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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 polyethelene) "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.
Not to be confused with Beanie Kids, an Australian toy.
Animal tropes present
- 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.
- Everything's Better with Cows: Daisy and Bessie. Also a bull named Tabasco, later renamed Snort.
- Everything's Better with Chickens: Doodle the Rooster, later renamed Strut.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Bronty, Rex and Steg, a line of
tiety-dye dinosaurs. Guess what species they are. Later dinosaurs included a pterodactyl named Swoop, a T. Rex named Toothy (and another named Tyranno), and a Parasaurolophus named Tooter.
- Kangaroos Represent Australia: Pouch, Ricochet, Pogo and Willoughby are their names. All four are flyers with joeys in their pouch, and they smartly avoid the You Fail Biology Forever by putting the poem in first person. There is also a Beanie version of Austin the Kangaroo from The Backyardigans, and an Australian-exclusive named Bounder.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Monkeys, chimpanzees, an orangutan, and a baboon named Cheeks. And a bushbaby.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Waddle, Slapshot, Snowbank, Tux and Zero (who wears a Santa cap) are their names. There are also Beanie versions of Pablo the Penguin from The Backyardigans and Skipper from Madagascar (but only Skipper).
- Everything's Better with Platypi: Incredibly, Patty the Platypus was one of the original nine.
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Averted; the poems indicate that all the shark Beanies are good-natured.
- Messy Pig: Averted; Squealer is the class clown, and Stubby would "rather eat a big dessert." Knuckles the Pig, however, makes mud pies.
- Everythings Nuttier With Squirrels: Obviously, since they're named Nuts and Nutty; there's also a third named Treehouse. The latter two are also holding acorns.
- Precious Puppies: There are a couple that are explicitly stated to be puppies, but even the ostensibly adult dog types are usually puppylike.
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods: Yep, they even have three octopi: Inky, Opie and Wiggly. And Squidward.
- Pandaing to the Audience: Three of the giant variety (Peking, Fortune and Wonton), one of the red variety.
- Playful Otter: Seaweed is her name.
- Smelly Skunk: Yep, named Stinky, given perfume and mints as gifts, and "hop[es] one day he wouldn't stink."
Other tropes present
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Played straight and averted. Some are realistically colored and designed; others are more cartoonish and less realistically colored.
- Ambiguous Gender: Some Beanies' genders 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 (e.g., the several kangaroos are all female, as they have joeys in their pouches).
- Cash Cow Franchise: The toy line now includes Beanie Baby adaptations of Hello Kitty, SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek, Dora the Explorer, Blue's Clues, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, Alvin and The Chipmunks, The Backyardigans, the live-action Garfield movies, the actual Garfield, the Ice Age films, the Madagascar films, and so on. Special Beanie Baby bears in honor of people, which started with the Princess Diana tribute bear. Some are exclusive to retailers such as Walgreens. Yet others are exclusive to certain areas.
- To say nothing of the intentional release of design variations. For instance, Patti the Platypus comes in several almost-indiscernible color variations; Mystic the Unicorn had three design changes; Lucky the Ladybug can have 7, 11 or 21 spots (and they can be stitched-on felt or patterned fabric!).
- Follow the Leader: In the wake of the first wave of Beanie Baby success in the late nineties, many other plush toy lines suddenly came into vogue, such as Puffkins.
- Godzilla: Yes, there is a Godzilla
beanie babyClassic Ty plush...as well as Mothra and King Ghidorah. They were only available in Japan as a tie-in promotion for the release of GMK back in 2001.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Any Beanie with a tie-dye appearance is officially listed as "Ty-dye."
- 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"?
- No Export for You: Several Beanie Babies, Beanie Buddies, and Classic Ty plush are ONLY available in certain stores, in certain countries, or at certain events.
- Punny Name: Chocolate the Moose and Claude the Crab are but a few of the many examples.
- A subtle one. Splash was originally identified as just a whale, but is now officially considered an 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 was retconned from a mongoose to a generic mustelid, even though mongoose are not mustelidae. This retcon probably owes to a not so family-friendly "mean poem" that Runner had early on.
- 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.
- Serious Business: For the adults who collect the rare ones. Many Beanie Babies hold a higher market value just for the slightest variation in fabric color; having a different-colored horn; having the swing tag in the wrong ear; or any other slight mutation, intentional or accidental. Really, just how would you tell if your Patti the Platypus is magenta (and thus worth about $1,300) instead of fuchsia or raspberry? If you really want to get serious, there's also the royal-blue version of Peanut the Elephant, which once fetched $4,000-plus.
- To say nothing of the Teenie Beanies once available in McDonald's Happy Meals. People were buying dozens of Happy Meals just to get all the Teenies, and then dumping out the food.
- Black market and counterfeits were insanely common, too. Most often, the counterfeits were blatantly obvious.
- Some adult collectors would be openly horrified if they saw Beanie Babies being played with by children - you know, the toys' original purpose?
- Humphrey the Camel may or may not be a reference to the Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan song of that name. Then again, one of the birds was accidentally released without wings...
- A Ty-dyed bear named Garcia? Definitely not a reference to Jerry Garcia. (It got 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.
- Attic Treasures were introduced in the same year as Beanie Babies. These were given a more Retraux style and hinged limbs, and were quietly retired in the early aughties.
- 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 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 Spinoff 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. Next in the line were Pounce and Prance.
- Three pastel-colored rabbits were named Hippity, Hoppity and Floppity. Supposedly, there was going to be a Flippity in there too, but it was never made.