Monday, August 30, 2010

Duffy is coming!

Well, it's "official", Duffy will make his way to the American Disney parks this fall.  Disney has announced special annual passholder events at both Disney's California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort in California, and EPCOT at Walt Disney World.  The Orlando Sentinel has a small piece about Duffy's launch.

"Duffy the Disney Bear will become a regular for character meet-and-greets at Epcot in October. Known as the teddy bear who sailed around the world with Mickey Mouse, Duffy made regular appearances at Disney’s Teddy Bear & Doll Weekend and has been spotted at Once Upon a Toy store occasionally. Duffy also is very popular at the two Disney parks in Japan.
Walt Disney World passholders can hear about Duffy’s background at a special presentation at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at The Odyssey at Epcot. Each hour-long show will feature a guest speaker from Walt Disney Creative Entertainment.
This event is for passholders only, and seating is limited to those who reserve it online at Disney’s passholder website. Adults can claim children ages 3 to 17 as their guests when making reservations, but the kids still must be passholders and show valid passes and the confirmation slip at the time of check-in. This is a welcome change and should help many families who were frustrated by the tedious reservation process in the past that required each family member to log in and reserve a seat. (Children younger than 3 must sit on an adult’s lap.)
Reservations open Tuesday, Aug. 31, at to all Disney World passholders. However, Weekday Select and Epcot After 4 p.m. passholders will need valid admission to Epcot.
Check-in for the event is 30 minutes before each presentation"

It looks like they will actually be referencing his popularity in Japan, and they appear to be using his sailor motif, as well as his logo.  This is a great sign, that maybe he'll be treated with some class and respect in the US.  As you can see with the picture above, he's got a cute little sailor suit on, and his story is that he's sailed around the world with Mickey.  Rumors are that he will be making appearances at EPCOT's Japan pavilion, which makes total sense, since he's "visiting" from Japan.

I'm excited to see where they take Duffy, and I hope he finds some level of success in America.  I don't think fans will go as wild for him as they do in Japan, but even a dedicated fan following will be good for the little bear that could.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Are you ready for Halloween? Duffy is!

It's that time of year again, where retailers everywhere want you to start thinking cool thoughts and dream about fall leaves while it's still in the throes of summer.  We seem to be getting ready for holidays earlier and earlier.  Although, if you're a retail buyer, you're always a few steps (and seasons) ahead need to predict what people will be buying later in the year.

Anyway, Halloween is fast approaching and Tokyo Disney Resort is going all out this year.  Both parks will be having lavish Halloween festivities.  Tokyo DisneySea will be celebrating it's second official Halloween, and Duffy and Shellie May will be joining in the fun.

To get everyone excited about what's coming, the official websites are splashed with pictures and descriptions of all of the events between both parks.  They also show the special merchandise and food options for Halloween.  I'll be showing you how Duffy and Shellie May will be celebrating the spooky holiday.

First up, we have the next release in the "Hello from Cape Cod" costume series.  
Duffy's costume is actually VERY similar to the one from 2009.  Pretty much only the pants are slightly different.  Both his and Shellie's cost 3,600 Yen.
Here is Duffy's pumpkin costume:

Here is Shellie May's purple pumpkin costume:

There are also Keychain plush for 1,500 Yen each.
Here's what they look like:

Then we have small, plush cell phone straps at 1,300 Yen each.
Here are those:

And, the last of the plush versions, we have zipper pouch versions.  These have a strap to use as a small bag, or hang off of something.  The size is between the size of a regular Duffy, and the keychain size.  About 32cm according to the site.  These cost 2,800 Yen.
Here they are:

Now we get to the other, assorted merchandise.  There is a soft picture frame with plush Duffy & Shellie May heads on it for 2,300 Yen.  This looks cuter than it's not taxidermy!

Next we have a set of hand towels for 1,260 Yen.  These are basically like washcloths.  Very popular items in Japan to carry in your bag, just in case you need to clean up, or wipe something.

