The History of Chester Cheetah | Mascot Snapshot


Inspiration comes from the weirdest
places. Here I am just minding my own business, putting on YouTube videos in
the background to listen to while I work on commissions, and up comes a
recommended video from Kel Lauren who does graphic design and redesigns
corporate logos sometimes, and she’s redesigning the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos bag. I
really like the video I like her style it’s kind of funky and fresh, and it got me
thinking about cartoon mascots for food and all kinds of other stuff that we saw
growing up and how those characters have evolved and changed with the changing
trends in animation. So I thought I’d explore how Chester Cheetah has changed
over time in different animation styles throughout the decades that he’s been
the face of the Cheetos brand. And I don’t even eat Cheetos, I have these –
these are the, these are the Blaze Doritos? They’re vegan, so I have these. I
don’t even eat Cheetos. And in doing research for this video I found out that
there’s actually quite a few like really notable animators who have had their
hands on Cheetos commercials and have brought Chester Cheetah to life in
different ways. So without further ado here’s the animated history of Chester
Cheetah. Did you know that Chester the Cheetah
was not always the face of the Cheetos brand? In fact the first Cheetos mascot
was a mouse, creatively named the Cheetos mouse, stylized with the dash between the
“Chee” and the “tos” – and he was pretty darn cute!
Even though Cheetos have been around in some form since 1948 the Cheetos mouse
came on the scene in 1971. This cute mascot was designed by Mad Magazine
illustrator Paul Coker who was also the production designer for many beloved
Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. [‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ plays] These great story boards of the Cheetos Mouse
were created by Bill Peckman who was a lead animator on Schoolhouse Rock. I
don’t think I would have ever remembered what the function of a conjunction was
without Schoolhouse Rock, so thank you Bill. Though I wasn’t able to pinpoint
an exact year the Cheetos Mouse seemed to fade out of use by the end of the 70s and
Cheetos lacked a cartoon animal salesman for a few years. Then came the 80s.
Products in the 80s needed to be cool and what’s cooler than a cheetah with
sunglasses? In 1986 Chester Cheetah first graced our TV screens. Chester was
created by a man named Brad Morgan who, according to his former roommate, and I
quote – “was kicked out of a Rolling Stones rehearsal in Canada twice – to this day
nobody knows why.” He also directed this commercial of a farting horse for Bud
Light these first series of commercials
featuring the laid-back cat were actually animated by none other than
animation legend Richard Williams who sadly passed away very recently. You may
know Williams’s work from his Animator’s Survival guidebook owned by myself and I
think every cartoon and animation nerd on the planet, and for his incredible work
on one of the greatest animated movies of all time, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. You
can recognize his style and the way the commercials are animated – it’s “on ones”
which, if you’re not sure what that means it basically means that since animation
is 24 frames per second in many cases animators animate “on twos” meaning every
other frame is unique drawing or twelve drawings per second. This is smooth
enough looking for pretty much every case but Richard Williams liked to take
things to the next level and animate on ones so his animation feels extra fluid
since each second contains twice as many drawings as you typically see and it
creates a real sense of fluid motion that’s pretty unique to look at and it’s
a little much especially for a TV commercial about a cheese snack but I’m
grateful for it because it’s really beautiful. I was really pleasantly
surprised to find out Richard Williams actually animated Cheetos commercials
when I was doing research for this video and turns out he did a lot of really
other beautiful animated commercials for other brands as well and it was a nice
way for me to throw in a kind of brief but natural rest in peace to this titan
of the animation industry. Thanks for all the awesome work Richard. Chester’s reign
as the Cheetos champ continued and his popularity reached a peak at the tail
end of the 80s between 1986 and 1992 Frito-Lay attempted to create an
animated series based on Chester called “Yo! it’s the Chester Cheetah Show.”
According to comments on a Cartoon Brew article from animators John Halfpenny –
who worked on the Beetlejuice animated series – and Scott Shaw, the original
pencil artist for the Archie comics Sonic the Hedgehog series, the series was
shopped around from Fox to CBS and was apparently being worked on by Marvel
productions Halfpenny claims that at least two
