Big Ten mascots get their Carly Rae Jepsen on
By JESSE TEMPLE
Like it or not, Carly Rae Jepsen's hit song, "Call Me Maybe," has become the unofficial summer anthem of 2012. It also has developed into the unofficial video parody favorite of a nation, from Justin Bieber to the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.
Now, you can add another ridiculous spoof to the ever-growing Internet list. It comes in the form of oversized, fuzzy, costumed characters better known as Big Ten Conference mascots.
The video, posted at 11 a.m. CT Wednesday on Michigan State's "TheRealSparty" YouTube page, features mascots from seven of the conference's schools: Iowa (Herky the Hawk), Michigan State (Sparty), Minnesota (Goldy Gopher), Nebraska (Herbie Husker and Lil' Red), Ohio State (Brutus Buckeye), Penn State (Nittany Lion) and Wisconsin (Bucky Badger).
Indiana, Illinois and Michigan were not included because those schools don't have animated mascot characters. Purdue and Northwestern did not participate.
In just two days, the video had gone viral. As of 6 p.m. CT Friday, it had been viewed nearly 196,000 times.
Janel Rutzen, director of the Sparty Mascot program, said Michigan State and Nebraska collaborated on the idea for the spoof and began discussing it a month ago. She added that Michigan State opted to post the video on its YouTube page because it had built a larger following than other schools.
Before filming, members of the student mascot groups at both schools sent emails to the student mascots at the other Big Ten institutions. Each school then received approval from its respective sports information department and the Big Ten. Scenes were divvied up between the seven mascots and filmed in their respective cities.
"The mascots got together as a group virtually and developed the scenes, I guess you could say," Rutzen said. "Each mascot knew what area they were expected to complete. Some of them did a couple different shots. They each got to do their own thing. That's the somewhat challenging part is each mascot is very different and has a different personality."
Once footage was shot, the schools sent it over the Internet to students at Nebraska and Michigan State, who coordinated on the editing process through emails and Skype.
Rance Ristau, a senior advertising major at Nebraska, was one of the students who edited the footage. He said the idea was hatched after the Dolphins cheerleaders parody video was released June 5. It wasn't until last Friday that he received footage from all seven schools, and the entire editing process took roughly seven hours last Saturday.
"We didn't really have a goal with it," Ristau said. "We just wanted to show some Big Ten camaraderie. In the past year, the Big Ten has had some controversial issues. I think it's really cool to show we're all friends in the same conference."
The result of the monthlong project is a 3-minute, 17-second video that has quickly made the Internet rounds. Scenes include Herbie Husker grooving with four Nebraska cheerleaders in the school weight room, Sparty dancing to a choreographed number outside the student union, Herky the Hawk on ice skates at a local rink and Goldy Gopher emerging from a lake with his shirt off.
Josette Scheer, Wisconsin's spirit squad director, said she wasn't surprised by the video's popularity in such a short period of time.
"Everyone loves mascots," Scheer said, "and I think with no sports going on right now, everyone is looking for something fun and silly now that it's summer. The mascots themselves have reached out to so many different people and groups and have so many fans."
Scheer said Bucky Badger's scenes were shot in two locations of particular importance to the city of Madison: the football stadium and downtown outside the state capitol building. Though there is just one Bucky Badger at a time, seven students actually dress as the school mascot throughout the year, and each collaborated on the scenes, according to Scheer.
Erynn Nicholson, spirit squad coach at Nebraska, said unlike the other mascot scenes, all of Nebraska's backdrops were shot inside because it was raining on the day of filming. Nebraska was the only school to use two mascots -- Herbie Husker and the inflatable Lil' Red.
"In terms of the creativity and where they wanted to go with it," Nicholson said, "I just said, 'Experiment. Play. The sky is the limit. See what you come up with and we'll edit from there.'"
If the Big Ten mascots hope to take the title as the top "Call Me Maybe" spoof, they have some catching up to do. Bieber's parody leads the way with more than 45 million views. Other popular parodies come from the Harvard baseball team (more than 14 million YouTube views), the Dolphins cheerleaders (9 million views), Sesame Street's "Cookie Monster" (4 million) and members of the Miss USA 2012 pageant (1.7 million views).
"Call Me Maybe" has been No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for the past five weeks.
Given the success of the Big Ten mascots song spoof, the question now is: When will the schools collaborate on the next big mascot project?
"I haven't heard of anything," Scheer said. "But we have a mascot team camp in August in Milwaukee. Most of the Big Ten mascots are there. I'm sure they'll brainstorm and come up with something else."
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