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Mascots at World’s Fairs: A Touch of Whimsy

Most people know that mascots are created for the Olympic games, but did you know that World’s Fairs have their own mascots as well?  Mascots help promote World’s Fairs by engaging younger visitors. Some have proven to be so popular that they stick around for years after the Expo ends!

The first mascot made his appearance at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans.  To promote the theme, “The World of Rivers, Fresh Water as a Source of Life”, the organizers created a 7’6″ tall white pelican named Seymore D. Fair.  He not only graced marketing materials and souvenir shops, but also took part in promotional tours throughout the US and Europe. During the fair he wandered around the site, greeting visitors who would rush to have their pictures taken with him.

The official mascot of Vancouver’s Expo ’86 was Expo Ernie, a robot on wheels that was voiced remotely. He rolled around the fair site, interacting with guests and entertaining them with his sense of humor. Prior to the fair’s opening he was sent on a whirlwind global tour but complained that organizers stuck him in cargo class.  “I was engaged to a parking meter”, he once quipped, “but she expired.” He became so popular that eventually he was given a dedicated spot at the kids’ area so that fair visitors would know where to find him. He made some post-Expo appearances, but his career as an ambassador ended when he was purchased at an auction for $53,000.

Korea’s first world’s fair, Expo ’93, featured Kumdori, a mascot described as a cosmic sky elf. Translated into English, Twinkle, the Dream Being was the name of  an animated television series that aired in the US and South Korea in conjunction with the fair. Kumdori was a much-loved character, and the fair’s amusement park, Kumdori Land, remained open to the public until 2012.

Twipsy, the mascot for the 2000 Hannover World Expo, was depicted as an abstract burst of energy. The character had one large oblong arm that allowed him to fly, and two different shoes: one flat and one with a high heel. He was the central character of a televised cartoon series that first aired in Germany in 1999 and took place in cyberspace. Twipsy merchandise ranged from  stuffed plush toys to T-shirts, mugs, watches and other souvenirs. Postage stamps in Twipsy’s image were also released.

Tying in with the theme “Nature’s Wisdom”, Japan’s Expo 2005 in Aichi featured sentient bushes that helped promote eco-friendliness. Kiccoro, a newly born and energetic forest shrub, was accompanied by forest grandfather Morizzo, an easygoing, wise, and kind old tree. They were so popular that horticulturists all over Japan began clipping hedges into their likenesses, and the pair were brought back for an appearance at Expo 2008 in Zaragoza Spain three years later.

The  mascots for  Expo 2020 Dubai are nine-year old Rashid and  his eight-year old sister Latifa. Rashid is interested in saving the environment while his sister is passionate about science and technology.  Salama, the ancient Ghaf tree on the Expo grounds, has charged them with completing tasks, unlocking secrets that will lead to a brighter future. They are accompanied and assisted by guardians of the three Expo pavilions:  Alif (Mobility), Opti (Opportunity), and Terra (Sustainability).  Their exploits are currently being chronicled on the official Expo 2020 Dubai website, www.expo2020dubai.com.

Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on March 2, 2020

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