Chess, short for Chester Cheetah, is a fictional character and the official mascot for Cheetos brand snacks and Chester's Puffcorn. According to an article in The New York Times, DDB Needham Worldwide was responsible for the creation of Chester; however, an episode of Unwrapped claims that the mascot was created by Hawley Pratt, the same man behind the Pink Panther.
Cheetos' original mascot was the Cheetos Mouse, who debuted in 1971 and disappeared in the late '70s. In 1986, Chester Cheetah was created by Brad Morgan for television commercials as an animated cartoon character. After Chester's introduction, the sly, smooth voiced cheetah began starring in more commercials and eventually became Cheetos' official mascot. He used the slogan "It ain't easy bein' cheesy" in the late 1980s/early 1990s, then "The cheese that goes crunch!" until it became "Dangerously cheesy!" in 1996.
Throughout the '80s and '90s, TV ads consistently featured a theme where Chester Cheetah desperately attempts to eat other people's Cheetos. The self-described "hip kitty" was often seen sneaking up on an unsuspecting stranger at a beach or public park. The result would always involve cartoon violence sometimes in the vein of the great traditional animation of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones as when directed by Keith Van Allen when he co-produced a series of spots for the South American market (Chesterator, a la Terminator; Chester Piro as a wrestler; and Chester Bungee, as a bungee jumper from the highest peak imaginable). These spots for the first time brought Chester's design back toward the classic '40s and '50s style, as well as combining hand drawn animation with computer generated backgrounds. Antics include Chester riding a motorcycle off a bridge, getting thrown to the top of a coliseum, or plunging miles through the air to unwittingly grab a hang gliding bodacious babe, only to cast her aside in favor of Cheetos.
In 1992, Chester's own television program called Yo! It's the Chester Cheetah Show! was under development for the Fox Kids Saturday morning fall lineup; however, an ethics debate erupted over Chester's status as an advertising character, and likely due to the protests of Action for Children's Television, the show was prevented from airing. Their petition marked the first time that the organization protested something before it actually became a program. Despite this, Chester did star in two video games for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems, Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool and Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest, released that same year. Chester Cheetah makes a cameo appearance in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog series. A promotional plush doll was produced, featuring dark sunglasses and lace-up shoes. It was 18" tall. A 10" doll is still available today.
In the 2000s, Chester Cheetah, also referred to as Chester Cheetoh, became rendered as a computer generated character in the United States, while he continues to appear in his old animation style in other countries. Contemporary TV ads have begun portraying him in a less antagonistic manner. One particular commercial series in 2006 had Chester defeating rival Chef Pierre, in a baking contest to create Baked Cheetos. This led to an advertising campaign titled Chester Goes Undercover, in which Pierre, disguised in silhouette, steals the Baked Cheetos recipe, and Chester gives chase by finding clues that lead him to Pierre’s minions Twisted McGee, Flamin’ Hot Fiona and Cruncher. This is linked to an interactive Internet site. Upon confrontation with Chef Pierre, Agent X signaled all the agents to appear and Pierre and his minions were apprehended.
As of 2007, Cheetos has taken aim at an adult demographic with a recent series of ads featuring the mascot in promotion of OrangeUnderground.com. In this incarnation, Chester (originally a puppet) is computer generated, like his previous incarnation (but now with photorealistic textures/detail) and speaks with a mid-Atlantic accent and encourages people to use their Cheetos in acts of revenge or to solve problems (e.g. plug the nostrils of a snoring man or dirty the cubicle of a neat freak), sometimes referring to himself as "Papa Chester". Chester is voiced by Adam Leadbeater.
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