Ask a stranger to name the most legendary vintage dolls, figures, and life-like toys of the last century and the list will likely include Barbie, GI Joe, Transformers, Teddy Ruxpin, My Little Pony, Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, and of course, Furby. Furby serves as a dividing line among the public; hardly anyone has a neutral opinion about it. Most people either love Furby or they don’t like Furby and never want to see one again. And that’s okay. More Furby for those of us who love it! It’s hard to feel neutral about something like Furby. Fortunately, there are many people in the world who absolutely love Furby and, if you’re lucky, you may even see one of these people in the wild, taking their Furbies out, living their best lives.
When Caleb Chung and David Hampton set out to make a toy that would be a child’s first friend, they did not have the luxury of a crystal ball. They did not know that it would be one of the most collectable toys of all time, or that Furby would sell 40 million units in its first three years, and then go on to be loved and cherished and shared across social media by collectors and customizers some twenty five years later.
So what is it about this twenty five year old toy that still draws a crowd? Unlike other vintage toys, collected mostly for reasons of nostalgia, or monetary value, Furby has many additional qualities that help it retain its relevance and make it continue to stand out to both children and adults. Here are some of the reasons this icon of a toy is still relevant to this day.
1. There Are MANY Furbies to Choose From
While non-Furby aficionados will likely only remember the neutral colored Generation one and two Furbies, Furby fans will recall that the classic Furby came out in a number of bright colors and even outfits. Special Edition Furbies and rare Furbies made collecting them even more fun and interesting. There were many kinds of Furbies to choose from, and today, many of them can be found on eBay and in vintage shops around the world. Here is a fairly comprehensive guide of classic Furbies, and even some that never made it through development.
2. Furby Looks Right At You
It’s hard to miss those big eyes. A lot of toys are made to look at whatever you want them to interact with. Barbie, for example, looks as if she’s greeting a friend, and when kids play with Barbie, they often have two or more Barbies who interact with each other. Furby however, looks right into your eyes! And Furbie’s eye details are very similar to our own in coloring and design. It’s hard to face a Furby and not feel like it’s trying to engage with you.
3. Furby is Very Portable
For many, Furby is a regular travel companion. You can hold Furby in the palm of your hand, like a kitten. It’s small enough to take with you and yet big enough to see from across the room. Many people make little sling purses for their Furbies and take them out on adventures. Having a Furby with you, and knowing you’re going to photograph that Furby “in the wild,” can give you an extra reason to go out into the world and explore.
4. Furby Seems Alive Yet Avoids the Uncanny Valley
While many toys try to replicate real-world animals and people, that’s not what Furby is about. Furby isn’t trying to mimic or look like an actual living dog or cat. It isn’t trying to mimic an actual baby, as some dolls do. Furby, (a derivative of fur-ball), is its own creature. Yes, we know it’s a robot, but the way it interacts and moves is all its own.
5. Furby Won’t Walk Away
Furby has little feet (peet as some call them), but those feet are very small and they don’t move. This means Furby isn’t going to leave you. It is ready to sit and listen and interact. Yes, people (myself included) have made oddbody Furbies with limbs, but the original toy is one that is decidedly immobile.
6. Furbie’s Face Appears to Show Multiple Emotions
Furbie’s face is 3D, and not painted on. This gives it the illusion of being conscious at all times. The fact that Furby seems to “always be watching,” is likely one of the things many people don’t like about Furby).
We’ve all seen “resting Furby face,” where the 25 year old toy looks a little tired with half-shut eyes and a look that seems to say, “We get it. We’re tired too.” Despite having limited mouth and eye movement, the subtle changes that can be made to a Furby’s expression via lighting and the angle of viewing can result in a variety of “looks” for the Furby.
7. Furby Can Be Part of Your Mindfulness Practice
The act of keeping a Furby in a prominent place in your home can have a meditative effect, as if Furby is watching over you, looking out for you, and wishing you the very best. Posing Furby in happy little environments can be a form of looking after your inner child and remembering to care for yourself. In this way, you have a visual reminder of being mindful of your state of being.
8. Furby Can Reflect Joy
When Furby’s eyes are all the way open, it almost looks like it’s smiling. Furby Buddies especially look to be smiling or continuously joyful, as their features don’t move at all. As someone who regularly takes a Furby Buddy with me, #razzelthefurby, I like to imagine that he’s sitting in my purse, happily waiting for the next adventure. And when he actually goes somewhere, like a park or a movie theater, he’s so excited to be there. For those who have anxiety about going places, or trying new things, Furby can be a great emotional support to take along, bringing all that joy and positivity into every new space.
9. Furby Was Designed to Grow
The expectation that Furby is still growing and evolving is possibly the biggest reason for the lasting appeal of this toy, especially if you had Furby as a kid. As a kid, you taught your Furby tricks. It appeared to learn English the more you engaged with it. That expectation, that Furby will match your needs as you grow, still holds true for many Furby enthusiasts. And what could be better than a friend for life?
And people need friends now, more than ever. While the original owners of Furby have grown up, a lot has changed since the late 90’s, (captured beautifully by Finneas’ The 90’s song). With climate change, global instability, and even the recent (ongoing) pandemic, much of the future seems more perilous than most people in the late 90’s would have imagined.
So yes. There is a lot in the world that is uncertain. There are very good reasons to be concerned about how everything will turn out. But there is also hope. There is also the significance of you and your life. And, if you are lucky, you have a little Furby to see you through, who reminds you that you matter. And that your life matters. Here’s to looking after that little Furby, because it represents more than stuffing and fluff–it represents your inner child.
So next time you see someone out there, posing their Furby in front of a field, or a playground, or a pallet of ranch dressing at a big-box store, just know that that person is working on themselves, and showing up to live the best life they possibly can.