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From the mascot’s mouth – notes from a costume performer, part 1

10 real challenges facing a mascot performer

the_toony_bin_cat_costumeMark Velvick is a talented costume performer based in the south of England. Mark, through his company The Toony Bin, has played a wide range of characters from football mascots to well-known children’s characters. In this blog, Mark shares his experiences and 10 challenges faced when performing as a mascot character:
From my perspective, mascot and costume character performance is one of the best jobs in the world. Even the most rewarding jobs can have their obstacles, however, so here are my top 10 in no particular order:

If you can’t stand the heat…

Wearing a mascot costume is a literally ‘hot’ topic even if you’re standing still for a meet and greet. The more active you are and the higher the ambient temperature, the worse it will be. Staying hydrated is a must during these times. After all, the worst thing a mascot can do (aside from de-head in public) is pass out during a performance.
This is something I’ve seen happen and something I’ve even experienced. Heat exhaustion starts from the moment you begin to feel unwell. If you start to feel faint or dizzy, it’s time to get out of there. Other signs are nausea, excessive sweating, rapid/weak pulse and cramps. You may experience one or all of these but knowing the signs can save you a lot of hassle and even save your life!

Peekaboo! Wait, where are you?

Some costumes have more limited vision than others and many people still don’t understand this about mascots. I have heard people many times utter the words; “Look at the camera”, in moments where I’d be lucky to see the person even saying that. You need to be aware of the limitation of vision your costume has. Walking into or tripping over things you can’t see is pretty embarrassing. Not as much as tripping over people though…

Watch who you’re stepping on!

You’ll often be walking or dancing about, only to find your limited vision filled by someone who has walked straight out in front of you without a second thought. Try as hard as you might you will sometimes trip over people. It’s best to let your minder apologize and explain the situation whilst you just do your best to act sorry for what happened. Whether it was your fault or not, just be apologetic. Some situations can be defused with just a simple “Sorry”.

These feet were made for walking… right?

Segueing neatly into the next challenge, ‘mobility’. Some costumes are great and let you perform in any way you think works best for the character. Others… well, others look wonderful but the most you’ll be able to do is shimmy on the spot or wave a little. Walking is out of the question sometimes and you’ll either be reduced to a waddle, or your steps will be so small you might as well just stand still.

Breathe in.

Nothing to do with your respiratory system, think more about getting a new pair of jeans. There isn’t much worse than showing up for a mascot gig and finding the costume was meant for someone half your size (this did happen to me once). There are times where you think you’ll fit because you’re smaller than the maximum height, only to find the costume completely swamping you. Knowing the recommended performer height in advance is a must.

What’s that smell?

I’m not talking about breaking wind in costume (though I will recommend not doing that), I’m referring to some companies who are happy for a mascot to make them money, but never willing to spend any on maintenance. Some costumes will have several years of sweat in them and I feel sorry for anyone who picks the short straw for those like I have a few times. If you see black mould growing anywhere inside the costume, turn the gig down. Your health is more important.

Do you feel a breeze?

This does bring up another issue I’ve faced a few times. On occasion the costume will be spotless and clean at first glance, only to find everything inside is falling apart. From cracks in the plastic head to broken harnesses, torn fabric to missing body parts, there’s no real excuse for such things except being too cheap. Mascots are a big investment that someone is supposed to perform in. It’s like a mechanic trying to fix a car with half the tools missing, it just won’t work as well.

Ow, my neck!

The few times I have managed to injure myself in costume, my most common injury is neck strain. Mascot heads often sit on the performer’s own head or shoulders. Either way, it is regularly supported by the neck due to the helmet or harness inside. Taking regular breaks every 20-40 minutes can help reduce this problem and proper stretching will also help. If the head is supported by a metal rod down the back, just make sure it won’t injure your spine during a performance. Again; your health is most important.

What did I ever do to you!?

