Whether you are a Disney fan or not, you might have heard of Duffy the Disney Bear, or if you are in Japan and have visited Tokyo Disneyland Resort, you may have heard of his female counterpart Shellie May. Initially this cute, soft bear began as My Disney Bear which was tied to the parks. After the initial concept failed to attract an audience, it was revamped and given a story and a new name in Japan. Shellie May followed soon after.
Many people that have visited Tokyo Disneyland Resort have told me that the following for Duffy is incredible – in a way, he has almost become a bit of a status icon to carry around with you. He becomes a sort of counterpart to the US American Girl dolls in the sense that you can dress him in different outfits and take him everywhere you go. Some even go so far as to nickname their Duffy to make it more personalized. One girl I met who works for Tokyo Disneyland told me that she was helping to open the parks one day and saw that there was a huge crowd of people preparing themselves to run through the turnstiles to get somewhere right away. She assumed it was for the rides but she realized as they were running past her, they were going past the lines for the rides and were making a beeline for a store that carries Duffy bears and merchandise exclusively.
Why is there this fascination with a Disney character that isn’t as broadly known as the mouse himself? Could it be the fact that Duffy is soft and cuddly? Or is the fact that he resembles your average teddy mixed with a touch of Disney magic? Or could it be the face?
Either way, Duffy seems to have swept Japan and other parts of Asia off of its feet by simply being cute. There are some Duffy enthusiasts here in the States but even that is a small number. I sense it could be that here, we aren’t vying for cute so much as Japan. What we vie for instead though, is a mystery to me.