Barely a week after Arizona State University unveiled a modern version of its costumed mascot, a growing chorus of students and alumni is demanding the old Sparky back.
Two Facebook pages, a student-generated YouTube video and an online petition have sprung up, calling on ASU to reject the new version of Sparky that was designed in partnership with Walt Disney Co. Some alumni have threatened to hit ASU where it hurts — in the pocketbook — by withholding donations.
Even the University of Arizona’s mascot, Wilbur the Wildcat, commiserated in a tweet: “It’s a sad day for the mascot world! Even though I can’t stand ASU it truly is sad to see a mascot ruined.”
ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution last week seeking to ban the new mascot from sports events. A student referendum on the new Sparky, which would only be symbolic, could take place next month.
The makeover is part of a new marketing campaign designed to endear Sparky to a younger generation. The new mascot has superhero features, including big eyes and bulging muscles, that focus groups said are more kid-friendly. At a press conference on March 1, the new Sparky, surrounded by cheerleaders and a marching band, was a hit. Outside, the reaction on the Internet was harsh.
“Absolutely horrible. Whose e-mail do we bombard for this?” one reader wrote on azcentral.com. “Sparky looks like he is on meth,” another said.
A few days later, the State Press campus newspaper and website weighed in:
“He looks like a villain from a Disney movie — the kind of villain that scares the hell out of you as a child and haunts your dreams.”
The new Sparky looks like a cross between Jafar in Aladdin and the Honey Nut Cheerios bee with a bit of Buzz Lightyear thrown in, the State Press said. “He definitely doesn’t make you want to take pictures with him at football games.”
Terri Shafer, a spokeswoman for ASU, said much of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding that the university is changing the iconic Sparky logo created by former Walt Disney illustrator Bert Anthony, who was an ASU alum. The new character will not replace the logo, she said, only the costumed mascot.
At ASU, the old Sparky isn’t gone yet. He is still scheduled for appearances until his successor takes his place at the April 13 spring football game.
What is your take on the new Sparky?Like it? Hate it? Even Care?