On some occasions, you’ll be the target of harassment. Mascots are not supposed to take on members of the public so it’s down to your minder to deal with the problem. Never actively retaliate against someone who is ‘attacking’ you. Defend where possible until they’re gone or get your minder to remove you from the area. If security is available such as at a theme park or shopping centre, make sure your minder knows to get their attention before your first time out as the character. Try not to lose your head, it’s not uncommon for these kinds of people to try and remove it…

Mind the minder.

Oh, the joys of working with a minder who can not only help to guide you but can interact on your behalf and improve the overall experience for everyone. What a shame they’re so rare!
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been to an event or gig and the minder that was drafted in last minute was completely clueless. Often poking at their phone whilst you’re performing, unsure of how to help you dress and ignorant of your gestures when you need assistance or a break, despite going over it repeatedly beforehand. A terrible minder can spoil events no matter how good a performer you are. If you’re able to get through without, it’s better than having a bad one.

Despite these 10 challenges, I still love mascot and costume character performance. To be honest, these unfavourable times are few and far between. Rare as they are, it’s always best to know in advance and to prepare for all eventualities (like buying shin pads)!

Prepare for the worst, perform like the best.

If you would like to share your story, hints or tips or just want to say hello then click here to contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

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Dye sublimation printing – the basics

What is dye sublimation printing?

dye sublimation t-shirt bear
Dye sublimation printing is a relatively new form of technology that uses specially-formulated inks, transfer paper, a printer and heat press to create eye-catching and vibrant prints on polyester based fabrics. One of the main advantages of using dye sublimation is that during the process, the special ink fuses directly to the fabric fibres creating a permanent image that is bold, colour fast and washable.

 
It’s something that we’ve used at CWC for some time to create intricate patterns and colour-matched fabrics for mascot clothing but its uses don’t stop there. Almost all polyester fabrics can be dye-sublimated, making it a fantastic choice for printing flags, banners, table cloths, canvas prints, cushions and clothing for example.

The process of dye sublimation printing requires 3 key elements to be successful. These are heat, time and pressure. The combination of all 3 turns the inks from a solid to a gaseous state, which then penetrate the fabric fibres whilst under pressure. This creates a permanent bond between the ink and the fabric. Temperatures must be more than 180 (approx.) degrees centigrade (356 degrees Fahrenheit) to successfully transfer and bond the ink to the polyester fabric.

Natural vs polyester

A question we often get asked is ‘Does your fabric have to be polyester for dye sublimation printing to work?’ In short, the answer is yes. Natural fibres such as cotton do not hold the correct characteristics to be successfully sublimated and will cause a dull and washed out print if attempted. Poly cotton blends of around 60% polyester 40% Cotton can be used successfully but the higher the polyester content of the fabric, the more vivid the final transfer will be. This is due to the construction of the polyester fibres or polymer cells within these fibres to be precise. Heating causes these cells to open, capturing the gaseous inks within their structure. As they cool they close again, effectively sealing the colour directly into the fibre. The more polymer cells, the more colour can be trapped in the material and the brighter the final image.

The printing process

roland texart sublimation printerPrinting – Once you have finalised your design, it will need to be uploaded into the dedicated software on your computer to be processed. RIP software (stands for Raster Image Processing) is effectively an advanced printer driver designed to get optimal results from your machine. From within you can edit the image, resize and format it to the desired profile for your printer. The RIP software stores all the colour profiles required to faithfully recreate the original design. Once your design is ready to print, it is sent by the RIP software to the dedicated printer and is printed out onto special transfer paper. Dye-Sublimation printers can come in a range of sizes. Ours at CWC HQ is just over 1.5m wide, making it useful for a whole range of sublimation tasks.

Pressing – Once you’ve printed your design, you’re ready to press your image into the fabric using one of several different heat presses: Small format, calendar, flatbed and 3D vacuum. As we deal mainly in the sublimation of inks into the fabric, we have both a small format and a calendar heat press. A 3D vacuum heat press is useful for mugs and mobile phone cases but is not something we would use very often

All heat transfer presses fundamentally work in the same way; set the temperature, prepare the material and press the image onto the material with heat and pressure for a set time. This creates a permanent, clear and vibrant image has now been added to your material. A calendar press works like this but facilitates longer print lengths by moving the fabric through heated rollers.

