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I write verbose posts about polyamory, love, lust, and self-discovery on my other blog Victoria's Imaginarium.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Walt Disney World ⋅ Duffy Bear

Duffy (and Shellie May too, the female version) is over-the-top popular in Japan, almost everyone who has been to Tokyo Disneysea owns one! When Kitty and I were in Tokyo, we visited Disneyland because it was nearer from the airport compared to Disneysea, and then I left without any Duffy or Shellie May :(

So can you imagine how happy I was when I spotted Duffys at Walt Disney World?! Can you?!!

So what/who is Duffy???

Source: Duffy the Disney Bear

Well, basically "Duffy" started out as "Disney Bear". This character was created as a marketing tool to help launch a new toy store at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney Marketplace. In 2002 a new store called "Once Upon a Toy" opened. Disney needed something do draw attention to this new store, and so they came up with a gimmick— a teddy bear that had familiar "Mickey Mouse" shapes all over his body. His face had the familiar "three circles" shape. His feet had the "Mickey Mark", as did his backside. The basic idea was: Mickey was in the Magic Kingdom one night, and was lonely. Tinker Bell saw this and granted life to Mickey's teddy bear. Mickey hugged him and his bear was forever stamped with Mickey's circle shapes as a sign they were friends forever. 

So, Disney had this new plush, and a story to go with it. They launched "Once Upon a Toy" with some fanfare and hoped this new bear would get people talking. There were several colors of the plush released. Brown, black, white, pink, purple, blue, gray, and teal. They were very soft and cuddly, and had nice, fluffy fur. The quality was very good. However, the bear never really caught on. It was made available in other Disney theme park stores around Walt Disney World, and eventually even traveled to Disneyland in California to also be sold there. After a few years of being on store shelves on both coasts, Disney decided that "Disney Bear" wasn't as successful as they thought, so they sent the remainders to the Disney outlet stores. 

While Disney was doing all of this, the owner and operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort "Oriental Land Company" decided they would try to launch this character as well. So, for the Christmas season of 2004, OLC launched "Disney Bear" exclusively at Tokyo Disney Sea in the American Waterfront section of the park. There was no change in his story, or name at that point. He was still called "Disney Bear", and was still pretty generic. There was only one option for color though, the tan/creme version. There were sporadic releases of bears with different costume accessories throughout 2005, but the momentum was not there yet. 

Then, in 2006, someone decided the bear needed a true name, and a background story that would truly fit his presence at Tokyo Disney Sea. So, they "relaunched" the bear there, only this time he was confined to the Cape Cod section of American Waterfront. He got a new name, "Duffy", because Mickey carried him in his duffel bag. There was a completely new story written with a nicely illustrated storybook. (originally in Japanese, the following comes with the one I bought at Walt Disney World)

During Tokyo Disney Sea's 5th Anniversary in 2006, OLC decided to create costumes for Duffy that tied in with the anniversary. There were 5 in total, and they were sold separately from the bears, so you could mix & match. This was when the ball really started rolling. In 2007, he got more costumes, like a sweater set, pirate outfit, and his first Halloween costume. Finally, in 2008 for Tokyo Disneyland's 25th anniversary there was an explosion and Duffy mania started! Fans bought the bear and his costumes and started to carry him around in the park. 

♥ My very own Duffy 

OLC saw how successful Duffy had become and in 2010 decided that he needed a girlfriend— another bear just like Duffy, only she was a girl named "Shellie May". She is a soft shade of pink, and has bright blue eyes, and of course, a bow. The debut of Shellie May at Tokyo DisneySea on January 22nd was bigger than anybody ever anticipated. There were reports of lines 7 hours long just to get into a store to buy Shellie May! It was so busy that they had to start selling Duffy and Shellie merchandise at other locations just to alleviate the crowds. Originally, Duffy was only available at Aunt Peg's in Cape Cod, and McDuck's Department Store in the NYC secion of American Waterfront. With Shellie May's arrival, they started selling things at Galleria Disney in Mediterranean Harbor. Eventually, even Mermaid Lagoon started carrying basic Duffy items in the Sleepy Whale shop. 

In the middle of 2010, and Duffy has become a bonafide hit in Japan. Apparently sales of Duffy and Shellie May merchandise make up 25% of the total sales for the entire resort! Another brand new costume line has been created to incorporate Shellie may, called "Hello from Cape Cod". Disney noticed just how well their Japanese partners are doing with this bear they created. Soon, Disney relaunched "Disney Bear" as "Duffy" in America, but "Shellie May" remains exclusive and only available at Tokyo Disneysea.

I'll make sure I get my Duffy a girlfriend the next time I go to Japan!

One last photo of my Duffy. Goodnight