Captain Birdseye, also known as Captain Iglo, is the advertising mascot for the Birds Eye frozen food brand founded by Clarence Birdseye. Appearing in numerous television and billboard commercials, he has been played or modeled by various actors and is generally depicted as a clean living, older sailor with a white beard, dressed in merchant naval uniform and with a seafaring accent.
The mascot is a reference to the brand's extensive and well-known range of frozen seafood products, of which fish fingers is probably the most-widely known. Because the Birds Eye brand is marketed to families, many of the advertising campaigns feature Captain Birdseye as having a 'crew' composed mostly of children in the preteen to teenage age groups, encouraging brand loyalty from children and emphasizing the convenience of serving the company's products to their parents. An advertising campaign in the UK in 2005 features Captain Birdseye categorically proclaiming that Birds Eye frozen ready-made meals contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, with obvious references to the products being healthy and nutritious to children.
The actor most associated with Captain Birdseye was John Hewer, a Lowestoft man who played the character from 1967 to 1998. His tenure was interrupted by a hiatus in 1971, when the Captain was killed off by Birdseye, with an "obituary" in The Times announcements section:
Birdseye, Captain. On June 7th, 1971, after long exposure, life just slipped through his fingers. Celebrity and gourmet. Mourned by Sea-Cook Jim and the Commodore, in recognition of his selfless devotion to the nutritional needs of the nation’s children.
Birdseye decided to resurrect the character three years later, on 22 July 1974, to bolster its brand against rising competition and rising prices resulting from the Cod Wars. Hewer was brought back to portray the Captain, who soon recaptured his popularity with children. In 1993, he was named in a poll as the most recognizable captain on the planet after Captain Cook.
For a while in the late 90s, Captain Birdseye became a much younger, rugged, dark-haired man with designer stubble and a miniature submarine, who indulged in far more action-packed adventures accompanied by his pet pelican named Pedro, the advertising agencies presumably believing that the older white-bearded man would no longer have the same appeal to children as he once did. This version played by Thomas Pescod did not last long however, and the old version soon returned, now played by Martyn Reid, whose elder brother James was an extra in the first John Hewer instalment.
- In the UK television sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Derek Trotter once mockingly called Uncle Albert 'Captain Birdseye', in reference to their similar appearances and Uncle Albert's naval past.
- The Goodies parodied the adverts as 'Captain Fishface', ending with a note saying "Captain Fishface has your children. If you want them back send 2000 wrappers from Fishface Cod Pieces (after all...ye don't know what goes into my rissoles, do ye?...)"
- Spoofs of the Birds Eye commercials featuring "Captain Fishy, the man with the fishy fingers" were featured by DJ Steve Wright on his BBC Radio 1 programme in the UK in the early 1990s.
In Germany he is known as "Käpt'n Iglo", in France as "Captain Iglo" (the word "captain" being in English), in Portugal as "Capitão Iglo", in Italy as "Capitan Findus", in Spain as "Capitan Pescanova" (being a younger captain with a yellow uniform), in Greece as Kaptain Iglo (Κάπταιν Ίγκλο) and in The Netherlands and Belgium as "Kapitein Iglo".
- Strange, Hannah (19 March 2008). "John Hewer, original Captain Birdseye, dies aged 86". The Times. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- "Captain Birds Eye actor dies, 86". BBC News. 18 March 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Farquhar, Simon (20 March 2008). "Obituary: John Hewer". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2009.