Variable factors

klieverik calendar pressThe dye sublimation printing process sounds relatively simple, right? In theory at least but in practice, there are several variable factors that can affect the final results. The right heat, time, pressure and humidity are all concerns when striving for the perfect print. Some fabrics sublimate better at higher temperatures, and some at lower. Some fabrics flatten under high pressure, some require more pressure for the ink to embed itself. As you can see it’s a fine balance between all these factors to ensure your print comes out looking its best.

It’s nice to pick a topic that gives us the opportunity to tell you about the processes involved with making a costume. As you can see with dye sublimation printing, not only is it a fundamental part of our costume business, it also opens a whole world of opportunities to expand our offering and give the same care and attention to another branch of our business. If you want to learn more about the sublimation services we offer then mosey on over to our printing page or contact us on this form.

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Marathons and mascots: a guide to running in costume

marathon Legs

Participating in a marathon for many of us, is a superhuman feat. Over 26 miles of relentless running and jogging, or in many cases, walking and limping to complete a course designed to challenge even the hardiest of runners. Dedication, hard work and determination are required to complete the course, not to mention the mental strength to push beyond the ‘wall’ and keep those legs pounding the pavement to success.

For the most part, marathon runners can be categorised into three groups: The super-fit people that do it for kicks, jostling for position on the PB (personal best) leader board of their local running club or on the latest fitness App. There are those looking to better themselves physically, using the marathon as a goal to work up to, giving their training a purpose with a goal to achieve and then there are those selfless individuals who do it to raise money and awareness for charities across the country (and the world), raising millions of pounds each year for many a good cause. Regardless of what group you fit into, the notion of increasing the challenge to include the additional layers that a costume can add seems crazy and yet there is no better way to get noticed out on the course. With the Greater Manchester and London marathons just around the corner, we thought we’d explore some of the considerations behind wearing a costume on race day.

Firstly, you will be running for a long time. Most mascot manufacturers will tell you that stopwatchthe maximum recommended time to wear a typical mascot costume without a break is approximately 30-45 minutes or shorter for more energetic performances. This helps prevent dehydration, overheating and general discomfort to the performer. Additional considerations to the character design should be made when running a long distance to ensure the safety of the competitor inside the costume. A costume suitable for running should adhere to the following points:

  • Lightweight
  • Well ventilated
  • Comfortable
  • Flexible and well fitted (Skin characters)
  • End above the Knee (Inanimate characters)

Running in a costume that does not address these simple points can be uncomfortable and ultimately unsafe; risking dehydration, fatigue and an endless amount of chafing for the person unlucky enough to wear it. The average time for completing a marathon (elites aside) is around the 4-hour mark so you can see why the well-being of the runner is paramount in all decisions regarding the manufacture of the costume.
Ambrosia PotFrom a makers’ perspective, there are a few additional considerations that can be made to assist in the comfort and safety of the runner. Amendments to a costume design to include additional vent holes throughout the character head, or open spacing where there would normally be a gauze layer (such as the mouth) all help to increase air circulation around the runner. We’ve even changed designs so that the head of the runner is visible if that is their preference.

Character feet are usually oversized and generally difficult to run long distances in. Spat style shoe covers in the style of your character can be made to go over running trainers, allowing you to compete without the concern of stumbling over or tripping up other competitors amongst other podiatric concerns.

Meryl lycra (or CoolMax) material can be used in place of heavy, warmer matPercy Pigerials like fleece or foam to keep the runner cool. Meryl lycra has moisture wicking properties and draws sweat away from the body to the outside of the material where it disperses into the air. This type of fabric is typically found in sportswear so is perfect for active costumes and a great choice for those running a marathon.

So now you’ve got a costume that fits correctly, is well ventilated and lightweight, what next? It would take someone very special to just go out there and run a marathon without any prior preparation, especially in a costume, so let’s have a look at the build-up to race day and what you should do to get yourself ready for the big event.

