Teddy Ruxpin's strange, Disney-infused origin story
The first animatronic talking toy, Teddy Ruxpin was an instant phenomenon when he came to life in 1985.
Hi there, my name is Teddy Ruxpin.
Powered by four C batteries, controlled by programming on cassette tapes and now, this 80's icon is looking to make his big return.
With a few upgrades.
Can you an I be friends?
I loved Teddy when I was a little girl.
I didn't remember quite how much until I saw him again at the 2017 New York Toy Fair and heard his soft voice.
But so much has changed since I called Teddy my friend.
What I didn't know back then was his unusual origin story.
He has connections to Disney theme parks, the Atari video game console, even the pizza empire of Chuck E Cheese.
To shed some light on his world, I visited an unairconditioned storage facility on the outskirts of Los Angeles, that houses treasures from Teddy's past.
This is truly breakthrough.
When you look at it, it still feels breakthrough, that he was figuring out.
You know, the mechanics to [UNKNOWN] animate a teddy bear.
Russell Hicks and Mary Becker were among the first employees at the company that brought Teddy to life on a table in a cramped hallway they laid out original artwork, blueprints, news clippings, spinoff's
All of it raw Teddy DNA.
You hear that sound again, you turn the page, okay?
Teddy's sweet little world as an expansive fantasy tale with dozens of characters.
There were 60 story cassette tapes with books, but he was also a TV star with his own live-action movie special.
Later he had his own cartoon series.
The bears' inventor was Ken Forsse.
He died in 2014.
But these boxes hold the clues to how he created the best-selling toy.
If you wanted to see something like that, he went to Disneyland or some of the big places that had the huge shows.
But nobody had it at home.
In fact, it was Disneyland that inspired Teddy's creation.
In the 1950s, [INAUDIBLE] worked on the park's early rides featuring moving audio animatronic figures.
These figures were Commanded by programming on giant spools of magnetic tape.
Taking that tape and saying, I could put that on an 8 track and put it into a Teddy bear, no one was thinking like that.
In the early 80s, [INAUDIBLE] started his own company to tinker with animatronics.
Among his many projects, he consulted for a robot rat.
Just starting to make it big, Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time theater.
He also patented a way to put animatronics in human costumes.
The technology inside was the same technology that eventually overtime was shrunk to go into the toy.
Ken's widow, Jan Forsse, keeps the early evolutions of Teddy preserved in pieces.
This was the very first prototype, where they're trying to decide can they take a off shelve bear, and put the technology in it.
And that prototype became a real toy, thanks to funding from a former executive at Atari.
Don Kingsborough was looking for a new project.
He fell in love with the Teddy Prototype, and launched the toy company, Worlds of Wonder He got the bear built and on shelves in just six months.
In that time, Teddy's creative team whipped up 13 story books with songs based on the world that Forsey dreamed up years ago.
Voice actor Phil Barron also wrote up many of Teddy's song lyrics and stories.
What made Teddy unique in 1985 I think is the same thing that makes Teddy unique now.
It had certain technological advances.
I had a certain life to it that other toys didn't have.
A puppeteer used a joystick to program Teddy's snout and jaw.
HIs eye movements were programmed last.
No one had ever seen a toy with realistic expressions talking directly to a child.
Teddys flew off shelves, parents paying $70 a pop, but the magic spell was soon broken.
Three years after launch, a mix of business troubles led to Teddy's demise.
Competition flooded stores for the talking dolls.
Teddy's voice was drowned out.
Since then, the original Teddy creators tried to bring him back, working with other toy companies.
They managed to put him on shelves three times, but he just couldn't stick.
Teddy, over the years, has had failures.
It was always basically because of management, not because of the toy.
Now, another toy company is trying again.
This time, with a whole new look.
It's a brand that is a, has an emotional attachment from people who were children and now have children of their own.
Jeremy Padawer is co-President of Wicked Cool Toys, the Pennsylvania company launching the new $100 teddy.
His company preserved the original recordings, but made a number of changes, like push button paws and LCD screen eyes with wild animations.
Those eyes allow you to express more of
The technology that I think kids today expect.
Yet will these digital eyes be a turn off?
There are signs he'll be a hit.
some new models are being scalped on eBay for $50 more than retail.
And Teddy sold on several early morning QVC spots this summer.
But will kids today, like my little girl, get hooked the same way they did 30 years ago?
It's a dream that this team believes-
Some day just might come true.
Bridget Carey, CNET.
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