In 1985, Japanese company Epoch had the smart idea of combining dolls houses with tiny, adorable animals. The toy line was called “Pleasant Friends of the Forest Epoch System Collection Animal Toy Sylvanian Familes” (!). When the toys were exported to America and European shores, the toy line was renamed simply “Sylvanian Families”.
While the miniature animal dolls saw the Sylvanian Families find great success, it was when the animated TV series was launched a few years later that they truly became a household name.
Set in 1950s Britain, the stories centred on unhappy children who are transported to the Sylvanian world to fix their problems. The different animal families who live in Sylvanian world – such as the Wildwoods (rabbits), Evergreens (bears) and Thistlethorns (mice) – work together with the human children who arrive.
Sylvanian Families remains popular in Japan. In recent years there has been a Sylvanian Families amusement park, Sylvanian Families musicals and dedicated stores.