Star Trek and Cheerios: Part of a Balanced Breakfast

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.

cheerios_front_thumbcheerios_side_thumbcheerios_back_thumb
tng_stickers_thumb
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!

cheerios_rules_thumbThe rules of the game - lots of fine print for this one.

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.

cheerios_ent_ad_thumb

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.

cheerios_ent1_thumb cheerios_ent2_thumb cheerios_ent3_thumb
galoob_flyer_thumb
cheerios_ent4_thumb cheerios_ent5_thumb cheerios_ent6_thumb
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.

cheerios_poster_thumb
sternbach_letter_thumb generalmills_note_thumb
Top: The brilliant 'Next Generation' poster, with Galoob's forthcoming products.
Bottom left: A letter of agreement between Paramount and Probert/Sternbach,
allowing the studio to license their artwork to General Mills for the promotion.
Bottom right: A 'thank you' note included with each poster.

. . .

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.

cheerios_can_front_thumbcheerios_can_side_thumbcheerios_can_back_thumb
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.

prizes_canada_thumb

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.

cheerios_can_proof_thumbAn uncut proof of the Canadian box, signed for approval by two General Mills reps.

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.

div_spacer

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.

cheerios_ent_prototype2_thumb cheerios_ent_prototype1_thumb
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.

cheerios_stickers_photo_thumb

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!

  • Nate F

    I always wondered who won the “Walk on Role” for that campaign. I remember wanting to write in and find out who won and what episode they were in etc. but I forgot to. When I read your article I again was asking the same question of who won, etc?. Well I got the answer to my 20 year old musing. LOL Thanks however for the answer to a two decade old question and for bringing back some memories from that time.

  • AdmNaismith

    I notice that to redeem your prize in Canada, you had to answer a (fairly simple) math question. Why? Is this why Canada is beating us?

    I have a larger version of that Ent-D in di-cast metal. Copyright: P.P.C. It is painted and detailed, and the sections separate.

    I sometimes regret not bothering to get one of those marshmallow dispensers that were offered by Kraft (?) when ST-V came out. Surely one of the oddest premiums in all of fandom, nevermind ST.

    • David McC

      Canada does not allow chance drawings for a contest. You have to show that it’s a contest of skill.
      If you had gotten the math wrong, you would not have been eligible to win.

      • AdmNaismith

        Oh, then it is why Canada is bearing us. ;-)

        • notimpressed

          You mean “beating us” i hope. Ya in Canada, we have to legally “work” for any prize you win as corporations are not allowed to give us gifts. This is the work around.

          • AdmNaismith

            Good to know. If US congressman had to go around correctly answering a bunch of math questions, things would ne a lot different around here.

    • JohnS

      The die cast Enterprise was the mass market enterprise Galoob put out at the time – along with the figures and phaser

  • DaddyTodd

    I’ve got a copy of the poster somewhere, and I also amassed a goodly collection of the stickers. I wonder where those got to?

  • Grumpy McBitter

    Well if it’s any comfort, the old bat that took the money instead of the prize is probably long-since dead.

  • Wesley C

    Isn’t that “This could be you”-boy Joshua Harris, who actually played a character on the show? If not, he looks very much like him.

  • JohnS

    I ended up getting two of the plastic Enterprises with their “Second Chance Sweepstakes.” As well as about 200 stickers courtesy of the fact you could get them by sending a SASE (though only one sticker per sase – so I spent a fortune of my 14 year old allowance on postage). It was a nice promotion – and certainly fell in line with the big promotional push and excitement before the series premiered.

  • OphidianJaguar

    Cheerios are not healthy…heavily processed grains…mmm no thanks.

  • alfredodedarc

    I was a runner- up in the contest and gave the toy to my son. He played with it and whereabouts are now unknown. Last time I saw it was in a sandbox in the backyard, just the pylon section.

  • dep1701

    I got one of the 4 inch Enterprises ( which was actually what I wanted more than the trip! ). Oddly, there must have been quite a few of them leftover after the promotion, because the first run of the “Star Trek VI” edition of ERTL/AMT’s venerable NCC-1701-A model kit included one free in every package ( there was a yellow sticker on the shrink wrap advertising the “bonus” ). It even had the little white box and the Galoob advertising insert ( for products that were no longer being produced by 1991! ).

  • jakeswesb

    How long until the features on the Galoob series go up? I really liked those little guys as a kid, and used to long for the Bridge playset, and additional figures(like season 3 style uniforms), which of course were never to be. I’ve recently rediscoved them and have scoured the internet for all the information I could find. Other than the Romulan and Wesley figures, were there more planned? I would absolutely LOVE to see more details about that Bridge playset. It would be so awesome if a prototype still existed. Needless to say I am VERY interested in the articles you teased and have been checking back on a daily basis. I can’t wait! :)

    • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

      We’re still locking down all of the information with our sources to make sure we have a complete and accurate account of the Galoob story. It’s a lot of material, and we want to make sure we get it right.