For the past 67 years, Sparky has been the beloved mascot of ASU.
Hardly anyone was silent when ASU announced the new redesign — Sparky’s 14th makeover. A few people really liked the “V For Vendetta”-esque visage, but most of us despised the Jafar-Buzz Lightyear hybrid monstrosity.
The Arizona Republic ran a front-page story about the wave of contention regarding the new Sparky. The Phoenix Business Journal and the Bleacher Report also covered the story.
The State Press covered the reaction of the ASU community and, soon after, University officials declared that students would be able to participate in yet another update by selecting new Sparky’s facial features.
While those at Disney who oversaw the makeover involved student groups in their focus testing, the initial meetings occurred as long ago as 2010.
During The State Press’s semesterly meeting with ASU President Michael Crow, he said that there was a “lack of engagement with the process,” and that the combination of the “surprise announcement, the lack of refreshing of the (student) engagement” were the primary factors in the Sparky backlash.
The need for transparency in a university the size of ASU cannot be denied. The Sparky controversy is a case study in student engagement and openness, not only for ASU, but for similar institutions as well.
“Anything we’ve ever done, there’s people for it and there’s people against it. (People) were more upset about the process, or the lack of process,” Crow said. “I’m hopeful that we can get a better design and learn something from the process.”
The design team from Disney were the ones to approach ASU about “modernizing” Sparky on a pro bono basis, as it had helped the University design the original mascot.
While Sparky’s makeover has been in the works for more than a year, Crow said that it was important to have some continuity in the Athletics Department.
“Obviously, we weren’t going to put out a new Sparky in the middle of a coaching change and an athletic director change. Somewhere along the line, somebody decided, well, let’s just surprise everyone with this, and they’ll really like it,” Crow said. “Well, have you ever had a party that (you) thought was going to be really good, and it wasn’t so good?”
It’s refreshing that a large institution would take heed of criticism and accommodate the naysayers.
Sparky will always be evolving. The important thing is that students and the ASU community as a whole have a chance to voice their questions and concerns about the process.
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