As I wrote in our previous post, we came up with the idea of talking mascots several years ago, which resulted in Kyp Coyote’s debut for the Genesee Country Village and Museum’s maple festival. After meeting up with Karin Fires and getting involved with the Wildlife Educators Coalition, the concept of doing educational programs with a talking mascot began to take shape.
I developed some small programs that tied in with the publishing of our first book. Around the same time, I developed our kestrel, Kele, for use both at Braddock Bay Raptor Research and for WEC. Not long after, a friend in California donated a red fox costume for us to use at programs.
The only problem was that people were having a hard time hearing me through the masks. Kyp had an open mouth but the thick mesh and foam muffled my voice terribly. The fox, while an awesome looking costume, had the same issue. This was especially a problem in front of larger crowds. One can only shout so long before their voice starts to go out. I scrambled for ideas on how to fix this problem but with limited funds, there wasn’t much I could do.
In late August of 2015, I came across elope Costumes and some of their merchandise at one of the local costume shops in my area. Up on the wall of the shop were both a fairly realistic wolf and a red fox mask. Much to my surprise, the mouths moved. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was something I had been hoping to make a reality, but until this point, I would have had to build it from scratch.
I splurged and purchased the wolf mask first. I tried it out at home and took some video of it to show Karin. Much to my surprise, it was easy to be heard out of it. Karin and I returned to the shop the next day and purchased the fox. I began working on sets of arms, legs, tails and paws to complete the costumes.
The wolf was named Howler and the fox was named Swift (we renamed the other red fox suit Slyly, and made him a nonspeaking character for other events). And since then, we’ve included, through donations, Talon the Hawk and Inola the Arctic Fox (who still needs the majority of the bodysuit finished).
We have lots of plans for more interactive characters like Howler and company. We’ve drawn up plans for creating a raven/crow, a cockatoo, a Dalmatian, a skunk, some sort of lizard/reptile, a turkey, reindeer and rabbit. We’ve also thought about the possibility of adding a black bear, an owl, a bald eagle, a tiger and a vulture. Obviously, we don’t have a lot of funds to use, especially since WEC is nonprofit. We’d have to rely on donations for most of the material costs and/or costume donations as a whole to achieve our goals. Crowdfunding may be something we’ll be looking into quite soon. We’ll have updates on this as we go along!
Most of these will be tied in with various books via the Wildlife Educators Publishing and have multiple programs structured around them. Every character will have a specific use and purpose, along with their own wild personality. It’s exciting and challenging.
So, friends, stay tuned and stay wild!