Think you know the Pillsbury Doughboy? Find out all about the history, fun facts and adorable signature traits of one of America’s great advertising icons.
History of the Pillsbury Doughboy
The idea for the Pillsbury Doughboy was born on March 18, 1965. Rudy Perz a copywriter working on the Pillsbury account for Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago, came up with the idea for the brand mascot, who would pop out of a can of refrigerated dough. The character was named Poppin’ Fresh—a nod to the product’s quality and freshness. Perz came up with the idea while testing out Pillsbury dough in his own kitchen.
Milt Scaffer, who also worked for Disney, was the original designer of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Rudy Perz worried about the character looking too similar to Casper the friendly ghost, and Schaffer’s design helped resolve that.
To bring the Doughboy to life, the agency decided to work with Cascade Studios in Los Angeles to use stop-action clay animation, similar to the opening credits of “The Dinah Shore Show.” Before computerization, it took 24 shots for every one second of commercial time. The initial model cost $16,000 to develop and had five bodies and 15 heads in order to create different looks and positioning in the ads. In 1992 CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology replaced the use of stop-action motion.
More than 50 actors auditioned to do the voice for the Pillsbury Doughboy, including Paul Winchell, who did the voice for Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh.” Paul Frees (also known for voicing Boris Badenov in “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”) was the first voice actor for the character.
He’s been a hit from the very start. In the first three years of his debut, the Doughboy had an 87 percent recognition factor among consumers. His popularity has continued through the years: At one point the Doughboy was receiving 200 fan letters a week and Pillsbury received 1,500 requests for autographed photos.
Learn more about the creation of the Doughboy straight from Rudy Perz himself in this podcast from A Taste of General Mills.
Fast Facts About the Doughboy
- When voiceover actor Paul Frees died in 1986, Jeff Bergman, who also voiced Charlie the Tuna, took over as the voice of the Doughboy. JoBe Cerny is currently the voice-over personality for the character.
- How big is he? Poppin’ Fresh is 8 ¾ inches tall (with this hat!) and weighs 14 oz.
- The Doughboy has starred in more than 600 ads for 50 products.
- In 2009 Poppin’ Fresh made his debut as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
- The Leo Burnett Agency also came up with the concepts for Tony the Tiger and the Jolly Green Giant.
- Poppin’ Fresh celebrated his 50th birthday in 2015.
The Doughboy’s first commercial aired on November 7, 1965. The Doughboy was born when he popped out of a can of dough, and said his first words, “I’m Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy!”
Poppin’ Fresh also starred in a commercial making chocolate chip cookies with 6-year-old Maureen McCormick, who went on to play Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch. In the ad, the two sing the classic slogan, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven, and Pillsbury says it best.”
In recent years, MasterCard aired a commercial, which featured some of the top advertising icons, from the Morton Salt Girl (who poked the Doughboy’s tummy!) to the Vlasic Pickle Stork and Count Chocula.
The Doughboy also guest starred in a Geico commercial where he gets a pat down at an airport on the way to a baking convention. Of course, he couldn’t help but giggle!
The Poppin’ Fresh Family
In 1972 the Doughboy was introduced as a 7-inch vinyl doll, which became one of the fastest selling toys in the U.S. The following year, a companion doll, Poppie Fresh, was released, followed by Granmommer and Granpopper, Uncle Rollie, a son (Popper), daughter (Bun-Bun) and Flapjack and Biscuit (the Fresh family’s dog and cat) in the years that followed.
You probably know the Doughboy best by his signature “hoo hoo!” whenever someone pokes his belly. Those traits were there from the very start. He’s often seen blushing and he’s never without his classic chef’s hat and neckerchief. His big blue eyes and smiling mouth win the hearts of families everywhere.
The Doughboy’s Many Talents
Over the years, Poppin’ Fresh has proved to be quite a talented artist. He can sing (rap and opera are just two genres he’s dabbled in), dance and play several musical instruments, including the harmonica, accordion, bugle, electric guitar and violin.
He’s also shown off his skills as a painter, ballet dancer and rock star and is always up for trying new things like sky diving and skateboarding.