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The original Teddy bears, c. 1903. (Photo: Sagamore Hill National Historic site)

Various labels and advertisements that have used the koala. (Reproduced from Symbols of Australia by Mimmo Cozzolino)

history. Ironically, Teddy is a name that Roosevelt neither liked nor used in real life. It was used by the papers to refer to him during his presidency.16

Despite mistaking the origins of the teddy bear, Pratt is responsible for penning perhaps the most evocative description of the koala:

no more gently harmless, trustful, quaintly comical, wistfully curious, wise-looking, pathetic and lovable little creature ever existed, and none with a face more subtly suggestive of some of the more endearing psychological qualities we are wont to regard as pertaining only to the human race.17

Le Souef and Burrell had already noted the effective use of the koala by advertisers, and the bear's general appeal meant that it could be used to advertise almost everything from sliced peaches to mineral water, credit cards to airlines. There is even a giant koala at Dadswell Bridge in western Victoria that adds to the long list of Australia's big things that are used to increase tourism.

The Giant Koala at Dadswell Bridge in western Victoria.

After the end of the Second World War, the birth of global tourism catapulted the koala into the international consciousness, and its charisma quickly took hold. As more and more people visited Australia, and koalas began to travel overseas to zoos in the United Kingdom and the United States, its popularity soared, particularly in North America and Asia. It seemed that everyone wanted to shake the little Australian's paw: international stars from the world of entertainment, Jackie Chan and Janet Jackson, to name only two; royalty, including HM Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry and TIH Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan; and political heavyweights such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II, all have been photographed with Australian koalas.

The enduring appeal of the koala in children's literature and its proven ability to sell an ever-widening range of products made it almost inevitable that confectionary manufacturers would, sooner or later, jump on the bandwagon. The first Cad-bury product to be modelled on an Australian character was the Caramello Koala and today, 40 years after it was first produced, the mould, shape and caramel centre of this chocolate bar are unchanged. It is still a favourite treat for children of all ages. More recently The Natural Confectionary Co. has released a healthier, but equally delicious chewy fruit sweet, the Blinky Bill jellies. In Japan there are even koala-shaped bite-sized cookies called Koara no machi ('Koala's march') which come in a

Confectionary featuring koala characters, such as The Natural Confectionary Co. 's Blinky Bill jellies (left) and the Japanese Koara no mdchi cookies, has proved very popular.

range of flavours, including chocolate, strawberry and banana, and were released in 1984 to coincide with the arrival of the first koalas from Australia.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Blinky Bill is everywhere—books, songs, cartoon series, a movie and now lollies, but Blinky Bill is only one koala star in the animated world of cartoons. The American production company Hanna-Barbera Studios began broadcasting 'The Kwicky Koala Show' in 1981. It's difficult to see the outback in Kwicky's surroundings, and the show hinges on the speed with which he evades his arch nemesis, Wilfred Wolf, but Kwicky is, despite appearances, a koala.

A popular Japanese animated cartoon called 'Noozles' or 'The Wonderous Koala Blinky' was originally broadcast as Fushigi na Koara Burinkl or Magical Koala Blinky when first released in 1984.18 The cartoons depict the adventures of a 12-year-old girl named Sandy and her koala friends Blinky and Printy (who became 'Pinky' when dubbed in America). The two koalas are from the extradimensional realm of Koala-Wala Land. Satellite channels in the United States aired the cartoons from 1989 to 1993. In 2006, the cartoon's producer, Nippon Animation, created another koala character, this time a blue koala called Penelope in a cartoon called Pénélope tête en l'air. Penelope is positive and engaging, though more than a little scatterbrained.19

Koala Animation
Blinky and Pinky, from the cartoon 'Noozles' or 'The Wonderous Koala Blinky'. (Courtesy Nippon Animation)

