If you are following Angry birds on social media (Instagram, Twitter), you may have seen some big news earlier this month – there’s a new bird in town. After some teasing with the Angry Birds community, the newest member of the flock was introduced. Say hello to Jo!
hey y’all, meet Jo! Jo’s passionate about dancing and the performing arts. they can be a liiiittle shy at first, but they’re sure wreck the dancefloor! Jo is also non-binary. they use their skills and talent to make the world a kinder and better place (we’re working on the anger) pic.twitter.com/LRst3rv7If
— Red the Angry Bird (@AngryBirds) June 5, 2023
Jo is a non-binary superb bird of paradise with a passion for dance. Jo is an introvert by nature, and prefers to stick to a close-knit group of friends, but they find their true outlet for expression on the dancefloor, using their skills and talent to make the world a kinder and better place.
Jo’s introduction came at the beginning of pride month 2023, but the addition of this new character is not merely adding to the chorus of support for LGBTQIA+ community that comes every June. “From the beginning, we wanted to do something that was bigger than just a Pride campaign that we might have done in the past” says Angry Birds Brand Creative Director, Giorgio Giussani. “We had an opportunity to show that our brand is diverse, and that there is room for different perspectives in the world.”
We had a chance to talk to Giorgio about Jo joining the flock, and the process and inspiration behind the creation of this new character. See below for the full interview.
First, introduction time! Tell us who you are and what you do.
My full title is Angry Birds Brand Creative Director. I Joined Rovio in 2022. What I do is basically look after anything that has to do with the creative side of the brand. A lot of what Rovio does as a company is touched by the Angry Birds Brand, from the games to movies to TV series. At the moment I’m looking at 360 campaigns and social media campaigns that our games can take part in. Those are more short term things, but over the long term, I’m also working on how we can keep the Angry Birds brand relevant, and also introduce the brand to new audiences. It has been our goal to make Red the face of mobile gaming so raising the profile of the brand and being present in people’s minds is very important.
Where did the idea come from to introduce a new bird to the flock?
We started considering ideas for a Pride campaign as early as January, and I thought that if we were going to do a Pride campaign, we need to show that we have a diverse IP. We thought that creating a new character for this purpose would be a small step forward for inclusivity and representation in the Angry Birds brand, but of course there is still much work to be done. As a company, Rovio has a clear strategy around sustainability, and diversity, equity and inclusion so I felt like we had a good opportunity to make the Angry Birds brand reflect that diversity as well. I felt that if we were going to do something for Pride month, then we couldn’t do that without a member of the flock that is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
How did the creative process for Jo first begin?
So when we start the creative process, we always start with a creative workshop within the Angry Birds Brand Team where we can spend some time together and work out ideas. I had an idea to create a bird that was a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, but we didn’t know how exactly we would make that happen. So part of the workshop was to start thinking about how we can represent the community.
The idea to create a new character around this superb bird of paradise came out of those early workshops, but before we even got into the visual design, we started looking at the narrative for the new character. What is their story? What kind of personality do they have? How do they interact with other birds? What do they like to do? What is their age? These are the kinds of questions we wanted to answer before considering the aesthetic factor. Through these early conversations, and laying out the story of this new character, it just developed naturally that Jo would be a non-binary character.
We created the first draft for Jo within our team, and then shared it with the wider community within Rovio, such as our DEI team, our Inclusive game design channel and our internal LGBTQIA+ channel. We got a lot of great feedback, and It was important to make sure we aren’t unintentionally stereotyping a group or a gender for example.
Why was it so important to create a character who is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community?
I think it is important to show diversity because the world is so diverse. In the past, everything has been coming from one perspective, but the world is much more than just one perspective. I travel a lot in my spare time. I want to see every country in the world and I’ve been to 94 countries now. While traveling you really realize the world is not always how we see it in our day to day lives. But people aren’t only separated geographically. I think it’s also important to give representation to different groups. That’s extremely important for me. In my view, if we want to be successful as a brand, we need to make sure that we are diverse and inclusive because that is when people will stick with us, when they see a place where they belong.
How did Jo’s visual design come together?
The superb bird of paradise came up in the initial workshop and we thought it was very unique and maybe not such a well known bird. It’s easy to imagine a new bird created for a Pride campaign to be done in bright rainbow colors, but we wanted to do something a bit different. The superb bird of paradise is like 90% black with some striking turquoise features so it really stands out. For the design, we worked together with the Creative Team (MCT) at Rovio. We wanted to first create a “movie” style character with arms and legs that can be animated. I put together some visual references, and some references about Jo’s story and personality, but I also wanted them to have fun with it. They are really amazing artists so it was in good hands. It was an iterative process that took about one month where we shared with the internal Rovio community and made changes based on feedback.
How have Angry Birds fans reacted to Jo since the big reveal?
The fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. We have gotten a lot of amazing comments from people in the AB community, and it feels great to read those. One comment for me that just made all of the negativity disappear was from a fan who thanked us for making LGBTQIA+ lives a little more seen. That one comment makes it worth doing this entire campaign, that someone can see themself represented in our brand and feel included, that makes me feel like we’re doing what we set out to do.
We have also been doing some content around the different flags of the LGBTQIA+ community. When people think about Pride, it is usually associated with the rainbow flag, but when you dig deeper, there are many other flags. There is the bisexual flag, the intersex flag, to name only a few. The first one we posted was the intersex flag and there was a comment about how Rovio or Angry Birds is the only company that is validating the intersex community. There were also some comments about Red from Angry Birds being the most genuine LGBTQIA+ ally, and some great reactions to our pronoun explainer post as well.
When doing pride, or LGBTQIA+ related content, it would be naive to think that we won’t get any negative comments. We have received a few, but the positivity that has come out of the campaign greatly outweighs the negatives. Seeing the community’s reaction to Jo and all of our Pride content has really been heartwarming.
Jo comes to Angry Birds 2 as an in-game spell as part of a limited time event. Play Angry Birds 2 from June 27 to July 5 and see Jo spread their wings!