Students, alumni oppose new Sparky design

The old Sparky costume, on the left, featured sweatpants and flames. The newer design, on the right, was designed in collaboration with Disney. Alumni and student reactions to the new mascot have been mixed. (Photo Courtesy of ASU Media Relations)

The old Sparky costume, on the left, featured sweatpants and flames. The newer design, on the right, was designed in collaboration with Disney. Alumni and student reactions to the new mascot have been mixed. (Photo Courtesy of ASU Media Relations)

Some students and alumni are outraged after ASU and Disney unveiled a redesigned version of Sparky the Sun Devil.

ASU intends to appeal to a younger generation with the new Sparky, which is more animated, with larger, dilated eyes and an athletic build resembling characters from the Marvel Comics.

Since his creation in 1946, Sparky has undergone more than 10 total changes, but this redesign is the first since 2007. The mascot has undergone a few minor changes since 2007, including some adaptations to include black and a redesigned pitchfork when ASU unveiled new branding in 2011.

Although the new Sparky was created to appeal to a broader audience that includes children as well as ASU students and alumni, students have mixed reviews on the change.

Health sciences freshman Erik Turtle said the new design looks terrible.

“It looks like it was made for kids, not college students or alumni, because of the anime style,” he said. “The previous Sparky was cartoonish, but this is different.”

Criminal justice and psychology sophomore Kyle Kowalski said the new Sparky design does not look aggressive enough to be a mascot and instead looks creepy.

“This Sparky isn’t the Sparky I knew back when I was younger,” he said. “Sparky isn’t supposed to seem friendly. He is supposed to be fierce.”

Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Mark Naufel said he not only disapproved of the redesign but was against the decision not to consult students before making any official changes and against not putting the change to a vote.

He said he meets with ASU’s athletics department on a frequent basis as part of his duties as student body president, and yet the redesign was never brought to his attention.

“We were completely blindsided,” Naufel said. “Up until the day they revealed it, it was kept a secret.”

One of Naufel’s major objections was that ASU outsourced the project, he said.

He said even if students and alumni were unhappy with the changes, they might be hard to undo if ASU is bound by any contracts signed with Disney

“The intentions were to make money, and I don’t mind the T-shirts and merchandise, but don’t change the actual mascot costume,” Naufel said. “He was changed to make a profit.”

The Tempe USG Senate passed a bill stating its objection to Sparky’s redesign and the manner in which it came about at its Tuesday meeting.

“I’m all for change and advancing,” Naufel said. “This isn’t a small change; it’s a whole rework.”

Other fans took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their disapproval of the Sparky the Sun Devil redesign.

The creators of “Bring the Old ASU Sparky Back,” a Facebook page with 950 likes as of press time, said they were upset because the redesign was not put to a vote.

According to the page’s “About” section, this campaign aims to maintain ASU traditions and keep the old design. The page’s owners had not responded to a message and wall post as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

A section of the page’s “About” section reads, “(We) support ASU 110 percent, but sometimes just can’t understand why ASU wants to change a good thing. Change isn’t always a good thing.”

Fans are encouraging all those that are unhappy with the changes to voice their opinion to ASU President Michael Crow and other media relations spokespersons.

ASU alumna Jen Bergmark said she is against the redesign because it looks very different from the original Sparky.

Bergmark, who is involved with the ASU community in the Los Angeles area, said she was upset because there was zero communication before the unveiling of the redesign between ASU and alumni.

“When I first saw it I thought it was a joke,” she said. “I am super involved. How did I not know?”

She said the major adoption of black as a school color is another change that has her unhappy.

“Our colors are maroon and gold, not black and gold,” Bergmark said. “Sparky is a recognizable mascot. To change his face, and colors, feels so un-ASU. Sparky didn’t need a facelift.”

 

Reach the reporter at ppineda@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @paulinapineda22