November 20, 2023
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Furbies are back! Well, they never really went away, but this time they aren’t being made by Hasbro. Yep, there’s a whole fan-based community out there making them bigger, better, bolder, brighter, and, most crucially, longer than ever before. Much, much longer. Possibly too long?
It’s 1998. It’s the year of Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, the first Google Doodle, and the year Titanic dominated the box office.
It’s also the year Hasbro gifted us with the Furby, the first successful attempt at an interactive robot pet. These Furbies have an owl-like face, are available in a range of exciting colors, and speak their own language, Furbish. The more you interact with the Furby, the more it will learn your language over time. Like a human, Furbies have distinctive developmental stages. Some find this incredibly scary, and many more are enthralled.
Fun fact: There are 24 different languages available, including French, Greek, and Japanese.
You can engage with Furbies in a wide range of ways. Some models can be fed, and some change personalities when interacted with in a certain way. You can tickle them and play music to make them dance. Some models have built-in games and “Easter Eggs” that you can discover.
As you probably know, Furbies became insanely popular, and near-riots ensued in toy stores at Christmas as every parent tried to provide their child with the year’s must-have toy. Hasbro created new versions regularly until 2012. Over 40 million Furbies were sold during the three years of its original production.
What was I doing during the Furby craze? I had just finished my honors degree in contemporary crafts. While proficient in my chosen specialisms, my work fails to delight my tutors and lead to overnight fame as an artist. I have no idea what to do with my life. I start a postgraduate course in teacher training, preparing for a career teaching art and design in high schools in the Northwest of England.
Fast forward to 2018 – it’s been six years since Hasbro’s last Furby release, and a new internet trend is emerging – Long Furby.
If the name didn’t give it away, a Long Furby (or Long Boi) is a Furby modified to have an elongated body. Long Furbies can look like anything from centipedes to people; the only real requirement is that it has a Furby face.
But why is this happening? Who started the trend? And how did I fall into this community?
I’ve always been fascinated by subcultures, and the internet provides the perfect place for them to flourish, for like-minded people to meet from around the world and create communities.
Legend has it that a creator named Aloe made the first Long Furby, but they unfortunately no longer accept commissions. Their Instagram has been inactive for some time, but their creation has gone from strength to strength. Or maybe that should be from length to length? (Sorry).
Could it be as simple as good old-fashioned nostalgia?
For many, the 90s were a golden age, and people sure loved their Furbies. It’s getting harder to source original Furbies now, as the craze has pushed up the value so much that collectors will bid huge amounts for a rarer model.
For example, a model known as “Bejeweled” only has five in existence, and they were sold for $100,000. In the year 2000, an American cereal company created a contest to design your own Furby. The winner, Brittany, was presented with two of her winning “Rainbow Furbies”, one for play and the other to be kept in its original box. There is one other in existence, but I was unable to ascertain its current location.
Or maybe it’s something else, something altogether more inclusive and beautiful.
The Furby fandom is a very accepting one, open to all, including the neurodiverse, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community. Within the fandom, we donate and crowdfund for gender-affirming surgery and offer emotional support too. It’s a very kind, caring community where we love buying each other’s art and giving encouragement. The only kind of trolling usually comes from outside the community, with outsiders who do not understand the way of the Furb.
Prominent members of the community include Long Furby Fam, a Los Angeles-based creator who has 117k+ followers on Instagram. His videos, commonly referred to as “cursed”, get thousands of views, and his characters are instantly recognizable (the much-maligned Rocky is my personal favorite). Long Furby Fam includes 90s cultural icons in his videos (mostly getting tortured or cooked “alive”), including mini plastic babies, worms on a string, and a long red Teletubby.
Another creator, Ed, goes by the handle @narrowlongfurby. Their creations are always in high demand and are distinctive for their beautiful, lush, sherbet-colored fur and hand-crafted faceplates made from polymer clay. They often produce limited numbers of Furbs at different times of the year, some of them seasonal in theme.
I’m also a big fan of The Cryptid Furby, and I am the proud owner of one of their majestic “Pursebys”.
There are so many great creators in the Long Furby community, and from an aesthetic point of view, so many styles are covered. Do you like gothic? Try @deathnoodle.factory. Want whimsical bugs? @furbyfactorystore is right up your street. Cute candy-coloured kawaii? @softplushstudio is for you, my friend! The Long Furby community really does have something for everyone.
My own creative journey has been a long and often frustrating one. I have been making art since I was very small, and it’s fair to say that the things I have made have only received niche applause. As I said before, I failed to delight my tutors with my porcelain dolls in bizarre outfits and scenarios during my degree course. Through making Long Furbies, I had found a blank canvas to project my ideas upon, and more importantly, actual creative acceptance and, even on a relatively small scale, a fame of sorts.
On Instagram, I’m Furb Exotic, an obvious nod to Tiger King and the artistry that occurred during the first COVID lockdown in the UK. My first custom Long Furby was based on Joe himself, a tiger-striped, mulleted behemoth with arms and golden paws. I had a bit of fabric left, so I made a smaller version and bunged it on eBay. The rest, as they say, is history.
I take custom orders and have sent my work all over the world. I use mostly 3D printed faceplates, which I painstakingly hand paint, and often add extra sculptural forms in epoxy clay. My most popular model is known as “The orange handy boi”, and I have made many of these curious creatures, in other colors besides orange as well.
Now here’s the part I’m sure you’ve been waiting for – how to make a Long Furby of your very own. Well, it’s surprisingly easy if you have a sewing machine, some fabric, and of course, a Furby that you want to longify.
A Long Furby is basically a tube of the preferred length and width, and the easiest way is to make the tube, seal it at one end and simply slip the Furby in. Your tube will need holes, kind of like an excessively long balaclava so that the Furby’s face and ears can be visible. Then, seal the edges with glue and stuff it.
Polyester filling is the best thing to use, and a flexible spine is very important too. I get mine from a small company in Coventry, UK, which specialize in teddy bear components. I do occasionally wonder if they question what I am doing with such a large amount of their product, but I try not to give it too much thought (I bet they think I could be building a long bendy bridge to the moon or something.)
Flexible coolant pipe (a plumbing supply product) is available in some larger hardware stores too, but the official name of the Long Furby spine I use is a ball and socket armature. There are many stores on Etsy that sell this.
So, in conclusion, why do people want to give house space to a hugely long Furby? I’m afraid I can’t answer that one, and it is a question I get asked a lot. Everyone wants one for their own personal reasons. Or maybe, as I am occasionally asked to pop in as a note on a custom order, “I bet this is the weirdest gift you’ve ever been given!”
Furb Exotic can be commissioned at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AlisonMakes and is also known as Alison Lord.
A positively elderly member of the Long Furby community, Alison spent the 90s having the best years of her life and now teaches graphic design to the eager high schoolers of Stockport, Greater Manchester. Brought up on her cousin’s hand-me-downs of Marvel comics and the original Star Wars trilogy, she also has a large collection of strange and unusual dolls, which she will show you without any provocation at all. She has numerous children, a guinea pig called Lemmy, and a cat called Looshkin.
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