Flat Eric is a fictional puppet character created by Quentin Dupieux 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 Philippe Petit) around California, evading the police as a wanted criminal.
Flat Eric 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 United Kingdom 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.
He was made by Janet Knechtel for Jim Henson's Creature Shop, in the United Kingdom, and was performed by Drew Massey for all the Levi's commercials. The Levi's adverts 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.
He was featured in the music video for "Flat Beat" by French musician Mr. Oizo and he also appeared as a prop in Series 1 of the 2001 to 2003 BBC comedy The Office. In August 2004, he co starred with David Soul, in a five million pound television advert for Auto Trader. He has also appeared on The Big Breakfast. The puppet also featured heavily as a prop for more than ten years on SIC Radical interactive chat show Curto Circuito, being usually named as "Boneco Amarelo" (Portuguese for "Yellow Puppet").
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