In the late '80s there was competition amoung small human-like animals. This has led to some confusion over which is which. This guide should help you identify the different animal sets.
There are several distinct differences between Maple Town and Sylvanian Families/Calico Critters. The first is general appearance. It was especially the case durring the time of Maple Town that Sylvanian Families looked more like real animals than Maple Town characters. Since Maple Town toys were based on the popular cartoon series, they naturally had a more cartoonish look to them. They had brighter and more varried colors and had unique outfits.
|The outfits of Sylvanian Families animals were often so simular between families because Sylvanian Families were based around a classic, or traditional family structure with little character distinction, especially at first. Every Maple Town family was based on the television series and had a different profession. If the Calico Critters Dalmation Family were Maple Town, for example, they would be dressed as firefighters (as fire fighters often have dalmations), just as the Maple Town Rabbit Family runs the post office (as rabbits are quick). Note that Sylvanian Families did create its own cartoon series, but it lacked the magic of Maple Town because it lacked enjoyable stories or likably characters due to the fact that the only repeat characters were the bad guys.|
|Another difference between Sylvanian Families of the time was that Sylvanian Families had closed hands, which Maple Town had hands that could hold items. After Maple Town and once Sylvanian Families became Calico Critters in the US, they adopted open hands in every part of the world except for Japan, where they still have the same classic hands. Another key difference is the type of plastic used. With the exception of Maple Town figures that were released only in Japan, Maple Town animals were made of a soft plastic that allowed bending. This even allowed for their limbs to be removed, which was not necessarily a good thing. On the other hand, Sylvanian Families were and still are made of a sturdy, hard plastic. Sylvanian Families are universally considered of supperior quality compared to any of their now extinct competition. Over the years, this quality has only increased. Note that Japanese Maple Town figures were higher in quality than elsewhere and were made of a sturdier plastic and often included accessories.|
|Another animal set that has been confused with Maple Town is Forest Families. Forest Families were made out of an even softer plastic than Maple Town and, like Maple Town, had open hands. However, Forest Families all had a happy expression on their faces and their children did not have possible arms or legs. They were also slightly larger than the competition. Most unique to this line was the variety of unusual animals that were released, including turtles, birds, elephants, etc. They had a sheep family over a decade and a half before Sylvanian Families. Unfortunately, they are near impossible to find anymore, especially in their packages.|
While Maple Town can no longer be found in stores and no new Maple Town items are being produced, you can still go down to your local store and find Calico Critters in the US or Sylvanian Families elsewhere in the world. New animal families are still being made, along with new playsets and detailed accessories. They are high quality and easy to love. They simply aren't Maple Town.