Toy Story: The Bear Facts (Guest Post)

In today's guest post, the author explains the background behind the teddy bear.

A couple of days ago I came across a couple of DVDs which I hadn't watched for years. Among them was the wonderful Pixar film Toy Story, an old favourite of mine, so that evening I settled down on my couch and played the DVD, happily reliving the adventures of Buzz Lightyear, Woody and their friends. By the time the film ended, and no doubt influenced by some of its themes, I found myself reflecting on the reason I had not watched the film for such a long time, namely that I now have a new "toy"- my computer. The films I watch nowadays are computer files, not DVDs or videos. And although the Toy Story franchise shows no sign of flagging (I gather Toy Story 4 is now on the cards) it struck me that the DVD format was rapidly becoming outmoded and is probably on the way out. My DVD player may itself soon be discarded, like a child's toy which has fallen out of favour.

While many of today’s toys may be considerable more technologically advanced than those of yesteryear some of the old favourites never seem to lose their appeal. The Teddy Bear, for example, continues to exert a unique hold on the human psyche. It is now 111 years since the incident took place which triggered the ursine phenomenon. It was 1902 and the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was out in the wilds on an unsuccessful hunting trip. The others in the hunting party caught a bear and tied it to a tree, so that the President could make an easy kill. When the President showed up, however, he refused to shoot deeming it unsportsmanlike. A newspaper cartoonist depicted the scene and consequently New York shopkeepers Morris and Rose Michtom started a company that produced the first Teddy bears.

At around the same time the Steiff family in Germany came up with a design for stuffed bears and introduced them to Europe at the 1903 Leipzig Fair. The rest, as they say, is history.

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