By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 09, 2015
Credit: © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy

The creator of the iconic Pillsbury Doughboy, Rudolph Perz, passed away last week on April 1 at the age of 89.

According to the blog of General Mills (owner of the Pillsbury brand), Perz created Poppin’ Fresh in 1965 while sitting at his kitchen table in Chicago and working on the Pillsbury account for ad agency Leo Burnett.

In a 1985 interview with Advertising Age, Perz said, “I worked on almost every account at Burnett…but I'm most closely associated with the Doughboy—some people say it's the only idea I ever had.” The publication even named the Doughboy as the number six ad icon of the 20th century. In 1987, Adweek called the doughy spokesman “America’s most loved character.”

The original Doughboy was a bit more complicated than his current digital incarnation. The tiny chef cost $16,000 to develop, using five bodies and 15 heads to create the stop-motion animation used for his commercials. But the character was worth the investment: General Mills says that within three years of his debut, he already had an 87 percent recognition factor among consumers.

Now the Doughboy floats in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, has appeared in more than 600 commercials and will be featured in an exhibit of advertising icons at the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications in May.

According to the New York Times, Rudolph Robert Perz was a native Chicagoan, born in the city on Dec. 6, 1925, to immigrants from what became Yugoslavia. He is survived by two daughters and six grandchildren. And of course, he has his other little squeaky-voiced creation that may outlast us all.