Updated: Oct 7, 2018
On this September night, I am sitting outside my local watering hole, Starbucks. With espresso in hand and my trusty laptop glowing in the night, last Friday of the month, there is a common theme of conversation.
Seated next to me, people are talking about Gritty. At first I thought they were talking about their experience on eating a poorly cooked steak. I then quickly looked down at my screen, typed the word into my computer and my reaction was a pure Chucky-like fear! I thought to myself;
" What the hell did they do? It's frightening, with Chucky- like eyes and grimacing smile. It's as if Snuffaluffagus and Mike Sullivan had a dysfunctional child they named Gritty."
"Hi Mom, I'm Hoooome!"
The Flyers organization held out as long as they could, being only a handful of teams in the NHL not to adopt a mascot. Pressure mounted and I can hear the echo in the GM's office now.
"Find me a mascot children will love, so we can get more kids to the game!"
But I digress, I wanted to know more about the creator of Gritty and I found him, Brian Allen. I located his home studio company called, Flyland Designs and reached out to Mr. Allen. He is a Penn State College graduate with an advertising degree, living in State College, Pennsylvania, who worked with companies like Marvel, Hard Rock Cafe and Chick-fil-A.
Here is my brief interview with Brian;
A.A Par: Brian I see you worked for some gaming companies?
Brian: I work at a company and my mentor worked for a large gaming company, I do not remember the gaming company's name but, I learned more from him then anyone about my craft.
A.A Par: How would you describe your style?
Brian: I have been often compared to the 80's and 90's mad ball cartoons, and skateboard art, which is enjoy.
A.A Par: Is your style trending more in your direction with all the 2D and 3D drawings going on in the industry?
Brian: Absolutely! I think it is trending in the way where people are looking for more line cartoon style drawings. However, I am flexible in what the client wants and can adapt my style, as for example like the Philadelphia Flyers.
A.A. Par: Let's talk about how that came about and being aware that your taking on a project whose brand was associated with the Broad Street Bullies, and as you know Philly can be a tough group to please.
Brian- I can not tell you it has not been intense at first, but the Flyers wanted to have a mascot to appeal to children, in order to usher in the next generation of Flyers fans.
A.A. Par: There have been some fans that just don't like the mascot. What do you say to them?
Brian: That was to be expected but what fans have to understand is that we designed Gritty, for your children so it is natural that traditional Flyers fans may not like the character but, it is for your children, not for adults.
A.A. Par: Take me down that creative process in discovering a new mascot, which I can respect, given our time in developing characters in our new children's book "Noony & The Medallions of Aragon," so I understand the process but why don't you tell the readers about how this came about.
Brian: Sure, so the first step is I take all the NHL mascots out there to make sure Gritty does not resemble any of the ones out there, which does not leave you with many options. I came up with 30 different animal cartoon pencil design options for the Flyers to choose. They chose 25 and I went to work sketching each one as a mascot. I believe the Flyers wanted something like the Philly Phanatic type macot, not too specific to a specific animal, so from the beginning we were leaning toward a Jim Henson, muppets and Sesame Street type character.
A.A. Par: How did they come up with the name Gritty? Did they do focus groups or did you come up with the name?
Brian: I did not come up with the name. I don't know if they did any focus groups but I like the name. I mean it is a hockey game so it had to have a tough name to carry the Flyers brand.
A.A. Par: Brian, it was great talking with you and congratulations on Gritty. Did the Flyers organization invite you to a game to take a picture with Gritty?
Brian: They did. My son and I are going to attend a game next month. I hope to get a photo next to Gritty.
Whether you like him or not, Gritty is here to stay and if you want to know if Brian and the Flyers organization got it right, well just ask your child. They have a better handle on cartoon characters than us adults do.
Contributing writer: A.A. Par- Noony Studios