Interview: Dan from Cerealously, the man behind the amiibo cereal leak
Nothing throws Nintendo fans into a frenzy quite like leaks and amiibo. Combine the two and you’ve got a recipe for chaos. Earlier this week an utterly bizarre rumour surfaced — that Nintendo and Kellogg’s had partnered up for a Mario-themed breakfast cereal; the packaging of which would function as an amiibo. The news broke via a cereal blog called Cerealously, and people weren’t sure what to think of it. We know the news is real now, but at the time people were hesitant to believe it. Part of this was because of how absurd the concept was — amiibo cereal!? Others put on their sleuthing hats on and tried to find more concrete flaws in the leak, like other cereal brands already partnering with Nintendo and the amount of sugar on the box being too low (yes, really). But others took issue with the site the leak originated from, claiming it to be an unreliable source. One such call-out on reddit prompted the owner of Cerealously, Dan Goubert, to post an impassioned response describing how much love and effort he has put into running his blog. This was one of the tamer call-outs, some of them got really personal towards Dan and his site. It’s easy to forget that the people putting these words online for us to read on our screens are people too, and in games writing this kind of thing is a regular occurence. I thought it would be interesting to have a chat with Dan about what this experience has been like for him, and to find out what cereal blogging is like.
Vooks – What drew you into cereal blogging?
I’ve been a lifelong nostalgia-holic. My warmest memories are from my childhood spent playing a Game Boy and watching Saturday Morning cartoons while munching on Cookie Crisp. So instead of living in the past my whole life, I wanted to keep my childhood spirit alive (and constructive) by embodying my personal nostalgia in a blog, and cereal seemed like the perfect vessel for it, as it let me carve out a largely unexplored blogging niche. Cereal is childhood distilled.
As for my writing evolution itself, I’ve been reading snack food blogs since high school. When I entered college I started writing monthly reviews for The Impulsive Buy. Eventually, I was (literally) hungry for more, and decided to stake out my own digital frontier.
Vooks – What kind of things does reporting on cereal involve? Are there press events to attend and PR reps you’re in regular contact with like in games journalism?
Dan – It depends. Most cereal fans either focus on the food’s rich history or stick to the new stuff. I’m relatively young, so I decided to do the latter. Since there are so few cereal reporters, there aren’t really any press events. The closest thing is the Cereal City Festival in Battle Creek where Kellogg’s and Post, who have headquarters there, make peace for a day to give out unlimited free breakfast. Luckily I live close by, so I’ve attended several. What luck that I’ve been born near the U.S.’s cereal capital!
Since my speciality is news and reviews instead of editorial content (I’ve branched out a few times, but largely don’t have the time), I do get a lot of free samples from PR teams. Though, to be honest, I’m so eager to hunt down new flavors that I usually find them before the box hits my mailbox!
One piece I’ve done that would interest you is a recent interview with Charles Jacobi, developer of Chex Quest (and its HD remake). Chex Quest, a total conversion of DOOM that was packaged on CDs and given away in Chex cereal in the ’90s, was perhaps the single most influential inspiration for my cereal love, so interviewing Jacobi (and getting to debut a new Chex Quest HD trailer!) was a pretty huge moment for me.
Vooks – What brings cereal enthusiasts together and what kinds of spaces do they interact in online?
Dan – It’s definitely the nostalgia. Much has been said about how millennials don’t eat much cereal anymore, but they still have fond memories of it. Moreover, like me, they have fond memories of things that happened around cereal, like cartoons and video games, which is why a video game cereal like Super Mario Cereal is a perfect storm for popularity.
There are some niche forums for cereal lovers, but they mainly caters to the box collectors. Twitter and Instagram are the prime spaces for general enthusiasts (the severely passionate, like me, are few and far between), with the latter having more nostalgia fiends and the latter being populated with foodies and fitness nuts (who love to eat junk food more than anyone, I’ve found).
Vooks – America has such an overwhelming variety of cereals and breakfast treats to choose from, how do you cope with making the decision of what to stock up on?
Dan – I try to strike a balance — since my shelves are often full of freebies and new products that I ‘have’ to buy for reviews, I don’t need to buy two many cereals just for me. So when I do, I’ll usually buy one healthy cereal and one classic, nutritionally void cereal.
While seasonality often influences these choices (Pumpkin Spice cereal for autumn, chocolatey cereals for winter), I have a list of nostalgic mainstays I rely on on the sugary side: Waffle Crisp and Golden Grahams come to mind.
