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Five reasons to refurbish your costumed character

refurb washing machine cow

Time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it? Once again, another year has passed and after many, many shows, meet and greets and mascot-related excursions later, I can imagine your costumes are all starting to get a little, well let’s just say a little whiffy…

Whether it be used by one or by many people, there’s no denying these costumes can get hot and sweaty. Literally within the first few minutes of putting one on, the heat takes its toll and the unfaltering stream of sweat begins, coating you and the costume surrounding you with its moist residue and fragrant aroma. Also worth a mention are the countless drinks spilt, nay poured all over your mascot during the excitement of a character visit or the sticky hands from excitable children all pulling your character in various directions to play with this toy, or to join in a game of hide and seek for example. Opportunities for your brand ambassador to get a little grubby are more often than not so it makes sense to give it a little TLC from time to time.
With that in mind, here’s our top 5 reasons to refurbish your character:

Hygiene

Bacteria from sweat and other fluids can build up, causing your costume to perish and smell worse than a pair of well-worn socks. If your character gets wet, material that isn’t aired and dried properly can get that old towel smell which permeates the nostrils and leaves the smell hanging in there for hours to come. Not only will your reluctant wearers notice, but so too will members of the public who are interacting with your character. You’ll soon notice the hi-fives and hugs drop off from your pongy personality unless you keep it fresh and regularly washed.

Safety

With limited visibility, safety is paramount when performing in a costumed character. Steps have to be taken to ensure the safe keeping of the wearer and the surrounding environment. Loose foot straps, broken vision holes and faulty chin straps can be dangerous if not dealt with sooner rather than later, potentially causing injury to you, your employee or even worse…a child. When your character arrives back with us, we’ll check all fittings and fixtures to ensure they’re as solid as the day they were installed, ensuring the safety of your wearer and those around them.

Comfort

Well-kept, regularly maintained and clean costumes are much more comfortable to wear than tatty pieces of fur that have been left scrunched in a corner, only to be peeled off the floor for the next wearer to begrudgingly put on. A regular refurb and a little care ensures your character will be as comfortable one day to the next, increasing performance time and the general enthusiasm of wearers for the role.

Longevity

Regular maintenance of your costumes will keep your character in full working order for many years to come. Regular wear and tear on a character happens, it’s inevitable so ensure your character gets a chance to shine for years to come by keeping it repaired and refurbished regularly. We’ve got characters that still look as good today as they did when they were made over 10 years ago. Their secret? It’s simple. Regular refurbishments. Think of it as a car. Neglect it and after a few years your car is likely to fail its MOT. Keep it maintained and you’ll get years of happy motoring. This principle applies to mascots too… except the motoring, you can’t drive a mascot. There’s no engine silly…

Aesthetics/character refresh

Refurb time is also a great opportunity to look at your character and get some bits replaced, improved or completely refreshed. Your logo may have changed, or it’s missing an eye. You don’t want your mascot to be the ugly duckling and neither do we. We can offer you a full character refresh service, improving and updating any of the parts your feel are old or broken above and beyond our normal service. Additional charges may apply, but we’ll check everything with you before giving your mascot the full makeover it deserves.

Rabbit SaunaSo as you can see, there are many reasons why you should keep your characters looking (and smelling) tip top. Spending a little each year on the upkeep of your character is cost effective in the long term, meaning that you have to replace the suit less often, which in some cases can cost thousands of pounds, and generally improves the overall working environment for wearers and employees.

If you feel your brand ambassador could do with a good scrub, then why not book your character in with us today? We’ll give it the pampering it deserves!

You can book your costume in using our online form.

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Five of the most-favoured costume character shapes

Here at CWC we make very many costume characters. We make tall costumes, short costumes, fat costumes, thin costumes and everything in between. Out of the thousands of costumes we have made, there are a few particular styles of mascot that are requested and brought to life more often than others.

After trawling through data from the past few years, I have come up with a top five list of mascot shapes, and I’ll aim to give you an insight into why these choices are so popular. Who knows, it may even start you thinking about what mascot is best for your needs…

Click the title of each section below to be taken to the relevant costume pages. More costumes are being added all the time so keep checking back for more inspiration and ideas.

Bears

Pudsey BearWhen somebody asks you to think of a typical mascot shape, bears are usually not far from the forefront of people’s minds. One of our most popular shapes, the classic bear can take on many forms. It can be cute, it can be comical, it can be in clothes or completely naked (or should I say bare…), the bear is a versatile choice for any company looking to engage with an audience young or old. Used in sporting events (Olympics, football and many others), presidential campaigns (the infamous Theodore Roosevelt who gave name to the Teddy Bear) and charities (BBC Children In Need is a very high profile example) to name a few, the bear is seen as a symbol of strength, courage and endurance, not to mention a nostalgic treat for the majority of us.Stock patchwork bear

I remember gripping my Teddy tight as the monsters of the dark crept around my room, its fur reassuringly warm as it protected me from the gremlins living in our spare room and I’m sure I’m not the only one who still holds his teddy in high regard. This feeling of security that many of us have held on to from a young age makes the Teddy one of the more approachable characters in the costume kingdom. With so many positive attributes, it’s no wonder the bear is such a popular choice of mascot.

