Click to hear the Frito Kid speak!
From 1952 until 1967, the Frito Kid was the official mascot of Fritos corn chips. In the 1950s and 1960s, at Disneyland's Casa de Fritos, guests could pay a nickel for a bag of chips to be dispensed by this elaborate vending machine. Upon inserting your nickel, the Frito Kid figure would come to life, turning his head, licking his upper lip, slowly moving his eyes side to side. He would call to the unseen miner, Klondike, to send a bag of chips up the mine. Klondike would respond with an echoey voice sounding like he was deep in the corn chips mine. A wax-paper bag of chips would slide down the trough. A number of different audio tracks would play so each customer heard something different from the last. (Audio samples above).
Frito Kid: "Someone else knows what’s good. Another bag of Fritos, Klondike!"Klondike: "Okay, comin’ right up. One bag of crisp, salted Fritos."
Frito Kid: ♫ "Dig those chips, dig that gold, dig those chips of corn." ♫Klondike: ♫ "They are dark and salted too, Fritos best for you." ♫
Other chips were sold in normal, non-animated-vending-machine ways but I can't imagine many kids ever passed up the chance to see and hear the interaction between this miner and cowboy as they deliver chips down a wooden-like mine chute.
Casa de Fritos
Casa de Fritos originally opened the month after the opening of Disneyland in 1955 next to Aunt Jemima's Pancake House in an area called New Orleans Street. The Frito Kid setup stood just inside the front door. It was popular but rarely photographed making it one of the most mysterious product-pitching mechanical corporate sponsor mascots of any Disney park, much like the even more mysterious and rarely photographed Florida Orange Bird of the Magic Kingdom.
Casa de Fritos moved northward in July of 1957, deep into Frontierland to a larger location next to Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. Found in that location now is Rancho del Zocalo Mexican Restaurant. A few architectural remnants still remain. In the photos above (upper right and lower right) you can see a little of what still exists. The archway with broken adobe and exposed brick was once the main Casa de Fritos entrance, now an entrance to a dining area. The adobe/brick oven is still there today but with tables and chairs in front.
When the restaurant moved, the Frito Kid went with it. As seen in these photos, the Kid was moved from the right of the mining trough to the left. The mine and mountain were modified significantly, if not completely replaced. The stand with potato chips and other products did not survive the move. And who are those guys above the mountain? Are they in a knife fight? And why are they there? I'm dying to know. Do they have something to do with the bandits from the Frito Kid mini comic books? (Photos further below)
Where is the bag of chips the Frito Kid is supposed to be holding? Did it fall on the chute? Is that why there are two bags on the chute? Did that older kid take it? How come he sometimes has four fingers and sometimes five? Was his yellow, curvy hair modeled after a Frito chip?? Is the Frito Kid related to Richie Rich?... or could they be the same person??? So many questions.
"Fritos Served With All Dishes"
A combination plate for a buck? Ice cream for 15cents?
"Spaghetti and Chili", is that Mexican?
Check out the Frito Kid hamming it up with his Golden Horseshoe Revue friends and "friendly rival", Pecos Bill in this Pepsi-Cola/Fritos promotional piece.
Look! Fritos can be used for bait to lure unsuspecting bandits out of caves. Who knew? And what is that cool thing on the left? Looks like a toy but at second glance you'll see that this statue is rather large. I'd like one. And my wife loves old junk like that too... not.
It's not easy to forget the Fritos mascot who followed the Frito Kid, the Frito Bandito. The character was voiced by the great Mel Blanc. Close your eyes and you might think you are listening to Speedy Gonzales- also a Blanc character. Some call the Fritio Bandito racist. I call him hilarious. How can you not like his mild threats made in the name his love for corn chips?
♫ "Aye, yii, yii, yiiii, oh, I am the Frito Bandito. Give me Frito Corn chips and I'll be your friend. The Frito Bandito you must not offend." ♫
My dad still loves to sing the sond, accent and all. Sadly the Frito Bandito never made it to Disneyland (that I know of).
In 2007, in celebration of Fritos' 75th anniversary, the Frito-Lay company released limited anniversary edition packaging with old brand and image of the Frito Kid, even though the Frito Kid was not introduced until 20 years after the Frito chips made their debut. Still fun.
If you have memories of the Frito Kid machine at Disneyland, do tell! If any of you have video or photos not seen here, please send. I'd give my right eye for behind the scenes photos of this thing.
Image credits: Ozarklabrdoodles, Tiki Ranch, Daveland, Miehana, Ladypuppy1939, lplocharsk, Frito-Lay, Jtons7880, and myself.
Hoot Gibson posted a comment below that raised my eyebrow. Does the mountain behind the Frito Kid not look like Splash Mountain???... and the original location is oh so close to that of Splash Mountain.... Hmmmmmm. What do you think? (The Splash Mountain model photo is one I recently took at the Opera House and it happens to be the same angle and sort of similar scale).