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Somewhere in the frigid remoteness of the North Arctic sea, girls and boys, conveniently located for shopping near the island of Misfit Toys, is a land where the forgotten shills for swill still live and play.  Yes, fast food companies want to sell you as much as your little bodies can stand, and they’ll throw just about any idea toward that task.  Animated or animatronic; these creatures exist to open your hearts (and stomachs) until their masters deem them unworthy of the brands they live for! Now, let’s all give a “hand” to today’s guest…

Arby's Oven Mitt

 OVEN MITT

Mascot for: Arbys
Created by: Doner Advertising in Detroit
Active: March 2, 2003 – March 2005
Voiced by: Tom Arnold
Succeeded: “Appetite Man” (voiced by Barry White)
Succeeded by: “I’m Thinkin Arbys”

It’s the dawn of the new millennium. Having avoided certain destruction from Y2K Virus, the world breathes a sigh of relief and resumes their daily habits. Americans continue to dine at fast food eateries in unprecedented numbers, expanding the drive-thru empires and their own waistlines. However, the wheels of change creak and begin to turn, as a nagging bit of truth begins to gnaw away at the collective mind, not unlike a family chowing down on a bag of hamburgers on the long drive to Grandma Rose Marie’s house; “This food just isn’t good for us!”

Not content to sit and continue producing the same caliber of fatty substance day-in and day-out, the popular roast beef sandwich chain Arby’s prepared to roll out a new promotion emphasizing their wheelhouse: Oven roasted beef! Healthier than “those other guys” who fry or grill their meat, food from the oven is thought to invoke feelings of comfort and that good ol’ home cooking, just like how Mom used to make all your roast beef sandwiches! Who or what better to symbolize this new paradigm shift from grills to ovens than your indispensable ally in the kitchen: an oven mitt!

And so, in the late days of winter in 2003, Oven Mitt was born! While possibly not the most creative name in advertising, Oven Mitt would serve as the mascot for the roast beef moguls’ new campaign, focusing on the oven roasted food preparation tactics, a stark difference when many of its competitors were frying their products. Comedian and actor Tom Arnold was chosen to give a voice to the insulated champion. Though there was not any concrete information immediately available confirming or denying it, there is a rumor that Arnold was paid for this gig with Arby’s food for life; truly an unorthodox form of compensation, but a testament to the value of Arby’s food to some people!

One of Oven Mitt’s first television appearances showcased his vocal talents as he sang his own rendition of “Volare” to an Italian Beef N’ Provolone sandwich. The song sounded somewhat romantic in nature, which brings about an important question of what kind of creature Oven Mitt truly is. Clearly he has shown he is capable of sentience, regaling the Arby’s staff with thoughtful observations about what is going on in his environment. He even shows emotion as he serenades a sandwich, which as far as we’ve seen has shown little to no sentience. What does this say about Oven Mitt’s kind? Let us continue to delve into his psyche.

In another commercial, Oven Mitt is found on a hook in the kitchen, giving a motivational speech to the Arby’s crew about his beloved Italian Beef N’ Provolone sandwich. He beseeches the minimum wage workers to respect the ovens, and by extension, the oven mitts. What follows is a horrifying flashback where Oven Mitt is found crying out in agony, stuck under a searing hot pan of oven roasted beef. Clearly, as a creature of flame retardant material, the heat is not a problem, but the act of being crushed brings pain to our noble hero, giving him an essence of humanity.

Like us, Oven Mitt is capable of feeling pain, but what else does he feel? Does he, too, lay awake at night in the kitchen pondering the mysteries of the universe? Does he even need sleep, for that matter? Is he doomed to be ever-conscious, an immortal being, always lying in wait in the Arby’s kitchen for his human co-workers to arrive the next day for him to experience companionship? Many great questions, and few immediate answers to be found in his short career, unfortunately.

Despite all these deep questions and noble intentions to advertise a somewhat healthier manner of cooking fast food, Oven Mitt’s career was generally reviled. An internet search of the little guy returns many sites discussing how annoying the creators thought he was. Others thought he just simply carried too many similarities to the Hamburger Helper glove. Personally, this reviewer finds the current Arby’s “Good Mood Food” song campaign to be much more annoying, and never recalled having any particular grievances with Oven Mitt during his time in the spotlight.

Oven Mitt had a two year long run in the advertising circuit, being succeeded in March 2005 by the new line of Arby’s commercials with their new slogan “I’m Thinkin’ Arby’s”. Our white and red friend with the googly eyes is gone but not forgotten however, as many videos of the “Arby’s Glove/ Oven Mitt Dance” can be found on Youtube, showcasing the mascot’s knack for bouncing around slightly in a cowboy hat-shaped glove costume and amusing the masses. Despite the loud voice of the dissenters, the noble gloved figure brought joy to many in his brief two years, and continues to do so behind the scenes, as Arby’s official website contains a FAQ asking the whereabouts of Oven Mitt. The response: “Oven Mitt is helping us with our community service, specifically benefiting Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® Campaign.” A noble retirement for one always willing to give all of himself to those that need a hand.

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