Humanoids

Newsquest Essex Echo ManWe briefly touched on what the term humanoid meant with regards to costume characters in a previous post (see the jargon buster – 10 terms to talk like a mascot maker post) but just to refresh for those that are new to our blog, a Humanoid is a character that is human-like in design and shape but is ultimately larger than life and in some cases a caricature with exaggerated features and body shape. This type of mascot is a popular choice across a broad range of industries. We’ve done humanoids for theme parks, TV shows, small businesses and charities to name a few and there is something reassuringly familiar about this body style.

Humans can relate to mascots that express human needs better than those that don’t. This isn’t Town Crier Magazine - Towncrierexclusive to humanoid mascots but is a prominent reason why this particular type of character is so popular. Suited to more active mascot work, humanoid shape bodies are a great choice for sporting clubs and occasions where the character plays an energetic role, such as a performance event entertaining the crowd. Popular choices are superhero style designs and characters that look like employees or are in a certain job role (such as our lovely town crier mascot), sporting the uniform of the club, group or company they are representing.

Lions

Max LionAn icon of strength, athletic ability and pride, the Lion is a great choice of character for those wanting to portray the aforementioned traits, or for those looking to create a mascot with an air of authority (Lions are well known as the king of the beasts). Lions can appear friendly or fearsome, furry or muscular, timid or forthcoming, it’s an animal that can adapt to many needs whilst maintaining an element of regality within its character. It’s a popular choice for many sports clubs, amateur and professional, invoking the spirit of the Lion into the fans and players whilst the character entertains from the sidelines.

Stamford LionA good few of the Lion costume characters we have brought to life are dressed in regal clothing. The mane, being a majestic natural crown, makes the lion a perfect choice for playing the part of royalty. The Barbary lion is a national symbol of England (amongst others), perhaps explaining why this animal is so popular in this part of the world. Stretching back to medieval times when English warriors were known as lions (including Richard the Lionheart), the Lion has been a prominent symbol in British culture ever since.

Dogs

Staffs Police DogWhat list would be complete without the ever faithful dog? Not this one as dog costumes make up a decent portion of the costume characters we bring to life. Dogs are a man’s best friend and are easy for people to identify with because they are such a popular pet and a common sight throughout the world. Dogs are also intelligent and loyal creatures. Choosing a dog costume humanises and emphasises these familiar traits and gives your character a head start with building rapport, instilling a safe and approachable vibe to the on looking crowd. Because of this reason, dog mascots are great for interaction and delivering an important message, such as safety around the workplace or on the streets.

On the opposite scale (and I’m thinking mainly sports clubs and play Primal PR Special Agent Hcentres with this one), dogs can also be cheeky, energetic, curious and lovingly mischievous, acting up and generally being entertaining. This makes them a great choice for a costume character that interacts with younger crowds. We’ve made dogs for charities, police forces, football teams and many more. The popularity of the canine costume character never fades.

Inanimates

Yoghie SwirlyQuite a broad category but an important one nevertheless, Inanimate costume characters as a whole make up a significant number of the costumes we create each year. Mainly used for advertising specific products or services, clients have certainly not let their imagination get in the way of creating the ideal mascot for their needs. Before we discuss it further, let’s have a quick re-cap over what an inanimate costume character actually is. An inanimate costume is a costume with few or no moving parts, made to be in most cases larger than life and an exaggerated version of the original item.

Great examples of inanimate costume characters we have made in the past are: a giant potato, a giant mobile phone, giant balls of Touch WudWool, and possibly my personal favourite, Pvt. Touchwood Sweetheart, the official Touch Wud mascot we made to commemorate the centenary of the 1st World War back in 2014. This list could go on for ever as there are so many amazing examples of inanimate characters we have made but I’ll let you explore the costumes on our website for yourself. A great advertising tool and a real talking point for potential customers, inanimate mascots are a fantastic way of putting your product at the forefront of people’s minds. What better way than having your giant snack bar shaking hands and interacting with customers? It’ll certainly be a memorable experience selfridges-wool-weekfor them and one they won’t forget no matter how short the interaction (providing your character has been well designed of course). Large and small companies alike have commissioned pieces to go alongside promotional tours, attend meet and greets or even just to be part of a promotional display, since these characters don’t necessarily need to be worn and can be created to be displayed as a statue without a wearer.

 

So there we have it, our top five most popular costume character shapes. Although these are here to give you some food for thought into what type of mascot you could have, there are many other shapes that make fantastic costumed characters so don’t count anything out until you’ve given it some proper thought.

 

The most important aspect of creating your costume character is the initial design stage. Spend time thinking about what it is you want to show. Is it company values or a specific product? What message are you looking to deliver and who do you want to deliver it to? Does your company already have a Logo mascot that could be turned into a costume? With these simple considerations in mind, all it takes is a little bit of imagination. If you’re feeling stuck then give us a call. We’ve got a wealth of experience in designing characters for a range of industries so there’s a good chance we can point you in the right direction and produce the perfect character for your needs.

