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Cookie Monster Was First Created As A Promotion For 'Munchos' Potato Chips

Icons | September 10, 2019

Sesame Street Muppet Cookie Monster poses for photographs during a press conference in January 2013. Photo by Georg Wendt/picture alliance via Getty Images

If not for General Foods Canada, Cookie Monster might never have come to be. The cookie-crazed Muppet of Sesame Street fame, known for sloppily devouring cookies while barking "om-nom-nom," began life as a quirky snack-snatching monster. He pilfered cheesy Canadian snacks, then moved on to Frito-Lay potato crisps before joining Sesame Street for its debut episode. Cookie Monster's story reflects the journey of creator Jim Henson, who spent years making TV commercials and doing talk-show guest appearances with his Muppets before they found a home on Sesame Street (and, later, The Muppet Show).

Cookie Monster Was First Known As 'Wheel-Stealer'

The Earliest Rendering of the Wheel Stealer Who Became the Cookie Monster (muppet.fandom.com/wiki/Cookie_Monster)

Like any hard-working actor on his way up, Cookie Monster didn’t start as Cookie Monster. When the googly-eyed mountain of blue fur first tried his hand in show business, he was known as Wheel-Stealer. He and two other monsters, Flute-Snatcher and Crown-Grabber joined forces to conceivably steal Canadian food called flutes, wheels, and crowns (whatever those are), snacks produced by General Foods Canada. Clearly, Cookie Monster got his table thievery underway early. 

Cookie Monster Ate A Coffee Machine

Cookie Monster, at left, holding stolen Wheels cheese snacks. Source: muppet.fandom.com

Unfortunately for Cookie Monster, his Canadian food commercial didn’t get picked up. Unperturbed, Cookie Monster soldiered on, finding work in the tech industry. In 1967, he appeared in an IBM training video called “Coffee Break Machine.” In it, the Cookie Monster’s infamous appetite gets him into trouble when he eats a talking coffee machine. 

Cookie Monster Exploded -- But He Got Better

Cookie Monster in a TV commercial in 1969 as Arnold. (muppet.fandom.com/wiki/Arnold)

During Cookie Monster’s time in tech, he also got his first taste of stunt work. At the end of the commercial, the talking coffee machine informs Cookie Monster that he has eaten a powerful explosive, and he combusts. Thankfully, Cookie Monster was not hurt during the filming. In a stroke of good fortune, the skit also aired on The Ed Sullivan Show, earning him some sweet residuals. 

Cookie Monster Was Obsessed With Potato Crisps

The Cookie Monster's Food Addiction Started Early (muppet.fandom.com/wiki/Cookie_Monster)

After IBM, Cookie Monster fell on hard times and took whatever gigs came his way. He changed his name to Arnold and became addicted to snack foods. He turned purple, lost his teeth, and sold a Frito-Lay potato chip called “Munchos” alongside a man, shaped remarkably like an um, banana. That may have been the nadir for Cookie Monster; thankfully good times were on the way. 

The Munchos commercials (there were three of them) were successful enough -- Henson was offered the chance to sign up to do more spots for Frito-Lay with Arnold. But by that time, Henson was working on a project that would draw multiple Muppets together -- Kermit the Frog, Grover, Big Bird, Bert & Ernie, and others -- and he wanted Arnold to be part of it. Though he wouldn't be called Arnold anymore, obviously.

Cookie Monster Finally Became Himself In 1969

Cookie Monster all dressed up. Source: IMDB

The project that changed Cookie Monster's life, as well as Henson's, was, of course, Sesame Street. When he finally became Cookie Monster, the puppet formerly known as Arnold turned the familiar blue color we know. He was never able to kick his addiction to snack foods.

Premiering on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street was a good move for Muppets and Henson alike. The show ran for nearly 50 years on PBS before hitting it big on HBO. Throughout the show's existence, Cookie Monster has been a lovable but troublesome presence, often ruining lessons due to his insatiable hunger for cookies.

Tags: A Brief History Of... | Cookie Monster | Jim Henson | Muppets | Remember This?... | Sesame Street | What Did He Do?...

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!