Scott Hesington and Barry Anderson: "Nowhere we received as warmly as in Baku"
NBA mascot professionals Scott Hesington and Barry Anderson, who have started working with the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation last year (back then they created and performed the Gur-Gur frog especially for the European Championships in Trampoline), presented at the Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships that took place these days in Baku, the new mascot - a monkey called Luigi. Hesington and Anderson told Vestnik Kavkaza about their work in Baku and how they came up with Luigi.
- Tell us how you came up with Luigi?
(Scott Hesington) - Creating Luigi was interesting because we wanted to make him to look nothing like Gur-Gur, but a completely new character. We try to give distinctive features to each of our characters: they walk differently, behave differently. Gur-Gur was more active, and Luigi is more adorable. I hope the audience noticed these differences. At the same time, we cannot say that we like one more than the other - they are both great. We are glad to be here and do what we do.
(Barry Anderson) - We created Luigi as a universal character for all countries, while Gur-Gur, strong and active, was created for Azerbaijan. While we were working on the design of Luigi, we realized that he would be younger, more friendly and cute. To be honest, we noticed that he is like us. A personality of the mascot is born thanks to the one who plays its role, and in order for it to seem real, these qualities should come from the person himself. One can't pretend. Another person would have played Luigi in a completely different way - he would have walked differently and did things differently.
(Scott Hesington) - Yes, the mascot is an exaggerated version of who plays it. When we put on a suit, we continue to behave as we do in real life.
(Barry Anderson) - Fortunately, Scott and I are very similar, so when we switch places, fans don't notice. And making people do not notice the fact that the mascot are two different people is our main goal.
(Scott Hesington) - Most people don't know that we both play the mascot. When someone finds out, they are always surprised. Which means we have achieved our goal.
- Are there some other differences between Gur-Gur and Luigi?
(Barry Anderson) - Putting on Luigi’s costume, as we have said, we represent all countries more evenly. Although Gur-Gur supports all the countries, he still rooted for Azerbaijan, because it was Azerbaijan that asked us to come here. When we represent Azerbaijan, it gives us the feeling of living here, as if we are part of a family, and we support Azerbaijan throughout the competition, being with fans and feeling like part of the team. We like it. On the other hand, when we are dressed as Luigi, we may not appear in the Azerbaijani fan section so often, but all the other fans feel that we are with them. We can support all teams equally, which both we and the athletes, who feel support here, like.
(Scott Hesington) - It is important that Luigi performs not only in Azerbaijan. Last month we were with him in Israel, next year we will perform in Kiev. Luigi travels around the world, we are trying to make him a global European mascot. Gur-Gur appears only here, Azerbaijan welcomes us, and this is wonderful.
(Barry Anderson) - I would add that in every city where we come with Luigi, it starts over. Athletes and people who work there have never seen such mascots, and we need to remember that we should do everything gradually and work carefully so that the mascot will be accepted. It’s another thing in Azerbaijan - these days we had the feeling that we came to Baku for the fifteenth time: the fans know everything, the organizers understand everything, and everyone likes what we do. There's nothing to explain in Azerbaijan, so we can simply keep working in order to eventually reach the level of the United States. The mascot culture is real madness there, as we can scamper across the building, jump, squib and so on. In Azerbaijan, people still like what we show in the very early stages, but they are no longer as surprised as before and ready for something more.
- What do you think about working in Baku in general?
(Scott Hesington) - We have the most pleasant impressions from Baku. It's our third time here, for two weeks now, as we will be performing also next weekend at the Aerobic Gymnastics European Championships, and then we will return to the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in September. This is a wonderful place. We have been to the city many times and felt at home here, never felt insecure, never felt uncomfortable. We were very happy to be back here. The locals are very friendly. I can say only good things about this wonderful city.
(Barry Anderson) - We are always received very well here. Even compared to the United States, where we live and where everyone knows us, we have never been received as warmly as in Baku. This is a special experience. Architecture, culture, ancient history and everything that we see in Azerbaijan is simply incredible and beautiful.
(Scott Hestington) - Before coming here for the first time, we didn't know much about Azerbaijan, had no idea what to expect, even when we had read all the available information. But as soon as we arrived here, we realized that this is an incredible place.
- How did your Azerbaijani fans welcomed you?
(Scott Hesgington) - They were glad to see us again.
(Barry Anderson) - They were waiting for us. We know the names of some fans. They definitely recognize us, and this creates a bond, not even between us and specific people, but between us and the audience as a whole. The spectators are very positive about what we are doing. They understand our jokes. When we fall down the stairs, they see that we do it on purpose, because it's fanny. And this is great. We see that they are pleased to have us back. This time many people hug us, it is very nice.