Littlest Pet Shop and Its Big Impact

             

Littlest Pet Shop booklet coverThe Littlest Pet Shop toys are ones many 90s kids remember vividly. With a seemingly endless collection of tiny plastic dogs, cats, hamsters and other creatures, the Littlest Pet Shop figurines and accessories were on most little girls’ wish lists (and many boys’, as well). Originally produced by Kenner in 1992, the tiny plastic

 

pets exploded in popularity soon after their release. Littlest Pet Shop was an affordable, trendy toy that gave animal-loving kids a playtime alternative to the heavy gender-targeting of Barbies or Matchbox cars of the time.

Kenner produced a line of blister-packaged "Ready to Go Pets" that were sold individually. Each toy came with an adorable little animal, mini-habitat, and several accessories. Littlest Pet Shop toys stood out amongst the pack of other plastic pet figurines because each had a certain feature that made it special. The littlest Dalmatian would wag its tail when "brushed" with a red plastic brush. The littlest toucan’s wings would flap when its head was pressed down. The littlest bunny would wiggle its ears when its tail was moved. In adulthood, these features are little more than magnets built into tiny toys, but to kids, they were a magical entertainment resource that was a must-have.

Littlest Pet Shop: Ready to Go Pets - Frisky Kitty
Ready to Go Pets: Frisky Kitty
  Littlest Pet Shop: Ready to Go Pets - Ticklish Toucan
Ready to Go Pets: Ticklish Toucan
  Littlest Pet Shop: Ready to Go Pets - Bashful Bunny
Ready to Go Pets: Bashful Bunny

Kenner marketed its products well, with television commercials sporting new breeds and species regularly. It was nearly impossible to collect every single pet, especially because many were redesigned the year after release. The same tail-wagging Dalmatian would become a tail-wagging German shepherd in a few months. The toucan would become a parrot. The white bunny would become a brown bunny. Even though parents knew that they were buying their children the same mass-molded toy, kids were fascinated by a color change here and there and were insatiable collectors of these marginally animated toys.

Littlest Pet Shop: Mommy and Babies - Bunnies
Mommy and Babies: Bunnies
  Littlest Pet Shop: Splashtime Pets - Jump 'n Splash Frogs
Splashtime Pets: Jump ‘n Splash Frogs

The company expanded its product line throughout the duration of 1992, adding the "Pet Presents," "Mommy and Babies," and "Cozy Home Pets" series which contained multiple pets per package. Similar to the Ready to Go Pets, most of these were "reinvented" with a fresh coat of paint in 1993 to encourage repurchase. The pets in these lines also came with their own little collection of magnetized choking hazards such as tiny plastic newspapers and balls of yarn.

Littlest Pet Shop: Pet Presents - Marching Mice
Pet Presents: Marching Mice
  Littlest Pet Shop: Cozy Home Pets - Jogging Gerbils
Cozy Home Pets: Jogging Gerbils

In 1994, Kenner widened its product line once again, focusing on wild animals in the zoo series (such as tigers, zebras and sea lions) and on specific cat and dog breeds in the My Real Pets series (such as Siamese cats, Collies and Shih Tzus). The 1994 expansion also saw an increase in multiple-pet packages and larger playsets. For example, the Jungle Bunch and Polar Pets playsets included four pets each, as well as half a dozen accessories and pieces of scenery.

Littlest Pet Shop: Zoo Nursery - Baby Tiger with Cockatoo
Zoo Nursery: Baby Tiger with Cockatoo
  Littlest Pet Shop: Keep Me Safe Pets - Zoo Polar Pets
Keep Me Safe Pets: Zoo Polar Pets

1995 was the year that Littlest Pet Shop really started to derail from the original simplicity that created such magnetism between kids and their favorite animal-shaped toys. With the launch of an animated television show, larger and more complex toys were released, including stuffed animals and ones with brushable hair. Kenner also licensed the product to McDonald’s to feature as a Happy MealĀ® toy, wherein the original toys’ standards were sacrificed for inexpensive production.

Littlest Pet Shop: Playsets - Pet Shop (Outside)
Playsets: Pet Shop (Outside)
  Littlest Pet Shop: Playsets: Pet Shop (Inside)
Playsets: Pet Shop (Inside)

In the latter half of the decade, Littlest Pet Shop continued to add new and varied inventory, though the LPS fever had largely died down. Littlest Pet Shop’s heyday was indeed in the early 90s, when their basic line was marketed as a collect-them-all product for animal-obsessed kids. One glance at a picture of 1992’s original Hurrying Hamsters or Frisky Kitty will have anyone who group up in the 90s reminiscing about their favorite artificial friends.

 

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