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Duffy The Disney Bear

Tokyo Disney Resort's real star

04 May, 2010 by

Duffy (ダッフィー) and Shellie May (シェリーメイ) are two bears exclusive to DisneySea at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Despite being a prominent icon, the origins of the bears are shrouded in mystery. There are no English articles on the internet on the Disney Bear. It took a certain amount of digging through various Japanese sites, to full discover the true history of Duffy. This article will finally disclose the origins of Duffy.

P5019543 550x412 Duffy The Disney Bear

Duffy and Shellie May.

Disney have been making Disney bears since the 1960s but it was only on November 5th 2004 that Oriental Land Company (the company behind Tokyo Disney Resort) decide to reinvent a mascot for their new park. The Disney Bear was given the name Duffy and a new back story was created to tie in the character to the DisneySea experience. Duffy would become the key mascot of DisneySea’s American Waterfront world.

The full tale, is presented as a children’s book available for sale at select shops within DisneySea. Each bear also comes with a tag with a foldout featuring the summarized story. An animated version of the story tags are available from the official Duffy website but for the benefit or non-Japanese readers, the story goes something like this.

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Duffy instruction manual.

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Part 1.

P5019565 550x412 Duffy The Disney Bear

Part 2.

The Duffy story:
P1. It was the evening before Mickey had to go on a sea voyage, afraid that he might get lonely alone, Minnie made a teddy bear for Mickey.
P2. Minnie presents the gift to Mickey and he is thankful.
P3. He decides to call the teddy bear inside the duffel bag Duffy.
P4. He brings the bear with him as he travels around the world. In this way, Duffy is able to experience all the joyous moments that Mickey experiences too.

The Duffy story was clearly fabricated to sell more merchandise. What was surprising though was how popular this bear would become. Currently, the Duffy bear comes in 4 variations. The default sized bears pictured in this post measure 30cm (40+ while standing). Both of them cost 3800 yen each. This is the only size that the Shellie May bear comes in, so is the only option for a matching pair. Official outfits for the bears are also only available for the 30cm bears (more on this below).

P5019584 412x550 Duffy The Disney Bear

Standard size Duffy bear.

A larger 65cm Duffy is available for 5000 yen, though it seemed somewhat under stuffed. For those who want to take home a smaller souvenir, a 14cm Duffy keychain is available for 1200 yen. Finally, an awkward Duffy wristlet is also available for 2600 yen. It’s a 26.5cm hollow Duffy with a zip on its back. Duffy can be found at the larger souvenir stores within DisneySea at the Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront and Mermaid Lagoon. The bears are not available at the adjacent Disneyland.

Since both the keychain and wristlet versions are disregarded as proper bears, the most popular version of Duffy is the more manageable 30cm standard. On online auctions, the bear fetches a price of up to 4 times its cost.

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Hidden Mickey on the bear's face.

Initially, special edition versions of the Duffy Bear in different attire were sold during special events. But eventually in 2008, DisneySea started selling clothing sets for the standard sized bear separately. It was the 25th anniversary of Tokyo Disney Resort, so a new clothing set was released on the 25th of each month (they are released on a random day each month now).

It was during this time that the Duffy bear saw a surge in popularity among young women. They unexpectedly started carrying the dressed bears as a fashion statement within both parks. This trend soon reached viral levels leaving even the Oriental Land Company (who never planned this event) stumped.

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Another Mickey symbol on Duffy's back.

P5019546 550x412 Duffy The Disney Bear

Lastly, on the bears' feet.

During this peak of Duffy’s popularity, queues to take photographs with the life-sized Duffy mascot would even reach 4 hours in length. While the insanity has since died down, the culture of showing off one’s own Duffy still remains. Today, Duffy is as synonymous (and profitable) to the Tokyo Disney Resort as Mickey Mouse itself.

Leveraging on the success of On 22 January 2010, the park released the blatantly commercial companion bear to Duffy, Shellie May. Little effort was put into her introduction story.

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Shellie May tag.

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Inside.

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Continued.

Shellie May origins:
P1. Minnie makes a friend for Duffy. “It is completed!”.
P2. Duffy is embarrassed to received Minnie’s present.
P3. In front of him he meets a cute female friend.
P4. She had a charming shell pendant in the shape of a heart. “Nice to meet you Shellie May!”.

Both the Duffy and Shellie May bears are similar in appearance. They both share the same Mickey Mouse marks, though on different sides of their backs. The Shellie May marks are also produced in pink instead of Duffy’s brown.

There are key differences between the two bears though. The most obvious being that while Duffy is vibrant brown, Shellie May seems to be a lighter beige. Her eyes are also blue instead of dark brown. Overall, when compared with the richer Duffy bear, the Shellie May bear seems rather washed out. This is still the first version of the bear though so it is possible that it may be improved in a future version.

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Duffy, The Disney Bear.

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Only available at Tokyo DisneySea.

Each season sees new outfits available for the bear. Over the years a variety of themed costumes have been made. Avid fans have also taken to creating their own costumes.

