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Teddy Ruxpin tugs on nostalgic hearts, despite dead eyes

Jeepers creepers, Teddy Ruxpin’s got new peepers. The '80s toy makes a comeback -- but does it matter that so much has changed?

Bridget Carey Principal Video Producer
Bridget Carey is an award-winning reporter who helps you level-up your life -- while having a good time geeking out. Her exclusive CNET videos get you behind the scenes as she covers new trends, experiences and quirky gadgets. Her weekly video show, "One More Thing," explores what's new in the world of Apple and what's to come. She started as a reporter at The Miami Herald with syndicated newspaper columns for product reviews and social media advice. Now she's a mom who also stays on top of toy industry trends and robots. (Kids love robots.)
Expertise Consumer technology, Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta, social media, mobile, robots, future tech, immersive technology, toys, culture Credentials
  • Bridget has spent over 18 years as a consumer tech reporter, hosting daily tech news shows and writing syndicated newspaper columns. She's often a guest on national radio and television stations, including ABC, CBS, CNBC and NBC.
Bridget Carey
5 min read
Watch this: Behind the seams of Teddy Ruxpin's return

I'm happy to report this teddy bear didn't scare my baby girl.

Teddy Ruxpin 2017

Teddy? Teddy, are you in there?

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's a legitimate concern for tech toys nowadays. When Teddy Ruxpin's big, blue LCD screen eyes turn off, they become black, empty voids. It gave me the creeps at first. I loved the original Teddy Ruxpin when I was a child, but this is a different species. I've never had a teddy bear with disappearing eyes.

To avoid traumatizing my 1-year-old, before turning it off, I told her Teddy was going "night-night." As soon as the eyes turned off, she waved bye-bye and blew him a kiss.

Cue my melting heart.

The first animatronic talking toy was an instant sensation when he came to life in 1985. He's now evolved for today's iPad-toting toddlers. He lost the bulky cassette-tape player in his back, making him more squishy and huggable. This new bear still has a little snout that jabbers, paired to the same voice recordings as his predecessor. But the biggest change are his eyes. His blue peepers never stop moving as he narrates stories, morphing into objects and fluttering with hearts, stars and music notes. 

He's now sold for $100, and £100 in the UK. (The US price converts to about AU$125.)

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Teddy may look different, but he has the same lovable personality. Now his storybooks are synced to an app.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When I was a tiny me, I adored Teddy Ruxpin. Turning on this new model and hearing his same voice unlocked memories I didn't know I had anymore. 

Tiny me would sit on the bed and turn him on and adjust the volume with the wheel on his back. I'd stare at his slow blinking, plastic brown eyes. His soft voice told of adventures about the far off land of Grundo -- his mouth chatting in perfect puppetry. It didn't matter that I heard the gears of three motors whirling in his head. He was enchanting.

Jump back to today, and big me can't control this new bear's volume -- I can either set it to loud or louder. His little mouth moves smoothly, no gear sounds like before. And as it turns out, those new eyes have grown on me. (What helps is that he has a sleeping mask to hide those "off" eyes.)

Teddy Ruxpin 2017

Night-night, Teddy. A sleep mask hides his "off" eyes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Maybe I should blame the nostalgia sickness we seem to all be suffering from lately. Count Teddy as part of the consumer craze to own recreations of our childhood. Nintendo's retro console is a hot seller. Polaroid cameras once again print snapshots that develop in minutes.


Remember when you loved me?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Walking down the toy aisle today is a walk through my old bedroom: Popples, Tamagotchi, Trolls, DuckTales, Power Rangers. 

Yet with this fuzzy remake, not everything is how I remembered.

Gone are the printed picture books that paired with the audio cassette stories. Now kids read along in an app -- and parents will need to fiddle with Bluetooth syncing. There is a perk: The app shows every single word and song lyric. The original printed books did not. 

Teddy doesn't require an app to play his stories. But you can't use the app or access the books without first syncing to the toy.

