Friday, May 14, 2021

Fun Find: Duffy the Disney Bear

Hi friends!  Today, I thought I'd do one of my Fun Find Fridays since I haven't done one since January.  This time, we're diving into the story of Duffy the Disney Bear.  After writing about Duffy and his friends in my Aulani merchandise post on Monday, I figured I'd introduce him to those of you who have no idea who Duffy and his friends even are.

Duffy originally debuted as "The Disney Bear" back in 2002.  It was a few years before he became the Duffy we all know and love today.  He used to be available in a bunch of different colors, mostly pastels, before merchandising finally settled on his light brown color.  Eliot and I actually bought his youngest sister, Elissa (who was nine at the time), one of the original pre-Duffy bears while we were in New York City at the old Disney Store on 5th Avenue.  If only I'd known then what I know now... those original bears go for hundreds and thousands of dollars on eBay.  I wish we'd bought a few for ourselves- both the black & white and aqua versions would match our bedroom!  

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Eventually, Disney decided to make him in one color and to rename the bear, Duffy the Disney Bear.  He became much like Figment, a park specific character that wasn't from any other Disney movie or franchise.  He's known for his "hidden Mickey" face, having Mickeys on his feet, and having a small embroidered Mickey on his hip/butt next to his tail.  The video below goes into more depth about Duffy and his full history.  

Over the years, Duffy became a very popular character at Tokyo Disney in Japan.  in 2010, Duffy finally made his way into the American Disney Parks.  Duffy had a new backstory that Minnie made him so Mickey wouldn't be lonely while on long trips overseas.  (That's why Duffy is usually shown in a sailor costume.)  Disney used the story of Duffy to make a special bedtime story video to show on their Resort TV.  Each night, you'd be able to watch the story of Duffy when you put your kids to bed. 

As more and more Americans discovered Duffy, he became more popular.  He became a meet and greet character in Epcot at the entrance to the World Showcase (Mexico side).  His merchandise was sold at the store near his meet and greet location.  There was also a giant Duffy in Once Upon a Toy along with more merchandise.

Unfortunately, Duffy's popularity in the US never became what it was overseas.  While the parks in Japan and China were adding new characters to the Duffy and Friends line up every few years, he was slowly being phased out of the American parks. 

In a weird coincidence, Eliot and I were actually at Epcot on Saturday October 3rd, 2015, the same day as Duffy's final meet and greet Walt Disney World.  When we realized it was his last day, we immediately got into the line.  Someone else in line with us was having him autograph one of the Duffy books.  Eliot disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a book for us to have him sign.  Of all the Disney things we have, that signed Duffy book is one of my most favorite Disney possessions.

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Eliot and I absolutely love Duffy and his friends.  I'll never forget my first little Duffy plush.  I bought him a few days before our Disney wedding.  I had seen this smaller Duffy plush with him wearing a cute pumpkin costume for Halloween.  I immediately fell in love with him.  I purchased him right away and he sat proudly the television stand of our Pop Century hotel room the entire week of our wedding celebration.

Duffy was always one of our favorite meet and greets at Walt Disney World.  I was so excited to take a picture with him in his Halloween Costume at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party a few days after our wedding.  I always wanted to get a picture with him in his Christmas outfit too.  Eliot and I were both devastated when he left Epcot "to go on an adventure around the world".

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Thankfully, Duffy is still huge overseas.  Like I said earlier, he's so popular over in China and Japan that he gains a few friend every few years:

- ShellieMay debuted in 2011 at Tokyo DisneySea.  She's a pink, female version of Duffy and according to her story, she was also made by Minnie Mouse.

- Gelatoni debuted in 2014 at Tokyo DisneySea.  He's a gray cat with white accents that wears a blue beret and he loves to paint- sometimes with his tail.

- StellaLou debuted in 2017 at Tokyo DisneySea.  She's a lavender and pink bunny who dances ballet and dreams of dancing on Broadway.

- CookieAnn debuted in 2018 at Hong Kong Disneyland.  She's a yellow dog with long floppy ears who loves to bake new recipes.

- 'Olu Mel debuted in 2018 at Aulani in Hawaii.  He's a shy turtle who likes to play the ukulele.  He was originally called 'Olu before they changed it in 2019. 

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Like the original Duffy bear, all of Duffy's friends have Mickeys on their feet, (except 'Olu) and they have the same loose Mickey outline on their faces.  ShellieMay is the only one who also has an embroidered Mickey on her hip like Duffy does.

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Duffy merchandise isn't seen very often here in America anymore, but those of us who are Duffy fans still keep an eye out just in case.  Most recently, he's been seen in a few items of last year's Christmas collection.  Most people would see an unassuming teddy bear with Mickey's outline on his face, but we Duffy fans immediately know who he is. 

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Like I mentioned on Monday, Duffy and friends merchandise is available at Aulani.  I always keep an eye on ShopDisney as well.  They'll occasionally post items from Aulani... even though most of it is Olu stuff that we already have at this point! 

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Disney does still recognize Duffy occasionally.  Duffy and his friends have their own pages on the Walt Disney Imagineering website.  Disney also occasionally makes new stop motion videos of Duffy and his friends every once in a while.  The one they just released a few weeks ago for spring is super adorable!

Eliot and I hope to meet all of them overseas one day!  In the meantime, we'll be happy to snuggle with our very own Duffy and Friends plushies from Disney's Aulani!  °o°

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