How Tony The Tiger Has Changed Over The Years

If you were playing a word association game what would you say if someone said Frosted Flakes? Would it be "Tony the Tiger"? Becoming part of households across the county since the 1950s, kids and adults alike have delighted in the sugary cereal and its charismatic mascot. Since these vintage days, the cereal brand has changed tremendously, creating excitement in the mornings with creative box designs and flavors. (You might want to check out our 2022 rankings of every flavor of Frosted Flakes. Our fave is Cinnamon French Toast because it's not as sweet-tasting as some other varieties.)

Tony the Tiger has long been reminding us how good the cereal is with his declaration that "They're gr-r-reat!" And given how long Tony and Frosted Flakes have been around it seems that cereal fans agree. However, just as consumers have changed along with their tastes and preferences so too have the sheer amount of food choices that are available. Tony the Tiger hasn't stayed the same either. From the way he looks, to his voice, and how he dresses he's a mascot of innovation and success in the cereal market. Beyond Frosted Flakes boxes, Tony the Tiger has become a lifelike character with interests, ambitions, and goals. He's taken on a whole lifestyle approach and embraced technological changes.

In the '50s Tony the Tiger competed with Katy the Kangaroo

If you grew up with Tony the Tiger adverts and a box of Frosted Flakes on the table then you probably can't envisage the brand without Tony the Tiger. Whatever the marketing ideas were back in the '50s for promoting a sugary corn cereal it now seems perfectly reasonable that the mascot should be a tiger with a kerchief around his neck. However, did you know that he was one of several potential cereal icons at the start before winning his role?

Kellogg's broadcast adverts with four mascot characters and Tony was one of these. He stood out as the most popular and has been locked into the psyche of families across the U.S. at breakfast time ever since. Instead of Tony, you might have got to know Katy the Kangaroo with her baby clambering into her pouch. Other characters that didn't make the grade were Elmo the Elephant and also Newt the Gnu.

He had a head shaped like a football

Back when he was on his way to becoming the brand icon that he is today, Tony had a distinctive look. Compared to what he's looked like in recent years he was drawn quite differently when he was first introduced. You only have to look at depictions of him on retro TV adverts, cereal boxes, and posters to notice a really specific difference in his appearance: His head used to be shaped like a football.

There's no mistaking Tony's stripes and white markings, and his signature scarf. However, youngsters today might not recognize the older designs as the Tony the Tiger because he looks so different. The oval-shaped head gives the face a smiley, friendly appearance. And as he speaks in adverts he reveals sharp-looking teeth, although the number he has seems to vary depending on what he's saying and how his mouth is moving from just three to a whole set. And in some advertisements in the '60s, it looks as if he doesn't have any teeth at all. In some color adverts his teeth are back, but just a lot squarer and less threatening looking. What always stays the same though is his tongue sticking out a little as if he's just eaten some delicious Frosted Flakes or is licking his lips in anticipation of a bowl. 

His scarf has changed

If you look at print ads, TV adverts, and packets of cereal from the 1950s you'll notice that Tony the Tiger isn't dressed the same as he is from the 1970s. Since he only really wears one item of clothing, a scarf around his neck, it's not difficult to spot the difference. When Tony was first introduced, and for a long while after he wore a red gingham scarf. The checkered design also featured an 'O' motif in some of the squares. In the '60s the cowboy-style scarf was replaced by a plain one, and in the '70s his name was printed on the material and remains there to this day. However, in more recent depictions the name is less prominent and etched in smaller letting right up at the top of the scarf on the side.

Bandana-style neckerchiefs are a distinctive style that wouldn't be for everyone in the real world. However, Tony himself has become a feature of high fashion. Luxury brand MOSCHINO has created a blue background, multicolored wraparound scarf featuring a "Couture MOSCHINO MILANO" labeled cereal box graphic. Tony the Tiger is the main focus of the printed design.

He had a family that included a son called Tony

Although he's a high-profile brand ambassador, Tony has had plenty of opportunities to reach his audience through public appearances, campaigns, and through media channels. He also still adorns boxes of Frosted Flakes that line the shelves of supermarkets and have been beloved by families for generations. In other words, Tony has become an institution that resonates with feelings of nostalgia while also being ever-present in the here and now. However, how much do you actually know about him? When he was first on TV screens, advertising what was then Sugar Frosted Flakes he was very much the family man. It's an image he seems to have shaken off over the years.

Tony the Tiger might be all grown up but he's still appeared in a TV advert with his mother who reveals that she's the reason he loves the cereal so much. And she also states that she taught her "little Tony" his famed catchphrase: "They're gr-r-reat!" He's also eschewing how good the cereal is in an advert with his wife who wears a dressing gown and curlers in her hair, and his two kids, Tony Jr. and Antoinette. The impression of an animated tiger version of an Italian-American family was a hit.

