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The Bear Necessities

The excitement that had been mounting for weeks at Chez ‘Abulous came to a head this morning. Today was the day of the girls’ lovely cousin, Miss A’s, 4th birthday party.  It was held at the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sutherland Shire’s temple of retail, otherwise known as Miranda Fair. Other kids, stuffed toys and birthday cake are an irresistible combination for my girls.We were all smiles on the great pilgrimage south.

Upon arriving at the venue, it became clear that the humble Teddy Bear is no longer humble. The Build-a-Bear crew have brought Eduardo and Edwina Bear roaring into the 21st century in blaze of bling. The haute couture and accessories that accompany stuffed toys these days are mind blowing. They used to say that “Barbie can be anything” but I can honestly say that the soft bear species has the jump on the fantastic Miss Plastic.

The concept behind the Build-A-Bear franchise is to create your own one of a kind, custom made companion. The party goers are greeted by a host then asked to select the bear’s fur coat. Its at this point that you realize that “Build-A-Bear” is a misnomer. There’s an entire menagerie available.  Dogs, cats, rabbits, tigers, turtles, Disney characters, Elmos and Cookie Monsters are all vying for your attention. There are even more exotic choices such as wolves, seahorses and unicorns. Reindeers stand by ready to cash in for Christmas.

I was seeing unicorns on rollers skates before I had my coffee this morning.

She’s just an empty shell of a bear.

The next step is to stuff the animal. Its done with this machine. Although it looks uncomfortable and undignified, it gets the job done.

Go and get stuffed.

When the toys are properly fleshed out, red love hearts are inserted and their backs are stitched up. This just leaves the naming process and the issuance of birth certificates.  While all this is going on the children are encouraged to do traditional party stuff like playing games and singing songs. At the end of the session the birthday kid is treated to a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday and cake and lolly bags are doled out.

Parents have the option to stay or dash out for some shopping. For me hanging around was worthwhile so that I could gawk at   the store which was an over-the-top boutique of all things bear.  Teddies are no longer content with a simple bow tie. Nowadays they can dress like California guurls or guys, complete with swimsuits, flip flops, sunglasses and boogie boards (I kid you not).

The bear necessities for the beach.

They can dress like other iconic characters. I noticed Jedi, Spider Man, Iron Man, Toy Story, Disney princess,  pirate, nurse, soldier, sailor, astronaut and sporting star costumes on offer.  The bears could channel their inner glamour puss in pink cowboy hats for Mardi Gras or nerd it up with Jedi light sabres. There were cricket kits and Aussie flag hats for Australia day and even snow boards for that annual trip to Aspen. I noted with bemusement the collection of faux leather motor cycle jackets and matching bumless chaps? Here’s the photographic evidence.

Bear your bum in these.

While I found the experience a touch surreal, the kids had a wonderful time. P1 created a fluffy pink confection and aptly named it “Pinky Pie”. ( I think there is a My Little Pony of the same name but I wont bring that up). P2 made a dark brown doggy and christened it “Milo” after her daycare mascot.  Of course I was nagged to purchase some appropriately glam outfits for Pinky Pie but I was able to reason with my five year old. I asked her what she would rather I spent money on – clothes for her or clothes for the bear? It turns out that Pinky Pie will be dressed in fabric scraps from Grandma in a style that can be described as “vintage meets derelicte meets sticky tap and sequins”.

So hip its unbearable. (Groan)

Mumabulous Verdict: 8/10

A fun party option for clever kids aged around 4 to 8. It’s lovely have a keepsake to take home. My girls love the toys all the more for being part of their creation.

P1s Verdict: I liked it because I got to chose my own stuff for Pinky Pie. Can we go to Build-a-Bear Workshop again? Can we go again in the school holidays?

P2s Verdict: Me too.

For more information see: http://www.buildabear.com.au/

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