ToysBulletin.com looks at the ever expanding line of Calico Critters distributed by International Playthings.
At the beginning of 1985, Sylvania Families, better known today in the USA as “Calico Critters,” were created and released in Japan by Epoch. The collectible figures were most unique as they were made from flocked plastic. The “Calico Critters” all live in the fictional village of Sylvania, where activities are loosely based on life as it was in 1970s England. Many of the families are middle-class and some own successful businesses. Of course, the most interesting fact relating to this line of toys is that all of the families resemble woodland animals, like rabbits, bears, cats, dogs and many others.
The current US distribution rights belongs to International Playthings, and although “Calico Critters” have been around for over 30 years, they are still a very popular toy with kids ages 3 years old and up. They can be played with, collected or traded, and they continue to fill a special marketing niche in the toy industry.
We got a hold of two of the latest “Calico Critters” playsets, the “Seaside Ice Cream Shop,” and the “Hot Dog Van.” The “Seaside Ice Cream Shop” features over 30 pieces, including one critter, “Sandra Sandy Cat.” The shop has all sorts of cones and flavors to choose from, along with a cozy bench and even a secret hideaway for sharing the dessert treats. The “Hot Dog Van” is just as much fun, as the set includes an assortment of hot dogs, pretzels and even waffle fries. Such snacks would not be complete without some soda, juice and, of course, ketchup and mustard to top those dogs. The four wheel open air van is bright yellow in color and moves with ease as it seeks out customers along its path.
As with many toys such as this, parents and children must remember that most of the actual “Calico Critter” figures needed to make these playsets really work are sold separately. Generally, we suggest that at least one family of critters (4 or more) be added to a playset, thus allowing full enjoyment for children, and avoiding any looks of disappointment.
There is no doubt that the “Calico Critters” playsets are easy to set up and and fun to play with. Children can expand their imaginations and create their own little world filled with so many different types of critters. Many adults also have a passion for collecting “Calico Critters.” In fact, a fellow in the UK has nearly 5,000 figures and memorabilia and they are all kept in a locked room in his house. I have included a photo of his huge collection.
For more information and purchase information on all sorts of “Calico Critters” playsets and figures, go directly to the International Playthings website.