The beloved and cozily familiar Quaker Oats man looks a tad different these days. Larry—did you know his name is Larry?—has been put on a Photoshop diet; he's also gotten something of a rejuvenating facelift (though his white hair remains, and his cheeks are still either rosy or perhaps lightly flushed by rosacea). Sarah Nassauer reports this troubling makeover news in The Wall Street Journal, explaining that it's part of a "wider effort by owner PepsiCo Inc. to reinvigorate the [Quaker] brand globally." To keep Quaker Oats "fresh and innovative," the Quaker Oats guy needs to look a little healthier. Less jowly. Less pudgy of cheek. Better hair. Stronger shoulders. The guy needs a neck. And so now, he's not Larry at all, but, say, his more handsome French cousin Laurent, who's a few years younger and quite a hit with all the American girls at the discotheques, a man oft described as a more handsome George Washington. Meet Laurent:
So, what's different? Per Nassauer:
Larry now shows his shoulders, making him seem stronger and more vibrant, says Michael Connors, Hornall Anderson's vice president of design. Trimming his hair makes him look lighter and his neck longer. "It's the same neck," says Mr. Connors, but the haircut "makes him look thinner."
Hornall Anderson also removed his double chin and smoothed the rolls and plumpness in his face and neck. "We took about five pounds off him," says Mr. Connors.
They kept the crow's feet and the eye-sparkle, partly to keep him from looking too young, and partly because they didn't actually want anyone to notice that "Larry" was different. (Minus the national article explaining all the ways he's different, that is.) But all of this fills us with enormous concern. What if, like models and actresses, our food characters, the images and icons we grew up with, are being transformed, one after another, to fit a "healthier" or "more youthful and vibrant" standard—without us even noticing? We undertook an investigation to check in with our old friends, see how they might have changed, and imagine, in some cases, what might happen to them in the future.