There's an adorable mini tote bag with Duffy & Shellie May on it.  They have been creating these for about a year now for each new holiday, and they are all the same design, just different colors.  Here we have a brown & orange Halloween one.  This costs 2,700 Yen.

There is the usual omiyage (gifts for bringing back to family and friends).  Cookie and candy tins with adorable designs.  The chocolate candy tin is 900 Yen, and the cookie tin is 1,000 Yen.



Also, there's an interesting necklace for sale that looks remarkably similar to the one released last year.  In fact, it may be identical.  Still, it's cute if you like things that look like giant candy.  It's a bit on the pricey side at 4,200 Yen, but it does come in a glass jar!

Now we get to the special menu items.  There are no special "Duffy dinners", LOL, but there are 3 very, very cute things for sale that have food in them.  2 Dessert items, and one large popcorn bucket.  

First, the Duffy and Shellie May dessert plate and cup sets.  These have a lovely flavored mousse in the cup, and a tasty cake on the plate.  Apparently you can purchase these without the dessert for a slightly discounted price if you have an aversion to sweets, or have bought so many of these cheap souvenirs that you couldn't possibly eat another dessert!

The mugs cost 600 Yen each, and the plates are 700 Yen.  Here they are in all of their adorableness.  (I couldn't get a picture of the face on the plates, but if you go to the official site, you'll be able to see it).

Shellie May set:

And finally, we have a very special version of the Duffy "lightship basket" popcorn bucket.  It's made to look like a wicker basket popular on Cape Cod.  There is a regular version sold throught the year, but for Halloween we get a nicely themed one with pumpkins & black kitties!  It's kind of expensive though, but also very large.  There are two versions you can buy.  One with plastic handles, and one that has a fabric strap so you can carry it over your shoulder.  The "basic" one is 2,100 Yen, and the one with the strap is 3,200 Yen.

Here is what it looks like:

It's hard to see the details on that picture, but there is a little black kitty on the orange bow knot.  Here is the official website with better, and larger images on it, that cannot be linked to (the photos, I mean).

See, Duffy and Shellie May are already gearing up for Halloween, and they want us to come along and get excited too!  I know I'm looking forward to the festivities.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Did you know there were "collectible" Duffy "Disney Bears"?

Did you know that Disney has released very limited edition versions of Duffy the Disney Bear?  Well, some of these I didn't even know about until recently.  I've never even seen on in person.  Every year at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center...yes, I said "center", because, well, I like to.  Anyway, each year they hold a "Teddy Bear & Doll Weekend".  They have been doing it for years, at least since the early 1990's.  After the "Disney Bear" was introduced in 2002, several creative teddy bear artists have made very limited edition version of "Disney Bear".  

For example, did you know there was a Steiff "Disney Bear"?  These two cuties were released in 2005.

Here is the description of the one for general sale:
“Disney Bear”
Margit Richter -- Steiff
$285 (37cm)/ $2500 (60cm)/ $5000 (80cm)
Edition: 1500 / 25 / 5

Description:   "Mickey’s famous silhouette graces this bear’s face and paw pads.  Each Disney Bear comes with a booklet which tells the mythical story behind the origins of this Teddy.  Disney Bear is five-ways jointed, made from tan and blond wavy mohair, and has darling hand embroidered facial features.  He bears a red and white consecutively numbered “Knopf Im Or” tag and golden Steiff button."

There was also this version that was sold only at the auction they held:
Lot 9 Steiff Disney Bear on a Wooden Bench
Margit Richter -- SteiffReserve

Description:    "Mickey Mouse's famous silhouette graces this bear's face and paw pads.  Disney Bear is 20" and is five ways jointed, made from tan and blond wavy mohair, and has darling hand embroidered facial features. He is dressed to the nines in a dapper top hat and custom tailored shirt, vest, and jacket.   He sits upon a completely hand-made 31" wide by 17" high solid wooden bench."