If you’re after something a little different to those mentioned above. Please browse through our costumes pages as we’ve got plenty of ideas to inspire. 🙂

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Fur, sweat and tears: what it really takes to be a mascot

The mascot school

I recently re-discovered a video that I had watched a number of months ago about mascot culture in Japan. It focusses on a wonderful lady called Choko Oohira and her mascot school in Tokyo, where she teaches people from all walks of life on the fundamentals of performing as a mascot, and the rules you need to follow in order to maintain the true identity of the character you are portraying.

The energy and enthusiasm of the students and the passion Choko Oohira has for her job really is inspiring and a tad contagious… This short video really got me thinking; what does it ACTUALLY take to become a mascot? I mean anyone can physically put on a furry costume and ‘horse’ around, but what about those who consider it a profession, or those who are interested in becoming a successful mascot in the future? What do they do to stand out from the crowd (apart from wear a giant furry costume) and make it a performance to remember? It’s a lot more involved than you think…

 

Japanese mascot culture

As the capital of the Costume Character, we’ll start our journey in Japan (also because it fits in nicely with the introduction to this blog) where mascots play an important part in advertising the local culture… and practically anything else that could possibly have a mascot…ever.

There are various styles of mascot character in Japan and one of the most popular and more recent style of costume is Yuru-Chara. Yuru-Chara mascots are created to promote local areas of interest, cities, regions, businesses or events. They are characterised by a combination of cuteness, unrefined designs and accessories or features depicting local produce, culture or landmarks. Yuru-Chara mascots are big business in Japan (a $16billion industry and growing) and many of them have their own merchandise, anime series and are known globally like the ever popular Kumamon, who was created by the Kumamoto Prefecture (region/district) to draw tourists to the area. Yuru-Chara costumes have their own specific rules to adhere by. These are:

  1. It must convey a strong message of love for one’s hometown or local region
  2. The character’s movements or behaviour should be unique and unstable or awkward
  3. The character should be unsophisticated or laid-back (yurui) and lovable

These 3 simple rules define how these characters are made and how they perform in public. In order to become a Yuru-Chara character mascot, you must be able to abide by these rules and perform within the boundaries of these statements. It takes a lot of determination and creativity to be energetically awkward, lovable and unique in your movements but that can be the make or break of a good performance. Although specific to Yuru-Chara, these rules start to form the basis of what it takes to be a good mascot; entertaining, individual and passionate for the cause.

Mascots across the globe

So let’s leave Japan and talk more generally about mascots across the globe. Playing the part of a Costumed Character is hard, hot and tiring work but ultimately very rewarding if it is done right. Being the centre of attention, all eyes are on your character and it is important to protect the identity of the brand you are portraying. A code of conduct should keep you in line with the core values and beliefs of a brand character, but even without one, a little bit of common sense will keep your character within the ethical boundaries and context of an event. For example, a mascot could act differently at a corporate meet and greet to how it would act a children’s party (although we’re all just big kids really!) and should tailor its performance to suit the audience. Being astute, having the ability to assess a situation and adapt are important factors of a successful performance.

Interaction with an audience also demands a lot of respect from the performer, knowing when to push and when to back off can be a little tricky to read in a big furry costume with limited visibility but this consideration should always be in the back of the performers mind. Playing a joke is only funny when everyone is laughing. Some people can feel self-conscious when being ‘laughed at’ and as a mascot, you need to be aware of this so you can quickly deflect a situation or focus on something/someone else to avoid embarrassing or hurting anyone’s feelings.

A lot of mascot wearers are volunteers, helping out a local cause by turning up and entertaining the crowd. It’s a well-known fact that having a costumed character turn up to a charity event actually increases the amount of donations given by the public but it takes a very special type of person to give up a day of their time to stand in a hot and heavy costume for a good cause. This leads me to my final trait of what it actually takes to be a mascot and in my opinion it’s up there at the top of the list. That important trait is that of a big heart. I personally have nothing but respect for the people that volunteer time to help out local causes with nothing but the satisfaction that they are doing their bit for the cause and with no other payment than a thank you for a job well done….

What it REALLY takes

So, just to re-cap, here’s what I believe it takes to be a good mascot:

  • Be entertaining
  • Be individual
  • Be passionate
  • Be astute
  • Be adaptable
  • Be respectful
  • Have a big heart.

Now a lot of you will notice that I have purposefully avoided talking about the usual physical traits that you see in every other article about how to ‘wear’ a mascot and how to ‘act like a mascot’ etc etc. I can send you a checklist if that’s what you want to know and if you follow it, you’ll learn the basic moves and become a competent mascot wearer. This article isn’t about that. It’s about the type of person and the mental attitude that it takes to become a successful costumed character and ultimately create successful character performances. I believe that the physical side of wearing a costume character can be learnt by just about anyone. Exaggerating your movements, keeping quiet, warming up are all things that can be taught at places like Choko Oohira’s mascot school in Tokyo, but what sets People like Choko Oohira and many other mascot wearers apart is the infectious mental attitude, passion and enthusiasm that spills out of their performance.

