The Tail Company has been making animatronic tails and ears for nearly twenty years. That is to say, twenty years ago, we started to think seriously about making them more than just “a dressing-up game.” I’ve actually been making tails since I was very small.
As a child, I’d made lots of tails from socks and bits of string, just like lots of other kids have done, and would run screaming around the house wearing it! But I was also part of the first generation of kids to have home computers, and that interest led to hacking bits of code and eventually getting things – real physical things! – to do stuff. A short while later, I used these skills to make a simple moving tail.
Now, twenty years later, with the launch of our mechanical wings just about to happen, I thought I’d write a very brief overview of our audience. The people who, for one reason or another, want to grow a tail, or new ears, or sprout fantastic moving mechanical wings.
Looking back, creating The Tail Company, a business that makes custom animatronic gear, was only possible because of the rise of other technologies. Not just home computing, but rapid prototyping, 3d printers that normal people could afford, and open source software. It was also only possible because of the internet and the ease by which the niche audiences that wear tails, ears, wings, fursuits, and cosplays could meld together to form communities, share ideas, and flourish.
No community has benefited more from this ability to share ideas and interests than the Furry Fandom. It is often said that it was the historically male tech-savvy furry that built the internet and used this new ability to share and consolidate furry ideas and vocabulary with like-minded souls.
“In the broadest sense, a furry is someone interested in anthropomorphized animals — that is, animals who have been given human characteristics, like an ability to talk or walk on their hind legs. That encompasses a wide spectrum, from people who are simply fans of TV shows and video games featuring anthropomorphic animal characters (like Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokémon) to people who develop a highly specific furry character (“fursona”) they identify with, to “otherkin” who see themselves as not fully human on a spiritual or mental level.”
Suffice it to say, Furrys, and those that want just certain characteristics of animals (Kemonomimi in Japanese) are a large part of our audience.
“Cosplay grew out of the practice of fan costuming at science fiction conventions, beginning with Morojo’s “futuristic costumes” created for the 1st World Science Fiction Convention held in New York City in 1939. The Japanese term “cosplay” (コスプレ, kosupure) was coined in 1984.”
Anyone with even a passing interest in contemporary culture has heard of Cosplay. Cosplay generally stands for costume play and is a performance art where the participants, who are called ‘cosplayers’, generally assemble fashion accessories and costumes to represent a specific character from popular culture. To “cosplay” often means to roleplay. Whilst Furries were the early adopters of our animatronic ears and tails, and cosplayers were not far behind.
Rose Magpie as Gorou, Genshin Impact
As cosplayers seek more and more realism to their outfits, adding a moving cosplay tail or robotic cosplay ears was the logical next step. I think that mechanical wings will bring another opportunity to bring life to cosplay or fursona. I see some Malificent cosplays in our future.
They are the two largest groups that wear our robotic tails and ears. We also make moving ears and tails for TV, film, and theatre, from Dr. Who to a recent feature being filmed in California. And of course, there’s a small but excitable group that wears them for “fancy dress parties” and festivals. Ravers and party people. Of course, they need a party tail!
And me? Why do I do it?
I’m just a person that thinks evolution was rather unkind. When we lost our tails, it was a net loss in the fun department. And one that we aim to correct, one body part at a time.