Ahead of the Phillies’ spring training home opener on Sunday, they have unveiled their “evolved” Phanatic mascot, drawing mixed reaction from fans.
Sunday’s Grapefruit League home opener marks not only a new era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball under manager Joe Girardi, but also unveiled a new, “evolved” look for the beloved Phillie Phanatic.
“Over the last 40 years, the Phanatic has evolved,” Phillies EVP David Buck recently told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “He’s evolving a little bit more. The changes are creative. I think the fans will like them.”
Changes to the slimmer-looking Phanatic, first revealed by NBC Sports Philadelphia, include a smaller and different-sized snout; longer tail with a lighter color at the end; as well as new shoes and socks, along with new scales along his arms.
Phillies fans on social media have mixed reaction on the changes.
The Phanatic’s new look comes in the midst of the Phillies’ lawsuit with Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison. It is believed the organization made changes to the Phanatic so they can legally continue to use the mascot beyond June 15, the last day they maintain rights.
Erickson and Harrison were hired to design the original Phanatic costume back in the late 1970s. The Phillies purchased rights to the Phanatic in 1984, however NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury notes that federal law allows artists to “renegotiate rights to their work after 35 years.”
Two years ago, the duo informed the organization, according to Salisbury, that they would seek to “wrest the rights to the Phanatic away from the team unless it paid them millions.” In response, the Phillies filed a lawsuit against Erickson and Harrison in New York federal court last year, contending the Phanatic’s rise from a costume to an icon is the result of their own doing and investment. Hence, the organization believes the Phanatic is their rightful creative property.
If June 15 passes without a resolution, the Phillies are prepared to move forward with Sunday’s version of the Phanatic. They believe there are enough changes to use it. If there is a resolution beforehand, the Phillies seem likely to return to the Phanatic that they used through Saturday.
The Phillies will persist to try and settle the dispute ahead of the June 15 copyright deadline, but Buck noted it “doesn’t always work that way,” adding, “we have to protect the Phanatic. It’s our icon. It’s our cultural icon.”
Sunday’s unveiled changes to the costume act as insurance to do just that.
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The Phanatic has had several changes over the years from when he first debuted, but none before as the result of legal woes. Buck told Zolecki he thinks it would be “naïve” to think the Phanatic’s “evolved” look is not because of the lawsuit.
“But at the same time,” Buck continued, “he has changed over the years. There have been little changes as things go on. … If you look at the current one, there are probably 10 or 12 changes over the last 40 years that no one has ever noticed.”
Among Buck’s noted changes are from this past season, when the Phanatic sported Bryce Harper‘s gifted shoes and copied Andrew McCutchen’s shoes, as well as different color socks.
So, while the Phanatic has a new look, his charisma and the joy he brings to millions of Phillies fans each year will surely remain the same.