Pre-race training

marathon mile 20You should start your training well in advance of the event and build up towards running a longer distance each month. It’s not recommended that you run a full 26 miles in your training. There’s something quite unique about running with like-minded people in an exciting atmosphere that can’t be replicated in training and you’ll find the miles fly by at the event. Running 26.2 miles is difficult for your body to recover from and can have a negative effect on your training efforts so keep this for race day. Ensure that you run shorter distances regularly and you’ll see much more benefit.

Training to run as a costumed character will require some additional efforts to guarantee you have a safe race and the aim is to be prepared and to manage the expectations of what you can achieve in costume. No one is expecting you to smash your PB but they are expecting you to have fun and make it round the course in one piece. Here’s some advice to help you prepare for the challenge ahead.

Firstly, knowing a little about your character is essential. Turning up on the day to find out the costume is too big or too heavy is going to scupper your chances of completing the course. If you are planning to use your own costume then buy it as soon as you can. If it is a costume for a charity or company then speak to them and try to get access to the costume early. Sometimes this may not be possible due to prior engagements and if this is the case, get some details that will help you prepare. Size, weight and material are all important questions in your quest for preparedness and answers you should be able to get relatively easily. If you can get access to the costume then put it on and take it out for a short run to ensure that it feels comfortable and secure. Wearing it before the event will allow you to iron out any issues before it’s too late, such as ventilation and how hot it will get. Once you have an idea of how the costume feels to run in and have addressed any issues, you can then put it to one side until the actual event so as not to cause any damage or unnecessary wear and tear.

backpackNow you have an idea of how it feels to run as your character, you can start to adjust your training routine accordingly. Running with a backpack and gradually working up to the equivalent weight of your costume is a great way to prepare your body for the additional layers, allowing you to feel the difference that a few extra kilograms can add without the need to wear the costume and risk damaging it. This gives your body chance to adjust to the added strain and will make race day a much more pleasant experience. Remember not to push too hard and that completing a marathon in training is counterproductive to the end goal.

Another great tip is to train in warmer clothing. Most costumes will add layers and layers equal additional heat. Training in a thick jumper for example will allow your body to become accustomed to the raised temperature that you would expect to feel inside a costumed character. Fluids will vanish rapidly with the additional heat so get used to drinking plenty of water. A camel pack will ensure you have access to fluids throughout the race. This is especially important if your costume covers your face and makes it difficult to drink from a bottle or cup.

Race day

Hopefully by this point you’ve been training hard and are now as prepared as you can be for the gruelling run ahead. You’re on the start line and ready to set off down the course, dressed to the nine’s in a local charity’s cat costume and you’re raring to get the race underway. With most the hard work over, all you have to do now is complete the course and you’ll be a local hero. However, completing the course is easier said than done, especially wearing a mascot costume. Sure enough, the crowds and atmosphere will pull you along for some of the way but there are a few key pointers that will help get you to the finish line.

Ambrosia Man MarathonFirstly, start nearer to the back of the pack than you would do out of costume. At the back is where the slower competitors start but it’s also where a lot of the atmosphere is created. Serious runners will block out the crowds and strive to finish in as fast a time as possible. Your aim shouldn’t be that when dressed up. It should be about creating awareness for your chosen charity or brand, participating with the crowds and other competitors to give them a ‘show’ on the way round. Pace yourself correctly and you will achieve a respectable time but if your aim is to beat your PB then perhaps running in a costume isn’t for you.

Being dressed as a character is an open invitation for people to tell you what they think. Be it good or bad, expect comments from people throughout the event and try not to take the negative ones to heart. It takes a certain kind of someone to don a Costume and run 26 miles so much of what you will hear and see should build on an already amazing experience for you and those around you.

As mentioned in the pre-race section, your costume will become hot and you are likely to lose fluids faster than the average ‘naked’ runner. Drinking fluids regularly is paramount to staying safe throughout your run and is worth pointing out again. Short sips rather than big gulps should help to regulate your hydration more effectively and the simple rule is to only drink when you feel thirsty. That way you avoid the issues of both dehydration and over-hydration by listening to your body, which brings us nicely to our next point…

Percy Pig MarathonPlay it safe. If you start to feel unwell, or in pain then stop or take a break. There’s nothing more important than your health and if this is being challenged then there is no shame in pulling out. After all, if Paula Radcliffe can stop 22 miles into an Olympic event with an injury, then don’t feel bad about pulling up short of your target if you need to.