Over the years he's become leaner and more muscular

It's not that Tony had a dad bod in the past but as far as brand-designed tigers go it could be said he used to have a pretty average physique. In the early days, Tony was lean, but certainly not a lean, mean machine and he didn't have the pecs and washboard chest he sports today. With broad shoulders and small hips creating a more gym-toned appearance it's fair to say that he's definitely improved with age. Tony the Tiger looks less youthful than he once did, but he's grown into a fine figure of a tiger.

Stood on his hind legs, Tony is over six feet tall and he's quite the action man. Black and white adverts show him in all sorts of fun situations. These range from conducting a one-tiger band with his son to building a wooden sign for the cereal brand. The scenarios often cumulate in events going wrong and Tony comes across as less action hero and more of a klutz. Today, Tony keeps fit with lots of high-adrenaline activities such as kayaking. He seems a lot more interested in sports and helping kids keep in shape through his initiatives. 

His voice has changed

It's no surprise that the voice behind the tiger has changed over the years. However, not quite as much as you might imagine. Thurl Ravenscroft, voiced the character for half a century, not only in English but also in Spanish. The Nebraska native served in the U.S. Army Air Transport Control during World War II and made a name for himself in entertainment. As well as singing with different groups he also once sang with none other than the legendary Elvis Presley. He was also a highly regarded voice artist for Disney.

Following Thurl's death in 2005, and even as he was alive and still the voice of Tony, former sportscaster Lee Marshall took on the tiger's deep voice. Unfortunately, he succumbed to cancer in 2014 at aged just 64. Another Tony the Tiger voice is Californian-born Tom Clarke-Hill who has been playing the role since 2000 in the U.K. where Frosted Flakes are known as Frosties. The British voiceover artist focuses mainly on recordings for video games. In Canada, actor and musician Tony Daniels is the voice behind the Tiger. In an episode of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," that featured Tony, actor Andy Nagraj voiced the character. Other Tony voice actors are Tex Brashear, Keith Scott, Dallas McKennon, and Jeff Morrow.

He's shared the Frosted Flakes box with famous athletes

In an old black and white advert from the 1950s, Tony the Tiger is directing his son, Tony Jr. to move a large spotlight so it throws light over the cereal star. As he raises his voice, the icon displays what some might say is a diva attitude that doesn't quite fit with his family-man image at the time. However, whatever his personality development over time, Tony is certainly used to being in the limelight and has made star appearances at plenty of high-profile events and rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous. Because of his affinity for keeping fit, it's in keeping that Tony has been happy to share the spotlight with famed sports stars.

In 2021, Kellogg's collaborated with basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal to create a new flavor of the cereal. Frosted Flakes with Crispy Cinnamon Basketballs. As part of the launch fans were given the opportunity to win a limited-edition autographed box signed by the superstar. Tony the Tiger moved over on the front of the box to give Shaq center court and is seen at the side spinning one of the crispy cereal balls on his finger like a sporting pro. Tony is also seen raising his arm in the air to celebrate the 2008 Olympic wins by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. The athlete is shown on the front of the box holding up one of his eight gold medals.

Tony has done a TikTok dance

Plenty of social media-savvy celebrities have shown their fun side with a silly dance on TikTok. And Tony the Tiger is no exception. Even though he's been around for decades, he's down with the kids. Part of his longevity has perhaps been because he has changed so much over the years. He's come well and truly off the cereal carton and into the modern world with a TikTok dance to celebrate his Mission Tiger campaign.

Tony the Tiger has been busy making funny sketches on TikTok, too. In one he's joking around on an out-of-control treadmill, and in another funny clip, he's leaving an office building with the statement on screen that he's taking his work home with him for the weekend. The video shows him clutching boxes of cereal as he heads out the door. Not bad work if you can get it. In another, he cycles into the Kellogg's office building with a basket full of Frosted Flake boxes. He pedals into the elevator and straight into a photoshoot. From shouting out his catchphrase with people outside Walmart to filming a launch event for a collaboration with PUMA, he's fun, friendly, and full of boundless energy.

He features on Twitter

There's so much going on with Tony the Tiger. If he isn't promoting breakfast cereal, he's hobnobbing with celebs or he's helping kids get more out of life. His active nature means that much of his attention is focused on sports and schoolkids, as part of his Mission Tiger drive. In other words, he's got a lot to tweet about. He has made an appearance on the Frosted Flakes Twitter page. New varieties of the cereal are highlighted, including a limited edition with a name change to promote the "Avatar: The Way of Water" movie. So-called Pandora Flakes are blueberry flavored with blue moons. 

