Gus the groundhog
The original concept for Gus was created by MARC USA, an advertising agency based in Pittsburgh, PA. The concept was brought to life as an animatronic groundhog, created in 2004 by The Character Shop, Inc., a Hollywood creature effects company.
Gus appeared in television commercials at the beginning of every month, as well as throughout the winter holiday season, which were aired in all television markets in Pennsylvania, with overlap into portions of all of Pennsylvania's neighboring states where Pennsylvania television signals are available. As of February 2011, the Pennsylvania Lottery claimed that Gus has appeared in more than 50 commercials. In 2008, a girlfriend named "Gabby" was introduced to the Pennsylvania Lottery commercials, and the two were shown visiting the Pocono Mountains every Valentine's Day, as a nod to the importance of romantic tourism to that region's economy. Other "family members" have also appeared in commercials.
Gus required 5 puppeteers to operate. One operated his head and body, one did his arms, one for his mouth and lip-sync, and another 2 for the rest of his facial movements. His face was incredibly expressive, with dual axis ears, eyes up/down. eyes side/side, and blinks, 2-axis eyebrows, nose up/down, 2 axis jaw, smile, and 4 axis lip movement. Due to Gus's small size, many of the servos needed to provide his animatronic functions are mounted externally, with the cables running through spring housings on their way up to his head.
Gus, with his lovable, wise-cracking personality, gained some popularity with Pennsylvanians; however, the Pennsylvania Lottery would not offer plush replicas of Gus for sale despite customer requests because that organization believes that such a toy would advertise the lottery (a game which is restricted to adult play) to children.
Gus has also appeared dressed in both Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers uniforms with other similarly uniformed men in a licensed co-branding with those two National Football League teams, as certain instant games are branded for those teams.
On February 22, 2012, the Pennsylvania Lottery announced that the campaign with Gus will be discontinued, so they can focus on a new campaign explaining how the PA Lottery benefits older Pennsylvanians but he returned on November 1, 2015 onwards.
However, Gus' heralded "return" was in an updated, and newly popular computer digital image (CGI) The decision to convert the popular character to pure CGI was initially somewhat controversial, prompting petitions and social media pages to be created to "save" Gus from transforming from a real life creation to one that has no real interplay with the other on-camera actors. However, those worries proved to be unfounded as the new CGI Gus is more colorful and his "interactions" with the other actors very realistic.
- Character Shop website about creation of Gus Retrieved 2011-02-10
- Punxsutawney Spirit article on Ed Rendell, which mentions both groundhogs Retrieved 2011-02-12
- Gus commercial shoot in Philadelphia Retrieved 2011-02-10
- Character Shop page on Gus' 40th commercial Retrieved 2011-02-12
- Pennsylvania Lottery instant games fun facts page - you need to refresh to see all of Gus' facts Retrieved 2011-02-10
- Delaware County Times article on filming Gus commercial Retrieved 2011-02-12