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Dream Pets Owl
Dream Parrot A 27 June 2007 Sega Toys press release announces realistic plush cat, owl and parrot editions to their robotic Dream Pet (Yume-Petto) lineup. These are very high quality plush pets and present their owners with life like experiences.

Other current or recent Sega Dream Pets include:

Yume NekoYume Inu

Yume-Neko, Smile the Robotic Cat as shown in a YouTube video.

Yume-Inu Chiwawa (Dream Dog Chiwawa) – The Dream Pet name got passed around a bit as Sega manufactured , Yume Inu Chiwawa which was introduced by Takara Co. in August 2003. Yuma-Inu was a big hit at the 2003 Tokyo Toy Fair.

Dream PonyDream Pony (Yume-Kouma) a 1.2 meter (about four feet) tall pony who was announced in September 2006. Dream Pony looks like a stable mate to Butterscotch who was introduced in early 2006 by Hasbro.

Yume HiyokoDream Chick (Yume-Hiyoko) the small recently hatched chick (chicken) is another plush robotic Dream Pet that attracted major attention.

Dream Pets had their origins back in 1957 when R. Dakin & Company imported some battery powered toy trains from Japan and found them packed in a box with and unusual filler to keep the trains from getting damaged in shipment. The exporter used six little stuffed animals as packing. They were made from velveteen scraps and filled with sawdust (think prehistoric Beannie Babies) to protect products being shipped. When Dakin asked the Japanese company making them what the small stuffed animals were called. They told Dakin they were called Dream Pets because the people making them could dream they were whatever pet they wanted.

Dakin, then perhaps best known for manufacturing guns in the 1950’s, decided to manufacture the pets, even keeping the names the factory workers had given them. Dream pets rapidly caught on and became their own toy line. By the late 1970’s there were over 2000 different Dream Pets. They were “the beginning of a new era for plush and stuffed animals.” per a quote by Bob Solomon, Chairman and CEO of Applause Inc in early 2004.

Due to the prominent influence of Dream Pets on today’s virtual pets, we decided to trace their history and try to fill in the blanks. It reads like a movie script with several highs and lows, an earthquake, a tragic plane crash, bankruptcies, acquisitions, and a suicide. Through much of it, one man, Robert Solomon, plaid the leading role.

Picking up after Dakin began manufacturing Dream Pets in 1957:

December 1967 – Most of the Dakin family was killed on a Christmas plane flight. Richard Dakin and his wife Suzanna, Roger Dakin and his wife Joan, plus four of Roger and Joan’s children. Only their 12 year old son who vacationing with family friends survived. After the crash, remaining family members, friends and employees stepped up to keep the company alive.

1975 – Robert Solomon, son of a man who started work as bank janitor, begins his career as a salesman for Wallace Berrie Company and eventually becomes a partner in the company. (Wallace Berrie is brother to Russ Berrie of Russ Berrie & Co.)

Applause hands1983 – Wallace Berrie Company acquires Applause Inc., a struggling gift company. Robert Solomon is named President & CEO. He turns the company around and in 1983 Wallace Berrie Company is renamed as Applause, Inc.

1988 – Robert Solomon leads an investor group that buys out Applause, Inc.. He stays on as CEO for three more years.

1991 – Robert Solomon Chairman and CEO of Applause Inc. leaves the company.

6 January 1992 – Robert Solomon becomes Chairman and CEO of Dakin Inc.

Late 1993 – Ty Warner (son of Burt Warner, a rep for Dakin in the Chicago area for nearly 20 years) introduces the “Original Nine” Beanie Babies in New York City at the World Toy Fair. These plush pets were filled with “beans” or small plastic PVC pellets allowing them to easily be posed in positions.

1994 – The San Francisco earthquake damaged Dakin’s headquarters and destroyed many company records.

Very late 1994 to very early 1995 – Sega introduces Ferie, a virtual pet cat that runs on a small cyber notebook computer somewhat similar to a Gameboy but an infrared beam follows the operators hand movements. About the same time, Casio introduces a dog running on a similar device called Pet Telepathy and the electronic handheld virtual pet race begins.

1995 – Applause Inc. acquires Dakin Inc and begins operating it as a subsidiary. Robert Solomon leaves the plush toy business. Having signed a noncompete agreement, he forms The Rainmaker Group, a licensing company. Later he launches an auto leasing company.

1998 – Robert Solomon is divorced from his second wife.

