Upon Further Review: London's one-eyed mascots more creepy than cuddly

 

By Brendan Perkins
Herald Sports Editor

Fresh from the what-were-they-thinking file comes this.

If you haven’t seen the mascots for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games— and instinctively recoiled a few feet at the sight of them — get ready. Wenlock and Mandeville will be lurking around the city in the upcoming weeks, accomplishing just the things you want out of a good mascot: prompting a mix of confusion and mockery among adults and scaring the holy bejabbers out of kids.

These one-eyed, steel-bodied robot creatures look like they’re right out of a straight-to-DVD sci-fi flick. On Wenlock and Mandeville’s website (yes, really), their anatomy is explained, except for the one question I really want to know. Why in the world does Wenlock’s single, freaky eye compose about a quarter of his body?

You have a fairly good idea of how this all went down. The designs for Olympic mascots are months, maybe years in the making. Teams of designers, artists and experts. Hours of brainstorming and fine-tuning. And this is what they came up with.

A pair of creatures who look slightly less sinister than Kang and Kodos, the people-eating space aliens from the Halloween episodes of “The Simpsons.” Somehow, Wenlock and Mandeville beat out more than 100 other proposed mascots. I’d hate to see the contents of the reject pile.

I have no mind for marketing and am not artistic (hand turkeys is where my talents max out), but it seems sensible that if you’re going to install a cycloptic figure to embody an event witnessed by billions worldwide, at least dress it up a little bit. A friendly, grandmotherly eye that’s just baked cookies. A sweet-looking eye with frilly eyelashes. Wenlock and Mandeville, with their giant, vacant eyes with a single black pupil, look like the sort of creatures who will eat you instead.

That is, if they had mouths. They’re also without noses, ears and feet. But Mandeville does wear a “personal best timer” around his wrist that “helps keep track of performance.” Phew. Thank goodness my fictional Paralympic mascot is able to properly record his mile splits.

Oh, but they get weirder.

Somewhere within their gargantuan eye, the description for each mascot says they have a camera that allows them to record everything — but there’s nothing resembling a camera on their bodies.

Covert surveillance has never been cuddlier!

There’s a way to make weird work. The Phillie Phanatic is hideous but hilarious, engulfing fans’ heads with his snout and gyrating his furry, green bowlful of jelly. The Stanford Tree can dance. Arizona’s Scottsdale Community College has the Fighting Artichokes. Odd, but Mr. Artichoke is at least smiling. And he’s a good source of magnesium.

In an effort to appeal to a global audience when it comes to Olympic mascots, the resulting incarnations seem to be unappetizing all around. Athena and Phevos, anyone? The hand-holding blob people from the Athens Games look like the handiwork of a talented fourth-grader. British actor Ewan McGregor called Wenlock and Mandeville a “one-eyed joke,” considering the country’s artistic heritage.

So, parents, gear up for 17 days of nightmares by your children about “that scary thing from the TV.” Nothing is emblematic of the power, athleticism, triumph and diplomacy of the Olympics quite like a little dude with a steel body, one eye and an extraneous fin.

And if you want, follow Wenlock and Mandeville on Twitter. (Wenlock’s up to almost 16,000 followers.) In fact, I’d recommend it. Until you do, they’ll be watching you.

Herald Sports Editor Brendan Perkins can be reached at bperkins@dcherald.com or 482-2626, ext. 111.

 




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