We’re all familiar with the Pillsbury Doughboy, right? Cute little guy, possibly made of dough, wears a baker’s cap, giggles when you poke him in the tummy? Well, what would you do if I told you that the Pillsbury Doughboy’s real name is actually “Poppin’ Fresh?” Would you freak out a little bit, suddenly learning that the loveable mascot you’ve always simply called the Pillsbury Doughboy had a whole separate identity you didn’t even know about? Well, uh… brace yourselves, because that’s exactly the situation in which we currently find ourselves. For what it’s worth, I have friends who are super up on their mascot trivia, and they’re all like, “Pffft, Poppin’ Fresh is Doughboy 101, I don’t understand why everyone is freaking out” — but for the rest of us, this is weirdly big news.
Ryan Schocket over at BuzzFeed recently highlighted this little tidbit of information as seen on the Doughboy’s Wikipedia page, but — as you might expect — that’s just scratching the surface of the long and storied history of both Pillsbury and Poppin’ Fresh. Pillsbury itself actually dates all the way back to 1869, when Charles A. Pillsbury purchased a one-third stake in a Minneapolis flour mill. The mill was renamed C.A. Pillsbury & Co., and according to AdAge, it was profitable from year one. Well done, Pillsbury!
For decades, Pillsbury focused primarily on dry goods — flour,of course, but also cake mixes, biscuit mixes, pasta, and other similar items. In 1965, however, Pillsbury branched out into a new type of product: Refrigerated crescent rolls whose dough came in a tube which, when hit on the edge of something sharp(a table or counter edge, for example), popped out, ready to bake. At the time,Pillsbury was working with the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago — and according to AdWeek, when Leo Burnett copywriter Rudolph Perz was making Pillsbury Crescent Rolls at home one night, he suddenly envisioned not the dough popping out of the tube, but a mascot instead. That’s where the name presumably came from — because he pops out of the tube, of course it makes sense that he’d be called something like Poppin’ Fresh.
As Heather Taylor reported on Advertising Week in 2016, the early sketches of the Doughboy lacked some of the distinctive qualities we associate with the character today: The chef’s toque was present, but the kerchief tied around his neck wasn’t, and he wasn't quite as rotund. In fact, he looks a little like Casper the Friendly Ghost — which, indeed, was identified as one of the issues with these early designs. The other characteristics helped distinguish him from Casper, as did rendering him in 3D. (Originally Perz had intended for the character to be an animated cartoon, but the stop-motion credit sequence of The Dinah Shore Show inspired him to try animating him with “Claymation” instead.)
The Doughboy’s real name likely isn’t the only thing you didn’t know about him, either. Here are a few other factoids that might just blow your mind:
1He’s A Family Man
y'all, the pillsbury doughboy has a family...I am SHOOK!! pic.twitter.com/Fn2BUv8Tva— ben™ (@benicus_rex) March 3, 2017
According to General Mills’ history of the character, Poppin’ Fresh is married; his wife’s name is Poppie Fresh. She was introduced in February of 1973. The two of them have a son named Popper and a daughter named Bun-Bun, as well as a dog (Flapjack) and a cat (Biscuit), all of whom were introduced in 1974. There are even grandparents in the picture: Granmommer and Granpopper were also introduced in 1974, along with Uncle Rollie.
2He’s Been Animated With CGI Since 1992
AdWeek notes that the original Doughboy needed five different bodies and 15 different heads to bring him to life; stop-motion animation is also pretty time consuming — it takes 24 shots to make one second of animation. By the early ‘90s, though, CGI was having a breakout moment (remember how groundbreaking the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast was in 1991?), and in 1992, Poppin’ Fresh switched over from stop-motion to computer animation.
3Sometimes He Wears Pants
In 2014, the Pillsbury Doughboy was gifted a pair of jeans for the holidays. It, uh, didn’t go so well, because, well…
4He’s Seven And A Half Inches High
Honestly that’s taller than I was expecting; that means he’s about the length of my wrist to my elbow. (Still not big enough for jeans, apparently, though.) I always picture him of being, like, two or three inches high.
Happy Halloween from the Dough Boy! pic.twitter.com/YTQoEQjtVz— Pillsbury (@Pillsbury) October 31, 2016
According to General Mills, the Doughboy has been an opera singer, a rap artist, a rock star, a poet, a painter, a ballet dancer, a skydiver, a skateboarder, and a musician. (He can play the harmonica accordion, bugle, electric guitar, and violin.) We’ve even seen him do all of these things over the years — they’re all activities he’s partaken in during his commercial spots.
6He Was An Extremely Popular Toy In The ‘70s
Indeed, he’s the reason that the Pillsbury Playthings line came into existence: In 1972, a vinyl Poppin’ Fresh doll was introduced and quickly became one of the fastest selling toys in the United States. I also remember having a plush-like Doughboy doll when I was a kid — I think we picked it up at a garage sale somewhere, because I don’t think it was still in production at the time — and you guys? I loved that thing so much. Doughboy 4 lyfe.
7His Design Hasn’t Changed Much Since His Creation
He still looks more or less the same as he did more than 50 years ago, and his personality has remained constant during all those years as well. Observed Charlie Hopper of ad shop Young & Laramore to AdWeek in 2015, “The Pillsbury Doughboy lives in a kind of cultural permanence category in people’s minds, like Mickey Mouse or Charlie Brown. Nobody has ever convinced the Pillsbury brand manager to inject irony or actual punch lines into his shtick, and that’s been good for his longevity. Doughboy comes in and says his spiel with the same sincerity he had when we were kids. He’s simple and boring, but incorruptible.”
I don’t know that I’d call him boring, but I do think Poppin’ Fresh has lasting appeal. Oh, and hey, guess what? He turns 52 on Nov. 7 this year. Happy early birthday, Doughboy!