A big thank you!

We at Costumes with Character would like to say thanks to you the performer, the beating heart of our industry and the reason why mascots are more popular today than they have ever been. It’s because of your hard work that we’re still in business 30 years on….

If you feel inclined, please have a look through our gallery of costumes and remember that behind every amazing mascot is an equally amazing wearer.

You can visit our costume gallery here.

Video credit to Great Big Story.

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Jargon buster: ten terms to talk like mascot-makers

Every industry has its own technical terms and the costumed character business is no different. Learn to talk the mascot talk and gain insight into some of the lingo we mascot-makers speak with our no-nonsense jargon-busting list:

Full-fur

Sue Sherriff Fox This corresponds to the body of the mascot. A full fur body is effectively a mascot without clothes covered head to toe in, you’ve guessed it, fur. This gives a more realistic animal look and is great for re-creating a traditional Teddy Bear for example. After all, how many real animals have you seen wearing a t-shirt and shorts (no need to answer the question as I’m sure some of you will have experienced the wonderment that is a dog in clothes).

Full-fur costumes are a little hotter to wear and are less flexible than their half-fur counterpart when it comes to changing branding for example. Warning, adding clothing to a full fur mascot can cause wearers to overheat so for most cases, we recommend a half-fur suit if your character is wearing clothes

Half-fur

Partington Primary School Patch Owl As with full-fur, this corresponds to the body of the mascot and is a lighter weight alternative for characters in clothes. In this instance, the body comprises of fur arm gloves and fur legs attached to a mesh adjustable vest that sits over the padding and under the costume clothing.

This option is a versatile choice in many ways; Firstly, the costume can accommodate a number of different wearer heights thanks to the adjustable vest. Full fur costumes usually have a limited height range for wearers (5ft 7″ – 5ft 9″ for example) whereas half-fur is much more flexible. Secondly, half-fur is great for those people who change branding regularly as it is much easier and more cost effective to refresh a range of clothes than it is to replace a full mascot to match your new brand colours.

Plastazote

plastazote One of the many materials used by mascot makers to create shaped body parts and heads, plastazote (or plas as it is sometimes referred to) is a polyethylene foam that is tough but light and easy to cut. Plas is used for packaging, sports padding, swimming floats and many other household items as well as creating amazing mascots.

Here we use it because of its strong yet malleable composition and also because it reacts well to heating and gluing, allowing you to create complex shapes with a sturdy structure. One downside to this material is that it isn’t very breathable so we try to make sure that each plas head or body shape is well ventilated using a combination of coolmax suits and fans and mesh openings.

ABS Plastic

Lego Bricks To give it its proper name, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (now you see why we call it ABS) is an engineering plastic that is impact resistant, strong, stiff and can be moulded into practically any shape using a cast due to its flexibility when heated and to approximately 105 degrees celsius. This makes it perfect for creating mascot heads when identical multiples of the same shape are required.

Vac forming is the process of creating a template of your design in wood, fibreglass or plastazote, then heating and moulding the ABS plastic to that shape. This facilitates the creation of identical items when making a run of costumes. ABS is lightweight, easy to machine and can be painted on and glued to with no issues, making it the perfect material when creating amazing mascot heads.

Inanimate

Mac Mug This is the term we give to a mascot costume that has no moving parts and is based around an object rather than an animal or a human. For example, a jigsaw piece, a building or an item of food could be classed as an inanimate costume. These usually have a rigid structure made of plastazote for the main body, with leg and arm holes so the character can move around and interact with their audience.

Almost any shape is possible and we are lucky to have a specialist team that can work wonders with any design you may have for your character.

Humanoid

Pirate with sword This sounds like something you’d expect to see on Star Trek but it’s a bit more varied than just cyborgs and aliens. Humanoid is the term we give to a mascot that has a traditionally more human shape than the animal or inanimate mascots regularly seen promoting brands.

Humanoids tend to have larger than life human characteristics and are cartoon like in appearance. Noddy or Thames Valley Paramedic Bob for example would be humanoid characters as they appear human in form but caricature like in their design.

Underbody

The underbody of a costume character is what gives it a shape. This is usually a separate garment that is put on before the main body of the mascot and can include padding or hoops to give form to the torso area of the mascot.

Whether it be a tubby tummy for a cuddly bear or the six pack on a cyber-human, this padding can really make a difference to the aesthetics of the outfit. However, all this additional padding can create a lot of warmth for your wearer and there are things that can be done to lessen the discomfort if performing for a lengthy time. These will be discussed further below.

Coolmax suit

coolmax Coolmax is a moisture wicking technical fabric that we offer to keep costume wearers dry and comfortable during long shows. It draws sweat and moisture away from the body and down the fabric fibres to the outside of the garment where it dissipates into the environment.

