Mondo Mascots is a Twitter account devoted to “the weird, wonderful mascots of Japan,” and it’s arguably the only good thing to happen to the internet. (Besides Gerald Stratford.) There’s Hatton, a spilled bowl of soup, who is the mascot for Tome City, Japan. There’s the psychedelic pig on Butamen pork ramen. There’s Imokki, the “bad boy sweet potato” serving as an unofficial mascot for Hitachinaka City, Japan. These food mascots are cheerful, charming, and exceedingly huggable. But when it comes to food mascot lore, like many things in life, you have to take the good with the creepy. Like that time a bunch of horned-up marketing professionals made the Hamburglar sexy, or the cursed existence of the Gary Busey-esque California Raisins in the 1988 claymation TV special Meet the Raisins! Below, we reflect on the food world’s most unsettling figureheads.
Let me say, from the bottom of my heart, that Superdawg Drive-In is a Chicago landmark of indescribable importance. Family owned since 1948, the business is nationally renowned for being one of the country’s few remaining continually operating carhop drive-in restaurants, and the history of how it came to be deserves its own Hallmark movie. Plus, the hot dogs are delicious. I just have one tiny beef (heh) with its mascots, two 12-foot-high anthropomorphic hot dogs nicknamed Maurie and Flaurie after the restaurant’s real-life founders, high school sweethearts Maurie and Florence (“Flaurie”) Berman. The cartoonish, bunless weiners feature Maurie flexing like a strongman in a cheetah-print singlet and the more demure Flaurie clasping her hands in front of her skirt, smiling warmly, a large floppy bow on top of her head.
This, by the way, is all fine—I welcome it. Put 12-foot hot dogs on top of every business! Give them flesh-colored arms and legs! There’s just one unsettling feature, one that makes it hard to drive by Superdawg at night: their eyes. Maurie and Flaurie have glowing red eyes, which burn brightly after sundown in order to, as Superdawg’s website puts it, “beckon hungry passersby with their winking and blinking eyes.” As Mark Andel of Chicago Now’s Hot Dog Diaries puts it, “A bright lightbulb in one of [Maurie’s] eyes is set to wink every few seconds, giving off a confident bit of insider braggadocio in a turf war that suggests, ‘Yeah, we’re the best dog around.’” As I put it: at night, the hot dogs become bloodthirsty. I will happily support Superdawg until the day I die, but I choose to do so only by the light of day. —Marnie Shure, editor in chief
A month or two into dating my boyfriend, Sean, I started to notice little yellow candy wrappers littering my apartment. Turns out, they were Gin Gin wrappers. Gin Gins, a ginger-flavored hard candy sold by The Ginger People, are billed as “the ultimate functional treat” and advertised as a remedy for nausea, digestive issues, and even “chronic throat tickles.” Sean eats at least two Gin Gins every time I see him, and I also sneak one from time to time. They’re tasty—if you’re curious, this taste test video is a winner—and definitely help settle my stomach after, say, a week-long fast fish binge. The only problem: the two anthropomorphic pieces of ginger on the front of the bag. They’re known as the Knob Twins, and they’re described thusly on the brand’s website:
“Don’t be fooled by their cuddly appearance, The Knob Twins are two tough characters. When they’ve got a big day (or a stinking cold!) nothing but a powerful pop of ginger will do.”
Cherry-red cheeks and button noses notwithstanding, the Knob Twins aren’t cuddly. They’re gnarled. They’re gnarled as hell. If you’ve ever held a piece of raw ginger root in your hand, you know what I’m talking about. The Knob Twins’ limbs end in crusty stumps, and their cheeky smiles seem to say, “Utter an incantation and stick me under your bed for two weeks and see what happens, loser.” I’d like to banish these twisted twins to the Pan’s Labyrinth-adjacent universe where they belong. —Lillian Stone, staff writer
C’mon, everyone. You knew Ronald McDonald was going to make the list. I suppose this is a pretty basic answer to the question “Which food mascot inspires the most horror?”, but I took this photo in person at Koreafest in Chicago years and years ago. Owning this photo is my life’s burden. I have a hard time looking at it now.
I am pretty sure Ronald McDonald is a ghoul. You see, I play a lot of video games, and in some of them, you encounter terrifying enemies that look a lot like Ronny McDonny. The other suspicious thing is that he hasn’t aged one bit, as evidenced by this slideshow. That is a trademark of a ghoul’s existence, and ghouls should be avoided at all costs, in video games and in real life.
His mere image is supposed to conjure up a longing for french fries, a Big Mac, and a crisp fountain Coke, but in reality, his image actually evokes night terrors in children who spent way too much time in the stinky PlayPlace ball pit. Please gaze upon this photo and enter the abyss with me. —Dennis Lee, staff writer