Sylvanian Families

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Sylvanian Families
Type Figures
Inventor Epoch
Company Epoch
Country Japan
Availability March 20, 1985–
Materials Plastic
Official website

Sylvanian Families (シルバニアファミリー Shirubania famirī?) is a line of collectible anthropomorphic animal figurines made of flocked plastic. They were created by the Japanese gaming company Epoch in 1985 and distributed worldwide by a number of companies. The figures remain a quintessential part of the 1990s boom in craze (or fad) toys, spanning several animated adaptations and video games based on the figures. The word sylvan means 'of the forest'.


Beginning and Growth[edit]

Sylvanian Families scene

At the beginning of production, on March 20, 1985, Sylvanian Families were created and released in Japan by Epoch, which uses the concept of dollhouses and anthropomorphic animal figures. The first releases of the dollhouses and other playsets were made of porcelain and the furniture was made of wood. However, later releases replaced the materials with plastic and metal in the production. The toys were later released in North America the same year, but with different packaging and minor differences to the characters themselves. The toyline was originally titled Pleasant Friends of the Forest Epoch System Collection Animal Toy Sylvanian Families (森のゆかいな仲間たち エポック社 システム・コレクション・アニマルトーイ・シルバニアファミリー Mori noyu kaina nakama-tachi Epokkusha shisutemu korekushon animarutōi shirubania famirī?). However it was changed to its current name.

In October 1987, the series spawned an animated series produced by DIC Animation City and TMS Entertainment, which ran for 13 episodes. Later that same year, the success in these markets led to expansion into Western Europe, beginning with the UK subsidiary of Tomy acquiring exclusive rights for the brand in the UK. Tomy introduced Sylvanian Families into the UK market in 1987, and it quickly became a bestseller.[1]

By 1988, Sylvanian Families had become a major success around the world, winning the British Association of Toy Retailers award for "Toy of the Year" three years consecutively, in 1987, 1988 and 1989. There was also an animated series shown in the late 1980s that was popular in Spain and the UK and was also shown in the early 1990s in the US on Nick Jr.

In 1993, Tomy, who had been distributing the toys worldwide, lost the rights to the name "Sylvanian Families" in Canada and the USA.[citation needed] Tomy reintroduced the line under the new name Calico Critters.

The Calico Critters line is currently distributed in the US and Canada by International Playthings, LLC.

Decline and Reinvention[edit]

Shop window of the Sylvanian Families store in London

By the late 1990s, Sylvanian Families had been discontinued in the UK, although since 1999, they have been reintroduced by Flair. Subsequently, Sylvanian families have been reintroduced in Australia and are becoming more widely available there. Tomy stopped selling Calico Critters, but a new company, International Playthings, picked up the line.

In 1999, the toyline celebrated its 15th anniversary in Japan, with the opening of the themed restaurant Sylvanian Forest Kitchen (シルバニア森のキッチン Shirubania mori no kitchin?), which was operated and managed by Epoch. The restaurant not only served food, but also sold merchandise and toys based on the franchise. The restaurant closed in February 2011.

In 2004, the franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary in Japan with the release of the Walnut Squirrel Family. In July 2004, Epoch announced a new attraction in Grinpa, a theme park managed by Fuji Kyuko. The attraction, originally called Sylvanian Village (シルバニアビレッジ Shirubania Birejji?) before it was renamed to Sylvanian Gardens (シルバニアガーデン Shirubania Gāden?), began its construction with Epoch's supervision. In 2005, the franchise hosted its very first live event titled Sylvanian Families Musical~The Large Commotion Eve Party! (シルバニアファミリーミュージカル~パーティーイブは大さわぎ! Shirubania famirī myūjikaru ~ pātīibu wa dai sawagi!?) which was hosted at the Gekidan Kogumaza Theatre. It was later released on DVD in 2006.

