For years, we’ve pondered just how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. Only Mr. Owl, the wise character representing Tootsie Pop, seemed to have the answer. Three licks. That’s it!

Savvy Tootsie Pop enthusiasts certainly know better and have spent decades trying to crack the sweet, secret formula to this chocolate candy. Meanwhile, Mr. Owl has flown out of the spotlight and much of this iconic mascot remains a mystery. Here’s an inside look at this character the world may never have known about… until now.

Ad agency Doner can be credited for conceptualizing Mr. Owl.

Mr. Owl was introduced to the world in 1968 in a new campaign for Tootsie Pop. The creative team at Doner brought the bespectacled character to life according to David DeMuth, Doner’s President and CEO.

Mr. Owl isn’t the only one with a fondness for Tootsie Pops.

One of the earliest animated spots revealed that other animals have quite a sweet tooth too! Our nameless hero, a fellow referred to as “questioning boy,” sought advice from other characters in an original commercial for Tootsie Pop.

Unfortunately, none of their advice was very helpful. Mr. Cow always ended up biting his Tootsie Pops. Mr. Fox, while quite clever, confessed that he was also a biter. Tucked inside of his shell, Mr. Turtle admitted he never made it to the center without biting either. This led the questioning boy to the wise Mr. Owl who demonstrated that three licks — or rather, two licks and a bite — was the only way to get to the Tootsie Roll center.

Who’s the voice of Mr. Owl, anyway?

Recognize that voiceover talent? It’s none other than Paul Winchell, who also provided vocals in commercials for Burger Chef and the Scrubbing Bubbles.

Made it to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Let’s celebrate!

For anyone who has been victorious at licking his or her way to the center of a Tootsie Pop, Mr. Owl would like to present you with the Clean Stick Award. Download the PDF to record your accomplishment here. It’s even signed by Mr. Owl — by his bird feet, of course.

The actual number of licks it takes to reach the Tootsie Roll center is…

Researchers at New York University and Florida State University conducted a study in 2015 to find out how many times one would need to lick a Tootsie Pop to reach the center. Their findings revealed that 997 licks are needed to get there. Pretty far from Mr. Owl’s original “three” hypothesis, huh?

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