Used by major sports and clothing brands around the world, it is much more breathable than standard cotton and can be woven into other materials to increase their breathability. Here we use Coolmax Lycra to create a thin and breathable layer for maximum comfort.

Head Fan

Used to circulate the air inside larger mascot heads, these small fans are an optional extra that can increase the length of time a wearer is able to perform in their costume. Physically attached to the mascot head, the battery-powered fan is lightweight and discreet, allowing your wearer to entertain the audience in comfort without cumbersome electronics poking out of their costume.

Cool vest

For the most part, vests aren’t cool. Picture Rab C Nesbitt in his string number and you’ll see what I mean…. Our vests however are cool, or more accurately cooling. The Cool Vest is worn under the body of the mascot and has a number of ice packs inserted into pockets around the garment that keep the wearer chilled to perfection inside the hot costume.
cool vest
Re-useable and very effective, the Cool Vest is one of our more popular optional accessories, especially for characters in hotter climates, such as the UAE or America where the temperature can soar above the dizzying 10 degrees celsius we experience here in the UK…

This list is by no means definitive but should give you a basic understanding of what to expect when mascot makers come back to you with design suggestions. It will give you the knowledge to make a well-educated decision on whether or not something is right for you and possibly even some ideas that you may not have had.
 

If you are ready to turn your ideas into a plastazote inanimate or half-fur humanoid, then head on over to our quotes page.
After reading this article you should know exactly what I mean….

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The top five mascot accessories

Naked Bear

Here at CWC, we regularly see mascots walk out of the door naked, (sometimes physically, not just metaphorically) which is fine and if that is what a client wants, then that is what a client will get, and they always look amazing (obviously) regardless of attire.

However, adding mascot accessories can really open up additional opportunities and will allow you to fully maximise the use of your furry friend and in turn increase your brand awareness out amongst the public. It can also freshen up an already established costume character, giving them a new personality or a fresh promotional purpose.

In this article, I will give you a couple of suggestions that will hopefully get you thinking about what else you can add to your mascot to get the most out of it:

1. Christmas hat

A ChristmaFestive bear Christmas hats hat is a great way to inject some seasonal fun into your furry friend. Whether it be a bear, dog, rabbit, cat, alien or anything else, your character will benefit from having a change of accessories to correspond with the season.

Don’t just limit yourself to Christmas, there are many other festive holidays through the year that you can accessorise for, such as Easter. Perhaps a lovely Easter bonnet? Thinking more about Halloween? A witch’s hat or a pair of devil horns always goes down well at this time of year. Want your bear to help celebrate Hanukah? Add a Kippah, the possibilities are endless.
Top hat Bear

Adding something as simple as a hat can really breathe new life into your costume and keep it relevant all through the year.

2. Alternative branded t-Shirts

Does your company or character perform at different events throughout the year? Instead of T-Shirt design 1having one branded t-shirt (which is a popular choice for many creations), why not refresh it to correspond to each event?

T-shirts are a fantastic way of breathing new life into your company mascot and a great way for your business to advertise specific information to the masses, or update a company logo.

You can choose different colours, sizes and shapes of shirt, you can have it printed on or a vinyl sticker created it’s up to you. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination so think of the shirt as a blank canvas and build your idea around existing information or a completely new design that you like.

3. Gender-specific clothing

Bear in dressHere’s an idea… Turn your boy bear into a girl bear with a lovely pink dress.

A large portion of mascots are typically gender neutral, unless otherwise specified by the client. We make boy mascots and girl mascots in both humanoid and animal form that can be easily distinguished, but for the most part a cuddly character can be either male or female depending on what you accessorise them with.
Bear Hoodie

A second set of clothes can make your mascot much more flexible, effectively allowing you to have two mascots for the price of one. This is especially useful for entertainers who can tailor their costumes to a specific event. For example, a princess party may require a character in a pink tutu, but a superhero party may require capes and masks to appear more macho.

A change of outfit is the most cost effective way to cater to both of these needs.

4. Different heads with different expressions

SnowFace 1As we are going down the list, the ideas for your mascot accessories are becoming more complex and will require additional thought. However, adding an additional head to your mascot is still a great alternative to creating a full new version of your old Costume.

There are many advantages to having different heads for your hairy headliner, and in a similar way to SnowFace 2changing the t-shirt, it can give a fresh new look to a range of different situations. Expressions and hairstyles are two that instantly come to mind when choosing a head style.

Sometimes a character should be cheeky, or at times the character could be happy, or sad or any other emotion that brings about a change in facial appearance. They could have long hair, short hair, dyed hair or anything but the idea that this is the only expression and hair style your character will have can sometimes make the final approval of a design a daunting task.
SnowFace 3

Why not save on the stress and think about budgeting for a variety of different heads that are suitable across a range of engagements? In this case, two heads really are better than one….

5. The ultimate mascot accessory

Now we come to the last point in this brief list and to, in my opinion, the ultimate Lollo and BernieCostume character accessory. The world is awash with popular duos, ever since the days of Laurel and Hardy and the creation of superheroes, there has always been a sidekick.

