You may notice that my blog’s header has five characters that I haven’t reviewed yet. So if you were curious when I was going to review any of them, say no more. For the next four weeks I’ll be reviewing all five of them. I’ve been meaning to do so before I have 100 articles in total. For this week I decided to do an article on Izzy first, cause the commercials for him are hard to come by compared to the other four mascots. I was bound to do an olympics mascot eventually, out of all of them I’ve known or discovered, Izzy was the most memorable. Mainly cause I actually remember TV ads on him when the 1996 Olympics occurred, around the same time I learn what the olympics actually were. So let’s talk about the back story and life of Izzy.
Izzy was the very first Olympic mascot to not resemble any living creature as pos to the previous ones resembling recognizable animals. Instead Izzy was categorized as a “Whatzit” a creature who is passionate about sports and can morph into any object like it was Great Britain/Cyborg 007 from “Cyborg 009”. Also know for being the first olympic mascot created off of a computer, back when computer animation was experimental and expensive. His origin dates back to 1991, when the Atlanta committee for the Olympic Games or ACOG for short began their own mascot search. A competition of 20 design firms as well as suggestions from the public was in progress until the committee found a likable drawing. The illustration was titled “The Whatzit” created by John Ryan, a senior animation director of Atlanta-based design firm DESIGNefx. The Whatzit originally resembled a blue tear-shaped blob with rings around his eyes and tail. Wore high top sneakers and had star-shaped pupils(kinda like the appearance of the farmers and dogs who ate Mr. Fox’s blue berries with sleeping powder). The Whatzit also originally consisted short limbs and a toothy smile. Since the Olympic Mascots all need to look fit and athletic, the Whatzit received longer limbs.
The Whatzit made his first appearance to the world during the closing ceremonies of the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. First appearing as a CG character on the stadium screen, then appears out on the field as a costumed mascot dancing with all of the other closing ceremony performers. The character received critical reception from kids rather than the adults. So the Atlanta Committee did further alterations to the character and gave him a name which was Izzy. As well as fund an animated TV special in 1995 titled “Izzy’s Quest For Olympic Gold” to both promote and expand his back story to the public. The special aired on TNT(same network that aired Rudy & Gogo) back in 1995 produced by the Film Roman company(producers of all the original 2D Garfield cartoons, Bobby’s World, C Bear & Jamal, Mighty Max, The Critic, Simpsons, Animated Mask, Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, 90s Baby Huey, Mr. Potato Head Show, Mother Goose & Grimm, Bruno the Kid(Bruce Willis voicing a kid), & the recent Beavis & Butthead episodes). So as you can see the Atlanta Committee picked the right company to fund their project. While that wasn’t enough they even funded a video game with a similar title “Izzy’s Quest For Olympic Rings” within the same year. Made for both the Super NES & Sega Genesis, the game for both are common to find off of various online auctions and used game stores.
Once the Olympics started, the character was already a sensation to the public. Merchandise off all kinds were made for Izzy including plushies, pins, buttons, lighters, silverware, key chains, pens, & pogs(which ended up being a popular article on this blog). Sponsors for Izzy included Coke, Hi-C, AT&T, Bausch & Lomb, Sea World, BellSouth, Busch Gardens, Blue Cross, Delta Airlines, Hanes, John Hancock Insurance, Lucent Technologies, Nations Bank, Texaco, UPS, Xerox, & Kodak. In today’s standards that’s a lot of sponsorship just for a single character during one period. In today’s standards not that many companies would sponsor a single mascot at once unless they have the money for it. Which sadly today the economy is worse than it was back in 1996. The only sponsor I recalled Izzy being part of was General Mills which they show a commercial of Lucky the Leprechaun competing against Izzy in various obstacles. That was the only Izzy commercial I remembered as a kid, but it wasn’t hard to know Izzy cause he was everywhere in America back in 1996. Talk to a kid my age, and they might of known him thanks to the games, cartoon, or merchandise.
After the 1996 Olympics, Izzy lost his crowd after the games concluded. There were many attempts to keep Izzy popular, including updating his look and promoting him with his own roller coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg(The name Izzy is no longer displayed on the ride). But like most of the other Olympic mascots, once they’re used they’re not used again. The character would later be referenced in a Homestar Runner cartoon where the Cheat dresses up as Izzy for the 2003 Halloween special. Mainly cause Mike Chapman was a staff member in charge of the lighting for the Australian telecasts of the game. Despite the character was short live, it will always be a favorite to those who loved an athlete whatzit. Merchandise of Izzy can be found on all sorts of auctions. Including the hundreds of types of pins being most hunted collector’s items for serious collectors. For more info on the pins see the fan site below. I haven’t done a Burger King article yet, so for next week I’ll talk about the very first Burger King from the 1960s. Until then, enjoy whatever media I could find on Izzy below.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0282624/ – info on the TV Special
http://www.izzypins.com/index.php – By a devoted fan