In 2006, the characters in the toy line were chosen to be the mascots for the National Federation of Workers and Consumers Insurance Cooperativess national mutual aid. By the end of the year, the toys sold a total of 78 million units.[2]

In 2007, Epoch teamed up with Itochu, Nippon Columbia and Shogakukan to produce a 3DCGI Original Video Animation series based on the toy line produced by Kōji Kawaguchi and Yumiko Muriai and directed by Akira Takamura. All 3 episodes were released on June 20, 2007. According to Epoch, more episodes were planned, but these were never produced for unknown reasons. In the UK, Flair celebrated the franchise's 20th anniversary with a selected number of new items. The best selling was an Otter boat, and a reintroduced Dalmatian Family who now wore party hats that read "Happy 20th!".

In March 2009, the series celebrated its 25th anniversary in Japan with the opening of the Sylvanian Gardens attraction in Grinpa. Managed by Epoch, the attraction features real-life replicas of the houses and buildings from the toy line as well as a museum featuring an exhibition about the history of the toys. The attraction also has a shop which sells items exclusive to the park. In 2010, the franchise again hosted two musicals, Sylvanian Families Exciting Musical (シルバニアファミリーわくわくミュージカル Shirubania famirī wakuwaku myūjikaru?) and Sylvanian Families Exciting Stage (シルバニアファミリーわくわくステージ Shirubania famirī wakuwaku sutēji?), which both became a staple on promoting the toys in conventions.

On June 28, 2013, Flair confirmed that the rights for the toys in the UK will be transferred to the newly formed Epoch UK, and they began distributing the toys from January 1, 2014 onwards. Flair announced that they would stop distributing the toys on December 31, 2013.[3]


The entire franchise is set in Sylvania (シルバニア Shirubania?), a fictional village based on 1970s Great Britain. The majority of the families are all rural middle-class, with many of them owning localized but successful family businesses, or having white-collar jobs, such as doctors and teachers. They can live in large, multistory houses, or own dwellings based on the premise of a kind of holiday home. They can also indulge in many stereotypically middle-class leisure activities such as sailing or horse-riding, and often host garden parties or go on short camping holidays.

The characters, grouped into families, originally depicted typical woodland creatures such as rabbits, squirrels, bears, beavers, hedgehogs, foxes, deer, owls, raccoons, otters, skunks and mice, and later expanded to other animals such as cats, dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, penguins, monkeys, cows, sheep, pigs, elephants, pandas, kangaroos, koalas and meerkats. Most families consist of a father, mother, sister and brother, and continue to add family members from there on such as grandparents, babies, and older siblings.


1987 television series[edit]

Sylvanian Families
Genre Animated television series
Created by
Voices of [4]
Country of origin
  • United States
  • France
  • Japan
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13[4]
Executive producer(s) Andy Heyward[4]
Producer(s) Tetsuo Katayama
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) DIC Animation City
TMS Entertainment
Distributor Coca-Cola Telecommunications
Original channel First-run syndication
Original airing 1987[4]

A syndicated animated series based on the toyline was produced by both DIC Animation City and TMS Entertainment. It was first broadcast in 1987, with reruns on PAX TV during the late 1990s.[4]

Voice cast
  • The Evergreens (Bears) - Forrest, Honeysuckle, Ernest, Primrose, Preston, Ashley, Dusty and Poppy
  • The Babblebrooks (Rabbits) - Rocky, Crystal, Cliff, Pearl, Bubba, Breezy, Sandy and Coral
  • The Thistlethorns (Mice) - Chester, Willow, Lester, Prissy, Barry and Heather
  • The Chestnuts (Raccoons) - Durwood, Pansy, Grover, Myrtle, Hoss and Charity
  • The Wildwoods (Rabbits) - Herb, Ginger, Smokey, Flora, Ray, Tina, Rusty, Hollie, Barkley and Juniper
  • The Slydales (Foxes) - Slick, Velvette, Buster, Scarlette, Skitter and Lindy
  • The Timbertops (Bears) - Taylor, Rose, Gruff, Fern, Bud, Daisy, Burl and Blossom
  • The Waters (Beavers) - Wade, Nancy, Roger, Misty, Bucky and Bubbles
  • Packbat
  • Gatorpossum (Packbat's minion)
  • The Slydales
  • The Woodkeeper

Grace, Bridget, Donny, Jonathan, Katie, Joey, Jack, Lisa, Charlie, Maria, Jessica, Penny, Chrissie, Robby, Sara, Sid, Jamie, Tracy, Diane (Di), Jerry & Susan, Amelia, Mikey, Lori, Evan, Andy, Debra.

