So yesterday I was idly wondering who or what the mascots were for the Beijing Olympics and a little scrounging turned up the Fuwa or the ‘Five Friendlies,’ who are pretty cool. Student worker here at the library has all five dolls and I gather they’re hot tickets in general, so hey.
To quote some official stories about each:
Sumi is an animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia. Like many Canadians, Sumi’s background is drawn from many places. He wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the strong furry legs of the black bear.
Sumi’s name comes from the Salish word “Sumesh” which means “guardian spirit.” Sumi takes his role very seriously. He works hard to protect the land, water and creatures of his homeland. Sumi is a great fan of the Paralympic Games. He’s determined to learn all the sports, so he can play and race with his animal friends all winter long.
Transformation is a common theme in the art and legend of West Coast First Nations. Transformation represents the connection and kinship between the human, animal and spirit world. Revered animals, such as the orca whale, the bear and the thunderbird, are depicted in transformation through masks, totems and other forms of art. The orca is the traveller and guardian of the sea. The bear often represents strength and friendship. And the thunderbird — which creates thunder by flapping its wings — is one of the most powerful of the supernatural creatures.
Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends. Although Quatchi loves all winter sports, he’s especially fond of hockey. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie.
Because of his large size, he can be a little clumsy. But no one can question his passion. He knows that if he works hard and always does his best, he might one day achieve his dream. Quatchi is always encouraging his friends to join him on journeys across Canada. He is also often recruiting others to play hockey — or at least to take shots at him!
The sasquatch is a popular figure in local native legends of the Pacific West Coast. There is both a legendary ‘woman-of-the-woods’ (a slightly fearsome figure whose stories are told to discipline young children) and a ‘man-of-the-woods’ (a shy giant who lurks in the forests). The sasquatch reminds us of the mystery and wonder that exist in the natural world, igniting our imagination about the possibility of fantastical creatures in the great Canadian wilderness.
Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, out past Vancouver Island near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.
All summer long, Miga rides waves with local surfers. But during the winter months, she often sneaks onto the shores of Vancouver to seek adventure. When Miga discovered that humans were ‘surfing’ on snow, up in the mountains, she knew she had to join the fun. Snowboarding soon became her favourite winter sport. Her dream is to land a corked 720 in the half-pipe one day… It will take lots of practice, and a few falls along the way, but she’s sure she can do it.
The sea bear is inspired by the legends of the Pacific Northwest First Nations, tales of orca whales that transform into bears when they arrive on land. The Kermode bear is a rare white or cream-coloured sub-species of the black bear that is unique to the central West Coast of British Columbia. According to First Nations’ legend, Kermode bears — also known as Spirit Bears — were turned white by Raven to remind people of the Ice Age. Orcas are also honoured in the art and stories of West Coast First Nations, as travellers and guardians of the sea.
If you go to this page you’ll be able to watch a short cartoon about how these three came to be buddies and frankly the darn thing is a total charm of a production. I semi-snarkily described it as “Vancouver + Olympics + twee + the influences of Sanrio and Pete Fowler (the Super Furry Animals art guy) + First Nations legends + Kid Koala + marketing + ignoring reality + drugs” but for all that it does put a gloss on Vancouver — friends who have lived and/or regularly visit there are open about its downsides — the point is that there’s always gotta be some room for flat-out happy fun, otherwise why are we all getting out of bed each day? (And the Kid Koala mention is intentional — he does do the music, and it’s a great example of his style applied to a particular medium.)
The creators of the mascots, who are interviewed elsewhere on the site I’ve linked, are an LA/Vancouver design company, Meomi, consisting of Vicki Wong and Michael Murphy. Their own site is an equal gas and I’m all for their getting more attention in general as the next Winter Olympics approaches.
Stuff like this makes me happy — and as the title of this blog post indicates, I can’t get Quatchi’s voice out of my head. And why not?