What Happened To The Teddy Ruxpin Toy?

No '80s childhood would have been complete without the presence of a Teddy Ruxpin. The plush, animatronic bear served as inspiration for the myriad of talking toys we see today. Powered by a two-track stereo cassette tape that seemed to bring the doll to life (via Everything '80s Podcast), Teddy Ruxpin — who made it clear that he "really enjoyed talking to people" — certainly had a lot to say. If you listened closely enough, it was clear that Teddy Ruxpin wasn't merely talking so much as he was telling a familiar tale in a comforting voice to kindergartners who had a hard day at school; and through a broader lens, telling the story of a technological revolution and the toys and children it would leave behind.

Ruxpin's rise to superstardom was undoubtedly complex, but his fall out of fashion would go down in toy history. Here's a look at one of the most iconic vintage products of the '80s from then up to the present day.

Its inventor was an animatronic genius who worked for Disney

It should come as no surprise that this talking toy story originated in the mind of a noted Disney employee. Ken Forsse, whose life has inspired a full-length docuseries entitled "Ken Forsse: Come Dream With Me" (via The Hollywood Reporter), long had visions of talking heads. Teddy Ruxpin is believed to have been a kind of cross between multiple projects Forsse worked on, from Disney's Haunted Mansion attraction to the short-lived television series "Welcome to Pooh Corner" (via TMDB).

CNET reports that prior to creating Teddy Ruxpin, this noted inventor/producer busied himself with painting animatronic heads at Disneyland, including the Country Bear Jamboree dolls from the "It's a Small World" ride. If you examine the vintage toy closely, you can see all of the inspiration playing out in Teddy's features. The doll certainly mimics these larger-than-life creations, but in a size and style that fits perfectly in the crook of an eager toddler's arms. Always with the simple but inviting greeting, "Can you and I be friends?"

Teddy Ruxpin was instantly a best-selling toy

Teddy Ruxpin soared to superstardom on an airship whimsical enough to make any steampunk fan swoon. His fantasy world was unmatched in his heyday. Unlike many other toys of that era, Teddy Ruxpin was an instant, overnight success (via CNET). But behind the impressive sales numbers ($93 million in year one and growing) was an even more impressive list of co-creators.

Everybody who was anybody in the world of toys and animation seemed to have a hand in Teddy Ruxpin's head in some way or another. President of Atari and founder of World of Wonder Toy Company, Don Kingsborough, was the first to fall in love with Teddy, investing $60 million in the bear and rushing it onto shelves just in time for Christmas. Famous puppeteers and renowned musical composers chimed in too, and the end result was a product with a universe all its own, spanning the length of hundreds of cassette tape stories featuring soundtracks and magical worlds galore. In the arms and eyes of children, Teddy Ruxpin almost seemed too big to fail. But his airship was plucked from its imaginative skies in 1987, and we can blame it on Lazer Tag and the stock market crash. At least, that's how the story's spun today.

Lazer Tag tragedy and other woes struck Teddy Ruxpin's toy company

Unlike so many other toys of this era, Teddy Ruxpin was neither a victim of its own success nor a fading novelty or trend. According to CNET, for the entire time that founding toy company World of Wonder remained, Teddy flourished, spinning his stories through the speakers that powered the cassette tape screwed tightly into his back. The issue was not in the toy, but rather in the toy company, which struggled under the pressure of stock market crashes, employee layoffs, and an unfathomable tragedy that occurred when a deputy fatally shot a 19-year-old boy who was brandishing a Lazer Tag gun the officer reportedly mistook for a real firearm. Sadly, World of Wonder, which also created Lazer Tag, garnered a terrible reputation following the horrific incident.

The future for World of Wonder was bleak, and without the corporate giant, Teddy Ruxpin inevitably fell from the shelves of toy sensations and made his way to storage units and vintage marketplaces. It's important to remember, though, that Teddy Ruxpin was not just a bear but also a brand. His success was complete with hundreds of tapes, toddler bedroom décor, and even a nationally aired animated television series. Yet even with all these wheels in motion, Teddy Ruxpin's page in history had already taken a turn. Cue twinkling sound effects here.

The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin series didn't last

One of the most underplayed aspects from this vintage toy's past is the animated series "The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin," which was also created by Ken Forsse and friends (via IMDb). Like the bear, the plot was an elaborate romp through fantasy worlds that were well-developed and accessible for children. The 1987 series featured Ruxpin and his lovable friend Grubby, who was also rather popular in elementary schools at the time. In fact, Grubby continues to sell out to toy collectors to this very day (via eBay).

The animated series had all the makings of a masterpiece. It featured magic crystals, cooky inventors, intricate world-building, and a ship propelled by colorful balloons, not to mention an entire organization of villainous characters for the good guys to take on. Unfortunately, without World of Wonder pumping Teddy Ruxpins onto toy shelves, the series suffered, ultimately ending the year after it was introduced.

Teddy Ruxpin is still around

The massive impact that Teddy Ruxpin had on popular culture could not be erased, despite multiple tragedies, including the death of the doll's original creator, Ken Forsse (via The New York Times). Just as the groundbreaking animatronic puppet brushed its furry shoulders with the likes of Atari, Nintendo, Disneyland, and even Chuck E. Cheese in the 1980s, it is continuing that larger-than-life legacy even today. In addition to the previous version taking a well-earned spot on the vintage toy market (per CNET), Wicked Cool Toys brought a brand-new Ruxpin to the toy scene in 2017.

According to Toms Guide, the updated Teddy Ruxpin embraces all the retro features classic toy collectors loved plus modern tech features like LCD eyes, 40 animations, sync-to-speech, Bluetooth compatibility, and a super spiffy eye mask. As it turns out, Teddy's still around, and "we're going to have lots of good times together" after all.