Georgia Magazine - October 2021 - 34
By H.M. Cauley
Tucker mascot company
creates costumed characters
s a student at the University of Georgia in
Athens in 1969, Tom Sapp designed a poster
that featured a bulldog illustration for a
fraternity. Then he went even further, building a dog
costume in his basement to bring the drawing to life.
The concept sparked a bigger idea that led Sapp, an
illustrator, into the world of making mascots.
For the last nine years, Sapp has been the
creative director of the Alberta, Canada-based
International Mascot Corp. at the company's Tucker
office, which opened in the late 1980s to supply the
needs of the Atlanta-based Cartoon Network.
Inside the 15,000-square-foot warehouse and
workshop, a team of seamstresses, fabric cutters,
sculptors and designers assembles the sometimeslarger-than-life
costumes for organizations throughout
the nation and in 30 countries. Chick-fil-A cows,
Tony the Tigers and Sock Puppets for the Burlington,
N.C., summer collegiate baseball team are a few of
the fun, fuzzy characters they bring to life.
" I've got more than 200 characters, from pro
sports teams to elementary schools, " Sapp says. " And
we often hire the performers to wear the costumes at
events or trade shows. "
Among the most popular: those spellingchallenged
" We've done about 5,600 cows for both adults
and children to wear, " Sapp says. " The fur is made
especially for the costumes, and every time a roll
comes in, we lay the pattern out to make sure the
spots are in the right place. "
(Insider secret: The spots are always in
the same place.)
The company also has produced mascots for
Olympic events, Pep Boys auto-supply stores and the Little Caesars pizza
chain. Among the 1,500 costumes the Tucker team turned out last year were
about 200 Tony the Tigers, who makes appearances nationwide to promote
Kellogg's products, and more than 200 Angry Birds to promote a movie
for Sony Pictures. The crew also repaired, cleaned and stored outfits that
needed some TLC.
" We never know where the next order will come from, " Sapp says. " I
might get a call from a school in Wisconsin or a client who doesn't know
what they want. Sometimes people send us the character, and we have to
copy it. We also have to figure out how functional it needs to be and ways to
keep the integrity of the character and still make it work. "
The process also involves thinking closely about who's going to wear it.
" I advise clients to consider the pool of talent, " Sapp says. " Harry the
Hawk [for the Atlanta NBA team] has been the same performer for years, so
we fit the costume to him. But Chick-fil-A uses kids who work in the stores
[to portray the cows], so we have to make that one fit a range of heights. We
recently had an order for a spark-plug character, and the client wanted it to
be 8 feet tall. That's cool, but it can't walk through doors. We wound up
basing it on a 6-foot performer. "
A mascot outfit averages about $4,500; the most expensive the firm
produced was $6,500. Some elaborate costumes come with fans inside to
keep the wearer cool.
" It's gonna be hot, " Sapp says, " so we do everything we can to make
Izzy (top right), the
mascot, and Fumbles
(right), the mascot of
the Chick-fi l-A
Hall of Fame in
two of the
created by the
34 Georgia Magazine October 2021
it as comfortable as possible. And we provide a manual with dressing and
performing tips. "
When the Atlanta Braves' AAA minor league baseball team rebranded
as the Gwinnett Stripers, International Mascot Corp. mulled how to develop
a fish costume. The company did create the Stripers' recently unveiled
" mascot race " characters: Bateman the Worm, Bobster the Bobber and Barb
the Hook. (See " Stripers reel in fun " in last month's Georgia News at
Transforming a human performer into an oversized fishhook certainly
seems like a challenge, but that's how Sapp likes it.
" Honestly, the jobs I like most are the ones that scare me the most, "
H.M. Cauley is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.
To learn more about the International Mascot Corp., go to internationalmascot.com.
Georgia Magazine - October 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - October 2021
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Georgia Magazine - October 2021 - Contents
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Georgia Magazine - October 2021 - Cover3
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