Is Donna “Stan” Stankowski Based on an Actual Kellogg’s Scientist?

In Netflix’s comedy film ‘Unfrosted,’ Bob Cabana turns to Donna “Stan” Stankowski to create a toaster pastry for Kellogg’s. Cabana “recruits” Stan from NASA, where she has been working as a scientist to send men to the Moon. After becoming the head scientist of the project, she hires several renowned figures from varying industries to create the product that ensures Kellogg’s victory over their rival company, Post. Cabana and Stan’s collaboration changes not only the fate of their company but also the breakfast tradition of the entire country. Even though Jerry Seinfeld’s movie is based on a true story, chronicling the invention of Pop-Tarts, Melissa McCarthy’s character is not a part of the real history!

Donna “Stan” Stankowski: The Fictional Scientist

Donna “Stan” Stankowski is a fictional character created by Jerry Seinfeld and his fellow writers, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin. In reality, William “Bill” Post, the inspiration behind Bob Cabana, didn’t recruit a scientist from NASA to spearhead his mission to create Pop-Tarts for Kellogg’s. Even though the real rivalry between Kellogg’s and Post, which leads to the creation of the toaster pastry, is the foundation of the film, “the rest of our story is complete lunacy,” as per Seinfeld’s interview with Netflix’s Tudum. The character of Stan is a part of this “lunacy.”

Seinfeld and his writers integrated comedy into the actual history of Pop-Tarts through Stan’s storyline. The scientist hires a group of people who don’t know the basics of food science to develop the toaster pastry, which is outrightly fictional but makes the film funnier. Ultimately, that was all the screenwriters cared for while creating the characters. “[…] the guiding principle was always very simple and just like a ‘Seinfeld’ episode: whatever is funniest. Whatever we think is going to make our audience laugh, that’s the direction we’re going to go,” co-writer and co-producer Spike Feresten told Eater about conceiving the fictional characters.

In fact, Stan was originally conceived as a male character. Since Seinfeld was thrilled to work with Melissa McCarthy, Stan became a woman. “Stan was originally a male character, and Melissa got interested, and we were thrilled because she’s so amazing. I was going to change the name to a female name, and she said, ‘No, I liked Stan,’” the director told TheWrap. Through the character, Seinfeld was also able to joke about several significant happenings of the 1960s, including the Moon landing.

Although Stan is an imaginary scientist, her contribution to the creation of Pop-Tarts can be paralleled with the work of “Doc” Joe Thompson, who led a kitchen crew, like the scientist, to conceive the toaster pastry. Kellogg’s credits Doc as one of the creators of Pop-Tarts officially. “Kellogg chairman William E. LaMothe, a.k.a Bill, had a vision. A vision of transforming a delicious breakfast into a toaster-ready rectangle that could go anywhere. So he hit up ‘Doc’ Joe Thompson, and his kitchen crew to create an ingenious hack on toast and jam,” reads the company’s website.

In reality, the main “scientist” behind Pop-Tarts was Bill Post. Having said that, he wasn’t lazy and irresponsible as Stan. He handled a two-week deadline to create Pop-Tarts with his unwavering commitment and intelligence, which included making around 10,000 handmade samples. The frosting on the top of Pop-Tarts was also Bill’s contribution. “I wanted to take a Pop-Tart and put it under the icer. [A coworker] said it’ll melt in the toaster. Being who I was, I did it anyway,” he told WWMT. “I went over with a toaster and frosted Pop-Tarts and put them in a toaster and they didn’t melt. He said, ‘I don’t believe it,’” he added.

Seinfeld and his writers never wanted to make a truly biographical film with real characters. Their utmost aim was to deliver comedy. Through Stan, they succeed in entertaining the viewers, which justifies the creation of the fictional character.

Read More: Is Bob Cabana Inspired by a Real Kellogg’s Employee? How Did He Die?