Extolling the virtues of Frosted Flakes for over half a decade, Tony the Tiger has exclaimed his way into the hearts of kids and adults everywhere with his exuberant expression, “They’re Grrrreat!” But Tony did more than that, he taught every kid a lesson along the way – the importance of having a balanced breakfast every morning.
The not so ferocious feline mascot known as Tony the Tiger was part mentor, part coach. He would find some kid, usually being taunted by their peers before a big swim meet, skateboarding session or other athletic endeavor, and give them a bit of a pep talk, telling them to “show them you’re a tiger!” Of course, he also made clear the performance benefits of a bowl of sugary cereal to give them that extra edge. By the end of their encounter, the kid would be beating the pants off of his peers while Tony stood back like a proud papa and belted out his famous catchphrase.
Of course, Tony actually was a proud papa. He and his wife, Mrs. Tony, sired a litter of offspring that included his son, Tony Jr., and later a daughter, Antoinette. Even his mother, Mama Tony was known to show up every once in a while. And, chip off the old block that he was, Tony Jr. followed in his dad’s footsteps and eventually began to hawk his own cereal, Frosted Rice. All accounts are that Tony thought his son’s success was just Grrreat.
Appearing for the first time in 1951, Tony the Tiger was the creation of artist, Martin Provenson, noted children’s book illustrator and Disney animator. It would be another Disney guy, however, that would really bring Tony to life – a man by the name of Thurl Ravenscroft. Thurl lent Tony his booming baritone voice, the same one that can be heard when the “Grim Grinning Ghosts” sing in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction, as well as many other places around the park. You may also notice that Tony’s singing voice bears a remarkable resemblance to that pesky Grinch that stole Christmas. The man’s voice was truly legendary. After Thurl’s passing in 2005, wrestling announcer Lee Marshall signed a 10-year contract to take over Tony’s voice so you should be hearing a lot more Tony in the future.
Over the years, the red-kerchief-wearing tiger has changed a little. He has grown taller, had a bit of face work done and even developed a few wrinkles on his chin – all to be expected for someone on the job for as long as Tony has been. And yet, he continues his tireless efforts to make sure that kids get that first important meal of the day – the one that will bring out the tiger in them. And he leaves them with a little more confidence and self-worth. The word “hero” comes to mind.
If Tony the Tiger enticed you to eat a few bowls of Frosted Flakes as a kid, and you have a memory or two to share, we’d love to hear them in our comments section. In fact, that would be Grrreeeat!