“For the last three to four years, nobody has wanted to buy a hard stuffed animal,” said Ezra Ishayik, who’s been in the toy business for more than 40 years and currently runs New York City’s Mary Arnold Toys with his daughter Judy. “This is what parents want for babies, but we also have teenagers buying them. I prefer the softer ones, too.”
Not everyone feels the same way. Wendy Mitchell, founder of the Stuffed Animal Rescue Foundation, an organization that restores abandoned stuffed animals and puts them up for “adoption” at no charge, says the rising softness of stuffed animals is a “pet peeve” of hers.
“To me they feel terrible. They’re so soft, it’s almost as though they aren’t there, and that’s a problem, because these creatures are supposed to be their own entity,” she explained. Mitchell’s preference for a little resistance in her stuffed animals, by way of a slightly more textured fabric and/or denser stuffing, is similar to how many of us feel about our friends: a good companion should occasionally push back.
Such a critique raises an important question: Are today’s softer stuffed animals exclusively the result of advances in fabrics and manufacturing or a response to a contemporary emotional need?