Otters? Lederhosen? Polkas? Root beer kegs? The Zoo? How in the world do all these fit together? What could they possibly have in common? And why?
Well, for answers to those questions and more, we need to set the Wayback Machine to the late 20th century — 1999 to be exact. Destination: The Advertising Savants conference room. Frank Oros and I were given an assignment to create an ad for “Ottertoberfest”, a fun, family-friendly October event at the Saint Louis Zoo—featuring (you guessed it) otters.
In typical fashion, we’d spent a day or two banging our heads against this problem, watching precious time dwindle away as the deadline loomed closer.
It was around “Late Thirty PM” when the coffee took hold and delirium set in. I mumbled wearily, “C’mon man, we have to nail this ad by morning.”
To which Frank moaned in an odd German accent, “Oh Villy, mine belly hurt.”
Curiously, I responded in my own weird dialect, “Schnitzel, don’t be such a big bucket uf sauerkraut.” At that moment, right there in that room, Villy & Schnitzel were born. Lederhosen-clad German otters with a love of oom-pah pah bands and root beer. Taking on lives of their own, those two stepped in and finished the ad for us that night. (Well, at least that’s how I remember it.)
For weeks, even months, those critters dwelled in our heads — always sneaking into conversations at the most inopportune moments. They became part of Frank and myself, much as they did late that night in the conference room. There were even discussions about producing radio commercials with the peculiar, outspoken pair. But alas, there wasn’t a budget for that type of project at the time.
Wait! Did I say time?! Why, yes I did. We still have the time machine available to whisk us back to 2012. It seems that over the years, “Ottertoberfest” had grown in popularity and so did its advertising budget.
Wunderbar! We’re talking a reunion bigger than Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park. Villy & Schnitzel would yodel together again. Not only in print — but now in two radio spots, for the beloved October celebration at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Fast forward. Time machine. Remember?
I immediately got down to work on scripts.
Frank and I channeled our Bavarian alter egos.
Then, Villy & Schnitzel took it from there.
The rest, they say, is history.
It’s all true. I swear. I was there.