Duffy The Disney Bear and his colorful friends are a phenomenon at several international Disney Parks, yet you wouldn’t know it based on their lack of popularity here in the U.S. But something has shifted in the last few years: U.S. fans are growing more interested in Duffy, and Disney seems to have noticed. With an entire panel dedicated to Duffy planned for this year’s D23 Expo, it’s looking like Duffy and company could be preparing to descend upon the American parks in the near future. So, who is Duffy the Disney Bear?
Who is Duffy? Duffy the Disney Bear is Mickey Mouse’s bear who first appeared in 2002 as part of the opening of the “Once Upon a Toy” store in Walt Disney World. In 2004, Duffy–then known only as “The Disney Bear”–was made available for sale at Aunt Peg’s Village Store in American Waterfront (American Waterfront is a land within Tokyo DisneySea, the second, very popular theme park at Tokyo Disneyland). American Waterfront flows with DisneySea’s nautical theme, and it is themed to 1900s New York City and Cape Cod. Between 2005 and 2008, Duffy could only be purchased at Aunt Peg’s Village Store.
What is Duffy’s Story? Disney Imagineers created a story for Duffy to align with his move to American Waterfront at Tokyo DisneySea. According to the Imagineers:
“…when Mickey Mouse the sailor, based in Cape Cod, was leaving on a long sea voyage, Minnie Mouse made Duffy to keep Mickey company during his travels. Minnie presented her hand-sewn bear to Mickey in a duffel bag, which is how Mickey came up with the name Duffy.”
Duffy is known to make his friends smile, and due to his innocence, remind people of their childhood–of their “inner Duffy.” Duffy’s personality has grown along with his story, and it’s that personality that seems to have connected with so many fans. Tokyo Disney fans quickly embraced Duffy as a their companion for their park visits, so much so that Duffy is basically an icon at that, and other international parks.
Where Does Duffy Appear? Duffy can be seen at Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, in Hawai’i.
Who Are Duffy’s Friends? Duffy’s friend group has grown along with his story to much success. Duffy and Friends appear in shows, parades, and Character Experiences at international Disney Parks and resorts. Their popularity has grown along with Duffy’s, creating a Duffy-verse of sorts. Each of Duffy’s friends have a unique story about how they met Mickey Mouse and Duffy, and a unique personality to match.
ShellieMay is Duffy’s best friend. She debuted at Tokyo Disney several years after Duffy, and then started appearing at Aulani in August of 2014. The story goes that ShellieMay was also created by Minnie Mouse and stuffed with joy so Duffy could have a best friend.
Gelatoni, a green cat, described as a “cool cat with a passion for painting,” premiered at Shanghai Disneyland in 2017. Gelatoni met Duffy and Mickey Mouse at the Palazzo Canals in Italy, where Duffy spilled his gelatto; Gelatoni used the spilled gelato to paint a work of art for Duffy.
StellaLou is a lavender rabbit who premiered at Tokyo Disney in 2017. She met Duffy in front of the S. S. Columbia at America Waterfront where she shared her dream of dancing on Broadway. StellaLou is known for not giving up easy, and her hard work towards her dancing dreams inspires her friends.
CookieAnn–originally named Cookie–is a yellow dog who loves to cook. She is known for being inventive, and her ability combine things both in and out of the kitchen. Cookie premiered at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2018, and in this cute video, she was renamed CookieAnn in 2019 to match her friends with two names. In 2021, Disney CookieAnn Bakery Cafe, a bakery owned by Minnie Mouse, opened on Mickey Avenue at Shanghai Disneyland.
‘Olu Mel (short for “melody”) is a ukelele-playing turtle who premiered at Aulani–noticeably not a theme park but a Disney resort–in July of 2018. According to his backstory, ‘Olu Mel was discovered by Mickey and Duffy when they were sailing to islands to find a birthday present for ShellieMay. Mickey and Duffy followed the sounds of a ‘ukulele to find ‘Olu Mel in a cove. Described as musical and light-hearted, when ‘Olu Mel plays his music, it makes his friends feel happy. ‘Olu Mel began greeting guests in person at Aulani in 2021.
LinaBell, the newest friend of Duffy, is a fox with an inquisitive mind known to solve problems. First introduced to Shanghai Disneyland in 2021, LinaBell met Duffy in the forest when he got lost following a butterfly. LinaBell used her handy magnifying glass to examine clues on Duffy’s body, which led her reuniting Duffy with Mickey Mouse. LinaBell has since appeared at Tokyo DisneySea and Hong Kong Disneyland. You can also stay in a LinaBell-themed room at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.
Did Duffy Appear As a Character Experience at Walt Disney World? Yes, a Duffy character experience took place at the World Showcase at EPCOT until 2015. Duffy also appeared at Disney California Adventure (the second park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim).
Update: Duffy recently appeared for a character experience at EPCOT for a Moonlight Magic after hours event. These infrequent events are limited to Disney Vacation Club members. No indication on whether Duffy (or his friends) will continue to make such appearances, or whether he will appear during regular park hours.
Is Duffy Currently for Sale at Walt Disney World? Not within the parks. According to an answer to a PlanDisney question about where to find Duffy, Duffy is not currently available at any merchandise locations within the Walt Disney World Resort. The PlanDisney answer also indicated that Duffy is not available for purchase online at ShopDisney either. Though Duffy and a few of his friends have been sold at the parks (and Disney Springs) before, Disney stopped such sales in 2015.
However, in 2020 Duffy and some of his friends were placed on sale at Disney’s Polynesian Resort (to learn more about the Polynesian, read my article, Disney’s Polynesian Resort Review and Tips for Parents). Duffy, ShellieMay, and Gelatoni are available as small plush keychains, on shirts, and various other smaller items. The focus is on ‘Olu Mel, and there are a wider assortment of options for him.
Why Were Duffy and Friends Less Popular in the U.S.? It is hard to pinpoint what really happened with the Duffy rollout in the early aughts. He clearly made an impact to some fans, but possibly less fans than Disney anticipated. One reason could be the that Duffy was not tethered to any known Disney film, show, of other intellectual property. Without that familiarity or built-in fanbase, Duffy’s arrival may have been met with confusion. People may have considered a new teddy bear to be the last thing on their souvenir list, especially considering the popularity of the Sensational Six.
Another reason could be Disney’s decision not to introduce Duffy with an interesting backstory. For some reason Disney decided fully flesh out a story for Duffy at Tokyo Disneyland instead, and that was clearly a success. Maybe fans simply didn’t understand why Disney was promoting a teddy bear at its theme parks normally associated with institutional characters.
What’s Next for Duffy and Friends? Stateside dominance, it seems. Disney recently announced a panel dedicated to Duffy at this year’s D23 Expo called “The World of Duffy & Friends Revealed.” All signs point to Disney preparing to hype up U.S. audiences for Duffy and Friends to make their way to the U.S. parks
And speaking of hype, social media has made Disney Parks more accessible than ever, at least virtually. The popularity of Duffy and Friends likely may be fueled by hype; by fans’ desire to know what others don’t know, to have the latest thing–especially if it is in short supply. For now, Duffy and Friends are simultaneously popular elsewhere yet inaccessible for many Disney fans. Until Disney releases Duffy and Friends in the U.S. parks, fan demand will only grow. With the recently announced event at D23 Expo, Disney seems ready to meet that demand.
Are you ready for Duffy and Friends to storm the U.S. parks?
Fan of the Disney theme parks? Subscribe to my newsletter for articles to be delivered straight to your inbox.