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Quisp and Quake vs. Cap’n Crunch
Ok, you’ve seen every Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dudley Doright cartoon, right? But have you seen Quisp and Quake? Quaker Oats Co employed Jay Ward, the creator of Rocky and Bulwinkle to produce a series of commercials for their, then new, excessively sweet cereals, Quisp and Quake. Here we see their very first commercial from 1965.
As cereals, Quisp and Quake very much resembled another, much more successful Quaker Oats cereal from about the same time, Cap’n Crunch. All three hyper-processed, super-sweet, milk-repellant cereals shared the same Simpsons Yellow color and an other-worldly texture somewhere between Funyuns and Foamcore.. The three cereals really only differed in shape. So, if you wonder what Quisp and Quake tasted like, you could go to the Quaker website, and order a box of genuine Quisp cereal, or you could pick up a box of Cap’n Crunch, if you are lucky enough to have never tasted it before. Here’s the very first Cap’n Crunch Commercial from 1963
As long as Cap’n Crunch can avoid mutiny, and of course a steady diet of Cap’n Crunch cereal assures that, his ship, the S.S. Guppy, can seemingly weather any storm. Cap’n Crunch not only remains a stalwart staple of the cereal aisle, The Cap’n’s empire has grown. I’ve seen Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries, Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, and just last year I treated myself to a box of Christmas Cap’n Crunch for the holidays.
Quisp and Quake, on the other hand, flamed out early. Quaker Oats Co keeps Quisp alive on life support at the Quaker Oats web site for geezers like me who remember him as family. However, Quake died young, and no one liked him anyway, so they pulled the plug on him years ago. Despite their quick demise, Quisp and Quake had a profound influence on me between the ages of three and six, and my work from that era strongly reflects that. Here Quisp and Quake compete to save Nell from the ravenous wolves, in true Jay Ward style.
Why didn’t Quisp and Quake survive? Like I said before, Quisp, Quake, and Cap’n Crunch are all basically the same cereal, all made by the same company. By far, Quisp and Quake had the best commercials. How did Cap’n Crunch kick Quisp and Quakes asses so badly? Watch this commercial, featuring all three of them for a clue.
You hear the good captain refer to his “loyal crew”. This “loyal crew” was a big deal to Cap’n Crunch. You’ll notice, its a “loyal crew” of children. These children regularly “swab the deck” and take care of all of the other chores aboard the SS Minnow. Cap’n Crunch knows how to use food as a motivator, and his cereal works wonders. Yes, Cap’n Crunch’s biggest fear is mutiny, and he uses his cereal to motivate, placate, and reward his underage sailors, and this keeps them in line. You see, Cap’n Crunch is a happy and successful parent. His kids do what he tells them to do, and his house stays “ship shape” as a result. Cap’n Crunch appeals to parents, as much as he does to kids.
On the other hand, Quisp and Quake constantly compete with each other, bicker, and pick on each other. They are children, siblings even. While Quake mostly hyped the strength he got from the vitamins and iron in his cereal, Quisp hyped the “quazy energy” he got from the sugar in his cereal. Actively marketing hypoglycemic hyper-activity to children might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it clearly backfired with parents. Kids, on the other hand, never cared for Quake. He seemed like too much of a “goody two-shoes”, and spent too much time with his mother, as we see here.
We can dig a little deeper into the dynamics of Quisp and Quake if we examine them individually. We’ll start with Quake, the noble, slow to anger, strong-chinned miner. Quake’s mother, less than half Quake’s height, ever proud of her son, appears in a few of these commercials for his cereal, primarily it seems, to adore her noble son. Here’ Quake saves his dear mother from the Rock-Crock.
As parental figures, Quake’s mother, and Cap’n Crunch could hardly contrast more. Quake’s mom is a helpless damsel in distress, who adores her son, and depends on him, but clearly inserts herself into his business rather forcefully. Quake always seemed repressed, like he could crack at any moment, and his mom seemed a bit overbearing. None of this helped Quake’s popularity.
Everyone I knew, loved Quisp, including me. The annoying, smart-alec hyperactive alien, charged with Quazy energy, Quisp, has no parents, and he craves everyone’s attention. Quisp is out of control! Quisp does whatever he wants because he’s the crowned prince of planet Q. Someone named Quuncy also lives on planet Q, but Quuncy has clearly resigned himself to Quisps servitude.
While Quake obeys his mother’s every command, Quisp constantly disobeys authority figures. Here an authority figure from “Space Command”, looking very much like Cap’n Crunch himself, orders Quisp to “Turn Back!!” Watch Quisp flippantly ignore this stern warning.
Quisp represents the out-of-control, hyperactive child who constantly craves attention. Quisp is every mother’s nightmare. By drawing attention to the fact that Quisp cereal will make your kid more of a nightmare, Quaker unwittingly unleashed a backlash against against super-sweetened cereals. For the first time, parents objected to cereals that listed sugar as their primary ingredient. Quisp responded by battling the Groosome Galactic Grouch Gloud.
But resistance grew. Kids hated Quake. Parents hated Quisp. Televised bickering really didn’t help either cereal. So, Quaker stooped to bribery. Here, an animated Quaker Oats executive, explains the bribe.
Quaker soon attempted to remake Quake. I thought, for most of my life, that in this commercial Quake surrendered his miner’s helmet for a cowboy hat. Wikipedia informs me that Quake became an Aussie. Whether Quake became a cowboy without a horse, or an Aussie without an accent, Quake’s remake failed to win him much popularity. Here, Quake’s mom looks on as Quake subjects himself to his New And Improver machine, and promptly moves to Australia.
Unfortunately, the coolest thing about Quake was his underground lair. I don’t know why he gave it up and moved to Australia. Perhaps he moved to get away from his overprotective and domineering mother. I could understand that. While his cereal continued to languish, Quake seemed to find the move liberating, seemed more relaxed, and soon introduced everyone to his new friend Simon.
Simon, the Quangaroo, which I presume is short for queer kangaroo, totally lacked charisma, but he made Quake happy. His Johnson Baby Aspirin flavored cereal never caught on with kids. He and Quake both got out of the cereal business, and bought a piece of land in Orangania where they raise emus.
Quisp, on the other hand, showed up on game shows for a while, but as his celebrity faded, his bad behavior became more of an embarrassment. By 1980, Quisp cereal no longer sold well enough to support Quisp’s notorious coke habit, and, in 1982, he got busted selling crack in West Hollywood CA.
After helping Quisp secure a generous plea deal and a trip to the Betty Ford clinic, Quaker Oats quietly scaled back Quisp cereal distribution. Today, you can only get Quisp cereal online, at the Quaker Oats website.