Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

How an Internet Cat Craze Became a Toy Empire

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

How an Internet Cat Craze Became a Toy Empire

Article excerpt

"I like to drink with a straw and pretend I'm a tiny elephant, Pusheen declares on a travel cup. "So lazy, she says on a crop top, her short paws in the air. "Can't move. In plush form, Pusheen offers a cupcake and a lollipop. For a six-year-old cat cartoon, Pusheen has a very developed personality. Pusheen began as an animated cat in 2010, created by artist Claire Belton and her partner Andrew Duff. Pusheen is portly, with tiny legs and a striped tail. She loves baked goods, lounging and celebrating holidays. After the original Pusheen comic, Belton was inspired to start a Tumblr dedicated to the character, said Catherine Duff, licensing assistant for Pusheen Corporation. Within weeks of being launched, the Tumblr page had 10,000 followers.

Pusheen's fans are drawn to her quirky, surprisingly human personality. "I love the illustration of Pusheen lying on the floor just being lazy, explained Samantha Chiu, a Toronto-based Pusheen enthusiast who bakes cookies shaped like the cat. "That's pretty much what I feel like most days.

Pusheen's popularity exploded when Facebook contacted Belton in January 2013. A team at the social network was developing digital stickers that users could send one another in the chat feature and wanted Pusheen stickers to be among the selection. When the stickers made their debut in July 2013, "Pusheen's fan base exploded overnight, said Duff, who added that the stickers are used more than 10 million times a day.

In the past three years, the number of Pusheen fans on Facebook grew from 1 million to more than 9 million. This year, a Valentine's Day-themed video of Pusheen clutching a slice of pizza was viewed 2.7 million times.

Belton had the first Pusheen plush toys made in 2011, selling them directly to Pusheen aficionados. But Pusheen's real breakthrough into the physical world came in 2014, when 118-year- old toy manufacturer Gund took notice of the cat. …

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