One year ago, when Katy Perry took the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show, the team behind the multi-million-dollar production had no idea that one man in a shark costume would make television history. But as the 12-minute show went on, it became clear to viewers, the Internet, and eventually Perry herself that the real star of the Super Bowl wasn’t the Teenage Dream singer. Nor was it Lenny Kravitz in a surprise guest appearance. It wasn’t even Missy Elliott, who emerged from the darkness to perform “Work It” and “Lose Control.” No, the real star of the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show was the Left Shark.
“I don’t think anybody on the team had any idea that Left Shark was going to become such a cultural phenomenon,” Super Bowl halftime show director Hamish Hamilton, who helmed Perry’s show and will direct Coldplay’s show Sunday, tells EW. “But to be part of this team that came together to put that show on was a beautiful thing.”
The show’s producer Rob Paine echoed Hamilton, telling EW, “I never in a million years would have thought the Left Shark would become the breakout moment and become a Halloween costume. It’s hard to tell what everybody’s going to latch onto.”
Hamilton says the Left Shark was inspired by a Scissor Sisters performance at the 2005 Brit Awards, which he directed. The group played “Take Your Mama” in front of a surreal farm yard complete with glittery chicken eggs, a talking barn, and massive bird-like puppets. “We were trying to work out how we could bring a beach scene to life and so one of the references that we looked at was that Scissor Sisters’ performance. The genesis of the Left Shark was actually a singing melon.”
The effect Perry’s halftime show had on the Internet was felt instantly as Left Shark memes sprang up before the Super Bowl even ended. Headlines like “An investigation into the dancing sharks at Katy Perry’s Super Bowl show,” “Katy Perry’s Sharks Were The Best Part Of The Super Bowl,” and “Left Shark Nailed It!” dominated for a week after the performance. He became notorious for dancing to “Teenage Dream,” flailing his arms while the Right Shark danced crisply. (The performer Bryan Gaw, who is one of Perry’s longtime backup dancers, declined to be interviewed for this story.)
“A little bit after the show we saw people being like, ‘Oh look, the Left Shark can’t dance,'” Paine says. “But if you look at it again, he’s dancing perfectly fine.”
“The staff would send emails about the Left Shark,” says Paine. “We started sending pictures around when people were dressing up as Left Shark. It’s kind of nice when you see a moment you were involved in continue in pop culture history.”
Hamilton and Paine return to their Super Bowl roles on Sunday for Coldplay’s halftime show. When asked if they think viewers will have another “Left Shark” to latch onto, Paine teased, “I think there are a few pieces that have the potential to become viral moments.”