Sylvanian Families (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼, Shirubania famirÄ«) is a line of collectible anthropomorphic animal figurines made of flocked plastic. They were created by the Japanese gaming company Epoch in 1985 and distributed worldwide by a number of companies. Several animated adaptations have been made: Sylvanian Families (American TV series from 1987), Stories of the Sylvanian Families (British TV series from 1998), and Sylvanian Families (Japanese OVA series from 2007.) Epoch also made several video games based on the figures, for Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. There have also been a Sylvanian Families themed restaurant and theme park attractions in Japan. The word sylvan means 'of the forest'.
Beginning and growth
At the beginning of production, on March 20, 1985, Sylvanian Families were created and released in Japan by Epoch, which uses the concept of dollhouses and anthropomorphic animal figures. The first releases of the dollhouses and other playsets were made of porcelain and the furniture was made of wood. However, later releases replaced the materials with plastic and metal in the production. The toys were later released in North America the same year, but with different packaging and minor differences to the characters themselves. The toyline was originally titled Pleasant Friends of the Forest Epoch System Collection Animal Toy Sylvanian Families (æ£®ã®ããããªä»²é"ãã¡ ã¨ããã¯ç¤¾ ã·ã¹ãã ã»ã³ã¬ã¯ã·ã§ã³ã»ã¢ããã«ãã¼ã¤ã»ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼, Mori noyu kaina nakama-tachi Epokkusha shisutemu korekushon animarutÅi shirubania famirÄ«). However it was changed to its current name.
In October 1987, the series spawned an animated series produced by DIC Animation City and TMS Entertainment, which ran for 13 episodes. The series was popular in the UK and Spain and was also shown in the early 1990s in the US on Nick Jr. Later that same year, the success in these markets led to expansion into Western Europe, beginning with the UK subsidiary of Tomy acquiring exclusive rights for the brand in the UK. Tomy introduced Sylvanian Families into the UK market in 1987, and it quickly became a bestseller.
By 1988, Sylvanian Families had become a major success around the world, winning the British Association of Toy Retailers award for "Toy of the Year" three years consecutively, in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
In 1993, Tomy, who had been distributing the toys worldwide, lost the rights to the name "Sylvanian Families" in Canada and the USA. Tomy reintroduced the line under the new name Calico Critters.
The Calico Critters line is currently distributed in the US and Canada by International Playthings, LLC.
Decline and reinvention
By the late 1990s, Sylvanian Families had been discontinued in the UK, although since 1999, they have been reintroduced by Flair. Subsequently, Sylvanian families have been reintroduced in Australia and are becoming more widely available there. Tomy stopped selling Calico Critters, but a new company, International Playthings, picked up the line.
In 1999, the toyline celebrated its 15th anniversary in Japan, with the opening of the themed restaurant Sylvanian Forest Kitchen (ã·ã«ããã¢æ£®ã®ãããã³, Shirubania mori no kitchin), which was operated and managed by Epoch. The restaurant not only served food, but also sold merchandise and toys based on the franchise. The restaurant closed in February 2011.
In 2004, the franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary in Japan with the release of the Walnut Squirrel Family. In July 2004, Epoch announced a new attraction in Grinpa, a theme park managed by Fuji Kyuko. The attraction, originally called Sylvanian Village (ã·ã«ããã¢ã"ã¬ãã¸, Shirubania Birejji) before it was renamed to Sylvanian Gardens (ã·ã«ããã¢ã¬ã¼ãã³, Shirubania GÄden), began its construction with Epoch's supervision. In 2005, the franchise hosted its very first live event titled Sylvanian Families Musical~The Large Commotion Eve Party! (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼ãã¥ã¼ã¸ã«ã«ï½ã'ã¼ãã£ã¼ã¤ãã¯å¤§ãããï¼, Shirubania famirÄ« myÅ«jikaru ~ pÄtÄ«ibu wa dai sawagi!) which was hosted at the Gekidan Kogumaza Theatre. It was later released on DVD in 2006.
In 2006, the characters in the toy line were chosen to be the mascots for the National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperativess national mutual aid. By the end of the year, the toys sold a total of 78 million units.
In 2007, Epoch teamed up with Itochu, Nippon Columbia and Shogakukan to produce a 3DCGI Original Video Animation series based on the toy line produced by KÅji Kawaguchi and Yumiko Muriai and directed by Akira Takamura. All 3 episodes were released on June 20, 2007. According to Epoch, more episodes were planned, but these were never produced for unknown reasons. In the UK, Flair celebrated the franchise's 20th anniversary with a selected number of new items. The best selling was an Otter boat, and a reintroduced Dalmatian Family who now wore party hats that read "Happy 20th!".
