One of the most memorable commercials in television history is the Life cereal commercial featuring the character of Life Cereal Mikey. Viewers will likely be able to recall the commercial instantly based simply on the character’s name. Although Life Cereal Mikey has gone down in history as one of the most memorable television icons in any format, the actor that played him has remained more of a mystery. Join Facts Verse as we explore what happened to John Gilchrist, who played the character of Life Cereal Mikey.
The Life cereal commercial featuring the character of Life Cereal Mikey premiered in the 1970s. The commercial became an instant hit for the cereal, perhaps even eclipsing the product that it was supposed to be selling. The cereal was being marketed as a healthy alternative to the increasingly sugary children’s cereals that were saturating the market, and the ad campaign was given the difficult task of making kids forget the cereal was supposed to be healthy.
The famous commercial centered on two quarrelling siblings, as well as a third and younger sibling named Mikey. The two siblings had been given a box of Life cereal and were debating whether they should attempt to eat it or not. Of course, the debate revolved around the fact that the cereal was supposed to be healthy, and therefore likely wouldn’t taste good. Mikey comes into play as a silent hero, walking into the frame and courageously trying a bowl of Life cereal for himself. His reaction is positive, causing his siblings to memorably exclaim the catchphrase “Mikey likes it!”
The commercial ran for 13 years and spawned various sequels and homages that ran after the original was shelved. The popularity of the commercial led many in the television audience to wonder about the real-life boy that had played the character of Life Cereal Mikey. As it turns out, the child actor that portrayed Mikey was named John Gilchrist, and the child actors portraying his on-screen siblings were actually his siblings in real life. The Gilchrist family had seven children, and they were approached one day while visiting the beach. A producer saw star potential in the family’s image, and the family took the producer’s advice and subsequently got their children involved in acting.
The Gilchrist children acted in a variety of commercials, and some even managed to get into other projects. However, none managed to attain more notoriety than John did via his portrayal of Life Cereal Mikey. At the time that John had first portrayed the character, he was only three years old. Although John didn’t even speak a single word, he made an impression on audiences that has lasted to this day.
Despite the immense popularity of Life Cereal Mikey, the general public knew not much else about John Gilchrist. Although the young actor appeared in a variety of other works after filming the famous commercial, his growth made it nearly impossible for audiences to connect the dots. Rumors and theories were often spread around schoolyards about what had become of the real-life Life Cereal Mikey. One of the most infamous legends regarding the child actor was that he had passed away from consuming Pop Rocks.
Viewers have likely heard that if you drink Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks then your stomach will explode. Well, somewhere along the line, someone started spreading the rumor that this had happened to John Gilchrist. Although most school students certainly didn’t know the actor who played him by name, the tale of how Life Cereal Mikey died from mixing Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks was spread through schoolyards across the nation, eventually becoming a popular theory.
The rumors that John Gilchrist had died from mixing Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks eventually became so serious that they found their way to someone that knew John’s mother. John’s mother subsequently got a phone call from a sobbing friend wishing their condolences before reassuring the friend that John was alive and well, playing at the schoolyard.
Although the Gilchrist children were actors, their parents liked to raise them as if they were simply normal children. The Gilchrist children had assumed that all kids acted on television when they were growing up, and became used to seeing themselves showing up on the screen. This made it so that the kids never developed egos, and many credit this for the children’s continued success in life after their time as child actors came to an end. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
The original Life Cereal Mikey commercial was filmed in 1971. John Gilchrist portrayed the character of Mikey. His siblings, Mike and Tom, portrayed his on-screen brothers. The commercial began being airing nationally the following year, and continued being aired for 13 years after it’s premiere. The commercial was broadcast for the last time in 1986, though that wasn’t the end of it’s legacy.
The money that the Gilchrist’s made from their children’s acting endeavors was put towards putting those same children through college. This allowed John to get a good education and eventually become something more than just another washed-up former child actor. Before leaving acting behind, John had appeared in well over 200 commercials, as well as various other pieces of media. As well, he went on to reprise the role of Mikey in a 1980s commercial that depicted the character as a college-aged young adult. Though the commercial wasn’t nearly as successful as the one that had inspired it, fans were still happy to see Mikey’s return.
The ads that depicted Mikey as a grown-up college student weren’t the only ads that capitalized on the nostalgia of the original Life Cereal Mikey commercial. A 1996 Snapple ad memorably utilized the original Life Cereal Mikey footage, digitally imposing over the Life cereal with different varieties of Snapple. Another ad featured a perfect recreation of the original, but with adults instead of children in the main roles.
When it came time to pursue an education, John still didn’t venture too far from his roots in entertainment. John went on to receive a degree in communications at a school known as Iona College. Being a gigantic fan of the New York Knicks, John then used this degree to get himself a prominent position at Madison Square Garden. John became the arena’s director of media sales, which means that he’s the one in charge of striking deals with television advertisers.
In the classic Life Cereal Mikey commercial, the reason that Mikey’s siblings were so shocked to see him enjoying Life cereal was that Mikey had a reputation of being a picky eater. In real life, John has shared that he isn’t much of a picky eater, though he does have a real-life love of Life cereal. According to John, there’s always at least one box of Life cereal at his house, though he has to pay for them. Sadly, being Life Cereal Mikey didn’t net the former child star a lifetime supply of Life cereal. John has also shared that he doesn’t even have a clear memory of filming the classic Life Cereal Mikey commercial, which isn’t too surprising given the fact that he was only three years old at the time.
Today, John lives in Pelham, New York. He lives there with his wife, as well as their three children. Although not everyone will recognize the adult man as the classic character that he portrayed so many decades prior, those that do will often stop John on the street and ask for an autograph. Unlike many other former child stars, John openly embraces his legacy as the character of Life Cereal Mikey. John has always claimed to have had a great time during his years in the entertainment industry, putting him in direct contrast to many other stars whose experiences had a much more harmful effect on their adult lives.
Although John has always been able to laugh off the rumors that he had died at a young age from mixing Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks, the company behind Pop Rocks never found the rumors to be quite so humorous. Apparently, the rampant rumors had a negative effect on sales of the product, prompting officials from the company to issue statements debunking the myth that Pop Rocks could be fatal.
The company that was responsible for Pop Rocks was called General Foods. The rumors about mixing Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks started in 1979, and General Foods had decided that it was no longer worth making Pop Rocks by 1983. They subsequently sold the rights to the product to another company. The company that ended up purchasing the right to Pop Rocks still manufactures the product to this day!
While the formula that goes into making Pop Rocks has remained relatively the same over the years, the same can’t be said for Life cereal. At the time when the character of Life Cereal Mikey first popularized the cereal, it had much less sugar in it than it does today. The cereal could’ve truly been considered a healthy option back then, but is much closer in sugar content to the competition nowadays.
In addition to the fact that Life cereal is sweeter now than it used to be, there have also been plenty of other varieties of the cereal made that have seemingly thrown the healthy promise of the original recipe out the door. The first spin-off from the original Life cereal was Cinnamon Life in 1978. These other varieties of Life cereal have achieved varying degrees of success. However, none have achieved the same level of success as the original, thanks in no small part to the all-time classic commercial character Life Cereal Mikey.
The character of Life Cereal Mikey is commonly ranked at the very top of lists attempting to document and sort the most popular commercial characters of all time. Comment down below to share if you think that Life Cereal Mikey is truly one of the greatest commercial characters of all time, or if you have fond memories of any of the original commercial’s sequel iterations or homages. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!