Friday, October 31, 2008

Burger Chef and Count Fangburger

Happy Halloween to all of my trick-or-treating friends! As you sift through heaping bags of candy treats, prioritizing your snacking agenda for the next week, I invite you to take a spooky fast food trip back to the 1970s.

The birthplace of the fast food kid's meal concept was at the once-mighty Burger Chef restaurant chain in 1972. They created and marketed the idea of including a child-sized portion with fun packaging and a toy -- five years before McDonald's test-marketed their trademark Happy Meal.

To help usher in the era of the kid's meal, or the "Fun Meal" and the "Fun Burger" as Burger Chef called them, they created a wild bunch of cartoon characters. The first mascots were chefs named Burger Chef and Jeff, and fortunately they were joined by a group of fun-loving monsters and assorted friends.

Count Fangburger was the Vampire-in-Chief at Burger Chef. Certainly he provided a little scare to the crew at Burger Chef, as one might expect from a guy with fangs, Transylvanian accent and the customary vampire cape. Here he is with his pet bat on a sticker from the mid to late 1970s.

Burger Chef Sticker

[ Curiously enough, he hit the advertising scene around the same time as that cereal munching vampire named Count Chocula. Hmmm... ]

To best appreciate Fangburger, you need to see and hear him in action. Take a look at this original animated commercial on Google Videos, then come right back: Fangburger Commercial

More than your typical monster, Count Fangburger was also a family man -- husband to Mrs. Fangburger and father to "Fangburger's Son" and "Fangburger's Daughter" as they were called. Here's the whole happy family posing on this child's bib from 1974.

Burger Chef Vampire Bib

Clearly our vampire friend had a softer side, too, along with a penchant for those tasty burgers. A few more collectibles below picture the little blood-suckers looking a bit disgruntled. Perhaps Dad forgot to pick up hamburgers on his way home from the office?

Burger Chef Sticker Burger Chef Sticker
The whole Burger Chef cast appeared in numerous toy prizes and colorful Fun Meal boxes back in the day. And what a run it was! Stickers, comics, coins, glasses, puppets and much more...

Yes, old Fangburger had a good run for at least eight years (1972-1980) and probably a few more. But by 1982 the Hardee's hamburger chain bought out Burger Chef, converting many into Hardee's and closing others. Fangburger retreated to his coffin, never to be seen again.

Here are a few more goodies -- a Fun Meal token coin, a punch-out figure for a mobile (1974) and a Zoomer Fly frisbee (1974).

Burger Chef: Fangburger CoinBurger Chef: Fangburger Burger Chef: Zoomer Fly

I hope you enjoyed this little trip back to Burger Chef. Maybe it stirred up some memories or introduced you to something you missed out on thirty years ago. I welcome any comments and Burger Chef memories you wish to post (click the link below).

Count Fangburger Puppet

I don't know if I hit this one out of the park or not, but I'll wrap up with a baseball theme regardless. These baseball cards from 1976 show the Count about to throw some high heat and poor Mrs. Fangburger getting bonked on the noggin. Stranger things have happened in the land of Burger Chef.

Burger Chef: Fangburger Burger Chef: Mrs. Fangburger

Until next time...
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