A Look Back At Poo-Chi
Twenty years ago, the world was a very different place. The internet was still in its infancy. The PlayStation 2 was the best-selling game console of all time. And a new generation of robopet toys was about to take mass retail by storm in a very big way!
Who would lead the charge at the dawn of the new millennium? The robot dog toy from the 2000s was Poo-Chi.
Designed by Samuel James Lloyd and Matt Lucas, the little robotic dog first hit the market in April 2000. Hasbro’s Tiger Electronics, the undisputed king of the LCD video market throughout the 1990s, would handle the distribution of the toy throughout most of the world. At the same time, SEGA Toys would bring Poo-Chi to market in both Japan and Korea respectively.
Retailing for $24.99 upon release, Poo-Chi found itself sharing shelf space with everything from the hugely popular Razor Scooter to the innovative MovieMaker set from LEGO and Steven Spielberg. In addition, brands like Air Hogs, Flick Tricks, and Hit Clips were all competing for some semblance of success in the toy aisle.
Despite this rather crammed marketplace, Poo-Chi would bolster sales for Hasbro during a time when they needed it most!
With both Furby and Star Wars sales in decline, the company took a chance on the tech terrier and came out on top with more than ten million units being sold across the globe in its first eight months of production.
Over in Asia, SEGA Toys’ Poo-Chi campaign would be met with similar success. Available for 3,980 yen (about $38 USD), Poo-Chi offered a significantly cheaper option to the more “lifelike” AIBO – a series of more expensive robotic dogs manufactured by Sony between 1998 and 2006. Unlike Poo-Chi however, these high-end robopets retailed for close to $2,400 USD when brand new!
In fact, the Poo-Chi pup would be so popular with parents that it would end up winning the Toy Association’s Girl Toy Of The Year award for 2000 – beating out some pretty stiff competition that included the likes of Barbie, Diva Starz, and Groovy Girls respectively!
In addition, the toy would also be nominated for the Best Marketing Campaign Of The Year alongside the likes of both Fisher-Price and LEGO.
Yes, Poo-Chi was a hit!
Sit, Poo-Chi. Sit
The first generation of Poo-Chi dogs to hit the market in 2000 were grey in color and featured ears, tails, and leg joints made up of either purple, blue, pink, or green plastic. With all the behavior of a real dog, the toy could sit up, lie down, and even utilized an LED display to showcase its eyes and feature a small range of emotions.
In addition, Poo-Chi could ‘speak’ using a range of pre-recorded sounds that included barks, whines, and growls.
Of course, due to the limitations of the technology integrated into the toy at that time, the sounds were rendered as a series of beeps rather than realistic sound effects. However, to children and collectors living in the midst of this new craze, it hardly mattered.
And, the ever-climbing sales numbers at Hasbro proved it!
Adding to the list of included features was music. Poo-Chi could bark a selection of six different songs which you could control by pressing the button located on the top of its head. These six songs included The Wedding March, Bingo, Camptown Races, When The Saints Come Marching In, I’ve Been Working On The Railroad, and Beethoven’s No. 9.
In addition, Poo-Chi would often sing Ode To Joy when happy. If another Poo-Chi was nearby at this time, both toys would then begin singing the song together – however, the resulting playback was not synchronized.
As the Poo-Chi craze continued to climb into 2001, several new versions of the beloved “smart pet” would begin hitting store shelves to both keep up with demand and keep the brand feeling fresh and new.
The palm-sized puppy would enter its second year with the ability to dance, play games, and even balance on its tiptoes. He could sense lights, sounds, and touch, while a special bone was also included to up the toy’s interactive element.
A special holiday edition Poo-Chi was also made available for a very limited time in just a handful of markets around the world. Featuring new theme colors and a unique snowflake design integrated throughout the body and ears, this particular pup could sing a selection of Christmas medleys and would soon see frantic collectors paying upwards of $300 USD to get their hands on one!
Variations of the toy based upon the Disney film 102 Dalmatians would also be released and resemble some of the dogs featured in the movie.
There was a Poo-Chi Happy Meal promotion through McDonald’s, while upgraded Super Poo-Chi toys and spin-off creatures like Meow-Chi, Chirpy-Chi, and Dino-Chi would arrive at retailers throughout the world before Hasbro finally discontinued the loved brand in 2002.
The End Of An Era
With the end of the Poo-Chi line, Hasbro looked to continue the robopet craze with FurReal Friends.
Arriving in stores the same year that Poo-Chi was discontinued, this new brand of electronic pets would feature a range of fun animals in a variety of different sizes. The line continues to be extremely popular here in 2021, however, it is one that perhaps never would have seen the light of day had it not been for Poo-Chi!
It has now been almost twenty years since the peppy puppy was pulled from store shelves, and yet its collectability remains as strong as ever amongst a very passionate community and fans of all ages!
While loose versions of the regular models are now bringing in close to double their original sticker price, some mint-in-box examples are worth over $60. At the same time, specialty versions such as the aforementioned holiday edition can approach the range of $80 – $100 depending on condition.
Clearly, Man’s Best Friend can take on any form and we’ll still love him to pieces!
By today’s standards, Poo-Chi is more than a little outdated. However, the dynamic little dog helped usher in an exciting new world where our toys could actually play with us!
On the surface, it may not seem like much. However, Poo-Chi arrived at a time in human existence when the future looked a little brighter.
It was the start of a new age. A new digital millennium. One where technology and robotics were clearly going to play a powerful part and change the way people think, feel, and even how we played.
Granted, as the years passed, our world would change in some pretty big ways. And yet, that little artificial canine never ceased to put a smile on our faces and reassure us that everything was going to be alright!
Good boy, Poo-Chi! Good Boy!