Teddy Ruxpin first appeared in 1985 and was intended as an educational toy that would help and encourage young children to learn to read. The toy took the form of a cute and cuddly teddy bear who could actually read stories to a child, with it’s eyes and mouth moving in time with the words of the story.
How did it achieve this magical feat? Well, inside the bear there was an audio cassette tape player. The books that Teddy Ruxpin could read also came with an audio tape that slotted inside the bear, and obviously provided the required speech. The tapes contained signals which instructed the bear to blink or open or close it’s mouth, thus giving the effect of the bear reading the story. This was achieved by using the fact that an audio tape can store stereo sound, so one channel of sound was the speech and music, and the other channel (which was not played by the bear) contained the mouth and eye information. Any tape could actually be played in the bear, but the mouth and eyes would not move unless the tape was specially made for the toy.
Extra books and tapes could be bought, although I believe they were all about the adventures of Teddy Ruxpin and his pal Grubby, a second character also available as a toy that could be connected to the main toy allowing the two to interact with each other as the stories were told. Grubby was a strange orange thing with eight legs (two of which could be arms I suppose). I guess he was meant to be a caterpillar, but I really don’t know.
The stories usually revolved around topics such as friendship and being nice to each other, all good messages for young minds, although they could be accused of being a little bit too sugary at times. Teddy also sang songs whilst reading, and this is a typical example which illustrates just how sickly sweet Teddy Ruxpin could be:
Your friend, your friend.
Your very special friend,
Your friend, your friend.
I love you, do you love me?
I seem to recall the TV advert featuring this song fairly prominently, which combined with the hefty price tag of the toy (somewhere around Â£50 I think) would be quite a turn off to most adults I would imagine. In order to add to the pester power factor there was also the spinoff The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin cartoon show, which introduced a wide range of new characters, thankfully not all of which got turned into toys.
Teddy Ruxpin has undergone several design changes, and several changes of ownership over the years. Audio tapes were first replaced by special cartridges, and then returned to tapes when these cartridges were found to be easily damaged. Teddy Ruxpin is still available today, but has now gone digital and switched back again to a form of cartridges, although I assume these must be more like a digital camera memory card or a game console cartridge. If you want to learn more, visit the Official Teddy Ruxpin website.