March 5, 2021

Friday Flashback: Twinkles

It doesn't happen often, but this week's classic TV blogosphere was pretty empty, so I thought I'd carry thinks over until next week. Instead, I decided to pick up whatever was near me, and write about that. So that's how we happen to be spending Friday talking about Twinkles, "the only cereal in the storybook package." 

The ad above comes from the back cover of a 1961 TV Guide. That's the space that was usually reserved for cigarette ads; I wonder how much General Mills had to pay to get this prime bit of advertising real estate?

Anyway, Twinkles the elephant was created by Total Television, those great folks that brought us Tennessee Tuxedo, Underdog and other classics of the day, and although Twinkles never had a series of its own, it appeared as a frequent commercial on many of the cartoons of the day, particularly Linus the Lionhearted.  Eventually the FCC blew the whistle on Twinkles ("This isn't entertainment—it's advertising!" which only applies to about 99 percent of today's movies*), and the cereal went on without its mascot, in a much blander bit of packaging, before disappearing from the shelves altogether.

*Not only movies, but try telling it to the ad executives who come up with the Super Bowl commercials.  And do you really want us to believe those viewers are less impressionable than kids?

Personally, I don't think there's much doubt that the "well-intentioned" reformers of the '60s caused the end of local kids' TV, and I don't know that the late-60s FCC ruling that banned commercial tie-ins wound up doing much good. Subsequent changes in the law wound up giving us cartoons that weren't anything more than half-hour commercials anyway (G.I. Joe, Pokémon, etc.), so in the end these laws probably did more harm than good. (A debatable point, to be sure, in case anyone wants to pursue it.)

Because of the FCC, Twinkles never appeared in syndication, but you can get a glimpse of him (her? it?) in this clip:

Twinkles wasn't the only breakfast cereal with a TV tie-in, though - check out this wonderful page for more of your favorite animated cereal characters. And if you want to read more about Total Television, you'd do well to have this terrific book by Mark Arnold on your shelf. (Although, unlike my copy, yours probably won't be autographed.)  TV  


  1. I don't understand how the FCC banned ads for Twinkles for being ads? What were they supposed to be if not ads?
    I'm pretty sure this ad is included in the videotape called "Those Crazy Old Commercials", which I bought back in the 1980s.

  2. The FCC banned 'Linus the Lionhearted', because of a perceived 'blurring of lines' between advertising and commercial content


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