No Crocodiles or Rhinoceroses, I Only Like Hippopotamuses
On Kinder Happy Hippos and Gayla Peevey's "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas"
Kinder Happy Hippos
Last week I shared the first-ever Snack and Destroy gift guide, a list of 29 treats, books, and food-related accessories that will elevate any snack-lovers snack game. But I have a confession: I was holding back.
There were supposed to be 30 items on the list but at the last minute — literally seconds before hitting “Publish” — I decided one confection was just too good to risk getting lost in the mix. One confection — a cookie I have loved for years and have gifted to friends and family over and over again — deserved a post of its own.
Friends, say hello to your new favorite snack, the Kinder Happy Hippo.
Kinder Happy Hippos are produced by the Italian confectionery company Ferrero, which was founded in 1946 by Pietro Ferrero, the man who basically invented Nutella. (Thanks, Pietro!) The light and crispy wafer shells are full of rich chocolate hazelnut and milk-flavored fillings and when you take a bite it all culminates into a sublime cookies-and-cream type situation.
The Happy Hippos are cute, yes…
…but more importantly, they’re an absolute delight to eat. Their bodies are comprised of three bite-sized bumps and each section is the perfect mouthful of delicate crunch and cream.
When Happy Hippos were first introduced sometime in the mid-90s the biscuits were completely covered in chocolate, as you can see in this commercial from 1995 where the hippos are eating themselves (?!?!?!) and this commercial in 1999 where Ferrero wised up and hired a human kid to eat the hippos instead:
The cookies got a makeover sometime in the early 2000s, ditching the chocolate coating and opting for cute imprinted faces and a layer of crunchy meringue bits. Honestly, the cocoa meringue bits are the best part.
Not only do they add an important textural element — another layer of crispiness to balance the thick filling — but when you open each individually wrapped cookie, loads of little chocolate crumbs fall out like confetti so opening a Happy Hippo basically feels like you’re throwing yourself a little party.
Congratulations! You get a cookie!
"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" by Gayla Peevey
“Something” by The Hippos
The 1953 Christmas hit “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” sung by the very charming 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, is the perfect soundtrack for a Happy Hippos Christmas post. There are plenty of versions of the song to choose from, too — it’s been covered over and over again by artists including Kacey Musgraves, Jessica Hernandez, Elmo, The Three Stooges, and, as of last month, The Aquabats.
But this post isn’t going to be about that song. It was going to be about that song but, once again, I have at the last minute changed my mind.
Instead, I want to tell you about a band I loved in 1998 when I was a senior in high school and I thought ska and punk music would save the world.
This is me:
Here, in my senior yearbook picture, I’m wearing a button-up bowling-league type shirt covered in mirror sequins, a black skirt, black-and-white checkered tights, and the knock-off version of these Dr. Martens.
I had an Operation Ivy sticker on my car, I talked endlessly about getting a Rancid tattoo, and I fucking loved punk and ska music with every atom in my body.
Specifically, for a time, this ska band:
The Hippos were around in the late '90s, along with bands like Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris, The Aquabats, Less Than Jake, etc. Though my introduction to them — their 1996 album Forget the World — was more ska-punk, I really appreciated some of the experimentation they started to do around 1999’s Heads Are Gonna Roll. The band covered The Go-Gos and The Pixies. They started playing around with synths and power-pop hooks while many of their musical peers were devolving further into beer-soaked fratboy fuckery.
I especially liked the song “Something.” I was a misunderstood teenager who wanted to skip going to college to become a self-made rock writer and/or concert photographer. Unsurprisingly, not a lot of adults in my life loved that idea! So I spent many hours driving around town, blasting “Something” and loudly singing along with the lyrics about knowing you could be something great even if others don’t see it.
Now, why should you care about a flash-in-the-pan ska band I was obsessed with for maybe two years as a teenager? Two words: Ariel Rechtshaid.
Rechtshaid was the singer and guitarist for The Hippos and his career took a bit of a turn after the band broke up sometime around 2002.
You know that song “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s? The song that went quadruple platinum in the U.S. and is now probably stuck in your head simply after reading those three little words because it was played every hour of every day on every radio station and television show for most of 2006 and 2007? Rechtshaid produced it.
In fact, Rechtshaid went on to produce and/or write a lot of songs that have been stuck in your head over the years, most of them much better than “Hey There Delilah.” A small sampling:
“When We Were Young” by Adele (producer)
“Ring Off” by Beyoncé (co-producer)
“All That” by Carly Rae Jepsen (co-writer and co-producer)
“Bitch I’m Madonna” by Madonna feat. Nicki Minaj (co-writer)
“Everything Is Embarrassing” by Sky Ferreira (co-writer and co-producer)
He also produced Haim’s Women in Music Pt. III, Something to Tell You, and several songs on Days Are Gone, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City and Father of the Bride, and Solange Knowles’ True EP, and he’s won three Grammys.
Sure, it wasn’t completely obvious at the time that Rechtshaid would grow up to be somewhat of a powerhouse pop music producer — I mean, he rhymed “eyes” with “eyes” in The Hippos song “Struggling” — but it’s still pretty fucking cool that someone I once perceived as another goofball ska kid with a little something extra survived the chaos that was the music industry in the early 2000s and grew up to work with Beyoncé, Adele, Carly Rae, Madonna, and more.
Maybe there’s still hope for me and my checkered tights-wearing ass after all. At the very least I should be proud of myself for never going through with that Rancid tattoo. That band went on to write some steamers in the 2000s.