Izzy was the official mascot of the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics. Named Whatizit (What is it?) at its first introduction at the close of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, the animated character with the ability to morph into different forms was a departure from the Olympic tradition in that it did not represent a nationally-significant animal or human figure.
Conception and introduction at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
In 1991, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) began a search for a mascot with a competition of twenty design firms as well as suggestions from the general public. The selection, Whatizit, was designed by John Ryan, senior animation director of Atlanta-based design firm DESIGNefx. Whatizit originally appeared as a blue, tear-shaped "blob" with rings around his eyes and tail. He wore high-top sneakers and had star-shaped pupils. His arms and legs were also short with a toothy grin showing both rows of teeth. He was later modified to have longer limbs to give a more athletic look.
After a very critical reception to Whatizit's introduction during the closing ceremonies of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, ACOG began work to reshape the character specifically focusing on children, who were far more attracted to the character than adults.
His greatest change came about after he lost the bottom row of teeth and gained a nose. He was then referred to as Izzy. Also, his tongue became visible, and his limbs became longer, skinnier, and more athletic in appearance.
Izzy's Quest for Olympic Gold
ACOG commissioned an animated television special entitled "Izzy's Quest For Olympic Gold" to promote Izzy and expand his backstory. Produced by Film Roman, the special aired only once on TNT on August 12, 1995, and is now considered to be a lost piece of media.
Despite continued efforts to evolve his look, Izzy proved very unpopular; a range of nicknames appeared in media outlets, such as "The Sperm in Sneakers." Busch Gardens Williamsburg, a theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia, named a new Wild Mouse roller coaster after the mascot, but the name has since been changed. A popular joke that circulated in Atlanta around the end of the 1996 games stated that the blue line painted on Peachtree Road (which actually designated the route for the Olympic Marathon) was "Izzy's ass being dragged out of town."
Izzy served as the player's character in a video game titled Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings, released in 1995 by U.S. Gold for the Super NES and Genesis platforms. An adventure game entitled Izzy's Adventure was released for PC in 1996.
- The Official Report Of The Centennial Olympic Games (PDF). Peachtree Publishers. 1997. p. 130. ISBN 1-56145-150-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-28.
- Levine, Felicia (1996-08-06). "Dizzy Izzy isn't busy, is he?". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved 2007-06-20.
- Kowalski, Frankie. "The Great Adventures of Izzy--An Olympic Hero for Kids". Animation World Magazine. Retrieved 2007-06-20.
- "More marketing disaster than success". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
- "ProReview: Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings". GamePro. IDG (69): 46. April 1995.
- "Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings". Moby Games. Retrieved 2007-06-20.
-  photograph of Izzy, on a mascot manufacturer website.
- izzypins a website devoted to Izzy the Whatizit.
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