Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quisp: A Story of Rivalry and Redemption

Ah Quisp, iconic cereal least for decade or so.

Quisp cereal was introduced by Quaker Oats Company in 1965 with commercial spots by Jay Ward Productions. Jay Ward is probably best known as the creator of the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons, and it's worth noting that Quisp bears a passing resemblance to "Cloyd" the Moon Man from the show's first serial "Jet Fuel Formula".

(Quisp's occasional sidekick "Quunchy" also bore similarities to the likewise mustached moon man "Gidney".)

The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show was sponsored by General Mills and the show characters promoted some of their various cereals. Ward's production company took some of that experience at cereal shilling over to Quaker Oats, creating first Captain Crunch, then Quisp and later the original King Vitaman.

Quisp was unique in that he was paired with a rival cereal and mascot called "Quake". The setup was basically that Quisp was a crispy cereal promoted by a manic alien from outer space, while Quake was a crunchy cereal who's mascot was a 'roided up looking miner from underground. (Hence "Inner space".) The two would then argue over who had the superior product.

(I imagine most modern parents would not be too crazy about a cereal promoting it's "Sugar energy" these days.)

Quisp was voiced by Hanna Barbera regular Daws Butler (Who also was the original Captain Crunch.) while Quake was played by William Conrad. (Who among other things was the Rocky & Bullwinkle narrator.) Their rivalry eventually extended to a 1972 campaign to vote for which of the two cereals should remain on store shelves. By this point Quake had slimmed down a little and been given an Australian makeover, but it was too late. There was no way kids could deny the comparative charms of the little spaceman. Quake wound up relegated as the sidekick to Simon the "Quangaroo", a marsupial hawking a (Frankly awful tasting.) cereal with the same name.

Despite their initial bravado, when the vote came up again in 1976, Quisp once more came out on top. Alas, the little guy would not prevail for long. As the 70's went on he saw declining sales, possibly because aside from the shape, Quisp cereal tasted pretty much like the more popular Captain Crunch. By the end of the decade it was gone.

But this was not to be the end for our Gen X icon. After a brief reappearance in the 80's, Quisp was eventually relaunched as "The first internet cereal" available for online purchase only. The website came complete with a new cartoon by John Kricfalusi of Ren & Stimpy fame

Since then, Quisp has appeared in various limited time "Guerilla displays" in stores and also at Target chains. Although not as available as other cereals, it continues to soldier on to the joy of children and the dismay of parents who have to put up with their "Quazy Sugar Energy".

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