How Vinnie the “Danda” Was Created for Fox’s Biscuits

Part dog, part panda, 100% wise guy. Fans of Fox’s Biscuits may recall that in 2008 the brand debuted a TV advert campaign directed by Garth Jennings starring a mascot named Vinnie. A cross between a dog and panda, the creatives at Mother London dreamed up Vinnie to have the personality of an old-school Italian gangster with a taste for the finer things in life.

Fox’s Biscuits got its start in 1853 with freshly baked brandy snaps made by founder Michael Spedding at his Batley bakery. Spedding’s batches were a hit. A few years later, they began selling at shows and shops. In 1897, Fred Ellis Fox, Spedding’s son-in-law took over the bakery and renamed it F E Fox & Co. The business soon branched out beyond brandy snaps to create chocolate shortcake rounds, biscuit bars, and biscwits. Today, Fox’s Biscuits bakes more than a million biscuits a year and employs workers in Kirkham, Uttoxeter, and Batley, where the magic began.

Former art director at Mother London (now an art director at Mother NY), Josh Engmann said that Vinnie was created to help express the high quality of Fox’s Biscuits and their biscwits. Vinnie was given black and white coloring akin to that of a panda with facial features similar to a dog’s and developed by the animation team at MPC using CGI technology.

Some of the finer things in life that Vinnie enjoys include handmade shoes from Italy, furniture from France, and Fox’s Biscuits. Vinnie’s pursuit of the good life went hand in hand with positioning the brand’s biscuits as a luxury treat. Rather than go the direction of competitors and discuss ingredients, Fox’s gave their heritage brand a contemporary twist that reflected the high-class nature of the treats.

Despite Vinnie’s inclination towards living the good life, there were undercurrents throughout the campaign that suggested Vinnie had a more… interesting means of obtaining his success. Various commercials featured Vinnie nonchalantly referencing cleaning out a mess in the trunk of his car, a “dry cleaning situation” in the form of a rolled up rug making muffled noises, and heavy implications that Vinnie’s racehorse Ambers was part of a horse racing bet. Engmann noted that it is possible Vinnie’s success wasn’t based on legitimate means.

What does a character do when caught in this kind of pickle that has the potential to ruin his reputation? Vinnie (er, Fox’s Biscuits) held an online auction on eBay for Vinnie to quickly unload some of his goods without any further questions asked. According to Engmann, items for sale included paintings of dubious authenticity, and used shovels, baseball bats, and crowbars. Tons of offers came through for Vinnie’s lot that couldn’t be refused and in total over $10,000 was raised through the auction and donated to the UK charity Crime Stoppers.

Its impossible to know if the auction made an honest guy out of Vinnie, but we do know that he maintains a few side businesses of his own. Fox’s Biscuits launched Caffè Biscuits in 2013, which were specially made to go with a cup of coffee, which subsequently piqued Vinnie’s interest in java. One phone call to a connection in Colombia later and bada bing! Vinnie’s in the coffee business — sounds respectable enough, right?

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