THE CLAW JUNE 29, 2022
After taking over TikTok, Squishmallows have conquered a new horizon: VidCon. The Kellytoy brand, which has formed one of the largest fandoms on the social-media platform, offers a wide range of stuffed animals that come in a variety of shapes — each marked with its own personality. Since the inception of Squishmallows in 2017, more than 125 million toys have sold (with 1000 variations). Squishmallows are currently the No. 2 toy, according to the NPD Group’s market research. (I only have one Squish, Wendy the Frog, who loves to play basketball and study chemistry.) The obsession with these colorful creatures made them VidCon 2022’s biggest attraction, ushering them into ’90s Beanie Babies–phenomenon territory.
At one of more than 100 attractions across four days at VidCon, fans waited for more than four hours to participate in a “human claw machine,” where they had 20 seconds to grab all the Squishmallows they could — including some rare and unreleased toys. Collectors, content creators, kids with their parents, and adults with friends they’d met in the Squish community all shared the same amount of excitement when it was their turn at the claw. Lucky collectors hit the Squish jackpot by finding rare items like Jack the Cat, which is sold on StockX for $700. (Yes, the same StockX where your high-school friends buy their Yeezys.) Longtime Squish fans like Kalei Glozier, a 25-year-old who came from Michigan and has a collection of more than 500 Squish, were impressed by the selection at the booth. Some even took home a Hectico the Cobra Snake, which holds an estimated value of $125 on the Squishmarket. While most of the crowd seemed like organic traffic and genuine fans of the plush product, a few people were paid to participate. This is a creators’ event after all!
BuzzFeed News reporter Kelsey Weekman, who attended VidCon, said she was blown away by the popularity of the Squishmallows booth. “I know creators like Logan Paul and Tana Mongeau have created chaos in the past at VidCon, but I can’t think of any brand-run exhibit that had that kind of impact,” Weekman said. While some creators had hundreds of fans waiting to see them — MrBeast’s panel, “YouTube’s Algorithm, Explained,” was packed and turned away more than 200 people — no one matched the hype at the claw. Bret Ingraham, director of PR at Jazwares, the parent company of Squishmallows, confirmed that more than 10,000 Squish were given away to fans at VidCon — a total that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on the resale market.
This won’t be the company’s only event this year: Squishmallows will be at San Diego Comic-Con next month with a new game and rare toys for sale. Unfortunately, the human claw machine will not be present.
At a time when former VidCon king David Dobrik — who was nowhere to be seen this year — faces a $10 million lawsuit brought by collaborator Jeff Wittek for a near-fatal excavator accident, this (lucrative) internet minority isn’t hustling to pull Vlog Squad pranks or start an influencer collective. They’re cuddled up at home with a pink axolotl named Archie.