In March 2009, the series celebrated its 25th anniversary in Japan with the opening of the Sylvanian Gardens attraction in Grinpa. Managed by Epoch, the attraction features real-life replicas of the houses and buildings from the toy line as well as a museum featuring an exhibition about the history of the toys. The attraction also has a shop which sells items exclusive to the park. In 2010, the franchise again hosted two musicals, Sylvanian Families Exciting Musical (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼ãããããã¥ã¼ã¸ã«ã«, Shirubania famirÄ« wakuwaku myÅ«jikaru) and Sylvanian Families Exciting Stage (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼ããããã¹ãã¼ã¸, Shirubania famirÄ« wakuwaku sutÄ"ji), which both became a staple on promoting the toys in conventions.
On June 28, 2013, Flair confirmed that the rights for the toys in the UK will be transferred to the newly formed Epoch UK, and they began distributing the toys from January 1, 2014 onwards. Flair announced that they would stop distributing the toys on December 31, 2013.
The entire franchise is set in Sylvania (ã·ã«ããã¢, Shirubania), a fictional village based on 1970s Great Britain. The majority of the families are all rural middle-class, with many of them owning localized but successful family businesses, or having white-collar jobs, such as doctors and teachers. They can live in large, multistory houses, or own dwellings based on the premise of a kind of holiday home. They can also indulge in many stereotypically middle-class leisure activities such as sailing or horse-riding, and often host garden parties or go on short camping holidays.
The characters, grouped into families, originally depicted typical woodland creatures such as rabbits, squirrels, bears, beavers, hedgehogs, foxes, deer, owls, raccoons, otters, skunks and mice, and later expanded to other animals such as cats, dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, penguins, monkeys, cows, sheep, pigs, elephants, pandas, kangaroos, koalas and meerkats. Most families consist of a father, mother, sister and brother, and continue to add family members from there on such as grandparents, babies, and older siblings.
There are three animated series based on the Sylvanian Families world: Sylvanian Families, a syndicated series that premiered in 1987; Stories of the Sylvanian Families (1988), a British series animated in stop motion; and a 2007 original video animation series also called Sylvanian Families.
Aside from the animated series, the series also spawned seven video games, all produced by Epoch.
- Sylvanian Families: Otogi no Kuni no Pendant (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼ ãã¨ãã®å½ã®ãã³ãã³ã, Shirubania famirÄ«: Otogi no kuni no pendanto, lit.Sylvanian Families: The Fairyland Pendant) (Game Boy Color)
- Sylvanian Melodies ~Mori no Nakama to Odori Masho!~ (ã·ã«ããã¢ã¡ããã£ã¼ ï½æ£®ã®ãªãã¾ã¨è¸ãã¾ãã!ï½, Shirubania merodÄ« ~Mori no naka ma to odorimasho!~, lit.Sylvanian Melodies ~Let's Dance with the Forest Friends!~) (Game Boy Color)
- Sylvanian Families 2: Irozuku Mori no Fantasy (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼2 è²ã¥ãæ£®ã®ãã¡ã³ã¿ã¸ã¼, Shirubania famirÄ« tsu: Irodzuku mori no fantajÄ«, lit.Sylvanian Families 2: Rainbow Forest Fantasy) (Game Boy Color)
- Sylvanian Families 3: Hoshifuru Yoru no Sunadokei (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼3 æãµãå¤ã®ããªã©ã'ã, Shirubania famirÄ« suri: Hoshifuru yoru no sunadokei, lit.Sylvanian Families 3: Hourglass of the Wishing Stars) (Game Boy Color)
- Sylvanian Families 4: Meguru Kisetsu no Tapestry (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼4 ãããå£ç¯ã®ã¿ãã¹ããªã¼, Shirubania famirÄ« fo: Meguru kisetsu no tapesutorÄ«, lit.Sylvanian Families 4: Tapestry of the Four Seasons) (Game Boy Advance)
- Sylvanian Families: Yosei no Stick to Fushigi no Ki Maron Inu no Onnanoko (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼ å¦ç²¾ã®ã¹ãããã¨ãµããã®æ¨ ããã³ç¬ã®å¥³ã®å, Shirubania famirÄ«: YÅsei no sutekki to fushigi no ki maron inu no on'nanoko, lit.Sylvanian Families: The Fairy's Wands and the Mystery Tree Esme Huckleberry) (Game Boy Advance)
- Sylvanian Families: Fashion Designer ni Naritai! Kurumi Risu no Onnanoko (ã·ã«ããã¢ãã¡ããªã¼ ãã¡ãã·ã§ã³ãã¶ã¤ãã¼ã«ãªããã! ããã¿ãªã¹ã®å¥³ã®å, Shirubania famirÄ«: fasshondezainÄ ni naritai! Kurumi risu no on'nanoko, lit.Sylvanian Families: I wanna be a Fashion Designer! Saffron Walnut) (Game Boy Advance)
- Houlton, Delphine; Short, Brian (1995). "Sylvanian Families: the Production and Consumption of a Rural Community". Journal of Rural Studies 11 (4): 367â"385.Â
- Official Epoch UK website
- Official Japanese website (Japanese)
- Calico Critters Official US Website
- Official Flair UK (and ROI) Collectors Club and shop (now defunct)