# Title Air Date
1 "Grace Under Pressure / Cooking Up Trouble" 1987

Grace wishes she was less clumsy. In the Sylvanian world she assists Durwood and Ashley with both babysitting and mail delivery, while Packbat awaits to hinder their process.

Bridget wishes she could eat lots of sweet food. In the Sylvanian world she assists Hollie and Rusty with Grandma Pearl's bad cooking, which Gatorpossum substitutes for himself trying to spoil the Ginger Festival.
2 "Dam Busters / School Daze" 1987

Donny wishes to be a strong guy. In the Sylvanian world he assists Preston and Grandpa Ernest with their new invention. Meanwhile Packbat sends Gatorpossum to destroy a dam to flood the Sylvanians.

Jonathan wishes never to go to school again. In the Sylvanian world he plays hookey with Rusty and Lester, while Packbat gets Buster to help destroy the school, but Mr. Thistlethorn thwarts the attempt.
3 "Double Trouble / Outfoxing the Foxes" 1987

Katie wishes she was happy again. In the Sylvanian world she assists Ashley and Breezy with babysitting, but later Packbat kidnaps the lot of them. They all get loose and lead Packbat into a trap.

Joey wishes he was wise to others' tricks. In the Sylvanian world he helps the Wildwoods with their carrot picking, but Buster and Scarlett keep snatching them. Joey comes up with a plan to save the carrot vault from Packbat's plunder.
4 "Know It All / Beauty and The Beasts" 1987

Jack wishes people would stop telling him off. In the Sylvanian world he helps out assist Bud to thwart the Slydales' beehive theft, but Jack is pretty hasty. With some advice from Mrs Timbertop, Jack and Bud put an end the beehive theft.

Lisa wishes she was beautiful. In the Sylvanian world she goes with Rusty to the beauty contest, but Packbat captures her followed by Rusty and Scarlett. After their escape, Lisa wins the beauty contest.
5 "The Bear Facts / Fraidy Cats" 1987

Charlie wishes he could be a detective. In the Sylvanian world he investigates a bank robbery blamed on Mayor Gruff and he finds Slick, Buster and Skitter guilty of the heist.

Maria wishes she were not afraid of the dark. In the Sylvanian world she helps Daisy and Holly prepare for a party, but Gatorpossum captures them. Maria releases them and they all manage to thwart Packbat's plan to spoil the party.
6 "Daddy's Little Girl / Fool's Gold" 1987
7 "The Wheel Thing / Muddy Waters" 1987
8 "There's No Place Like Home / Tough Enough" 1987
9 "Hip to Be Bear / Feud for Thought" 1987
10 "Stand by Your Dad / My Brother's Keeper" 1987
11 "Really Amelia / Boy's Intuition" 1988
12 "Here Come the Brides / Hoppily Ever After" 1988
13 "Founders Keepers / Little Ms. Woodkeeper" 1988

1988 stop-motion animated series[edit]

Stories of the Sylvanian Families is a British stop motion animated series and four stories narrated by Bernard Cribbins, from 1988.[7]

  • The Lucky Mascot
  • Lucky Clover
  • Fun at the Fair
  • The Camping Holiday

These characters appear in the stop motion animated series but not the animated series.

