Tony the Tiger
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|Tony The Tiger|
In 1951, Kellogg's used radio and television personalities in ads. Tony is shown here with Garry Moore.
|Created by||Kellogg Company|
|Portrayed by||Dallas McKennon (1951–1953)
Thurl Ravenscroft (1953–2004)
Lee Marshall (2004–2014)
|Family||Mama Tony (mother)|
|Children||Tony Jr. (son)
Tony the Tiger is the advertising cartoon mascot for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes (also known as Frosties) breakfast cereal, appearing on its packaging and advertising. More recently, Tony has also become the mascot for Tony's Cinnamon Krunchers and Tiger Power. Since his debut in 1951, the character has spanned several generations and become a breakfast cereal icon.
In 1951, Eugene Kolkey, an accomplished graphic artist and Art Director for Leo Burnett, sketched a character for a contest to become the official mascot of a Kellogg's brand-new breakfast cereal. Kolkey designed a tiger named Tony (named after an ad man at Leo Burnett—Raymond Anthony Wells) and selected Martin Provensen for the finished artwork. Tony competed against three other potential mascots for the public's affection: Katy the Kangaroo (originated by Robert Dulaney in the early fifties), Elmo the Elephant, and Newt the Gnu. Within the year, the other mascots were dropped (with Elmo and Newt never once gracing the front of the box), and Tony was given a son, Tony Jr. Tony the Tiger would eventually become a cereal icon. The final Tony the Tiger design came from a group of former Disney animators known as Quartet Films, which also designed The Jolly Green Giant, Snap Crackle Pop, the Hamms Beer Bear, and the Baltimore Orioles mascot to name a few. Stan Walsh, Art Babbitt, Arnold Gillesspie, and Michael Lah were the artists/filmmakers that formed the Quartet Films of Hollywood.
A recognizable and distinct voice was needed for the Tony the Tiger character. Initially, he was voiced by Dallas McKennon, but shortly after the initial Sugar Frosted Flakes advertisements aired, McKennon was replaced by Thurl Ravenscroft, who spent the next five decades providing the characteristic deep bass voice associated with the character, notably the familiar "They're Grrrrreat!" catchphrase. John E. Matthews came up with this phrase while working as copywriter for Leo Burnett. Ravenscroft spoke to an interviewer of injecting his personality into Tony: "I made Tony a person. For me, Tony was real. I made him become a human being and that affected the animation and everything."
Tony began to be humanized in the 1970s; he was given an Italian-American nationality and consumers were briefly introduced to more of Tony's family including Mama Tony, Mrs. Tony, and a daughter, Antoinette. Tony was a popular figure among the young Italian-American population and it showed in 1974, where he was deemed "Tiger of the Year" in an advertising theme taken from the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The advertising theme declared, "This is the Year of the Tiger and Tony is the Tiger of the Year." Later that year, Tony graced the covers of Italian GQ and Panorama. In addition to Tony's success, during this decade, son Tony Jr. was even given his own short-lived cereal in 1975, Frosted Rice. Provensen's original art design for the tiger has changed significantly over the years, as Tony the whimsical, cereal-box-sized tiger with a teardrop-shaped head was replaced by his fully-grown son Jr., who is now a sleek, muscular sports enthusiast—he was a coach for the Monster Wrestlers in My Pocket and a referee for the Monster Sports Stars in My Pocket (see Monster in My Pocket). Tony the Tiger was never limited to American cereal boxes, appearing on Kellogg's European brand cereal boxes.
Tony frequently appears in American commercials as an animated character in a live-action world, frequently with his drawn image rotoscoped over a live character, such as an extreme sports athlete, allowing Tony to not just appear in live action, but interact as well.
The longtime voice of Tony, Thurl Ravenscroft, died in 2005. In North America, he was replaced from 2005 onwards by announcer Lee Marshall, who maintained the role until his death from cancer in 2014. However, advertisements for Frosties in the United Kingdom are revoiced locally; the British Tony is voiced by UK-based Californian voiceover, Tom Clarke-Hill. For some time in the United Kingdom, the rock song "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor was used in conjunction with Tony's viewings. In Canada, Tony is voiced by animation, commercial, and promo voice artist Tony Daniels.
- obituary 2002, Chicago Tribune
- "He’s Grrrrreat! The Thurl Ravenscroft Interview," Hogan's Alley #13, 2006
- "Thurl Ravenscroft, Voice of Tony the Tiger, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-23.