Thursday, May 23

Cookeez Makery May be The Strangest Toy This Christmas

Here’s a holiday recipe you probably haven’t made.

First, pour two brightly colored powders into a bowl. Then add water and mix until a dough-like substance forms. Place that into an animal-shaped baking mold, remove it and put it inside a plastic oven. Set a timer for 90 seconds; when you hear a ding, open the oven. What’s inside? A smiling stuffed animal with large, pleading eyes. Squeeze it and you’ll find that not only is its plush body warm, but it also smells like cinnamon.

Such is the alchemy of Cookeez Makery, one of the stranger toys released ahead of the holiday season this year. Combining elements of Build-A-Bear and the Easy-Bake Oven, the toy has beguiled children and adults with its ability to seemingly transform a glob of mush into a warm, dessert-scented creature resembling a dog, cat, or rabbit.

Jennifer Jack, 35, recently bought a Cookeez Makery for her daughter after they saw a commercial for it on TV. “She was like, ‘I want that!’” said Ms. Jack, who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “And I looked at it, and I’m like, that looks weird.”

Mara Warren, 26, who has a 2-year-old daughter, was also puzzled by the toy after seeing posts about it on social media. “I did not understand how it worked,” she said.

Ms. Warren, who lives in Austin, Texas, added that even after buying it and starting to use it at home, she still found Cookeez Makery perplexing. “When I was doing it, I was like, what the heck?” she said.

The toy’s apparent feat of baking is actually accomplished with shelves that move around in the oven when the door is closed and the timer is set. Essentially, the dough-like mixture goes on a bottom shelf and, as the timer ticks down, that shelf lowers as an upper shelf containing the stuffed animal descends into its place.

Sweetly scented pellets embedded in the animal’s plush body give it a freshly baked aroma. When squeezed for three seconds, the stuffed animal, which is battery-powered, starts warming up and making squeaking noises. If left idle for two minutes, the animal goes into a sleep mode until it is squeezed again.

Ms. Jack said her 4-year-old daughter and her 7-year-old son have not lost interest in the oven since using it for the first time. “The surprise hasn’t worn off,” she said, even though they have figured out how it works.

Adrienne Appell, the executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association, a trade group, said the element of surprise was just one appeal of Cookeez Makery. The toy is also a draw, Ms. Appell said, because it includes a new stuffed animal and gives children the ability to emulate their parents in a kitchen.

“They’re cooking just like mom,” she said. “But instead of a cookie that everyone’s going to eat, they get their own magical friend.”

Cookeez Makery, which came out in August, was cooked up by Moose Toys in Australia; the manufacturer’s retail price is $35, but it can vary depending on the seller.

The toy was inspired by all the baking done during the pandemic, said Ronnie Frankowski, the company’s global president. Many of the designers at Moose Toys took up baking at that time and started to think about ways a toy could evoke the experience of pulling a just-made confection out of an oven.

“You open that oven door,” Mr. Frankowski said, “and the scent and the warm coziness comes out.”

“It’s an unbelievable moment,” he added, “like a surprise reveal.”

He said that while testing versions of the toy with children during the production process, the company found that “kids love the surprise for themselves the first time, and then they love to perform the surprise for others,” like a magic trick.

Ms. Warren had a different takeaway after she and her daughter used the Cookeez Makery she bought.

“I feel like if you wanted to do it again,” she said, “You’d just buy another one.”