Dream Pets is the project of Paige Jansen-Nichols, a toy designer who resides in Atlanta, Georgia, which also is the birthplace and headquarters of Dream Pets. A woman of multiple talents and industries, Paige originally launched her advertising company, Jansen Advertising, in 1993 and has since been acknowledged by various business groups for her contributions to the advertising field, including the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
In 2005, Paige Jansen-Nichols began anticipating ownership of her favorite childhood collectible – the Dream Pets. She watched and waited after Big Lots purchased the brand and made the decision to liquidate the remaining inventory. Paige knew her dream could become a reality if she could just be patient and attentive. By 2014, the wait was finally over and she immediately moved forward to acquire the brand. With a love and respect for the original Dream Pets, Paige was dedicated to ensuring that her Dream Pets would continue the whimsy and uniqueness of R. Dakin’s original designs and handmade feel. With an entire new collection launching this summer, these softer, more modern and slightly larger plush creations are ready to be shared with the next generation of dreamers.
Paige recently discussed her experiences with the Dream Pets and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): The Dream Pets are directly inspired by toys from the 1950s. So, how did you find out about the originals?
Paige Jansen (PJ): My sister had many of the originals, she collected when they first came out. Then, I started collecting them in the early 1970’s and, of course, claimed her collection as my own when she went off to school. They’ve never left my possession!
MM: At the Toy Fair in New York, you had some examples of the originals. How many were there in total and how many survived all these years?
PJ: There were over 2,000 Dream Pets characters originally made by R. Dakin. We had eight originals at Toy Fair 2018 to show how we transformed them. Originally, they were hard-small collectables and I’ve transformed them to my modern-day originals, which are larger, softer plush creations.
MM: What was it like to update the brand and are any models/characters particularly interesting?
PJ: It was beyond satisfying! As a child, I knew how I wanted to make them and I held onto that vision, while bringing this new collection to life. Each character is unique in its own special way, from their accessories to their dreams, shown on the collector card that comes with each.
MM: What were the inspirations behind the original brand and how did it translate to the current one?
PJ: This is a true story: Back in 1957, R. Dakin & Company began importing electric toy trains from Japan. As they unpacked the trains, they made the unusual discovery that the boxes were packed with several small, whimsical stuffed animals—the factory workers had handcrafted them from scraps of velveteen and used as padding to protect the trains. Fast forward to the 1960s and 1970s, these sawdust-filled little critters became incredibly popular. The creators began calling them ‘Dream Pets’ because they said they could pretty much make any kind of animal you could dream up—and the name stuck. My love for them remained strong and now it’s my turn to share this new modern collection with the generations to come.
MM: How long did it take toy to reinstate this brand and how did you find vendors to carry them?
PJ: In late 2005, Dream Pets was purchased by Big Lots, but without any vision for the products or brand they sold their lot and let the rights and ownership go. In 2014 my dream to turn Dream Pets into this modern plush line became a reality. Today, in 2018, we’ve thoughtfully introduced an initial twenty new Dream Pets to the toy market, along with our smaller keychain plush Dream Puffs in complimentary collectible characters. The entire line received fantastic feedback at The Atlanta International Gift, Home Furnishings Market and New York’s 2018 American International Toy Fair!
MM: What’s the best thing about working in the toy industry and which experiences have been highlights?
PJ: It’s definitely been exciting to watch my vision and life-long passion come to life. Seeing children and parents create experience with their favorite Dream Pets is rewarding because I know those memories will last a lifetime.
MM: How do you foresee the Dream Pets brand evolving over the next five years?
PJ: I see there being tremendous growth and opportunity for Dream Pets in the toy market and among the new generations.
MM: What is coming up next for you and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
PJ: We are working on introducing new characters for our 2018 line. Plus, we have some other exciting projects that we’ll be announcing later this year.
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To learn more about the Dream Pets, visit their official website.
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Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Blasting News, and Entertainment Vine. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a BA in English Literature and a MA in Communication. She is also an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Meagan is a contributing editor to Kidskintha writing on Toys, Games, Entertainment, and other topics that are happy and fun!