Peeps Show V: The winners of our fifth annual diorama contest

Apr 14, 2011

Looking at all the entries in 2011 Washington Post Peeps Contest is like taking a snapshot of pop culture. The more than 900 dioramas submitted touched on international news (the Chilean mine disaster), Washington-area headaches (Pepco and Metro), modern technology (Angry Birds), mainstream superstars (Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga) and underground celebs (Banksy).

Holly E Thomas discussed our fifth annual, sugary-sweet contest on Thursday, April 14, 2011.

Photos: This year's top entries
Videos: A closer look at the finalists
Poll: Vote for your favorite
Full Coverage: 2011 Peeps Contest

Our winners are amazing, but we had hundreds of great entries that we couldn't fit in our photo gallery!  If you created a diorama, upload a picture of it here. And if you didn't, click that link anyway to feed your peeps habit with more great pics.

The one the Post sponsored was awesome family fun--games, the dioramas, T-shirts, Peeps crafts. Pretty please...?

Not this year, unfortunately ... we have gotten word that Artomatic is putting something together Artisphere in terms of displaying the dioramas this year, so stay tuned to the Going Out Guide and the Artomatic web site for more info. You'll also be able to see some of the dioramas and meet the creators at Monday's GOG Happy Hour event at Whitlow's in Arlington.

Also joining us for this chat is Mary Jo Ondrejka, one of the creators behind this year's winner, "Chilean CoPeepapo Mine Rescue"

I read that you found the entries featuring Lady Gaga and the Jon Stewart rally to be unworthy (but then you picked a Lady Gaga diorama for the gallery!)--what made these topics categorically unsuccessful to you?

Not unworthy, that's a bit too strong ... there were tons of these dioramas, yes, and some of them were quite good. We mainly found it interesting that such popular topics were so difficult to pull off. But a few did just that, which is why there's a Gaga diorama in the gallery. As for the rally, I think the scale was probably what made it hard to do -- the idea of thousands of people with hilarious signs just doesn't translate with only a box full of peeps. And generally for dioramas, the more simple and clean the better, and Gaga just doesn't lend herself to simple and clean.

I submitted a WikiPeeps diorama - were there others submitted as well? Is it too complex a theme to portray in marshmallow?

I only recall one -- the one with Julian Assange being interviewed outside his house, right? That one was nicely done, but the tricky part about a topic like WikiLeaks is that it's hard for judges to distinguish what they're looking at right off the bat ... consulting the explanation to determine the theme takes away some of the edge.

Mary Jo, can you tell everyone a little bit about how your diorama came about?

We tossed around ideas throughout the year. When the mine rescue was happening, we knew it would work and have audience appeal.

I thought the theme of this year's Peeps contest was historic events. All the semi-finalists depict current events or pop culture. How come?

There wasn't a specific theme ... Every year, the majority of the entrants depict current events or pop culture. That's what resonates most with the judges and with readers, and I'm guessing those topics are probably a bit more fun to recreate, too.

Was wondering if you got any oil-spill themed entries? Would bird peeps covered in oil dip into the realm of bad taste? Regardless, I love the winner--I wasn't thrilled with it at first glance but the depth of the entire piece is impressive.

We got several oil spill dioramas, actually -- and let me tell you, oil-soaked Peeps are particularly unappealing. Glad you enjoyed the winner -- the attention to detail is really marvelous.

I don't have a question, I just want to say thanks very much, I'm really honored to be among the semi-finalists, because the bar just keeps getting higher every year. Also, to reassure any Spinal Tap fans out there: you can't tell from the photo, but yes, the Spinal Peep drummer is melted (all but his ears) and the amplifiers DO go to 11! Also, for Washington D.C. area folks: Cool Disco Dan has tagged the back wall of the Cottontail Club.

Thanks for entering!

Photo: SpinalPeep

I submitted a diorama with the same theme as the winner - Miner Peeple, Major Rescue. How many dioramas were submitted with the same theme as the winner - the Chilean Copiapo mine rescue???

We received many Chilean miner rescue dioramas ... I'd say at least 15 to 20. Just goes to show that Peeps fans think alike!

Info on the GOG happy hour event with Peeps dioramas/creators:,1207286.html

What helped set our winner apart was the level of detail -- there were several scenes going on at once. Mary Jo,  can you talk a little bit about who some of those Peep characters were supposed to be and what they were doing?

The real rescue scene was very crazy, with lots of people. We have depcited family and wives and rescue workers. The Post did a good job of describing the couples - the miner whose wife had the baby, and the mistress/wife. There is more going on in the mine than can be seen in the photos, for instance there is a very hairy miner shaving in the "cave."

How can people who do not have professional artistic skills compete with professional artists? Have you thought about having categories of prizes like the Oscars, in order to give lots more people the opportunity to win? There could still bea "grand prize" winner, like the Oscars have best actor, best actress, best picture.

Funny that you mention this, because -- in a change from previous years' contests -- none of this year's finalists are professional artists. They're researchers, stay-at-home moms, etc. The photo gallery is our way of rewarding all the great dioramas that we get, but we haven't considered creating other categories for people to win ... maybe in the future.

How long will the "vote for your favorite" voting be open?

Since there's no prize -- other than bragging rights and personal pride -- for being the reader favorite, there's no end to the voting.

