Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering the Charlotte Hornets 25 years later: The making of a mascot

In the first 4 chapters of our series looking back at the early years of the Charlotte Hornets franchise leading up to the 25th anniversary of the team's first game this upcoming Monday, we covered a lot of background of the Hornets franchise during it's infancy.  From George Shinn's intentions to bring a NBA franchise, to the day that Charlotte would join the NBA, to the team's decision to have a "Name-the-Team" contest which saw "Hornets" be the winning favorite, and we talked about Alexander Julian's involvement in designing the team's uniforms...all for some North Carolina barbecue.

In Part 5 of our series, we'll talk about the involvement of how the daughter of the "Muppets" creator, got to work on building a mascot from scratch.

The birth of "Hugo"

When the team was going to be known as the Charlotte Hornets, it was obvious that the team needed a mascot that fans of all ages can love, and they turned to the daughter of Jim Henson, the man responsible for creating the "Muppets" to come up with a mascot that would be the face of the Hornets franchise.

Cheryl Henson, the daughter of "Muppets" creator Jim Henson,
came up with the design for Hugo the Hornet.
The person that came up with the concept of the mascot was Cheryl Henson, who is the President and CEO of the Jim Henson Foundation.  After the team unveiled it's logo, designed by Jerrell Caskey of Hendrick Sportswear, that featured a teal and purple hornet dribbling a basketball, Henson wouldn't waste any time to come up with a design for the team's mascot.

When she finished up earning a degree in textile design, she first went to Alexander Julian to ask him for a job with his company, and he informed her that he wasn't hiring at the time he was designing the uniforms for the Hornets, and she asked Julian if she needed any help in designing the mascot.  The backstory of it was that Cheryl did a lot of work building the characters on "The Muppet Show" as a teenager.

She and Alex both agreed, and Cheryl would turn the logo into a full-bodied costume, done in of course, purple and teal, which was suggested by Julian, and she done the work on the costume by hand and she even hand-sculpted the head of the mascot, which would be known as "Hugo" by the time he made his debut on November 4, 1988.  The name was suggested by over 6,000 people, and another backstory to the name was that the name "Hugo" was chosen one year before Hurricane Hugo struck the Carolinas on September 22nd, 1989, as there was talk about changing the mascot's name, but a Hornets spokesman at the time said that "Hugo" will continue to be the name.

In Part 6 of our series, we'll talk about the core of every NBA team, a head coach, and players, and on Monday, we'll commemorate the anniversary with a look back at some of the hoopla from November 4th, 1988

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