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Mr. Peanut Gets a Facelift: Robert Downey Jr. Is the New Voice

"Before Robert Downey, Jr. lent his voice to the Planters mascot, the rakish legume spent almost a century in silence."

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[Photographs: Planters Peanuts]

Last week, I heard Mr. Peanut speak for the first time in 94 years. He has the sort of voice you would expect from an old salt, one who has cracked up a few times in his life, yet still remains classy. The revamped Mr. Peanut is basically a clay-mation version of Robert Downey Jr.*, his new voice, in nut form. Brilliant.

The event, which launched Planters' new health-conscious line "Naturally Remarkable," took place in a swanky downtown NYC space. The apartment was decorated with imported peanut plants (slightly wilted, from distant farmlands) and a coat rack decked out with several signature top hats and canes, like a black silk Christmas tree. I tried to imagine Mr. Peanut living here: leaning his huge peanut head up against the counter with nut cocktail in hand, or raising his eyebrows and adjusting his monocle à la Sherlock Holmes. (How would he reach down to put on his spats?)

* Unfortunately, RDJ was not present at the event, with or without peanut costume.

Before RDJ lent his voice to the Planters mascot, the rakish legume spent almost a century in silence, ever since his creation in a 1916 drawing contest. But Planter's, part of the Kraft Foods company, was not satisfied with the silent flirtation of Mr. Peanut's monocled wink.

"People weren't connecting with him," said Jason Levine, Planter's brand director, "We wanted to turn him into a real, authentic peanut. To do this, we had to bring Mr. Peanut into his natural, nut-sized world."

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This is Mr. Peanut, reborn with skin that I hesitate to call "natural," and a cool gilt-topped cane. His suit struck me as odd, until I realized that (oh the indecency) the original Mr. Peanut has been shirtless all these years—a sort of Matthew McConaughey prototype, but bronzier. He still appears to be without pants, but I suppose part of being Naturally Remarkable is to let yourself be free.

Anyways, in his new advertisement, Mr. Peanut hosts a holiday party for his clay-mation friends, an endearing collection of shuffling mini creatures. I'd say this nut-sized world of Mr. Peanut's is pretty appealing, as is his RDJ voice, smoothing over any cracks in the party that may have been caused by the appearance of an unwanted guest (imagine a ballet-related predator of nuts and you've got the gist).

As for the new product line, the Flavor Grove Jalapeño Pistachios have a nice spicy kick, while the NUT∙rition Bone Health Mix includes some seriously addictive granola clusters. There are also chili-spiced peanuts and sugar-dusted almonds that come in caramel, vanilla, cocoa and cinnamon flavors. While the products are new, the original old cartoon Mr. Peanut graces their labels, tipping his hat at us cordially. On the Appalachian and Alaskan Trail Mix packages, he appears to be jogging through the woods, something I cannot imagine Robert Downey Jr. doing unless there were bears on the loose. Perhaps that can be featured in their next commercial?

Also, from these "locavore-style" trail mixes, I learned that Maple Almonds can be found in Appalachia, while Granola Clusters are native to Alaska. I'm personally curious where yogurt covered raisins are grown.

All things considered, I liked Mr. Peanut's facelift. The commercials are cute and the NUT∙rition mixes allow me to gorge on cashews and dried fruity bits while visions of calcium and magnesium dance through my head.

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