Keeping it Weird: Furby Fans Resurface After Pandemic and Bring New Life to 1998 Toy with New Podcast, Empathy, and Global Adventures
By Jay, Founder and Mortal Communications Director of Furb World
In a quiet corner of the internet, a fiercely loyal group of crafters, artists, and musicians devote themselves to one late 90’s/early 2000’s icon, and no, the focus of their adoration isn’t Britney Spears, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Cher, or NSYNC - the subject of their love isn’t even human; it’s Furby. And while their love of the creature may have started in the late 90’s, the modern online craze for Furb-related content really took off during the global COVID pandemic.
Furby came out when I was in college. I had an adorable grey Furby and I spent hours talking to it, and interacting with it. As a kid I had loved puppets and pined after a Teddy Ruxpin, but this was something new. Something that evolved, and it was magical.
Twenty-four years later, after a long pandemic, right about the time Russia invaded Ukraine and the world got a lot more scary, I saw a picture of a long Furby online and it was like a new chapter in my life opened. There was Furby again, but this time, it seemed even more magical and there was a whole group of creative people making it something more and taking it out in the world for pint-sized adventures. Furby in Paris. Furby in Japan, Furby at the Grand Canyon. It was both striking and lovely at the same time.
I’ve always been a big fan of weird things, rubber chickens, Dr. Demento, Weird Al, Archie McPhee, and Gonzo, so when I saw my first ever long Furby online, I knew this was going to become a significant portion of my life. As an artist I knew I had to start making Furb-related content. As a marketer, I knew I had to create an entire Furb-adjacent brand. As a musician and storyteller, I also knew I had to create a podcast. And so I set out to learn all I could about this unusual community.
At first, I thought everyone in the Furby community would have been there for several years, or maybe even since Furby’s 1998 launch, but I soon discovered the majority of them had only recently rekindled their love of Furby after the COVID pandemic when they didn’t have human contact. Many of these people had already been crafters of some kind, but like me, went full-tilt into Furby when the pandemic started.
As someone who has been in online moderation and eCommerce since its inception, I was most impressed by how thoughtful and kind the Furby community is. I’ve seen mini-flame wars start and end peacefully that, with any other group, would have blown up and burned bridges. I think this is very much by design. Furby was a toy that, according to co-creator Caleb Chung, was designed to inspire empathy. And that is one of the hallmarks of the modern Furby fandom; empathy. The Furby community has the kind of people you would want as friends and neighbors, the kind of people that would let you borrow their car if you had an emergency. They’re always encouraging each other, offering help to others, and educating others about the history of Furby.
I created the Furb World podcast to deep-dive into the stories from this community, and also to help people learn more about the creative process, as well as how to buy and sell Furbies on platforms like eBay. As someone who has always been a parody lyricist and musician, I may have also placed Furby parodies of popular songs throughout the podcast episodes because, I really needed an outlet for my work and Furby just made sense.
I’m excited to see what the Furby community creates next. The world needs more joy, empathy,and silliness and I think these are the right people for the task.
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