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A pink LongFurby sitting in an armchair Photo: Bobby Diddle

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The enduring appeal of Furby’s cursed DIY cousin, the LongFurby

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LongFurbies are not a new concept. First coined by Tumblr user furbyfuzz in 2018, the LongFurby is a cuddly creation in the Frankenstein tradition. But just like the 1998 Tiger Electronics toy that inspired it, the subculture has managed to outlast its novelty and remain active nearly half a decade later — it’s no passing meme.

While LongFurbies are most recognizable by the toy’s classic beaked face atop a stretched-out serpentine body, modifications now range from donut-shaped Furbies to sculptures featuring sagging, hairless skin or their faces implanted on just about anything. Across TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms, accounts featuring modified Furbies amass hundreds of thousands of followers who can’t get enough of their absurd, sometimes grotesque, other times wholesome, content. This constant reinvention of the nostalgic toy has helped the LongFurby find new fans. As the community of Furby modifiers continues to grow, it embraces creatives from the fringes.

“Don’t you want to become a cult leader,” asks a disembodied voice as a glitchy video zooms onto a horned red-and-black demon LongFurby named Kampe. “Since the death of God, there’s been a vacancy open. You can fill that void. Here’s how.”

The TikTok clip pans to other creatures, including the account’s titular Furby, Levi. (The featured audio is from Captain Murphy’s “Disciples.”) The account @levithefurbyking, which has more than 57k followers, features surreal, dreamlike posts dedicated to various LongFurbies. Subjects are posed in numerous locations, with punchy edits and aggressive filters punctuating existential or fully absurdist captions. It’s a perfect example of what the LongFurby embodies: childhood idealism warped by the perspective of young adulthood, tied together by a DIY ethos.

The creator, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that LongFurbies’ juxtaposition of being both familiar and unsettling is what first drew them in. Along with Kampe and Levi, they’ve created seven other Furbies: Jorgy, Elphaba, Omen, Argus, Erik, Steve and Bonzo. Each Furby is a recurring character on the account.

“So many of the people I follow and who follow me are LGBTQ+, artists, punks, geeks,” they said. “I think the Furby community is another place for people on the outskirts of what’s considered ‘normal’ to find each other, be encouraged and just have space. Being on here has helped me feel less alone and more comfortable with myself and creating.”

LongFurbies are also part of a growing nostalgic movement for the early 2000s. This is true for Bobby Diddle, who runs @longfurbs on Instagram. The account has more than 26k followers, and consists of a variety of images and memes, starring a family of modified Furbies. Furbies have been a part of Diddle’s life since childhood. In one family portrait of her at six years old, she held a Furby over her face because she disliked getting her picture taken. For those in their 20s and 30s who grew up with the toy, Diddle said that the nostalgia factor is a huge part of the draw for their modified counterparts.

Diddle’s current crew consists of four LongFurbs, and a wheel boy named Ollie — with two additional Furbies currently in the making. Scroll through her Instagram feed and you’ll find images of her Furbies hanging out at bars, going on vacation and getting up to mischief around Diddle’s home in Cincinnati. When she started posting her LongFurbs, she didn’t realize the community would grow so large or so quickly. “I thought it would be dead by now but it just keeps going,” she said, laughing.

Devin Gardner, who runs @longfurbyfam on TikTok and Instagram, also noted that Y2K nostalgia played a role. But a large chunk of the fandom today, he said, are people in their younger teens who likely weren’t alive when the toy was at its peak popularity. Both Gardner and Diddle said that people are often fascinated by modified Furbies simply because of their eternal strangeness.

“Furbies sort of fit into a sweet spot because, with how customizable people have made Furbies, it really fits in well with the DIY crowd, the customizing-things crowd,” Gardner said. “I think content consumers on these platforms really enjoy seeing something new being made out of a very weird and sometimes horrifying creature.”

Gardner was also quick to the trend in late 2018. After seeing an article, he became inspired to make his own, despite not having prior sewing experience. Now he runs an Etsy shop where he sells modified Furbies that he creates in a personal studio. Over the years, his content has grown increasingly surreal. A recent TikTok, for example, features an omelet with glass eyes being flipped in a skillet as his blue LongFurby, Cookie, stares on in wonder. Several TikToks feature Gardner wearing a round, white Furby suit performing unsettling things like slicing a toy worm with a pizza cutter, cracking an egg filled with goo — the list could go on.

“A lot of meme subjects will hit a peak really quick and then die and go away forever,” he said. “But I think part of why LongFurbies and modified Furbies have stayed around for this long is because of what a blank canvas they are.”

The modified Furby artistic community increasingly leans towards surreal and absurdist takes on the classic kids toy. Artist Sophie G. Stark has captured the attention of Furby fanatics through her grotesque silicone sculptures. Her first creation was Skinby, shaped like the classic Furby but sans fur. Created from a mold — including the eyes and beak — its fleshy pink skin sags as tufts of gray hair jut out from its ears and head. Stark started work on her modified Furby mostly unaware of the community. It wasn’t until her work started selling through being posted in a Furby fandom group on Facebook that she realized just how big the subculture was.

After Skinby, Stark started experimenting with other grotesque textures she could replicate with silicone, including baked beans, moldy bread, Spaghetti-Os, worms, shrimp and an Arby’s Beef and Cheddar sandwich. TikToks revealing the creatures have garnered millions of views.

“If you’re making things that are absurd or weird, you’re asking for a little bit of outrage from the viewer,” she said of modified Furbies’ popularity on social media. “And I think some people are –– it’s a very light amount of upset, they’re not actually very upset –– but some people are interested in the thing despite that it’s unsettling, and then other people are unsettled by it.”

An assortment of grotesquely modified Furbies, with skin that looks like beans or lunch meat, among others. Photo: Sophie G. Stark

As her work is centered around replica, nostalgia, and body horror, the ridiculous and creepy world of Furbies draws parallels to the lowbrow surrealism found in much of her art. She is beginning to pivot into experimenting with other subjects, including a project involving a “gross” turn on Tamagotchi, another nostalgic late-90s toy.

Diddle describes the community as “welcoming, loving and weird.” People create everything from full-on new creatures to jewelry, hats and memes, she says. The world of the LongFurby is, perhaps, infinite. And Diddle said they may be around for as long as ’90s babies are relevant on social media.

“(The fanbase has) definitely grown a lot. But I think the message behind the community has stayed the same,” Gardner said. “From the start, it was really about, in an abstract way, accepting and loving these creatures for their uniqueness.”

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