The plush world is an ever-expanding one, and it embraces all forms of soft-sculpture art, high-end collectibles, adult-biased (hands-off) pieces, and huggable/holdable designs for children. Let’s face it: the plush life is a pretty spectacular one! This week I was buying some gifts for two children’s birthday parties. The kids are at that interesting age: one is on the cusp of becoming aware that he’s a child, but not for much longer (he’s turning 12); the other is delighting on finally being acknowledged as a little person in her own right (she’s 6). Both these ages are unique because they represent how different it is for young people at different spectrums of childhood. A 6-year-old is fresh out of kindergarten or first grade, realizing that there is a time to play and a time to study, a time to imagine and then a time to learn. (How lucky these beginning students are if they have a teacher who can blend all of this together in a classroom!)
Adolescents who are 12 are on the verge of teenagehood. They are luxuriating in the last hurrahs of carefree childhood and responsibility-free summers and vacations. At 12, they are too young to “go out and get a job,” but they are old enough to begin to understand and appreciate the value and necessity of money. Buying for these children is a challenge because I like to give something practical (a cute shirt of a nice pair of pants—not socks or underwear; I’m not a monster, after all!) but also something that is sweet and sassy, fun and fanciful. I want to welcome a future arctophile into the fold.
Two companies that make it easy-peasy for birthday presents and holiday gifting are Ganz and Moulin Roty. Ganz is well-known to all of us ursine fanciers. They are highly regarded for their clever interpretation of licensed characters (Hi there, Grumpy Cat) and for their absolutely adorable original designs. Ganz is a Canadian company that helps to furnish the American dream: they make designs that little kids will love to curl up with for naps. They also make beautiful soft sculptures that will make a serious collector proud.
One of the really nice releases from Ganz this year is their llama product line. In 2018, the Ganz creative team has unleashed Lulu the Llama, which is available in two versions. Measuring 11 inches high, Lulu is lifelike, sweet, and contented. (Or, at least, that is what we imagine Lulu is feeling. Who knows what goes on inside these exotic critters’ heads?)
On the bear front, 2018 also witnesses the arrival of a bear that loves to dress up and play pretend. (Sounds like a 6-year-old I know!) Part of the popular Wee Bears array, this newest introduction is called the Wee Bear Cactus. Measuring a wee 6 inches tall—thus, the “Wee Bears” moniker—this year’s entry is the first bear ever to mimic a plant! Vegetation has never been so cuddly! (If you can avoid any cacti needles!)
In addition to Ganz, Moulin Roty, a French company, has loads of lovely characters, creations, and compelling storylines. Distributed in the United States by Magic Forest, these European pieces have a different approach to what comprises a snuggable, huggable character. In 2018, Moulin Roty has dreamed up—the French dream?—a precursor to Mother Goose. Called Olga, she’s a magical goose that has the ability to travel through the Magic Forest and beyond. Blessed with magical feathers, Olga is able to transport herself across the enchanted woodlands, and is there to share their dreams and help to allay their worries. The storyline for Olga and her friends (a fox, a mouse, a whale, and a gosling—NOT Ryan, you silly goose) is titled “Le Voyage d’Olga,” or “Olga’s Journey.”
If charismatic and supernatural geese aren’t your thing, Moulin Roty also has another variation on dreams and dreaming. “Les Petit Dodos” is a whimsical foray into the psychology(!) of a stuffed animal. Exploring the stuff that dreams are made upon for a stuffed critter, that is, the characters of “Les Petit Dodos” envisions what it must be like to be an exhausted animal toy. After a day of being squeezed and hugged, dragged around and loved, a plush pal must be in desperate need of a nap. That’s what this line is all about; it translates as “the little sleepy ones,” and it is concocted to show a child’s toy that is all tuckered out by day’s end.
From sunup to sundown, from birth to dotage, there is bound to be an animal that is perfect for your Plush Life!