In 2006, Mickey Mouse got to cuddle with his "Disney Bear", made by Steiff:
Mickey Mouse with Disney Bear
 SteiffPrice:  (37cm) $315
$2815 (set of 2)
$7815 (set of 3)

Edition Size:  1500 (37 cm)
20 (60 cm
 set of 2)

5 (80 cm
set of 3)

"Mohair and velvet Mickey Mouse holding miniature version of a mohair “Disney Bear” from the 2005 “Teddy Bear & Doll Weekend.”

Then in 2007 they released a few more from different artists.  For example:

“Teddy Bear Sorcery”

Happy Tymes - Bev White
Artist:  Bev White - Happy Tymes Collectibles Retail Price:  $500
Limited Edition Size:  10
Description:   "The Disney Bear has been a very good student indeed, and seems to have learned Mickey's Sorcerer magic well. However, just like Mickey and his marching broomsticks, the magic seems to have gotten out of control...or has it? He just may have a silly hat trick in store for you. Just look what he did to Mickey!

The 18-inch bear who I've named Waltbear, is made of German mohair, traditionally jointed and constructed with lockline for fun in posing. He has beautiful Austrian cystal eyes and a growler in his tummy. His famous Mickey silhouette trademark is reflected in his own face and ears, hand painted on his leather footpads, and applied as a leather "tatoo" on his sassy little backside."

As well as this...strange little guy:

“Cheeky Duffy”
Merrythought Ltd. / Tide - Rider

Artist:  Merrythought Ltd. / Tide-Rider, Inc.
Retail Price:  $ 249
Limited Edition Size:  115
Description:   "Cheeky Duffy has been created by mixing the famous Disney Bear with Merrythought’s famous Cheeky Bear.  He stands 10” tall, is fully-jointed, handmade in England with mohair, and comes complete with bells in his ears!" 

Minnie Mouse got in on the cuddle action with her own pink "Disney Bear"...this was also made by Steiff:

“Minnie Mouse with Her Disney Bear”

Artist: Claire Steiff Meisel – Steiff NorthAmerica
Retail Price and Limited Edition Size:
$7830 (Set of 3—30cm, 60cm, and 80cm)—LE 5$2830 (Set of 2—30cm and 60cm)—LE 20 $330 (30cm)—LE 1500

Description:  "Minnie Mouse and her preciousDisney Bear are the best of friends, both are hand-made in Germany by the famous Steiff artisans. Disney Bear is a fully jointed pale pink mohair bear. Minnie Mouse is fully-jointed mohair and felt. "

Also, there were a series of "Disney Bears" created that were released during these events that more closely resembled the actual bear Disney was selling in stores at the time.  Although these limited editions were hand made.

Here's one from 2006:

And this one from 2007:

These are from 2008:

So, as you can see, there have been many "one of a kind" hand made "Disney Bears" released over the years.  If you ever went to a "Teddy Bear & Doll Weekend" at EPCOT Center, then maybe you saw some of these...or maybe you even own one!

Also, not to be outdone, Tokyo DisneySea has also released a collectible Duffy bear every holiday season for the past few years.  These are softer and smaller than the traditional stuffed Duffy.  Also, they are jointed and made of mohair.  The color changes from year to year, and each one is sold in a wooden box with glass front so you can easily display your bear without exposing him to the elements.  I can't find pictures of it, but it's different looking than "normal" Duffy.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Who and what is "Duffy"? I know you were wondering.

This is the story of "Duffy, the Disney Bear".  Ok, well, it's not exactly his story as told by Disney.  Instead, this is the story of who, exactly, this character is.  Where he came from, why he exists, and what happened when he traveled to Japan, and how he came to be called "Duffy".  There is a lot of misinformation about this bear's origins on the internet.  I hope to clear all of that up and give you his true history.  

