Sylvanian Families were created in Japan in 1985 by Epoch and featured forest-themed flocked animal toys 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.
A vintage brochure that came with the toys describes them as "Furry friends with a family tree, and houses to fill with furniture and fun."
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.
The popularity of Sylvanian Families led to many other lines of flocked animal toys being produced all over the world.
Sylvanian Families are still sold today. In 1993, Tomy lost the rights to use the Sylvanian Families name in the US, so the line is now called Calico Critters of Cloverleaf Corners, Calico Critters of Calico Village, or just Calico Critters. The toys are still called Sylvanian Families everywhere else and the toys themselves are the same. Sylvanian Families are Calico Critters are now sold by Epoch.
There's been little need for improvement, so the appearance of these adorable figures and their accessories hasn't changed much over the years. They've become a beloved classic and vintage and modern sets are compatible in both size and appearance. Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters continue to be known for their high quality and attention to detail as well as their wholesome simplicity,