However, Tony's own Twitter page hasn't been without drama, and only saw a few tweets in 2020. If you're thinking this is a little strange, it gets stranger. There was a previous Twitter page for the Frosted Flakes mascot but the comments were definitely not family-friendly. Whether posted by furries or not, what was clear was that back in 2016 and 2017 the fact that Tony is a tiger seemed more than "gr-r-reat." In fact, he became subject to far more adult-themed attention and after blocking accounts didn't seem to work his Twitter page stopped working. Certainly being a sex symbol isn't on-brand for a wholesome brand image from a cereal packet.

He changes his look to fit different themes

Even before he talks in his low timbre and rolls out his catchphrase, Tony the Tiger is instantly recognizable. He always looks cheerful, interested, and alert and since he pretty much always wears a kerchief around his neck there's no confusion caused by his wardrobe which is seemingly non-existent. However, since he's got such a fun personality he's not against a little fancy dress from time to time. He's changed his look on the front of cereal boxes quite a bit. It's never random though as each different style reflects a specific theme on the box.

For chocolate-flavored Frosted Flakes with "Spooky Marshmallows," Tony dons a Frankenstein outfit design. His blue jacket is ragged on the arms, his kerchief is monster-green, and he's even got a bolt through his neck. He sports a green, jagged-edged hat with a cartoon-style scar stitched across it. Raising his hands as if he's a monster in a horror film adds to the narrative. A "Star Wars" edition with a Light Side Original & Dark Side Chocolate cereal features Tony with a lightsaber. He's also wearing a Jedi-style covering over his head while the background is designed as if it's a distant galaxy. For "Avatar: The Way of Water" promotional boxes, Tony's traditional red scarf has been replaced by a purple one with designs that fit with the movie. 

He headed Mission Tiger aimed at supporting middle school sports

Whatever the question marks over the nutritional value of Frosted Flakes, Tony the Tiger is a trailblazer when it comes to promoting health and fitness. In 2019, Kellogg's set up Mission Tiger with Tony at the helm. The campaign aims to help out middle school sports programs that teachers across the nation say are seriously underfunded. The money was pigeonholed for all types of schemes from helping schools buy sports kits for teams to upgrading equipment. Examples of projects include enabling students in Lahaina to learn ancient Hawaiian games and providing weighted balls to a school in California. From water bottles to mats, poms, and duffel bags, Tony the Tiger is on a mission to help provide funding.

Families purchasing special boxes of Frosted Flakes upload receipts which then sets in motion a donation to the cause. With an aim to boost teamwork and encourage youngsters to work hard, the drive was launched with the backing of basketball star Ben Simmons. Between 2019 and 2023 over $2.5 million had been donated through the scheme. This ensured that over 7,200 projects were funded, supporting over 1.3 million student experiences in close to 3,000 schools.

Tony the Tiger livestreamed on Twitch

Tony the Tiger hasn't just changed over the years, he's been the mascot that's led the way for brand potential. As if he didn't seem real enough to fans over the years, he went totally 3D in 2022. He became the first character of his kind to live stream as a VTuber on Twitch. If you're wondering what this means, it means Tony embraced the digital world and went interactive. With headphones on and a swanky-looking set with neon lights, fans could reach out to Tony during his two-hour livestream in Chat and take part in the action.

Tony wasn't alone either, but he didn't appear on screen with other animated brand ambassadors. Instead, he played a battle game with well-known Twitch streamers: Brennon "GoldGlove" O'Neill, Chrissy Constanza, and Jakeem "BigCheese" Johnson. With users in the millions, Twitch is popular with gen z and it's no doubt this demographic that Tony is hoping to connect with. Many of the changes that he makes are to stay relevant in food markets that are moving as fast as technology. But he's still one cool big cat. 

Tony the Tiger has retired in some countries

Such is the success of Tony the Tiger and his enthusiasm for Frosted Flakes that it's difficult to imagine him not continuing to be part of breakfast cereal history. However, while on the surface all may seem just great, Tony's future isn't necessarily certain. Way back in 2013, Marketing Week reported how more health-conscious consumers in the U.K. were turning away from the cereal. Kellogg's stated that they wouldn't drop Tony as the mascot while admitting that the brand wasn't what it once was. Tony might not have disappeared but he's not as big a star as he once was it would seem.

Still in the U.K., the cereal company decided to remove small packets of Frosties from their variety packs to avoid the product being classed as HFSS - high in fat, salt, and sugar. This avoids restrictions on where in a store it can be placed. Perhaps, Tony the Tiger burns off the sugar from the Frosted Flakes he eats with all the sporty activities he's involved with. However, back in the real world, obesity and diabetes II are major health issues that are impacting the lives of not just adults but kids. Meanwhile, Chile has banned cereal mascots like Tony the Tiger in a bid to stop high-sugar foods being aimed at youngsters. It looks as if Tony is well on his way to being canceled all the way to retirement. After so many decades he might think that's great.