Fuwa Designer Has His Cake … and, well, you know the rest.

Well, well. Today, Han Meilin, the famously grumpy designer of the 2008 Olympic mascots, the Fuwa, provides an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he claims that the universally reviled mascots weren’t his fault:

After China’s Olympics organizers gave him the assignment, folk artist Han Meilin initially sketched out five children representing the traditional Chinese elements of fire, wood, water, gold and earth. Then the bureaucrats got involved. “There had to be a panda, even though you’d think the public would have had enough of them,” says the 72-year-old artist … Games officials faxed one request after another to his studio for other national images, such as a kite, a sturgeon and ancient cave drawings. So Mr. Han gave them Carmen Miranda-style oversized hats to help hold all the symbolism.

Mr. Han … says the Fuwa “could have been much better” had they not been so saddled with stuff. Their creation, he says, got off on the wrong foot when officials opened a national competition for designs. Although he was on the judging committee, Mr. Han didn’t like any of the winners.

“Can you believe it? Those are the drafts that they sent through and asked me to modify,” he says, pointing to monkey, dragon and tiger designs that he keeps stacked away on a shelf in his workshop. “I’m an artist. It is humiliating,” he says.

Er, wrong Fuwa. I mean …

All believable, I suppose, but it’s worth pointing out that – back in 2005, before the Fuwa became an international joke, Han Meilin was singing a different tune – particularly in an extended interview that he provided to the Beijing Times: Continue reading