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Poppin' Fresh, more widely known as the Pillsbury Doughboy, is an advertising icon and mascot of the Pillsbury Company, appearing in many of their commercials. Many commercials from 1965 until 2004 (returned in 2009 to 2011 and 2013 in a Geico Commercial) conclude with a human finger poking the Doughboy's stomach. The Doughboy responds when his stomach is poked by giggling (Hoo-Hoo!, or earlier on, a slight giggle "tee hee"). It is widely known that the real Pillsbury Boy is AJ Peterson Jr.
The Pillsbury Doughboy was created by Rudy Perz, a copywriter for Pillsbury's longtime advertising agency, Leo Burnett. Perz was sitting in his kitchen in the spring of 1965, under pressure to create an advertising campaign for Pillsbury's refrigerated dough product line (biscuits, dinner rolls, sweet rolls and cookies). Perz imagined a living dough boy popping out of a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can. To distinguish the dough boy from the rolls, he gave it a scarf, a chef's hat, two big blue eyes, a blush, and a soft, warm chuckle when poked in the stomach. The Doughboy was originally designed by Milt Schaffer and brought to life using stop motion clay animation. Today, CGI is used. The first CGI commercial was directed by Tim Johnson who at that time was working for PDI.
Perz originally conceived the Doughboy as an animated figure, but changed his mind after seeing a stop motion titling technique used in the opening credits for The Dinah Shore Show. A three-dimensional Doughboy doll of clay was then created at a cost of $16,000. Veteran cartoon voice actor Paul Frees was chosen to be Fresh's voice. The first Poppin' Fresh commercials aired in October 1965. Since then, Pillsbury has used Poppin' Fresh in more than 600 commercials for more than fifty of its products. He also appeared in a MasterCard commercial, with the Jolly Green Giant, the Morton Salt Girl, and Count Chocula, as some of the ten merchandising icons, depicted as having dinner together. He even appears in ads for the Got Milk? ad campaign and the Sprint Phone Company.
In the fall of 2011, the Doughboy (in the guise of several live-action performers in full-sized Doughboy costumes) appeared with gospel music duo Mary Mary and several dancers in a flash mob appearance at Chicago Union Station, to launch the Pillsbury Frozen Breakfast product line (Mary Mary wrote the jingle for the products).
In the 1970s, a Pillsbury Doughboy family was created and sold as dolls individually and in the form of various playsets.
Included in the family are:
- Poppie Fresh (a.k.a. Mrs. Poppin' Fresh, Pillsbury Doughgirl). It is debated among collectors as to whether Poppie is Poppin's wife, girlfriend or sister.
- Granpopper and Granmommer (grandparents)
- Popper (boy) and Bun-Bun (baby)
- Flapjack (dog) and Biscuit (cat)
- Uncle Rollie
Pillsbury, Inc vs My Dough Girl, Llc
In May 2010, Pillsbury's lawyers served a cease and desist notice to My Dough Girl, Llc. a Salt Lake City, Utah Cookie Retailer with one store. Some reported that an attorney for General Mills instructed her not to talk to the press.
Doughboy in popular culture
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Due to its widespread television projection Poppin' Fresh has ingrained itself into popular culture in several ways.
- In "Funnybot", the second episode of the fifteenth season of South Park, the Funnybot machine has joked about Pillsbury Dough Boy, saying; “What do you see when the Pillsbury Dough Boy bends over? Dough nuts.”
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Hot Troll Deviation" Howard's mother exclaims that she is spilling out of her girdle "like the Pillsbury Doughboy."
- In The Simpsons episode "Team Homer" an anaesthetised Mr. Burns confuses Homer Simpson with Poppin' Fresh. Also in the episode "The Otto Show", Otto Man calls Homer "Poppin Fresh" and pokes him in the stomach.
- In a 1978 episode of The Carol Burnett Show, cast member Tim Conway appears in a surreal costume while portraying an alien lifeform in the show's soap opera parody As The Stomach Turns. The character of guest star Betty White reflects on his appearance: "That shape... that form... why, he looks almost like... the Pillsbury Doughboy."
- The Pillsbury Doughboy was depicted as an antagonist in Scott Spiegel's short films, Attack of the Helping Hand and Attack of the Pillsbury Doughboy.
- In The Golden Girls episode "Hey Look Me Over" Blanche and Sophia call Rose the Pillsbury Doughboy
- In Glee episode "Silly Love Songs" Santana calls Lauren Zizes 'Poppin' Fresh and they start a fight in the hallway. Also in the episode "Mash Off" Santana insults Finn calling him of Pillsbury Dough before the dodgeball game.
- In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Johnny C. is haunted by a pair of Styrofoam Doughboys named Mr. Eff and Psycho-Doughboy.
- In Gary Larson's The Far Side, there is a comic panel showing the Pillsbury Doughboy running away from a steamroller.
- In The Boondocks episode "The Real" Riley claims he has several aliases including Pillsbury Doughboy.
- In The Man Show, the Pillsbury Doughboy shows up. Jimmy Kimmel pokes his stomach and pokes his butt. Later, he gets eaten by the Grimace.
- The Pillsbury Doughboy appears in a GEICO ad where he is going through a security check at an airport and cannot stop laughing while he is getting patted down. The ad appears as part of GEICO's "Get Happy, Get GEICO" series of ads, with the tagline being "happier than the Pillsbury doughboy on his way to a baking convention".
- Former Kentucky Wildcat and New York Giants quarterback Jared Lorenzen was nicknamed "The Pillsbury Throw Boy" due to his large stature, unusual for a quarterback.
- In "The Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner" (2006), when prodigious comedian Greg Giraldo is invited at the microphone by actor Jason Alexander, the former says, referring to Jason's not so athletic shape: "Thank you, Pillsbury Jewboy!".
- The Doughboy appeared in a Pearls Before Swine strip where Rat and Pig came across him. Pig pokes him in the stomach, but instead of laughing he angrily kicks Pig in the crotch.
- The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters franchise is modelled, in part, on the Pillsbury Doughboy.
- In Season 5 Episode 7 of Modern Family, at the annual school fair, when Jay tells Manny that all bakers are girls (after Manny bakes a cake for the fair), Manny makes reference to the Pillsbury Doughboy as being a 'boy baker'.
- Sam Roberts (2010-04-03). "Rudolph Perz, Creator of Pillsbury’s Doughboy, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
-  Archived May 15, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- "Pillsbury Dough Girl-Poppie Fresh-Pillsbury Co". Advertisingiconmuseum.com. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
- "My Dough Girl In Trademark Trouble With Pillsbury". Salt Lake City Weekly. 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
- "Pillsbury Sends Cease & Desist To 'Dough Girl' Bakery". Techdirt. 2010-08-03. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
- Character's official site
- Audio file (MP3 format) of the Doughboy giggling
- Pillsbury Family
- Official history of Poppin' Fresh from General Mills website