The news for mammoths: toy stories

Previously on this blog — in #9 in a 12/16 posting “A tale of a bed: from removal to revival” — we met the stuffed woolly mammoths I called Mammuthus Major and Mammuthus Minor on the headboard of my new bed. Elsewhere in my bedroom there are two more toy mammoths, much bigger than these: a once-“animaltronic” hulk with a dark brown rubber-like plastic skin; and a somewhat smaller and more fanciful stuffed toy with a purple, blue, and yellow cloth skin — creatures I call Fey and Butch, shown here (in their native teak and blue habitat) in a somewhat impressionistic photo:

(#1) Fey and Butch, bathed in yellow light

M. Major and M. Minor turn out to be Beanies named Giganto by their maker, the Ty company: a Beanie Buddy (larger) and a Beanie Baby (smaller), whose labels say that they have “100% silk shells” (shell is the technical name for the outside skin layer in a stuffed toy). On stuffed toys, from Wikipedia:

A stuffed toy is a toy with an outer fabric sewn from a textile and then stuffed with a flexible material. In North American English, they are variously referred to as plush toys, stuffed animals, plushies, snuggies, stuffies, or snuggled animals. In British English, they are soft toys or cuddly toys.

… Textiles commonly used include plain cloth and pile textiles like plush or terrycloth. Common stuffing materials are synthetic fiber batting, cotton, straw, wood wool, plastic pellets or beans.

Note that the label plush toy is a synonym of stuffed toy, and it’s not semantically transparent: the skin of a plush toy isn’t necessarily plush (‘a rich fabric of silk, cotton, wool, or a combination of these, with a long, soft nap’ (NOAD)), but can be any sort of fabric (this will be significant later). But M. Major and M. Minor have actual plush shells, deliciously soft.

As for Beanie Buddies, they’re “a toyline of Ty Inc., introduced on September 30, 1998 [as] large-sized versions of the award-winning [B]eanie [B]aby collection.” (Wikipedia link) The company apparently sells the mammoth Buddy and Baby together as mother and child, but (being queer) I think of mine as Daddy and Boy.

(#2) The woolly mammoth formerly known as Giganto

The lumbering Butch is a toy that was marketed as an “animaltronic” creature called Pete the Woolly Mammoth. From a website offering out-of-production toys:

(#3) Butch, from the days when he came in a box and was called Pete

Hard-to-find Realistic Wow-Wee Woolly Mammoth from their Dino Tronics series of battery operated animated toys (no longer in production)
The Mammoth has very realistic and intricate 3-D body movements when operated, and a realistic rubbery body
LARGE – 18 inches long x 7 inches wide x 11 inches high
Operated by infrared wireless remote control using a separate handheld control
Control has 6 push buttons to fully animate the mammoth with 6 realistic motions: walk forward with all 4 legs moving in a slow ponderous movement; walk left; walk right; raise trunk and roar; turn head from side to side and growl

The toy is animaltronic — a play on animatronic. From NOAD:

noun animatronics: [treated as singular] the technique of making and operating lifelike robots, typically for use in film or other entertainment. ORIGIN 1970s: blend i.e., portmanteau] of animated and electronics.

I’ve abandoned Butch’s thrilling controls. He’s now a house mammoth rather than a wild mammoth — still impressively big and powerful, but also attentive to Fey as his partner. In private, he calls Fey Sundance, or Sonny for sweet. They make a cute couple.

Determined Fey. Fey as he comes©1992 from the toy makers, Determined Productions (on Broadway in San Francisco; Facebook page here):

(#4) Purple, blue, and yellow, plus a really cute purple tail

And at home under the majestic spathiphyllum:

(#5) On the teak plains, at the foot of the mountain of books

A bit of history of the company, from the NYT obituary “Connie Boucher, 72, a Pioneer In Licensing Cartoon Characters” by David Cay Johnston on 12/27/95:

Connie Boucher, a pioneer in licensing cartoon characters who provided the inspiration for “Happiness Is a Warm Puppy,” a best-selling 1962 book about Snoopy, the “Peanuts” comic strip character, died on Dec. 20 in San Francisco of complications after heart surgery. She was 72.

Ms. Boucher was a window dresser for I. Magnin, a San Francisco Bay area women’s clothier, in 1959 when she grew dissatisfied with the quality of coloring books available for her two sons. With her husband, Jim Young, she created a Winnie-the-Pooh coloring book, using a character that was in the public domain. The book sold 50,000 copies.

Two years later, she founded Determined Productions Inc. to develop other products based on licensing characters. One of her first efforts was a calendar using the characters in the “Peanuts” comic strip.

… Five years ago, Ms. Boucher’s company helped underwrite a show at the Louvre in Paris celebrating 40 years of Snoopy.

In recent years, Ms. Boucher turned her attention to conservation issues. She helped arrange product licensing to benefit the World Wildlife Fund and other organizations.

She was also nominated for an Academy Award for producing “Amazon Diary,” a short live-action film, a spokeswoman for her company, Jaymi Horn, said.

In addition to the cartoon characters and the WWF animals, there were also prehistoric creatures, apparently just for fun; people who worked at the company describe it with great affection. In any case, not just fanciful woolly mammoths, but also lots of dinosaurs, for example T. rex, shown here in close-up:

(#6) Tyrannosaurus rex, imaginatively reconstructed in flaming red

A number of sites describe toys like #4 and #6 as having hard plush shells. Now, about plush, in more deail, from Wikipedia:

Plush (from French peluche) is a textile having a cut nap or pile the same as fustian or velvet. Its softness of feel gave rise to the adjective “plush” to describe something soft or luxurious, which was extended to describe luxury accommodation, or something rich and full.

(#7) Pink plush fabric for making plush toys

Originally the pile of plush consisted of mohair or worsted yarn, but now silk by itself or with a cotton backing is used for plush, the distinction from velvet being found in the longer and less dense pile of plush. The soft material is largely used for upholstery and furniture purposes, and is also much employed in dress and millinery.

Modern plush [is] commonly manufactured from synthetic fibres such as polyester. One of the largest uses of this fabric is in the production of stuffed toys, with small plush toys made from plush fabric, such as teddy bears, to the point these are often addressed as “plush toys” or “plushes”. Plush is also one of the main materials for the construction of designer toys.

This is clearly not the fabric used in making toys like #4 and #6 — which are plush toys, but not toys made of plush. The term hard plush looks like a commercial coining designed to frame plush toys as being made of some kind of plush, after all — hard plush rather than regular (soft) plush. This at the cost of the composite hard plush not being subsective: hard plush is not plush. In any case, hard plush is now being used to refer to flat fabrics as opposed to pile fabrics, though apparently only in the context of stuffed toys.

Now, Fey’s name. From WNI4:

adj. fey: strange or unusual in any of certain ways, as, variously, eccentric, whimsical, visionary, elfin, shy, otherworldly

Or, in other words, queer, conveying both ‘odd, peculiar’ and ‘gay, homosexual’.

In their partnership, Fey is the flamboyant one, Butch the macho one, much like the Sundance and Butch of my writings about that couple, whose relationship is complex:

They got drunk
On some cheap Bolivian stuff
And Butch got weepy
And slobbered on Sundance’s
–Trail-grubby shirt
And said he, Butch, had always been
–A man who loved women
And he, Butch, didn’t know how it had somehow
–Come to this
And then Butch got the hiccoughs
And begged Sundance not to leave him

One Response to “The news for mammoths: toy stories”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    In our household they’re called “people “. And yes, one of them is a woolly mammoth; his name is Rutherford.

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