Who is this teddy bear? Many Disney fans around the world have asked this question upon spotting Duffy the Disney Bear, who has shown his face in Disney Parks around the world. But where did his story begin?
In 2002, the “Disney Bear” was created as exclusive merchandise to drive sales for the “Once Upon a Toy” store at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney. The bear came with a story: While sitting in front of Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom, Mickey had wished for a friend to share the experience with. It was then that Tinkerbell sprinkled Pixie Dust on Mickey’s teddy bear, bringing him to life! Sadly, this Disney Bear was not as popular as Disney had hoped. Merchandising even began to sell the bear in a multitude of colors, however his popularity never caught on.
It wasn’t until the year 2005 that the Duffy phenomenon took Disney Parks in Japan by storm. The Oriental Land Company, the partner company to Disney that is responsible for Disney Parks in Japan, came up with a fresh idea for the bear. He was given a new story and a plethora of cute outfits to wear, which resonated with Japanese fans—especially women in their 20’s and 30’s. It wasn’t long until Duffy found his true home in Tokyo Disney Sea, on the American Waterfront. Cape Cod on the American Waterfront is now a miniature “Duffy land.”
Duffy’s new story was quite different than the original “Disney Bear’s” story. The new story is rather cute and explains Duffy’s nautical theme. Mickey was about to head out on a long sea journey, but Minnie, being the caring girlfriend that she is, was afraid that Mickey may become lonely on his adventure. She decided to make him a teddy bear to take along. She gave him to Mickey inside of a duffel bag… which is how Duffy received his name! Duffy then joined Mickey on all of his travels around the world.
Naturally, a toy this popular deserves a friend (or two…. or three!) It wasn’t long until Disney and Oriental Land Company created some new friends to compliment Duffy – each with their own unique story!
ShellieMay was the first new companion; a female teddy bear, rather similar to Duffy in looks. This new character was what every Duffy fan had dreamed of. ShellieMay is the epitome of “girliness” with her overabundance of frilly, cute, feminine costumes. This cute Disney couple is a match made in teddy bear heaven.
ShellieMay was also stitched together by Minnie Mouse’s loving hands. Minnie made ShellieMay as a gift for Duffy. At first, Duffy was shy when meeting his adorable new female friend. He soon warmed up to her and presented her with a seashell pendant he had found on his travels….. and the rest is history!
Next came Gelatoni, the artistic kitten of Italian descent. One day while Duffy and Mickey were on a walk in the Mediterranean Harbor, Duffy accidently dropped his gelato on the sidewalk. He then met Gelatoni, who taught him to make a positive out of a negative situation! Gelatoni taught Duffy to paint wonderful pictures out of the spilled gelato, and the two were instant friends.
Duffy’s final friend is an aspiring ballerina bunny who is just as cute as a button! Duffy saw a bunny by the name of StellaLou practicing her ballet, and called out to her when he saw her stumble. She told Duffy that her dream was to be a ballerina. Duffy had always thought that dreams were only something that happened while you were asleep. StellaLou taught Duffy that dreams are also something you hope to accomplish one day with determination and practice. Duffy told StellaLou that he knew she would accomplish her dreams!
With a pirouette, a jeté, and her pointe shoes, StellaLou just recently made her way into Tokyo Disney Sea on April 4th, 2017. She had quite the welcoming committee of fans as she rolled in with her own cavalcade. Currently, “StellaLou’s Greeting Drive” can be seen along the parade route at Tokyo Disney Sea three times a day! She is quite the popular bunny!
Duffy and his other friends are also available for Meet & Greets daily at Tokyo Disney Sea. Duffy hangs around the Village Greeting Place in Cape Cod that is decked out in many Duffy decorations. ShellieMay spends her days just across the way, waiting to meet adoring fans. Gelatoni makes his home in the Mediterranean Harbor, the Italian themed port city. All three of these cuties can be seen in the “My Friend Duffy” show which plays daily at the Cape Cod Cook-Off on the American Waterfront.
Duffy and friends merchandise and yummy goodies can be found in all shapes and sizes at the American Waterfront as well!
Duffy, ShellieMay and Gelatoni Tsum Tsums have also made appearances! A StellaLou Tsum Tsum is sure to grace us with her presence in just a matter of time!
Disney Japan seems to come up with the most adorable merchandise, don’t you think? If you agree, you won’t want to miss my post for next week on more of Japan’s most adorable teddy bears!
**All photos in this post are property of the Walt Disney Company or the Oriental Land Company.**