Even Batman, the most solitary of superheroes had a Robin…. So why not make your character a sidekick or partner to perform with?

The crowning jewel of all mascot accessories, this route has become increasinSparky and Sparklegly popular across the globe. The trend for a second mascot to join the team has been more apparent, especially in the world of sports, with many of the UK’s top football teams now having a male and female mascot to entertain the crowds.

A double act opens up endless possibilities when it comes to audience interaction. A duo can cause double the mischief, ham it up with slapstick and get round a meet and greet much faster than a single character on their own.

It also opens up scope for additional marketing, creating stories around your characters and using them as a means to portray a message to the masses through an acted sequence or short animation on a website for example.

So now you have our top five list of mascot accessories it should have given you some food for thought and will certainly open up a world of possibilities for you and your brand.

Be it hats, clothes, promotional items, heads or full characters, think about ways to get more out of your mascot, increasing shelf life and keeping it current for many years to come.

If all of this has caused you a conundrum and you don’t know if it’s right for your particular character, then give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to help. Our team can advise and offer you an experienced and honest opinion.

After all, we have been making mascots for over 30 years…

Head on over to our costumes page to get some ideas of how you can accessorise your costumed character.

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World Cup Willie: fifty years of fun on the field

Mascots have been an important part of sporting events for what seems like forever. An integral tool in the marketing of an event, a mascot personifies traditions and highlights positive attributes for a host nation at a World Cup for example, or local team, giving public identity to a community and bringing an element of fun into the proceedings.

These costumed characters also facilitate the creation of merchandise, enabling manufacturers of memorabilia to focus on a character when creating a plethora of products to sell on or around the event in question.

Bringing good luck

It’s true, mascots have been around for a very long time (not literally forever but not far off) and the term derives from 1880’s France. Initially, a mascot (or mascotte as it was known across the pond) was anything that was deemed to bring luck into your house or on board your ship and was usually an inanimate object. It could have been a locket of hair, a key or anything that the person felt would increase their luck with its presence. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that ‘good luck’ animals became a regular fixture at sporting events across the globe.

The first animal mascots were escorted to local events in order to entertain the crowd and in some cases, to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. These weren’t the cuddly characters you see today; tGeorge Tirebiterhese were the real deal. Lions, tigers, bears, dogs, pigs, horses and birds of prey were all used by sporting clubs and instantly became a popular feature with the audience, who would cackle and hoot at the escapades of the animal and its trainer as they were paraded around the stadium. There was however something missing. That something was a unique identity and a charismatic personality. OK, now I can already hear you all saying (and I agree) that animals do have personalities, but have you ever seen a cat, bear or any other animal react to the cheers of a crowd and respond by ramping up the excitement? The only reaction I have seen is that of shock and running away when my cat is confronted with any loud noise….

Willie is a winner

WillieSo fast forward to the 1960’s and to one of, if not the FIRST costumed character at a MAJOR sporting event; World Cup Willie. Designed by Reg Hoye (who illustrated some of Enid Blyton’s books) for the 1966 World Cup, Willie was the personification of the proud British spirit. The stocky little Lion, sporting a full Union Jack football kit and boots could be seen everywhere during the competition, invoking national pride into the people of England and cheering the lads on from the sidelines. A full range of merchandise was created to compliment the character and the notion of modern day sporting memorabilia was defined. Nowadays, memorabilia has grown to become one of the most important sources of income for a club or competition. The significance of World Cup Willie did not go unnoticed by other countries, who started to realise the potential of such a character and soon even West Germany and the Soviet Union were joining in with the fun. 1966 was the first and last year that England won the World Cup. Whether or not Willie had anything to do with it I’ll let you decide….

Mascots march on

It’s been 50 years, almost to the day since people flooded through the turnstiles to watch the first game of the competition and mascots have had a place at almost every major sporting event since. Every top flight football game, baseball game, athletics event, social gathering you name it, has some form of mascot character evoking the spirit of competition and ultimately maximising the revenue streams before, during and long after the celebration has died down. By this time, corporate businesses had already begun to embrace the idea and were designing characters to personify their core business ideals. This proved to be just as successful off the pitch and recognisable characters feature prominently in our day-to-day lives, sometimes even without you noticing them. Some great examples of company mascots that you are sure to know are Geoffrey the Giraffe (Toys R US) who has been around since the 60’s, Ronald MacDonald (arguably the most well-known character of all time), Tony the Tiger, Mickey Mouse and the Michelin Tyre Man to name a few but I digress…

Modern day magic

From their humble beginnings to the mascot of modern day, the complexity of sporting mascots has increased with the advancement of technology, allowing mascots to be more lifelike, or even more outrageous than was previously thought possible. Take for example London 2Wenlock and Mandeville012’s very own Wenlock and Mandeville. Gone are the humanoid shapes that were once the staple mascot style, only to be exchanged with weird and wonderful body types as you see in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascots. Although ultimately criticized for their wacky shapes, Wenlock and Mandeville were a large reason for the success of the London Olympics and brought in millions of pounds of revenue with their merchandise, only being surpassed by the sale of the GB team kit. One disadvantage of this body style is maneuverability and top flight sporting clubs prefer to stick to a humanoid body shape so that their characters can race around the pitch, egging on or poking fun at the crowd, coaches and players alike.

Fred and his Friends

Now, we know a thing or two about creating the perfect mascot. Be it for your club, event, corporation or whatever reason you decide, we work closely with some of the country’s biggest sporting clubs to provide them with the ultimate side-line entertainers. Take for example, Fred the Red – the official Manchester United mascot. I pick this example (without any club bias) because it fits in nicely with our article. Due to the success of World Cup Willie, Reg Hoye was asked to draw the original Manchester United Red Devil mascot, which can still be seen on the badge today. A far cry from the current Fred the Red character seen gracing the pitch at match days, United saw the importance of having a brand identity and became the Red Devils to coincide with their badge re-design. 1994 saw the first live version of Fred appear and he instantly became a firm favourite with the fans at Old Trafford and is just as popular today. We’ve been making Fred the Red for over 10 years and he joins the likes of Moonchester (Manchester City), Rover (Blackburn Rovers), Stamford (Chelsea), Deepdale (Preston NE) and many others in our Costumes with Character Sporting Hall of Fame.

CWC Football mascots

All for a good cause

I think it’s also worth mentioning that sports mascots aren’t just for the entertainment of the crowd or for lining the pockets of their local club/governing body, they are also a great tool in raising money and awareness for local and national charities. Clubs up and down the country lend their mascots to good causes because they know the effect that these characters can have on the final fundraising total, with studies claiming a mascot can increase the total amount of money donated to a charity when out and about with a bucket. One thing can be sure, the introduction of Willie and mascots in general at major sporting events across the world has been a positive thing and even in this digital age of computer illustrations and virtual characters, the physical performer still very much has its place at the sporting table and will continue to do so for many years to come.

You can view our range of sporting mascots here

 

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Making your mascot masterpiece – three design considerations

Recently, in our post titled Fur, Sweat and Tears, we discussed what it takes to be a great mascot.

Being astute, entertaining and passionate were some of the key criteria in the ability to perform successfully, along with other physical attributes; but these I felt held less importance as they could be achieved over time with regular performances and a little bit of personal motivation to improve fitness, which has always been a challenge for me…

So I thought this time we’d talk about what actually MAKES a good mascot. Not the physical process of manufacture, which I’ll approach in another blog at a later time, but more around character design considerations when thinking about the actual Costume itself from a promotional point of view. Of course, as with everything there are exceptions to the rule so look at this more as inspiration to give you a starting point when entering the world of the costumed character.

Making it Memorable

If you search the web for mascot design blogs, you’ll eventually come to find that the majority of these posts deal with the creation of a mascot character for your brand or Logo in graphical form. This is a great place to start if you don’t already have a character in mind. Some of these blogs briefly guide you through the design process and considerations for eye catching and simple designs, often giving examples of successful characters and the reasons behind why they work.

Business Insider article on brand mascot design

This article from 2012 goes through a small selection of the more memorable international brand mascots, and gives some of the reasoning behind why they are successful. The general consensus is that the character re-enforces the company message, personifying (or anthropomorphising) the company’s (or product’s) values and beliefs.

snap-crackle-and-pop-cleanOne of the examples briefly mentioned in the article is Snap Crackle and Pop from the popular cereal brand Kelloggs. The names of these characters represent the appealing sound made by Rice Krispies whilst the appearance of the cheeky little elves, with their bold, contrasting colours appeals more to children, giving the cereal a persona and physical appearance they can relate to. A real testament to great character design, Snap, Crackle and Pop have been with us since the early 1930’s, obviously with slight adjustments to keep them fresh and current throughout the decades.

What makes these 3 little elves so successful is that they are memorable characters that have stood the test of time. Mention Snap, Crackle and Pop to someone and they will know exactly what product you are talking about without ever using the product name. For Kelloggs, this is mission complete. Michelin Man, Nesquik Bunny, Mickey Mouse and many others are pinned to the forefront of our minds because they are well thought out and easy to remember characters, irrespective of the multi-million-pound marketing campaigns behind them. Starting off with a good character design is key to the success of your costumed compadre, so take time to consider your original character artwork, the message you want to portray and who you are targeting your message at.

Personality

happy-duck-clean-webSo once you have thought about your memorable mascot and have an idea of what it is you want to create, the next step is to give it some character. Think about your character’s personality and how you would like to portray the sentiments of your business, club or charity to a wider audience of people, some of which will already know your business but the majority may not. This could be your chance to make a lasting impression so getting this right is key to its success.

sad duckOne way to give your mascot a personality, is through the art of expression, and I don’t mean freeform dance (although a dance routine for your costumed character isn’t a bad idea), what I actually mean is the expression on your furry friend’s face. Designers for high profile mascot campaigns spend countless hours, if not days experimenting with various eye and mouth positions to make sure that they are getting the right message across and ensuring their Mascot fits the characteristics of the company. For example, a Halloween based character may have more of a scowl than a smile but it’s all about context.

