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'The Beanie Bubble' Review: Surprise! The Guy Behind Beanie Babies Was a Jerk!

By Dustin Rowles | Film | August 25, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | August 25, 2023 |


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Before this movie, I didn’t know dip about the people behind the Beanie Babies phenomenon or where they originated; I assumed they just appeared fully formed from the same ’90s time hole that spit out Troll dolls and Tickle-Me Elmo. The Beanie Bubble on Apple TV+ puts some famous faces on a mediocre story (from co-writer and co-director Kristen Gore, daughter of Al, adapted from Zac Bissonnette’s The Great Beanie Baby Bubble) to produce a movie marginally more interesting than a Beanie Baby itself.

The Beanie Bubble is loosely based on the life of Ty Warner, the real-life owner and founder of Ty, Inc., the company behind the Beanie Babies and other stuffed toys. The film is less about the phenomenon itself and almost entirely about how Warner took credit for the ideas of two of his girlfriends before cutting them out. There are two parallel stories being told several years apart. The first, in the ’80s, is about how Warner and girlfriend Robbie (Elizabeth Banks) created a stuffed toy company, and the second — in the ’90s — is how girlfriend Sheila (Sarah Snook) and her two daughters helped inspire Ty to create Beanie Babies, while 17-year-old Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan) figured out how to market Beanie Babies and cultivate their mid-’90s phenomenon.

There’s a reason, however, why the three women depicted in the movie (the two girlfriends are based on real-life girlfriends Patricia Roche and Faith McGowan) do not have their own Wikipedia pages. Ty Warner was apparently a charming man who was open to listening to the ideas of others and incorporating them into his products, but he wasn’t keen on sharing the credit — or the money. That’s a lesson all three women had to learn the hard way.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not all that compelling either. It might be more interesting if the reality was that he was terrible to women, Beanie Babies crashed, and Ty Warner’s career imploded, but that’s far from the case, even if that’s what The Beanie Bubble might want us to believe. Ty Warner is still around, and though he has been convicted of tax evasion (and performed community service), he’s still a billionaire, one of the richest people in America. That’s despite the fact he reportedly abused his 85-year-old girlfriend during the pandemic in 2021. Unfortunately, there are many stories about entrepreneurs who crash and burn but are still worth billions of dollars (the WeWork guy, Adam Neuman, is worth $2.2 billion; the Uber guy, Travis Kalanick, is worth $2.6 billion; and Elon Musk, who is obliterating Twitter/X, remains the richest man in the world).

If The Beanie Bubble were a comedy or even a parody instead of a brightly lit drama, there might be more reason to watch, but it’s not a particularly interesting story, and there’s not a particularly satisfying resolution. The gist of the story is: “Asshole makes a billion dollars off the backs of other people and is still a rich asshole,” and the tremendous cast can only do so much to improve it.