The mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies has become the latest celebrity to succumb to peer pressure and go under the knife for plastic surgery. It was more than just a tummy tuck or a simple nose job, though – the Phillie Phanatic got the entire mascot makeover.
Perhaps he should have been called Phillie Phanatic, Jr., since the differences are so great, and the original designers are upset. They call the “new and improved” mascot an “affront” to their intellectual property rights, as well as to Phillies fans.
It was only a matter of time that Phanatic would have to be updated – it’s already 42 years old. The new design was unveiled ahead of the team’s exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Florida yesterday, and it would be hard to conclude that this is the same Phanatic from before. It now has flightless feathers, instead of fur-colored arms, stars surrounding the eyes, a powder blue tail and matching blue socks. Phanatic also has scales under the arms and trots around in red shoes. Even the derriere wasn’t left untouched, as it is now larger than ever before. Instead of a green and blue tail, it is now solid blue.
There has been a degree of tension between the Phillie Phanatic’s creators, Harrison/Erickson out of New York, and the team for the past couple of years. The company was hoping to renegotiate the contract it signed with the Phillies in 1984 for the mascot, threatening to make him a “free agent” if the team didn’t acquiesce by this June. The Phillies responded by suing the company in August in Manhattan over the threats.
Harrison/Erickson is run by Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson, who also created Miss Piggy from the Muppets. They sold the rights to use the design of the mascot to the team in 1984 for $250,000. That agreement ends on June 15, and the pair are attempting to do what any entrepreneurs would do – get a better deal.
In a statement released by the company today, the pair accuse the MLB team of a “lack of good faith in negotiating for an extension of the copyright assignment.” They added, “For more than 40 years, we have worked closely with the Phillies, making all the Phanatic costumes, providing artwork and ideas until June of 2018. The Phanatic has performed successfully for the Phillies and the city of Philadelphia for decades. The ‘business decision’ by the Phillies to roll out this ‘new’ Phanatic is a transparent attempt to deny us our rights under of the Copyright Act. We would love to have the real Phanatic continue with the Phillies.”
The Phillies argue that no new agreement is needed and that Phanatic owes all of its success to the team. However, copyright laws are on the side of Harrison and Erickson, and Philadelphia should simply swallow its pride and work on a fair and equitable agreement. If the team wants to continue using a mascot called Phanatic, it will most likely be forced to provide adequate compensation.
The man who portrays Phanatic, Tom Burgoyne, doesn’t see any issues. He asserted to The Philadelphia Inquirer that it is “still the same old Phanatic, just with a little more sashay in him,” adding that items like the fur, jersey, hat and other details have “changed a little bit over the years.”
The fan reaction has been mixed – some like the changes, some want things to go back to how they were, and others essentially didn’t realize that anything was different. Those who are against it have even started a social media movement using the #NotMyPhanatic.” hashtag to help garner support for their cause. Fortunately, Gritty can still represent the Philadelphia Flyers without much of a fuss.