The untold truth of Rice Krispies

Rice Krispies, which were once marketed as "The Talking Cereal," has been helping generations of sleepy-eyed Americans to wake up for over 90 years. While this cereal may lack the bright colors and the sugary sweetness of many of its rivals, Rice Krispies is nevertheless still among the top-selling breakfast cereals year after year — Kiplinger listed it as hanging in there at #13 on a list of the top 20 best-selling cereals of 2018.

Even if you're not much of a breakfast eater, chances are you've been offered a Rice Krispies treat at some point in your life — most probably during your elementary school days when somebody's mom was sure to bring in a batch for every class party. These marshmallowy goodies have been around since 1939, first created as a fundraiser for the Campfire Girls so they could keep up with their cookie-peddling counterparts, the Girl Scouts. Unlike Thin Mints, Samoas, et al., though, LeafTV records that Rice Krispies treats would not remain a proprietary secret. Instead, their recipe was soon published on every Rice Krispies box, and shortly thereafter became a staple in every kid's lunch box.

Didn't know that about Rice Krispies? It's a cereal that's just full of surprises. Here are a few more fun facts about the breakfast that snaps, crackles, and pops.

The science behind the snapping, crackling, and popping

If you've ever sat there hunched miserably over the breakfast table wondering why your bowl of cereal is so darn loud, science has an answer for that. (Science has an answer for everything. In fact science, like Rice Krispies, seldom shuts up.) The cereal is made by cooking rice with steam in a method that makes each individual grain puff up and creates thin, solid walls with tiny air pockets inside. When cold milk hits the Krispies, Today I Found Out says that the temperature shift may cause the air pockets to contract, which in turn fractures the walls. 

It is also possible that the starch molecules in those walls give way due to stress from the sudden change in temperature. The latter change is comparable to what happens when you pour hot water on an iced-over windshield, since this will then also crack, if not necessarily snap or pop. Either way, when the rice walls break down, they do so in a rather noisy way, which is what causes the cereal to start "talking" — more like complaining. So give your cereal a break! It's having a rough morning, too.

Snap!, Crackle!, and Pop! once had a brother from another planet

During the golden age of breakfast sugar bombs, it seems every cereal out there was marketed with some wacky, supposedly kid-friendly cartoon mascot. While Canadian Business indicates that many of these mascots dated from the '50s, '60s, or '70s, those ever-cheery Rice Krispies elves have been hamming it up in cereal commercials since the '30s. Snap! was actually the oldest of the three brothers, born in 1933, but his brothers Crackle! and Pop! joined him in 1939. It's been the three of them ever since — except for one brief, odd episode during the Flash Gordon-crazed '50s.

Smithsonian Magazine unearthed some long-forgotten storyboard art and dug into the history behind it, learning that in 1955 there were two TV commercials starring a fourth elf named Pow! This fourth elf brother did not speak, but instead flew around in a zippy little hovercraft wearing a space helmet and zapping the "power from whole grain rice... into every lightweight spoonful of Kellogg's Rice Krispies!" No one knows just what became of Pow! after his two-commercial stint — perhaps he couldn't get his interstellar visa extended.

The Rolling Stones once shilled for Rice Krispies

Another almost-overlooked moment from Rice Krispies advertising history involves a band whose members are nearly as old as the brothers Snap!, Crackle!, and Pop! (and quite a bit older than poor old Pow!). Although they themselves have probably long forgotten making the ad and would prefer that the rest of the world forgot it as well, YouTube is here to make sure nobody ever forgets anything. We present for your viewing pleasure this 1963 (or perhaps 1964) Rice Krispies jingle, sung by none other than the Rolling Stones.

The Daily Mail speculates that this song was most likely written by band member Brian Jones, and he sure must have been proud of crafting such expressive lyrics as "wake up in the morning there's a crackle in your face." Unfortunately, Jones passed away in 1969 before he could receive the acclaim due to him as one of the great advertising geniuses of the 20th century. It's said that he died under suspicious circumstances... hmm, wonder if Don Draper has an alibi?