Unfortunately for those unskilled with a needle and thread there are scarce options to customize the Shellie May bear. The newly released bear fits all existing Duffy outfits but the only costume specifically made for Shelly May is her default burlap dress. While the bear comes with her ribbon, this default dress has to be purchased separately for 1200 yen.

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Shellie May bear and default dress.

Right now, it is unknown how long the default dress for Shellie May will sell for. In the case of Duffy, clothing are only sold for as long it takes to introduce the next outfit. This limited edition nature means that previous costumes can often be sold on the secondary market for more than the bears themselves. So while paying 1200 yen for a simple costume might seem like a tad bit much, be assured that it will be worthwhile investment.

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Shellie May stitched Tag.

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Tag for the dress.

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There is a Mickey symbol on the dress, since the pants cover the one on Shellie May.

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Close up of Shellie May bear.

As commercial as the bears may be, they are still pretty well made. And despite being a marketing ploy, the idea of being able to own a bear exclusive to DisneySea is certainly an attractive concept. If you were to get one souvenir from the park, wouldn’t it be the one that couldn’t be found anywhere else? The bear’s reputation precedes it though, for the truth is most of the other merchandise in the parks are also unique to the resort. But the timeless nature of the classic teddy bear, makes it a cherishable purchase nonetheless.

Without saying, this enamored writer purchased both the Duffy and Shellie May bears from Tokyo DisneySea. It took a great deal of self control, not to purchase the American Waterfront’s themed popcorn that came in a Duffy basket. A full photo tour of my own DisneySea experience can be found on this day’s post.

Chad

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2.
  • Texas

    Hi looking for shellie may anyone no where I can get here

    • http://www.supermerlion.com Supermerlion

      Officially, the only source is to get the Japanese ones is by buying it inside the DisneySea theme park. Alternatively, you will have to get them from resellers online, like on eBay. Although prices will be slightly marked up.

  • yvette

    Whats the difference between duffy and the disney bear? I have a disney bear creme ??? lighter feet but no clue

    • http://www.supermerlion.com Supermerlion

      You mean the ones from the Build-A-Bear workshop? The original “The Disney Bears” from there are pretty identical to the Japanese Duffy but were not given a name or back story. The newer Disney Bears are lighter in color, fur texture are slightly different and have small proportions on the shapes on their face. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though unless you’re an enthusiast.

  • not japan

    i got mine from Disney parks Florida it’s not exclusive to Japan

    • http://www.supermerlion.com Supermerlion

      At the time of writing (early 2010) Duffy was exclusive only to Japan. America and France have since adopted their own versions of the bear in end 2010 and 2011 respectively.

  • Ines Tijssens

    i’m still looking for someone to trade with , or to buy me a shellie may and when i pay to send it to Belgium . I’m going to Disneyland Resort Paris in May if anybody wants me to buy something there for them and to trade ! Its will be 20 years Disneyland Resort Paris…
    If any one wants to help of become trading buddies you can find me on Facebook : Ines Tijssens

  • Melandivckie

    I need to get my pre duffy bear’s nose fixed anyone know if there is a place for repairs??

  • Anonymous

    lovely my gift

  • Diael Lin

    i love it, i have shelliemay from my boy frd, its so cute bear, i really love and i have duffy soon from japan again…love this bears

    • Texas

      Hello I was wondering how u got her?

  • Thisiskaykay

    SO CUTE

  • http://stupidfunzone.com Lorene Rippeon

    Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I'm impressed! Very helpful information specially the last part :) I care for such info much. I was seeking this certain info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  • http://supermerlion.com/duffy-the-disney-bear/ noemia

    sao amaveis companheiros…….obtenha logo o seu…….lindinhos dimais…bjs

  • Sarah

    Those bears are so adorable. Where can I buy or order it?

    • Sho

      1. Scroll all the way up.

      2. Read first sentence.

  • Kumiko Knear

    Is anyone interested in a Duffy Bear from Disneyland, Anaheim? I can ship one to your house in Japan.
    だれかカリフォルニア アナハインにあるディズニーのダッフィーベアーに興味はありませんか?
    私があなたの代わりに購入しあなたに郵送します。

    • Miyuki

      Hi Kumiko. How much are your selling the bear? I actually like the Duffy bear back. Not the small ones. But a square looking bag. Was at Disney Sea last week but no time to grab the bag.

  • Ren

    Hi,
    Anybody know any online website that I can order clothes for Duffy?

    • Sho

      You can find pre-made ones on ebay.

  • LOUIS

    Hi, I been searching around for a Shellie May bear for my girlfriend, any chance you will be willing to help me purchase one?

  • iomoo

    this is cute!!! reminds me too much of build a bear though :/

  • Beatrice

    The clothes for the teddies are too expensive.

  • mimi

    I remember the same the same bear for sale @ disneys california adventure several years ago! I think they called it, my disney bear or something like that.

  • http://supermerlion.com Sho

    Thanks for the link.

  • jp

    Here's a translation of the Duffy book.

    http://micechat.com/forums/tokyo-disney-resort/11

    There's a lot of info on that site but you have to do a search to get to the older threads.