There wasn't much risk involved with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal." Ralston often produced cereal brands based on popular kiddy cartoons and movies, but they were generally hit-or-miss. They struck temporary gold with "Batman Cereal," but for every one of their successes, there was something like Ralston's cereal based on the Addams Family cartoon to ruin the curve. Most of their edibles really sucked, and few would deny that the entire lot was sold on name alone. If that's the case, and it's 1990, what better name to stamp on an otherwise crappy cereal than the Ninja Turtles?
A legend was born, and while some fans will surely take issue with my opinion, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal" was a flavor adventure on par with eating Easy Cheese-covered sandpaper. My argument is that since nobody actually bought Turtles Cereal for its taste, why bother wasting the good stuff? Save the yum for something that needed it, like Fester.
There's the box, and good God, check out the look on our heroes' faces. They know they've gone too far. Action figures, schoolbags, video games, comics -- that's to be expected. But cereal? Look at Michaelangelo's apologetic demeanor on the right. If characters on cereal boxes could talk, Mikey would've blamed the whole fiasco on Splinter. And even if it wasn't Splinter's fault...who cares? It's about time he took the heat for something. Lousy, funny-making filthrat.
It's only 12.5 ounces, much like most of Ralston's other old brands. TMNT Cereal wasn't going to be around for long, so they needed to make kids buy as many boxes as possible before the cartoon lost steam. This one had an admittedly impressive run, all things considered. I guess the sight of Donatello wielding a six foot spoon outclassed anything shown on those other cereal boxes. Think about it. Donatello with the biggest spoon in the universe, or Courtney Thorne Smith on a box of Special K? You'd have to know why Jo doesn't carry a gun in her purse to choose the latter. Donatello all the way, hey hey.
And there it is! "Crunchy, sweetened 'Ninja Nets' with 'Ninja Turtle' marshmallows!" Crap! There's a couple of things you must consider. One, the "Ninja Nets" are not unlike rice Chex, though they seem to have only been sweetened with some kind of experimental, alien sweetener that in fact performs no sweetening at all. It's the sugar you can't taste, and that's only a negative if you forget that no other cereal brand offers such a sugar. The Turtles' junk was one of a kind.
To balance the taste of ricey nothings, several marshmallows were added. Some look like baby turtles, other look like the Ninja Turtles' weapons. You've got Leo's swords, ninja stars, Raph's sais, and Don's broomstick. It's the only cereal in the world with "sai marshmallows." Kinda takes the punch out of Lucky the Leprechaun's selections.
The turtle-shaped bowl was actually included with the cereal, shrink-wrapped to the front of each box. It doesn't hold an incredible amount of the stuff, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The bowl can also be used for your pet's water dish. Finally! We're finally given a just reason to say "my dog's drinking from a turtle!" Been waiting for that one since, like, forever.
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The commercial featured the green heroes -- using different, inappropriate voice actors -- piddling away their legacy in an effort to talk up a bad cereal. Still, it's pretty entertaining to see Leonardo hold up a cereal box with his face on it. After driving the Turtle Van nearly into a building, the Turtles leap out and share their grub with some local kids who are, of course, absolutely in love with them. One of the kids enters a serious debate as to whether he wants to eat cereal of Donatello's cute green cheeks. The former wins out, if only because Donatello is germophobic.
To everyone but the hardcore Turtles fan, the marshmallows were open to interpretation. What were they? Were the pink ones bird footprints? Were the orange ones minus signs? Is that blue thing a mudskipper? For casual or non-fans, I prefer to consider this assortment as something of an edible inkblot test.
The action picks up quick once Shredder and his mutant cronies hit the streets. What are they after? Turtles Cereal! Man... I can't be too sure, but Shredder and the gang were either living in Dimension X or one of Earth's deepest seas at this point. That's a long way to travel just for a box of cereal. They didn't mention any side plots or anything -- they just came for the cereal. That's how good it was.
I'd assume that Shredder's decision to fight the Turtles for their box rather than just going into any ol' grocery store to buy his own had something to do with the inherent unacceptability of wearing razor blades or being accompanied by talking, grenade-carrying warthogs to the supermarket. If Shredder was the Turtles' biggest enemy, public bias was his own. Besides, it's not like Bebop ever used those grenades for anything. Purely ornamental. A corsage for the beastly, if you will.
To ward off their enemies, the Turtles use nets. Ninja Nets. Just like in the cereal! It's continuity like this that makes George Lucas and wrestling promoters blush with shame. Amazingly, they never tied the Ninja Nets or anything else regarding the cereal into the actual cartoon show. Pride abounds. Even more amazing is the fact that this wasn't even the strangest Ninja Turtles food item available. As mentioned in this earlier article, the boys also had pudding pies, complete with a milky green filling that looked and tasted like stale, radioactive vanilla slime. The pies were only for the most devout and bravest fans -- the rest of us just pressed our luck with their cereal and hoped for the best. Our stomachs didn't thank us, but really, our stomachs couldn't see the neat turtle-shaped bowls we got just for eating it.
