After years of struggle against a rising tide of doubters (meaning me), truth & justice have prevailed & we can proudly reveal that — YES! There really WAS a cereal promotion featuring the Lunar Base Panorama transfers, after all.
I had always argued that Occam's Razor, that blunt but valuable tool, should be employed to shave away these rumours, on the grounds that there already was a known product featuring the same transfers — namely, the Wayfinders Moonshot Shoes promotion.
Decades of fending off claims that people remember them clearly from Ricicles, Corn Flakes & Weetabix, on the grounds that memory is fallible & prone to conflating separate events, have availed me naught in the light of the hard evidence brought to my attention by Nick Symes, after his devoting years to the search.
He's come up trumps at last, & I have to concede (with delight, I have to say) that Shredded Wheat are the lucky winners.
Many thanks again to Nick, who not content with proving me wrong even went so far as to obtain the hard evidence himself — & then to pass it on to me. Here's our scan of the packet back:
And… er… here's the packet back back, which I'm sure you're all dying to see:
The triumph is tinged with sadness, though, because Nick only just found this panel in time for us to show it to its creator, Patrick Tilley, before his death earlier this year.
I hope Patrick did get to see it, because I'm sure he would have been pleased to hear of his designs being rediscovered to give pleasure to others again. I did ask Bruno to tell his father about it, but I understand Patrick was already too ill to answer questions.
The questions I would have asked, though, I'm sure we can answer for ourselves…
This marks the first time that Letraset transfers featured in ANY promotion for another product.
The year was almost certainly 1965, because Waddington's took over the Panoramas on the 1st of January 1966, & the Panorama-based promotions after that went through Patterson Blick. It is still just possible, though, that it was 1966 — but that's the same year as the Batman Shredded Wheat promotion. It makes more sense of the sequence of events if Letraset dealt with Shredded Wheat via Patterson Blick BEFORE the Waddington's deal; that would explain why the Shredded Wheat connection continued, whereas otherwise it looks like a rather mercenary sideways lunge.
Did Patrick produce the artwork himself? I think we can say that he must have, because the Lunar landscape on this packet back is very much in his distinctive style, yet still slightly different from the treatment to be found on the Panorama itself — & clearly not just a simple copy or imitation.
Even the text is in Patrick's "Busy Bee" style.
The transfer figures — as opposed to the background — were, of course, by Frank Wheeler.
Bruno Tilley also appears, as is customary, holding up the Lunar Base Panorama at the bottom of the packet; but unlike all other representations of him, which are photographic, here he appears as a cartoon.
(Hey, Bruno! — You're a cartoon now!)
Now I'm sure you'd like to see what the transfers looked like that came in the Shredded Wheat packet — even though none could possibly have survived after all this time (although see below)!
— So here they are:
The above image is actually taken from a Wayfinders Moonshot Shoes advert, but we can be sure that this is the exact same sheet as was used with Shredded Wheat.
For one thing, Letraset were always very keen to re-use transfers with different clients.
And for another, you can compare the transfers on this sheet with those interspersed with the text in the back panel above.
We also have the evidence of this schoolbook, sent to Nick by someone who claimed they were cereal transfers (of course, I tried my best to talk them out of that ridiculous nonsense).
Photo courtesy of Nick Symes
Note that the date on the book is "19-1-66", which at least gives us a ballpark figure, far away from the Wayfinders date of August 1969.
The real clincher, though, is that if you carefully count the transfers he's rubbed down on his book (spoiler: I already did), you'll find that he's used all the transfers from two sheets, exactly — with no omissions or triplications (obviously, there are duplications; it's ALL duplications).
It isn't at all likely he would have had two sets of Wayfinders transfers, barring accidents in packing or twin brothers, whereas it's perfectly feasible he might have saved two sheets from a cereal packet, & then rubbed them down together.
People usually get through packets of cereal faster than pairs of shoes, in other words.
So statistical analysis from several angles concludes: the Wayfinders sheet was the Shredded Wheat sheet, repurposed by those naughty Letraset people.
This recreation of the Shredded Wheat "Moon Battle" transfer sheet (re-used four years later for Wayfinders Moonshot Shoes) took me five days of hard work.
All the white figures are taken from the Lunar Base Panorama K48 (black) & K48W (white) transfer sheets — mostly the former, oddly — apart from two figures which don't appear on either of those sheets. I've therefore had to recreate them from the tiny Wayfinders comic advert that was my only source. The two new figures are of a rocket (right in the middle of the sheet) & an exhaust blast, presumably from a rocket or a space gun, situated above the rocket & to the right (& just to the left of the spider having lunch). I'm sure my recreations are pretty damn accurate, though, & Frank Wheeler would be satisfied…
As for why these new figures turn up here, we can only guess. My favourite hypothesis is that Patrick Tilley asked Frank Wheeler to create them to fill the space, perhaps because Shredded Wheat asked for another rocket & flare, & there wasn't room for one of the big 'Lunar Base' ones. Alternatively, perhaps Frank had a sheet with spare figures he hadn't actually used, although since there's so much duplication on the 'Lunar Base' sheets I'd be surprised he wouldn't have used every figure he could possibly get hold of.
Interestingly, although for variety many of Frank's figures were mirror-reversed on 'Lunar Base', all the figures on this sheet were in the original orientation; but many of them were re-sized, which was a nightmare to recreate — as you can imagine.
About the 'Special Sheet' serial number S38o3:
S1678 is IdentiKit from 1964, & S10064 is Yellow Submarine from 1967/68; so S3808 is about right for 1965. The lower-case "s" is unusual but not unique, & the "o" — instead of zero — can probably be explained by someone being told to add the serial number to the sheet, & on asking what the serial number was, getting the reply "S three eight oh three". The font used is Letraset's own Monotype Grotesque 216, which they almost invariably used for all their serial numbers. Why it is centre-leaded is a mystery; I've never seen that done elsewhere, but perhaps the fool who thought "o" might appear in the middle of a serial number also didn't know about leading.
The patent number is identical in form to that of the later Moonshot transfer sheet, which was based on Peter Archer's "Meteoroid Menace" red Action Transfers set. Possibly the later, colour, sheet simply copied over this formulation, which I haven't seen anywhere else. Either way, it's definitely exactly correct.
Nick Symes has come up trumps YET AGAIN, & located, photographed, & eventually even purchased this surviving sheet, then passing it on to me.
I'm going to do some bragging now, because I feel my hard work in restoring the sheet is entirely vindicated.
I even got the serial number right! The other two text differences — the "B" number & the Patent info — are due, I believe, to the fact that there would have been several copies of the artwork on an uncut sheet (as you would expect), & not all the cut sheets would have had identical text. My only real error was in leaving off a tiny astronaut (I imagine!) underneath the fuel pod at top right.
But anyway — enough about me. Thanks, Nick; you've done it again!
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives — Nick Symes
© Tom Vinelott 2023