The Aesthetics of Cute


I found this picture of a rabbit doll on Ebay a few weeks ago, and it really spoke to me.

Cute, huh? Or is it? Maybe by today’s standards it’s a bit bizarro! I love it just the same.

It makes me think about changing ideas about style, and what is acceptable and/or desirable in children’s products.

Now, this googly-eyed bunny doll is definitely a product of it’s time, which I gather to be from the teens or 20’s. It has the look of a Rose O’Neill “kewpie” doll: traditionally cute baby proportions, sideways glancing eyes, and bountiful eyelashes.
People responded in droves to this look at the time- it was very popular. I guess you can say this look has evolved into these kinds of toys:


Ah, the giant-headed joy of the Littlest Pet Shop! Different times, different materials, but hot dog- same cute! We as a species must be programmed to respond to this babyish, big-headed, big-eyed look. As a kid, I had a book about animation by the legendary Preston Blair. Here is the “cute” page from his book that was imprinted on my brain at a very young age:


This is still a MUST HAVE book if you, as an illustrator or animator, want a quick ‘n’ easy reference guide on caricature and motion. Genius!

I am always thinking about appeal- in my art, my books and my toy design. “Cute” doesn’t always hit you over the head in these most obvious of ways, that’s why I think it’s interesting to observe what people (kids) respond to best. It’s equally interesting to see what they specifially don’t respond to- the things that they reject. It’s never an easy call; it can be a fine, fine, line!

Sorry to blather on- like I said, I am always thinking about this stuff. Even when I should be in bed.

3 comments on “The Aesthetics of Cute

  • on Friday, May 4, 2007 at 3:34 pm, Claire said:

    Interesting post! I think the ebay rabbit is cute- it’s only the chipping paint which gives it that (oh-so-desirable) air of slight creepyness. Like you said- it’s a fine, fine line what is considered cute and what is not.

  • on Friday, May 4, 2007 at 8:28 pm, Barbara said:

    so, is thing for sale still? I want it!

  • on Friday, May 4, 2007 at 9:10 pm, Liz said:

    No such luck, Barb- it went pretty high as I recall!

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