The Furby is an amazing small furry and lovable electronic pet that burst onto the consumer toy scene in 1998 and lasted for about 3 major toy change generations into 2013 and a relaunch in 2016.
It was first created by a group of 2 guys David Hampton and Caleb Chung and then licensed and made a success with the third guy Richard Levy. David had dabbled in electronics his whole life and eventually landed a job in Silicon valley and at Mattel toys where he met Caleb. Caleb did not have a great background in electronics but was known to be a free thinker with no mental boundaries.
Caleb worked hard at Mattel and had found his niche in designing toys and focused on that and his family. In this very inspiring and moving documentary on Youtube directed by Greg Green about Caleb and the Furby called “Whats your story Caleb Chung?” we are given a very touching look at a gentle man who loves his electronic toys as his own children and appreciates all that life has offered him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPhEWIreoxk
Now the birth of the Furby idea came when Caleb and David went to a trade show in the 90s and saw the tiny electronic toy called the Tamogachi. They went back home and decided to make something bigger that you could actually pet and they tentatively called it Furball. The languages it spoke was a combination of Asian words and sounds that Hampton learned over the years in the navy.
Richard Levy was working in the film business for years and became a film producer ad creator of a major satelite corporation but also had a passion for inventions and marketing. He met David and Caleb and went about making a licensing deal for the Furby with Tiger ELectronics in 1997.
Hasbro shortly after purchased the Tiger corporation and then in 1998 they put a huge amount of money towards promoting and producing the Furbies. In late 1998 they took Furby to a New York Toy show and had orders for over 30,000 Furbys and then sold about 4 million in the rest of that year and 14 million in 1999.
About 40 million were sold in the first 4 years.
It was a fad so the sales lagged and a new generation came out in 2005 which didnt sell very well but it did have some great electronic and cuddly features.
Chung admitted that many people found it to be too realistic and that it sort of broke that unwritten “uncanny valley” rule that if some robot looks and acts too realistic that people will find it weird and creepy.
In 2012 the third generation of Furby came out with many more amazing electronic features including a personality that could change depending on how you treated the Furby. The original one in 1998 only had one simple personality.
In 2013 a new smaller version came out called the party rocker and then one called the Furby Boom which was quite a hit. This one had much more powerful abilities and could remember its name and new personalities and some funky furry color schemes.
Furblings came out in 2014 and were made to play better if you had them along with a Furby Boom.
Then the furby connect came out in 2016