What are Rushton plushies? The name may not be familiar to you, but if you’ve ever watched a Melanie Martinez video with her “nursery kitsch” aesthetic, you’ve seen the look: plush cute animals with strange rubber faces that allows for a more expressive face.

Melanie Martinez | Rushton Plush Animals | best stuffed animals
Several giant versions of Rushton plush animals. Notice the duck on the right side. Still shot from Melanie Martinez’s Mad Hatter video

As you all know, I am very fond of collecting vintage stuffed animals, not just from my childhood, but from as far back as the 1950s.  I particularly enjoy the vintage kawaii — Japanese cute pastel plush pretties of that decade, and especially up to the 70s. However, not everything was made in Japan in the 50s, though it certainly seems that way.

The Rushton Company was actually an American company, started by an Atlanta woman and that lasted from 1917 to 1983, being passed down as a family company.

If you go antiquing or flea shopping for fabulous vintage fashion, you are sure to come across some Rushton plushies in varying states of condition.

Personally, I have always preferred the Rushton animals that do not have rubber faces, such as this sweet donkey from Etsy. One of my very first stuffed animals was a pink rabbit with pink eyes, also a non-rubber faced Rushton. And sorry, I don’t have a photo, she’s in storage.

However, Rushton will always be famous for their rubber-faced plushies, known as the Star Creation line. It is this line of animals and dolls that make their appearance in Melanie Martinez’s Pity Party, and that frequent many kitschy Pinterest and Instagram pages for those interested in vintage nursery kitsch.

Melanie Martinez Rushton rubber faced duck plushie
The duck on the left is Star Creation Rushton. This is from Melanie Martinez’s video Pity Party, and that duck is later shown in anthropomorphic form in the Mad Hatter video. I also want that rubber kitty.

Personally, I have always been a bit conflicted about the Star Creation line. They are undoubtedly the most iconic and original creations of Wight Rushton (Mary Rushton’s daughter). However, I can’t help but find many of them to be hideous to me. Some just come off as utterly grotesque such as this Stinky the Skunk (who is one of the most commonly sold Rushtons)

However, some do manage to be cute to me, particularly those with minimal rubber, such as this glorious black swan.

Fantastic Rushton swan from Brown Retro FunHouse
THIS SWAN IS EVERYTHING. Fantastic Rushton swan from Brown Retro FunHouse

And of course, not everything under the Star Creation name is rubber-faced, even though it originally applied to that line, Kirily Vintage,  one of my favorite vintage sellers on Etsy, has this lovely Star Creation pink poodle (squee!) for sale.

Rushton pink poodle
A charming 1950s pink poodle from Rushton

In addition to stuffed animal designs of their own creation–ranging to familiar Easter bunnies to the quite bizarre designs of whales–Rushton made rubber faced Santas, hobos (what was it with the 50s obsession over homeless people?), and even branded characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Possibly one of the strangest of these branded Rushtons, and one of the last ones made (1982) is of E.T. I came across this oddity on Ebay. It doesn’t really even resemble E.T., and is a bit of a failure in terms of plush design. My own E.T. plush was a magnificent leather toy, unfortunately mutilated by my brother. But I digress.

Here’s this rather unfortunate Rushton E.T.

Plush vintage 80s ET
Sold by SpunkyPlushHandStuffStore. It’s…something

Nonetheless, even with the demise of Rushton, the interest in plastic-faced or rubber faced plushies have not truly gone away. Even in the late 70s, the Japanese were introducing the monkey-themed Monchichis.  Today, I see the modern Kitty Surprise/Puppy Surprise line also uses a molded face for their stuffed animals, similar to Rushton’s rubber faced toys.

I feel what makes a Rushton cute, rather than disturbing, is a minimal amount of expression on the rubber face. However, for you this is entirely a matter of taste. My aesthetic and style is rooted more in Japanese simplicity, so my plushie preference is for simply faces. Still, there is an undeniable kitschy appeal to the exaggerated grins and pastel colors of Rushton’s ducks and bunnies, and modern retro designers such as Fiona Hewitt tap into that look successfully.

If you have any photos of Rushton toys that you own, let me know!

This blog post uses affiliate links in which I may earn a commission if you make a purchase at no cost to you.

 

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4 thoughts on “The Weird and Wonderful World of Rushton Vintage Stuffed Animals

  1. I love the cute black swan. The E.T. is so staggeringly bizarre. Reminds me of a Yoda plush I had once that looked nothing like the old Jedi master. In fact it looked more like the creepy guy that’s always bothering Chris in Family Guy. I couldn’t keep it any longer but hate throwing things away, so I left it standing between two trees in the woods of a nearby park. I always wondered if anyone found it and gave it a new home. Back to E.T., was the leather version one you had this one (scroll down a bit): https://thevintagetoyadvertiser.org/category/e-t/

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    1. Oh, yes that vinyl one was definitely the one I had. I loved that plush so much, and gah, my brother had to destroy it! Never saw another one again. I wonder how much it would be worth today if I still had him. I at least still have my monchichi, if in storage at least. I have many mixed feelings about Rushton toys. Some are cute in a kitschy way, but some are just nightmare fuel and there really is no middle ground. I only learned of the Rushton ET this month and I can’t get around how it reminds more of Bigfoot than ET. Rushton went under a year after that, I can’t see how anyone would have purchased their ET. Thanks for the link to the vinyl ET, I’m glad to see it again if only on the internet, LOL.

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  2. Marvelous article! I actually collect the rubber faced ones simply because of their rarity as well as style and that one day I might be able to become a toy designer and recreate the rubber faced stuffed animals! Of course they will be original and not just modern day bootlegs of the original authentic antique versions. I believe that in the future, there will still be some people in this world that will keep on appreciating the beauty and nostalgia of antique stuffed animals~

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