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Toys / Beanie Babies

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Beanie Babies are a long-running franchise of stuffed toys manufactured by Ty, Inc., owned by Ty Warner. Although the company already had a couple plush toy lines at this point, Beanie Babies slowly caught on in the 1990s, starting with a line of nine originals in 1993: Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Brownie the Bear (later known as Cubbie), Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Orca (originally a whale), Patti the Platypus, Chocolate the Moose, Spot the Dog, and Punchers the Lobster (later known as Pinchers). What distinguished the Beanie Babies from other stuffed toys was that, instead of having "stuffing," they were stuffed almost entirely with polyvinyl chloride (later polyethylene) "beans," although the heads were still typically stuffed.

The toys were not incredibly popular at first outside Ty's home market of Chicago. Starting in late 1995-early 1996, the line suddenly grew in popularity, in part due to the marketing strategies of selling them only at small gift shops for $5-$6 each. Furthermore, the company began regularly retiring existing Beanies and introducing new ones. Adding some fuel to the fire was the introduction of the first exclusive-release Beanie, Maple the Bear (sold only in Canada). It was also in 1996 that the toys first included birthdays and short, four-line poems on their tags. In 1997 through 2000, McDonald's jumped on the bandwagon as well, including fun-size "Teenie Beanies" with Happy Meals.

The Beanie Babies franchise remained popular into the 2000s, including an incredible stunt in 1999 when a bear named "The End" was released and Ty decided to let collectors decide whether or not to end the entire line.

Throughout the 2000s, the Beanie Baby franchise did see some decline in popularity, but the toys are still sold, played with, and collected. There are still plenty of retired Beanies who can fetch a pretty penny on the market these days.

The big kids craze after Pogs and before Pokémon.

In 2023, as a Milestone Celebration for the toys' 30th anniversary, Ty rereleased several classic Beanie Babies, primarily from the 90snote  with softer fabric and, in most cases, different color schemes (i.e. Patti II being orange-and-teal instead of pink-and-yellow like the original).

Not to be confused with Beanie Kids, an Australian toy. Ty did release their own Beanie Kids line, however.

Tropes present:

