If you are lucky enough to have your Saturday morning Magic TV show sponsored by a cereal company, what a dream it would also be to also have your name and magic on the back of their products! That dream came true for Mark Wilson and his "Magic Land of Allakazam."
I remember my mom telling me about going to the grocery store with my older brother, Mike, back in 1962, and how much fun they had finding dad’s magic cereal packages on the shelves. Recently I began researching the story of those Kellogg’s products and what lead up to them being made. Here’s what I’ve found so far.
Since Mark’s early days as a Magician, he knew the power of not only incorporating the sponsor’s product into his magic, but also adding his magic to the sponsor’s packaging. From his training grounds with Morton’s Potato Chips when Mark was a teen, through his years at SMU, focused on advertising, marketing and sales, Mark honed his skills for innovative combinations of magic and promotions.
To produce a TV show is only one of the battles for money, you also have to get the airtime somehow. Back in those pioneering days of broadcast entertainment, many TV shows had a main sponsor that would buy the time from the stations, local or network. And that’s the way dad sold his shows. It was too difficult to convince the programming directors at the TV studios to buy a magic show. But Mark was able to prove to some big corporations the benefits of advertising their products through his magic shows. Hence, they purchased the airtime with Mark branding the magic show for their particular product.
Each sponsors products and magic have their own quite interesting stories, and each builds on the previous gains, leading up to that “Brass Ring” of a prize, the Network Show.
To convince the potential sponsors for the Network Television Magic Series, Mark used much of his local work with the Texas based corporations in his sales tools. Dr. Pepper, 7/11, Fritos, Newhoff, 3M, and more of dad’s sponsors had very clever uses of magic instruction on product backs, in-store displays, and mailed premiums, in addition to the phenomenal ratings and viewer feedback.
In hindsight it makes total sense that the magic would also be on AllaKazam’s sponsor’s Cereal Boxes. But I am wondering, with all the success, why did Kellogg’s wait a year before adding this incredible marketing tool to the product that the Magic Land of AllaKazam was promoting for them? The answer may be as simple as, “things don’t move that fast in manufacturing.” I’m still not sure. But as I explore this more, I will share the details with you.
Most importantly, the Kellogg’s promotional Magic Cereal Boxes were made! I asked my big brother Mike, since he was around at the time, to talk with mom and dad. Here’s what he found out when he interviewed Mark and Nani.
Kellogg's Magic Cereal Box Story
by Mike Wilson
“Mark had called on nearly every potential sponsor for a children’s TV shows in the USA. One of them was the Leo Burnett Agency in Chicago. This advertising agency had confidence that Mark and Nani's show would be a hit, because during the previous year, Mark Wilson’s Magic Circus had been successfully syndicated to 6 cities with 3M and their "Scotch-Brand Cellophane Tape" products.
Based on this success, prior to the Kellogg’s opportunity, the ad-agency for 3M, Benton & Bowles , was working to bring Mark & Nani to a network. Back then there were only three nationally broadcast opportunities... ABC, CBS and NBC. 3M, through Benton & Bowles, approached NBC, which initially was quite excited about the program. Unfortunately, the network people desired an hour long product and chose to put on a golf show that became the first golf program on TV hosted by Bob Crosby, brother to the famous singer, Bing.
The following year, in 1960, Leo Burnett agency found a sponsor for Mark & Nani's show with Kellogg’s. They also asked Mark & Nani to change the name of the show to AllaKazam... with two "ll" so that the K would end up in the middle of the word. The K being stylized after the type font of Kellogg’s.
Kellogg's "All Stars" was their cereal with a magical hook, little stars with holes in the middle, and a cartoon character called, “Whoo, The Wizard of Oatz.” The promotion revolved around a "magic cereal' and the marketing message called for the help of Mark Wilson. The advertising agency was familiar with Mark's integration of magic tricks and product promotion. They knew of his "Sealed Secrets" and the success of the small magic book for Dr. Pepper. As well as the magic themed bag headers he had created for Fritos and others.
It was because of the huge popularity of the first year of “AllaKazam” shows that Kellogg’s took the big marketing step to identify the show on their products. The proof… They asked Mark and his team to come up with 10 magic tricks that could be put on the back of cereal boxes. Of course this was at the same time that the Allakazam team was deep in production for the next season, and doing the “Road Shows” (Road Shows are the State Fairs and other attractions that they appeared at during the TV show’s production “down time”).
