Cheerios grandma and baby from 1999 holiday ad hope pandemic-inspired sequel reminds viewers 'we're not as isolated as we feel'

Erin Donnelly
·5-min read
Peggy Miley and Delfina Booth reprised their roles from the 1999 Cheerios commercial. (Photo: Cheerios)
Peggy Miley and Delfina Booth reprised their roles from the 1999 Cheerios commercial. (Photo: Cheerios)

Delfina Booth doesn’t remember filming the beloved “Baby’s First Christmas” Cheerios commercial that warmed hearts back in 1999 — she was, after all, only about nine months old. But plenty of people do, including TikTok personality Cori Spruiell, whose fondness for the vintage ad prompted her to call on parent brand General Mills to make an update reflecting the distance between loved ones this holiday season because of the pandemic.

“I think it’s one of those [commercials] that really lives in the public consciousness,” Spruiell, who was just 8 or 9 when the ad first came out, tells Yahoo Life. “Rewatching it, I was like, wait, this is actually incredibly poignant and it’s very relevant today — that theme of togetherness at the holidays no matter what.”

For those who don’t remember the original commercial, it saw an infant Booth — now a 21-year-old studying media at Georgia Tech — celebrating her first Christmas with her loving grandmother, played by actress Peggy Miley.

“Grandma wanted to be here for your first Christmas,” Miley’s character tells the Cheerio-munching granddaughter played by baby Booth. “She came a loooong way.” She then uses Cheerios as makeshift cities to show the infant where all of their various relatives are scattered across the United States, adding, “But no matter where Grandma lives, we’ll always be together for Christmas.”

Sort of. In a new follow-up ad that General Mills has just released in response to Spruiell’s viral plea, Miley’s doting grandma and Booth’s now-grown granddaughter are, like countless families this year, connecting on Christmas Day via video chat. The commercial has Booth finding a bow-topped box of Cheerios on her doorstep before calling up her grandma, who again assures her that “no matter where Grandma lives, we’ll always be together for Christmas.”

“Cheers to keeping traditions alive, wherever you are,” a voiceover says.

“Family togetherness is at the heart of this 20-year-old, iconic Cheerios commercial and that’s something that isn’t going to be physically possible for many this holiday season,” Kathy Dixon, senior brand experience manager for Cheerios, says of acting on Spruiell’s suggestion to deliver a follow-up. “Many of our fans remember the grandma character and the baby from the original spot so, what better time than now to refresh the commercial, empathize with our audiences and capture today’s reality.”

Reuniting for the first time since 1999 — their scenes for the 2020 commercial were filmed separately at their respective homes in Los Angeles and Georgia in light of the pandemic — Booth and Miley spoke to Yahoo Life about being asked to reprise their roles after all this time.

Miley — a professional actress and writer whose most recent credits include Season 3 of Stranger Things, an upcoming episode of Shameless, a new JetBlue commercial and a project called The Mistress she’ll be shooting next week (“No, I don’t play the lead role,” she deadpans) — says she was “absolutely delighted and surprised” by the call from Cheerios.

Booth — whom her co-star remembers as the “best little baby to work with” — was also excited, but scared too, as she hadn’t acted since her family moved from New York City to Georgia when she was 2. For her, the ad is mostly a bit of trivia “that I’ll bring up if I need, like, a fun fact about myself” — at which point people will often quote “You just ate Dallas” back at her.

“I don’t consider myself an actress now, so it was a little nerve-racking,” she admits but says the crew soon put her at ease. She says she hopes the new commercial gives viewers the “comfort of nostalgia” as well as a reminder that it’s still possible to stay connected and that “we’re not as isolated as we feel.”

“We’re beginning to realize how universal some of our values are,” agrees Miley. “We all need the same thing ... If there’s a silver lining in this terrible pandemic, it’s that we know how much we need each other.”

Like their characters, both stars will be relying on technology to connect with loved ones this Christmas.

“I’m on that Zoom for everything from prayer groups to cocktail parties,” says Miley, who will be celebrating from a computer screen while she remains “in exile in L.A., away from my family.”

While she’s not a grandmother in real life, the veteran actress says playing one for the Cheerios ad had a meaningful impact.

“People will still on occasion pass me and go, ‘Oh, you’re the Cheerios grandma!’” she says, recalling once being stopped by a college student who admitted buying a plane ticket to go home and see her own grandmother after seeing the 1999 commercial.

“It moved me so much,” she says. “We think of things as selling a product, but this was telling a whole concept about our traditions. That touched me a great deal. It’s my favorite commercial, and I’ve done a lot.”

Related: General Mills brings back 80's flavor for four cereals

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