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By Erin Kim
Album covers have taken on a new furry flavor ever since Swedish artist William Källback Winter transformed pop stars into Furbies. Bjork, Nicki Minaj, and Justin Bieber are just a few of the artists Winter has Furby-ized on his Furb-tastic menagerie of a Tumblr page, Furby Living.
Yahoo! Music took a moment to pick Winter's Furby-addled brain to find out just how this genius concept came to be…
Y! MUSIC: How did Furby Living start? Which was your first Furby album cover?
WINTER: Some time last October, I got a sudden obsession with Furbies, mostly due to one of my favorite Internet personalities, Joseph Birdsong, buying one of the new 2012 Furbies and writing hilarious tweets about it. I just thought they were so cute and started reading up on everything Furby-related. My friends and family thought I was going slightly crazy. I'm not totally sure how I came up with the idea of recreating album covers, but it was originally inspired by stan culture, I guess! A lot of the earlier covers were kind of based around the "Nekci Menij" show, in a way, which is an animated show on YouTube parodying pop stars and their fanbases. The first cover I made was M.I.A.'s /\/\ /\ Y /\ , which is one of my favorite albums of all time. There's honestly barely anything edited on that one, though; I just thought it would be an easy one to start with. After that I made MDNA by Madonna, which was the first cover that started spreading.
Y! MUSIC: Do you have any real toy Furbies? Which one is your favorite? When did you get your first Furby?
WINTER: Yes, of course! My favorite generation is the original 1998 Furby, mostly because I feel its look is the most iconic out of all Furby models. I own four of those, one 2005 Furby and one 2012 Furby. I had one when I was younger as well, when they were first released, but the Furbies I own now are all newly bought late last year. I don't play with them as such; I just love the concept and phenomenon of Furby!
Y! MUSIC: How do you make these Furby album covers? Are they hard to create?
WINTER: I first set up simple lighting and take the photos I need — of the Furby's face, feet, ears, wigs etc., depending on what I need. The rest is just heavy Photoshopping! The difficulty varies a lot, but most album covers are face close-ups, which is usually fairly simple. What takes extra time is, for example, editing open mouths, making limbs, changing the eyes. Sometimes the fonts are custom-made as well. In the end, it's mostly about capturing the expression of the artist and the aesthetic of the cover art. Proportions can also be tricky, as I don't want them to look too human, so I usually chub everything up. That takes up more space at the same time, though, so I always need to figure out a good composition before I start.
Y! MUSIC: While you make these, do you listen to the music of artist you are recreating? For example, when making Adele's album cover, do you listen to 21?
WINTER: Sometimes I do out of curiosity, and I've actually enjoyed some albums I probably wouldn't have listened to otherwise. I've never listened to Rihanna before, for example, but I was listening to her newest album Unapologetic when I recreated that cover, and I actually love it!
Y! MUSIC: Do you like pop music? Who's your favorite musician?
WINTER: I love pop music for sure. I mostly listen to pop, rap, and electronic music. My favorite musician is, and has been for a long time now, Bjork. I was recently featured on her Facebook page, which I can still barely fathom as a longtime fan it feels amazing. Other favorites are M.I.A. and a rapper called Lady.
Y! MUSIC: If a Furby could sing, what would its voice sound like?
WINTER: Furbies already sing, especially the new 2012 generation! With a pop star twist it would sound very spazzy, slightly off-key, and mixed with Furbish words, I guess!
Y! MUSIC: Which Furby album cover is your personal favorite?
WINTER: I think I'd have to say Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday. I never planned on making it originally because of its composition, which is zoomed-out and with a lot of empty space, but I got an overwhelming amount of requests for it, so I felt like I had to figure something out. It just turned out so ridiculous, with the crazy eyes and muscular legs; I kept cracking up while I was making it!
Y! MUSIC: How long does it take to make one of these album covers?
WINTER: It varies a lot, but I would say usually around two to five hours, on and off.
Y! MUSIC: I like how the expressions of the Furbies are so alive; like in your Nicki Minaj one, the Furby resembles Nicki's persona! How do you show a Furby's emotions? Do you think Furbies can have human feelings?
WINTER: Well, I actually pick the Furby depending on the expression I need. The original 1998 Furby is great for more wide-open eyes. The 2005 Furby has bottom eyelids, which is great for squinting eyes, as well as a more expressive mouth. The 2012 Furby doesn't have eyelashes, which works better for guys — even though I've only used it for Justin Bieber that way). I usually just try posing them for a bit and see which Furby looks most like the artist I'm recreating! Eyes are usually important to convey expressions, so I spend a lot of time editing those.
Y! MUSIC: Are there more Furby albums on the way?
WINTER: Definitely! I have many covers I'd like to create, but I'm working a lot right now and will start studying this fall so I just work on them whenever I have time. I'm working on Lady Gaga's cover for her new single "Applause" right now!
Y! MUSIC: How do you pick which pop star and album you want to recreate?
WINTER: It's a mix of popular requests, personal favorites, and covers I feel would be funny or interesting to recreate. I have a few slightly different covers planned right now, some of which have never been requested nor are very famous but I just feel like they would be hilarious Furbified!
Y! MUSIC: What has the reaction to your Furby creations been like?
WINTER: It's been a mix of awe, confusion, and utter fear. But all in all, overwhelmingly positive, actually! I thought I'd have received a lot more hate by now, but most people are entertained, which is great. The reactions vary from "so cute!" to "this is nightmare fuel!"; it's very interesting. It's been great seeing some of the artists' reactions as well — Bjork and Britney Spears have shared my work before, as well as Grimes and the designers M/M Paris, who I also have a lot of respect for.
Y! MUSIC: Why do you think people are excited about these Furby creations? What makes Furbies so interesting?
WINTER: It seems a lot of people were and still are scared of them for different reasons — so it might be a bit odd for some seeing them in a more humanoid shape, seeing as how they originally already have human-like eyes and were made to feel alive in the first place. A lot of people remember Furby from their childhood, which is probably also why they enjoy the covers.
Y! MUSIC: Anything other fun facts and stories you'd like to share with Furby Living fans?
WINTER: I can let you know that my initial plan was to create a blog centered around a few Furbies and their lives together, hence "Furby Living," by posting pictures and stories. I had names, background info, and personalities all planned but never really got around to it in the end. For example, I had two Furbies based around the Grady twins from The Shining planned — don't even ask.
Y! MUSIC: What do you hope people see and think about when looking at your Furby albums?
WINTER: I just hope people are entertained and don't take what I do too seriously!
All images courtesy of Furby Living