"Come dream with me tonight."
When I heard the familiar tune from the bright-eyed fuzzy bear, I immediately settled into a cocoon of '80s-inspired nostalgia. Teddy Ruxpin, one of my favorite childhood toys, is set to make a comeback starting Sept. 1. The price will be $99.
But Teddy's gotten a serious makeover since the last time I saw him in 1986. Now, the popular toy sports LCD eyes, several smart sensors, Bluetooth and a built-in hard drive. Heck, Teddy even has its own app. It's the perfect blend of modern and retro that will make both parents and children smile.
Design: Cuter and cuddlier
Teddy's changed since the last time I cuddled with the toy in 1986. For starters, Teddy’s a lot more snuggly. Technology's progressed far enough that there isn't a hard, unforgiving mechanism occupying most of the toy's chest. Granted, the new Ruxpin does have a fairly large hard plastic panel in his back to accommodate its four AA batteries. However, he has enough stuffing in the front and bottom to make hugging a pretty comfortable experience.
The beige back panel also has a switch to turn the toy on and off and adjust its volume, a Bluetooth pairing button and a micro USB port for data transfers. In case Teddy freezes in the middle of telling a story, there's a small reset divot. My one pet peeve is that the panel housing the batteries can be accessed only with a Phillips screwdriver, so you'll need to have one on hand before your child can start playing.
Ruxpin's soft light-brown fur is clothed in an orange top, blue denim shorts and a brown button-down vest. A tuft of hair at the top is just long enough to give Teddy mean set of bangs or to gently tousle. The toy's face is dominated by a pair of bright-blue LCD eyes and a small white mouth, accented by the shiny black nose. It's enough to make even the most jaded adult go awww.
At 14 inches tall and 1.5 pounds, he's the perfect size for toddlers and older children.
Windows to the Soul
The biggest change to Teddy Ruxpin's design is in the eyes. Instead of the mechanized peepers of the ‘80s, Wicked Cool Toys has updated the design to include a pair of bright LCD eyes. Some of my colleagues are a bit weirded out by the new eyes, because they felt they were a little too sunken in his face.
Placement aside, Teddy's new eyes are much more expressive than anything I had back when I was a kid. While it was cool that Teddy's eyes would open and close as his mouth moved to tell me a story, Ruxpin had the same blank expression throughout the tale.
The updated version of the toy's LCD eyes comes with over 40 expressions, the cutest of which is Teddy’s eyes turning into half-circles to signify a smile. But, I've also seen Teddy wink at me and get little hearts in his eyes when reading stories.
Tell Me a Story
Out the box, Ruxpin comes pre-loaded with three stories and seven songs. To hear a song, you simply give Teddy's left-hand sensor a gentle squeeze for a few seconds. For a story, press down on Teddy's picture on the right side of his vest. From there, the animatronic bear's eyes and mouth move in sync with the media, just like it did when the toy relied on a cassette player. If you want to pause a story or a song, squeeze the right hand.
Unlike the toy I grew up with, where you could hear the little motors making the eyes and mouth move, this updated version is virtually silent. The quieter mechanics means that your child can get more immersed in Teddy's songs and tales. When your child gets bored with the preinstalled content, parents can download more via the corresponding app onto Ruxpin's integrated 4GB hard drive, which can hold a number of stories and songs depending on length. A final price has yet to be determined, but stories will run you about $4.99 a piece, or $24.99 for a seven-story bundle.
Listening to pre-loaded stories, I was pleased to discover Wicked Cool Toys kept the original characters from the books to flesh out Teddy's adventures. One name and voice I heard often was Grubby, Teddy's caterpillar sidekick. There are a lot of parts where Ruxpin and Grubby talk to each other, so I'm hoping that Wicked Cool Toys will make a Grubby doll down the line to keep Teddy company.
It just wouldn't be a modern toy without some sort of app support. Available for Android and iOS, the free app will allow kids to view illustrations and text while Teddy tells a story. It's basically a digital version of grabbing a book and reading it to your kid. But let's face it, you're never going to be as cute as Teddy.
Connecting to the app is easy enough. After downloading and launching the app, press the Bluetooth button on Teddy's back to connect. From there, I saw a syncing message on my Samsung Galaxy S8+ and a prompt to press Teddy's right sensor, which launched into the story "All About Bears." I was pleased to learn that the app retains the artwork from the original book series along with the songs. To switch between stories, you simply press on the sensor in the toy's right hand.
The app supports the iPhone 4S, the iPad mini and the iPad 3 with IOS 8 or above. The app is also compatible with Android devices running the 4.3 (KitKat) operating system and up, and at least Bluetooth 4.0. Although Teddy uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, the toy isn't dependent on it, so your child can still play, listen to a story or sing along.
Powered by four AA batteries, Wicked Cool Toys claims that Teddy should get years of battery life with the proper care. In the time I played with Teddy with my nephew, we listened to all the songs and stories, and after 2 hours, the toy was still talking and emoting with us.
Teddy Ruxpin is a blast from the past that I didn't know I wanted or needed. Wicked Cool Toys has successfully brought the storytime bear into the present. The toy is outfitted with enough tech to satisfy the savvy kids of this era, while retaining the intrinsic cute relatability that made Teddy such a hit when the toy first debuted.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/ Tom's Guide