Many people have seen this bear around the Disney parks for quite a few years now, and are confused about his name.  Well, basically "Duffy" started out as "Disney Bear".  This character was created as a marketing tool to help launch a new toy store at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney Marketplace.  In 2002 a new store opened, called "Once Upon a Toy".  It was a remodel of a previous location.  Disney needed something do draw attention to this new store, and so they came up with a gimmick.  A teddy bear that had familiar "Mickey Mouse" shapes all over his body. His face had the familiar "three circles" shape.  His feet had the "Mickey Mark", as did his backside.  There was a story created to go along with this new bear to explain why he had these Mickey shapes all over him.  I won't go into detail about the story, I'll save that for a later post.  However, I'll give you a basic idea.  Mickey was in the Magic Kingdom one night, and was lonely.  Tinker Bell saw this and granted life to Mickey's teddy bear.  Mickey hugged him and his bear was forever stamped with Mickey's circle shapes as a sign they were friends forever.  

In general, it's a cute story, but it isn't terribly compelling.  Also, the poor bear was never given a real name.  It's only referred to as "Disney Bear".  I would think that if it was Mickey's best friend, it would be called something, don't you?  Personally, I think this was a key flaw in the launch of this new character.  So, Disney had this new plush, and a story to go with it.  They launched "Once Upon a Toy" with some fanfare and hoped this new bear would get people talking.  There were several colors of the plush released.  Brown, black, white, pink, purple, blue, gray, and teal. Here's a picture of a brown one....see the Mickey shapes?

Here is a tan colored one, that would later become "Duffy"...I'll get to that!

These original versions of the "Disney Bear" were about 16 inches high, and roughly the same size as a plush animal you could buy from "Build-a-Bear Workshop".  They were very soft and cuddly, and had nice, fluffy fur.  The quality was very good.  However, the bear never really caught on.  It was made available in other Disney theme park stores around Walt Disney World, and eventually even traveled to Disneyland in California to also be sold there.  After a few years of being on store shelves on both coasts, Disney decided that "Disney Bear" wasn't as successful as they thought, so they sent the remainders to the Disney outlet stores.  If only I had a time machine to go back and snatch up as many as I could from those outlets...

I know, you're thinking, "but I saw "Disney Bear" at one of the parks last year, or a month ago!".  Well, Disney eventually tried again with various updates to the design.  There was "My first Disney Bear" dressed like a baby.  They had pastel pink or yellow "Princess" versions.  Then, they shrunk the size to about 12 inches tall, and started releasing them as seasonal "gift with purchase".  Each holiday would be a new color and you could buy one for $10 if you spent $50 or more.  They also sold these at the now closed "World of Disney NYC" on New York City's 5th Avenue.  I bought one of these.  The quality was not as nice as the originals, but the design was basically the same. 

A few years ago they changed the design again and started selling the bears at the parks again, and even created little t-shirts to put on him.  Here is what the most current design looks like.  You can even buy them at Disney Store online.

These are also about 12 to 13 inches tall.  Not quite big enough to wear "Build-a-Bear" clothes, but not the size of the usual bean bag plush.  All through his redesign phases, he's had the same story that Disney manufactured for him.  He may look a little different from his 2002 launch, but his concept is exactly the same.

Now...while Disney was doing all of this, the owner and operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort "Oriental Land Company" (referred to as OLC from here on out) decided they would try to launch this character as well.  So, for the Christmas season of 2004, OLC launched "Disney Bear" exclusively at Tokyo Disney Sea in the American Waterfront section of the park.  There was no change in his story, or name at that point.  He was still called "Disney Bear", and was still pretty generic.  There was only one option for color though, the tan/creme version.  OLC opted not to release any of the other colors, only the more natural looking bear.  It was a slow start.  There were sporadic releases of bears with different costume accessories throughout 2005, but the momentum was not there yet.  

