The Design of Oregon’s Mandrake, Roboduck, Duck Vader…

Renderings and a prototype of the boot the duck character was wearing.

E. Scott Morris talking about the molds and helmet of the duck. In a presentation on “How to Defend Your Design and Product Line”,  E. Scott still gets excited and passionate about the design and creation of this character. I would like to see it come alive again some day.

Ten years ago I saw the new Oregon duck hatch at Autzen stadium; the Mandrake, Roboduck, Duck Vader, Donald’s older brother, or whatever it could have been called. Ten years later, I got the chance to talk with E. Scott Morris, one of the Nike designers behind the creation of the duck character. He talked about the ideation, and design of the superhero duck outfitted with Nike technology to represent the new direction the Oregon brand was headed towards; a little stronger, a little faster, and definitely more edgy.

E. Scott Morris was perfect for the job, having a strong passion for superhero and character ideation, and a strong background in sports and design. With the assistance of Julie Taymor, The Lion King’s Broadway show theater director and costume designer, to create the movements and characteristics of the duck, the school was on for a great show, all on Nike’s budget.

The new duck only got one run, and after a season, it had disappeared. It was unclear what happened, all we knew was that it frightened children, and the older fans didn’t connect with it, and the student body was split, some really liked it, and others were confused and feared something could happen to Donald. But this was exactly what the new duck was supposed to be, a bit mysterious, a bit intimidating, but demanding your attention. Rumors had spread through the students that Disney had increased the price to re-sign the contract of Donald to a ridiculous amount, and the school still didn’t have the right to market the duck outside of Oregon, so maybe a new duck character was needed.

Or maybe it was a companies worst nightmare, giving the consumer too much of a good thing all at once, and having the consumer reject it. In 2002 the university had just re-branded Autzen, created a new logo, new school colors, new football uniforms,…and now a new duck? And with Nike’s name all over it. There were too many changes, and too many questions all at once, so maybe the timing on some things was a little off. When the school had to cut back, the new duck was the first to go.

After talking with E. Scott, now I wonder if the new duck had been introduced in later years, maybe during the Chip Kelly era, would it have had a different response from the students and the fans. I could definitely see this duck on billboards and music videos. The duck incorporated the energy of the students, and even though he is gone, maybe his spirit still lives in the new student body. Maybe his spirit lives at Auzten in every game, or in Donald (we saw little bit of his edge when Donald challenged the Houston Cougar in 07). Or maybe his spirit lives in Chip Kelly and the football team. We can see how the design of the duck has influenced the design of football uniforms after 2002. Who knows, maybe Nike will bring him back for one more game some day.

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