Today's LA Times features an interview with David Horvath, creator of Uglydolls on the history of the weird little toys, whose celebrity fans range from Snoop Dogg to Sasha Obama. But who knew the back story was so sweet?
Horvath first sketched the cute, simple monsters as a way of signing letters to his girlfriend, Sun-Min Kim. Kim and Horvath met twelve years ago, while they were both students at Parsons School of Design. After graduation, Kim moved back to South Korea, and Horvath returned to LA. He ended each letter to Kim with a little monster named Wage, which was his way of telling her he would continue to work hard to bring her back to the US.
The monster first made it into doll-form when Kim sent Horvath a handmade toy, stitched to resemble his doodle. Horvath was so excited - this is the only weird part - that "he carried the doll around with him to show his friends." Eric Nakamura, who had just opened a store specializing in Asian pop culture items, saw the doll, and instead of assuming his friend was off his rocker, he asked Horvath for an order of the Uglydolls.
From there, the weird critters blew up, making their way from small, independent toy-stores into the hands of celebrities. Horvath says that although he could probably sell the Uglydolls at a huge store like Walmart, he would rather see his creation grace the shelves of smaller retailers. But, he adds, "I have nothing against big companies. I just like to shop in mom-and-pop stores. I remember when I was 8 years old, I went to Forbidden Planet, an independent comic book store in New York. I stared into that store window as a boy, amazed by everything in there. For me, it was a huge thrill to be able to see my dolls, years later, sitting in that same window." Kim and Horvath are now married, and live in Manhattan Beach with their two-year-old daughter.
Ugly Dolls Are A Labor Of Love [LA Times]