What You Don't Know About Frosted Flakes' Tony The Tiger

There's no doubt about it. Tony the Tiger is gr-r-reat. So great, in fact, in 1952 he beat out three other characters in a popularity contest, winning his deserved spot on the then-named "Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes of Corn" (which was later changed to the healthier sounding "Kellogg's Frosted Flakes"). The other less fortunate characters, Katy the Kangaroo, Elmo the Elephant, and Newt the Gnu, seemingly vanished into obscurity. In 1953, Tony was featured in a four-color ad in the August issue of LIFE magazine.

His career didn't stop there. Tony went on to star in TV commercials and even appears today as a giant graphic on Kellogg's hot air balloon. While Tony was created for children, he has admirers of all ages who have called him "friendly, lovable, talented, boastful, and almost human." One of his core characteristics is encouraging children to "strive toward achieving their fullest potential" (via Kellogg's).

Bringing out Tony's tiger and voice

According to Retro Planet, Martin Provensen, a children's book illustrator, created the original design for Tony. Like a lot of us, he had a football-shaped head and started out walking on all fours. Later on, Tony matured to walking upright, singing, and dancing, while still sporting a red bandana. At one point, Tony even had a family including a mother, wife, daughter, and son (Tony Jr.), but unfortunately for the fam, endurance must have not been genetic, as they have since fallen off. Tony's figure has progressed to become stronger and leaner, and he has grown to become a six-foot-tall, athletic ambassador. A tiger may not change its stripes, but it can, apparently, enhance its physique!

We can thank the actor and voice artist Thurl Ravenscroft for Tony's iconic deep voice. Ravenscroft was an accomplished singer and even performed with Elvis Presley. He did voice work for Disney, including providing the voice for Disneyland rides like the Haunted Mansion. Ravenscroft was initially uncredited for singing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Instead, Boris Karloff was erroneously listed as the singer (via Omaha World-Herald). But producers Chuck Jones and Dr. Seuss contacted columnists to set the record straight. Ravenscroft, who passed away in 2005, is perhaps best known for lending his voice to Tony the Tiger commercials. He acknowledged his claim to fame, saying, "I'm the only man in the world that has made a career with one word: Grrrrreeeat!"