From fandom to the Monsters front lines
Since they first appeared in 1971, our Monsters Cereals have shown up in many places.
Not just in the cereal aisle.
You could say, that’s by design. Literally.
Over the years, many people have been responsible for designing the look of Boo Berry, Count Chocula, Franken Berry, Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute on their boxes, and hundreds of other products related to them.
For this month’s episode of the “A Taste of General Mills” podcast, I talked with two of the talented creatives who had a chance to leave their mark on the legacy of the Monsters brand. Their artistry also involved the development of a style guide that has helped the Cereal team at General Mills make sure our Monsters maintain their place in pop culture.
Manny Galán and Pat Giles both became fans of the Monsters in their childhood, years well before they met in 2008, at the agency that had the Monsters account (and many other General Mills characters). They quickly connected around their mutual Monsters fandom and spent a few years partnering on a variety of Monsters-themed projects and products.
“Up until I met Pat, I hadn’t met another adult who had kind of like the almost addiction, such a pervasive obsession with these characters that I had,” says Galán, on our podcast. “It was our collective goal to do more with the Monsters, we saw them as the gem in the treasure chest that kind of really needed to be polished and brought to light again.”
By the time he started working with Galán, Giles had already been lucky to live out a dream come true – his first opportunity to design the Monster Cereals boxes.
“Nothing in my career has ever replaced that feeling of ‘Oh my God, my drawings are on the front of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry.’ It was like, I had made it. I knew that that was such a huge achievement personally.”
The first big Monsters collaboration involving Galán and Giles, as they started working together, was the style guide for Boo Berry, Count Chocula and Franken Berry, which few people outside of General Mills have seen.
The pages inside include “Poses,” “Expressions” and “Mouth Charts” for each of the three original Monsters.
The guide also has some creative Monsters artwork for the cover and interior pages.
The pages also are filled with ideas for visualizing how the Monsters could show up on clothing and other merchandise.
“The Monster Cereals style guide was the most fun because it was that kind of thing that really helped to codify the characters in a way that captured their look and feel from the 70s but also kind of updated them, made them modern,” says Giles. “It really helped a lot in creating energy around creating new products with the characters, beyond the cereal.”
That non-cereal theme continued this fall with a board game and puzzle, featuring all five Monsters.
As they developed their style guide – and eventually started their own agency, Pat-Man Studios, to develop the Monsters and other General Mills characters – Galán and Giles also set out to prove the potential of the Monsters as an entertainment brand.
They got an idea from “The Monsters Go Disco,” one of four 33 1/3 “flexi-discs” that appeared on the back of the Monsters boxes in 1979.
For the 30th anniversary of that promotion, they designed and animated the first minute of the five-minute “Disco” story. Giles did the layouts, Galán did the color and Justin Roth animated it, as you see here.
“It was so thrilling to animate something that I had only heard the voice of when I was a little kid and always had pictured what the castle would look like or what they’d be doing,” Giles says. “I had pictured them as playing cards sitting around on a Saturday night, and they’re bored so they all decide to go out and go disco dancing, which was of course the rage in 1979.”
“We ended up going off the rails in the storyboards,” adds Galán. “We gave Boo Berry a set of abilities that he hadn’t had before, where he could change his form to suit the story. He could turn into a doorway so the Monsters could walk through it and go right from their castle and transition to the disco, for example.”
By the time they were done working on the Monsters, they also did the designs for “Spooky Sounds from Count Chocula Castle,” a Monsters-themed CD of Halloween sounds that featured Giles’ illustration and Paint FX from Galán. It was available at Target, and today it commands a steep price if you’re looking for it online.
Galán and Giles also are proud of numerous other ways that their design work on the Monsters has shown up, including partnerships with Hot Wheels and NASCAR.
Several Hot Wheels cars with Giles’ characters designs remain popular with collectors. Some, he says, are selling for more than $120 on eBay.
As for NASCAR, our Monsters most notably were part of the design on a car driven by Clint Bowyer on October 17, 2009, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Bowyer finished sixth in his No. 33 Monster Cereals car.
Today Galán is now an executive creative director at Grey Group, and Giles is a creative director at Danger Pigeon Studios.
But they both stay connected over their love of our Monster Cereals, which includes co-managing a Facebook fan page. Galán says it started as a blog, in 2008, to connect with other Monsters fans and then it transitioned to Facebook.
Their “Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry” page is most-often updated each August to October.
They also each have continued to count themselves among the many collectors of Monsters merchandise. Galán told me his wife and children have become part of his Monsters obsession. In fact, one of his most recent purchases is a large Count Chocula head, that he’ll display on his front door.
Giles also still adds to his Monster Cereals items, for display at work and at home.
“I actually have a racing jacket with very amazing appliqué versions of the characters on it, which is just my pride and joy that my wife won’t ever let me wear,” he jokes.
And on Halloween, he once again will make sure his neighbors are aware of his connection to the Monsters. He projects the movie “Mad Monster Party” in his driveway, with Monster Cereals commercials playing in the breaks.
If you’re a Monster Cereals fan too, we know you’ll enjoy our hearing much more from Galán and Giles in our latest podcast episode.
Listen (20 min)
SHOW NOTES – Episode 38: October 24, 2018
Video: Monsters Go Disco
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