When I rescued this old essay from my sunken Geocities website, I didn't expect it to get the reaction it got. In particular, I've been getting a lot of "OMG, THAT'S what those not-Wuzzle things were called! Thank you for helping me not go insane!"
In the older post, I described the Firffels rather unfairly as "The Wuzzles Who Didn't Make It", and assumed that "Remco probably saw the mint that Disney made with their cute little spliced furballs and said, 'WAH! Me TOO!!!'"
It seems I was wrong in assuming this. Maybe.
I got a couple of Anonymous posters stating that the Firffels actually predate the Wuzzles. I can believe this; it's fairly well-known that the Go-Bots were released long before the Transformers and it's not hard to see who won that duel. Further, one poster claimed that Michael Eisner saw the Firffels at some point, and liked the concept enough to do his own version. These wound up being much more successful because he had The Power of Disney on his side.
I can kinda see that happening. Thing is, I seem to recall seeing the Firffels commercials at around the same time Wuzzles cartoon was just getting popular. I hate to be like this, but it'd be nice to see some hard evidence that Eisner was aware of Firffels at all before we accuse him of stealing the idea...
I just kinda ran to Michael Eisner's defense and now I feel dirty. O.O
I did, however, have to admit that there is some reason to agree that Firffels predate Wuzzles by at least a few years. There's an old picture book featuring the Firffel characters; and I only knew about that thanks to a comment in TV Tropes. Then a nice poster called Venusboi79 provided some links. They don't quite answer all my questions about these weird characters, but they do deepen my curiosity.
The first link took me to the official website of the woman who created the Firffels characters, Othello Bach. (I still need to experiment with calling myself Trysch just to see what happens.) Her site is very Flash-heavy and a bit confusing, but if you hit "Books" and then "Collectibles", you'll find yourself at a page with a book entitled Whoever Heard of a Fird? Clicking the cover enlarges the picture and... that's it. (Well, there's also an arrow taking you to the book's Amazon page and the asking price made my eyes bleed, so I can't follow that thread.)
Far, far more interesting is the film clip under the book cover. Unfortunately, embedding is disabled. It's well worth watching though because it is fascinating (it's very clearly designed for buyers). I also found this commercial break on Youtube that includes one of the Firffels commercials (bonus: Bugs Bunny reminds us that the kitchen ain't a playground):
Venus also directed me to good old Ghost of the Doll, a website that has saved my rear end many times in the ebaying department. There's no entry on the Firffels, but there is a very extensive message board thread with loads and loads of pictures. I'm snagging this book cover because it includes every character in the toy line:
So apparently, I remembered everyone from the toys (Fird, Dicken, Butterfrog, and Burtle) except Shamel (sheep + camel. We don't need to do this on the planet I live on because Llamas exist.) According to TV Tropes, the books also include a Woose (worm/goose and according to the illustration showing him at Ghost of the Doll, well up there with the Slobber and the Wyrm as the Saddest Imaginary Animal Ever), Blizard (bird/lizard), Girouse (giraffe/mouse), Snog (snail/hog), Dryder (dragon/spider - WTF?), and the not-as-horrifying-as-it-sounds Hyenant (hyena/ant). The above cover art shows the truly horrifying Elephunky (elephant/gorilla). I don't know what it is about Elephunky that freaks me out, but he freaks me out. Let me snag a picture of just him:
Ah yes. It's those giant arms. And the man-boobs.
Sketchadaday! Speaking of imaginary animal franchises...
This hasn't been Jossed yet, has it?