CLASSIC ANIMATED ADVERTISING
January 17, 2015 posted by Jerry Beck

The Origin Of “The Trix Rabbit”

tic533This week, while Mike takes a break, we pay a little tribute to one of our favorite cartoon advertising icons: the Trix Rabbit. This post isn’t a history of Trix cereal per se, but simply a look back at the origin of character who is now over 50 years old and still thriving in new commercials being produced today.

Trix was introduced by General Mills in 1954 as a sugar coated fruit flavored variant to its corn puff cereal Kix. As early as 1955, the company began experimenting with a rabbit mascot (a rabbit being part of a magicians act – one of his “tricks” – get it?). A hand-puppet version of a white “Trix” rabbit first appeared on TV to introduce various “Big G” sponsored kids shows like Rocky and his Friends and Captain Kangaroo – and was used on several versions of the cereal package.

This recently discovered letter (below) from Chet Stover, of the Dancer Fitzgerald and Sample ad agency, is fascinating, as it is proof that artist Joe Harris came up with the Trix Rabbit character – and is a perfect example of how lowly the artists were considered by the copywriters and executives back then.

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Joe Harris went on to supervise the animation of that first commercial spot (see storyboard below, click thumbnails to enlarge – and final commercial, embed below), which produced at New York’s Kim & Gifford (Paul Kim and Lewis Gifford). The Rabbit was voiced by Mort Marshall (“Stanley Livingston” on The Tennessee Tuxedo Show) who regularly provided the voice well into the 1970s. Harris continued doing much commercial work for Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample and later joined Chet Stover and Buck Biggers as a creative force behind Total Television, the New York-based studio created to keep General Mills’ Mexico-based Gamma Studio (Jay Ward) humming.

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32 Comments

  • “I have long held the opinion that any bum can draw but only writers can think.” Stover wasn’t subtle :P

    A fascinating look in the history of this character, Jerry!

  • I love the fact that Trix was created as a junk-food alternative to Kix. General Mills always played up how “natural” Kix was: “No added colors/Kix doesn’t need ‘em/No added flavors/Kids love to eat ‘em”–and if that doesn’t work, there’s Trix. Covering all the bases.

  • I ate a ton of Trix as a child. Not because I really liked the taste. Not because of the free prizes inside the box. No, I was a child who was completely swayed by the character design on the packaging. Something my mother never could understand!

  • Great you made my day! Thanks Jerry!

    I’ve always wanted to see the first Trix Rabbit commercial!

  • Unusual for the time in that the board jarringly crosses the camera line, for dramatic effect.

  • ” (a rabbit being part of a magicians act – one of his “tricks” – get it?)”

    Though I’m still convinced that out of all of a magician’s acts, the rabbit was chosen because Trix look like the result of feeding crayons to one.

  • My favorite of the three GM cereals of the 50a was Jets–and of course THAT’S the one they discontinued! :’(

    • You can’t please everyone I guess.

  • I’d like to reaarrange what Chet Stover put in his letter; “any bum can draw but only writers can think’.

    I think the more accurate sentiment would be “any bum can think but only an artist can draw”.

  • I seem to recall a spot where Bugs Bunny turned up to give the Rabbit advice on how to snag a box of Trix. It ended with a sort of “to be continued” tag. Was there ever a follow-up?

    Also: Was I the only one who thought the kids were uniformly jerks to the Rabbit? I remember the Lucky Charms ads were very similar at first, with kids mocking a ticked-off Lucky after snagging the cereal. In time the escape-the-kids theme went away and they’d end with everybody happy, including Lucky.

    The Trix ads eventually centered on the Rabbit getting at least a spoonful via some disguise, then giving himself away with his orgasmic reaction to orange orange. The kids were still jerks, but the spots ended on a smug look of satisfaction from the Rabbit.

    • Don’t forget Cocoa Puffs. Poor Sonny is like a recovering alcoholic trying to stay “on the wagon”, but the kids (or “Gramps”) taunt him with Cocoa Puffs and eventually FORCE him to eat them.

    • I always hated it that the rabbit couldn’t have any Trix, and I too thought the kids were jerks. Really bugged me.

    • The part 2 was that the Trix rabbit disguised himself as Bugs Bunny and almost got some Trix.

      Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08gt3JqdJfI

      Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WlqblhfNKs

    • Silly Rabbit.Bugs is for Post cereals.And Tang.And Kool-Aid.And any garbage coming out of General Foods,not Mills.Wonder if the bigwigs at GM thought about Bugs getting kids hooked on caffeine via Maxwell House or feeding the numerous Warner Bros. dogs like Belvadere some Gaines Burgers.

  • I read Chet Stover’s opening paragraph as being SELF-deprecating – I do not detect a lowly opinion of an artist by a copywriter in that paragraph, which I believe is bore out by the rest of the letter which glowingly lauds Joe Harris. I also think the facetious nature of the cartoons Stover produced are further proof that his first paragraph is meant in lighthearted jest. Plus, Harris went on to work on many of those shows produced by Stover. Then again, I am a writer/editor/copywriter! :) Either way, great little piece on an iconic character!

    • I agree 100%. He is just joking, & does not hold the artists in low esteem at all. It’s a friendly rivalry.

  • I’d viewed the debut ad before, on S1, IIRC, of “TV’s Commercials, Bloopers, & Practical Jokes”.
    But, what was aired was most of the TR’s introductory rap. THANKS for giving us the fulllength ad.
    Is Mort Marshall dead? If so, when did he die? Does anyone know? Thanks.

  • Does anybody remember the joke with the punchline “Silly rabbi kicks are for trids”?

    • I used to tell that “Silly Rabbi, kicks are for trids” joke ad nauseum. Went with the Roy Rogers joke “Pardon me Roy — is that the cat who chew your new shoes?”

  • I have a T-shirt with the Trix Rabbit on it. I get more compliments on that T-shirt than anything.

  • You’d think I was the perfect age for Trix – 8 in 1954 – and Kix was one of my favorites in my usual round of cereals. I tried Trix once – and hated it. And I always thought the rabbit commercials were dumb. I guess there’s one in every crowd.

  • The Trix rabbit from the package that Jerry loaded above was featured along with an owl and a crazy bird representing Trix, Kix and Jets in a spot which aired many times on the old Mickey Mouse Club show. As far as I know, that was the first time the REALLY silly rabbit was animated.

  • Let us not forget THIS classic: http://youtu.be/N54rfkksxBo

  • IN DEFENSE OF CHET STOVER: Jerry, I just want to echo Paul Castiglia’s comment above. I am certain that Stover is being facetious at the start. You can tell from the letter that the copywriters & the artists had a friendly rivalry. In no way is this a reflection of the copywriters looking down on the artists. His point is that he hates to admit that an artist can not only do an artist’s job superbly, but also do a copywriter’s job better than any copywriter! I think Stover would be horrified if he thought that people were taking his letter literally a half century later.

    • Hey Andy, I hear you. I suspected as much. The letter does play to the old “theory” of writers versus artists – which is still a sore point for many working animation professionals today.

    • It’s worth mentioning that Chet Stover and Joe Harris not only worked together, but were equal partners (along with Watts “Buck” Biggers and Treadwell Covington) in Total TeleVision Productions. The team apparently worked quite harmoniously for the 10 years TTV operated, each concentrating on his own specialty (Biggers and Stover, scripts and music; Harris, art direction, and Covington, voice direction and the “business end.”) Mark Arnold’s book is very specific on that topic.

      Seeing this earliest version of the Trix rabbit, I’m struck by his early personality; a 50′s style neurotic nebbish, as opposed to the energetic “confidence man” type he would become by the mid-60′s.

  • I cannot tell you what a huge deal it was to me, when the Trix rabbit, and Bugs Bunny finally “met.”

    Which could be sad–

    Because I believe I was already in my teens!

    ;-)

    Best, Jim

  • When I interviewed Joe Harris for my book “Created and Produced by Total TeleVision productions”, he was most proud of his creation of Trix rabbit. He boasted that it was the longest-running cereal mascot until I mentioned Tony the Tiger. He kind of grumbled about that, but I did console him by saying that the character has had a remarkable run and is just as memorable. Joe was and is a really nice guy and he deserves much, much more recognition than he has ever got. The last time I spoke with him in 2011, he wasn’t doing too well. The phone number I had has been disconnected, so I have lost track of him. If anyone reading this knows Joe’s current condition and whereabouts, please let me know.

  • I still remember that Bugs Bunny and Trix rabbit crossover. Also I remember a two-part Cocoa Puffs commercial with Sonny the coo-coo bird meets Popeye the Sailor.

  • Does anyone else remember a second, older rabbit that was in the commercials with Sonny? I’m almost positive about this but can’t find any references to it

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