Magazine article Newsweek

Fun! Fearless! Furby!

Magazine article Newsweek

Fun! Fearless! Furby!

Article excerpt

The latest electronic toy pal has holiday buzz, multiple personalities-- and lots of fur

Life in the toy business is not without its drama. Ask Lana Simon, a staffer at Tiger Toys. Planning to do a little afterhours product testing recently, she stuffed a Furby, the company's then unreleased electronic pet, into her purse and started driving home. "It kept going off in my bag, crying, 'Worried! Worried!' and sneezing," she recalls, still sounding shaken. Nurturing instincts activated and Simon pulled over and rescued the distressed fur ball from the darkness, soothing it with a dose of emergency pet-and-tickle therapy.

Simon admits that her reaction might have been a little extreme, but Tiger is hoping that kids will find Furbys as irresistible as their employees do. It's too early to tell yet--the furry beasts won't be widely available until the end of the month--but the press and toy-industry analysts are already heralding Furby as the year's big toy. Unlike its cyberpet predecessors Tamagotchi and Giga Pet, Furby isn't just a lump of plastic and electronics. It's a furry lump of plastic and electronics, with great big eyes and floppy ears. Furbys have different personalities--they respond in their own way to varying conditions, a hot-wired transmutation of a Tamagotchi and a Beanie Baby. And competing interactive dolls like Microsoft's Barney and Mattel's Winnie-the-Pooh are considerably more expensive than Furby's suggested retail price of $30.

Furby creator Dave Hampton, a freelance toy designer who lives in the central California wilderness with his family, says he liked the idea of a "smart" interactive pet, but Tamagotchis left him cold. "I didn't care for the little screens," he says. "I wanted a cuddly, loving little thing." The result is an eerily anthropomorphic five-inch-tall ball of fur that wiggles, dances and squirms in response to pokes and prods. …

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