So far, so good for Tony the Landshark. Ole Miss football, and athletics overall, officially welcomed the new mascot to the family last month. Tony, named after former Ole Miss linebacker Tony Fein, is now 1-0 on the field following the Rebels’ 47-27 win over Texas Tech.
A season ago, Ole Miss didn’t have a mascot on the field at games. Now, there is excitement, or at least a central figure for fans to rally around as Tony makes his rounds and becomes more familiar with his surroundings.
Tony’s look came to fruition with some help from a Hollywood art designer – Jessee Clarkson – a man who knew what the mascot costume should look like having worked on the movie Sharknado 3. Clarkson’s Nascent Perspective Studios finalized the rubber face of Tony. Clarkson helped design the Iron Man costume for those series of movies, and has also worked in the art department for a number of other feature films like Terminator Salvation. The Landshark Design Committee, that spent the better part of year coming up with the design, wanted something new on the look. Micah Ginn, the associate athletics director for sports productions and creative services, served on that committee, and helped get Tony’s new look together.
“Tony has been created from absolute scratch. We just got the second round of costume in back in early August and we were very pleased,” Ginn said. “He had just been sketches on paper for half of a year and suddenly here is the Landshark in the room, doing barrel rolls. It was really exciting to have that meeting and then to start rehearsing and all that is involved with that. We were so excited for the Landshark to make land give the fans the Fins Up.”
Ryan O’Connor, the spirit squad coordinator at Ole Miss, works directly with the performers that put on the new-look suit. Her plan before the year was to have between five and eight students wear the Landshark suit during games, and events overall. The goal was to have Tony be much more athletic than other mascots, and the tryout process to get used to things started as soon as the entire package was ready a month ago.
“Mascots typically have that fake fur or foam. This is like a high-quality rubber and feels like what I guess a shark feels like,” O’Connor said. “It moves around. It’s flexible. We’re always looking out for our performers safety, and this is probably the best suit for that. They have so much vision and normally you’re looking out of the mouth or eyes. (Tony) can see everything and I think that’s why it’s going to be more athletic. It is much lighter and slimmer than Rebel was or event at my last school (UAB) where we were a dragon. We can just move around so much better now. All of my students are excited. They have all put on the costume and all thought it was so much more breathable and they could see so much more.”
Ginn was very excited that Ole Miss now had a mascot that makes them completely different from any other school. Ginn felt the Landshark was a good representative of how unique Oxford and the campus are.
“This is an incredibly unique university and town with great culture. Anyone who has come to Oxford and lives outside of Oxford says there is something different about Oxford in a good way,” Ginn said. “That’s why people love to come here even when there isn’t a sport in season. They love to do all the things that are unique to this town, and his uniqueness is just appropriate. To have a guy out there that is representing us that is very uncommon on the college landscape. We’re uncommon in that we have a balance of culture and history that makes us stand out. I think our uniqueness is complemented by the uniqueness of the Landshark.”
Tony’s next appearance on the field will come Saturday afternoon as the Rebels play host to Southern Illinois at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.