section. Tell us which variety is your favorite as we fondly remember the good Cap’n and his breakfast bounty.