Airplane safety applies to everyone, even Willy Wonka

Willy Wonka cares about safety
So, I was flying Sun Country Airlines a few months back and happened to be seated in the exit row. Though I’m normally one of those jerks who doesn’t listen to the safety presentation (frankly, I’m often asleep by then), when I’m in an exit row, I feel obligated, so I pulled out the airplane safety card and read along. Much to my surprise, I encountered the characters in the photos above and below. What the devil are Willy Wonka and a ballerina doing on the airplane safety card?

They were subtle — I almost didn’t notice them. I laughed and showed my boyfriend when I found the ballerina, and he found the guy in tails, whom we immediately assumed was Willy Wonka. I reported the findings on Twitter, and some of my more observant friends commented that they had seen Willy, too. I had to investigate. I contacted Sun Country, who put me in touch with Trisha Carper-Ferguson, president of Interaction Research Corporation, the print and design company behind I interviewed Carper-Ferguson via e-mail.

Gadling: What’s the story behind these characters?Trisha Carper-Ferguson: It is always our goal to educate and inform as many passengers as possible about aircraft safety and security. We believe what we do saves lives. At the same time, it is difficult to get the average passenger to pick up a briefing card and spend the few minutes exploring their aircraft information. In 1997 we created a way for a few airlines to make the passenger briefings (both oral and illustrated) fun and interesting with the hopes that it would attract more attention to the information. We created the character cards as a Where’s Waldo type of project. We encouraged the carriers to make it a game onboard the aircraft. Obviously we were limited by copyright and trademark, therefore we needed to come up with universal characters that people from all over the world would be entertained by.

G: Who drew them?

TCF: Our team of illustrators drew them. Specifically Linda Goff and Krista Dunk who were two of our graphic artists at the time.

G: What other products do you make, and do you include this same sort of whimsy?

TCF: We produce (both design and print) passenger safety briefing cards and videos for airlines all over the world. We also have a full commercial print company in-house which produces all types of business printing needs and signage. Not all of our work has a whimsical feel, but if it draws attention to important information then why not? :-)

G: How long have they been like this (and how long will they be like this)?

TCF: The “Character Cards” were only picked up by a handful of our carriers, starting in 1997 with Canadian airlines. I believe Sun Country Airlines is the only carrier currently using them. Thanks again, what fun this has been to revisit.

Ballet Brace
So, there you have it, folks. Fly Sun Country Airlines and you’ll get a special surprise. Carper-Ferguson and IRC definitely achieved their goal — I’ve looked carefully at every airplane safety card since.