Strap in, friends. There’s a new version of the Furby rolling out later this year.
If you don’t remember the great Furby craze of 1998, you missed out on some wonderfully weird toy-centric insanity. Still reeling from the Beanie Babies craze of the mid- to late-’90s, consumers barely had time to catch their collective breath, hydrate, hit the ATM and bulk up for another round of elbow-throwing madness in malls from coast to coast.
For the uninitiated, here’s a synopsis of the Furby from our All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys list:
To compete in the emerging tech-toy market, toy giant Hasbro in 1997 acquired Tiger Electronics, the creators of the popular Giga Pets. In 1998, the newest electronic plaything to hit the market was Furby — a furry, animatronic creature that spoke “Furbish” but could eventually learn English, only to shower you with terms of endearment. Furby sold 1.8 million units in 1998 and a staggering 14 million in 1999. Combined, Furby had a vocabulary of nearly 200 Furbish and English words — but he really needed only one phrase — “I love you” — to tackle the hearts of kids and adults all over the U.S.
I was a sophomore in college in 1998, and remember the jointly-owned Furby that “lived” in our house as being relatively uninteresting at first, then becoming quite fascinating as its vocabulary and mannerisms “evolved” over the first month or so. Eventually the novelty wore off, but for a brief period of time in 1998, a toy that was half stuffed animal and (seemingly) half intelligent cyborg that calculated your every move, waiting for you to fall asleep so it could drink your booze and lift a twen-ski from your wallet felt pretty surreal.
That may have been one of my roommates doing that stuff, but I still suspect the Furby. I’m not alone, either. As the Red Ferret points out, “If you didn’t know, these things acted like they were possessed. I actually saw one of them start talking when the batteries were out of it.”
As for the new version of the Furby, there aren’t a whole lot of details other than that it’ll be out in time for the holidays. However, The Daily Mail quotes “toy expert Peter Jenkinson of Toyology.com” as saying:
The image suggests that the moving facial parts have been entirely replaced by an LCD screen.
This will prompt lots of talk, not all of it intelligible, on Furby forums.
“Other experts are predicting WiFi connectivity, allowing Furbys to livestream children’s video content and interact with other friends’ Furbys online,” says The Daily Mail.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the new Furby is able to whip up anywhere near the same amount of fervor as the original, since intelligent, connected toys are far more commonplace nowadays. That being said, I’ll still be sleeping with one eye open.