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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Magically Delicious!

Hello, everybody!  I hope that you’re having a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I’ve turned this whole blog green in celebration of the day.  It’s a day where we all claim to be a little bit Irish, where we wear shirts in different shades of green from emerald to olive, and where it isn’t all that unusual to drink a beer that happens to be the same colour as a four-leaf clover.

From Shamrock shakes to pots of gold, today is a day that truly brings forth the luck of the Irish.

(Note to residents of Canada...there is a Lotto 6/49 drawing today, so today is a day in which you might want to put that Irish luck to the test.)

But, today also brings forth a bit of a quandary.

Today happens to be St. Patrick’s Day.  But it also happens to be Saturday.  And, as many of you regular followers of the blog know, it is supposed to be a day in which we talk about a particular Saturday morning program or educational television show.

My initial plan was to try and feature a program that had a strong Irish influence on it.  Surely there had to be some cartoon character or show that had some Irish background behind it.

After about a couple of weeks doing research, I came up completely empty.

The only cartoon characters that I could find from that area were Count Duckula and DuckTales’ Scrooge McDuck...and neither one are from Ireland (in case you’re wondering, they are English and Scottish).  So, that was out.

I briefly considered spotlighting the Canadian television program, “Harrigan”.  The show featured Barry Dale as the iconic character of Harrigan, a leprechaun who sang songs, danced, and hung around with his friends, Mr. Green and Miss Sunflower.  Based out of Kingston, Ontario (though originally filmed in Ottawa), the show featured artwork from viewers, and ran both original episodes and re-reruns on Canadian television between 1969 and 1992.  And, just for a little bit of trivia, the star of the show later opened up a local pizza franchise called Godfatha Pizzas.  If customers came into the pizzeria, recognized Barry Dale, and sang the Harrigan theme song, they’d often get an extra topping, or a free slice of pizza!  Sadly, I don’t think the deal is any good these days, as Dale moved to the United States about ten years ago.  But, here’s a video of the classic jingle below.

There were just two problems with featuring Harrigan as the blog topic for today.  One, because the show aired exclusively in Canada during the 1960s and 1970s, it’s doubtful that many people would remember it.  I barely even remember the show myself (though for some reason, I remember the jingle).  And, secondly, very few clips of the show exist, as many of the original tapes were not transferred onto DVD’s or anything else similar.  As a result, most episodes of Harrigan wore out and are forever lost.  So, therefore, my blog entry would only be one typed page at most.

So, I was left with a quandary.  I had a St. Patrick’s Day entry that I had to get done, but I had absolutely no clue as to what I would choose as the subject.  I’m usually great at picking topics by the seat of my pants, but today was a toughie.

And then, a couple of nights ago at my workplace, I was inspired.

As some of you may know, when I don’t do the blogging thing, I do the stocking thing in the food department at a major retail chain.  And, as part of my job, I am constantly going in and out of the stockroom, bringing all sorts of delicious goodies like marble cheese and chocolate milk to the people.

On one of these trips back to the stockroom, I passed by a couple of skids filled with breakfast cereal.  I honestly don’t know if it was on sale, or whether it was just overstock, but whatever the case, that cereal saved this blog.

If I couldn’t do a blog entry on a cartoon character or a Saturday morning program, then why not do a blog entry on a delicious cereal that I used to eat when I was a kid? 

(Or, at least it WAS delicious when my age was still in the single digits.)

To sweeten the deal, the cereal that I have chosen happens to have a spokesperson that definitely fits the theme of St. Patrick’s Day.

That cereal is Lucky Charms.

It seems hard to believe, but Lucky Charms have been around for five decades now.  Created in 1962 by John Holahan, Lucky Charms were first sold in stores two years later in 1964, distributed by General Mills.  The idea for the cereal came about when General Mills issued a challenge to their team of product developers to create a new cereal.  At the time, the company had garnered a lot of success through their two biggest selling cereals (Cheerios and Wheaties), and the challenge was to take one of the cereals and innovate them to create a brand new delicious cereal.  John Holahan’s idea was the winning one.  He found that by adding Brach’s Circus Peanuts to Cheerios, it made a very tasty combination, and General Mills agreed.  Though, instead of Circus Peanuts, little marshmallow bits in pastel colours were substituted.

In 1963, the plan to bring the new cereal to store shelves was firmly in place.  The name Lucky Charms was chosen for the cereal after one of the people on the development team suggested that the cereal be marketed around the idea of charm bracelets.  And, because some of the original lucky charms involved four-leaf clovers, the idea to have a leprechaun as the spokesperson for the cereal was almost a no-brainer.

