‘Unfrosted’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: What Is The Andy Warhol Reference?


Jerry Seinfeld’s advice to his enraged crew member on the set of Unfrosted was to not take themselves too seriously because, at the end of the day, they were making a film on Pop-Tart! And that is exactly what the audience must expect—a casual watch set around the invention of Pop-Tart with a good dose of Seinfeld humor. 

People did not care to check the label of a food product in the 1960s, as long as it was tasty. Thanks to the internet, talking about diet, content, and regulations has become a topic of discussion in every household, and it is not as easy to fool conscious consumers anymore. Though, of course, the tremendous amount of fear-mongering on social media is its byproduct. But unlike now, the sugary cereals were loved by American consumers, and Kellogg’s and Post were the leaders in the game. With more or less similar products, Kellogg’s and Post were always at loggerheads, and they needed to keep innovating to lead the race. The story of ‘Pop-Tart’ is how Kellogg’s captured the market even though it was Post who first introduced their fruit-filled pastry. Jerry Seinfeld, in his directorial debut, weaves a comical fictitious tale about how the favorite breakfast of Americans was born. Overall, it is absurd and fun, but the film at times goes off-track and struggles to land the jokes.

Spoiler Alert

How did Bob Cabana come up with the Pop-Tart idea?

Kellogg’s executive in charge, Bob Cabana, had been obsessed with the idea of a pastry with a jelly filling, but unfortunately, every experiment failed, and they momentarily gave up on it. One day, when Cabana noticed two kids stealing food from Post’s garbage, he was baffled. He wondered what was so good in the garbage, and the kids offered him the magical bite of Post’s upcoming product—a fruit-filled pastry. Cabana was not ready to give up on his dream of a sod lawn, and he was confident that if Kellogg’s did not beat Post in this race, they would forever remain a failure. The urgency to win the cereal race can be compared to the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union that the film repeatedly hints at. Developing a fruit-filled, heatable pastry with maximum shelf life was the need of the hour, and Cabana had Donna Stankowski in mind. Stan was an ex-Kellogg’s NASA scientist whose innovation in food was unparalleled. But even she believed that it was not one man’s task, and thus the most innovative (and available) minds were brought on board, and their experiments began.

Excellent in their fields, the experts clearly had no idea about cereals and pastries. With Marjorie Post declaring that their product would be ready by next week, Team Kellogg’s felt the rush to deliver immediately. Their initial plan was to hold back the sugar supply to delay Post’s development process. But that backfired, and Bob was back discussing ideas with Cathy and Butchie from the trashbin. They advised him to let go of conventional ideas and combine whatever was easily available—that was their way of finding the best treats in the trash. Their advice helped Bob realize that, by combining the ideas of innovative minds, they could make the impossible possible. Chef Boyardee had produced the clever crimping edge that would be perfect to seal the filling in the pastry; Jack Lalanne’s idea of using metal lining to keep the fruits moist and fresh could be put to use; the robot UNIVAC’s punchcard could be used as inspiration for the pastry design; and Steve Schwinn’s need to make all his products kid-friendly was a reminder for Kellogg’s that kids might find ovens tough to handle, but they were good with toasters. To summarize the idea, they had to deliver the product in a foil pack; it had to have a crimped edge and a rectangular shape; and, of course, be fruit-filled. And thus Kellogg’s breakfast pastry was born.

Why did Thurl Ravenscroft retract the protest?

American actor and singer Thurl Ravenscroft, played by the ever-charming Hugh Grant, was the voice behind Kellogg’s mascot, Tony the Tiger. Just as shown in Unfrosted, Thurl was the one who came up with the iconic catchphrase, “They’re grr-reat.”. Thurl Ravenscroft replaced Dallas McKennon, and for the next five decades, his deep bass voice continued to dominate Kellogg’s advertisements. In Unfrosted, it is imagined that the cereal mascots felt greatly unappreciated and exploited by the company, especially with a new breakfast item in town that was in no way related to cereal. 

