The head-popping puppet was created by French music producer/director Mr Oizo and began life as Stephane, a puppet almost identical to Flat Eric but with ears and fixed hands. Stephane appeared in some short films directed by Oizo and developed a small following in France and Britain.
With Levi’s struggling during the decade as sales of denim dropped due to the growth of combat trousers, they selected Oizo to produce an advertising campaign around Stephane. After a few alterations by the same company that produced “The Muppets” Flat Eric was born.
The character got his name as the original plan was to have his head run over by a car, but probably after seeing Brian Conley’s career go into freefall due to puppet abuse they decided that Eric would instead be featured on the run from police, along with his friend Angel in a series of ads in 1999.
The real popularity came though when Eric was seen headbanging along to one of Mr Oizo’s songs in the car as he and Angel drove along. The track was called “Flat Beat” and after public it was released as a record and reached number one in March 1999.
Due to the Flat Eric craze, Levi’s even scrapped their “one advert and you’re out” rule and our little yellow friend returned in a series of ads continuing to avoid the police. The campaign worked as sales of Levi’s Sta-Pressed One Crease trousers rocketed and helped the company get back on track.
Following the adverts, and the avalanche of merchandise that inevitably followed, Flat Eric disappeared only appearing on “The Office” as a prop and alongside David Soul in an Auto Trader advert. Further research reveals that he has turned into an alcoholic and drunkenly spends time spinning around in a washing machine.
Even though it looks like Eric has gone off the rails, here’s to hoping that he does indeed make a triumphant return after a spell in rehab like every other celebrity, and returns to being one of the world’s best headbangers alongside Wayne and Garth once again.