  • The Treefellows (Owls) - Aristotle, Arabella, Winky, Blinky and Grumpy
  • The McBurrows (Moles) - Digger, Heidi, Muddy, Molly, Monty and, Mo
  • The Oakwoods (Squirrels) - Ollie, Betsy, Barnaby, Bluebell, Abbie and Acorn

2007 Original Video Animation series[edit]

Sylvanian Families
(Shirubania famirī)
Genre Slice of life
Original video animation
Directed by Akira Takamura
Produced by Kōji Kawaguchi
Yumiko Muriai
Written by Hiroko Odaka
Music by Koichiro Kameyama
Studio Dyna Method
Released June 20, 2007
Runtime 24 minutes
Episodes 3
Portal icon Anime and Manga portal

Sylvanian Families was later adapted into three 3DCG Original video animations produced by Kōji Kawaguchi and Yumiko Muriai and directed by Akira Takamura. Each of the stories were written by Hiroko Odaka and music composed by Koichiro Kameyama of Project.R fame. The OVAs are animated by Dyna Method in cooperation with Itochu, Epoch, Nippon Columbia and Shogakukan and were released in June 20, 2007 in DVD. Each of the DVDs feature an English-language track and subtitles.[8]

The OVA's opening song is titled Sylvanian Families (シルバニアファミリー Shirubania famirī?), performed by Hitomi Yoshida and the ending theme is titled Become Tomorrow♪ (明日になぁれ♪ Ashita ni nāre♪?) by Tomoko Kawakami, Akiko Hasegawa, Kōki Miyata, Fushigi Yamada, Kaori Mizuhashi and Maya Okamoto.

Voice actors
No. Title Release Date
01 "Heart Pounding Mischief Magic"
"Dokidoki itazura majikku" (ドキドキいたずらマジック) 
June 20, 2007

Buster Slydale hosts a magic show for the Sylvanian kids. Rebecca Periwinkle and Saffron Walnut like it, but their friends Dennis Huckleberry, Asparagus Macavity and Piers Petite do not. When Buster shows up. Rebecca talks to him about his tricks and he gives her a Kaleidoscope. But she finds out that he tricked her as Buster leaves. The kids plan a prank to play on Buster. Asparagus has an idea to outprank him.

Meanwhile at Mr. Periwinkle's photo shop, Dr. Slydale is discussing his troubles with the other kids while remembering how they pulled pranks. Dr. Slydale however is getting worried about his son losing his friends. 
02 "The Longingly Princess"
"Purinsesu ni akogarete" (プリンセスにあこがれて) 
June 20, 2007

Saffron is dancing with a prince in her dreams and she is about to receive a kiss. But the clock strikes twelve and left her, she then is annoyed on the sounds of loud ringing bells until she woke up from her sleep. She saw a strange contraption her father built in her room as she's dumped out of bed, rather mad. The rest of her morning routine is not as good as she expected, getting into serious trouble. Downstairs, Saffron's parents were both in the kitchen as another invention prepares their breakfast as Ralph arrived, still sleepy after being woke up by the machine. Saffron came next and had an argument with her father regarding his inventions, stating it's not making her happy as she leaves in anger. A while later, Rebecca, Saffron and Shelly discussed about what happened that morning. Rebecca was happy that Saffron's father is an inventor but for her, it just causes her trouble. They then discussed about the annual play and Saffron should play as the princess, in which she is worried.

At school, Scarlett is showing of her dress as she will wear it if she's picked as the Princess for the school's annual play. The classmates were amused as Rebecca and the others arrived and heard that Willow wanted to play for the part. As the bell rings, the children went to their seats as their teacher came in and discussed about the play, titled "The Princess who Ran Away from her Castle". With a few more discussions, Shelly voted Saffron to play as the princess as everyone agrees. Saffron however, think it's the start of her worries. 
03 "The Gift of the Shooting Star"
"Nagareboshi no okurimono" (流れ星のおくりもの) 
June 20, 2007

One night in Sylvania, everyone witnessed a comet passing through Acorn Mountain as they saw it sparkle and burst out some small stars. The next day at school, the kids were discussing about the comet they say until Rumpus appeared and told them the legends of the Silvery Comet, in which its fragments can grant anyone their wishes. However Gromwell thinks it's just fiction while the others are excited about the legend and and wanted their wishes to come true. Rumpus decided to explore the mountains by himself but the others wanted to come along to see it for themselves. As both Rumpus and Gromwell got a disagreement with each other regarding the legend and how will it grant their wish until Rebecca told him to come with them to see if the legends were true.

