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Pook-A-Looz give classic Disney characters a quirky new look

Pook-A-Looz give classic Disney characters a quirky new look

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From the people who brought you Passamaquoddy, Heffalumps and Woozles as well as Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, now come Disney Pook-A-Looz.

The official tagline for this quirky new line of plush is “Too cute for their own good.” But these classic Disney characters didn’t get that way all by themselves. They needed the help of Pook-A-Looz lead designer Jose Zamora. Who then came up with a distinctive look for each of these hot new collectibles.

“What the Pook-A-Looz are are really caricatures of these Disney characters’ personalities,” Zamora explained. “So -- as I was designing each of these plushes -- I tried to zero in on that one unique feature that came to mind wherever you thought about that character. So for the Red Queen from ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ it was her big mouth. For the Cheshire Cat, it was his crazy grin. So that’s what we focused in on with those two characters.”

Speaking of “Alice in Wonderland” … It certainly didn’t hurt that – as Disney was initially bringing the Pook-a-Looz to market (with the first wave of product popping up in Toys ‘R’ Us’s Tween aisle just after Christmas, while the Disney Store just getting its own selection of these distinctive plush in the middle of March) – Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” was looming large on the horizon.

A display of Pookalooz at the Disney Store
Photo by Jim Hill

“We just can’t keep the Cheshire Cat in stock,” said the manager of one Disney Store that I spoke with last week. “We’re selling a lot of the other Pook-A-Looz. But people actually come into the Store looking for the Cheshire Cat. That’s the one character that they ask for by name.”

Of course, that may be because this person saw someone else carrying a Cheshire Cat Pook-A-Looz Crossbody Messenger Bag, or writing in the Cheshire Cat Pook-A-Looz journal. Or – more likely – because they saw a miniature plush key chain version of the Cheshire Cat Pook-A-Looz dangling off of a friends’ backpack.

A Pookalooz display at Toys R Us
Photo by Jim Hill

“We tried to take all of the lessons that we’d learned from our mini bean bag plush line and then apply those to the Pook-A-Looz,” explained John Mallett, director of plush for Disney Consumer Products. “This time around, we wanted to make sure that we gave people multiple ways to embrace this offbeat new take on our classic characters.”

Mind you, Zamora and Mallet knew that they were on to something last September when the Disney Pook-A-Looz were initially put on display at the D23 EXPO and immediately got an enthusiastic response from that event’s attendees.

A wall of Pookalooz at the D23 Expo
Photo by Angela Ragno

“We had these people crowding into our display area and pointing at their favorite character,” Mallet laughed. “I remember asking one woman if she wanted to buy a Pook-A-Looz for her granddaughter. And she said ‘No, I want to buy a Pook-A-Looz for me.”

As it stands now, the Disney Store now has 20 Pook-A-Looz available for purchase, while the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts have 17 of these quirky characters up for sale. And once these are gone …

pookalooz logo on ad for pookalooz.com
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“Come this Fall, we’ll be introducing some new characters,” Mallet explained. “And then – if those sell well and everything goes according to plan – after that, every eight weeks or so, there’ll be a new assortment Pook-A-Looz hitting store shelves.”

And given how popular those “Alice in Wonderland” Pook-A-Looz became just as Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” was rolling into theaters … Well, is it any wonder that – just as “TRON Legacy” makes its debut in Disney Digital 3D this December, that there should be some TRON-themed Pook-A-Looz hitting store shelves?

Disney Tron lightcycle poster
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“Those plushes were a lot of fun to design,” Zamora said. “To show that these Pook-A-Looz were supposedly made up of pixels, I actually made the eyes of all of the TRON plushes square-shaped.”

And speaking of Tim Burton … That filmmaker is notoriously protective of his characters from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Which is why there were those at DCP who doubted that Burton would ever sign off on the idea of there being Pook-A-Looz version of Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie.

Jack Skelington Pook-a-looz
Photo by Angela Ragno

“But as soon as we showed him the designs and then explained that these ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ plushes were aimed at tweens, Tim immediately gave us permission to produce Pook-A-Looz versions of those characters,” Jose continued. “Oogie Boogie’s actually one of my favorite Pook-A-Looz. Given that – if you look on his back – he’s got this tiny spider who’s just escaped through a hole in Oogie's seam.”

It’s those little touches (EX: The “O” –shaped mouth that’s hidden under the beard of the Pook-A-Looz version of Geppetto. As if this aged toymaker had just finished shouting “Pinocchio!” as he searches for that little wooden boy) that most excite Zamora about this new line of plush. But given that Jose is something of a Disney geek himself … Well, I then had to ask him that – if the Pook-A-Looz proves to be extremely popular with consumers and Zamora then gets to design dozens of quirky new versions of classic Disney & Pixar characters -- which character would he most like to do?

Humphrey the Bear and J Audubon Woodlore statues
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“I was just talking with John about this,” Jose said. “About how cool it would be to design a Reluctant Dragon Pook-A-Looz. Or a set that pairs Humphrey the Bear with J. Audubon Woodlore.”

“And that may happen at some point in the future,” Mallet continued. “But – for now – we’re exploring ideas like Mickey in the 30s, 40s & 50s. Creating Pook-A-Looz that will appeal to collectors while – at the same time – still be something that your average consumer might consider purchasing.”

Pook-A-Looz Too cute for their own good
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And given how strong sales have supposedly been for this introductory set of Disney Pook-A-Looz … Who knows? Maybe Jose Zamora will eventually get his wish and then be able to design a “Too cute for their own good” version of the Reluctant Dragon and Humphrey the Bear. Here’s hoping, anyway.

For further information on Disney Pook-A-Looz, please click on this link.

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  • More crap for the masses. I really fail to see the lasting appeal of stuff like this - so much of a stylized graphic abstraction that they are completely devoid of the personality that made these Disney characters beloved to begin with. The only image on this page that caught my interest was the Walt Disney Classics Collection figurines of Ranger Woodlore and Humphrey Bear, characters so full of animated life and humour that it would be so sad to see them translated into "lobotomized" Pook-A-Looz. Ugh!!

  • Well as a Disney shareholder, I guess I should be happy that the company found something that will make money. But as a Disney fan, these things are just ugly! They make the old, badly off model toys of the 40s and 50s look good by comparison.

  • Yeah, no kidding.  Coming soon to a landfill near you.

  • Pook-a-Looz look sooooooo cute I really want one now! I know I want to collect them all!:)

  • @ ponsonby britt,epcotfan and english boy. Just because you dont like them doesnt mean other people dont. i personally think there adorable, there good for all ages and safe for babys because they dont have anything the child can choke on. ya'll need to grow up and if you dont have somthing nice to say then dont say it!

    GO POOKALOOZ!!! MAKE MORE!!!! AND EVERYONE STOP BASHING THESE!!!!

    -pookalover

  • I love pook a looz  I have a hole bunch ;]

  • pook a looz  are awsome! I love pook a looz  and I want to collect them except nightmare befor chrismas!

  • I personally think they are hideous, but my daughter REFUSED to leave the store without the Minnie one and it's her opinion that matters. I paid $12 for it. That was outrageous though.

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