Perhaps not as much a "Did You Know?" as a "Do You Remember?," The Frito
Bandito debuted in the late 1960s as the mascot for Frito Lay's popular corn
chip snack, Fritos. The sombrero-wearing, twirled moustached character--drawn by
Tex Avery--seemed to delight fans, as he cropped up in commercials with his own
theme song (sung to the tune of a traditional Spanish folk song, "Cielito
Lindo") and a trademark accent voiced by veteran actor Mel Blanc (famed for
voicing various Warner Bros. characters, including Bugs Bunny).
All seemed to be going well for a while, but Foote, Cone & Belding
Agency, the ad company responsible for the Bandito couldn't have predicted the
maelstrom of protest their mascot would receive.
See, The Frito Bandito (or the Frito bandit, as it were) caught the
collective eye of the Mexican Anti-Defamation Committee, who found the
character's broken English and thieving nature offensive to the culture he
represented. By 1969, Frito Lay pulled all of its commercials featuring the
Bandito--but not before airing a one that has become famous for its
incorpoartion of current events, showing the Bandito visiting two astronauts on
the moon and attempting to siphon Fritos from their food supply.
Ironically, Frito Lay later conducted a survey and found that 92% of Latino
viewers polled approved of the character, while only 8% did not.
Today, collectibles featuring The Frito Bandito are quite sought-after.
Several were produced during the character's run, including a pinback, a ring,
erasers, coloring pencils and a lunch box.