The Real Reason We've All Been Swept Up In The Ooshies Craze
They’re tiny, they’re plastic and they’ve taken over Australia -- but what is it about Lion King Ooshies that has sent children and parents everywhere absolutely mad for the supermarket collectables?
Woolworths introduced the limited edition figurines just a few weeks ago and they’ve since taken over the playground, and the internet -- with rare Ooshies popping up on eBay for wild sums of cash.
Children are successfully cajoling their parents into spending more on their grocery bills in the hopes of nabbing a furry Simba or a Scar with a wonky eye to show off or trade with their friends at school.
Dr. Joel Best is a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware in the United States who has studied toy crazes and written a book called ‘Flavour Of The Month: Why Smart People Fall For Fads’.
Dr. Best told 10 daily that it’s almost impossible to predict which toys will capture the attention of a generation -- and which ones will flop spectacularly.
“If people who made toys could arrange this, could guarantee that it was going to work, they’d be doing it all the time,” he explained.
“There are occasionally toy fads that come along like hula hoops in the 1950s, the Rubik’s Cube [in the 1980s], and fidget spinners a couple of years ago. Nobody can predict which ones are going to hit and which ones aren’t.”
Dr. Best explained that while it’s a futile task trying to pinpoint exactly how a trend takes hold, there are a couple of elements that help get a craze off the ground.
“As I understand it, these Lion King Ooshies, there’s a gimmick in that there are supposedly only 24 figurines out there and so these are rare,” he said.
It’s clear that there’s a real thrill that accompanies the unwrapping of an Ooshie, with kids eagerly hoping that there’s a unique (or even defective) Lion King character inside.
Coupled with the chase to collect something rare -- the Ooshies are also reasonably priced. The marketing by Woolworths means that it isn’t too much of a stretch for parents to be spending a certain amount ($30) and then buying specially marked products. Even if families that don’t have a single cat in the house have been stocking up on kitty litter.
“A lot of toy fads, you’re basically, for a lot of them, you’re trying to get the kids’ money,” Dr. Best told 10 daily.
“Fidget spinners weren’t all that expensive. It’s within the range that children can probably afford and tying it into a supermarket giveaway creates interest,” he said.
It’s one thing for children to become entranced by the cute creatures that are tied to a major motion picture, but how does it come to pass that adults begin putting the Ooshies on eBay for absolutely ridiculous sums of money? How does a small plastic figurine come to have such a high value placed on its worth?
Dr. Best told 10 daily that the idea is nothing new -- pointing to the Beanie Babies craze of the late 90s.
“There was this idea that people were going to put their kids through college with their Beanie Babies collection and that didn’t work so well,” he said.
“It’s like anything else, the famous example of this is ‘Tulip Mania’, where the Dutch created a market for tulip bulbs in the 17th century.”
“The tulip was originally imported from Turkey and people got caught up in the idea that they could be bred to produce interesting colours and so you would sell a bulb and say, ‘This is going to be some spectacular colour of tulip’ and the market goes up and up and up.”
Indeed, in the 1841 book ‘Memoirs of Extraordinary Delusions And The Madness of Crowds’, author Charles Mackay notes that “until the year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation, until it was deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a collection of them”.
“And then, poof! There’s a collapse,” said Dr. Best of the inevitable demise of a fad.
While there’s an Ooshies in-store swap day approaching on August 3, the promotion is set to end on August 13, or until stocks run out. It’s hard to say how long the figurines will endure, but they will inevitably end up stashed away in boxes, forgotten in exchange for the next craze that comes along.
“This is the sort of thing that, at one point, people are going to stop carrying their little tokens in their pockets and they’ll go on to something else.
And they’ll put them in a dresser drawer and they’ll find them years later and say, ‘Gee, what was that about?’
Main Photo: Comedy Central/Woolworths.