A sometimes snarky, sometimes thoughtful, always nostaglic look at the toys and trends that defined the 1990s, and if they really were as fabulous as we thought they were.
Friday, September 24, 2010
I present to you: the thing of nightmares.
I have to start by saying that even as a child, I thought Furby was the creepiest thing ever, and I had NO desire to own one. First of all, because what the hell even WAS it—a radioactive owl? It was the closest thing I could think of, at least. The large, blinking eyes that made a very mechanical sound as they opened and closed were freaky, and the idea that it didn’t speak English to begin with, but learned it, honestly weirded me out too. After all, I was a child of the 90s; I didn’t like these silly advanced notions! In retrospect, Furby might have just been ahead of my time.
(However, looking at the Wikipedia article, they were programmed to learn English automatically no matter what, so really, it wasn’t ‘learning.’ If you spoke Spanish? Tough crap, your Furby was still going to speak English. That soothes my 90s soul a bit, that Furbies weren’t TOO advanced. And eventually, Furbies were made with capabilities for up to 24 languages.)
More likely, however, they were just creepy, creepy toys.
However, my disdain/almost fear of Furby wasn’t something I shared with the world, and so for Christmas one year, my well-meaning and loving grandmother bought my brother and I each our very own Furby.
And so the indoctrination began.
Once I actually had a Furby, I warmed up to it. It was actually kind of…charming, with the songs and the dancing, and okay, maybe this owl-hamster-rodent thing was kind of cute. There were sensors embedded in it that would trigger Furby to ‘wake up’ when you spoke to it, and you could get it to sing and do a little dance. It was kind of like a little pet, one that didn’t shed or poop. Plus, of course there was the element that Furby was the ‘cool toy’ and that only the ‘cool kids’ had it. With my Furby, I had joined the rank of the elite!
Maybe Furbies weren’t so bad after all, I innocently and naively thought.
Furby was a new technology, though—at least the Classic Furbies, which were the ones of our era, were—and they had quite a few bugs. After my cute little Furby lulled me into a false sense of security, it began to act buggy. It would ‘wake up’ and start speaking even when no one was in the room—I would come upstairs to hear it chattering away to itself. It would blink its eyes and click its beak obsessively and then refuse to speak. When it did speak, it reverted to ‘Furbish,’ its original set language.
I probably could have brought Furby to my parents and they probably could have reset/fix him. Instead, I took this as a sign that Furby indeed was a possessed toy bent on taking over the world, I pulled out his batteries, and I stashed him under my bed, where he would live for the next several years before I finally threw him out for good. Never again would Furby threaten the sanctity of sleep by waking up in the middle of the night demanding I sing a song. Furby had been defeated.
Looking back, Furby itself was a mediocre toy—as I said, it had a lot of bugs in it. I know many of my Furby-owning friends had similar problems with their toys. However, in retrospect what Furby represents is actually pretty cool. It was the first robot-toy to enjoy commercial success. It opened the door to a whole new kind of toy.
If only it weren’t so freaky looking.
In conclusion? Furby=possibly the creepiest toy to enjoy major popularity in the 90s. The success of Furby=a major impact on the toy industry as a whole.
Next, I’ll look at another one of the biggest collector items of the 90s—the Ty Beanie Babies.