- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald … and Mr. Six.

Six Flags Theme Parks Inc. introduced what it hopes to be a new pop-culture icon this summer with an old — but spry — dancing spokesman. But, like Walt Disney and McDonald’s, Six Flags is keeping its spokesman in costume and encouraging water-cooler talk by revealing only his stage name, Mr. Six.

In Six Flags’ television commercials, Mr. Six’s retro-style bus pulls up on a suburban street and a shriveled-up bald man creeps out. Then the tuxedo-clad oldster breaks into unique dance moves to the Vengaboys’ hit song “We Like to Party,” prompting overworked families to erase their busy schedules and head to Six Flags.

During the beginning of the national campaign — the Oklahoma City company’s first in seven years — the character was called the “dancing ambassador of fun.” Last week, he became Mr. Six, a name spokeswoman Debbie Evans said was there the whole time. In the TV commercial, the bus’ vanity plate says “MR SIX.”

“As the excitement and cultural icon status grew, we thought it made sense to call him by his name,” Ms. Evans said.

Speculation about the person behind the tuxedo and oversized glasses clutters the Internet. Chat room and message board posters debate whether the character is really a young dancer in makeup or a talented old man. Some think the character is a well-known actor — Martin Short or Jaleel “Urkel” White in disguise, perhaps — or a run-of-the-mill commercial actor.

The commercials are effective at retaining interest in Six Flags, according to a poll by the Intermedia Advertising Group. The 60-second spot was No. 2 on the group’s list of most recognized commercials and the 30-second commercial was No. 8. for a two-week period in late March, the latest data available. Burger King’s commercial of a boss and employee ordering the same meal was No. 1.

Ms. Evans declined to reveal how much has been spent on the campaign.

Six Flags does not yet have attendance numbers for the year, but the company is encouraged by the buzz surrounding Mr. Six.

“We had no idea Mr. Six would turn into his own pop-culture icon,” Ms. Evans said. “The water-cooler talk has really been much more widespread and enthusiastic than we could expect.”

Mr. Six will make his first public appearance at Six Flags Great America outside Chicago Friday. Ms. Evans said Mr. Six likely will be making stops at other parks, but declined to be specific until the schedule is finalized.

The campaign comes after years of disappointing sales for theme parks.

“For the past couple years, theme parks and entertainment companies experienced a decline in guest visitation and business,” Ms. Evans said. “Last year was particularly difficult because of bad weather in a lot of the markets.”

Six Flags has 29 parks across the country, including one in Largo.

Since the September 11 attack, the amusement park industry has faced flat sales, with only a few parks nationwide reporting an increase in attendance. In the year following the terrorist attacks, 30 percent of the nation’s job losses took place in the tourism industry, according to Fun World, the magazine of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

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