Saturday, September 9, 2017

This Ele-Fantastic Baby Has Movie Star Appeal!

Care to make a big deal out of a little fellow? Then consider this fantastic and all original Steiff Baby Hathi! This ele-fantastic example was produced as part the original Jungle Book set of characters made in conjunction with the Disney company in the late 1960's. Despite a half-century onward, he - and his cartoon colleagues - are still considered on and off screen favorites among Steiff collectors from every generation.

Trunk's up for this petite pachyderm! Baby Hathi is 20 cm tall, unjointed, and made from grey dralon. He has a very sweet open, smiling mouth, grey felt foot pads, grey felt ears, and black and white cartoon style eyes. He has an adorable matching swatch of grey mohair on the top of his head and on the tip of his tail. This particular model was made in this size only from 1968-1976. Baby Hathi has all of his IDs, including his lentil style button, yellow tag, and special co-branded Steiff/Disney chest tag that reads, "Baby Hathi/Cop. Walt Disney/Prod."

Let's get a little wild and check out the backstory behind this jungle gem. The Jungle Book, the 19th animated feature produced by Walt Disney Productions, debuted in the fall of 1967. It was the last film actually produced by Mr. Disney, who passed away during its production. Based on the book by author Rudyard Kipling, it was an immediate success upon its launch. The story featured a Bengal tiger named Shere Khan, a sloth bear named Baloo, an orangutan named King Louie, and a baby elephant named Baby Hathi, among other lovable characters. An early movie poster, promoting the film, is pictured here on the left. This film inspired a significant Steiff collaboration. To build on the film's popularity, Steiff initially produced these four animals from 1968 through the 1976 time frame. 

Now onto other material matters. The construction and materials selected for these early Jungle Book characters were both very typical to their time of manufacture. During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, Steiff was focused on saving costs and streamlining production at every juncture.  This was due in part to the increased worldwide marketplace competition for plush toys. All four of the Jungle Book animals were made from synthetic materials. These were very popular toy making materials for Steiff at that time. These fabrics were inexpensive, very durable, surface washable, and good for manufacturing items truly designed as playthings - not collectibles. The Jungle Book characters were also made with as few joints as possible, another cost savings measure.  Shere Khan was 35 cm tall, unjointed, sitting, and made from white and orange dralon. Baloo was 40 cm tall, head and arm jointed, and made from white and tan dralon. King Louis was 25 cm, head jointed, and made from brown and orange Crylor.  As noted on the Baby Hathi under discussion here, each left the factory in Giengen with a special chest tag noting their Steiff and Disney licensing partnership.  Above on the left you can see the four original Disney Jungle Book characters.  The photo is from Christie's and this lot sold in 2010 for 525 pounds.  That is equivalent of about $830 in today's dollars.  

Face it, once a rock star, always a rock star!  It is interesting to note, that because of this film's ongoing popularity and legacy, Steiff continued to occasionally produce characters based on it over several decades. Highlights of this ongoing collaboration include a set of four slightly smaller Jungle Book animals made from woven fur from 1979 through 1982 as well as mohair versions of King Louie and Baloo. These were both produced in 2003 as a 3,000-piece limited editions.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Baby Hathi and Steiff's Jungle Book collaboration has been like a match made in heaven for you.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

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