Flash forward to the year 2007 and the biggest thing on anyone's radar was Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 3. Whatever your views on the movie are now, set them aside for a minute and try to remember back to the time before it was released. Sony Pictures had there hype machine working double time, making sure there wasn't a single person of the face of the earth who didn't know this movie was coming out. Literally every product known to mankind had Spider-Man on the front of it. Even things that Spidey didn't specifically belong on somehow found a way to get the Spider-Man license. It even reached a point in which boxes of taco shells had Spider-Man on them. This is some serious market saturation, as I have no idea how taco shells and Spider-Man relate to one another.
Sadly, I didn't save any of the taco shells. When it comes to old packages I have a borderline obsession and basically hoard them. However even I have to draw the line someplace and old taco shells that vaguely tie into Spider-Man is my own personal line in the sand. Never fear though, because what I did save was much, much cooler. What I have in my possession is a box of Spider-Man 3 Cereal as well as a box of Spider-Man 3 Crispy Cereal Bars. Both are Limited Edition products and neither are (obviously) available for purchase anymore. So let's take a trip into my top secret hoard of promotional crap and have a look at these fantastic items!
Starting with the cereal box, I want to get the most obvious thing out of the way first. Spider-Man looks like he is shooting milk from his wrist and into the cereal bowl. I had to look at the box half a dozen times before I finally figured out what was going on. As it turns out he's really not shooting radioactive spider-milk into the bowl so much as its supposed to look Spider-Man is shooting web at the bowl. There is a distinctive difference between the two, though either way its quite frankly kind of disturbing to think about. I am no doctor, but having spider web all over your breakfast cereal doesn't sound any healthier than having wrist milk shot all over it. This is why things like Spider-Man themed cereal are only good in Limited Edition format. Nobody gives these packages much of a second glace and if anyone does, they're gone before anyone can complain about it.
The cereal itself is described as "lightly sweetened fruity corn puffs" in the words of the fine folks at General Mills. Coming in the blue and red puffy variety, we are basically looking at Trix cereal, only without the need for an additional four extra colors. Quick cash-in is the key to remember here, folks. General Mills is not going to go out of there way to re-invent your morning breakfast for the sake of a box of Spider-Man cereal. The overall plan is to stick with what works and in this case its basically Trix cereal. One has to remember it's not about the destination as it is so much about getting there. And we are getting there through Spider-Man themed cereal. That should be enough. It would have been nice to have some Spider-Man shaped marshmallows or bits of cereal vaguely shaped like spider web. If I worked at General Mills this would have been how I would have designed the cereal. Clearly my design is the better of the two.
The back of the package has a maze. A trivia maze. With assigned point values. We are not off go a good start. In order to complete said maze you almost literally have to hit every single one of the point boxes. Of those point boxes about half of them have negative numbers attached to them. Thus requiring you to strategically plan a route around them if you want to end with the highest score possible. I am not a fan of this at all. Someone needs to remind General Mills this is breakfast we are talking about here. I am not pulling out a legal notepad and graphing calculator at 7:30 in the morning just to properly finish a maze on my box of cereal. Also, why are there even point values in the first place? Are they trying to make a maze into a two player game? I don't understand the point of this point value system at all. Nice try General Mills but your not tricking me into morning arithmetic.What they should have done is put a simple two or three strip Spider-Man comic book on the back of the box. Which would have been a great way to get kids who have never read a comic book in there life interested in reading and possibly even go out and pick one up. Instead we get this stupid trivia maze with randomly assigned point values. Once again, I feel like my ideas are better than the ones someone else was actually payed money to think up.
If your wondering why I've neglected to show any of the actual cereal that came in this box. I'm not going to lie, I've been putting it off because I actually don't have any with this specific box. Its one of those strange things where most of my boxes of cereal are complete and un-opened... however there are a couple that, for whatever reason, someone ate and I never got around to purchasing a full box to replace the empty one with. It's like Shakespeare once said: "It's better to have an empty box of Limited Edition Spider-Man 3 cereal than to have none at all." ... maybe that wasn't Shakespeare but the point still stands all the same. I'm just glad to have the box in my collection, empty or otherwise.
