“Barrels of fun for breakfast!”
It’s certainly no surprise that manufacturers of kid’s breakfast cereals have found much of their success by tying their product to popular cultural icons, such as television cartoons. But with the rapid rise in the popularity of video games in the early 80s, these computer-generated mascots were able to get in on the action as well. And with a game as enormously popular as Donkey Kong, few were surprised when a breakfast cereal soon followed. Unfortunately, its rightful place in the supermarket aisle was short lived.
Donkey Kong cereal featured little golden barrels of crunchy corn goodness, much like the ones that one smashed with a mallet in the video game. A series of animated commercials featured the hapless plumber Mario, his damsel in distress, and of course, the big guy himself – Donkey Kong.
The cereal was introduced by Ralston Foods in 1983, but started disappearing from store shelves the following year, replaced by a similar offering – Donkey Kong Junior – which was banana and strawberry flavored. It was equally short-lived, however, and the beloved Mario would have to wait a few more years for a return to cereal box fame when, in 1988, Ralston tried again with Nintendo Action Cereal, pairing Mario with another video game icon, Zelda. The success of the latter breakfast cereal mimicked its predecessors unfortunately, and manufactures turned back to other tried and true methods of cereal mascots.
As it turned out, video games were meant to be played, not eaten. But for many kids growing up in the 80s, these cereals are still well remembered, more for their fanciful commercials than their actual flavor. If you started your morning with a bowl of either of these long-lost cereals back in the day, we welcome your memories in our comments section, as we fondly look back on this breakfast food from yesteryear.