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The Jolly Green Giant's Decades-Long Evolution Raises Some Questions

He's rocked a ton of different looks over the years.
A statue of the Jolly Green Giant was erected in Blue Earth, Minn. in 1978.
William Koplitz via Getty Images
A statue of the Jolly Green Giant was erected in Blue Earth, Minn. in 1978.

If you’re a gigantic green farmer wearing a one-shoulder mini romper, will a scarf really do much to keep you warm?

That’s one of many questions raised by a photo series depicting the different iterations of the Jolly Green Giant — that mascot of frozen and canned vegetable fame — that circulated over Twitter this weekend.

Check out the graphic shared by Tales from Weirdland, a Twitter account run by animator Jeronimus Dekker:

You’ll notice the icon went through some pretty significant changes over the years, and not with his costumes. In 1928, he was a white man carrying a gigantic pea. (Given that he’s a giant, the pea-to-man ratio raises some questions about how big those vegetables are. Yes, they’re giant vegetables, but he’s a giant, and they’re still nearly as tall as him. Are the peas the size of bowling balls? Armchairs? Asteroids?)

He was also a little meaner in his earlier days, according to Ad Age. Inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales, the original giant had an intimidating scowl, which apparently failed to attract great sales for the Minnesota Valley Canning Company.

In the 1930s, the same company that came up with Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Toucan Sam rehabilitated the giant’s image, giving him a smile and a less threatening demeanour. That’s also when he got the name the Jolly Green Giant, according to Mental Floss, along with a backstory: he’s the protector of Jolly Green Giant Valley.

In the ’50s, when he made the move to TV commercials, the giant once again scared people. Nothing worked, Ad Age reported: not puppets, not animation, and definitely not men painted green.

“When you try to move the Giant around and really show what he looks like, he comes off a monster,” a writer from the ad agency Leo Burnett told the outlet. “The baby cries and the dog goes under the bed.” Their solution? To never to show too much of the giant at once.

That’s when he was assigned the catchphrase “Ho, ho, ho!” If you’re wondering if he ever had to defend that line from Santa Claus ... he sure did.

The much-discussed scarf from the ’80s actually has a marketing purpose: it was added to keep the giant warm when the company introduced frozen vegetables. His crossed-arm stance, too, was apparently meant to keep the chills away.

As much information as we have about the Jolly Green Giant — and clearly, we have a ton — there are a lot of unanswered questions about the look. Why did he get so deliberately cartoony in 1970, and why didn’t it stick? What exactly was the nature of his relationship with a normal-sized woman in 1945?

Why did his outfit keep getting shorter — did he feel pressure to be sexier, in order to keep up with the objectively very hot Captain High Liner?

And most pressing of all, why didn’t he get to keep his kicky red scarf?

We may never know.

If you need more of the giant in your life, consider a visit to Blue Earth, Minn. once the pandemic is over. It’s home to an 18-metre high statue of the Jolly Green Giant himself. The scarf, sadly, is not included.

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