With Mother’s Day just behind us, I’m sure all of the moms, godmothers, aunts, and caregivers can agree that being fêted is a lot of fun, and a lot of work! On Sunday, Mother’s Day, I attended a small gathering with friends—which was absolutely delightful–but earlier that morning, I hosted a brunch for a bunch of moms; and the night before, I served a “mother of all buffets.” Like I said, it was hard work, but the love that we all shared was worth the efforts.
Amid the dining and the “desserting”—I put the number of pastries I consumed in a category all by themselves—my children surprised me with a beautiful photo album filled with shots of us over the years (I was deeply touched) and they wrote poems at school about me! Never having been an artist’s muse before, I was thrilled to hear the finished products. (My son rhymed “she bakes muffins” with “after a run, she’s just puffin.”) He also wrote that he was happy that I worked with teddy bears because it made me a fun person. (He’s 9, so I think he imagines the editor in chief is a gentle grizzly and the publisher is a personable polar!)
I think that my son was onto something. Working on a daily basis with toys, stuffed animals, dolls, collectibles, and gorgeous examples of artistry raises my spirits, and makes me—hopefully—a happy, healthy, and empathetic person. That is one of the perks of being in the plush biz. Another perk is seeing how there’s something for everyone in the ever-expanding realm of critters and creatures.
This summer, one of my family plans is to go the new dinosaur theme park that has opened in New Jersey. Not quite Jurassic Park, this brand-new launch is the next best thing (and let’s keep our fingers crossed that the raptors and brontosauruses don’t get spooked and start stampeding). It’s called Field Station: Dinosaurs (http://www.fieldstationdinosaurs.com), and it bills itself as “9 Minutes from Manhattan, 90 Million Years Back in Time.” Filled with animatronic dinos—I believe there are 30+ on hand—it is a paradise for budding paleontologists. My son and his friends qualify for that honor!
In his room, there are statues and posters of dinosaurs and other impressive, large-scale beasts—real and imaginary. There are pictures of fire-breathing dragons and winged flame monsters. Snakes, lizards, reptiles, and every other classification of creepy-crawlies also occupy wall space and shelving units. He and his friends really delight in the animals that make most people shudder.
One of the companies that really knows its way around the animals that slither and skitter is Fiesta (http://www.fiestatoy.com). They have stuffed critters that boldly embody all the “personality” and “charisma” of snakes, Iguanas, alligators, turtles, and tons of other boy-based favorites. They also have dinosaurs in all sizes, shapes, and colors.
My son and his pals (they run the age group of 8 to 10) are serious about their playtime. When they settle down to “imagine,” rather than simply running around or interacting endlessly with video games, they set up sweeping campsites filled with action figures that are in peril from marauding T. rexes and clumsy triceratops. Some of his plastic people (can’t call them “dolls”) are pals with the dinos and the dragons and the lizards. He sets his figures atop those gentle giants and uses them as carnivorous caravans. There’s a lot of reimagining and repositioning when the boys decide to combine the big, plush critters with the smaller humans. (They justify the person figurines lording it over the king-size beasts by saying “dinos only have peanut-size brains—they weren’t very bright.”)
As true as that might be, the variety of creatures provided by Fiesta are certainly bright: bright in color, material, fabrics, and concepts.
But don’t get me wrong: it’s not just insects, interesting fish, reptiles, and extinct pterodactyls that Fiesta creates. They also produce every cuddly, adorable, heart-tugging bear, kitty, puppy, and barnyard baby imaginable. (And they also make the queen of all cuteness, Hello Kitty!)
Today, to make it in the world of stuffed animals and other plush treats, you have to be versatile. This company has learned that lesson well. And if they hadn’t? Well, they’d most likely have gone the way of the dinosaurs: long gone and a distant memory. Instead of facing extinction, Fiesta manufactures it!