Dart belongs to a family of interactive dumplings from toymaker WowWee that hit stores in mid July. They’re basically what the name suggests — squeezable but inedible dumplings big enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
And they’re increasingly difficult to find. Like with everything, blame the supply chain.
“It’s a s**tshow,” said Michael Yanofsky, the company’s managing director of sales. “It’s not just the holdup at the ports, it’s labor shortages and backups all along the transportation network that’s been a struggle to get the toys to retailers.”
“Our bet is made for Black Friday,” said Yanofsky. “Whatever inventory of dumplings is in is it and we hope it all makes it onto store shelve. There’s no chance of getting more unless we put them on planes.”
WowWee is trying to navigate the serious supply chain issues to ensure it has enough inventory overall of its dumplings to satisfy strong demand through to Christmas. The dumplings, like most toys sold in the United States, are made in China.
The first four in the lineup are named “Doe,” “Dip,” “Dee” and “Dot.” They each speak a weird “Squish-Pop” language and giggle and laugh. The cheeks change color and the top of their head lights up to a color code that matches their current “mood” — energetic, happy, silly. Then along came “Mel the Marshamallow, ” “Peace the Peach” and “Coco the Cotton Candy Cloud.”
Its popularity even caught the attention of MyBookie.com, an offshore gaming site, which was accepting bets this month on whether the squishy little golden dumpling would sell out on Amazon before Black Friday.
Hitting all the trends
The $15 dumpling toy is popular because it’s hitting a few dominant trends in toys right now, said Marissa Silva, editor-in-chief of The Toy Insider, a toy review and news website.
She said kids are obsessed with collecting tiny cute toys that come in tiny packages, as proven by the Shopkins mania.
“Dumplings are a little bit bigger but collectible,” said Silva. “They’re also affordable and not overly complicated for kids to figure out.”
Plus, the soft squishy texture of the dumpling and the popping out of their body also cleverly plays into the current bubble fidget poppers toy craze.
There’s one other appeal: the food inspiration.
“Food-themed toys continue to be very hot trend. We’ve seen this with Shopkins and with Mini Brands,” said Jim Silver, a toy industry expert and CEO of Toys, Tots, Pets & More, an industry review website. Mini Brands are tiny shrunken versions of popular consumer products like a can of Spam, or a bottle of Dove Body Wash that come hidden in tiny bags.”
“These food-inspired toys are also so easy for kids to have fun with on social media,” said Silver.
The squishy dumplings are the brainchild of Sydney Wiseman, vice president of brand development and creative strategy for WowWee. She came up with the idea for them 18 moths ago. “I wanted to do a toy based on a dumpling for a long time,” she said. And she wanted the dumpling characters to be in a band. That aspect is infused in their look and the accessories they wear.
More are coming
WowWee in August announced a partnership with Nickelodeon to produce animated digital music videos that feature the squishy characters in a band.
Wiseman is thrilled with the dumplings popularity overall, and especially of Dart’s, which WowWee only produced 100,000 pieces of as a very limited character. She said Dart holds a special meaning for the WowWee team. “He’s named after a dear friend of ours at WowWee, Art Janis, who recently passed away,” she said.
There’s still a possibility to score Dart after Black Friday. WowWee is launching a two-pack set with the golden dumpling and a rose gold dumpling on November 30 on Amazon.