Fingerlings are a popular interactive toy that resemble tiny monkeys that can cling onto your finger. They were first released in 2017 by WowWee, a Hong Kong-based consumer robotic and electronic company. WowWee is the original creator and manufacturer of Fingerlings.
The History of Fingerlings
The concept for Fingerlings originated in 2016 when the founders of WowWee were looking to create an innovative interactive toy. They were inspired by videos of pygmy marmosets (a tiny species of monkey) clinging onto human fingers that were popular on social media at the time.
WowWee decided to develop a electronic pet toy in the shape of a small monkey that could wrap its arms and tail around someone’s finger. They used advanced sensor technology and animated robotics to allow the Fingerlings to respond to motion and sound with lifelike movements and noises.
The first Fingerlings were unveiled at the 2017 New York Toy Fair and immediately gained significant buzz and interest. With their cute appearance, lively motions, and engaging interactions, Fingerlings appealed both to children who wanted an exciting pet toy and adult collectors who appreciated the innovative technology.
WowWee began mass production and launched Fingerlings in August 2017. The initial product line included monkeys as well as unicorn and panda variants. Despite retailing for $15 each, Fingerlings were an instant hit. By the 2017 holiday season, Fingerlings were the most sought-after toy and consistently sold out in stores and online.
Fingerlings Craze in 2017
The runaway success of Fingerlings took WowWee by surprise. Based on their initial market research, they had estimated selling 800,000 units by the end of 2017. But by mid-November, over 4 million Fingerlings had already been sold. And by the end of that year, Fingerlings sales reached 10 million units.
This unexpectedly high demand led to widespread shortages that the company struggled to meet. Fingerlings frequently sold out minutes after stores restocked. Many parents desperately tried to get their hands on the popular, must-have toy for their kids. Some even resorted to paying inflated prices from third-party resellers.
The Fingerlings frenzy was dubbed a “mini Beanie Babies mania” and compared to other major toy crazes like Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo. WowWee’s president Richard Yanofsky described Fingerlings as “lightning in a bottle” and noted they became 2017’s best-selling toy in just 4 months.
Some key factors behind the huge success of Fingerlings included:
- Novelty – Fingerlings introduced an innovative interactive concept unlike traditional plush toys
- Cuteness – The playful monkeys appealed strongly to kids’ preferences
- Posability – Fingerlings could cling and wrap around fingers in fun ways
- Personalities – Each Fingerling exhibited unique motions and sounds
- Popularity – Viral buzz and hype increased demand
- Stock issues – Scarcity from supply shortages further fueled the craze
Examples of Popular Fingerlings
Here are some of the most popular Fingerling monkey variants that drove sales in 2017:
These were joined by popular panda (Penny) and unicorn (Britney) Fingerlings as well.
Continued Popularity After 2017
Although the initial Fingerlings fad peaked in late 2017, the brand has remained popular since then. According to NPD market research, Fingerlings ranked as the 5th most popular toy in 2018 by units sold and the 11th most popular in 2019.
WowWee has continued innovating with new Fingerlings product lines annually. These include:
- Fingerlings Minis – Smaller Fingerlings launched in 2018
- Fingerlings Hugs – Plush Fingerlings monkeys with hugging arms released in 2018
- Fingerlings Baby Monkeys – Interactive baby monkey Fingerlings added in 2019
- Fingerlings Sloth – Sloth character added in 2020
- Fingerlings Narwhals – New narwhal characters released in 2021
In addition to cute new characters and features, WowWee has partnered with entertainment properties to create branded editions. These have included Fingerlings based on The Simpsons, Jurassic World, DC Comics, and Minions.
Limited edition and special occasion Fingerlings, like Christmas monkeys, have also been produced. And WowWee has also expanded the brand into media like animated web series and TV specials.
Reasons for Ongoing Fingerlings Popularity
There are several key factors that have allowed Fingerlings to remain a top-selling interactive plush toy years after their initial 2017 hype:
- Engaging interactions – Fingerlings are extremely responsive with motions and sounds that delight kids by seeming almost alive.
- Cute designs – The cute little monkey design appeals strongly to children’s preferences.
- Novelty – New character types, features, and tie-ins maintain interest.
- Collectability – With so many Fingerlings variants, kids want to collect them all.
