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Tony the Tiger: 10 ‘Gr-r-reat!’ Facts About The Nostalgic Mascot of Our Childhoods

For over 70 years he's been a pop culture icon, but there's so much you don't know about him

There have been a lot of cereal mascots over the years — those cartoon characters telling us why their breakfast is better than the next guy’s — but none have stood the test of time in the way that Tony the Tiger has. He’s been bellowing out the fact that Kellog’s Frosted Flakes are “gr-r-eat!” for over 70 years, and few have argued the point.

Tony the Tiger was created in 1952 by graphics artist Eugene Kolkey, who was art director at the Leo Burnett Agency, who set up the concept, named the character and then gave it to artist Martin Provensen to complete the design.

The final look came from a group of former Disney animation artists making up Quartet Films, which had developed additional advertising icons like the Jolly Green Giant, Snap, Crackle and Pop (of Rice Krispies fame) and the mascot for the Baltimore Orioles.

But right from the start it was obvious that there was something special about Tony the Tiger, much to the chagrin of some of Kellogg’s other cereal mascots, who suddenly found themselves on the equivalent of the unemployment line.

Kelloggs' Mascots
Kelloggs’ mascots Elmo the Elephant, Katy the Kangaroo and Newt the Gnu©Kelloggs

Boosted to supporting positions were the likes of Elmo the Elephant (who found a new gig over at Cocoa Krispies), Katy the Kangeroo and Newt the Gnu.

Keep reading for additional facts about Tony the Tiger.

1. It Turns Out That Tony’s a Dad!

Within the first year of his debut, Tony the Tiger was given a son (Tony, Jr) and the two of them would appear together on animated television commercials. What’s interesting about the video above, and was true for many years, was the emphasis on the cereal being called Sugar-Frosted Flakes, driving home the fact it would give you more energy if you ate it.

Eventually there would be backlash to sugar in breakfast cereals, and the product’s name would be reduced to Frosted Flakes.

2. Tony the Tiger voice actor swap

Kellogg initially hired voice actor Dallas Raymond McKennon (1919-2009), whose credits include the original Gumby and the character of Archie Andrews in various series.

For reasons unknown, McKennon was replaced by Thurl Ravenscroft, who would give the Tiger his voice for the next 50 years or so. He’s also the one who came up with the catchphrase, “They’re gr-r-eat!”

In an archived interview with, Ravenscroft detailed how he came up with that line. “I went into the booth,” he said, “and the payoff line in the early days was always, ‘Tony, are Frosted Flakes any good?’ And Tony said, ‘Good? Why, they’re great.’ And I said, ‘We’ve got to do something with the word “great.” We’ve got to explode to make the cereal come off the shelf.’ So I messed around and finally came up with, ‘They’re Gr-r-reat!'”

In the same conversation, he expressed his feelings for Tony the Tiger: “I love Tony. In fact, I made Tony a person. For me, Tony was real. I made him become a human being and that affected the animation and everything.”

3. Tony the Tiger costarred with Groucho Marx

The Big T and Groucho Marx
Tony the Tiger and Groucho Mark©Kelloggs

In the 1950s Groucho Marx had successfully made the transition from the stage shows and movies he starred in as part of the Marx Brothers, and was enjoying great success hosting the game show You Bet Your Life.

Well, such was the popularity of both Groucho and Tony the Tiger that Kellogg’s thought they should bring the two of them together in what became a successful ad campaign.

4. Meet the rest of the Tiger Family

Tony the Tiger and Family
Tony the Tiger and Family©Kelloggs

By the 1970s, and given the fact that the cereal mascot was more popular than ever, the family dynamic expanded in some of the commercials.

While viewers had already met Tony Jr years earlier (who was given his own short-lived cereal in 1975 called Frosted Rice), now they got to meet his wife, Mrs. Tony; mother, Mama Tony; and daughter Antoinette.

5. Tony bulked up in the 1980s

The icon bulks up
Tony the Tiger gets in shape©Kelloggs

By the time you get to the 1980s where everybody is doing their best to get in shape (remember the era of Jane Fonda exercise tapes, Suzanne Somers and the Thighmaster, and Olivia Newton-John getting “Physical?”), Tony the Tiger does the same!