Vooks – Have you tried any iconic Australian breakfasts like Weet-Bix, Nutri-Grain cereal or Vegemite on toast? If so, what did you think?
Dan – International shipping for cereal is pretty crazy, and I’m not a rich man, so I haven’t tried Nutri-Grain, unfortunately. Weetbix can be found frequently in American stores, so I’ve had them a few times. But since I’m bad at rationing milk — I don’t like to use a lot — those cereal bricks end up sucking it all up too fast!
I have had Vegemite once as well. While I didn’t enjoy my first taste, I could see myself growing too love it. Because outside of cereal, I love oddball, acquired tastes — I love plain pasta and cold scrambled eggs (please don’t tell the police).
Vooks – If you could bring back one limited-time cereal permanently, which would it be and why?
Dan – Easy — Neopets Islandberry Crunch. I was a big Neopets geek back in its heyday, and I’m not embarrassed to admit I sunk months, if not years into that virtual pet simulator. The site’s accompanying cereal may have only looked like less colorful Trix, but it had a unique berry taste that hasn’t been replicated since. Funnily enough, I recently got a chance to open a sealed box of the stuff. It may have tasted rancid, but the moment was magical all the same.
Vooks – You recently broke the news about Kellogg’s launching a Mario-themed cereal with a box that functions as an amiibo. There were a lot of gamers who were quick to decry it as fake and called the legitimacy of your site into question. Have you received this kind of blowback within the cereal enthusiast community or was it a new experience for you?
Dan – Oh, it was entirely new! I’ll admit that this Super Mario Cereal fiasco brought in 6 times more daily viewers to my site than I’ve ever received in my 2.5 years writing it. I was a bit hurt that people called me a faker — because if there’s one stupidly specific topic I’m qualified to confidently write on, it’s cereal — but at the end of the day, I also understand their skepticism: I was emboldened and sure, having had previous “leaking” success using the same sources, that it was real, but not everyone knew what was going on behind the scenes when I checked my sources before posting.
Vooks – Fake leaks pop up a lot within the gaming sphere, are they a common problem within cereal news?
Dan – Nope, not at all — if people make fake cereal boxes, they’re usually laughably hyperbolic satire art pieces. Unlike gaming, the cereal community is so small that there’s no real benefit to investing a lot of time into a convincing counterfeit cereal leak.
Only once has it sort of happened before, that I can remember. About a month ago, I discovered a mistakenly placed image on walmart’s website of a USA-themed Freedom Crunch cereal with red, white, and blue Crunch Berries.. After reporting on this, I heard from Cap’n Crunch himself that this was a scrapped concept for a cereal that almost made it out. So while it wasn’t a fake, I had to amend my article — though considering the political climate in America, it’s probably a good thing that cereal was tossed.
Vooks – What has it been like seeing your blog being referenced on just about every mainstream gaming news site?
Dan – Very, very humbling. If the comments from gamers were a little incendiary, then the support I got from big gaming media more than made up for it. I didn’t get to read everyone’s take, but most of the ones I did at least complimented my punny site name — which is reassuring, since I often regret the name (no one can ever seem to pronounce it).
I think the most impactful, though, was the recent tweet made by Nintendo of America, in which they “cerealously confirmed” Super Mario Cereal. I can’t say for sure if this was an intentional shoutout to my discovery, but my inner child likes to think so.
Vooks – If you could pick one cereal mascot to appear in Super Smash Bros. who would you pick and what moves would you give them?
Dan – Good question! I played competitive Melee and Project M for a while, so this is fun to think about. My initial reaction would be Fred Chexter from Chex Quest, but the game’s canon seems to establish that he’s a pacifist — never hurting, only returning enemies to their home dimension.
So instead I’ll say Cap’n Crunch, because he has the most extensive lore of any cereal character. Of course, as a fragile old man, the Cap’n wouldn’t actually be able to fight — he would command his many sidekicks from the sidelines (like Pokemon Trainer in Brawl). Between Wilma the White Whale’s blow hole blast, Chockle the Blob’s elastically shapeshifting grabs, and Smedley the Elephant’s peanut butter trunk slam, I think the Cap’n’s crew could easily take on Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard.
The Super Mario cereal will be available from December 11th in the US, but it doesn’t look like it will release here unfortunately. You can find more about the cereal in our article on it.