The real winner of the bunch is very clearly the individually wrapped bars lurking around on the inside of the box . If these do not qualify as modern art then I don't know what does. Everything about that package design just feels correct. For starters, I like the way Spider-Man takes up over half of the front of the package. That way there is no way to mistake this product for anything else other than a promotional tie in with Spider-Man. Secondly, I enjoy the way everything is just blatantly red. Not enough items go for that color scheme, not unless its Christmas time (in which case your allowed to plaster red all over any and everything imaginable) or your product somehow relates to Hell. Those are pretty much your options for an all red color scheme, Christmas or Hell. There is very little middle ground on the subject, Spider-Man Cereal Treats managed to find that middle ground. Most importantly to note about this package design is the awesome reflective foil that covers Spider-Man's eyes. Its the focal point that ties everything else together and makes for a fantastic wrapper that I may or may not be the only person in the entire world that's ever detailed in length about. That's what I'm here for.
Moving on to the back of the package we find that it is much better than the full sized cereal box. This one has three separate puzzles for your enjoyment. The first asks you to find the hidden sequence in the series of lights on the side of a building and tell Spider-Man what color comes next. Because apparently Spider-Man is an electrician on the side? This puzzle seems like it requires mathematics. You know my views on mathematics, General Mills. So let's move on to puzzle 2. In this one you are presented with three famous images and have to match the correct description to them. Now I'm fully aware that the target audience here is seven year old children however I refuse to believe that anyone could possibly get these wrong. Your choices are "Empire State Building. Brooklyn Bridge. Statue of Liberty." even if one has no idea what these items are.... common since sort of dictates that the picture of the bridge is probably the Brooklyn Bridge. From there I think its also fairly easy to figure that the only building present is probably the Empire State Building...thus leaving the only photo of a statue to be the Statue of Liberty. General Mills gets effort points for this one, but not many. It's still better than a math maze, though. The third and final puzzle is a crossword puzzle with 90% of the letters filled in, no questions and the missing letters provided. Thus not really making it much of a crossword puzzle. Eh, what the hell at least three crappy options are better than one crappy option. I'll take these three over the math maze any day of the week.
The rest of the box is nutritional information and nobody gives a shit about that, so let's not even begin to cover what that side of the box looks like. Instead let's open up one of the years old bars and see what we have. Surprisingly, these things look about 90% edible. This is either a testament to the quality of product General Mills sells or a sign that the crap we all eat on a daily basis is in no way fit for human consumption. I'm guessing it is a little bit of both. As you can see, Spider-Man 3 Crispy Cereal Treats are simply rice crispy bars with the occasional red or blue colored bit thrown in. I approve. As I mentioned earlier there is no need to re-invent the wheel for the sake of products such as these. Everyone likes rice crispy bars. Everyone likes Spider-Man. What we have here is a nice combination of the two, in which neither manages to overshadow the other. In case your wondering what the 10% is that's holding me off from attempting to eat one, the texture of these is completely off. They no longer feel like something that aught to be edible. Imagine, if you will, your run of the mill rice crispy bar covered in rubber cement and left to bake in the sun... for four years. That is exactly what they feel like. There is no way that thing is getting anyplace close to my mouth.
There isn't really a whole lot more that can be said about either product.Overall both items are a fantastic example of how to release a Limited Edition tie in to a major motion picture. Cool package designs, based on a tired but true formula of food products that pretty much everyone enjoys, and sold in stores just long enough for everyone to want some, but not long enough to overstay their welcome. I've often complained about how the summer months just aren't as much fun as the later portion of the year, but as long as companies like General Mills are willing to release awesome promotional items like these. Then I think everything will be alright! 8-)