dinsdag 17 januari 2012

Sylvanian Families

I think everyone agrees that the last thing I need is something else to collect, what with my Ponies and Pullips and Monster High and all. Unfortunately late last year my boyfriend decided to introduce me to Sylvanian Families which is just about the cutest thing ever.

The basic idea of Sylvanian Families is pretty simple; it's just families of anthropomorphic little animals (bunnies, dogs, cats, mice, hedgehogs etc.) that live in beautiful houses and mansions. Of course there's also schools and shops and cars and all available. These families are available in sets of four (a mom, a dad, a baby boy and a baby girl) but many playsets also come with their own little character like the Village Gift Shop set which comes with a saleslady and a customer.
Sylvanian Families figures are pretty small (the tallest ones are about 10cm), can move their arms and legs and have flocking, so they're all really soft. They all come dressed in quite traditional clothing (or in the case of theme packs, clothing appropriate to the job/holiday/school activity) which is usually of nice quality.
This toy line is originally from Japan and known as Calico Critters in the USA. It's kind of nice to realize that the American and Japanese lines carry different versions of (or altogether different) products, so it's a nice challenge for collectors to hunt down those pieces that they want for their collection.
What I absolutely love about Sylvanian Families is the innocence of it all; they're just cute critters living in a brightly colored world where they do happy things like shopping and going to school and camping and such. Their playsets really make the world come to life. You can buy their houses, shops and accessories for those separately which is both frustrating and nice. Frustrating because it costs a fortune to collect enough furniture to decorate a house but also nice because you can buy whatever you like personally and you're not stuck with extras you don't need.
There is a large variation of playsets and themed sets, so this line really has something for everyone.  The nursery and baby lines really put more emphasis on pastel colors and cute but not very realistic buildings and toys, while for example the Regency Hotel has furniture that is based on real furniture and the entire set seems to be targeted towards collectors. Needless to say the latter is pretty high on my want-when-I-am-rich list!
I am amazed with the quality of these toys. Not only are they sturdy, well-made and properly packed (without using excessive plastic like I have talked about in my previous blog post), but also because of the details. Especially the smaller playsets come with so many little things that you're not wanting for anything if you want to make a display or scene come to life. To illustrate, the Village Gift Shop (pictured at the top of this post) comes with all the little things you can see on the packaging! Downside of this is that it's ridiculously easy to lose any of this stuff because it's so small; I'm sure especially kids who play with these will easily lose things.
One of the things that I both like and dislike is the traditional family message this toy line is carrying out. On the one hand it's a nice contrast between all the battle- and fashion oriented toys that flood the market nowadays, but on the other hand families don't just exist out of a mother and father anymore.
What about single parent families, or same-sex parents? Those are real families too, but this toy line is staying far away from it, which is a shame in my opinion. Not only because I think it would be a wonderful and positive message to show children that a family can consist of different members, but also because I think a lot of children grow up in a reality nowadays where there's simply not just a dad and a mom and a sibling. I'm not sure if this is something that belongs to this kind of toy line, but it was one of the first things that came to my mind.
All in all, I really like this innocent, cute toy line which I'm sure inspires creative play in many children and which is a great collector's item. Toys that manage to appeal to both collectors and children, without having to create special collectors editions, usually are of a special quality and this line definitely qualifies!