Animation History
March 13, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

Disney’s Forgotten “Puppets Cereal” Commercial

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Does this image ring any bells? If you were a child in 1966, you might have bought Nabisco’s Puppets Cereal. Crunchy, crappy breakfast food sold in plastic “dolls” in the shape of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Selling cereal was never so competitive as it was back in the 60s. The TV commercial actually urges the kids to “…Have fun with your puppet toys. Play with them… sleep with them!” And Disney, poor Disney, actually went along with this marketing stunt.

They didn’t, however, make the commercial or provide the animation. That fell to Playhouse Pictures, Ade Woolery’s 1952 spin-off from UPA which made some of the best commercials (The original Charlie Brown Ford automobile spots) and movie titles (It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World among many many others) in Hollywood.

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I do not know who actually did the animation in the spot, but when Playhouse went out of business a few years ago they had a “fire sale” and I was able to pick up many 16mm reels of their TV spots. Among the items for sale was a complete file of material on this particular commercial. It gives us a little insight into its production… here’s the original board provided to Playhouse by the ad agency, William Esty Company, on 8/26/66 (click to enlarge):

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Here is the two-page recording script, dated 8/30/66 (click to enlarge):

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Here’s the final board, revised at Playhouse Pictures (click to enlarge):

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And finally, here is the finished commercial itself. They got Jimmy MacDonald and Clarence Nash to voice their characters – and yes, that’s Marsha Brady (Maureen McCormick) as the little girl:

Now try getting that tune out of your head. Good luck!

17 Comments

  • The plastic puppets were still at the studio when I worked there in the eighties!

    The first section of the commercial was animated by Phil Duncan, a long time friend of Ade Woolery.

    Me Mum never actually bought the cereal, but I do remember them advertising it.

  • So how did Playhouse get this gig? And can you take them to bed with you before the cereal’s gone?

  • Seeing it now, this commercial doesn’t play as bad as it came off in early 1967, when Walt wasn’t even cold in the ground and it first aired. Disney then needed to do something to tell the world that its blue chip characters would carry on and the first thing coming out of the DIsney-approved gate was this lame commercial with second string animation of Mickey and Donald, barely able to muster enough energy to sing half a tepid song to shill some forgettable product with their faces on the containers.

  • An interesting idea. Too bad the “puppets” themselves are hideous.

  • Wow! Maureen McCormick in a pre-Brady Bunch-Marcia role! Can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned until now.

    As for the cereal, I never knew about it. Fascinating stuff! Bet those “puppets” cost a pretty penny on the collectors market nowadays!

  • Oops, I didn’t see the mention of Maureen until after posting. My apologies. Still fascinating, though!

  • What I find interesting in the commercial is that Donald seems far more on model than Mickey.

  • I don’t believe I ever remember seeing this at the time.It is interesting,though,to see a pint size Maureen McCormack about a year after she appeared on an episode of Honey West.

  • FWIW this cereal tasted HORRIBLE (GAG)! It was packaged directly inside the plastic puppet without any kind of bag, wrapper or lining, which gave it a terrible plastic aftertaste (although I ate it regardless for that cool Donald Duck toy)

  • Yikes! The dead expressions on those puppets are frightening! Along with the fact that cereal apparently tasted terrible (I wouldn’t know I was born in the ’90s), how did these ever sell?

  • There was also a Winnie the Pooh and Kanga puppets produced.

    I’m surrprised no one mentioned why the cereal was short-lived. On the bottom of the puppets was a cap that kept the cereal inside. Apparently, one too many kids at super markets kept unscrewing the caps off the packaging resulting on so many spills in the breakfest aisles. This was mentioned in an old issue of “Disney Magazine”.

  • I have the Donald on top of a bookshelf in my living room, flanked by an Icee Bear bank and a vinyl figure of Sinus O’Gynus, from ANGRY YOUTH COMICS. I’d never seen the Mickey, though.

  • I remember the commercial, but not seeing the products in person anywhere. Not nearly so cool as Soaky bubble bath toys.

    The real question is, why an astronaut and a clown?
    Were there rejected prototypes of, say, Mickey as a tax preparer?

  • It took me years to track a replacement Donald for my Donald Duck shelf. I had one as a small boy and finally got hold of another in the early days of Ebay. I love it, since it references the astronaut mania of the time too- another love of mine.

  • I see this ad now and all I can think of is Don Draper passing this campaign onto Pete and Peggy.

  • I would have been about four when this was introduced and it does spark some very vague memories. Recognized young “Marcia” immediately! So sad that the Playhouse Pictures Archive was sold piecemeal like that. What a research destination it would be if properly housed in a Library. Thanks for saving what you could and sharing…

    • They certainly could’ve done better than what they did (had I known of it I would’ve tried picking up whatever was there myself though too bad I don’t live in the area).

      I did find the Donald Duck Puppet at antique shop last year I recall. Didn’t pick it up but I think they wanted somewhere between $7-10 for it, but the front of it was faded to obscurity and I didn’t realize it was Donald at all (though how can you since he’s dolled up like an astronaut). :=P

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