You would not know Nicholas Mahon if you bumped into him during the Jamboree, but he is the creator and designer of Yona, the official mascot of the 24th World Scout Jamboree. His previous work includes the white tiger puppet from the opening ceremony at the 2018 Olympics, as well as the Jim Henson Company, and the Blue Man Group. Tasked with breathing life into our Jamboree Mascot, Mahon had some definite thoughts on the direction Yona should go.

“Trying to take a step away from the regular mascot, the kind you see in sports, big fluffy characters, could do something a little more theatrical. Little bit different.” Nicholas Mahon says it was also important, “doing something for the scouts – scouts are such a people-based thing.”

“[I] did not want to hide the performer too much, but wanted to feel the essence of the humanity in [Yona]. There are lots of open areas where we can see the human anatomy [in Yona].”

Yona was made with fitted individual pieces to give the overall feeling of a black bear. He was given the colors of the Jamboree reminiscent of tribal markings. The resulting costume allows more freedom of movement and comfort than a traditional mascot costume.

From drawing board to manufacture, months later, Yona was born! Mahon created Yona using a backpack frame, martial arts shin guards, and a few other items. The head can move around a bit when on top of the performer, giving Yona a lot of personality. The paws, legs, and feet are built to allow the performer additional range of movement not normally found in a mascot costume. Though it would seem the costume is in pieces, the overall picture is very complete and you are definitely seeing Yona the Jamboree Bear.

Mahon coaches the lucky few volunteer Rovers who are granted the privilege of playing Yona. “Sort of a Baloo in Jungle Book. He is big and goofy and round, but he is a little mischievous. He likes to have fun.” Mahon demonstrates for the newest Yona how to walk and move while in costume. Moving “slower with intention” makes it more lifelike.

He is full of praise for his team of Rovers working with Yona, “[they] pick it up very quickly.” After 30 minutes of learning the costume, philosophy of puppetry, and Yona’s character, they are ready to go. The most important trait for a Rover wishing to be Yona is a good attitude and willingness to embrace the experience. Mahon notes there is no shortage of cheerfulness here at the jamboree!

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