When the official logo of the 2012 London Olympics was released three years ago, the odd puzzle-piece design was the object of so much scorn that organizers were desperate to avoid similar criticism when they unveiled the mascots for the Games on Wednesday. With the introduction of Wenlock and Mandeville (above), London 2012 organizers realized their goal. The criticism of the mascots won’t be similar to the complaints about the logo. No, they’ll be much, much worse.
Look, I don’t know what to say. Olympic mascots have always been the object of scorn (remember Izzy?), but these two, uh, things take the absurdity to a whole new level. There’s a complicated backstory to the characters which was written by a children’s author. It explains why the mascots have one eye (it’s a camera lens to see the world) and yellow lights on tops of their heads (an homage to London taxicabs), but fails to tell the tale of why they look like early rejects from a Pixar movie. Plus, the fact that some details are explained only makes me wonder about the things that aren’t. Why does the one on the left look like it’s wearing an oven mitt? Where are their feet? What, are both those design features a metaphor for how we can’t run away from global warming?
Officials boasted that focus groups of children helped form the designs of the mascots, which makes total sense because this looks exactly like something a bunch of second-graders would create as a class project. It’s like Wenlock and Mandeville were pieced together from every child’s suggestion. “They should have one eye!” “It’d be cool if they did karate!” “Make them fly!” There was no filter. Instead of simple (like the only good Olympic mascot in history, Barcelona’s Cobi) London went for a design as complicated as can be.
The natural defense of the mascots is that they’re not designed for adults, but for the children who will convince adults to buy them a bunch of merchandise with said mascots. That’s a cop-out. Pandering to children isn’t an excuse for an uninspired design. The aforementioned Pixar caters to kids, yet its films still resonate with the older set.
Wenlock is named after Much Wenlock, a village in Shropshire which held an event in the 19th century which inspired the modern Games. Mandeville is named after the hospital at which the Paralympic Games were founded. Though both sound like Tolkein characters, the names are quite good and are the only thing that makes the mascots distinctly British.