1999 – Robert Solomon’s automobile leasing company fails.

mid March 2001 – Applause LLC purchases assets of Applause Inc which had shut down independent operations on March 9th. Applause LLC now owned by an investment group led by Robert Solomon who will also return as Chairman and CEO of Applause LLC. Prudential Life Insurance is a minority shareholder in Applause LLC. Applause’s famous “clapping hands” logo will continue to go forward once more.

December 2002 – Russ Berrie (brother of Wallace Berrie, first employer of Robert Solomon) of Russ Berrie & Co. dies. His widow, Angelica, takes the company over for 17 months.

Spring 2003 – A Japanese company approaches Robert Solomon about reissuing the original Dream Pets.

April 2004 – Applause LLC reissues 24 of the original plush Dream Pets as 21st Century Dream Pets under the Dakin label. They are authentic reproductions including hang tags with the pet’s original name, stock number and birth date. A toy collection site has a nice image of 24 of the original toys.

12 April 2004 – Cracker Barrel is the first retailer in the country to be shipped the new Dream Pets.

7 June 2004 – A press release reports Applause LLC (parent of R. Dakin & Company) signed a three year licensing agreement with Sega Toys.

June 2004 – Disney ends a major 22 year licensing deal with Applause.

The new plush (non robotic) Dream Pets fail to have the following of the original Dream Pets. In addition to losing Disney, Applause looses several licenses from Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, Toy’s ‘R’ US. KB Toys, and FAO placing them in dire straights.

20 August 2004 – Applause LLC Chairman and CEO Bob Solomon, age 50, dies from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He leaves behind three ex-wives and three children. Let us not we forget this business is toys on one end, it is a very serious business, full of major headaches and personal challenges on the other.

21 July 2004 – Andrew Gatto takes over as CEO of Russ Berrie and Co.

31 August 2004 – Applause LLC entered voluntary bankruptcy

23 September 2004 – Applause LLC converts to Chapter 11 and now plans to go forward as a company at the end of the process.

1 October 2004 – Applause LLC announces it plans to sell its trademark name to Russ Berrie and Co. for $4.2 million unless the bid is topped in a bankruptcy auction on 14 October. Applause owes creditors about $8 million.

14 October 2004 – Russ Berrie and Co. (RBC) purchased Applause and associated trademarks for $7.55 million at the auction. Russ Berrie & Co. says it hopes to use the trade name to sell low priced stuffed toys to mass market retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. The sale of the Applause trademarks will NOT include any of the licenses, allowing the old company to continue as Dakin & Co. to produce Snoopy, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and Dream Pets. David Socha, nephew of Robert Solomon will manage the new Dakin which was reorganized as Dreamworld LLC.

13 December 2005 – LA Daily News reports Big Lots, the retailer, bought the Dakin & Co. brand name for $835,000 and hopes to revive it. David Socha of Dreamworld LLC / Dakin, reports he is happy the family can now move on

At one time or another, Dakin, Wallace Berrie Company, or Applause made pets and other products in these licensed lines: Dream Pets, Pez Fuzzy Friends, Snoopy, Star Wars characters, Finding Nemo, Simpsons, Cat in the Hat, Curious George, Spiderman, Raggedy Ann & Andy, Winnie the Poo, Mickey Mouse, Rufus, Woody Woodpecker, and my own little buddy Chilly Willy, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy, Sylvester & Tweety Bird, Tasmanian Tar Devil, Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin Martain, Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, and countless more. This is a real “Who’s Who” list of licensed characters. A big thanks to Robert Solomon and the many other plush pet pioneers that laid the groundwork for many of the virtual pets of today.

We welcome any suggestions, corrections or additions to this history and hope to create a time line chart to better display the history & genealogy of Dream Pets when time permits.

References:

Russ Berrie & Co Inc. 10Q for 9/30/04 EX-10.105 the purchase agreement

“Plush Beginnings: Dakin Turns 45”. Meridith Schwartz. Gifts & Decorative Accessories. 1 December 2000. (a nice history of Dakin – available from High Beam).

“Robert Solomon Services Planned”. Los Angeles Daily News. 25 August 2004.

“Anatomy of a Meltdown”. David Whitford. Fortune. November 2004.

“Dream Pet Characters Debut at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store”. Business Wire. 12 April 2004.

“Big Lots Buys Rights to Dakin” Daily News (Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News). 12 December 2005.

“Comfort Toys in Tough Japanese Market- Report From the Tokyo Toy Fair 2003”. International Market News. TDCTrade.com.

Playthings (a toy industry trade publication)

TD Monthly (a toy industry trade publication)
“You’ll Never Have to Walk or Feed These Pets”. Al Fasoldt. Syracuse Herald American. 6 August 1995. (Sega Ferie and Casio Pet Telepathy – early computer virtual pets)

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