How can children and people with less artistic talent and resources possibly compete with people who are professiona; artists and fabricators?

Kids Post will display some of the top children's submissions on the 19th, which is a new development in the contest. And for what it's worth, I don't think it takes true "artistic talent" to make a good diorama -- it takes time, effort, some cleverness and a lot of thought, but those are the basic requirements to win ... well ... pretty much anything.

Were there any Tahrir Square entries? I wanted to do this one, but figured it was going to be too common a theme.

There were many Egypt and Libya themed dioramas ... another topic that was interesting in theory, but when there's no real humor or obvious joy in a scenario, I think it makes it particularly difficult to pull off with Peeps.

Amongst my friends, I actually predicted that this theme would win - I felt so strongly about the Chilean miner rescue theme that I convinced my friends to submit, along with me, a similar diorama depicting the same theme. How is it that I was able to predict this winner? One of my friends who submitted the diorama with me is from Chile, and I am a daughter/granddaughter of a coal miner. Through my friends' connections in Chile, we plan to submit our diorama to President Pineda and others in the Chilean government with whom we have connections.

Some interesting ties there ... thanks for your submission!

Something I really enjoy about this contest is the wide range of techniques and skills that come together. In a single diorama you can find everything from computer graphics to crayons. Skills from drafting to sewing, woodworking, drawing, painting, sculpting, and jewelry making all the way to just cutting and pasting construction paper come together, unified with ingenuity and a sense of humor. This contest is a great showcase for skills that don't normally get public recognition. Thanks so much to The Post for doing it!

Thanks for your support! It really is impressive what people can come up with, and the talents they discover in the process.

Bloody Peeps everywhere! how do the judges react to the gory dioramas?

Usually gore doesn't fare too well, unless it's really crucial to a scene (such as zombies) or artfully done (ie, not red food coloring sprayed all over the scene). We didn't find the Split Peep Soup Factory to be too gory -- subversive, sure, but there was no real violence.

Photos:  Zombies and the Soup Factory

I was able to predict the actual theme winner months before the contest was actually announced. How much does the "newsworthiness" of the event play into the choice of winner?

I think a newsworthy topic can help in terms of standing out in judges' minds, but it's not a requirement. Last year's winner and finalist dioramas didn't have even remotely newsworthy topics. It just so happens that this year's do ... I guess 2010 was rich with inspirational fodder!

I was really impressed by the winner. Are you a crafty kind of person? Or was this new artistic territory for you?

Team member Bryn Metzdorf is a graphic artist, Margaret Hartka is creative and crafty, and I have an art background. I can tell you, though, that studio arts do not prepare you for working with peeps or in miniature! We worked together last year and had so much fun dressing little peeps in outfits and hats. I think you just have to be good with a glue gun and have a sense for engineering. We made tuna cans and water bottles for down in the mine - you can't really see them in the photos - and I had to figure out how to make them. I covered Tums with aluminum foil and made paper tuna can labels. It's really just creative problem solving.

How many entries did you get this year? How did the judging process work?

I sorted through just under 1,000 entries this year, narrowing it down to about 50 for our team of judges to review. The judges are mostly Magazine, Style and Weekend staffers -- folks who've been involved with or following the contest since it started in 2007. We choose our top 5 and about 35 runners up out of those 50 ... it's a process that never fails to stir up debate, but it's really quite fun.

My kids love making a Peep diorama and I submit their names along with mine in the entry. We'll look forward to the Kids Post article to see kids entries. Would my kids have been considered for this article even though an adult name was with theirs on the entry (as required)? I think if you had a kids division, without any prize other than recognition, kids would love it.

If kids were listed on the entry and the diorama looked like it wasn't made purely by an adult, they went into a special kids category ... then the top picks among those were passed along to Kids Post. There's a good chance we'll make a kids category a regular occurence, so stay tuned!

I submitted a diorama with a play on the mobile app game phenom Angry Birds - how many submissions did you receive for that theme? Also, I was surprised not to see a winner referencing the buzz of social networking along the lines of "Peepbook". Were there any?

Angry Peeps was probably one of the most popular topics -- I'd say I easily looked at about 50 different dioramas based on the app. We had a Facebook diorama as a semifinalist last year, but only one or two entries along those lines this year. I'm still surprised no one has tried to do Twitter yet ...

Which diorama was the biggest bone of contention?

Well, there was a big (just a little heated) debate over which is more important, relevancy or artistic skill, when it came to narrowing six potential finalists down to five. When it comes to that, we usually go with the diorama that got the biggest initial reaction from the room, which it was a laugh or a gasp. There was also a big debate over Split Peep Soup Company, whether it was disturbing or hilarious. Personally, I go with hilarious.

You are not correct in saying that none of the winners was a professional artist. Your winner stated that one member of her team was a professional graphic artist and that she had an art background.

I guess I was interpreting "professional artist" to mean painter, sculptor, etc ... more of a fine art background, which past winners and finalists have had. You're right, through, a graphic artist is technically an artist. But still, out of the 19 people who contributed to finalist dioramas, only one is a professional artist.

Thanks to everyone for joining us for the Peeps post-mortem! Hope you enjoyed -- until this time next year!

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Holly Thomas
The Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest
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