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12 Deliciously Different Plush Toys

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Look around the world wide web if you want to get a gift that no one else will think of, with a little help from your friendly mental_floss internet scouring service. Some of these plush toys are suitable for children, but not all of them!

1. Alex


Artist AngelaTiara made a rag doll version of Alex DeLarge from the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. This was a custom order, but I hear you can contact her to have a doll made for yourself.

2. Biochemies


Jun Axup is a graduate student and science artist who started Biochemies as an art and comic site to make science fun and accessible. Biochemies is now branching out into the plush toys business, starting with these cute DNA molecules. The set includes adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, all with magnets in the correct spots in order to bond with each other! You can pre-order yours through Kickstarter.

3. Admiral Akbar


It's not a trap! Jennifer at Handmade Stuffs made this 18-inch tall Admiral Ackbar doll to guide your troops safely to victory against the forces of the Dark Side.

4. Slimer


Jennifer's Etsy Store, Handmade Stuffs, is full of plush characters you won't find at the local toy store. She's got a cuddly Skeletor, Hellboy, Mr. T, and this soft Slimer from the movie Ghostbusters.

5. Two-headed Teddies


Sara at The Tangled Web makes and sells knitted mustaches and anatomical hearts, but I particularly like the two-headed teddy bear. The heads are not identical -they have different-colored eyes! It also has two hearts for twice the love. And get this -the felt fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles.

6. Companion Cube


The cake may be a lie, but the Weighted Companion Cube Plush is real. And you can choose not to incinerate it! If this makes any sense, you must be a fan of the game Portal. The Companion Cube cushions your Portal dreams and is available from Think Geek.

7. Pancakes


How tasty it would be to cuddle up with a stack of pancakes! A stack of three includes a pat of butter and a smile.

8. Pillow Fight!


Swinging a plush sword or light saber makes an everyday pillow fight into something awesome. Bryan Ku's Pillow Fight! is, sadly, an art project at this point, and not (yet) mass-produced. He made these weapons and explosives by silk screening fabric.

9. Edward Gorey's Black Doll


The Black Doll is a creepy unfinished rag doll that appeared in many of the author/illustrator's stories. Now you can have your own!

A life long friend of Edward Gorey's made The Black Doll for him in 1942. Gorey visited her while she was making it and upon seeing it insisted on keeping it in its unfinished state, lacking a face, arms and clothing. In spite of her objection, Edward Gorey prevailed. It may be the first recorded instance of Gorey's enduring dedication to engaging the imagination. The incomplete Black Doll has remained a recurring enigma for almost 70 years appearing in many of Gorey's books and drawings as well as being the subject of his silent screenplay. This is the first time The Black Doll has been produced for Edward Gorey's devoted following.

The doll is offered in a limited run of only 2,000, in conjunction with the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

10. Nyan Cat


Most likely to be named the biggest meme of 2011, Nyan Cat comes in many handmade plush versions, but every time I try to track one down, someone buys it! As of this morning, the plush Nyan Cat shown here is available from Etsy seller SunlitDaydreams.

11. Red Shirt Bunny


This brave bunny looks as if he knows what fate befalls all Star Trek red shirts! He is a Woolykin, and was sold almost as fast as he appeared. Jennifer Hugon is the artist behind the Woolykins, which have been made in other cuddly pop culture critter forms. If you want one, you'll have sign up at her Etsy shop to be notified when she returns from maternity leave.

12. Teddy Scares


Teddy Scares are teddy bear zombies! The bear pictured here is named Sheldon Grogg. The bears come in both 6-inch and 12-inch sizes, and each come with their own dreadful backstory.

See also: 10 Bizarre but Cuddly Plush Toys, 13 Plush Toys Grownups Will Love, and 10 Strange and Wonderful Plush Toys.

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10 Fun Facts About Play-Doh
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As any Play-Doh aficionado knows, September 16th is National Play-Doh Day! Let's pay tribute to your favorite modeling clay with some fun facts about the childhood play staple that began life as a cleaning product.

1. IT WAS FIRST SOLD AS WALLPAPER CLEANER.

Before kids were playing with Play-Doh, their parents were using it to remove soot and dirt from their wall coverings by simply rolling the wad of goop across the surface.

2. IF IT WEREN'T FOR CAPTAIN KANGAROO, PLAY-DOH MIGHT NEVER HAVE TAKEN OFF.

When it was just a fledgling company with no advertising budget, inventor Joe McVicker talked his way in to visit Bob Keeshan, a.k.a Captain Kangaroo. Although the company couldn’t pay the show outright, McVicker offered them two percent of Play-Doh sales for featuring the product once a week. Keeshan loved the compound and began featuring it three times weekly.

3. MORE THAN 3 BILLION CANS OF PLAY-DOH HAVE BEEN SOLD.

Since 1956, more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold. That’s enough to reach the Moon and back a total of three times. (Not bad for a wallpaper cleaner.)

4. IT USED TO COME IN JUST ONE COLOR.

Photo of child's hands playing with Play-Doh clay
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Back when it was still a household product, Play-Doh came in just one dud of a color: off-white. When it hit stores as a toy in the 1950s, red, blue, and yellow were added. These days, Play-Doh comes in nearly every color of the rainbow—more than 50 in total—but a consumer poll revealed that fans' favorite colors are Rose Red, Purple Paradise, Garden Green, and Blue Lagoon.

5. FOR QUITE SOME TIME, DR. TIEN LIU HAD A JOB SKILL NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD COULD CLAIM: PLAY-DOH EXPERT.

Dr. Tien Liu helped perfect the Play-Doh formula for the original company, Rainbow Crafts, and stayed on as a Play-Doh Expert when the modeling compound was purchased by Kenner and then Hasbro.