- Affordability – Most Fingerlings retail for under $20 making parents more willing to buy them.
- Brand awareness – The huge 2017 success gave Fingerlings long-term name recognition.
WowWee has leveraged these advantages well by continuing to innovate within the existing Fingerlings brand that kids love. At the same time, they have made sure Fingerlings remain affordable pocket money toys.
WowWee Company Overview
WowWee is the Hong Kong-based company that originally created, manufactures, and markets Fingerlings. Some key facts about WowWee:
- Founded in 1982 by Richard and Peter Yanofsky
- Headquartered in Hong Kong with offices in the US, Canada, Belgium, and China
- Specializes in electronic, robotic, and interactive toys
- Notable past toys include Robosapien and FlyTech Bladestar
- Known for innovative toys incorporating advanced technology
- In addition to Fingerlings, popular current toys include Miposaur and Got2Glow Fairy Finder
- Over 300 employees worldwide
- Privately held company with Richard Yanofsky as CEO
WowWee was an early pioneer in bringing affordable high-tech toys to the mass market by leveraging Chinese manufacturing capabilities. They are able to develop toys integrating the latest tech innovations like sensors, robotics, and programmable logic at accessible price points.
The huge success of Fingerlings has helped grow WowWee into one of the biggest players in the interactive electronic toy market. WowWee promotes an organizational culture focused on innovation and leveraging technology to create engaging toy experiences.
WowWee Product Development Process
Here are some key facts on how WowWee converts ideas into hit products like Fingerlings:
- Interdisciplinary teams of designers, engineers, branding experts
- Rapid prototyping capabilities to quickly test concepts
- Focus on leveraging latest tech like sensors and microprocessors
- Extensive consumer testing and feedback on potential toys
- Agile design process allowing improvements during development
- Cost controls to meet mass market price points
- Partnerships with Chinese factories for efficient manufacturing
This approach has been refined over many years developing innovative top-selling toys. The pipeline also prioritizes creating engaging “wow” factors in the toys using technology.
As the original creator of Fingerlings, WowWee handles the entire end-to-end process from initial concept to final mass production.
The research and development, electronics design, software programming, and engineering of Fingerlings takes place primarily at WowWee’s Hong Kong headquarters. This allows tight coordination and prototyping during the development process.
Once the product design is finalized, WowWee partners with various Chinese factories to manufacture the Fingerlings. The factories are located in Guangdong province, which has become a major hub for toy production.
Splitting the labor this way allows WowWee to leverage the expertise of Chinese manufacturing capacity at scale. The factories have the infrastructure and workforce to ramp up mass production of Fingerlings once the prototypes are ready.
To ensure quality, WowWee staff closely oversee the manufacturing process. They provide the detailed specifications, perform inspections, and approve samples from the factory before full scale production begins. Even after launch, WowWee continues monitoring to make sure standards are maintained.
This global supply chain allows WowWee to cost effectively produce innovative electronic toys at mass market prices. Fingerlings typically retail for $10-$20 each despite containing sophisticated components and technology inside.
Fingerlings Manufacturing Details
Here are some key details on how Fingerlings are manufactured in WowWee’s Chinese partner factories:
- Injection plastic molding forms the main plastic body parts
- Jointed, movable arms and tails are assembled manually
- The interactive electronic components are added into the body
- Fur fabrics are cut and sewn into the distinct designs
- Everything is pieced together and packaged
- Rigorous quality control performed at multiple stages
- Individual customization like paint colors done via automated processes
Producing the interactive features requires specialized skills in areas like programming the sensors and microcontrollers. WowWee experts ensure the delicate assembly is done properly before shipping out worldwide.
Fingerlings stand out as one of the most ingenious interactive toys, delighting children with their cute, lifelike behaviors. The phenomenal success was made possible by WowWee, the technology-focused Hong Kong company behind their creation.
By combining an engaging, innovative concept leveraging the latest technology with efficient Chinese manufacturing, WowWee was able to make Fingerlings both irresistible and affordable. Ongoing improvements and strong brand management have maintained their popularity years later.
WowWee continues leading the way in conceiving, developing and producing innovative electronic plush toys. Their research, engineering and design expertise paired with a nimble development process and massive manufacturing capabilities ensure Fingerlings remain at the forefront of the interactive toy market.