Halloween has careened up the path to America’s second-favorite holiday. It comes in right behind Christmas, and way ahead of the Fourth of July. One of the reasons why Halloween is so beloved is that it offers folks a chance to dress up and go undercover for a 24-hour period. (Or, for some lucky people, an entire week of parties, parades, and trick-or-treating.) Transforming into something out of the ordinary is so intoxicating that it isn’t just reserved for children, adults, and everyone in between. Nope, October 31 hijinks travel beyond the realm of mammals, and are happily embraced by our plush pets as well. Particularly, Feisty Pets.
One of the most alarming — and initially charming — line of plush pals that I’ve ever seen are, indeed, the Feisty Pets from the William Mark Corporation (WMC). I first saw them at Toy Fair and watched their televised transformation with my eyes popping open and my jaw hanging unhinged. Yep, the ferocious morphing of the Feisty Pets can turn even the most laid-back, easygoing collector into a woman (or man) on the cutting edge.
The remarkable thing about Feisty Pets is that when you first get a gander at them, they are unassuming, sweet little stuffed animals. Among the range of plush possibilities are kittens, puppies, giraffes, teddy bears, and unicorns. These realistic and mythic beasts are accented with vulnerable big eyes, shy little smiles, and soft huggable bodies.
But, oh, the hugging leads to something pretty demonic! Ideal for Halloween, the Feisty Pets turn from Mr. Rogers to Mr. Hyde with a simple, tight squeeze. Their mouths reveal snakelike tongues or vampire fangs. Described by their manufacturers as “the bad boys of plush,” all of these critters do an impression of an enraged Dr. Banner, the mild-mannered, self-experimenting scientist who morphs into the furious Incredible Hulk. Mirroring Banner’s famous warning, the Feisty Pets tell their owners: “You won’ t like me when I’m angry.”
Back in 2016, the Feisty Pets were named Buzzfeed’s Best Toy of the Year. The brand initially debuted with just a quartet of characters, and over the years it has grown to a whopping 36 different creatures. (The Feisty universe has expanded to include barbaric butterflies, outrageous owls, horrifying horses, and dastardly dinosaurs, to name a handful.) All of the characters have unique names and are provided with really in-depth personality profiles. For instance, “Sparkles Rainbowbarf” is a Pegasus that likes “toga parties, Greek food, and butterflies, because they taste like chicken!” Sparkles’ dislikes: “ponies, heights, and imaginary creatures.”
In addition to the full-size plush pals — most average around 8 inches tall — Feisty Pets are also available as mini versions measuring 4 inches high. These come on key rings and are great for hanging on pocketbooks and backpacks, belt loops or on jackets.
Whenever the WMC manufacturers unveil a new video or Instagram post about a brand-new offering, it immediately goes viral. They have had millions of views on Reddit, YouTube, and on Amazon. Additionally, the collectors of Feisty Pets love getting in on the ghoulish fun. They send photos of themselves posing beside their tiny terrors, and they really go all out devising videos of how these seemingly sanguine pets can turn into menacing mohair villains in a split second. It’s pretty amusing watching unsuspecting folks (like I had been at Toy Fair) encountering the pre- and post- Feisty Pets conversion.
Available for purchase at Amazon, Target, Walmart, M&M Toy Store, Vat19, Hallmark Stores, ThinkGeek.com and independent sellers on eBay and other cyber sites, the Feisty Pets are a quirky and compelling choice for Halloween decorating and party favors. They’re suitable for year-round surprising — no one would anticipate the way they change from cute and whimsical to crazy and warlike — but Halloween is really their ideal time of year. It makes sense, then, that they have also branched out into plush masks that change from sweet and serene to something pretty shocking.
Hugged by brave kiddies, who guffaw at the quick change from good to evil, these Feisty Pets are safe for young children, but some kids might find them too intense. Perhaps save them for children who are in second grade and above; I fear that the nursery-school set and the kindergarteners might be a tad too frightened.
At any rate, if your path crosses a Feisty Pet, be prepared to be surprised. Even bracing for it, your heart will be racing.