Starbots – The Greatest Cereal Toys Ever

All cereals claimed to be a nutricious part of a balanced breakfast and have a full days supply of something or other, but that was never why I wanted any of them. All cereals boasted great taste, but that was never why I wanted any of them, either. All cereals had some sort of colorful, wacky mascot, but that also was never why I wanted any of them. No, there was only ever one reason why I wanted any cereal: the toy that came “free” in the box.

Cereals used to have real toys in thier boxes, and over the early years, I collected dozens of these toys (or “premiums”, as sophisticates call them today): stickers, rings, whistles, badges, buttons, pins, candy, a Tony the Tiger diving thing that you put into a two liter bottle full of water, a record (that one was from Fruit Loops and was actually part of the box itself), a Wacky Wallwalker (that glowed in the dark, no less). But the best of these by far were Kellogg’s Starbots.

Starbots were small transforming robots. They arrived during the transforming robot craze of the mid-’80s. No, scratch that. Starbots exploited the transforming robot craze of the mid-80s. Yeah, that’s more accurate. They were clearly designed to ride the coat tails of that craze and were equally clearly knock-offs of the Go-Bots. Still, they attained an unusual level of popularity not just with me but with my entire middle school class. Everybody had at least one Starbot. Some guys had all four, and those that didn’t wanted them.

Now four cereal premiums means four boxes of cereal, which was a month’s supply for me back in that time. Add in the fact that Mom didn’t always get me the cereal I wanted and that the premium you received in any particular box was wholly up to fate (i.e., instead of getting the one Starbot you needed to complete your collection you could get one you already had), and you can see why I never even dreamed of getting all four Starbots (not in legitimate ways, at least). I did get two, though. The best two: the jet and the helicopter. The helicopter was cool because he had blades that could be used as weapons and was just about the most sophisticated transformer of the four. The jet was cool because he was a jet and because I endowed him with certain special powers, Go-Bot level powers. In my mind, he had lazers and beams and bombs and all sorts of hardware. He mixed it up with my Go-Bots on several occasions and won on most of those occasions. I particularly remember playing with him on a Friday night as I waited through PM Magazine for the new New Twlight Zone to begin. It is one of my favorite childhood memories.

So maybe the Starbots were nothing more than coporate manipulation, just a cheap, dirty way the suits could interest little kids in sugar and puffed wheat against their parents’ wishes. In fact, there’s no maybe there; the Starbots were nothing more than coporate manipulation. But in this case, I’d be manipulated all over again.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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8 thoughts on “Starbots – The Greatest Cereal Toys Ever

  1. I don’t know, Doug. I’m thinking that Enterprise looking spaceship is pretty sweet…granted the robot form is not so awesome.

  2. Doug says:

    But his arms are too spindly. A robot’s arms ought to be pumped, like the jet’s.

  3. Jason K. says:

    I remember having the Helicoptor, and it became one of my favore toys for quite a while (up until I broke it, that is.) When my parents made me go places with them and gave me the old “pick one toy to bring along”. I usually picked the Starbot. Not sure why…it was flimsy and pretty basic compared to all the actual Go-Bot and Transformers I owned. But something about this guy was important to me. Maybe it was because I had 2 sisters, and if it was a Garfield Bike Reflector or a free pack of Sweet-Tarts, they would take it. But this was a boy toy, and it was all mine.

  4. Flavor was always the single #1 most important factor with cereal for me. I had a few varities that I liked and a bunch that I wouldn’t touch. A good prize might make me choose a specific one of my favs over another, but it would never make me get one of the nasty varieties. I would much rather have a good cereal with no prize/a crappy prize than to have to choke down some cardboard dogfood in order to get a better prize.

    That being said, I did always look forward to the prizes (and would usually dig my hand down to the bottom of the bag, spilling the cereal all over, to get it shortly after having opened the box. I guess that’s why they put the prize right at the top these days (on the rare occaisions when they include a prize at all)), and would be disappointed when the prizes that I really wanted were only available in the nasty cereals.
    I had the shuttle bot prize (but no others). I also had the garfield reflector jason k mentioned. I had quite a few various cereal prizes over the years, but those are the only ones (except for a footy bowl that was attached to the box because it was too big to fit in, and a couple TMNT mugs, similarly packaged) that I can remember.

  5. Chris X says:

    I recall the Starbots and had a couple I think. I always liked the space shuttle one.

    Jason K.’s mention of the Garfield Bike reflector though..WOW. I haven’t thought about that in YEARS. I definitely had one on both of my bike wheels though (along with “Spokey-Dokeys”, remember those?)

  6. I so remember these. I somehow managed to get all four (I ate a lot of cereal), but it took me forever. I kept on getting the space shuttle over and over. The helicopter was the one I really, really wanted, but it took me until the promotion was almost over to get it, and then it broke on me not too long after, with no chance of ever being replaced. But those space shuttles – they were pretty robust, and with all the spares I had, they lasted me for years. I even had a decent collection of real transformers and go-bots, but that space shuttle was just the right size to play with while laying on the couch watching cartoons.

    As far as the headline of “The Greatest Cereal Toys Ever”, I agree, but I think the Honeycomb watches were a close second. I even saved up my UPC symbols to send off for the giant watch/clock to hang on my bedroom wall – just about the only time I ever sent away for a prize.

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