Thai mascot at expo not inspired by Japanese character

Several early designs were drafted for the Thai mascot at Astana Expo 2017, with the corn cob (lower middle) finally being chosen.(Supplied photos)

The designer of the Thai mascot for Astana Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan has denied basing it on a popular Japanese mascot, as hinted at by the mayor of Osaka city.

A tweet on @hiroyoshimura, owned by the mayor of Osaka, triggered debate on the similarity of the Thai   mascot Pa-Lang, or energy, based on a corn cob, and a Japanese mascot named Funassyi, which represents the city of Funabashi, in Chiba, with its design based on a pear.   

Both mascots feature upright characters in similar yellow. The Thai mascot has a pattern of squares representing corn kernels, and green leaves at its base, while the Japanese mascot has smooth yellow skin and wears a light blue outfit.

An image of Funassyi on Twitter account @funassyi.

Chandr Chandrvirochana, the creative designer at Index Creative Village Plc who developed Pa-Lang, defended her design. The expo was organised around the concept of  “Bioenergy for All”, so the design team focused on energy crops such as tapioca, sugarcane and corn as the theme for a lucky mascot for the Thai pavilion on bioenergy.

At least 10 ideas were proposed, but the team finally settled on using corn, which is a crop widely known in Kazakhstan. Pa-Lang was then created to match the theme of future energy, without copying anything from the Japanese character.

She said it was true that using plants or fruits as cartoon characters could produce some similarities, in this case similar colours of yellow and green.

Ms Chandr admitted she was got quite a shock on learning of the mayor’s comment, but said it was definitely her own design of a mascot based on a corn cob which was picked by the design team.

“I would like to ask Thai people to support Nong Pa-Lang to showcase Thailand at this important expo. Thailand is the first country to complete its pavilion, and it’s already quite popular with visitors to the fair,” she said.

Index Creative Village, the country’s largest event organiser, was commissioned by the Energy Ministry to build the Sala Thai at the Astana Expo, which opened in the Kazakhstan capital on Saturday and continues until Sept 10. There are 115 countries participating in the exposition. 

The development of Pa-Lang on the drawings.