By Olivia Rainson
Arguably one of the most controversial and unique toys of the 2000s, the Furby has been rebranded and is returning with a new look.
Furby is an interactive animatronic toy that makes various facial expressions and communicates in a gibberish language called “Furbish.”
The original Furby, produced by Tiger Electronics, was sold from 1998 through 2002 — then Hasbro bought the rights of Furby and the other toys of Tiger Electronics. The first edition of the Furby was quite basic, and its main kitsch was a tilt sensor and light-sensored, realistic eyes.
Furby was revamped from there, with Hasbro releasing an advanced version of the toy in 2005 with emotions and voice recognition. Since then, there has been a variation of Furby models being sold with new patterns, more personality and higher resolution eyes.
However, when the personalities are titled “angry” or “crazy,” it certainly leads people to wonder what kind of toy their child is playing with.
Conspiracies surrounding the toy were a large part of its rise to fame. Being a toy without an off button raised many concerns for consumers and led to a variety of horror stories circulating the internet. Due to the rumors of Furbies listening to conversations and understanding commands, the NSA banned them from being in their premises.
The U.S. National Security Agency, for example, banned the toy from its headquarters in 1999. Photography and audio-visual recording equipment are prohibited in NSA headquarters, and the agency was worried that the toy might unintentionally record and repeat classified information. This only increased fascination with the toy and led Tiger Electronics to affirm that their toy is simply a toy — not a spy. In a statement released by Hasbro about the new version of Furby, the questionable past of the toy was mentioned:
“It sparked a collector craze which drove auction prices above retail prices and was even banned from the National Security Agency (NSA) premises in Maryland. Furby was cool, cute, and loveably weird – a combination that kids and the world needed. Over the years, Furby has remained a unique symbol of self-expression for fans across the globe due to the immense and growing fandom that has taken Furby from just a toy to an imaginative brand and lifestyle. Early reads from consumers and retailers on this newest iteration of Furby are very positive and show us that fans are just as excited as we are!”
Many consumers also questioned if Furby was based on the film series Gremlins. Director Joe Dante raised the comparison of Gizmo to the Furby, and this actually led to the creation of a Gizmo Furby. Warner Bros. sued Hasbro for an undisclosed seven-figure sum, but after reaching the settlement, both parties joined forces to create the limited edition Gizmo toy — which was voiced by Howie Mandell, Gizmo’s actor.
Featuring a completely new look — along with new safety features — the newest Furby has been on the shelves for about a month. Whether or not the toy will be a success is still largely unknown, but at a steep $69.99, is it worth it?
Many customers leaving reviews about the revamped toy are actually collectors or parents, not kids. Is the Furby for this generation’s children or is it a nostalgic collectible for previous owners of the original model? Being a collectable toy, the new edition is being marketed to not just kids but their parents as well in an attempt to stir up nostalgia.
This Furby comes in only two colors, purple and coral, but it has far more features than the original. With 600 phrases, five voice activated modes and new dance moves, the new Furby is largely upgraded. The most exciting new feature, however, is the off switch.
Starting as one of the first few animatronic toys to later becoming a national security threat, Furbies have come a long way since their debut in 1998. Whether the world needs a new Furby edition is still up for debate, especially in a world full of artificial intelligence and newer robotic toys. Will this new version of Furby cause more horror stories being posted on Reddit threads? Or does Furby deserve a second chance despite its creepy past? There is only one way to find out!