Synopsis of Toy

“The fuzzy Furbish-talking owl!"

It takes a special toy to be banned from the N.S.A. building in Maryland because the intelligence boys think it can record classified verbal information. And it takes a very special toy to be named Toy of the Year in 1998. But for the rotund, gremlin-eared, giant-eyed Furby, both were easier done than said—and that’s just because Furby’s English wasn’t so great, at least not at first. But more on that later.

To compete with archrival Mattel, the toy company Hasbro embarked on a tech-toy odyssey. Given their success with the Giga Pets line in 1997, Tiger Electronics were the perfect find for the questing Hasbro. The toy giant bought Tiger in early ’98, and the virtual-pet Furbies, which the company had only just completed work on, were ready to hit the toy store shelves in time for Christmas.

Furby was a plush, animatronic little miracle. Each was only five inches tall, but he was packed with electronic gadgetry that allowed him to interact with the environment through sight, touch, sound and physical orientation. It danced, sang, slept, wiggled its ears, blinked its eyes, and best of all, moved its mouth and actually talked. His native tongue was the fantasy language Furbish, but like any immigrant, he would gradually learn the language of his new homeland.

Combined, Furby had a vocabulary of nearly 200 Furbish and English words, and with those, could speak up to 800 phrases. Upon putting his batteries in, the first thing Furby did was tell you his name in Furbish. When he woke up, he might chirp "Dah/o-loh/u-tye,” which means “sun up,” in case you’re not yet handy with the Furbish dictionary that came with each of the six creatures.

Furby reacted to pats on the head, backstrokes, tummy tickles, and rotations that brought him upside down. Cover his eyes and you might get a “no light!” or a “boo a-hoh”—the Furbish equivalent. But when you covered his eyes the next time, you might get something entirely different, because Furby was programmed not to respond the same way to his stimuli every time. About the worst you’d hear from your little guy was that he was bored, and of course the best was that he loved you. Dote on him like you should, and you were sure to get the latter.

If all of this wasn’t enough for you, Furbies were also interactive. One Furby could tell when another was nearby, and they were able to communicate with each other via infrared signals, even teaching each other tricks and songs. After they took America by storm, they were issued in Japan with Furbish/Japanese language skills.

Furbies weren’t quite as high maintenance as a flesh-and-blood pet, though they were a whole lot needier than a regular plush. But you gotta give love to get it. And yes, there’s a Furbish equivalent to that too—it’s just very hard to write phonetically.

Release History of Toy

1998 - Furby

Sub Categories of Toys

electronic toys

Toy and Game Manufacturer

Tiger Electronics, Hasbro

Other Toy Links