May 2, 2007

Are Toys From Y2K Really Vintage? Gus Gutz, Harry Hairball By Rumpus

gus_gutz.JPGRediscovering the forgotten kid-related awesomeness of the past is a favorite pasttime here on Daddy Types. But waxing nostalgic about a long-lost toy collection from 1999 makes me uneasy, like we're veering too close to VH1 territory. And yet, there's no denying that the creations of Rumpus Toys have a kind of wistful coolness, and an ambitious, idealistic, dotcom-era weirdness, that are worth some attention.

As a web 1.0 survivor myself, it's absolutely no surprise that Rumpus flamed out. Founded in 1997 by a guy named Larry Schwartz as an offbeat indie toymaker, Rumpus won a bunch of awards for plush toys such as The Monster In My Closet. They quickly followed up with Gus Gutz, a plush dude whose plush organs can be yanked out of his throat, and Gus's pet cat, Harry Hairball, who came similarly stuffed with fish bones, mice--and hairballs.

rumpus_monster_in_closet.jpg

harry_hairball.JPG

From early on Rumpus was producing a bunch of online content for kids: web animation, new characters, games, and they scored co-production deals with some big Kid Hollywood names. They also went web-only with their toy sales, selling exclusively from their own site. Ambitious, bold, and, as it turned out, fatally flawed strategies that helped drive the company out of business when the bubble burst in 2001.

As late as 2000, there were still breathless articles being written about how much cool content Rumpus was producing, but there was literally no mention made of business models, or revenues, even. And they even had physical products to sell, too. Oh well.

Rumpus toys show up in small numbers on eBay, though plush toys from Y2K generally don't seem to hold up as well as, say, solid maple dump trucks from Y1965. The upside is, they're pretty cheap [a Hairball sold yesterday for less than $15, shipped], and kind of cool. The only toy that might capture the spirit of the era more fully is that Pets.com puppet. And he's available, too.

[Thanks to DT reader Chris, who wrote about his experience creating Rumpus animations back in the pre-kid days.]

If I read this correctly, new-in-box Monsters In My Closet are available here for $12.95
[4specialtygifts.com]

A Rumpus On The Net, July 2000
[awn.com]
Search for Rumpus Toys on eBay [ebay]
Previously: Gnagno and The Organs Plush Toy with Rip-Outtable Guts

2 Comments

Great to see Harry with all his accessories again
My kids have played with him for 9 years now just 1 hairball left - they loved to get him to 'sick' up all the small toys he had eaten.

I have been looking everywhere for Harry Hairball. Do you know where I can get him? Thanks

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