Sylvanian Families were created in Japan in 1985 by Epoch and featured forest-themed animals that were sold in families with parents, children, and grandparents. The animals had hard plastic bodies with a soft, flocked covering and poseable arms and legs.
Their clothing had a simple, timeless look with suspenders for the boys and calico dresses for the girls. There were dollhouses, furniture sets, and other accessories available. These playsets usually continued the rustic, simple theme of the line.
The Sylvanian Familiy line was later sold by Tomy, so many of the toys and packaging are marked Tomy instead of Epoch.
Due to the popularity of Sylvanian Families, many knock-off versions of these toys appeared over the years. Maple Town toys, which were also made in Japan but were based off an animated series by the same name, are very similar but have a more cartoonish appearance. Their bodies are made of softer, more rubbery plastic and their bodies and legs are one single piece, so their legs are not jointed.
Forest Families, which were sold in the US and Europe during the 1980's, were very similar in appearance to Sylvanian Families but were available in a wider variety of animal types. While the Sylvanian Families line included mostly bunnies, squirrels, bears, hedgehogs and other woodland critters, the Forest Families included exotic animals not found in the forest - alligators, monkeys, elephants, tigers, etc.
The modern Lil' Woodzeez toy line is also similar but has a more chunky appearance instead of the slim look of the Sylvanian Families animals.
Sylvanian Families continue to be produced today and are still called Sylvanian Families in most of the world, but are now called Calico Critters of Cloverleaf Corners (or just Calico Critters) in the US. They continue to be known for their high quality and attention to detail as well as their wholesome simplicity.