The making of the five friendlies (I) 12-07-2005 15:11

After the excitement of watching the unveiling of the five mascots for the 2008 Olympics on Friday, there's been another flurry of activity as people in the Chinese capital flock to buy products bearing the mascots' images. From the reception they received, we can say the mascots design has been very successful. But what was the process involved in choosing them?

The Beijing Olympic mascots consist of a set of five dolls combining the image of children with animals.

They have been nicknamed the "Friendlies", carrying a message of friendship to the whole world.

Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini are the names of the five dolls. When these names are put together, they say Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni, which means "Welcome to Beijing".

In the intimate circle of Friendlies, Huanhuan is the big brother. He is a child of fire, symbolizing the Olympic Flame and the passion of Olympic sport.

Jingjing is the panda who comes from the forest. He represents happiness, and also embodies the concepts of a "Green Olympics" and a "People's Olympics".

Beibei is the fish that carries the blessings of prosperity.

As a symbol of the vastness of China's landscape, Yingying the Tibetan antelope represents the blessing of health.

Nini's figure is drawn from a swallow. She expresses the eagerness for a wonderful life and also represents good luck.

What a happy family!

The five lovely dolls have their own colors: red, yellow, blue, black and green, conforming to the color of the five Olympic rings.

The choice of five animals does have a special significance. They carry prosperity, happiness, passion, health and good luck to every continent.

Peace, friendship, and harmony are also concepts the Beijing Olympics want to spread to the whole world. The five Friendlies are carrying this message to every part of the globe.

Twenty-four renowned artists and design experts were called to whittle down an initial list of 662 entrants to fifty. Among them, famous names like Han Meilin, Jin Shangyi and Chang Sha'na played an important role.

The giant panda, the traditional cartoon figure of the Monkey King, the Tibetan antelope, the dragon and the kylin all became favorites along the way.

Under the rules, all the judges had the right to vote for the works that they were most happy with. Fifty candidates were chosen to go to the next round.

The second stage saw Sydney and Athens Olympic experts join the judges panel. They lent their experience to help the judges choose the works they felt matched the Olympic spirit.

After a long discussion, the fifty works were finally whittled down to five.

The rattle-drum called "dong dong" was the favorite of the five works.

Jiang XiaoYu, BOCOG Executive Vice-President, said, "The rattle-drum is a toy which is a favorite of children. If it can become the Olympic mascot, it can best feature the characteristics of our nation. It is also very different from the other mascots in that it can be seen, touched and also make its own sound."

Sun Lijun, Judge of 2008 Olympic Mascot, said, "We can create a braid for the rattle-drum, making it look very lovely and very visual."

The tiger, the Monkey King, the Chinese dragon, the "A Fu" doll and the panda also came under consideration. But the Tibetan antelope and kylin, favored by local residents, were not on the list.

So how could these images be perfected? How could they be combined with the Olympic spirit? The judges began to develop the six images.

Jiang said, "We recommended that Mr. Han Meilin take charge of the embellishment work."

Han Meilin then began to design the six images: the panda, the tiger, the dragon, the Monkey King, the "A Fu" doll and the rattle-drum in his studio. At the beginning of March, a group of nine experts who would take charge of the mascot's final design was set up by BOCOG.

After a long night of discussions, a new idea emerged.

Wu Guanying, Member of 2008 Olimpic Mascot Group, said, "Our group had deep discussions on the image of the mascot. We know that we had to find the right way to represent our mascot."

The nine experts began to thumb through the fifty works. The five-color dolls which were designed by Wu Guanying caught their eye.

Wu Guanying, Member of 2008 Olympic Mascot Group, said, "That night was very important for our design. It was the turning point."

Han Meilin, Leader of 2008 Olympic Mascot Group, said, "They are the five dolls which I drew in one night. China is a country that has a big population and over fifty ethnic groups. So how to create a mascot image that could represent Chinese culture and also express the Olympic spirit was a big problem. We knew that no Olympic Games had ever had five mascots, so if we designed five mascots, how could we make them cover all the characteristics of our country?"

So the plan to design five Chinese dolls, consisting of a flame, dragon, Monkey King, Fish and Panda was confirmed. But the Monkey King idea was abandoned due to trademark issues.

Jiang said, "There are a lot of trademarks registered as Monkey King or similar monkey images."

The Tibetan antelope was then brought in to replace the Monkey King. They made the horn of the antelope much lower to suit the doll's image. The five candidates: flame, dragon, antelope, fish and panda were handed in to BOCOG on April, 2005.

Editor:Chen Zhuo

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