Part of a Disney Breakfastby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
Back in the pre-pandemic days, when I visited the Magic Kingdom early in the morning, I would sometimes go to the Kona Café at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort for breakfast. Tonga Toast is a little too rich for my blood these days, but having breakfast at a Disney park or resort is a nice way to start the day. I remember an especially good breakfast at Olivia's Café at Disney's Old Key West Resort of pancakes with strawberry compote.
Trying to re-create those recipes at home is definitely not part of my forte. Despite how accurate the description in any of a number of Disney cookbooks, the end result may taste very similar but not quite exactly as it is served at the parks.
Like any good chef, the Disney chefs will often modify the ingredients on the spot based on taste, smell and look.
My grandmother drove me crazy because every time I tried to record her making her famous Greek wedding cookies (Kourabiedes), she did little different things each time. She learned the recipe as a young girl and would never write it down. Despite my many attempts, I have never been able to quite duplicate them and if I blinked or turned away for a second, she did something that I missed writing down and she could never quite explain why.
However, there are ways to include Disney as part of your breakfast starting with a glass of Donald Duck Orange Juice.
Donald Duck Orange Juice
Donald had a presence at a citrus plant not far from Walt Disney World on US-27 in Lake Wales since 1941, and that citrus plant is still there and operating today. Donald was used on the packaging and the marketing.
Citrus World's large water tower (now the Florida's Natural Growers) had the face of Donald Duck on it until 1998 when the company went through a re-branding with the new name. At one time there was a full-sized statue of Donald Duck in the lobby of the building and a huge billboard of Donald on the top of the building as well.
During World War II with rationing, many of the Disney licensees couldn't get material to produce items. The licensing of food products was one way Disney merchandising representative Kay Kamen kept money flowing into the Disney studio coffers: peanut butter, jam, popcorn, mustard, chocolate syrup and sodas were all produced featuring Donald Duck.
Donald Duck Orange Juice is the longest surviving Disney food and beverage licensee starting in 1941. The company also produced Donald Duck Grapefruit Juice. Donald Duck has no direct relation to food products or orange juice for that matter, other than the fact that during World War II his popularity soared more than Mickey Mouse and he was beloved by audiences around the world. Manufacturers just felt that his image would help sell a product.
During the 1940s, 60 boxcars of fresh citrus fruit a day were being processed by Florida Citrus Canners Cooperative at Lake Wales. About 40 of those boxcars of fruit were converted into 8,000 gallons of orange concentrate destined exclusively for the United States armed forces and their allies. Total volume of concentrate reached 800,000 gallons. When reconstituted on the basis of seven gallons of water to a gallon of concentrate, it produced 6.4 million gallons of juice with vitamins added. All were shipped under the Donald Duck brand. Concentrate required only about one-eighth of the space of what fresh fruit required.
Donald Duck brand orange juice is still popular after nearly 80 years. After Walt died, the Walt Disney Company contacted the company and accused them of not having a proper license to use the character name and image because they could not find any paperwork.
The company was able to produce an old, yellowed document clearly showing that Walt and Roy had given them the rights with no cessation, as long as they maintained the quality of the product.
Why isn't Donald Duck Orange Juice sold on Walt Disney World property? Well, Coca-Cola is a huge sponsor of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, so you will only find its Minute Maid Orange Juice. Donald Duck Orange Juice is licensed to Florida's Natural brand.
In 2007, General Mills introduced a new line of Disney-branded children's cereal for U.S. grocery stores. The new products, which featured Disney's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Disney Princess and Disney's Little Einsteins, were the first Disney-branded cereal products to launch since Disney announced its new food guidelines earlier that year. The cereals emphasize their whole grain, vitamin D, and calcium content.
"This new cereal line leverages strong Disney equities that need no introduction while delivering everyday value at very attractive, competitive price points. They are high-quality cereals with a strong nutrition profile that parents will appreciate and popular Disney characters that kids will love," said Kymm Pollack, marketing director of General Mills' Big G cereal division.
