On September 15, 1987, grocery stores across the United States began to stock specially-marked boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios cereals, advertising a special Star Trek contest: one lucky winner would score the prize of a lifetime – a walk-on role in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation!
Each colorful cereal box advertised a full range of Next Generation collectibles, including a set of six stickers featuring early promotional photographs of the new Galaxy-class Enterprise starship and a handful of the new crew.
|Top: The standard Cheerios promotion packaging, as seen in the United States.
Bottom: The six 'Next Generation' stickers, distributed one to each box.
Behind each sticker, collectors had the opportunity to win a single grand prize: a week-long vacation to Paramount Pictures, where one person would appear in a non-speaking role in a second-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The expensive package also included first-class airfare for four people, deluxe hotel accommodations, a rental car, and $2,000 spending cash. The whole prize was worth an approximate $10,000 – which would be valued at almost twice that today!
So who won? Well, I've been able to confirm with sources in the know that despite all of those Trek fans who desperately entered hoping to fulfill their dreams, the actual winner was an elderly woman who chose to receive monetary compensation rather than to actually fly out to Los Angeles - it’s certainly a disappointing end to such a rare opportunity.
I reached out to the General Mills archives at the company's Minneapolis headquarters, and due to the length of time that's passed since the promotion ran in the late 1980s, they don't have any more information in their records.
For everyone else, General Mills had 75,000 highly-detailed four-inch plastic Enterprise model designed by Lewis Galoob Toys, offered as a runner-up prize to entrants. This figure was so detailed that not only did it separate into two pieces – just like the Enterprise on TV – but every single phaser strip, sensor array, lifeboat hatch, and window was visible in the mold.
Included with the tiny ship was a promotional flyer for Galoob’s soon-to-be-released TNG toys.
|The four-inch USS Enterprise, sticker sheets, and included Galoob product flyer.
Bottom right: A size comparison with Galoob's six-inch die-cast ship released in 1988.
Illustrator Jim Fong, who played a lead role in the development of Galoob’s TNG toys, told me a little bit about this miniature Enterprise as part of a larger interview, coming soon to TrekCore.
Jim Fong: Aside from making it look like the actual model used in the show, there was really nothing more to it. It was a nice little premium giveaway that’s nice to have on your desk, even though the stickers that came with it didn't adhere to the ship’s surface very well!
I had always wanted to spend a lot of time to mask and paint it; I think it would make a great desk display if a hobbyist with modelmaking skills could spend the time to paint it up right. The details are tight on it, so it can look pretty good once painted, but I never got around to it – but I still enjoy it in the molded blue color.
I was able to sit across from the packaging Art Director as he painted the illustrations of the ship, figures, and toys on the promotional flyer that was included in the box (and later on the mail-away poster) – he was such an excellent illustrator, and it was a blast to watch him work.
In addition to the Trek prizes, General Mills also licensed a custom poster from Paramount Pictures – along with illustrators Andy Probert and Rick Sternbach, who designed the now-famous Enterprise artwork – available to any consumer who mailed in three proofs-of-purchase to the cereal manufacturer.
This 17” x 24” poster not only included a copy of Captain Picard’s ready room painting, it also had a preview of Galoob’s soon-to-be-released Next Generation toys, for those who hadn't won the mail-away Enterprise toy.
. . .
While the walk-on prize was only available to entrants in the United States, Canada wasn’t left out of the Next Generation campaign. A similar Canadian promotion ran about a year after the ’87 campaign in the United States, offering a nearly identical trip to Hollywood. The winner would tour Paramount Studios during TNG’s third season, but there was no on-camera role included.
|The bilingual Honey Nut Cheerios packaging distributed in Canada.|
Canadians had the same Next Generation stickers included in their cereal boxes, but the runner-up prizes were notably different. “First place” winners would receive one of 75 Galoob Type I Phaser toys, while 10,000 Enterprise toys would be available for “runner-up” winners.
I haven’t been able to determine who (if anyone) won the Canadian contest and there’s virtually no information online about that second promotion – I spoke to a representative from General Mill's Canadian office, and was told that they have no contest records from before 2006.
I have to offer my sincere thanks to Gregg Koenig, who sent me his incredibly rare Canadian Honey Nut Cheerios box proof to add to my collection, which already included all the US-based Cheerios material featured above. This rare production piece allowed us to approximate the Canadian contest's time frame to a mid-1988 release, based on the February 25, 1988 approval signatures in the box's lower corner.
This Cheerios promotion was the first preview of Galoob’s entrance into the world of Star Trek: The Next Generation – and as I hinted above, I've been working for several months to build what will hopefully become the definitive behind-the-scenes guide to the Galoob Next Generation line, which first hit stores in mid-1988.
|A prototype of the Cheerios promotion Enterprise, studied at Galoob in 1987.
Images courtesy of Galoob's Bob DiGiacomo.
Stay tuned for this multi-part series, which features never-before-seen photographs from the Galoob production offices, rare prototypes that never even made it to retailer advertisements, and in-depth interviews with members of the design team - all coming to TrekCore within the next few weeks.
In the meantime, tell us your experience with the Cheerios contest. Did you, or anyone you know, win one of the giveaway Enterprise toys? Do you still have your sticker collection? Were you a lucky phaser winner up in Canada? Did you enter the promotion over and over again, only to walk away with nothing?
Sound off in the comments below!