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I’m obsessed with the world of Sylvanian Families and you should be too

IMAGES VIA @minan_chan_/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY MAGGIE ZHOU

The anthropomorphic toys that have stolen my heart.

In very important world news, I have a worrying fascination with miniature toy dolls. Before you start to speculate on any of my childhood traumas, I implore you to indulge me, if only for this article.

For those unacquainted with Sylvanian Families, it is a collectable line of anthropomorphic animal figurines and dollhouses. I don’t have some endearing childhood story about how my early life was imprinted by these toys. In fact, I first learnt of them when I was an acne-clad 15-year-old working at Toys R Us.

In the fluorescently lurid store with the constant soundtrack of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling!’ and the wails of crying offspring, I was introduced to this hoard of plastic toys.

Sylvanian Families was first created in 1985 in Japan. All its characters live in Sylvania, a fictional and humble nature-filled village – the original cottagecore setting. The word Sylvan means ‘of the forest’ and the three core values of Sylvania are nature, love and family. Yes, I am aware I do sound slightly batty but if these values aren’t the remedy to 2020, I don’t know what are.

According to Sylvanian Families Fandom Wikipedia (yes, you read that correctly), most of Sylvania’s dwellers are rural middle-class families who own local (but successful!) family businesses. These woodland creatures also enjoy their leisurely activities, like horse-riding (strange when you remember they’re all animals), garden parties and camping trips.

And I’m here to admit that I’m damn jealous of them. My Instagram explore page has been infiltrated by their idyllic lives. Look at Mr Racoon man’s family out for a picnic, look at this bespectacled rodent handcrafting bags, or the mammalian friends baking together.

Dressed in on-trend lacey collars, plaid shirts and poofy skirts, these critters take their fashion inspiration from the heydays of the 1950s. Always so prim and proper, I’ve found myself envious of how put together they are.

 

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And don’t get me started on their houses. Triple story mansions for one nuclear family? In this economy? I don’t think so. Look at them waltz around in their lavish wooden abodes. Replete with water fountains, fireplaces and flower beds, these critters are living out my Architectural Digest dreams.

The creativity behind these Instagram Sylvanian Family stan accounts astounds me. These photos require fashion styling, set design, creative direction – the works.

My favourite account I stumbled across while doing ‘research’ for this article is @_sylvanako_. The elusive Greek father of three creates the most intricate scenes and storylines and has even re-created musicals like Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz. Precious stuff.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Sylvanian Families has re-entered my field of vision this year. It began when a friend Instagram DM’d me a pastel-hued Sylvanian post.

Five months on, we’re still sporadically sending each other these photos, particularly if cheering up is needed. It may sound silly or a bit sad, but it’s nice to be able to pause, switch off and immerse yourself in a still frame of nostalgia.

It’s not unlike other activities we’ve been drawn to this year. Social simulation video game Animal Crossing has had a revival, with many losing themselves in their utopian islands and spending hours shaking apple trees or fishing with their virtual neighbours. The game has been so popular that Nintendo is now predicting a $5.9 billion profit for the year, 50 per cent more than initially anticipated.

It also reminds me of YouTube’s wholesome blackhole of miniature cooking channels. Miniature Cusina, Jenny’s Mini Cooking Show, Cookin’ Little and Miniature Space are just some of the channels creating real, edible miniature food. These ASMR-havens have no logical purpose and their food portions aren’t even fit for an infant, but they garner thousands of views from people around the globe.

We don’t always need hard-hitting critical analysis and hot takes. Sometimes, a good miniature Mary Poppins recreation starring toy dogs is all that’s needed.

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