Announcing A New Late-Night Contender…Cap’n Crunch!

[Cross-Posted from Beneath the Brand].

Do you have a favorite cereal mascot from your childhood years? Growing up in the ’90s, I recall there being so many cereal mascots, so many jingles, and so many ways to tell adults that our cereal just wasn’t for them that it was nearly impossible to choose a favorite to represent our generation. We had Apple Jacks, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Trix, and of course, Cap’n Crunch. While of course there are many others to bring up for nostalgia’s sake, there’s only one that I want to talk about right now, and that one is Cap’n Crunch.

I believe the last time I even thought about the Cap’n was when I swore he’d never lacerate the roof of my mouth with his dastardly crunch berries again (which, admittedly, was probably not all that long ago). But on April 23, the Cap’n himself took to Twitter and Facebook and made an announcement about some surprising new plans of his: He’s getting his own late-night talk show. Out with the old, and in with the new.

Of course you won’t see the Cap’n makin’ it happen in a lineup with the likes of Leno, Letterman, or Fallon. Instead, he’ll be showcasing his talents in an original YouTube series, The Cap’n Crunch Show.

The Cap’n Crunch Show is set to debut Tuesday, May 7 at 11:35 pm EDT, just like any other late-night programs. There will be a total of nine episodes, with a new one being made available every other Tuesday following the premiere. The content is directed at adults who have grown up with the cherished character, and is intended to be primarily tongue-in-cheek: the host will apparently discuss pop culture, social media, and interview animated celebrities from his giant cereal bowl with a little help from his pooch and first mate, Sea Dog.

In an effort to promote the mascot’s brand new image, Quaker has encouraged fans to interact with their host via social media. You can subscribe to his YouTube channelfollow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook. Like many other brands, social media proves to be bolstering his campaign: He currently has about 270,000 likes on Facebook, and 14,200 followers on Twitter.

The brand’s new marketing strategy plays on adults’ nostalgia, creating a new bond between the character and the customer, and it springboards from popular social media platforms. It’s certainly an approach that has worked for other franchises that were popular in the past: think Transformers, My Little Pony, or even the new Kool-Aid manmakeover. Given that the ’90s revival theme is pretty popular right now, do you think the Cap’n will fit right in?

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Netflix and Hasbro’s New Deal: A Solution to Kid-Targeted Advertising?

Cross-posted from [Beneath the Brand].

In 1984, the Federal Communications Commission made the decision to remove the limitations that had long been in place for children’s advertising — what kinds of commercials could be viewed during children’s programming, for example, or how many minutes per hour could be dedicated to advertising aimed at young kids — stating that the marketplace would determine what programming was best for children. Fast-forward nearly 30 years and there is still a dialogue going on about what actually is best for children.

Children’s advertising has been blamed in the UK last week for everything from rising rates of childhood obesity to excessive drug usage and teen pregnancy. In America, we’ve seen a similar correlation drawn between media consumption (particularly “superfluous” content such as advertisements) and childhood obesity.

Needless to say, people are nervous about — and perhaps even fed up with — the effects of aggressive advertising on younger children.

So what’s a brand to do without targeted advertising? Netflix thinks they might have the answer in a tactic that’s a little more… subversive.

Everyone knows why Netflix can, at times, be preferable to cable television — there are no advertisements; much of its content is on-demand, streaming media; and full seasons of shows are ready to be watched all on one lazy weekend afternoon, whenever and wherever you like. And they already had a large selection of kid’s media to choose from: in 2012 alone, over 12 billion hours of children’s content was streamed through the popular media hub.

As of April 11, Netflix announced that they were teaming up with Hasbro to offer even more streaming kids’ content, adding shows such as “Littlest Pet Shop” and “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters.” They wanted to create an atmosphere where kids could stream content “unencumbered by aggressive advertisements or inappropriate material.”

But is it really uninhibited and “free” from advertising? With virtually unlimited hours of television right at their fingertips, children are easily able to cherry-pick what they deem most interesting to watch. Long gone are the days of waking up early on Saturday morning to catch a few hours of carefully packaged cartoons with the intermittent advertisement for Rock-Em-Sock-Em-Robots or a Skip It. Now, you can have whatever content you want, whenever you want it — as long as mom and dad still have a subscription to Netflix. And the shows certainly put activities and material items in them that kids will want to emulate or obtain for themselves.