Later on that night, Rebecca and Oliver discussed with their parents regarding the comet and the wishes. She asked her father about his wish and he told her that his wish came true: To get Mrs. Periwinkle to marry him. The other kids were also preparing themselves for the expedition tomorrow. As the day comes, Rumpus was disappointed on each one of them on how they prepare as they go to the mountains. However not knowing to them that the Legends were beyond true. 


Aside from the animated series, the series also spawned seven video games, all produced by Epoch.

  • Sylvanian Families: Otogi no Kuni no Pendant (シルバニアファミリー おとぎの国のペンダント Shirubania famirī: Otogi no kuni no pendanto?, lit.Sylvanian Families: The Fairyland Pendant) (Game Boy Color)
  • Sylvanian Melodies ~Mori no Nakama to Odori Masho!~ (シルバニアメロディー ~森のなかまと踊りましょ!~ Shirubania merodī ~Mori no naka ma to odorimasho!~?, lit.Sylvanian Melodies ~Let's Dance with the Forest Friends!~) (Game Boy Color)
  • Sylvanian Families 2: Irozuku Mori no Fantasy (シルバニアファミリー2 色づく森のファンタジー Shirubania famirī tsu: Irodzuku mori no fantajī?, lit.Sylvanian Families 2: Rainbow Forest Fantasy) (Game Boy Color)
  • Sylvanian Families 3: Hoshifuru Yoru no Sunadokei (シルバニアファミリー3 星ふる夜のすなどけい Shirubania famirī suri: Hoshifuru yoru no sunadokei?, lit.Sylvanian Families 3: Hourglass of the Wishing Stars) (Game Boy Color)
  • Sylvanian Families 4: Meguru Kisetsu no Tapestry (シルバニアファミリー4 めぐる季節のタペストリー Shirubania famirī fo: Meguru kisetsu no tapesutorī?, lit.Sylvanian Families 4: Tapestry of the Four Seasons) (Game Boy Advance)
  • Sylvanian Families: Yosei no Stick to Fushigi no Ki Maron Inu no Onnanoko (シルバニアファミリー 妖精のステッキとふしぎの木 マロン犬の女の子 Shirubania famirī: Yōsei no sutekki to fushigi no ki maron inu no on'nanoko?, lit.Sylvanian Families: The Fairy's Wands and the Mystery Tree Esme Huckleberry) (Game Boy Advance)
  • Sylvanian Families: Fashion Designer ni Naritai! Kurumi Risu no Onnanoko (シルバニアファミリー ファッションデザイナーになりたい! くるみリスの女の子 Shirubania famirī: fasshondezainā ni naritai! Kurumi risu no on'nanoko?, lit.Sylvanian Families: I wanna be a Fashion Designer! Saffron Walnut) (Game Boy Advance)


  1. ^ Houlton and Short, p. 370.
  2. ^ 「人形『シルバニアファミリー』 エポックがアニメ化 伊藤忠などとDVD発売」『日本経済新聞』2007年1月19日付朝刊、13面。
  3. ^ Samantha Loveday. "Epoch confirms UK distribution of Sylvanian Families". Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Erickson, Hal (2005). "The Sylvanian Families". Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949–2003. 2 (M–Z). McFarland & Company. p. 819. 
  5. ^ imdb
  6. ^ Damian Inwood. "Pi Theatre, Independent Vancouver Theatre >> The Baroness and the Pig". Retrieved October 30, 2011. "That’s what Vancouver actresses Diane Brown and Tabitha St. Germain do with the delightful black comedy, The Baroness and the Pig. (...) St. Germain – better known to Vancouver audiences as Paulina Gillis – plays the Baroness as a naïve gentlewoman, full of prissy mannerisms and twittering, bird-like movements." 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  • Houlton, Delphine; Short, Brian (1995). "Sylvanian Families: the Production and Consumption of a Rural Community". Journal of Rural Studies 11 (4): 367–385. 

External links[edit]