Sparky the Sun Devil has a new look.
ASU partnered with Disney to unveil changes to the mascot cartoon and costume in a Friday press conference at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. It is the first change to the iconic mascot since 2007.
The new Sparky look was influenced by the original Sparky image designed by Disney artist Berk Anthony in 1946. It honors that tradition and takes themes from the Marvel superheroes. He is more animated and athletic on the screen.
The change is aimed at a younger demographic and will be used in comic books and children’s books.
Alumnus Stephen Teglas, the vice president of licensing at Disney Consumer Products, was the main designer of Sparky’s new look.
“The character on the screen — he now has feet,” Teglas said.
This new design and associated merchandise will appeal to more fans, he said.
“He can pose,” Teglas said. “He can swing a baseball bat. He can shoot a basket.”
The new Sparky’s larger, more dilated eyes and updated grin resemble Disney characters, and his body and muscles are much larger than the old mascot. Sparky now has a maroon tail and a trident pitchfork sleeve around his wrists rather than gold and maroon flames.
The back of his head is all black, as are his horns, eyelashes and facial hair. Sparky now wears black boots as well.
“Something we’ve learned from our animation, you have to get eyes and mouth absolutely correct to get the expression,” Teglas said. “You’ll get some expression with the eyes and mouth, and they’ll look too demonic. We did not want to do that here at ASU. We wanted to make sure he had the friendliness but enough toughness. You look at him and you say, ‘OK that looks like a tougher mascot.’ The current mascot, it was great for its day in 1946. It’ll be a tradition here at ASU for years to come, the original Sparky, but it’s time to update the Sparky on-field.”
ASU students also collaborated with Disney throughout the process.
Students at the University’s design school will get to develop future style guides for ASU-licensed apparel and merchandise featuring Sparky in the future.
There was no exchange of cash in the character development created between Disney and ASU by the InnovationSpace program, according to an ASU press release.
“We went back and started looking at how we evolved Mickey over the years,” Teglas said. “We knew we wanted to reach a broader audience and a younger audience and make Sparky a little bit more contemporary. We took inspiration from our Marvel business and our superheroes and really thought we should bring Sparky into the 21st century.”
The concept of a new Sparky was originally brought up at the “It’s Time” press conference two years ago, which unveiled new uniforms, the trident pitchfork and a complete rebranding of ASU Athletics.
This Sparky design took nearly 2 1/2 years to develop. Teglas said the University and Disney wanted to make sure they got the design right and able to stand the test of time.
This is the third redesign of Sparky in the last 11 years. Disney changes Mickey Mouse’s design about every 10 years. The new look has received mixed reviews from fans online after the press conference. A petition on change.org had 100 signatures in just over 90 minutes. At press time, it has 330 signatures from fans disappointed with the change. There’s also a “Bring the old ASU Sparky Back” page created on Facebook.
Athletic Director Steve Patterson said the University used many focus groups while determining Sparky’s new look.
“The current look tested the best and really I think it brings a lot of positive emotions and energy for ASU for many seasons to come,” Patterson said.
The old Sparky logo is not gone forever, though.
This redesign was to reach a broader audience and complement the historical logo, which will still be used at Frank Kush Field, Wells Fargo Arena and on the back of ASU helmets.
Additionally, a full line of apparel and merchandise in both adult and child sizes will feature the old Sparky logo.
The only change is to the actual mascot costume. ASU intends for a new realm of apparel and programming aimed at younger audiences to help children build an affinity with the school and its brand and potentially grow ASU’s grassroots following in the future.
“I’m really excited about the way it came out,” Patterson said. “I think it’s a great look. … It’ll help us with a lot of different uses, whether it’s different teams or uses outside of that. I think kids are going to love it. At the same time, we still got the iconic, original Sparky to be available for the old demographic like me.”
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