Phillies to unveil changes to 'evolving' Phanatic

February 22nd, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- It is true. The Phillie Phanatic is going to look a little different on Sunday at Spectrum Field.

Do not worry, Phillies fans. You will have no problem picking the Phanatic out of a mascot lineup.

He will be big and green, with big eyes and a big nose. He will still look like the Phanatic. But the Phillies are making some creative changes to their beloved mascot as they tangle with Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison in a copyright lawsuit. Erickson and Harrison co-created the original Phanatic costume in 1978. The Phillies purchased the copyright from them in 1984, but federal law states that artists can renegotiate their rights after 35 years. Erickson and Harrison informed the Phillies in 2018 that they planned to take back the rights to the Phanatic. They are seeking millions.

The Phillies filed a lawsuit in 2019 to maintain their rights, saying their own creative efforts made the Phanatic what it is today.

“Over the last 40 years, the Phanatic has evolved,” Phillies executive vice president David Buck said Saturday about the costume’s changes. “He’s evolving a little bit more. The changes are creative. I think the fans will like them.”

But there is no denying the changes are lawsuit-related.

“I think it would be naïve not to think there’s a connection,” Buck said. “But at the same time, he has changed over the years. There have been little changes as things go on. … If you look at the current one, there are probably 10 or 12 changes over the last 40 years that no one has ever noticed. He’ll have a few more tomorrow. Some of them even came out last year. He wore Bryce Harper’s Phanatic shoes. He wore different color socks last year. He copied [Andrew] McCutchen’s shoes last year. So there have been changes.”

There are other changes besides the shoes and socks, but they will be unveiled on Sunday.

Of course, many Phillies fans freaked when news first broke about the changes on Friday in an NBC Sports Philadelphia story. Buck tried to ease concerns that the Phanatic will look completely different, or even unrecognizable.

“I really think the last 24 hours there has been a lot of to-do about nothing,” he said. “We’re not nervous about the changes tomorrow because the Phanatic is the Phanatic. The character of the Phanatic is more important than the costume -- the antics and everything.”

The Phanatic’s copyright expires on June 15. Is there a chance the parties settle before that?

“I think a lot of times [with] these things, you try and settle,” Buck said. “It doesn’t always work that way.”

If June 15 passes without a resolution, the Phillies are prepared to move forward with Sunday’s version of the Phanatic. They believe there are enough changes to use it. If there is a resolution beforehand, the Phillies seem likely to return to the Phanatic that they used through Saturday.

“We have to protect the Phanatic,” Buck said. “It’s our icon. It’s our cultural icon.”