episodes were fully boarded out and the show was to feature a “funky monkey, a
rockabilly dog and a hip hop hippo.” Looking through what storyboards did
find their way onto the Internet I was able to find the funky monkey and the
“hip-o”, yes that’s really his name, but the only dog I found was named Grunt and he
didn’t seem particularly rockabilly at least in these particular panels, boards,
but maybe that was fleshed out later. In the boards I also found a fish named
Cool Cat. On the one hand it’s a shame that these really nice storyboards went to
waste but on the other hand Halfpenny referred to the series as a “horror show”
and pretty much every TV studio quickly put a kibosh on the whole thing due to
outcry over what was essentially a 30 minute advertisement for junk food being
sold as a fun cartoon for kids. And so we never did find out Chester Cheetah’s dark
backstory. Chester continued to appear as a wacky 2d character obsessed with
Cheetos in commercials from the early 90s until the early 2000s during this
time there was a funny Mexican commercial with some really dated CG
parodying Terminator 2, the introduction of the “Dangerously Cheesy” slogan, an
attempt at a real-life mascot costume iteration of Chester and even a
crossover commercial with Daffy Duck as Chester’s stunt-double. This 1999
commercial was also the first year in my search for Cheetos ads where Cheetos
dropped the dash stylization and went from “Chee-tos” to the Cheetos we know today. In
2001 a couple commercials with a distinct and recognizable animation
style were put on the air. These were animated by none other than Cow and
Chicken creator David Feiss, and it’s pretty easy to see. I think they’re
incredibly fun to watch and they’re probably my favorite iteration of the
character aside from the more laid-back Richard Williams version from 1986.
Now juuust when 2D Chester was starting to get really fun and interesting,
Cheetos flipped the switch and decided to modernize Chester with a fully 3d
design, though some commercials would feature a hybrid of 2d and 3d Chester.
These commercials in my opinion are by and large pretty uninteresting and
nothing of note really happened with the character or his design for the next few
years. In 2006 Cheetos decided to try something new and interesting and add a
storyline with continuity – an ad campaign featuring a new villain, Chef
Pierre. Basically the “storyline” if you can call it that of these ads is that
chef Pierre loses a cooking contest to Chester, gets real bitter about it, hacks
his TV to warn him about his plot to steal the Cheetos secret recipe from the
Cheetos safe, plankton style, viewers could interact with the story by I guess
going on Cheetos.com and watching more commercials though I’m not sure anybody
would ever want to do that or did do it then again I did just spend a couple
hours watching several decades worth of advertisements for a product I don’t
even eat so… anyway, these ads are something different for Chester but he
maintained his overall cool-guy laid-back nature and the commercials had
a pretty goofy vibe. Cheetos took a break from doing
anything interesting for the next year or so and in 2007 they just did a
commercial with generic Chester dancing being hip and cool I guess. Nothing so
far would prepare us for the total 180 Cheetos would pull in the following year.
Targeting a more adult demographic in 2008 Cheetos launched an ad campaign
with several commercials and a website called orange underground essentially
the gist of the campaign was to encourage viewers to commit “Ray-Ocs”, RAOC, Random Acts of Cheetos, by filming themselves doing some kind of prank
similar to the light-hearted ones pulled in the ads. Conveniently, pulling these
pranks required buying multiple bags of Cheetos some of which you didn’t even eat.
I don’t know if anyone sincerely did these random acts of Cheetos since the
ones I did find on my very brief Youtube search also appeared in this official
looking montage so I don’t know if all these people were paid for by Cheetos or
if asking people to make these goofy videos was a way to get some free
footage that they then used for this ad or what – it’s not really made clear, if
anyone did make one of these videos and would like to fill me in on that I’d be
totally grateful. This one was the only one that actually made me laugh though.
So where’s Chester in all this? The commercials are very live-action heavy
but Chester does return in these ads as a more sinister mean-spirited cat with a
new accent. The overall vibe of this campaign seems to me like it was trying
to reach for the Adult Swim demographic or just move away from a kiddie image by
switching it up from previous campaigns but I do miss the old cartoony wacky
Chester, it’s a cheese snack folks why does it have to be weird and edgy? I
don’t really get it personally. Cheetos stuck with this weird darker
Chester for their first Super Bowl ad in 2009 as well. A less sinister
