Toronto's weed-smoking Polkaroo in legal trouble with TVO
Thousands of marijuana connoisseurs gathered in Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods Park last Wednesday to celebrate the long-awaited legalization of weed in Canada, none of them photographed or talked about more than "Tokaroo."
If you follow literally anyone who was at the big Bellwoods smokeout, you've probably already seen him: A red-eyed, joint-toting (and, perhaps most pertinently, unlicensed) homage to the iconic children's TV character Polkaroo.
The parody character brought back fond memories for those who watched the humanoid kangaroo thing on shows like Polka Dot Door and Polka Dot Shorts in the the 70s, 80s and early 90s.
Tokaroo doesn't wear a colourful polka dot dress or have green fur like the original character, but he's otherwise similar enough, at least, to warrant a cease and desist letter from Ontario's public broadcaster.
TOKAROO 😭😂 WHY IS THIS THE BEST EVER pic.twitter.com/DoWC4RURF9— cleep (@ccc_lll_) October 25, 2018
TVO, which produced shows featuring Polkaroo from 1971 to 1993, is displeased with one-time Polkaroo actor Mark Scott and his popular pothead parody.
"Polkaroo is an established and trusted trademarked TVOkids mascot that is appreciated across generations," said the publicly-funded broadcaster in a statement to The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
"While we can understand the nostalgia, TVO does not endorse this parody of Polkaroo, or the fact that it is being associated with an activity that is neither legal for children nor recommended for use by children. We are asking Mark Scott to take appropriate action to stop the use of this character."
Man behind Tokaroo sent a cease and desist from TVO. Too close to Polkaroo? Do kids still recognize? What was Polkaroo supposed to be anyhow? (right pic Getty) https://t.co/bMU2pWy3xg pic.twitter.com/4nqVVTwwk5— OntarioMorning (@CBCOntMorning) October 25, 2018
Scott is a mascot maker who embodied Polkaroo for more than two decades, donning the colourful costume at promotional events for everyone from Colin Powell to Queen Elizabeth (though never on TV, as Polkaroo was played by various show hosts.)
He said this week that he had received a letter from a lawyer representing TVO.
The letter demands that Scott stop wearing his Tokaroo costume by Friday afternoon, as it could pose "a very real threat of tarnishing Polkaroo's reputation."
Polka Dot Door has been off the air for over 20 years. TVO needs to chill and have a toke with Tokaroo— Hugo (@huginho82) October 25, 2018
Some Ontarians find the request ridiculous, while others can see where TVO is coming from.
Look, as an artist and parodist who often works in appropriation involving copyrighted material I am usually all for the idea of free expression trumping draconian intellectual property laws, but in this case this guy should probably be thrown in jail https://t.co/0Xp1kUV9iv— Juiceone (@Juiceone3) October 25, 2018
Scott, for his part, told the Canadian Press that he does not intend to comply. He said that similarities between Tokaroo and Polkaroo are "purely coincidental" and stressed that he's been clear about the fact that Tokaroo is not affiliated with TVO.
In fact, Tokaroo is just one of several "Candoroos" that Scott has constructed costumes for to teach adolescents about responsible drug use, LGBTQ identities, sign language and people with special needs.
Eventually, Scott hopes to develop what he calls a "mature-themed" educational web series.
"This is not a preschool program," he said. "This is for the internet, and is really to deal with the adolescent identity and social issues."
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