CreeperOf course, not all mascots have facial features as some can be inanimate objects, or the traditional teddy bear type. In this instance, think more about how your character moves, what they should and shouldn’t do, what they are wearing and how your character interacts with its audience. For example, a football club mascot may be mischievous and active on the pitch, whereas a mascot for a respected high end shop would want to portray itself with a little more decorum…for the most part… The main thing is to make your mascot interesting. It doesn’t necessarily need to be liked (as it could be portraying a villainous character) as long as it does what you set out for it to do.

Customisation is Key

harrods meerkatCustomising your characters appearance to include physical accessories or clothing emblazoned with a company logo for example is a great way to get your message shown to the masses. Not only to the immediate audience, but to people right across the world via the medium of the internet. Over 1 Trillion (1,000,000,000,000 to put it in numbers) photos and videos are taken annually and the vast majority of these find their way on to the internet. Mascots make great talking points and photos of your character are almost certain to end up on the World Wide Web.

Making sure that your brand message is clear and visible to everyone, either through your memorable character design or through other forms of customisation is paramount in catching the attention of potential customers and creating an interest in your brand. Customising your character also makes it unique and specific to your needs allowing you to really get behind it as the face of your company. If you’re struggling for ideas as to how you can customise your mascot, have a look at our Top 5 accessories here.

Memorable design, personality and customisation – the three buzz words to think about when creating your character design. As long as these are taken into consideration, your bear, alien, humanoid or whatever it is you choose to create will stand out from the crowd and shout your message louder than any megaphone possibly could. There’s nothing wrong with looking at other characters for inspiration, of course there are many Lions, tigers and bears out there but just make sure you personalise your character so that it is relevant to you, your business, sports club or charity.

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Six degrees of Welephant

I think it’s fair to say that a large portion of the UK population has heard of Welephant. When someone recently mentioned it to me, I couldn’t help but smile and drift off on a wave of nostalgia about the first time he came to my school.

6 Degrees of Separation

 

The lesson was fire safety and more importantly, how to use a fire alarm correctly. The impact of this big red elephant in his shiny yellow fire helmet was a sure fire reason why my house was safely guarded from combustible hazards and that my smoke alarm battery was regularly tested (much to the annoyance of my parents). Still in use today, Welephant is now the mascot ambassador for The Children’s Burn Trust and an iconic figure in the history of the costume character.

Welephant Shopping WEB

Welephant came to life in 1978 when the Greater Manchester Fire Service ran a children’s competition to design a character to teach young people about fire safety. A 14-year-old girl entered the competition with a big red elephant sporting a yellow helmet, black boots and a fire axe. The name she gave him was Welephant. As a clear winner, the GM Fire Service adopted Welephant and children across the North West began to learn of his existence. The big friendly elephant proved to be a successful acquisition for the GM Fire service who founded The Welephant Club for children in 1984. Being inundated with club applications, other fire departments across the country heard of its success and began to adopt the red elephant for use in their own district. Welephant went nationwide!

1st Welephant

 

By 1986, the first Welephant mascots were being manufactured right here in Manchester by Liz Milnes, founder of Situation Clothing (now Costumes with Character) and were deployed across the country for fire departments to use, promoting fire safety within schools and at family events throughout the eighties, nineties and early noughties. Costumes with Character still produce Welephant mascots to this day, albeit with a few minor adjustments to bring him trumpeting into the 21st century but he is still the same cuddly and conscientious elephant he has always been.

 

So where do the six degrees of separation come in? We’ve all heard the theory that everyone is connected to everything by six steps or less (3.5 steps if you’re a Facebook user) and Welephant is no different. Whether it was on a school visit, or at a local event, someone you know will have a story or have at least had an encounter with Welephant over the last few decades. Here at Costumes with Character, most of us have a story to tell that dates back to childhood, or to when our children were young.

 

Take for example Welephant and AlisonAlison Dermott. Alison was just a young girl when she first encountered Welephant during a firework safety campaign. Being a talented individual even at that age, Alison shone brighter than the other children and won a colouring competition, resulting in some fantastic prizes and the opportunity for a photo with the iconic elephant. It didn’t stop there, Alison’s mum even wore the costume throughout the nineties in the school that she worked for, using it to teach local children the principles of fire safety. Little did Alison know that when she joined the team at Costumes with Character, Welephant would once again charge into her life.

 

Now I’m almost sure you’re sat reading this article with a smile on your face. Not because of my witty wordsmanship or carefully crafted sentences, but because you are remembering your first encounter with the popular figurehead of fire safety. Be it at school, at a summer fete or even in front of a supermarket, Welephant has popped up everywhere and has helped spread the message that fire can be dangerous to children across the country for over 30 years. Here at Costumes with Character, we are proud to have made this mascot since its inception and will hopefully do so for many years to come.