trickster Chester was featured in this 2012 commercial and it seems like from
2012 to 2019 Chester was toned down and turned into a mascot with no discernible
personality who just hangs around people who happen to be eating Cheetos. At least
edgy prankster Chester had a personality. Now we arrive at the present moment, 2019,
a time when fast food and snack companies are more intolerable than ever
and pretend to be real people having real conversations on Twitter.
So of course it was time for a really stupid version of Chester. Behold,
weirdly smooth 60 frames per second video game-looking Chester performing
his SICK diss track against… Doritos. It sucks, and it’s bad, and I don’t
like it, and I don’t know who does. Oh and he also dresses up like Colonel
Sanders to plug this Flamin’ Hot Cheetos chicken sandwich which sounds DISGUSTANG.
this commercial double sucks not only because the sandwich looks foul, but
because they try to do like a cheeky 90s parody thing with these people in the
commercial but they don’t bring back the wacky fun 90s chester Cheetah it’s still
the personalityless CG Chester so what even is the point of the 90s
vibe? Go big or go home, cowards! So I guess that’s it for 2d Chester. Aside
from his weirdly shaped face being plastered on bags of products he’s been
dead and gone since the early 2000s with no sign of returning. Considering how
awful the ads have gotten since he went CG maybe he just chose to skip town and
retire somewhere warm. While I hate basically all of the 3d Chester
commercials dislike commercials in general and think this particular snack
product is nasty the 2d animation in the earlier
advertisements is really fun and sometimes legitimately beautiful to look
at and it’s really interesting to me to see how many influential animators and
creators had their impact on the image of this ridiculous character for so many
years. Despite that these early commercials were just a paid gig for
these animators they clearly put care and attention into their work and really
breathed life into this glorified logo and that’s something that just
fascinates me as a lover of all things cartoon and all things… cheesy. I don’t
actually eat cheese. it was a bad joke. I guess all that’s left to see is if
animation trends swing back towards making 2d cool again or if they’re gonna
go with a retro Chester or completely reinvent Chester for another time. Who’s
to say, but nothing’s gonna take away the glory of the original cool
Cheetos cat. Thanks so much for watching, if this gets any more than like 10 views
which is what I’m accustomed to on this channel I might do a series of these
hence the “Mascot Snapshot” in the title though since this video did take more
than like an hour to make I might save it for a couple weeks in the future and
just do a video I already have halfway done next week just keepin it real.
Thank you to my new subscribers for getting me over the 100 subscriber
milestone which was realistically my only goal with this channel I just
wanted the custom URL to put on my business card so instead of youtube.com
slash D 375 0wx or whatever it was now it’s just youtube.com slash
AlyssaErin, much easier to remember and it fits much better out of business card. If
you’d like to see more cartoons and cartoony things you can check out the
other videos on this channel subscribe to see more stuff when I do make it or
you can follow me at all the links in the description below to all my social
media sites so Instagram tumblr Twitter Facebook basically everywhere that most
people post artwork on there posting artwork and I have an ongoing series of
drawing all the Animal Crossing villagers in alphabetical order I post
that three times a week on Instagram so if you’re interested in that definitely
follow me on Instagram to see the latest villagers that I’ve completed in the
series thanks again for the 100 subscriber mark I’m still really psyched
about that and have a fantastic day

Comments 6

  • I really enjoyed this, hope you do more! 🐯👍
    We don't have a whole lot of original mascot characters over here in Sweden but I do adore our comic book character, Bamse, who has had his own cartoons and movies and kind of appears here and there on different products. He's also featured as the mascot character for a Zoo and a travel company so I guess that's something hahah!

  • you know Garfield is a food mascot now 😛 haha XD

  • When I got up this morning, I could never have guessed I would learn so much about Cheetos today.
    Amazing informative and interesting video!

  • I kind of love sinister Chester. I don't think I've ever eaten Cheetos when I was in a good mood, so it fits my experience of the "food."

  • Me: I actually really like Cheetos. Alyssa: luigi death stare

  • So based on what im seeing from the clips of the commercials, chester was jonny bravo looking like he was going after the girl but actually going for the Cheetos. Am i right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *