Created by Iris, the mascots are expected to contribute £10-£15m in merchandising revenue.
With Wenlock representing the Olympics and Mandeville the Paralympic Games, they will be available to the two Games various commercial partners as well as together. Paralympic sponsor Sainsburys has already said it wants Mandeville to visit every one of their stores.
London 2012 says the key to meeting their commercial target has been developing a storyline that will lend Wenlock and Mandeville credibility in a pre-teen marketplace.
The two characters are named after the village of Much Wenlock in Shropshire – which hosted a precursor to the modern Olympic games in the 19th Century – and Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.
In homage to London’s taxis, each has a yellow light on top of its head, with an initial in the middle.
In a series of animated updates, linked to the official games website, they will be seen learning to play different Olympic sports in a narrative that will be regularly revised between now and the opening of the Games.
They will also be used to front London 2012’s Get Set education programme, which will focus in part on the Olympic values.
Both will have their own Facebook and Twitter pages, with an emphasis on interactivity.
The mascots will also form a key part of 2012’s marketing and merchandising, with organisers keen to avoid the controversy which surrounded the unveiling of the Games logo in 2007.
Grant Hunter, the creative director of Iris’s London office, says: “Our brief was to create mascots that would excite and inspire young people and encourage them to get involved in sport. We wanted everyone, especially young people, to be able to take part, so we asked ourselves, ‘Why have one mascot when you can have millions?’
“To capture people’s imagination you have to create something iconic – something unique – something as individual as you and me. We have created a flexible design that allows you to make the mascot your own, while celebrating what is great about Britain – our heritage, our culture and our creativity. They are inclusive, because they invite everyone to take part and get involved. They aren’t ‘the’ mascots – they are your mascots.”
“The result is a world first – a multi dimensional, adaptable design for the digital age, which will allow you to customise the mascots online later in the year. And who knows what else, after all we’re just at the start of the journey and the possibilities are endless.”
There was widespread criticism of that particular emblem, which was designed by the Wolff Olins agency and cost £400,000.
Criticism against the mascots already seems to be pouring in. It has been reported in several nationals that Stephen Bayley, the prominent design critic, has said: “What is it about these Games which seems to drive the organisers into the embrace of this kind of patronising, cretinous infantilism? Why can’t we have something that makes us sing with pride, instead of these appalling computerised Smurfs for the iPhone generation?”