Having a mouse for a mascot made clear sense for Cheetos, Frito-Lay’s cheese-dusted fried corn puffs. Mice, by reputation, like cheese. Cheetos were cheesy, after a fashion. And so in the early 1970s, the brand debuted its first character: a rather debonair and multitalented mouse.
In one early appearance, the Cheetos mouse rode a motorcycle. ”They call me…Cheesy Rider, he said. “Why? Because I ride with cheese that goes crunch: Cheetos-brand cheese-flavored puffs.” He ruled Rome as “Julius Cheeser.” As an astronaut, he went to the moon—only to find it was not, in fact made of cheese. But no worries! He had his Cheetos, “two kinds, both out of this world…”
He could fly a plane:
Or sail a boat. Or ride a flying carpet. And even when he was doing more hum-drum work, like painting a building, he kept his sense of class:
Originally designed by Paul Coker, an illustrator known for his work on MAD magazine and holiday specials like “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Cheetos mouse was never without his trusty snacks. In the ads, he inevitably demonstrated the awesome power of the Cheetos crunch. When the Cheesy Rider rode his motorcycle through a mountain while enjoying a neon orange puff, the mountain crumbled.
When he ate a Cheeto while in space, the entire moon fell apart. Sometimes he put himself in danger: his plane and his flying carpet both disintegrated in the presence of the crunchy snack food.
The current Cheetos mascot Chester Cheetah, now instantly recognizable, did not actually oust the Cheetos mouse from his position. By the beginning of the 1980s, the mouse’s star had faded on its own, and he was out of commission. Chester was created in 1986, and from the beginning he was everything the Cheetos mouse wasn’t—cool, passionate, relatable.
Chester had a certain swagger, and although one would think a mouse might have a harder time controlling itself around cheese, it was this big cat who lost his cool when confronted with the sight of the bumpy, bright orange snack:
Like the mouse, Chester Cheetah was a man of many skills. He could fly, sail, spy, and skateboard, and unlike the mouse, he made it look good. Chester even used the same slogan—“the cheese that goes crunch”—as his predecessor.
Soon, the Cheetos mouse had faded into obscurity, cheetah-ed out of his place in cultural memory as the greatest Cheetos fan in the world.