Beth Lula, brand director at Rio 2016, has hailed the launch of the Olympic and Paralympic mascots a huge success, commenting: "We are very proud of our mascots and very happy that they were welcomed by the public and media in Brazil."
Lula said that the process of choosing the mascots - for which there is now a public competition to choose a name following their official unveiling on Monday (November 26) - had taken two years, with 24 companies submitting proposals, of which three went forward to the most important judges of all - Brazil's children.
"Our mascots represent the diversity of our people, our way of life, and our natural environment. While they represent the local culture, they must be understood by the entire world, since the Olympic Games are seen by nearly five billion people around the globe," she said.
"We did research with kids of six to 12 years, because we understood they are our target, and there is no one better than them to say if we have a good proposal or not.
"There was one in particular that we loved, but when we showed the kids they didn't approve!
"It just shows we are not the target.
"We exchanged a lot of information with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee beforehand.
"They helped us, and we tried to do something that is very representative of Brazil.
"We learned that the mascot must represent one's own country and mean something locally, because people need to be proud of them, but they also need to be globally understood.
"Mascots are the ambassadors of the Games, they are very important to engage with the public, especially with the kids.
"They have now been launched on all social media platforms, and have their own website."
The final two proposals went to a vetting committee, which voted unanimously for the winners.
The Olympic mascot represents all of the different animals in Brazil, while the Paralympic mascot is a unique mixture of the Brazilian flora.
"The companies were free to submit whatever they wanted," Lula said.
"But we highlighted the fact that we wanted them to share with the theme of our branding, which has to do with passion and transformation, the energy of the Brazilian people, the way we welcome people and organise a big party for them."
The Rio 2016 licensee for the category of plush toys is Honav, a Chinese company which has a long relationship with the Games including licensee for London 2012 and Beijing 2008.
There will be 30 different types of plush toy mascot, 15 Olympic and 15 Paralympic.
The public can vote for their choice of names from a shortlist of three pairs of names, one for the Olympic mascot, the other for the Paralympic mascot, respectively.
The name choices are Oba and Eba, Tiba Tuque and Esquindim, and Vinicius and Tom.
Everyone can vote at www.rio2016.com/mascotes or on the Rio 2016 Twitter feed (@Rio2016).
The winning names are due to be announced on December 14.
Ahead of the announcement, in what she described as a "teaser", mascots from Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, Athená and Fu Niu Lele, visited various sites in and around Rio, interacting with the public.
"To sign off and ensure the authenticity of the mascot selection process, we contracted the expertise of Anima Mundi directors Aída Queiroz, Cesar Coelho, Lea Zagury and Marco Magalhães," said Lula.
Birdo Produções won the bidding process and created the project.
With a little over 10 years of experience, the company has already received awards around the world and is considered one of the most creative animation studios worldwide.
Spearheaded by Luciana Eguti and Paulo Muppet, Birdo's founding partners, the team of project animators and illustrators also reflects Brazilian diversity by bringing together professionals from different backgrounds and profiles.
"We were very excited after the first contact with the mascot creation briefing," said creators.
"The Olympic and Paralympic Games are global and inspiring events.
"We discussed several ideas that could potentially represent the Games, Brazil, and specifically Rio de Janeiro.
"Finally, we decided that the mixture between animals and plants was an interesting concept that was related to the union and diversity both of Brazilians and our natural surroundings."
The Olympic mascot represents all of the different animals in Brazil, Rio 2016 officials said.
It combines the agility of cats, the sway of monkeys and the grace of birds.
He can stretch his arms and legs as much as he wants. This allows him to jump higher, run faster, and become stronger.
But he only uses his powers for good and he gets really upset if someone suggests that he uses his powers to win a sports competition.
He has a very acute sense of smell, with a nose for adventure, and amazing powers of hearing, which allows him to find the liveliest fans.
He practises all Olympic sports; he is the hyper-connected type with friends all around the world.
The Paralympic mascot, in turn, is a unique mixture of the Brazilian flora.
He is able to constantly transform, with determination and joy - since plants are also in constant motion = growing and overcoming obstacles.
In addition to practising Paralympic sports, he is constantly on the move.
He believes there is no obstacle too hard to overcome. He can pull anything from his big head of leaves to solve even the hairiest of problems.
As the ambassador of the Paralympic Games, he will teach others to bring out their best.
The first unofficial Olympic mascot was called Schuss and was born in 1968, during the Grenoble Winter Games.
The first official Summer Olympics mascot was Waldi, a friendly little Basset hound created for the 1972 Munich edition.
The 1980 Arnhem Paralympic Games, in the Netherlands, were the first in history to receive a mascot; two squirrels.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
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