When the mascots were fired, they staged a protest in the hopes of getting the recognition they deserved. They believed that they did half the job of selling the products by entertaining their young audience, and they deserved to be treated with dignity and paid more. While Bob Cabana had to deal with the pressure of creating a brand-new breakfast item, he also had to bring the mascot situation under control. The mascots protested outside Kellogg’s head office, and they believed that if they could stop the FDA approval, Kellogg’s would have no option but to listen to their demands. Of course, the FDA approval was just a formality that Kellogg’s had to get past, and Bob did not hesitate to put the stamp on himself when he figured out that the mascots had entered the building to stop the process. With the FDA approval stamp, Thurl lost all hope. There was a new breakfast in town that was ready to replace them.

Why did consumers prefer Pop-Tarts?

Other than the taste and the practicality of the product, what really worked for Kellogg’s in 1964 was the catchy name and their focus on only four flavors instead of a range of them. Even though Post was leading the race, they were quite slow in getting the product on the shelves, and moreover, the name of their product did not have a ring to it. In Unfrosted, it is imagined that if a child is given a choice between a ‘Country Square’ and a ‘Pop-Tart,’ they would simply choose Kellogg’s based on the name.

The film weaves a fictional tale around how the name was decided. Cathy and Butchie were brought into the office for their expert opinion. Bob was convinced that the only way they could become consumers’ favorites was with a catchy name. An accident in the office resulted in Butchie coming up with the almost perfect name, “Trat Pop” (Toaster-ready Anytime Treat, Put on Plate). Edsel Kellogg III, Bob Cabana, and Donna Stankowski knew at that moment that they finally had a name for their product. 

But as we know, that was not the name Kellogg’s went with. So, what happened in between? Unfrosted comes up with another comic story about how Trat Pop became Pop-Tart. News anchor Walter, a middle-aged, frustrated man tired of his complaining wife, was playing with his Silly Putty before reading out the headlines. He was fascinated by how the Silly Putty captured the image of a printed page when smooshed, and he used it on the notes where the new Kellogg’s product name was mentioned. When the camera started to roll, Walter struggled to find his notes, and he ended up reading from his Silly Putty. ‘Trat Pop’ became ‘Pop-Tart’ thanks to the Silly Putty capturing a mirror image. The name was announced on national television, and Kellogg’s had no choice but to own it. And as it turned out, the consumers loved the name.

What is the Andy Warhol reference?

Donna Stankowski was the first to recognize that people would connect ‘Pop-Tart’ with the prevalent Pop Art movement, but Bob and Edsel did not think that would ever be an unresolvable problem. It was the mid-60s, the pop art movement was at its peak, and Andy Warhol was already considered one of the most important contemporary American artists; therefore, it can very well be assumed that the name of the breakfast product was an intended pun.

Unfrosted ends with Kellogg’s winning the cereal race and Bob Cabana and Edsel Kellogg finally enjoying a bite of Pop-Tart, a pastry that had taken the country by storm. In the end, Stan left Kellogg’s and started her own breakfast alternative, granola. Leaving the sugary mess that was breakfast cereals and pop-tarts, Stan became a van-driving hippie and created the next-best breakfast product. Bob Cabana was invited to a television show that was interrupted by Warhol to remind him that his 15 minutes of fame were already over. Dan Levy, as Andy Warhol, makes it to the stage and shoots Bob Cabana. It was evident that he disapproved of the name, and before his flustered exit, he reminded the audience that he was the only one who was allowed to be derivative.

So, did Bob Cabana survive at the end of Unfrosted? Surprisingly, yes! Thanks to Pop-Tarts’ titanium foil packet, Bob was alive and well. Unfrosted started with Bob Cabana narrating the story of how ‘Pop-Tart’ came into being to a little boy who wanted to run away. The story was interesting enough to hold his attention, and by the end of it, his parents came to the eatery to take him home. He doubted it was a made-up story; after all, a living ravioli was too far-fetched to ever be true, but while leaving, he noticed little Eric peeping out of Bob’s pocket—all of a sudden, the magical sugary world seemed to be true to him. 

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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