  • Aerith and Bob: Most of the names are very cartoonish, but there are some with more realistic names such as Erin or Scottie.
  • An Aesop: The Beanie Baby "Lucky" the ladybug has a short poem about not spending your money to play the lottery.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Zig-zagged. Some are realistically colored and designed; others are more cartoonish and less realistically colored.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Some Beanies' sexes are never stated in their poems. Usually this is because the poem is in first-person, but other times they just manage to get to four lines without using a pronoun. Some are still obvious anyway due to either their names, or other biological traits (for example, all of the kangaroos are assumed to be female since they all have joeys in their pouches).
  • Artistic License – Biology: There are a few examples of this. For instance:
    • Seaweed the Otter is holding a piece of seaweed in her paws, and her poem mentions that she likes eating it. Otters are carnivorous.
    • Double-subverted with Runner, whose species is only given as mustelidae (i.e., weasel family), an unusually prominent example of Shown Their Work on a toy. However, its poem says it can be a "ferret, mongoose, weasel, or mink"; mongoose are in their own family, which is more related to felines than anything else. The inclusion of mongoose may be because it originally was a mongoose, but it shipped with a "mean poem" about killing snakes.
  • Bare-Bottomed Monkey: Cheeks the Mandrill, whose name is a pun on the trope and whose poem specifically mentions his colorful bare behind.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Sheets, who is the typical cartoon ghost, wearing a hooded robe.
  • Bowdlerize: Runner's original poem was very violent, describing his obsession with murdering cobras, grabbing their heads and whacking them until they die. It was later changed to a much less gruesome one about the vagueness of his species.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Well, it is named Sly, and his poem says "tricky is he." Even Snocap the Arctic Fox is "very sly."
  • Cute Kitten: A LOT of kittens and cats.
  • Delightful Dragon: Scorch and Legend are cute Western dragons, and the Chinese Zodiac Dragon emphasizes their positive traits. Stretching this trope, the Komodo dragon, Bali, is also described as a happy lizard.
  • Doofy Dodo: Averted with Dinky the Dodo Bird, who isn't portrayed as dumb or goofy at all. Instead, their poem emphasizes their small stature.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Until about 1996, the toys generally had much plainer, generally more realistic designs and more common species of animals before branching out into Amazing Technicolor Wildlife and more obscure species. It was also at this point that they began to be distributed outside of Chicago.
    • Originally, the heart-shaped tags had only the toy's name and copyright information, and they were a single two-sided tag. They quickly changed to a folding tag that opens up, but it originally had just "To/From" blanks inside to encourage gift-giving. Starting in 1996 the tags began including dates of birth and a four-line poem about the toy. The font changed from Times New Roman to Comic Sans a year later, and only minor cosmetic changes have ensued in the subsequent generations.
  • Fuzzball Spider: Creeps the Spider in the Halloweenie collection is a fuzzy spider. He has a round, black head with yellow eyes and a smiling red mouth, along with orange-and-black-striped legs protruding from the sides.
  • Gratuitous German: Germania the bear had its poem written in German. Justified by the fact it was only officially available in Germany.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Similarly to Germania, both Sakura and Sakura II's poems were written in Japanese. Justified in that they were only released in Japan.
  • Informed Species:
    • Doby the Doberman Pinscher may look more like a Rottweiler to many folks, due to him having the latter breed's "floppy" ears instead of the former's more pointy ears. In actuality Dobermans ears are naturally floppy, and the more famous pointy ears are the result of trimming, not of breeding. Both breeds also often have docked tails, which is better known.
    • Dinky the Dodo Bird looks more like a duck than a dodo bird.
    • Rusty the Red Panda was commonly mistaken to be a fox or a raccoon instead of a red panda.
  • Kangaroos Represent Australia: There's an Australian-exclusive named Bounder.
  • Long-Runners: The toys have been consistently in production since 1993.
  • Meaningful Name: Why do you think they named a rabbit "Ears"? Or a bee "Bumble"?
  • Messy Pig: Averted with Squealer who is "the class clown", and Stubby who "would rather eat a big dessert." Knuckles the Pig, however, makes mud pies.
  • Palette Swap: Most of the 30th anniversary Beanie Babies have different, brighter colors than their counterparts. Some, like Zip II and Dottie II, avert this, and are primarily differentiated by their softer material.
  • Playful Otter: Seaweed is her name.
  • Precious Puppies: There are a couple that are explicitly stated to be puppies, but even the ostensibly adult dog types are usually puppylike.
  • Prehistoric Monster: Averted with the dinosaur Beanie Babies, which are adorable.
  • Pun: Any Beanie with a tie-dye appearance is officially listed as "Ty-dye."
  • Punny Name: Chocolate the Moose and Claude the Crab are but a few of the many examples.
  • Retcon:
    • A subtle one. Splash was originally identified as just a whale, but this was later specified to orca.
    • Done a little less subtly with some of the Beanies that were renamed. Some renames were done to avoid copyright issues (e.g. Tabasco the bull being renamed Snort), while others seem to be done for little reason other than to encourage collectors to buy the rarer, alternately-named version (e.g. Nana vs. Bongo the monkey, Brownie vs. Cubbie the bear).
    • Runner the mongoose-turned-mustelid, as seen above.
    • At least two Beanies had their birthdays changed for no reason.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: Many of the early Beanies had typos in their poems. Perhaps one of the most egregious is "moose" somehow becoming "rnoose" on Chocolate's poem. A list is available here. Some are so obvious that they seem deliberate, just to drive up the price and make one type seem "rarer" just because its poem's misspelled or has a different line.
  • Santa Claus: Yes, even he exists in Beanie Baby form.
  • Scary Stitches: Frankenteddy is covered with simulated stitching.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Humphrey the Camel may or may not be a reference to the Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan song.
    • The first Ty-dyed bear was originally named Garcia before being renamed Peace.
    • There's a walrus named Paul.
    • According to the poem on the inside of the tag, Mel the koala is supposedly named after Mel Gibson.
    • They also have a platypus named Perry.
  • Smelly Skunk: Yep, named Stinky, given perfume and mints as gifts, and "hop[es] one day he wouldn't stink."
  • Snake Versus Mongoose: There was a character named Runner the Mongoose, whose poem was all about how much he loved to kill snakes.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Of the squirrels Nuts, Nutty and Treehouse, the latter two are holding acorns.
  • Spin-Off:
    • Attic Treasures were introduced in the same year as Beanie Babies. These were given a more retraux style with sepiatone tags, textured fur, clothing, and hinged limbs. They were quietly retired at the beginning of the 21st century, but returned in 2017.
    • Pillow Pals, a large, stuffed plush toy line intended for toddlers. Many of them were expys of Beanie Baby designs. In 2001, they were replaced by Baby Ty, which are made of a softer fabric.
    • There were also Beanie Buddies, which were larger, softer and larger counterparts of existing Beanie Babies, sometimes with trivia about the corresponding Beanie in the swing tag. Both these and Baby Ty were made with a new fabric called "Tylon."
    • Ty Girlz, which are... well, basically plush Bratz dolls.
      • Ty Li'l Ones, itself a spinoff of Ty Girlz.
    • Beanie Babies 2.0, Ty's answer to Webkinz.
    • Teenie Beanies, the Spin-Off Babies of the franchise.
    • Beanie Boos.
    • Wild Wild Best.
    • Beanie Ballz.
    • Ty Monstaz.
  • Theme Naming:
    • The first five cats were named Zip, Nip, Chip, Flip and Snip.
    • Three pastel-colored rabbits were named Hippity, Hoppity and Floppity.
  • Wicked Witch: Scary the Witch.