TRIVIA:  The original name for the Lucky Charms leprechaun was L.C. Leprechaun, but his name was changed to Lucky a short time later.  He was voiced by legendary voice actor Arthur Anderson until 1992.

When the cereal was ready for the public to buy in 1964, changes were made during the cereal’s first year.  Originally, the oat cereal was not sugar-coated, but when the first sales reports did not look promising, executives agreed to dust the oat cereal with a small amount of sugar.  The sales greatly improved.  Furthermore, the marshmallow bits themselves underwent some changes as well, including making them more brightly coloured, as a way to market the cereal to children.  Ultimately, the creator of Lucky Charms, John Holahan, had admitted that the cereal itself was a lesson in creative marketing.  Based on the effort and creativity used to bring Lucky Charms to breakfast tables all over the world, I would definitely agree with that statement.

I’m sure that if you were to ask any child between the ages of four and fourteen what their favourite part about Lucky Charms cereal is, I imagine a good number of them would say that the marshmallows were the best part.  When I was that age, I know that my answer would have been the same.

But, over the years, the Lucky Charms marshmallows have changed quite a bit!  I was actually looking at a box of Lucky Charms the other day, and I honestly thought that it was an imitation cereal!  That’s how much they have changed.

It seems hard to comprehend now, but when the cereal first came about in the 1960s, there were only four marshmallow shapes.  The original marshmallow shapes included green clovers, yellow moons, orange stars, and pink hearts.

TRIVIA:  Of the four original marshmallow shapes, the green clovers (though they went away for a bit and came back) and pink hearts are the only original shapes that are still found inside a current box of Lucky Charms today.  Told you they changed a lot!

For the first decade or so, the cereal only contained those four shapes.  But over the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, three more shapes would eventually be added to boxes of Lucky Charms.  The first of these marshmallow shapes to be added were blue diamonds, in the mid-1970s.  In 1984, the cereal added purple horseshoes to the mix.  Five years later, the rainbow was completed with the addition of red balloons

The 1990s was a decade of change for Lucky Charms and its marshmallow shapes.  An eighth marshmallow was created in 1992, a rainbow shape with three different colours.  But, in 1994, changes were made to the original Lucky Charms line-up that had us saying good-bye to two long-standing marshmallow shapes.  That year, the yellow moons turned blue, and the blue diamonds became pots of gold.  As a result of this change, the jingle for Lucky Charms changed to this...

“Hearts, stars, and horseshoes, clovers and blue moons!  Pots of gold and rainbows, and me red balloons!”

More changes to the marshmallow line-up were brought forth as the 1990s ended, and the 2000s began.  The green clovers were taken away in 1996 and innovated into leprechaun hats (the clovers returned in 2004).  And later, the orange stars were transformed into orange shooting stars.

TRIVIA:  In 2011, the shooting stars were introduced in five more colours, including red, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

The most recent marshmallow creations have included yellow door marshmallows that if milk is poured over top of them reveal a skeleton key hole inside.  Magic Mirror marshmallows were introduced in 2006, and in 2008, hourglass marshmallow shapes were introduced.  That’s quite a lot of marshmallow shapes, isn’t it?  And, we’re not quite done yet!

Occasionally, special limited edition marshmallows would be added to Lucky Charms.  The limited edition marshmallows didn’t last very long, though.  As well, there were also innovations made to the existing marshmallows over the years.  The list of these temporary marshmallows and marshmallow innovations include the following;

1986 – Whale shaped marshmallows were added to Lucky Charms for a limited time.

1990 – Pine tree shaped marshmallows were temporarily added to Lucky Charms.  I don’t remember why this was the case, but the fact that 1990 was the 20th anniversary of Earth Day might have something to do with it.

1991 – The red balloons and orange stars were combined into a super-marshmallow.  For a limited time, the red balloons had orange stars inside of them.

1994 – The marshmallow shapes had sprinkles added to them on a temporary basis.

1998 – The blue moons were once released with a yellow curve line.

2000 – The rainbow shapes became sparkling rainbow shapes.

Have I filled your brain with enough marshmallow shape trivia yet?  Well, you can relax now.  This blog on Lucky Charms has come to an end.  But, before I go, why not post one more classic Lucky Charms advertisement?

After all, they are magically delicious!

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