Lastly and most importantly, Enjoy yourself. When you’re out in the middle of the field and you’re getting some well-deserved cheers and applause from the spectators and other runners, that’s the time to really take it all in and seize the day. You’re doing something that not everyone can do so be proud. Take in the atmosphere and you’ll soon find that the miles fly by as you get caught up in the fun. You’re also part of the entertainment and it’s thanks to costumed characters like you that the event is enjoyable for other people to watch.

One more point for race day that I chose to mention last because it’s very important is that Vaseline (or equivalent lube) will become your best friend. Make sure you bring some with you to alleviate the pain of chafe. Not everyone suffers from it but there is no doubt that the addition of a costume increases the likelihood of this phenomenon occurring so plan-ahead and reduce the rub….

Post race

stamford marathonNow is the time to bask in the glory of your success. You’ve made it to the finish line and hopefully you’ve had a great time getting there. There’s no doubt that you’ll be feeling the strain of the course but the goal you have achieved is something to be very proud of. Take time to rest, take on fluids if you need them and make sure that you warm down thoroughly.

After you’ve had chance to recover, now comes the time to sort out your costume. If the costume is your own, follow the washing instructions and make sure you dry it thoroughly in a well-ventilated area. Spread the costume out so that it has chance to air and you’ll reduce the smell that damp can create for future uses. Charities and companies may not expect you to wash the costume as some will send it in for a professional wash and clean after each event, but to keep the costume in good shape make sure it is dry before packing it up again. We’ve seen (and smelt) the effects that damp can cause on a costume and it’s not very nice, especially if it’s you that has to put it on next.

Here at CWC we have plenty of experience in creating characters with running as a consideration and can help with designing the perfect costume for you or your organisation. We also offer a full professional character refurbishment service, so if your character crosses the line and comes back a bit whiffy, you know where to send it for a bit of TLC.

Hopefully this has given you some useful tips for the next or first time you decide to run in a costume. Be it marathon, 10K, 5K or Park Run, entering a character into the event is a fantastic way to raise awareness and become a sure-fire hit with the spectators. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you will have one of the most entertaining races and who knows, you might even get the bug.

If you’d like advice, or would like to talk to us about creating a costume for your run, we’re only too happy to help.

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Ten reasons why your costume is in good hands

Good Hands

‘Trust me’ is a big statement. It’s a statement that shouldn’t be used without the confidence and ability to back it up, but it’s a phrase often misused by those who aren’t trustworthy.

Any Tom, Dick or Sally can sound out the words and make them believable whether they have the relevant experience or not, but can they put their product where their promise is?

Thankfully, if you’re reading this article then you have found the golden unicorn. A company that can put reasons behind why your costume is in good hands and when we say you can trust us to bring your design to life, rest assured we have the skill set and ability to do exactly that. Below you will find 10 clear reasons to let you know why we’re one of the good guys.

31 years of experience.

Established Sign31 years is a very long time. In this time, we’ve seen some pretty serious events across the globe, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the birth of the iPhone and Brexit it’s been some ride, but thankfully we are still here and we’re not getting off any time soon. Since our inception in 1986 (as Situation Clothing), we have encountered thousands of different costumes and clients, each bringing its own valuable experience and lessons to learn for the next costume challenge ahead. Time however stops for no man, and as techniques change and costumes become more ambitious, we continue to learn and grow. Albert Einstein said it best when he said ‘The only source of knowledge is experience.’

Our costumes are truly hand-made.

What we feel is one of the most important aspects of design, and one that sets us apart from the rest, is that our fabulous costumes are all fabricated by hand in our dedicated studio. We have the skills and know-how to bring your designs to life. Our hand-made costumes come with bags of character, patterned and crafted in-house by our skilled makers, with the added luxury of being fully customisable throughout the process, giving you the opportunity of total control over your costume.

