This past weekend, June 10, was an exciting one for me because I had a chance to speak at a local library about some of my greatest passions: dolls, bears (and other critters), writing, and blogging! It was a thrill to talk to a group of aspiring bloggers and editors about what it means to opine and post—a double-barreled action that I’ve been doing for two years on the doll side and for nearly three months her with the plush pals.
It is rewarding to know that I have a chance to engage in a give-and-take relationship with the readers, and to talk directly about why certain critters and adorable animals hold sway over me.
As I pondered what to ponder for this week’s column, it suddenly came to me—and, I must confess, it was anything but cute, cuddly, whimsical, or endearing. In fact, the items that popped into my head could pass for the nightmares that Willy Wonka or Winnie-the-Pooh “enjoy.” I, of course, am talking about the Pretty Ugly line of products, which hold special significance to me because they originated in New Jersey—my adopted home state—boast bright colors and unique expressions (I’ve been known to purse my lips and roll my eyes on numerous occasions), and, most of all, they have faces and figures that only a mother could love. (And that is my most favorite job of all: mom. It even ranks above blogger!)
The Pretty Ugly characters—called “dolls” rather than “monsters” or “goblins”—became a collectible fairy-tale success story in 2002 (http://www.uglydolls.com/home/index/322.0). For a decade now, these visualizations of characters that seem like they would be happy frolicking in a Salvador Dali painting or paying a visit to the “Twilight Zone” have grown more and more popular, and more and more visible.
When I go to Barnes and Noble with my kids, this has turned into a bi-weekly jaunt (coincides with my TB&F blogging schedule!), we always enjoy seeing the Pretty Ugly display of critters. My kids know that these silly, soft “beast friends” began here in the “Garden State,” and my son likes to say that they are homegrown. (At age 9, he finds this pun on our hometown and gardening to be the height of hilarity. He aspires to be a jet pilot/stand-up comic when he grows up. I tell him when he turns 12, I’ll let him watch “Airplane.”)
Pretty Ugly is on the radar screen this week because the “mom and pop” of the brand—David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim—are turning the production of their fierce, fiendish family over to Gund, which is also a New Jersey-based enterprise. The “Ugly” truth behind these characters is that they began as a love letter from David to Sun-Min. He doodled a primitive-looking creation on the epistle, and the rest is history as the first “Wage” character spawned a universe of toys, books, action figures, apparel, collectibles, and all sorts of fun paraphernalia.
With this new deal in place, Gund will handle the manufacturing and the distribution of the “Uglies” to their worldwide marketplace. David and Sun-Min and the rest of the Edison-based team will pursue more licensing and creative avenues for the brand. It’s a win-win situation for folks who rejoice in the old adage that “beauty is skin deep.”
For the Pretty Ugly people, “ugly” always translated into unique and unusual and unimaginable. I’ve bought these characters and have given them as gifts to toddlers and teens, to adults, tweens, and everyone in between.
I am certain that as Pretty Ugly/UGLYDOLL and Gund (the soft toy component of Enesco) join forces, these comical characters will be in good hands. A little bit scary, a lot off-beat, but hugely huggable and lovable, the Pretty Ugly dolls have been spreading their own unique brand of happiness for 10 years now. Under the auspices of Gund/Enesco (http://www.gund.com/), which prides itself on being the most huggable company in the world since 1898, we UGLY fans are PRETTY confident that the roster of rascals will flourish and grow. And that’s the Pretty Ugly prediction.