The mascots for London’s Olympics were unveiled earlier today. I haven’t been able to shake this image out of my head since I saw it this afternoon. It’s an epic nightmare, the sort that makes you break out in a cold sweat.
Meet Wenlock and Mandeville. That’s right — Wenlock and Mandeville. Wenlock is named after a town known as Much Wenlock, and Mandeville is named for Stoke Mandeville — English towns that bear some significance in the Olympic games. As names for towns, sure. As names for mascots? These are the sorts of names you’d give to the villains in a Harry Potter novel. Goblins, perhaps.
What message do these mascots send to the world about London in 2012? Picture it: A dystopian, post-industrial city still reeling from the effects of early ’90s rave. A rainbow cuts through a drab brick building, blinding everyone within range. These cyborgs have their hands in the air. They’re waving ’em like they just don’t care. They’re posing in front of the rainbow, ready to pounce, standing in front of what looks like hopscotch circles. They each have one eye; the blog Deadspin helpfully describes them as “Cyclopean eyes representing England’s Big Brother police state.” The Guardian takes it a step further, noting that the eyes actually are cameras: “With a metallic finish, a single large eye made out of a camera lens, a London taxi light on their heads and the Olympic rings represented as friendship bracelets on their wrists, they resemble characters dreamed up for a Pixar animation.”
Characters dreamed up for a Pixar animation? That seems a little bit generous. The LA Times notes that they look like cell phones. The design critic Stephen Bayley, quoted in the Telegraph, calls them “appalling computerized Smurfs for the iPhone generation.” I think they look like really tragic ravers — characters dreamed up for the logical conclusion of Adonis’ ominous Chicago house classic “No Way Back.” Wenlock and Mandeville are too far gone, and there’s no way back. I know what music these mascots were listening to when it happened: Happy hardcore (obviously) and really brutal gabba — real thrashing 170-bpm stuff. Then they suddenly froze. The beats kept flying at them, faster and faster, ricocheting off the walls like shotgun shells. They were moving faster and faster, and then…nothing. Wenlock and Mandeville’s last journey into sound was in ’95.
For the sake of comparison, let’s wheel out the Vancouver mascots from 2010:
They’re creepy as well, in that wide-eyed, Sanrio way, but they look positively cuddly in comparison. The Guardian, again: “Organizers hope Wenlock and Mandeville will rank alongside the more fondly remembered mascots, such as Waldi the dachshund from the 1972 Munich games and Misha the bear from the 1980 Moscow Olympics – rather than the much maligned Izzy of Atlanta 1996.”
Let’s take a look at Waldi and Misha, shall we?
Here’s Waldi the dachshund from Munich:
Waldi is really German. You can tell. Just look at him. (Look, I’m saying this because I love Waldi. And Germany.) He looks a bit Bauhaus, Waldi. He has the clean lines of a classic chair designed by Mies van der Rohe. Look how perfectly horizontal his back is! And the top of his head is parallel with his back! His face is practically a right triangle. The colors are muted, nothing garish; the mushy-peas green stripe next to the forest green stripe is a daring contrast, even.
Then there’s Misha the lovable, androgynous bear from Moscow, circa 1980:
Who doesn’t love Misha? Misha was so popular, in fact, that he even inspired a Bear Cub Misha Lover’s Association in Japan. And check out this psychedelic and utterly nonsensical Japanese Misha cartoon:
Right. Back to Wenlock and Mandeville. Watch out, world. They’re comin’ at you. Hands in the air.