Jul 20, 2023 - Culture

The bizarre Atlanta Olympics' mascot had a video game

A photo of a blue mascot with a big smile and eyes and lightning bolts for eyebrows waves a streamer

Izzy's up to his old tricks. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Organizers of the 1996 Summer Olympics — held 27 years ago this summer in Atlanta — left no stone unturned licensing its hypnotically bizarre mascot called Izzy, from refrigerator magnets to…video games.

Catch up quick: Izzy was one of the more quizzical concepts to ever walk out of a marketing meeting: an extraterrestrial… lifeform with lightning bolts for eyebrows and an unhealthy obsession with collecting (Olympic) rings.

  • The creature was pilloried, according to an Atlanta Magazine oral history. Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, called the first version — named Whatizit — a "bad marriage of the Pillsbury Doughboy and the ugliest California Raisin.”

State of play: The video game, Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings, has a simple premise: move Izzy around stages including a Greek Village and a Lava Dome popping red balloons with angry faces and collecting coins.

  • The game was one part Super Mario Brothers, one part Sonic the Hedgehog and a generous helping of tie-in Olympics fever.
  • According to one gameplay video, you can complete it in an hour.

In the weeds: Olympics officials set only a few demands, William Anderson, the lead animator, told Axios: No violence, no changing the character design and stick to the Olympics theme.

  • With that simple mandate, an art team that included Phil Trumbo, who also worked on Pee Wee's Playhouse, and Geri Wilhelm, dreamed up the visuals. Then the developers got to work.

"Developing Izzy was still [one] of my best experiences to date," Anderson, who now owns Awaken Games, told Axios.

  • "We were a small group of developers really dedicated to not only making the best games [but] having fun while doing it.

Intrigue: You can score a Super Nintendo copy of the game for $50 to $150 — or a box of six for $600.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Atlanta stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Atlanta.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more