You can see that his form has gone from a standard cartoon-looking character to one with considerably more musculature. On top of that, the commercials involve him in more competitive sports, suggesting that Frosted Flakes can help you out during the big game (pick your sport).

6. Tony and Shaq team up for charity

Tony the Tiger and Shaq
Tony the Tiger® and Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal teamed up for charity in 2021©Kelloggs

Back on September 8, 2021, Kelloggs made the following announcement: “What tipped off as a collaboration between dynamic duo Tony the Tiger® and Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal to create the first-ever Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes® with Crispy Cinnamon Basketballs is now helping middle schoolers nationwide gain better access to sports.

Today, Tony and Shaq are teaming up again to unveil a game-changing Mission Tiger™ donation through education nonprofit DonorsChoose, which will impact more than 60,000 middle schoolers across the six cities where Shaq played professional basketball: Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando and Phoenix.

7. Tiger vs. Tiger lawsuit

Tiger advertisement for Esso
Esso ad featuring their own tiger and slogan©ExxonMobil

Okay, so Tony the Tiger was trademarked by Kellogg in 1952 under the category of food products. Limiting the trademark may have been a misstep, given that in 1964 Esso (now known as ExxonMobil) started using a an illustrated mascot in the form of a tiger, and while he wasn’t given a name in the way that Tony was, they did have their own slogan, which was “Put a tiger in your tank.”

Between then and 1992, there was never a problem, but then ExxonMobil launched “Tiger Marts” at its gas stations which sold beverages and food, and suddenly Kellogg had something to say legally. After a number of years and millions of dollars, the two companies settled the case (details not released).

8. Tony the Tiger has a lot of famous friends

Tony the Tiger and Melissa Joan Hart
George Napolitano/FilmMagic)

Tony the Tiger and Sabrina the Teenage Witch star Melissa Joan Hart attend National Breakfast Day at Vanderbilt Hall at Grane Central Temrinal on March 8, 2011 in New York City.

Tony the Tiger and the Roots
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

(L-R) Damon Bryson, Mark Kelley, Black Thought, Questlove, F. Knuckles, Kirk Douglas and James Poyser of The Roots, along with Tony the Tiger, visit the Kellogg’s Recharge Bar on June 25, 2014 in New York City.

Tony the Tiger
Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®)

Quarterback Jalen Hurts and Tony the Tiger® surprised young football players from the School District of Philadelphia with a Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Mission Tiger donation and once-in-a-lifetime gameday experience on Sunday, August 28 2022 in Philadelphia.

Tony the Tiger and Skylar Astin
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes

Tony the Tiger celebrates with actor/singer Skylar Astin from backstage at the 76th Annual Tony Awards®. Following the show, Tony gave the Kellogg brand’s iconic tagline a playful twist at the event’s afterparty, and surprised nominees with a golden cereal bowl and the delicious taste of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes®, making sure everyone gets a Tony moment. They’re Grrreat!

9. Additional voices took on Tony

Tony lounging around
Tony The Tiger attends The 76th Annual Tony Awards at United Palace Theater on June 11, 2023 in New York CityDimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Thurl Ravenscroft, who had voiced Tony the Tiger from the beginning, passed away in 2005 and was replaced by wrestler announcer Lee Marshall, until he passed away from cancer in 2014. Since then, he’s been voiced by actor Tex Brashear.

10. Tony the Tiger is Italian!

Tony in New York City
Tony The Tiger speaks during the “Tony The Tiger” press conference debuting Tonys new look at 620 Loft & Garden on September 15, 2016 in New York CityKris Connor/Getty Images

Probably the most surprising fact to come out about Tony the Tiger over the years is the fact that it was decided that he is actually Italian.

It turns out that by the mid-1970s, the character had, for some reason, grown extremely popular among young Italian-Americans, so Kellogg decided that he shared their heritage. In 1974, he found himself on the covers of the weekly Italian-language magazine Panorama and Italian GQ.

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