Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Bear Facts About Travelodge's Sleepy Bear

Promotional Diecut Postcard
(Courtesy Vintage Roadside flickr site)
In my post yesterday about the Elyria Travelodge, I mentioned that as a kid I liked Sleepy, the teddy bear mascot for the national motel chain.

Back then, Sleepy was a small bear cub, like Winnie-the-Pooh. He wore a nightshirt and sleeping cap, and was obviously tired and ready to hibernate.

Usually he appeared to be sleepwalking, just like they do in animated cartoons with arms sticking straight out. Other times, he was shown carrying a suitcase, just like Travelodge customers.

Vintage Postcard
(Courtesy Todd Franklin's Neato Coolville flickr website)

According to the Travelodge website, Sleepy originated with the very first Travelodge in San Diego, California back in the early 1950s.

Travelodge made good use of the bruin goodwill ambassador in their advertising.

They used Sleepy not only in printed ads, brochures, postcards and matchbook covers, but on motel signage and items as well.
(Courtesy Dave Eames' great Historic Highways online museum)
For kids, the motel chain manufactured a stuffed version of Sleepy (below). 
For adults, a special Jim Beam decanter in the shape of Sleepy Bear was issued (below).

Sleepy Bear decanter, currently for sale on Etsy
Travelodge even had full-size Sleepy costumes (below) made, so that he could make public appearances.

Courtesy Travelodge.com
Sometime in the late 1960s I believe, Sleepy's design was streamlined and simplified (below).

Then in the 1970s, the sleep-deprived bear was downplayed in advertising, and was often featured only in silhouette (below).

By 1980 or so, Sleepy was completely redesigned and given a new, jowly look. His white nightshirt was replaced with a blue pajama top, with matching sleep cap and slippers.
"New" Sleepy and "Old" Sleepy
In 2004, in honor of his 50th birthday, Sleepy was redesigned to be less jowly (below).

Anyway, while preparing this post I was surprised to discover that Sleepy had been redesigned again in 2012.

Gone are the nightshirt and sleeping cap. This new Sleepy is all grown up. Surprisingly, Sleepy's not even sleepy any more!

Why? According to the Travelodge website, the explanation is that since he sleeps at Travelodge, he's well-rested and ready for adventure. It looks like he's longer a Travelodge customer anymore too; now, he's a full-fledged employee with an official company vest.

He's featured in TV commercials and on the official Travelodge Facebook page.

Travelodge has celebrated Sleepy's new look with a special page on the company website with an online graphic showing his evolution through the years (below).

Courtesy Travelodge.com
I'm sure that the new Sleepy tested well in the motel's marketing research, as he is very appealing and much in style with the current crop of animated 3-D movies.

As for me, though, I still prefer the design of the sleepwalking 1950s Sleepy. I can identify with him, too – as I'm always hoping to get that elusive good night's sleep.

5 comments:

Animalover said...

He's gone from looking cute, to stupid, and now looks like a Smokey the Bear type. I didn't even know these motels were still around.

Dan Brady said...

He resembles one of the b'ars from Disney's Country Bear Jamboree to me!

Violet TheViolet said...

I remember seeing billboards a long time ago that were the old style Sleepy Bear, but he was carrying a lit candle in a candle holder. Can't find an example of that image anywhere

mary jean Campini said...

I am looking for a real Sleepy bear in good condition 50 years old for to give to someone for their 50 B-day. I do not want an new one the bear needs to be 50 years old!!

Dan Brady said...

There's one on Ebay right now!

http://www.ebay.com/itm/vintage-60s-Sleepy-the-Travel-Lodge-bear-plush-mascot-/321529952006?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4adcadb706