Born on “Imagination Day,” the ambiguously marsupial, beloved kids TV character Polkaroo has been a fixture of Canadian culture for generations. He taught kids about using their creativity and imagination, leading them on psychedelic journeys of the mind. But now, many of the people who grew up with Polkaroo are grownups, living in the largest country on earth with legal adult-use cannabis. And for veteran mascotter Mark Scott, who spent decades beneath the Polkaroo’s costume for Canadian broadcaster TVO, it’s high time to get with the times.
Polkaroo Is All Grown Up, and He’s All About Cannabis
With just some red thread and an exciting new prop, the Polkaroo has transformed himself into the new and improved Tokaroo, a cannabis-loving parody of the famous children’s TV character. Since October 17, when Canada’s adult-use law went into effect, Tokaroo has been wandering the streets of Toronto. Puffing on a giant stuffed joint, Tokaroo was in Toronto park celebrating with Canadians enjoying their new right to legal weed, and he has shown up in Instagram feeds every since. Tokaroo’s public appearances as a giant, very high marsupial always attract crowds of enthusiastic adolescents and adults.
Sometimes, Scott says, parents will even pose with their children beside the red-eyed, toking Tokaroo. In that case, Scott does his best to tuck Tokaroo’s joint out of the frame. (A trick many Canadian parents already know all too well.) But despite all the public adulation, TVO is trying to really kill the buzz around Tokaroo. And in a signed cease-and-desist letter, TVO is demanding Scott stop performing as his pot-loving rendition of Polkaroo.
But the veteran mascot maker, who appeared as Polkaroo at TVO promotional events between 1985 and 2007, has refused to back down. Instead, he’s challenging the broadcaster to live up to its own motto to “Never Stop Learning.” “They’re doing a lot of ‘never’ and ‘stopping’,” Scott said. Scott has until Friday to decide whether to continue with his 420-friendly parody of beloved Canadian kids TV character Polkaroo. And by all accounts, he plans to keep his Tokaroo costume in rotation as part of an expanding cast of characters.
Could Mark Scott’s Tokaroo Succeed Where All Other Weed Mascots Have Failed?
Weed mascots have an ignominious history as part of cannabis awareness campaigns or anti-drug ads. There’s just something ridiculous about “Buddy,” the cartoon cannabis cop, or the “Stoner Sloth.” But with Tokaroo, Mark Scott is embracing the ridiculousness. And for that reason alone, Tokaroo could succeed where all other weed mascots have failed.
Scott says Tokaroo isn’t for kids, anyway, even though TVO’s letter to Scott cited concerns about promoting cannabis to children. Both Polkaroo and Tokaroo are about developing people’s minds, but Tokaroo is for adults and adolescents, according to Scott. Taking an irreverent, sometimes crass approach, such as showing up as a beloved kids TV character holding a giant plush joint, Tokaroo wants to have a blunt conversation about young people and weed.
And it’s not just Tokaroo, either. Scott says he’s developing mascots around several other social issues and identities. There’s Rainbowroo, a queer take on Polkaroo who talks about LGBTQ+ identity. Then there’s Reddyroo, who has special needs, and Signaroo, who’s deaf and uses sign language. All are part of a growing cast of “Candoroos” Scott is pioneering to address the issues most important to young people. He wants to take Polkaroo and turn it into “an infinite symbol of representation.” With such a grand vision, it’s unlikely Scott will listen to TVO and retire Tokaroo. Blaze on, buddy.