6. YOU CAN SMELL LIKE PLAY-DOH.

Want to smell like Play-Doh? You can! To commemorate the compound’s 50th anniversary, Demeter Fragrance Library worked with Hasbro to make a Play-Doh fragrance, which was developed for “highly-creative people, who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood.”

7. HASBRO RECENTLY TRADEMARKED THE SCENT.

Anyone who has ever popped open a fresh can of Play-Doh knows that there’s something extremely distinctive about the smell. It’s so distinctive that, in early 2017, Hasbro filed for federal protection in order to trademark the scent, which the company describes as “a unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough.”

8. IT CAN CREATE A PRETTY ACCURATE FINGERPRINT.

When biometric scanners were a bit more primitive, people discovered that you could make a mold of a person’s finger, then squish Play-Doh in the mold to make a replica of the finger that would actually fool fingerprint scanners. Back in 2005, it was estimated that Play-Doh could actually fool 90 percent of all fingerprint scanners. But technology has advanced a lot since then, so don’t go getting any funny ideas. Today's more sophisticated systems aren’t so easily tricked by the doughy stuff.

9. IT HOLDS A PLACE IN THE NATIONAL TOY HALL OF FAME.

Unsurprisingly, Play-Doh holds a coveted place in the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. It was inducted in 1998. According to the Hall of Fame, “recent estimates say that kids have played with 700 million pounds of Play-Doh."

10. YOU CAN TURN YOUR PLAY-DOH CREATIONS INTO ANIMATED CHARACTERS.

While Play-Doh may be a classic toy, it got a state-of-the-art upgrade in 2016, when Hasbro launched Touch Shape to Life Studio, an app that lets kids turn their Play-Doh creations into animated characters.

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To Have and to Have Snot: A History of Madballs
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Steven Leung via Flickr

When art school dropout Ralph Shaffer was hired by American Greetings to illustrate greeting cards in 1964, the 23-year-old was tasked with depicting delicate flower petals and hopping bunny rabbits. Every now and then, presumably to break the monotony of sentimentality, Shaffer would draw the rabbits being hung by a noose.

These morbid doodles didn’t make it to store shelves. Rather than offer him psychological counseling, the company decided to redirect his energies toward an eccentric squad of talent dubbed Those Characters From Cleveland. The company subdivision was responsible for creating intellectual property like the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. In the 1980s, it was also charged with designing a line of toys that parents would find appalling and boys would find irresistible: Madballs. By the end of 1986, more than 10 million of the decapitated grotesqueries would be sold.

Those numbers weren't surprising to anyone who had done a little market research. One of the few guarantees in the volatile toy industry is that boys love to be repulsed. Beginning with Slime in the 1970s—a gooey green gel that resembled infected snot—kids could always be relied upon to embrace things that would make most adults heave.

In 1985, Topps released the Garbage Pail Kids series of trading cards, a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids featuring revolting characters. Their immediate success was noticed by American Greetings, which had cornered the cute market with Care Bears but had never tried to appeal to booger-loving boys on the other side of the toy aisle. Sensing an opportunity, Shaffer, artist James Groman, and the rest of the think tank conceived of a line of squishy rubber balls with ghastly faces and names like Slobulus, Deathbreath, and Swine Sucker. Instead of a two-dimensional illustration on a playing card, kids would have a tangible object to torment their parents with.

Madballs debuted in February 1986 with a retail price of $3.99 apiece. The balls flew off shelves, emptying displays at Toys"R"Us and capturing newspaper headlines that attempted to rationalize such purchases by asking psychologists why protruding eyeballs were a selling point.

“Children find gross toys fun because that’s sort of where they are developmentally,” Brenda Baker, a psychologist based in Michigan, told The Morning Call in 1987. “These toys aren’t gross to them. They’re fun and funny.”

Because of their irregular shape, Madballs didn’t offer much in the way of actual bouncing. Instead, they were collected and displayed like morbid little trophies or used to antagonize siblings and adults. One boy, 7-year-old Chris Herter of Detroit, told The Morning Call he enjoyed rolling them down the laundry chute of his house. His mother, Libby, referred to the spheres as “gawd-awful.”

Although the toys were popular, they weren’t always welcome. Several schools prohibited them from being taken into classrooms because they were a distraction. One Madball, dubbed “Crack Head” for having a fractured skull, was renamed “Bash Brain” due to concerns people might think the company was poking fun at the drug epidemic burdening communities.

By September 1986, AmToy—the division of American Greetings that made these playthings—had successfully expanded Madballs into licensing, including Trapper Keeper folders. Bright Ideas, Inc. said Madballs outsold their Miami Vice products when it came to educational supplies. Direct-to-video cartoons, comics, and other ancillary merchandising followed. AmToy even released a line of action figures: When squeezed, their heads would spring into the air. AmToy also conceived a line of Blurp Balls that would spew a projectile when triggered. Among the characters: Up-Chuck Yeager.

An assortment of Madballs, still in the package
freeshippingtack, eBay

Madballs remained a popular seller through 1988, at which point children began to tire of sculpted vomit and decaying plastic heads. The line fizzled out, and remained largely dormant until a 2006 revival by Art Asylum, a licensee heavily into pop culture nostalgia. Dubbed Sickballs, the revitalized line attempted to compound the ick factor by having bodily fluids ooze out of orifices when the balls were squeezed.

Since then, Madballs have undergone a series of relaunches. Just Play releases grab bags of the characters at regular intervals, and KidRobot recently issued a line of Madballs designed after horror movie icons like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. Gross-out nostalgia is alive, well, and still drooling.

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