Then, in 2006, someone decided the bear needed a true name, and a backstory that would truly fit his presence at Tokyo Disney Sea.  So, they "relaunched" the bear there, only this time he was confined to the Cape Cod section of American Waterfront.  He got a new name, "Duffy", because Mickey carried him in his duffel bag.  There was a completely new story written with a nicely illustrated storybook.  This version of his "creation" goes something like this.  Mickey was going on a long sea voyage, and Minnie didn't want him to feel too lonely.  So, she made him a teddy bear for good luck, and put a message in a bottle around it's neck.  Mickey took the bear with him on his boat, and the bear visited Mickey in his dreams and read Minnie's message to him.  When Mickey woke up, the bear had a sailor costume on, and the message was out of the bottle, and in Mickey's hand.  This was some special teddy bear!  When Mickey got home he told Minnie, and all of his friends, and they wanted a special bear too.  Minnie made everyone their own "Duffy", but couldn't keep up with the demand.  Mickey's friends all helped her and they made many Duffy bears for everyone.  

So, isn't that quite a different story than the one created for "Disney Bear" in Walt Disney World?  After he got the name change and new story, something else good happened.  It was Tokyo Disney Sea's 5th Anniversary in 2006, so they decided to create costumes for Duffy that tied in with the anniversary.  There were 5 in total, and they were sold separately from the bears, so you could mix & match.  This is when the ball really started rolling.  In 2007, he got more costumes, like a sweater set, pirate outfit, and his first Halloween costume.  Finally, in 2008 for Tokyo Disneyland's 25th anniversary there was an explosion.  Each month saw a new costume based on a Cast Member's costume in the parks.  This was in addition to Halloween and Christmas costumes.  Duffy Mania was starting!  Fans bought the bear and his costumes and started to carry him around in the park.  This was mostly confined to Tokyo Disney Sea, but if you walked around you would see many people, men, women, and children, all carrying a Duffy bear.  

This is what he looks like:

2009 saw Duffy get his own special event called "Sweet Duffy".  This was a fairly small Valentine's themed affair in Cape Cod.  One of the existing cafes was themed to Duffy, and he got a special costume to coincide with it.  He was a cute little cafe waiter, with an apron and a smile.  Here's what he looked like:

There was also a new line of costumes created for Duffy called, "Cape Cod Seasons".  Each costume was season appropriate, like a gardening outfit, and a raincoat for spring; a swimsuit for summer, Halloween costumes for fall; sweaters, pajamas, and peacoats for winter.  It was turning into a regular phenomenon!  By this point, Duffy's fans were starting to create cottage industries by making their own costumes for him.  If you went to any Japanese auction site, you would find many home-made outfits of any design.  Some even thought Duffy might be a girl, so they made dresses for, "her".  

OLC saw how successful Duffy had become and in 2010 decided that he needed a "friend".  Speculation ran wild on the internet, and any number of animals were thought of.  Would it be a sea lion, a cat, a bunny?  Well, in January of 2010 we found out.  It turned out to be another bear just like Duffy, only she was a girl named "Shellie May".  She is a soft shade of pink, and has bright blue eyes, and of course, a bow.  How else can you tell a Disney girl apart from her male counterpart?  Here is what Shellie May looks like:

In addition to her, there is a new stage show created to tell the story of Duffy.  It's called "My Friend Duffy".  It replaced "Donald's Boat Builders" at Cape Cod Cookoff.  Now it's the middle of 2010, and Duffy has become a bonafide hit in Japan.  So much so that apparently sales of Duffy and Shellie May merchandise make up 25% of the total sales for the entire resort!  Another brand new costume line has been created to incorporate Shellie may, called "Hello from Cape Cod".  There is no end in sight to the Duffy madness.  Disney has even noticed just how well their Japanese partners are doing with this bear that they created.  In fact, Disney is about to relaunch "Disney Bear" in America...again!  This time, he will be launched as "Duffy", finally.  He will debut at EPCOT and Disney's California Adventure parks on October 14th.  We'll see if America is ready for Duffy mania, and for fits of deja-vu.  I mean, many people have seen this bear around before.  Lots of people don't know he had a detour by way of japan though, and he's got a rabid fanbase.

So, did I cover the basics?  I could go into lots more detail...and I will!  That's what this blog is help people figure out who Duffy is, and to share him with all of his English speaking fans. There are many Japanese fan sites, but I hope to be his first American ambassador.