If you’re visiting For the Love of Disney, there’s a good chance you have heard of Duffy, the Disney Bear. Whether you’ve visited him in Epcot or California Adventure (or other Disney Parks around the world!), have watched the telling of his story on Resort TV during a Walt Disney World vacation (or at home… anyone? Because we totally do), or have just seen his adorable face grace the posts of other blogs you may read (go ahead – I do, too :)), the reality is that Duffy is no stranger in the Disney community.
But how much do you know of his story?
Of course, there is the story we have learned (to recite) more recently – the one in which Minnie, missing her sea-captain love while he’s away, sews love and memories into a stuffed bear to remind Mickey of her when he is homesick. The one where Mickey, Duffy, and eventually a variety of other favorite Disney friends go on adventures around the world, sharing them with Duffy bears of their own. (Not aware of this story? Click the video above or get your copy on Amazon)
There is more to the story though. One which begins, for our family, a few years before Duffy made his debut as we know it.
In 2007, after a long journey, I found out I was pregnant – with twins! It was a year during which my husband and I had traveled to Walt Disney World a handful of times already, but the news meant we probably wouldn’t be back for a little while. Of course, there was no complaining given the circumstances… but I thought it necessary to squeeze in one more trip while I could. (Oh, the beauty of Disney Vacation Club and Annual Passes! :))
While there, I came across The Disney Bear – an adorable, small, soft teddy bear with a face and paws that reminded me of our favorite Mouse. There was no story of world travels; instead, a different story graced the tag. Mickey, the story went, brought his favorite stuffed teddy for a day at the Magic Kingdom. As he sat in front of Cinderella Castle he was a little sad, wishing he had a friend with whom he could share the magic. Well as you may imagine – he was in the place where dreams come true, after all – Tinker Bell worked some of that magic. The Disney Bear came to life, even getting a Mickey head impression on his face to “bond them forever”, and they lived happily ever after as the best of friends.
I had high hopes for these lovely little bears and my unborn daughters. We would take them everywhere, and they would be our favorite stuffed friends. We may even get new ones (they had pink! and gingham! and so many cute choices!) every time we went on a Disney vacation.
Then, out of nowhere, Disney Bear disappeared. Gone from the Emporium, gone from Once Upon a Toy, gone from the shelves. I was disappointed, but grateful that we got ours just in time.
It turns out, he wasn’t very well received stateside. But in Japan…
The guests at Tokyo DisneySea fell in love with him right away. He was given a makeover and a new backstory, one slightly different from (but similar to) the current version. Guests carried him around the park, even making and selling costumes for their beloved Disney teddies. So in 2010, Duffy was (re)introduced to US park-goers as merchandise and an experience. Their official stance is that Duffy is a cousin of the original Disney Bear, which satisfies my kids well enough. 🙂
We now have our original Disney bears, a variety of Duffy bears and costumes, and – though this one I’ve claimed as my own as she hangs out with me in my office as I write – Duffy’s friend Shellie May, who is (at the time of this writing) only available in Japan.
Duffy and Shellie May even have a new friend, introduced this year – a cat named Gelatoni with an equally cute backstory. If you’re looking for Christmas ideas for me…
What do you think about Duffy? He still has mixed reception here, I know – but he will forever be a must-see for us!