The Koala Brothers, Frank and Buster are stop frame silicon model animation characters, that were first produced in Britain, but created by Australian David Johnson, that have proven popular with preschoolers around the world.20 The Koala Brothers live at the 'homestead' and fly all over the Australian outback in their bright yellow plane, helping people in need. Although the characters have differences of opinion and can occasionally be naughty, there are no villains and no violence, and the emphasis is on lending a helping hand and being a good friend. This series was first produced in 2003 and immediately picked up in Australia by the ABC. Now it is aired in more than 80 countries including New Zealand, Canada, the United States, France, Germany, Poland, Israel and Singapore, and has been translated into 19 languages.21

As well as starring in its own series, the koala has also had important supporting roles. It's even appeared in 'The Simpsons', in an episode that first aired in 1995. Lisa has explained the Coriolis Effect to Bart, but he doesn't believe her, so he makes a collect call to Australia to check which way their water goes down the drain. When the phone rings a koala is zapped as it climbs a power pole. When Bart does not hang up the phone, the house he rang in Australia gets a phone bill for $900. Bart is sent to Australia by the American Government, to apologise to the Australian people. After various shenanigans, the Simpson family are forced to flee an irate crowd in an embassy helicopter. As they take off, they laugh at Lisa's comment that Australia's delicate ecosystem cannot handle introduced species such as the toad Bart let go on his arrival, which is now spreading rapidly. But the last image is of a koala holding grimly on to the helicopter, indicating that Australia will get its own back.

Television series, silver screen, what next? Video games, of course. The Crash Bandicoot video game series has a super-strong character called Koala Kong. Koala Kong was mutated by Dr Neo Cortex, and because of that he is incredibly strong. There is perhaps a glimmer of reality in the explanation that during the mutation process, not enough protein reached the koala's brain.22

Another children's computer-game koala character is a mystic, enlightenment-seeking marsupial, Zen Master Koala Lumpur. And the Sly Cooper video game series features the Guru, an anthropomorphic koala with mystical knowledge.23

Despite its undoubted inactivity the koala has been known to promote sporting events. It is the mascot for the Queensland Reds Rugby Union team (and the mammal faunal emblem for Queensland), and the opening ceremony of the 18th Commonwealth Games, held in Melbourne in 1996, featured koalas flying on a giant thong.

The koala is even immortalised in the Aboriginal Dreamtime horoscope developed by Milton Black. While Black anthropo-morphises obvious aspects of koala behaviour, other areas of the horoscope are direct opposites to koala behaviour.

The koala mascot and logo of the Queensland Reds Rugby Union football club.

(Reproduced with permission of Queensland Rugby Union)

The koala mascot and logo of the Queensland Reds Rugby Union football club.

(Reproduced with permission of Queensland Rugby Union)

Those born in the month of July are represented by the star sign 'koala' and are very emotional, sensitive, intensely romantic and have a vivid imagination. They can be particularly painstaking and industrious in all they undertake, but are inclined to have extremes of good and bad fortune. They may be drawn to sport, political meetings, club activities or similar functions. They intuitively perceive what people desire, so can succeed in a profession supplying the goods and services the public wants. At times, they may suffer from procrastination so can have difficulty with plans, ideas or a career path. At a critical point in their advancement, they may decide to toss it all in, or turn back from the original idea. They may meet strong opposition, criticism and family upheavals, which may make them cynical and shut off their emotions from the outside world. They know instinctively when things can be improved. They are eloquent and at ease speaking in public. Politically, they tend to respect tradition and custom. They are patriotic, with a strong sense of values. They have the ability to make long-lasting, loyal friendships and are surrounded by popularity and joy. Suitable careers include arts, home economics, horticulture, hotel management, industrial design, insurance, journalism, laboratories, landscape architecture, law, medicine, metallurgy, meteorology, military service, public service, real estate, the meat industry, national parks and wildlife and secretarial work.24

I hope this selection of examples demonstrates the enormous shift in our attitude towards the koala. From a torpid, sloth-like creature whose only possible value could be its pelt, the koala has metamorphosed into a worldwide king of charisma. The koala's intrinsic appeal and growing popularity served it well in the past in saving it from extinction but, as we will see in the following chapter, the emotive responses elicited by the koala can sometimes do it more harm than good.

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