God Smiles on Ninjatown | Our Town | Chicago Reader

God Smiles on Ninjatown 

The story of Shawnimals, an unlikely recession beater

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In the beginning Shawn Smith created two creatures, a snakelike thing and a puffier thing. And they were stuffed animals without much form, with faces on neither. And the spirit of art student Shawn was compelled to make more, from sketches he had drawn while attending Illinois State University in Normal. And Shawn said Let there be polyester stuffing between two soft pieces of fabric, and let them be soft edged, or featureless so each can imagine what they are. And in 2001 Shawn said Let there be Shawnimals: and there were Shawnimals. Shawn's girlfriend (now wife) Jen Brody began to hand sew the Shawnimals, and the Shawnimals became good. Shawn's mom found a sewing machine by the side of the road and fixed it up for them to use, and its use divided the early bad forms from the new cute ones.

And Shawn and Jen made more Shawnimals and then built a Web site, where they offered them for mail order, each form unique: and they were sold. And with the little Shawnimals word of mouth spread through the land.

And Shawn made their imaginary firmament and divided up the regions and the plush forms in it: and it was so. And Shawn called the firmament Shawnimaland. And Shawn said Let the adorable lumpy foods like Hobo Sandwich and Sad Garlic be gathered together in one place like Foodlandia, and let the meatiest meats, like SuperWiener and Jealous Meatloaf, reside in Hotdog Kingdom. And let them be for adult toy collectors and people who think plush toast is funny, and it was for seasons and days and years: and they were.

And Shawn brought forth all types of fluffy mustaches, dollops of lonely poop, and pants with no arms but eyes, and the seeds of hundreds of Shawnimals were upon his mind and upon the shelves of their dismal orange Chicago office. And soon upon the shelves of toy and collectibles boutiques, skate shops, and comic book stores in America and other lands: and it was so. And in 2006, in the fifth year of creation, Shawn and Jen no longer did work but for the reproduction of Shawnimals.

And Shawn called one of the 22 sections Ninjatown, and the gathering within it cookie-powered ninjas and Wee Devils, and SouthPeak Games saw that it was good, and licensed it for development. And it was turned into a game for Nintendo DS that was released in October 2008: and it was good, and somewhat difficult.

And Shawn said Let us move into a warehouse space near Damen and Grand, and let there be lights, two employees, and three machines for making Shawnimals. And let some be of rubber and manufactured overseas and some be limited editions made by Jen's hand: and they were sewn.

And the Great Recession began to rule over the day and over the night and closed many of the esoteric toy and art collectibles stores of the earth. And Shawn said Let us make a special thing, as in the beginning, with handmade, limited edition ninjas and let them be sold through the Web site. And Internet mail order brought forth abundantly the new customers that hath money, and the children that may love Ninjatown for the DS, whose many fan letters and scrawly illustrations decorate the warehouse walls.

And Shawn created new ninjas for Ninjatown, which he brought forth abundantly though in limited editions, and he said Let there be one a month for 2010, each a new kind. A furry Yeti ninja after January's Baker ninja, and after them the obese Notso Wee Ninja: and Jen sewed them and they were good. And Ninjatown fans blessed them, and said be fruitful and multiply: and it was so.   

Shawnimals Shawn Smith and Jen Brody

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