OK, so you probably won’t be able to persuade the grandparents that these are cute, but show an UglyDoll to your baby/toddler/school-age and tween, and it’s bound to become an all-time companion.
When I bought an UglyDoll as a birthday present for my son, who was turning four at the time, I thought I should also buy one for his nine month old sister. The moment Oliver spied his Ice Bat, he was sold – he’d just learned about ghosts (thanks to an ‘accidental’ viewing of GhostBusters!) and liked the fact he had his very own little ghost to keep him company. Meanwhile Charlotte loved her OX as well as Oliver’s Ice Bat – she would simply play with any of the dangling features she could lay her hands upon, then cuddle them to fall asleep.
Yes, indeed – this brand is the territory of some potentially serious Ugly addiction!
But the UglyDoll love story harks back to the very first Ugly to come onto the scene back in 2001… Wage! A certain young man by the name of David Horvarth had fallen in love with a certain young lady by the name of Sun-Min Kim. After moving back to her original Korea when her US student visa expired, Sun-Min received many letters from David, all signed off with a little cartoon of his character, Wage (an early avatar perhaps?) Wage. As a surprise gift, Sun-Min sewed a real-life toy Wage for David, who showed the toy to a friend, who owned the Giant Robot store in West Los Angeles, and the rest, as they say, is remarkable toy success history!
The first characters were Wage, Ice-Bat and Babo, soon followed by Jeero, Tray, OX, UglyDog and Wedgehead. However, choosing which one of the Uglies your child will want as a besty will be quite a task, as there are now around 100 different characters (each potentially in a range of colours, combinations or characterisations). Then there are the UglyBuddies, the Exclusives and the Limited Editions. In 2014 there have been at least 50 new release dolls – and that is just the dolls, not to mention the action figures, accessories and apparel. So keeping up is nigh impossible.
Furthermore, these characters have now appeared in four major movies – The Smurfs, Enchanted, Zathura, Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – and the comic strip Get Fuzzy. And they are currently preparing to make their own Hollywood debut with Universal Pictures. Yes, this is one up-and-coming cool critter.
So what’s the big appeal of these curious looking little creatures? The original Uglydolls all have unifying traits, namely a funny name, quirky physical appearances that flout convention and a unique personal profile. Take Target, for instance, who is “the oldest, wisest and hairiest of the Uglydolls” with his beady red eye and spiky hair. There’s OX (“No, not like the animal… OX, as in HUG and KISS!”) and Ice Bat (“Everything he touches turns to ice, yet he warms your heart”). Then there’s Tray, “the brains of the bunch. Not because she is smart, but because she has three brains” and Babo, who is simply “everybody’s best friend.” These detailed descriptions of each character encourage children (and adults) to engage and empathize with their beloved new character. There’s a soul mate for everyone, whether you’re looking for a shy loner or a fun-loving extrovert: all life forms and types of personalities are found in the Uglyverse.
Take a look at some of our favourites in the MyLittleStyleFile UglyDoll Gallery… and add them to your own Moodboard to share with family and friends.
Good For… imaginary play, expressing thoughts and emotions, story telling and role playing, self confidence; and for babies… visual focus, pointing, babbling and conversation
Keep in Mind… Once you go ugly, you might find your children become avid fans and want a whole community of Uglies to keep them company
What Kids Love These dolls are so soft that they perform not only the role of doll, but also that of pillow, quirky companion and household ghost
What Parents Love The bond that children form with these characters – and that they seem to really help children deal with night-time fears
Awards Winner of the Specialty Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry Assocation (2006)
Designer Details The UglyDoll brand was created by artists David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim after they met at Parsons The New School for Design in Los Angeles. Sun-Min returned to her native Korea when her student visa expired, and David wrote letters to her signed off with his ‘avatar’ Wage. Sun-Min sewed a doll of Wage, David showed it to a friend, Eric Nakamura who had opened a shop in West Hollywood, and – although the toy wasn’t available – Eric ordered 20. Sun-Min sewed those first 20, and they sold out in the first DAY! In the next 18 months, Sun-Min sewed – and Eric sold – another 1500 dolls. Today, UglyDoll has grown into an entire universe of characters, stories and products for all ages.