In the end, the Turtles vanquish their foes and win today's battle. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal is safe...for now. Considering how popular the show was, kids went absolutely batshit upon seeing this ad. Virtually every fan had to try it at least once, and I'd imagine that the brand was one of Ralston's better sellers. When the Turtle well dried out and few contenders sought to take their place, Ralston eventually switched gears and starting producing cat food instead. Seriously. It wasn't a storybook ending, but at least it was an ending. I'd hate to waste all of that anticipation with a cliffhanger for something as stupid as Ninja Turtle cereal.
Oh, there were several "premiums" (free gifts) offered besides the plastic bowls. With the box shown above, it was a set of four cutout trading cards depicting scenes from the heroes' first movie. To give you an idea about how incredible these cards were, one of the four on my box featured a shadowy figure approaching Shredder's cape, with the caption reading "Tastu™ approaches Master Shreddder™." I think holofoil and chasers were only introduced to make kids overlook shitty trading cards.
Then again, the box itself refers to the cards as "so awesome." Maybe I just don't know how to have fun. Click on the pic below to download and watch the Turtles Cereal commercial, featuring a revamped theme song and Michaelangelo sounding like he's in a K-hole.
With the Turtles' popularity once again booming, I just pray that they keep out of the supermarkets. I love the guys to death, but they're awful cooks.
Michaelangelo hated grocery shopping, but what could he do? They drew straws, they had a chart, and it was the second week of the month. It was his turn. Donatello handed him a list before he left, and as Mikey first graced the vegetable section with a suspiciously low concern of being seen by the humans, he was pleased to find that the "list" only had a small scribbling, reading "remember to buy food!" If Mikey had to be there, at least he didn't have to map out his journey from Raph's granola yogurt to Splinter's frozen crabcakes. All he had to do was "buy food."
"Monopoly Cereal?!" Michaelangelo thought aloud, disappointed with his first find. "That won't be 'Passing Go' in our lair, for sure!" Mikey quickly realized just how silly his thoughts sounded, casually glancing from side to side just to be sure nobody was listening. More self-conscious than his pizza-eating, party-all-the-time antics would suggest, Mikey quietly wiped a stray tear from his green cheek and vowed to never again say anything so stupid.
Then he slipped on a banana peel. His previous glances providing the knowledge that nobody was looking, Michaelangelo adjusted his hip and ate the peel.
"Green Slime?!" Mikey took personal offense to Nickelodeon's breakfast offering, thinking it was some inside joke of which he was the proverbial butt of. "Who would make a cereal just to make fun of me?!" He considered Leatherhead and Rat King for a moment, ultimately deeming them too fictional characterishy to perform anything like mass cereal production. Unable to name his oppressor, Mikey still saw no reason to buy and eat a cereal named "Green Slime." Associations are boundless, and it's not like Mikey would've bought something called "Purple Burgers," either. He wasn't being biased. He was being himself.
He loved being himself. He loved being a turtle.
"Bingo!" It was love at first sight as Michaelangelo stumbled onto a box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cereal. It was love at second sight as Michaelangelo noticed a cheerful butterfly flying overhead. Third sight when a troop of lovely ladybugs exited the cereal box and took off. After all, the Ninja Turtles Cereal box was pretty old.
"Donatello will love this! He's on the box!!" Mikey was elated, in part because his shopping experience was a successful one, but mostly because his shopping experience was over. He hated being there, even with the butterflies and ladybugs. He hated "Green Slime" cereal, and "Monopoly" too. The love of one breakfast and two insects was not enough. Mikey stood tall. Feet on the ground, food in the cart. "It's time to go home."
At the register, an elderly cashier asked Michaelangelo why his skin was green. Flustered, Mikey zipped back with a quick inquiry as to why hordes of ladybugs were living in the food sold at the grocery store. They both winked, slightly, silently agreeing not to answer either question. All was well. Well was all. Was well all? Well, all was.
Back at the lair, Michaelangelo used one of Donatello's untested laser guns to transform Raphael into a perfectly sized cereal bowl. The cereal wasn't too tasty, but Mikey didn't care. It was his cereal...the one he picked out. It was special. More concerning was Raphael, surely uncomfortable as a cereal bowl. Mikey asked if his brother was okay with the arrangement, offering to grab a regular ceramic bowl if not. Fortunately, no such concessions were needed.
"I don't mind at all, really. But tomorrow, I get to eat out of you."
Our story ends here, luckily just a moment before Splinter entered the kitchen and shit on everyone.