Freaking Out Over the Furby

Toys "R" Us features a spooky creature on its Holiday Hot Toy List.

“Uh-oh!” Who knew that little expression could get so irritating so fast?

More than 13 years ago, I discovered just how bad it could get. It all began when I wandered into a little shop in Chinatown, looking for the perfect Christmas present for my child… Oh wait, that was Gremlins.

Let me start again. It all began when I succumbed to the mad marketing of the latest must-have toy of the 1998 Christmas season – I bought a Furby.

Having grown up dreaming of owning my very own Mogwai, Furbies seemed to be the next best thing. They looked pretty similar, with their heavy-lidded eyes and bat-like ears, and featured a voice a lot like Gizmo’s falsetto.

My husband thought our little purple Furby was pretty darn cute, too.

“It was OK, kind of neat,” he recently told me, remembering the toy. “I don’t even remember what it did.”

His lack of recall is probably due to the fact it didn’t really do anything except utter little phrases like “sleep now” and “uh-oh!”

We played with it, made fun of it – “Don’t get it wet or feed it after midnight! Har har!” – and gave it a place of prominence on our dresser.

And then the real fun began. Our Furby eventually developed quite the unique personality. In fact, it became a lot like a really bad college roommate. It didn’t care about what we wanted, choosing instead to carefully ignore us, giving up a few choice words rather than its original “Furbish” – yes, there’s actually a term for the furballs’ language – or English words it had allegedly developed.

Our Furby also operated on a completely different internal clock. Rather than waking with its owners, it came alive in that period just before we reached REM.

The first time this occurred we thought we had inadvertently set it off. I got up, turned it off and we happily returned to sleep.

The next time it happened, we knew our forgetfulness wasn’t the reason for our electronic night owl. Our Furby was waking up, uttering strange noises and blinking its huge eyes. When I asked Derek if he remembered our Furby turning on in the middle of the night, he rolled his eyes at me. “I think we were just wondering what that sound was,” said Derek. “I wasn’t too freaked about it too much. I think you were more freaked out about it.”

He’s right – I was. After a few more nights we gave our Furby away to a friend whose child really wanted the toy. A kid, who hadn’t seen Poltergeist or Child’s Play, would definitely enjoy the creature more than a couple with a spooked wife.

And now they’re baaaaaa-aaaaaaack.

I was stopped in my tracks this weekend as I walked with my 3-year-old through Toys “R” Us. “What. Is. That,” I whispered.

My daughter, clearly taking after her dad, rolled her eyes at me. “It’s cute, Mommy!”

“No, it’s not cute at all,” I told her, steering her down the Lalaloopsy aisle, away from the Furby stand. The blasted creatures have been repackaged in clean white boxes featuring bright photos of their electronic contents. They were like the furry, rainbow-colored equivalent of an Apple computer.

When I got home, my curiosity got the better of me, and I Googled “Furby” to see if anything changed. The Furby website touts the toy as having “a mind of its own.” Owners can go to the App Store to download a free Furby app to help play with the little freak, feeding it random things and helping it get its groove on with dance music.

The website also said, “Hug, pet and play nice and Furby may become a total sweetheart” and “Shake, flip or pull Furby’s tail and you may have a little imp on your hands.”

Even better, animated LED eyes and “silly, sassy, snarky, sweet voice responses let you know how Furby feels.”

My old Furby already freaked me out with its stunted vocabulary and blinking eyes. I can't imagine what the new Furby would be like in the middle of the night.

My daughter came up behind me and watched the videos of different Furbies interacting with people. One guy feverishly fed it pie over and over again while another person neglected her cat to pet her Furby. "I want one from Santa," she said, as chills ran up my spine.

It might not be a coincidence that the rebooted version of the Furby is gaining traction around this Halloween season. Something that suspect definitely belongs on the shelves next to all things spooky and odd.

Carol McElheney October 10, 2012 at 11:50 PM
We used to have one. I got it for my 9 year old son, who taught it dirty words. I thought they took them off the market for that reason.


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