The Kraft Mascot You Probably Forgot About

People who grew up in the '90s and 2000s may remember when Kraft peddled its mac and cheese with the help of an anthropomorphic yellow dinosaur called Cheesasaurus Rex, who had the near creepy tagline "Cheese me." During his two-decade run, Cheesasaurus Rex rivaled such exalted mascots like Chester Cheetah, Toucan Sam, and the Kool-Aid Man. Yet, you wouldn't know that now, would you? His fossil records on the internet are so negligible as to make him almost nonexistent.

For example, the only thing directly pinning his debut to 1991 is an uncredited claim in a HuffPost article. However, MyComicShop dates an issue of the Cheesasaurus Rex comic to 1992, and a 1992 article in The New York Times mentioned that there were plans for a Cheesasaurus Rex cartoon, so 1991 sounds probable.

Similarly, a 2015 news piece in the Omaha World-Herald is the only thing to credit the cheesy beasty's creation to Jay Dandy, an ad worker at the J. Walter Thompson agency. Even then, the piece itself was about an artwork he painted on the wall of his childhood bedroom. Cheesasaurus Rex was relegated to a side note.

Cheesasaurus Rex reached great heights

So, we can pin down the estimated time when Cheesasaurus Rex landed his gig representing macaroni and radioactive-looking cheese.

It's easier to show just how large of a mascot he became. In a debate for Food & Wine about whether mac and cheese could beat spaghetti and meatballs, Noah Kaufman defended mac and cheese by calling out the nostalgia of the dish. "Presumably there is a dictionary entry on the '90s, and if you look at that entry you will almost certainly see a picture of Cheesasaurus Rex, the surfing cartoon dinosaur mascot on most boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from that decade," Kaufman explained. Similarly, Healthy Eating Research included the dinosaur in a 2016 report on food marketing to children, even though Cheesasaurus Rex had long disappeared.

The basis for this fame was an evolving series of advertisements from the 1990s until 2010, a collection of which you can watch on YouTube. In the earlier ads, Cheesasaurus Rex served as a backdrop to whomever Kraft was collaborating with. These included the Animaniacs and Pokémon. He was a present figure, then, for shows that rooted themselves into popular culture. Then, when he made a television return in 2008 with ads like the Rube Goldberg Mac-O-Matic, Cheesasaurus Rex became a main character in his own shorts. His fame was such that he even had a balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving parade from 2001 through 2003 (via MTV).

Cheesasaurus Rex just vanished

Suddenly, Cheesasaurus Rex had vanished from television screens everywhere. He was cheesed no more. No explicit statement about why Kraft retired its mascot exists. However, one can infer a possible reason.

In 2010, The New York Times ran a piece on how Kraft was pivoting the target demographic of its mac and cheese from children to adults. That was also the same year the last ad with Cheesasaurus Rex aired. So, it's plausible that advertising executives did not think that adults would — for some reason — respond to a yellow dinosaur being gunged in cheese with the same enthusiasm as their children.

However, the world has not forgotten Cheesasaurus Rex. In 2020, 60 individuals collaborated to produce an hour-long YouTube video that mixed and remixed the old Cheesasaurus Rex song into a symphony celebrating commercial nostalgia. It's a wild ride befitting a '90s and early 21st century icon that has only left us with memories of cheesy fascination.