SEARCH REVIEWS    LIVING WITH LATE FEES    FEATURES    LINKS    BIO    MISSION    EMAIL    MAIN PAGE >


Design and Create Your Own Plush Toy
Happy Toy Machine

Happy Toy Machine plush figure


Kids love to create their own plush friends. Stores like Build-a-Bear have sprouted up at every mall across the country, allowing children to pick an animal, add clothing and sound, and personalize (to some degree) their own fuzzy best friend.

A new website called Happy Toy Machine takes this whole process one step further. Rather than being forced to select from a limited number of animal bodies, they allow you to completely design your own truly unique plush creation.

I sat down with my 10 year old daughter, and we walked through the process of creating another stuffed animal for her. As if she needs another - her room already looks like fluffy zoo.

You can create toys in sizes from 10" to 26", depending on the style and your tastes. The smaller creations (which is what you see here) are 10 - 15" and cost $30, while the larger 20 - 26" characters are $50. It costs nothing to design and save your toy.

Obviously, this review is going to be a bit different from the usual, so bear with me on the minor changes. And a special thanks to He-man, who provided a stable hand to keep "Mackenzie' upright for the photos.
Happy Toy Machine plush figure
Happy Toy Machine plush figure
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Happy Toy Machine plush figure
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Happy Toy Machine plush figure
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Happy Toy Machine plush figure
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Happy Toy Machine plush figure
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Packaging - Bupkis
Not surprising, but the bear comes simply sealed in a clear, clean, plastic bag inside a shipping box. It keeps him clean and dry in transit, the only real job it needs to do.

Process - ***1/2
Since half the fun of this toy is creating it, it's worth spending a good amount of discussion on the process.

Happy Toy Machine has an excellent help section on their website, designed to walk you through the entire process, and it's worth taking a look. You probably won't need it - most things are pretty clear - but it's nice to have just in case.

As I mentioned earlier, it costs nothing to design a toy. You can take the process all the way through to saving your design, and in fact you can have it added to their catalog for other people to buy, all without buying it yourself.

You start the process by picking a generic body template - rabbit, bear, dog, alien, that sort of thing. Have no fear though, because while this basic design is intended to get you started, you'll be able to change all the features (arms, legs, ears, tail, head shape, hands, feet, etc.), making it possible to create a totally unique creature.

After you've selected the basics, you are presented with the main design screen - the creature is in the middle, with function buttons (like saving or sharing) to the left, and feature buttons (like body parts, etc.) to the right.

You can use the feature buttons to change just about everything about the plush toy - the shape and style of every body part, including adding things like wings, tails or horns; every feature of the face including eyebrows, whiskers, mouths and more; decorations to the chest; and even sounds and clothing, although those features are still to come. You can also change the color of any body part, and there's a surprisingly broad range of colors for the material. You can change colors one of two ways - either use the color palette button to the left, which gives you a paint brush to click the intended area with, or simply select the area you want to change, and when the palette pops up at the bottom, select the new color.

One of the better features is the ability to add text to the chest. This will be embroidered, like the other features you see in the photos, which really adds quite a bit of personalization. In the future, they plan on allowing you to add your own artwork or photo as well.

As you can see, my daughter was interested in being somewhat traditional with her bear. I was pushing her to add some tentacle arms, horns or maybe bat wings, but she wasn't having any of my foolishness.

Another cool feature of the software is the ability to rotate the figure through space. This way you can see any tail or other backside additions quite easily.

Some of the features can be a little confusing, like how to delete something you've chosen. You have to first click on the offending item (say, a chest emblem), and then the delete button will appear down at the bottom. This took a little playing around to find, but once I understood the process it worked fairly easily. There are a few of these slightly counter-intuitive processes, and kids may need an adult's help to figure some of them out.

Once the design is complete, you can save it. You can order any saved design, or someone else can come in and order it for you.

Overall, my daughter had no trouble creating just the beast she wanted, with very little confusion or frustration. She enjoyed the process, and it was painless for her dad as well. Someday I'm sure she'll wish there was a Happy Husband Machine just like this.

BTW, it took less than a week for me to receive the completed bear - not bad!

Quality - ****
The plush characters are made from extremely high quality material, with a short, soft nap, perfect even for babies. All the emblems, features and text are embroidered with a very high quality stitching, so there's no stickers or attachments that could come off and get swallowed.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
I'm not sure how much fun plush toys really are, although I do remember loving this goofy little dog that I had as a youngster. I don't remember 'playing' with him, but I do remember him accompanying me many times, and sharing my bed for many years. 

The personal nature of these creations should be a huge selling point. You aren't just dressing them, or naming them - they can be a completely unique creation. And that's pretty damn cool no matter what age you are.

Value - **
You do end up paying for all this personalization, however. At $30, the 12" plush animal is a bit more than the current market standard for the average, boring bear at the local store. However, a nekkid bear from Build-A-Bear is going to cost you around $15 - $20, and that's just with stuffing - add in any clothes or sound, etc, and the price rises substantially. You're paying a few bucks extra for the unique nature of this toy, but once they get the additional features working (adding your own artwork, sound, etc.) I think they'll be much more on par.

Things to Watch Out For -
Not a thing. There's nothing about the process that would confuse you into buying something before you're ready, or that forces you to purchase any design you create.

Overall - ***1/2
I think this is a terrific idea, made possible by the advancements in manufacture on demand and rapid prototyping software and machinery over the last few years. It gives kids an unprecedented amount of control over the creation of their new best friend.

It's not cheap, but I think the price is well within reason, considering the array of choices. There's a couple more things to get working on the web site, and I think it would be a nice touch if you also received a birth certificate (ala Cabbage Patch Kids or Webkinz) with your creation, but this is an idea where the options and opportunities are just about endless.

Score Recap:
Packaging - Bupkis
Quality - ****
Process - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
You can create your own plush friend at Happy Toy Machine. They also sell gift certificates, so you can get one for a child and let them have all the fun creating the toy.

Related Links -
I don't review a lot of plush toys, but I have checked out the Giant Microbes, and the World of Warcraft pets.

Discussion:
Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

Enjoyed this review? Be sure to head back to the main page to find thousands more just like it!

KEEP SCROLLING DOWN FOR MORE PHOTOS!



Share this review with others! 
Google +1
 
Digg it!
 StumbleUpon Toolbar
Stumble It!
 
Reddit

Happy Toy Machine plush figure


This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2000 - 2011, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Click here for copyright permissions! Hosted by 1 Hour Hosting.com