Flat Eric is a low-tech, yellow puppet character from Levi's commercials for Sta-Prest One Crease Denim Clothing, built by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. His name comes from an idea for a commercial that included having a car run over his head and flattening it. The idea was not used but the name stuck. In the commercials, Flat Eric would ride with his friend Angel (played by Phillipe Petit) around California, evading the police as a wanted criminal.
He was featured in the music video for "Flat Beat" by French artist Mr. Oizo (aka Quentin Dupieux) and he also appeared as a prop in series 1 of the 2001–2003 BBC comedy The Office. In 2004, he co-starred with David Soul in a five million pound TV advert for Auto Trader magazine. He has also appeared on The Big Breakfast. The puppet also featured heavily as a prop for more than 10 years on SIC Radical interactive chat-show Curto Circuito, being usually named as "Boneco Amarelo" (Portuguese for "Yellow Puppet").
He was based on a puppet called Stéphane that was similar but with ears and the hands were fixed. Stéphane appeared in some short films by Mr. Oizo (including a video for the track M-Seq), and had a small cult following in the UK and France. In 1999, Levi's decided to build a television commercial campaign around the puppet, to be directed by Oizo. The character was renamed Eric, a more "international name", in contrast to the original French name Stéphane.
Flat Eric was made by Janet Knechtel for Jim Henson's Creature Shop, in the UK and was performed by Drew Massey for all the Levi's commercials. The Levi's ads took three days to shoot. The original short films made with Stéphane cost around 15,000 francs to produce. The two Levi's ads cost around two or three million francs each. The rights to the character were retained by Oizo and production company Partizan.
- "Entertainment | Flat Eric's cruise to the top". BBC News. 1999-03-20. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- Carolyne Ellis (2000-08-29). "Eric exposed | Media". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- "David Soul partners Flat Eric in £5m Auto Trader ad - Brand Republic News". Brandrepublic.com. 2004-08-25. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- "Is Flat Eric an earner? | Media | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. 1999-03-30. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- "Flat Eric: King of the World". Heat (Bauer Media Group). 1999-04-03. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- "Advertising icon Flat Eric to be resurrected - Marketing News". UTalkMarketing. 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- Phillips, Dom (2001-03-31). "No strings attached | Media | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-10-14.