Atlanta Writer On What Went Wrong With Olympic Mascot ‘Izzy’

Courtesy of ArtsATL

This story is part of “Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics,” WABE’s series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.

No conversation about the 1996 Olympic Games would be complete without some time devoted to a certain blue … something by the name of Izzy.

Atlantans who were around for the games have a lot to remember fondly, but the mascot, which was designed by a team of animators at the design firm Design FX, remains a subject of ridicule, embarrassment or just confusion.

The design team, led by John Ryan, came up with a blue teardrop-shaped character initially named “Hi-Rez.” The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games under CEO Billy Payne renamed it “Whatizit,” eventually shortening the name to Izzy. 

Speaking to ArtsATL writer Gavin Godfrey, Ryan explained the design as being targeted for children.

“The intention was to turn it into a toy,” he said, “something that people were inspired to play with, and kids got that right away.”

But halfway through the creative process, Ryan explains that the ACOG stepped in with its own designs for Izzy and, as he puts it, “[they were] dictating the design. Our relationship with the committee was not sustainable.” 

Read Godfrey’s interview with Izzy creator John Ryan at ArtsATL’s website.