The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled the team’s new bright, fluffy mascot Gritty on Monday and it’s safe to say he’s already a divisive figure among the fanbase.
There is a portion of Flyers fans who have no taste and are not a fan of Gritty — these are people you’d think twice about inviting into your home. And then there are the fun-loving, kind-hearted individuals like myself who simply can’t get enough of the hairy orange fellow falling down on the ice.
One of the questions the former group seemed to collectively wonder was who in the world came up with this thing?
The answer is designer and illustrator Brian Allen, a Penn State graduate living in Pennsylvania, who was hired by the Flyers to conceptualize the mascot and illustrate it from scratch.
Another popular question among Gritty’s detractors (again, horrible people) seemed to be, “if this is what they landed on, what could they have possibly turned down?!?”
Allen actually shared some of his early sketch concepts and they included a pilot, bulls, bullies, bats, dragons, wolves, flying squirrels, groundhogs, and a variety of monsters among others. With all but two other NHL teams already having mascots, species were limited. Monsters allowed for more creativity and flexibility.
I asked him if he had a favorite among the early drafts.
"You tend to get attached to all of them because you created them. The one they picked was thankfully one of my favorites," he said.
He first got involved in July and went through a couple phases. There were two weeks of sketching different ideas exploring the roughly 25 different concept sketches mentioned above. Then once the team pointed him in the final monster direction there were another two weeks of fine tuning with multiple sketches from different angles.
That's when Gritty's creation was in the hands of the costume company.
The final Gritty was finally shown to the world after Allen had been working on it for months and seeing the big orange monster in the wild was quite the experience.
"It was real exciting to see physically. I’ve designed a lot of mascots before but never for a costume. This was the first time one of my illustrations came to real life. If you look at my illustrations there are a lot of things that turned out differently. A lot of things I drew couldn’t be functional in real life," Allen told NBCSPhilly.com.
And there were some exciting additions to the costume he hadn't exactly planned.
Like the googly eyes.
"I wanted them to be buggy eyes for sure," Allen said. "But I never told them they should move around like that. I don’t know who came up with that. I didn’t know that was happening but I think it adds a lot of movement and life to him."
The Flyers hooked Brian and his family up with tickets to a game and he can't wait to see Gritty in action even if the fan reactions are mixed.
"Seeing the fan reaction has been interesting because it’s something that’s dear to the fans’ hearts so there’s some visceral reactions out there. Hopefully fans grow to love the mascot over time. I'm really happy with it."