A Cushy History of Pound Puppies

sunsales333 via eBay
sunsales333 via eBay

Mike Bowling had spent nearly 20 years working on a Ford automobile assembly line in Cincinnati, Ohio, never once thinking about inventing toys. During the 1983 holiday season, he bought his daughter a handcrafted doll that she took everywhere and doted on like it was her baby sister. Soon, inventing a toy—one that could be produced with the same efficiency as the cars rolling out of the factory—was all he could think about.

Well over a decade before Beanie Babies caused pandemonium, Bowling issued tiny, pellet-stuffed creatures of his own dubbed Pound Puppies. With droopy ears and wide, expressive eyes, they came in cardboard “crates” and with adoption papers. Despite a total lack of experience in the highly competitive world of kid products, Bowling took his idea and turned it into a brand that would go on to gross hundreds of millions in sales and make TIME magazine’s list of the world’s top 100 toys.

tiny-ribbons via eBay

Because he knew virtually nothing about toy development, Bowling first contacted an intellectual property lawyer, who told him that registering trademarks and filing for patents would help protect his ideas. He went to one designer to have his Pound Puppies template sketched out and another to fabricate the cardboard box that doubled as a carrier.

Armed with a plan and mock-ups, Bowling was swiftly turned down by 14 different companies. One executive huffed that the Puppies were the ugliest things he'd ever seen.

Bowling’s persistence eventually landed him an audience with Irwin Toy, a distributor based in Canada that was still reeling from a partnership with Atari that had recently gone south; the video game craze, which was about to be reignited by Nintendo, had collapsed in a heap and left vendors with piles of unsold cartridges. Eager for a low-risk opportunity, they licensed the Pound Puppies and released them in Canada in 1984.

They were an immediate hit. As Bowling had predicted, children who wanted to nurture something adorable and parents who weren’t inclined to scoop dog poop found a perfect compromise in his plush animals, which came complete with a mock care guide. Walking and exercise were stressed; caregivers were advised that their chosen puppy had “had all the shots they need to stay healthy.” A bath was also recommended. Fortunately, the animals were machine-washable.

By December 1985, Tonka—like Irwin, a company that had been scorched by an ill-fated partnership with a video game company named Sega—was convinced Bowling was on to something, and brought the plush animals to the U.S. The Puppies were selling out across the country, creating a frenzy that had been rivaled in recent memory only by the Cabbage Patch Kids. In 1985, more than 2.5 million puppies were sold at the inflated retail price of $30. If kids wanted stickers and a personalized dog tag, Tonka would mail them both for an extra $3.50.

Like any respectable ‘80s toy craze, Pound Puppies were also awarded their own animated series, which premiered on ABC in the fall of 1986. At the “Wagga Wagga Pound,” a cast of endearing dogs awaited their turn for adoption. Nancy Cartwright, who would soon after become the voice of Bart Simpson, played Bright Eyes. Another one of the dogs was named Whopper, a strange choice considering the Puppies were usually found as a promotional item at Hardee’s. He was a golden retriever who wore a diaper.

morrbubb via eBay

As with any retail phenomenon, toy pundits predicted a short shelf life for the Puppies. And while they did eventually fade, it took several years and more than $300 million in sales before kids moved on to other obsessions. Their expected successor, a line of saggy plush dogs dubbed Wrinkles produced by Canadian toy company Ganz, failed to break through.

In 2011, Bowling sold the Pound Puppies IP to Hasbro for an undisclosed sum. Having long since retired from the Ford assembly line, he continues to brainstorm new toy ideas, including a line of plastic mermaids dubbed Splashlings. While they may catch on, it will be difficult to match the success Bowling had in marketing the idea of an imaginary dog adoption. In 2016, the inventor estimated more than 200 million Pound Puppies have been sold—nearly three times as many as there are actual dogs in the United States.

Stranger Things Star David Harbour Officiates Fan's Wedding Thanks to Twitter Challenge


by Natalie Zamora

Stranger Things fans might remember back in January when Chief Hopper actor David Harbour made a kind of ​crazy agreement with an engaged fan. Seems the actor has a sweet spot just like his character!

Ericka Millholland from Springfield, Illinois tweeted at Harbour, asking how many retweets it would take for him to officiate her wedding. Surprisingly, the 43-year-old actor replied the next day, requesting 125,000 retweets, to read a love letter of his choosing, and to cut the first piece of wedding cake.

Harbour's list of demands were ultimately met, as Millholland got almost 132,000 retweets. The actor went on to get ordained, and performed the marriage ceremony this weekend. The best part? He was dressed as Hopper!

Taking to Twitter, Harbour shared a photo from the wedding with his fans, making sure everyone knew he held his promise. "And so me and some fun folks in Springfield, Illinois made good on our promise we made all those months ago," he wrote.

The wedding is hardly Harbour's first time granting a fan request on social media. Back in October, he agreed to take senior photos with a high school student from California, who reached out to him via Twitter.

Come January, Harbour was there in a full on photoshoot with Damaris Fregoso.

It's great to know such a fan-favorite actor not only acknowledges his fans, but actually hangs out and does hilarious stuff with them as well. We'll see more of Harbour when Stranger Things returns for ​Season 3 in summer 2019.

Sony Launches PlayStation Classic, Preloaded With 20 of Your Favorite Games

Sony. Background: iStock
Sony. Background: iStock

Nintendo proved that nostalgia is a powerful force when it released the NES Classic in 2016. Gamers have had a hard time getting their hands on the mini console since its debut, with limited releases appearing in stores with little warning and clearing out just as quickly. Now, Sony is taking a page from Nintendo's book with a retro re-release of its own. This holiday season, the media giant will release the PlayStation Classic, a smaller version of the original PlayStation that comes pre-loaded with 20 games, Polygon reports.

As is the case with the NES Classic, there's no need to pop game cartridges into the new PlayStation console. The PlayStation Classic comes with what you need to get started: two controllers, a HDMI cord for video and audio input, and a micro-USB for power. Once the system has been set up, use the power button on the console to hop from game to game and press the reset button to pause. All your data is saved to a virtual memory card.

Though there will be a total of 20 titles built in to the console, only five have been confirmed so far. Players will be able to play such classics as Final Fantasy 7, Jumping Flash, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Tekken 3, and Wild Arms, all playable in the format fans remember from the 1990s.

The PlayStation Classic will sell for $99 when it makes its worldwide debut on December 3—the 24th anniversary of the launch of the original PlayStation. The release date also makes it a great gift for the holidays—whether you're shopping for loved ones or yourself.

[h/t Polygon]