The Michelin Man is considered one of advertising’s oldest trademarks. Here are a few fun factoids about this famous tire salesman gathered from Wikipedia and other other motoring sources:
1. French by birth, the idea behind the Michelin Man came to company co-founder Édouard Michelin during the Lyon Exhibition of 1894, when he noticed a stack of tires looked like a man without arms. He wasn’t officially created until 1898, and celebrated his 120th birthday in 2018.
2. The Michelin Man’s real French name is Bibendum, (call him “Bib”) which comes from a slogan borrowed from the poet Horace’s Odes, “Nunc est bibendum,” or “now is the time to drink.” Hopefully, not behind the wheel.
3. The reason for the slogan is when André Michelin, brother of Édouard and the other co-founder of the company, shared his brother’s epiphany with a cartoonist named Marius Rossillon (aka O’Galop), O’Galop reworked…really reworked….a rejected creation for a Munich brewery depicting a portly king on a beer barrel. The slogan was updated to “The Michelin Man drinks up obstacles.” O’Galop is best known for creating Bibendum, but was also a pioneer in animation. French director Marc Faye made an educational film about O’Galop’s life and his creation of the Michelin Man. The movie is in French, but includes English subtitles.
4. The first depictions the Michelin Man showed him with round glasses and smoking a lit cigar, but by the 1930s his cigar disappered and the glasses morphed into round eyes more closely associated with the current logo.
5. One recent American CGI-heavy television ad gave Bibendum a Michelin puppy dog who, although not revealed in the commercial, is named “Bubbles.” No, it isn’t a Shar-Pei.
The Michelin Man stands tall while folks happily witness his disembowelment in a circa 1914 ad. Image Public Domain.
6. When the moonwalk was first seen throughout the world in 1969, one French journalist commented upon seeing Neil Armstrong : “It’s extraordinary! He reminds me of the Michelin Man walking on the moon.”
7. The Michelin Man’s “biography,” Michelin Man: 100 Years of Bibendum was written by Olivier Darmon in 1998, but the Michelin Man was also later seen on the popular mid-century children’s “I-Spy” spotter’s guides. Michelin acquired the the series in 1991, and published it until 2002. It later relaunched in 2009. One issue was even devoted to the spotting the Michelin Man himself.
8. Although the phrase “looking like the Michelin Man” is often used when feeling overweight or wearing bulky winter clothes, the Michelin Man worked to change is puffy image a bit in the 1980s, by being depicted running by tires. His official logo even slimmed down a little for his 100th birthday celebration in 1998.
9. The Michelin Man’s curvy simplicity has inspired many artistic minds. Not only did early 20th century designer Eileen Gray create a popular chair design based on him, but a pair or well-respected restaurateurs opened a restaurant and oyster bar in the historic Michelin House headquarters building in London. It still features plenty of depictions of the Michelin Man, such as stained glass windows, mosaic tile and memorabilia.
10. He may be a stack of tires, but the Michelin Man is also trusted travel agent, thanks to the popular Michelin Guides letting travelers know where the best hotels, restaurants and other facilities are in each city. The guides’ star rating system isn’t always appreciated by restaurants, as there have been plenty of controversies over what some owners feel are unfair ratings, omissions, or biases. Yes, the “Bibendum” restaurant is listed in the United Kingdom’s guide.
Well, you can’t please everyone, but at least the Michelin Man is well equipped to “roll” with the punches. You can learn more about the Michelin Man on the official site at michelin.com.
A couple of the latest issues of the Michelin Guide, trusted by travelers, not always loved by restaurants. Covers © Michelin.