Disney's connection with cereal products goes back to 1934 when merchandising genius Kay Kamen signed a deal with General Foods. Incredibly, Kamen got General Foods to agree to pay a million and a half dollars to put Mickey Mouse and his friends on the back of its Post Toasties boxes for one year. To put that price in perspective, in today's dollars it would be over $30 million. Even more remarkable, this deal was during the Great Depression when people could barely afford food, let alone toys for their children. However, for twelve cents, a person could purchase a box of Post Toasties ("made of corn grits, sugar and salt") that could supply a reasonably affordable breakfast plus Disney character cut-outs on the back and side of the box.
Kids could play with these cut-outs after they had finished the cereal. It was hoped that children would urge their parents to buy this particular cereal in order to have the "toys."
The Post Toasties boxes changed the marketing of children's cereal forever with future cereal boxes presenting drawings, a game or something like the cut-outs rather than having children simply mail in box tops and change to Battle Creek, Michigan for a premium. Post Toasties cereal was sold in Disney-character boxes until 1941. There were close to 100 different boxes including some devoted to Ferdinand the Bull, the Three Little Pigs, and even Disney's animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
An interesting side note is that Mickey didn't appear on the front of the box until 1935. Also, in 1938, Post (General Foods) released the first Disney cereal premium with its Huskies (its version of Wheaties) brand. Children could send away for a cereal bowl with Snow White's portrait. It would be almost a decade before the next Disney cereal premium.
The General Foods deal was immensely profitable for the Disney Studios. Kamen eventually negotiated that Disney would receive a five percent royalty on each box of cereal printed with Disney characters regardless of actual sales of the cereal. The result was millions of dollars for the fledging Disney Studios.
However, as popular as Mickey Mouse was, the star of Disney merchandise was Donald Duck, who appeared on countless products including Donald Duck 3 Minute Oats (a Quaker Oats rival) from the National Oats Company. It was produced from 1943-1945 and guaranteed that in only three minutes the consumer could cook a healthy breakfast. Apparently, the cereal was produced in two or three different sizes and while Donald was prominently featured on the front of the round container, Mickey, Pluto and Goofy were only allowed to appear on the back. I have been told there was also a Donald Duck Corn Flakes cereal in the late 1940s that I have been unable to locate.
In 1947, both Cheerios and Wheaties from General Mills offered four sets of original Disney comic books. Set Y included the famous Carl Barks's story: Donald Duck's Atomic Bomb and another set featured a variation of the first original Donald Duck comic book story Pirate's Gold called Donald Duck and the Pirates with artwork by Jack Hannah.
The bright yellow Cheerios boxes each showcased one of the following Disney animated superstars: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and... B'rer Rabbit, who was being promoted in connection with the original release of Song of the South.
This promotion was so popular that General Mills repeated it in 1950 with its Cheerios and Wheaties cereal where another four sets of original Disney comics could be ordered. In 1954, General Mills released a set of eight 3-D Disney comic books as a mail-in premium.
Advertising promoted that you could get "eight comic books for only 15 cents and one Wheaties boxtop. All new stories. Not sold in stores." Even though each individual comic book was about one-third the size of a regular comic book, it was still a great deal, especially since Quaker Oats at the same time was only offering Gabby Hayes comics. Gabby Hayes may have been a popular Western cowboy sidekick but his adventures couldn't compare with the Disney characters.
Of course, who could forget the "Fun Masks" of Disney characters on the boxes of Wheaties in 1950? There was a set of eight cutout fun masks (Mickey, Donald, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Lucifer, Cinderella, Bambi and Br'er Rabbit). Cinderella and Lucifer were selected to help promote the release of Cinderella that year.
"Just think of the fun you'll have with these bright colored masks of famous Walt Disney characters. Surprise your friends. Give Walt Disney shows. Wear 'em at parties. They're right on the Wheaties boxes… ready to cut out and wear. Get all eight masks and have a barrel of fun!"
Kellogg's had a brief flirtation with Disney cereal premiums in the 1950s, including a very odd Donald Duck ring (Donald's head swiveled and his eyes glowed like something out of The Exorcist) on Pep (their version of Wheaties). "It's Moveable. It's Mysterious! Donald Duck acts ALIVE on your finger!" claimed the advertising that sounds scary today but enticed many a youngster in the '50s.
Kellogg's was also responsible for a set of 12 thin plastic statuettes of Lady, Tramp, Trusty, Toughy, Boris, Jock, Pedro, Dachsie, Bull, Peg, Si and Am to tie in with the animated feature release in 1955.