Mark always wanted to meet the folks that were supporting his shows. So it was a natural for him and Nani to fly from Los Angeles to Battle Creek Michigan in 1962 to meet management. Many of the folks Mark went to meet had not watched the “children’s show,” but with his signature color-changing pocket-knife trick, he was quickly well-appreciated.
While in Battle Creek, Mark asked if he and Nani could go to the Kellogg's factory and see the cereal boxes in production and get some of them right off the press, un-assembled, obtained well-before they were folded and filled. The Kellogg’s executives gave Mark and Nani a few un-tainted boxes… an amazing thing to have. They even had an opportunity to sample some of the cereal right there in the factory! That must have been a great experience." MMW
Thanks for all that info, Mike. You did a great job getting those details from our folks.
Kellogg's "Mark Wilson's Magic Land of Allakazam" - Cereal Boxes!
There were a total of 10 different “magic backs” and some were used a second time on different sizes of packaging. There are a total of 13 including the various sizes. Some of them relate directly to the cereal brand itself, such as the “Stars” trick on the “Sugar All Stars” box. And one is a direct reference to the cast of AllaKazam, the “Magic Balancing Act” featuring Rebo.
Each has Mark Wilson’s caricature, I believe drawn by Glenn Schmitz, and a reference to “The Magic Land of Allakazam”. But “Whoo” the “Wizard of Oatz” character had been dropped already, and replaced with Huckleberry Hound on the box cover.
Sadly, Kellogg’s was phasing out the “Sugar All Stars” brand, and I bet this was a big worry to Mark and the gang. You will notice in the photos of Mark and Nani with 8 cereal boxes; one of the fronts the other of the backs, that the “All Stars” boxes are not present. Perhaps this was Mark’s attempt to show Kellogg’s that any of the Kellogg’s cereals would be a fine sponsor for the show. It was not long after this that Kellogg’s stopped pushing “All Stars” and thereby discontinued advertising the brand. Which explains why Mark changed sponsors and networks mid-way through the life of the series.
I wonder how many more magical cereal boxes would have been made had Kellogg’s switched their products to sponsor AllaKazam?
The best thing is that Kellogg’s did do, as Mark had initially proposed way back when he was selling the show to them, was to make a product with his magic on it.
But I’m still curious and continuing my research. A few additional facts I’ve recently uncovered are interesting and lead to more questions. Leo Behnke, one of the creative magic minds that contributed to the Allakazam Team, told me;
As well as I can remember it, Glenn Schmitz and I were called into the office and we met with Mark. Mark gave us the assignment and his ideas, and we went to work at Glenn's home in the west valley. I don't know who came up with the idea of working with pieces of the boxes, but it worked. Mark had done similar product backs, and give-aways before Allakazam, on his own in Texas. I picked additional ideas out of the magic slum file in my head, combined with Mark’s ideas and his previous printed promotions, then explained them to Glenn, and he sketched them out. He made them into line drawings and with Mark’s final input they were sent off to Leo Burnett, the ad agency. To this day, I have no idea why they didn't use Rebo's face and wardrobe for his box; might have been a licensing thing, or they re-did the art at Kellogg’s.
Glenn was a very quiet guy and an excellent artist, and had been working for Disney but was now on his own. He preferred to work in pastel chalks and most of the skin on the fingers of his right hand was cracked from losing all the oils and moisture. Also, when he wasn't busy drawing during a meeting, he'd be working a kneadable eraser in his fingers--had to keep them busy, I guess.
Thank you Leo for your great memories. And of course with Leo’s vivid description of Glenn Schmitz, I want to know more about Glenn!
I did find out that Glenn was born in 1929, and passed away in 2000, working in the animation and character art industry here in Hollywood right up to his passing. I hope to learn more about his wonderful career and share it with you.
I’m still digging through the collection, searching for more photos, letters, and ephemera about this story. So please keep your eyes open for my newsletter, and as I add to this and other sections of the Allakazam Archives, I’ll be sure to keep you up to date!
Thank you for your time and interest to read this article. This whole project is a labor of love. We appreciate any help that you, our Allaka-Family, can share with us. Please watch for the “Treasure Store” section of this website. It’s coming very soon. In it, I will list exclusive items for sale. The proceeds of those sales all go to maintaining the collection and continuing this research.
With my Allaka-Best Wishes, and Happy Magic!