Those digital books show drawings of Teddy from his old book art -- wearing his 1980s outfit. It doesn't match Teddy's new clothing. Why is he now wearing jeans? And a buttoned suit vest? This is quite the dapper ensemble for a bear that's supposed to be hiking in the woods, getting into tangles with dangerous creatures like mudblups and bounders. 


Wicked Cool Toys took on the challenge of remaking the bear for a new generation. The designers played with many ideas -- even if they should give Teddy glasses.

Sally Neiman/CNET

Wicked Cool Toys, the company that bought the rights to remake the bear, tells me it was done to make the toy more hip and relatable for a new generation. (If you want something less hip, Target sells a version with orange shorts and a no-frills vest, resembling his original uniform.)

The grump I feel over the changes washes away when hearing Teddy speak. Nostalgia power strikes again.

Even if you're unfamiliar with Teddy Ruxpin, you'll find this to be a quality toy. Most talking toys for toddlers these days all follow the same formula: Sing a song, clap you hands, practice your numbers and press the light-up buttons. Hurray, you did it.

But not Teddy. This bear stands apart because he narrates a fantasy adventure featuring a flying ship, treasure map and magical creatures. (Sometimes his books take a break from the adventure to discuss educational topics, such as how polar bears keep warm by dancing to polka.)

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Teddy's designers at Wicked Cool Toys used the original book art for his digital stories. 

Sally Neiman/CNET

Each story lasts about 15 minutes and includes multiple songs. The songs all have a touch of Disney magic -- literally. Teddy's songs were composed by one of the top music directors at Disney's theme parks. Voice actors also did work as other famous Disney cartoon characters. 


Push-button paws will pause (heh) and skip ahead to the next story. There's also a fast-forward button under his vest logo.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In 1985, listening to Teddy's cassettes required patience. There was no rewind or fast forward. The digital version lets kids skip around more. A button hidden in his vest logo jumps ahead in the story. Buttons in his paws will pause or cycle through books. There's still no rewind.

Wicked Cool Toys bought the rights to all 60 of Teddy Ruxpin's original stories, but the company is only offering 10 right now for the app, with another 10 planned to be released next year. He comes with three preloaded stories: "The Airship," "Captured by Mudblups," and "All About Bears." Each additional story costs about $5 each.

Superfans will notice some stories are a bit different from the 1985 recording. His first two books sound just like the script for the Teddy Ruxpin live-action TV movie. (Something I watched way too many times on VHS.)

As it turns out, the Teddy team re-recorded some stories in 2005 to make the first books better match the movie script. The new Teddy uses that audio. You see, this isn't the first time toymakers tried to bring back the bear. Over the years, other toymakers put replicas of his '80s design on shelves, but it just didn't stick. It's another reason why the Wicked Cool team wanted to give him a fresh look and digital eyes, hoping to avoid a similar fate.


Will Teddy's best bud Grubby also get a digital-eye makeover?

Sally Neiman/CNET

Not everything about this furball is high-tech, which is a bit refreshing. In a time where Furbys go potty on tablet screens, this toy isn't looking for your feedback on a touchscreen. He's not listening for your child's voice commands, like Hologram Barbie. There's no worry about hackers and missing data -- just the usual missing princess. 

It's not the company's first attempt at adding tech to a classic toy. Last year, it released a Cabbage Patch Kids doll with screens for eyes and a Bluetooth-connected app.

So will Teddy's best buddy Grubby get the digital-eye makeover? 

In the '80s, the animatronic Octopede worked by connecting to Teddy via a cord. Now his buggy friend can sync up wirelessly -- that is, if the team decides to make him. Wicked Cool says it's possible if Teddy demand is high. So far, it looks good. Some scalpers are selling the bear for $50 to $70 more than retail on sites like eBay and Amazon. 

But what about taking Teddy to the next level by investing in more stories? Offering additional outfits? Relaunching a cartoon series

Hey, if Teddy taught my generation anything, there's nothing wrong in dreaming. Someday it just might come true.