What is a Tsum Tsum?
By now, the beloved “Tsum Tsum” has become a trademark of the Disney brand and a more than popular gift this Christmas season. Numerous retailers sell these collectibles in different variations, from stuffed toys, to plastic vinyl figurines to stackable lip balms. They’re collectible, stackable and absolutely adorable but what exactly is a Tsum Tsum? The name “Tsum Tsum” (pronounced “tsoom tsoom”) is derived from the Japanese verb tsumu, which means to stack. The toys themselves are shaped like round rectangles so they can be stacked easily into a pyramid. Originally released in Japan in 2013 as part of an arcade game promotion, the toys quickly became hugely popular and by late 2014, they were being sold all over the world. Today, the small line of Tsum Tsum created in 2013 has grown exponentially to include hundreds of different characters.
A typical Tsum Tsum is ovular in shape, with a face on one end. The Disney characters are simplified and drawn in a “chibi” Japanese style, with large eyes and cute, small features. Originally, the felt-based stuffed toys were created in three different sizes: “mini” (3.5 inches long), “medium” (11 inches long), and “large” (17 inches long). In recent years, more sizes have been introduced to the line, including a “mega” (21.5 inches long), a “micro” (2 inches long), and a subscription-only “small” (7.5 inches long). These plushies are made of felt, microbeads, and stuffing and range in price from $5 to $100, depending on the size.
After the initial success of the stuffed toy Tsum Tsum, Disney created a separate line of the collectibles made of vinyl plastic. These too are made in three different sizes, with the smallest one the size of a dime and the largest one the size of a silver dollar. Unlike their stuffed counterparts, these toys are frequently sold in packs, with certain packs (including the popular “blind bags”) containing a special “mystery” figure that is revealed upon opening. Each new wave of vinyl Tsum Tsum is called a “series” and each series contains ten to fifteen new figurines. At the moment, there are 10 series, with tons of different Tsum Tsum. Most recently, Disney has started releasing Tsum Tsum that are paired with an accessory, such as Nemo and his sea anemone or Mufasa (from Lion King) and the Pride Rock.
Since the Tsum Tsum line began with a Japanese arcade game, Disney has done their best to keep the Tsum Tsum name rooted in media. The famous stackable characters can be seen in the popular Tsum Tsum game app and in the animated Tsum Tsum shorts available online. Although the adorable Tsum Tsum are completely mute in media, their crazy adventures are entertaining for kids of all ages.
With as many Tsum Tsum as Disney currently offers, it is more difficult to find a character that hasn’t been made a Tsum Tsum than it is to find a particular one that has. The first Tsum Tsum released were the most well known Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald, and Daisy. Disney quickly found that the real demand was for characters from popular movies, such as Frozen and The Little Mermaid. This added Anna, Elsa, Ariel, and various friends to the line. Within a few years, more movies became represented, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lady and the Tramp, Monsters Inc. and Inside Out. Disney owned franchises, such as Star Wars and Marvel, have also been added to the world of Tsum Tsum, as seen in the special Marvel packs that contain characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, and Thor. With the recent Disney acquisition of some classic Marvel superheroes (the X-Men and the Fantastic Four) more superhero themed Tsum Tsum packs will definitely be seen in the future.
Tsum Tsum fans can collect more than just the Tsum Tsum figurines and toys – there is also a plethora of fun merchandise that showcases some of line’s most popular characters. Tsum Tsum decorated coffee mugs, t-shirts, phone cases, and school supplies dominate the shelves of some of the biggest American retailers. One of the most collectible pieces of merchandise is the Tsum Tsum lip balm, made by Lip Smacker. These lip balm containers are made of a vinyl very similar to the kind used to make the Tsum Tsum toys, which makes them just as easy to stack. Although there are limited characters at the moment, recent success has allowed the Lip Smacker brand to expand their line, adding characters from 101 Dalmations and Star Wars.
Although Tsum Tsum merchandise, and the toys themselves, are available at places like Target and Walmart, the best places to get the newest products at the lowest prices are Disney stores. In particular, Disney World and Disneyland have the largest selections of Tsum Tsum toys and since they are selling their own products (without a “middle-man”) there isn’t a mark-up on the prices.
With as popular as the Tsum Tsum line is at the moment, there will undoubtedly be more characters, games, and merchandise available in the future. These cute collectibles have quickly become a beloved staple for Disney fans and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Special thanks to Peyton Hinkle for writing this article! My name is Peyton Hinckle and I am Junior at UNC-Chapel Hill where I am currently studying English and Studio Art. I’ve been an avid Disney fan since I was little, with a special appreciation for everything creative, colorful, and geeky. Some of my favorite Disney characters include Princess Aurora, Moana, and Marvel’s Avengers.