Tony the Tubby Tiger: An Artist’s Warning Against Sugary Cereals

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Courtesy of Ron English

A "Fat Tony" doll, beside the satirical cereal box packaging inspired by Frosted Flakes, and created by artist Ron English.

Will a new homespun ad campaign be “Gr-r-reat” for curbing childhood obesity? The iconic Tony the Tiger has been recast with a ballooning belly, as portrayed in an artist’s new guerilla marketing campaign. It’s purportedly a side effect of years of chowing down on the sugary Frosted Flakes.

But how did the deep-voiced, muscular tiger reach such a low point?  Tony, who turns 62 this year, has been given a makeover by artist Ron English to show the consequences of too much sugary cereal in the morning. Contemporary artist English is no stranger to the curious corner of art and advertising. He’s responsible for coining the term “POPaganda” to describe his pieces, which fuse highbrow art and crass commercialism. And you can probably guess which theme has drawn the short straw in English’s works.

(LIST: The 10 Worst Sugary Cereals)

This isn’t the first time the sugary cereal theme has been portrayed in English’s work, either. An October 2011 guerilla exhibition in Venice, Calif. saw the shelves at a Ralph’s supermarket replaced with his reality-check renditions of some standard cereals. Lucky Charms was spun into “Yucky Children Charmer,” complete with a rather obese leprechaun. He emblazoned a Trix box with the tagline “Excellent Source of Childhood Diabetes!” Sugar Smacks? That one spoke for itself.  And Frosted Flakes, with its 110 calories and 11 grams of sugar in every 30-gram (3/4 cup) serving, became “Sugar Frosted Fat” (though the cereal doesn’t actually contain any fat, according to Kellogg’s nutrition facts). The boxes, eagle-eyed searchers reported, were promptly removed. But now it appears the obese tiger has leapt off the box and will be reincarnated.

Despite the newly-pudgy Tony, though, Frosted Flakes are far from the least-healthy cereals on the supermarket shelves. Even some of Kellogg’s own cereals have a lower rank than Tony the Tiger’s beloved breakfast food. According to CerealFacts.org, spearheaded by Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Cocoa Krispies, Special K (in both Blueberry and Chocolatey Delight flavors) and Chocolate Peanut Butter Corn Pops all rank in the bottom 10 cereals marketed to children. (Quaker’s Cap’n Crunch received the lowest nutrition score.)

English is planning to produce his redesign of Tony the Tiger as a vinyl figure, so you can place him atop your kitchen counter and be reminded of your own faltering figure while pouring that bowl of over-sugared (but so delicious) cereal.

SPECIAL: Figuring Out Food Labels

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