Only the best materials will do.

We work with some of the best fabric and foam suppliers to ensure we have Furthe highest quality materials available to us. Whether it be fleece, foam or lycra, we’ll source the best samples to ensure our costumes not only look good but have the quality to make them last. We also work very closely with the UK’s largest remaining Fur manufacturer allowing us to customise our orders, giving us lots of control over the final product. Be it Pantone matched, short or long pile, the possibilities are extensive. What sets us apart from the rest is that regardless of budget, the quality of our materials stay the same.

Dedicated, built for purpose premises.

We are very lucky to have a fantastic studio that has been purpose built for our profession. We have dedicated areas for all aspects of our services, including a dedicated and spacious drying room and refurb area, well ventilated spray and glue rooms, printing rooms, a cosy meeting room, photography studio and a large production workroom space with pattern, cutting, props and sewing all working closely together. Because our premises are fit for purpose, your costume can receive the attention it deserves in the right environment for the job.

In-house design team.

character Design ExampleWe have a wealth of experience in creating brand ambassadors for clients right across the globe. Our in-house design and illustrations team have helped to create some fantastic characters of all shapes and sizes, designed in a way that can be replicated in costume form whilst managing the clients’ expectations of how the character costume will look. Too much detail, complex shading or complicated shapes make it very difficult to replicate in real-life so you can be sure the design you receive from us will be very close to what you get with the end product. Any additional graphics or detailing on costumes is no problem thanks to the skills of our fantastic team.

An extensive library of shapes.

refurb washing machine cow Over the years, we have created some fantastic character heads. When we create something truly brilliant, or a client requires a shape repeating for a multiple character, we have our hand-made originals turned into vac forming tools. For those who don’t know, vac forming is the process of heating ABS (or other) plastic until it is soft, then using suction to mould it around a solid shape (tool), allowing it to cool hard before use. ABS is a lightweight and durable plastic that is perfect for creating strong character heads and allows us to rivet additional support and further accessories into place. Our preferred method for creating character heads, these ABS moulds cover all the most common shapes, allowing us to quickly re-create a high-quality base from which to work from. As we have over 30 years of costume making history, you can imagine that our library has grown into something quite extensive…

Dedicated refurbishment team.

Not only can we make your fantastic design a reality, but we can also keep it looking as good as the day it was brought to life with our in-house dedicated refurbishment team. Thousands of costumes and years of experience in this department make us the best choice for refurbishment of your brand ambassador. Why trust an inexperienced dry cleaner with your expensive character costume when there is a team of knowledgable professionals who know exactly the best way to wash, dry and repair your rotten rabbit, pongy panda, or dirty dog (you get the idea).

Repeatable characters.

We guarantee that all the characters we have brought to life can be repeated if necessary. It’s just good practice to ensure that all the fabric details are recorded accurately, the patterns are stored away and any additional costume information is kept in a safe and secure place for the future. Sometimes we get customers who want a new version of their 10 + year-old character. If we have made it then that’s no problem. We’ll be able to replicate the costume as we will have the original details filed away, saving you (and us) time and money whilst maintaining the high standards of the original costume. This is one of the reasons why all the UK’s major holiday parks choose us to make their mascots.

After-sales support for the lifetime of your character.

We know that our journey together doesn’t stop once your costume has left our building. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a fantastic new adventure for you and your team. Who knows where your character will take you over the next few years but if there’s anything you need, we’re here to help. It doesn’t matter if you bought your costume from us yesterday or 10 years ago, we will try our best to guide you with advice, instruction and tips and tricks on maintaining and performing in your character.

Repeat custom.

At the end of the day, the proof is in the PADDING (mascot-related joke for you there). We have some amazing clients that come back to us year after year because they are happy with the quality, service and support they receive from us. We simply love what we do and we try and put that into every aspect of the job. Be it sales office, production floor or mascot performance, you can be sure that we’re giving it 110% because we’re mad about mascots.

If you want to have a look at some of the fabulous costumes we’ve created over the years, head on over to our costume gallery pages to get inspired for your very own amazing Mascot!

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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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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.