Exploring various instances of the novel Dracula‘s undying afterlife, considering specific examples in literature and visual media of the rewriting (e.g. sequels, prequels, alternate histories, shifted narrative perspectives, supporting character foregroundings) and development (elaborations/variations on the vampiric-invasion “plot”) of Bram Stoker’s source text.
Normally with this blog feature, I engage in serious comparative analysis. This time around, though, I thought some Halloween fun was in order.
What if Dracula was transformed from a serial bloodsucker into a breakfast cereal?
In Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula famously emigrates from Transylvania to London; in 1971, General Mills delivered the iconic vampire figure to the American kitchen table. That year marked the debut of the chocolate-flavored puff-and-marshmallow mashup, Count Chocula.
A clever bit of branding, for sure, but is there any real connection between Count Dracula and Count Chocula beyond comparable cognomens? At first glance, the answer would appear to be no. Count Chocula seems to draw more from the Universal film adaptation than the Stoker source novel: in TV ads for the cereal, the vampire’s voice is an obvious Bela Lugosi impersonation. A 1987 commercial even has Chocula encountering his Universal monster precursor (via spliced-in film footage). The scaredy Count ends up fleeing in terror from Lugosi–as a mascot marketed to kids, Chocula exhibits more cartoonish cowardice than the Gothic ghoulishness of Stoker’s original character.
Yet perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the idea of indebtedness. Consider Jonathan Harker’s description of Dracula upon first meeting the Count in the second chapter of Stoker’s novel. Harker notes Dracula’s “aquiline” nose; his “massive” eyebrows, “almost meeting over the nose”; his “peculiarly sharp white teeth”; his “extremely pointed” ears”; his “broad and strong chin.” These various traits can be seen to inform the depiction of the character drawn up for the cereal box. So maybe cereal eaters for the past half-century have been sinking their teeth into a bit of Stoker homage after all.
Finally, here are a couple of enjoyable videos. The first delves into the history (not devoid of controversy) of the General Mills monster cereals, and the second compiles the commercials for the product that have aired over the years.