"Use for party decoration. For a knick-knack shelf. Sew them on your beanie or sweater. Trade them with your friends. Start with the one inside. Collect all twelve! Authentic Walt Disney creations! 3-Dimensional! Sturdy plastic."
Once the Disney Studios entered into television with its own show in 1954, there was an edict not to get involved with food products in order to avoid conflicts between potential sponsors. Walt didn't want a company not to advertise on his television show because a competitor was showcasing Disney characters on its product.
This was not always an easy rule to enforce because of existing contracts from Donald Duck Orange Juice to Tinker Bell shilling for Peter Pan Peanut Butter (from Derby Foods, one of the first sponsors of the Disneyland television program).
However, that rule needed to be broken to help promote Disneyland the park. From 1955-57, General Mills promoted Disneyland on Jets, Trix, Wheaties, Cheerios and Kix with "Disneyland Light-Ups."
These were a set of 18 scenes of Disneyland each on the back of a cereal box. The gimmick was to place a light bulb inside the box and with some punched out holes in the painted artwork, the scene seemed to come to life. There were scenes of the Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Sleeping Beauty's castle and more.
"Light 'em up. They look so real you can imagine you are visiting famous Disneyland park at night! See diamonds sparkle mysteriously in the seven dwarfs' diamond mine. See Captain Hook's pirate ship—the frontier stagecoach—the rocket to the moon! Eighteen exciting scenes in all! Watch 'em sparkle and glow. Just use your Xmas tree lights."
General Mills continued its Disney connection in 1956, when its Sugar Jets featured an offer for eight plastic rings including Mickey, Minnie, Dumbo, Donald, Pluto, Snow White, Pinocchio and Peter Pan. "Ring adjusts to fit finer size. Fun to wear. Show 'em to your friends. Collect 'em. Trade ' em. Made of polyethylene plastic." General Mills was one of the sponsors of the Mickey Mouse Club television show. So, it was not surprising that in 1956, Wheaties featured an actual 78 RPM record on the box and the opportunity to send away from four more regular records for a total of 16 songs as part of a promotion for the Mickey Mouse Club television show.
"Get regular weight Walt Disney's Mouseketeer records. Four songs only twenty-five cents and the words 'Breakfast of Champions' from a Wheaties boxtop. Each Mouseketeer record has two songs on each side, is 'micro-grooved' to play as much music as two ordinary twenty-five cent records, is seven inches in diameter and can be played on any 78 RPM record player."
The songs included ones I am unfamiliar with including one about the character of "L'il Davy" who was popular in Disney comic strips and comic books around the time of the Davy Crockett craze.
In addition, an actual Alice in Wonderland 78 RPM record was also featured on Wheaties with an opportunity to send away for additional records.
The Disneyland promotion continued in 1957 with Cheerios featuring on the back of the box the Cheerios Kid in "Disneyland Adventures" where kids could help color in the story as they munched on their cereal.
General Mills finished this run of its licensing with Disney with six "wiggle pictures" that moved from one image to another when you moved them. Mickey, Bongo, Dumbo, Donald, Pluto and… Hippy Hippo.
Another Mouseketeer tie-in was on the 1958 Cheerios boxes with an Annette cut out doll with three outfits: a cowgirl, Mouseketeer outfit and a party dress.
In the last year of Walt's life, the cereal licensing moved over to Nabisco, which did a major promotion for Mary Poppins with an inch-high Mary Poppins (and also Bert the chimney sweep) jumping out of a plastic chimney. The Nabisco connection lasted for about 10 years, providing a lot of Winnie the Pooh premiums.
Disney's cereal history is so rich that I couldn't mention everything like the 10-inch vinyl inflatable Mickey Mouse from Quaker Oats "Muffets" cereal in 1948 or the 1959 General Mills Cocoa Puffs boxes with the "Mickey Mouse Cartoon Theater."
Have I made you hungry for a bowl of cereal? I'm surprised that Disney never thought to make a Cheerios-like cereal with a tri-circled Mickey Mouse silhouette called Hidden Mickeys.
Maybe in the future if you like, I could try to cover some of the other Disney food connections from over the decades.