Originally launched on March 18, 1967, this delicious treat is basically a hockey puck-shaped chocolate cake, with creamy filling and a chocolate-coated shell. In the old days they were individually wrapped in foil, but they switched to plastic years ago. The Ding Dongs name came from the sound of a ringing bell, which was featured on the original boxes and TV commercials.
By 1970, from the creative mind of animator Don Duga, Hostess gave us a character to represent these cakes. A snack cake himself -- complete with mustache, crown and scepter -- the honorable King Ding Dong arrived with the customary pomp and circumstance to rule over Ding Dong Kingdom.
[ Jeff Pidgeon did this great redraw of my iron-on patch. Thanks, Jeff! ]
Let's take a quick break here to watch this vintage Ding Dongs commercial.
For a brief time in the '70s there was an orange-flavored Ding Dongs variety, featuring an orange King on the box. I don't remember the orange variety, but I'm sure they were tasty. I bought this repro magnet on eBay to show as an example.
As for the standard chocolate variety, here's a box I have from 1978 showing the good King doing his thing.
In my years of collecting and devouring snack cakes, I've not come across many premiums or promotional items of the King. Besides the actual cake boxes, some items I've seen include:
- cut-out finger puppet (1970s)
- plastic cup? (1970s)
- iron-on (1981)
- t-shirt (1980s)
- 2 different pogs (1994)
- lip balm (2005)
While I've seen many promotional signs featuring other Hostess characters, it seems that the King just wasn't used as much in advertising. If you know about other items, please let me know.
three different names for the same cake at different times and in different regions. In the West and Mid-West they were called Ding Dongs. In the East, to avoid confusion with a competing product, they were called King Dons and had the same King but named "King Don". In other regions the cakes were called Big Wheels and had a different character named Chief Big Wheels.
While the product naming is confusing, Hostess eventually ditched the others and consolidated under the original Ding Dongs name.
Here's a pog from 1994. Notice here he's named King Ding Don. This may have been a printing error; otherwise that's the third name they've used for him.
King Ding Dong is no longer used in Hostess advertising, which is a royal shame! I believe he was exiled from product boxes by the late 1980s. He previously had a nice page at the Hostess Cakes website, but even that disappeared around 2004. It's safe to say that the good King is now retired.
Before I get out some foil and wrap up this snack cake memory, I'll leave you with one more Ding Dongs commercial.
Wouldn't it be great if the good folks at Funko made a Wacky Wobbler of King Ding Dong? Certainly that would be a crowning achievement, to say the least! Hopefully someday...
"A chocolate-flavored world in every bite!"