So really, aren’t the brands themselves doing all the advertising? Hasbro is the classic staple for children’s entertainment, Netflix has become a monolith in on-demand entertainment, and your child can select their favorite shows with just the click of a button, learning of their desires through their favorite shows.

What do you think? Does this count as unwelcome advertising, or is Netflix on the right track?

‘Happily Ever After’?: Modernizing Fairy Tales for a New Generation

[Cross-posted from Beneath the Brand blog].

Recently, my boyfriend and I started watching Once Upon a Time. Other than the brief plot synopsis I’d read online, neither of us knew much about it. But we are both products of the ‘80s and ‘90s, so we were familiarized with storylines within the series, because hey — we’d seen Disney movies. This sort of sugar-coated narrative was how most kids of that generation generally became acquainted with the fairy tales, and in terms of popular media consumption, Disney had a monopoly on the production of fairy tales for many years.

So, with that in mind, we sat down to a surprisingly nuanced and dark story. In this tale, almost the entire cast of characters doesn’t realize that they hail from a fantasy realm, because a dark queen has cast a curse on them, banishing them to live in a prison (which is the small town of Storybrooke, Maine), all the while oblivious to their former lives.

One little boy is convinced that he knows their true identities, and embarks on a quest to get his birth mother to help him break the spell. The only catch? His adoptive mother is the evil queen (or, in her present incarnation, the mayor of Storybrooke), and she doesn’t take too kindly to anyone foiling her plans.

And I’m hooked — it’s modern, weaves together familiar tales in such a way to be comforting, and then retells them in a contemporary, action-packed manner that you won’t soon forget.

So watching Once Upon a Time brought up some memories for me, and it made me think about the history of fairy tales — and the joy we get from retelling them time and again, each generation putting its own twist on them.

Considered by many to be the godfathers of modern fairy tale lore, the Grimm brothers collected a wealth of German folklore and published the stories in an anthology. Many of the stories were exceedingly dark and violent, but kids read them anyway. The books retained their popularity surprisingly well, and in the 20th century, a large portion of the tales was thought to be too dark and violent for children. So, when Disney pulled inspiration and storylines from the Grimm’s tales, they deliberately chose to overlook the allusions to sexuality, as well as the descriptions overt violence and cruelty that were present in so many of the fables. This left us with the sanitized, moralistic good-triumphs-over-evil stories that we know so well today.

But the kids who once dreamt of the Disney versions of fairy tales have grown up now. Today, they are the story weavers, working on blockbuster movies and writing the hit television shows like Once Upon a Time. And so we are seeing the retelling of old German folktales in shows like Grimm, a story that features the Grimm brothers as cops, fighting modern, real-life versions of familiar fairytale creatures. Jack and the Beanstalk turned into Jack the Giant Killer, an updated story of the bravery and heroism of an unlikely “giant killer.” Snow White’s soft-spoken, naïve demeanor has vanished in favor of the valiant warrior we see Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel are now cunning Witch Hunters rather than helpless, abandoned children, and even the Rise of the Guardians chronicles popular contemporary fairy tale characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, who just so happen to possess some previously-unknown superhero powers — though it’s still child-friendly, of course.

So what is it that drives us to modernize these tales? Many times, we choose to reimagine characters like meek, fragile Snow White or little, gullible Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk as characters who are now powerfully in control of their destinies — presently, they are unlikely heroes at worst and completely bad-ass action heroes at best. In some of the new stories the women, who were formerly relegated to droll, feminine passivity, have advanced to meet their male counterparts as equals in battle: Snow White adorns herself in a warrior’s armor and fights alongside her male friends, and eventually squares off woman-to-woman to win back a kingdom. In Once Upon a Time, the female characters actually drive the story with their own set of decidedly un-princess-like desires.

Yes, it seems that modernizing these fairy-tale brands is a full-blown trend that has everyone’s attention. Today, people who grew up with the same old narrative of prince-meets-princess-and-they-live-happily-ever-after are creating worlds where our childhood heroes can be as powerful, flawed, and as nuanced as we always wanted them to be. And the whole point of fairy tales is to pass on these timeless stories to the next generation, even if it’s in an updated format, isn’t it?

So which tales would you like to see redone? I’ve personally always liked Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard — strangely enough though, both of those tales are from the French author Charles Perrault rather than the Brothers Grimm!