Friends With You (FWY) is an artist collaborative founded by the two Miami-based artists, Sam Borkson, born in Plantation, Florida in 1979, and Arturo Sandoval III, born in Havana, Cuba in 1976. Since its conception in 2002, FWY has continued to promote the two artists' common message of magic, luck, and friendship, through its popular designer toy line, public art installations, new-form playgrounds, published works, live performances, and various animation, motion picture, and multimedia projects.
From Art Basel in Miami to Pictoplasma in Berlin, FWY has been invited to participate in some of the most respected artistic happenings worldwide. Due to its unique style, creative and technical abilities, FWY has also been commissioned to help develop the image and identity of some of the world’s most prominent brands, including, among others, Nike, MTV, Red Bull, Volkswagen, and Coca-Cola.
FWY works towards sharing its message of magic, luck, and friendship, to a wider global community by collaborating with other creative forces, and by producing innovative works that will continue to redefine its audience. FWY was created with one basic concept in mind; to become Friends With You!
Originally launched in 2002 Friends With You got their initial boom of recognition through this line of plush characters and beings known as " Friends". Featuring eight different "Friends" they are said to be derived from unimaginably small microbes that has been enlarged times one billionth its original size and then some. They live in your breath and under the part of your brain used for wishing. Each of the "Friends" represent an ability or power which is then shared with you when befriending them. The dark Malfi either brings you Great Wealth or Death and is someone you should be careful around. The caterpillar-like Mr. TTT splits into three separate parts representing luck and is known to be three times as lucky as rabbits' feet and golden Horseshoes. Red Flyer is known as the fabric of space, the earth, the air, the water, everything. In Red Flyer's enlarged state, he offers invincibility and absolute power to his human companion. The fluffy white Barby is a meditative and shy "Friend" who tends to wear a mask often. When you remove Barby's mask he will give you complete love and attention if you ever need a light conversation or sort out a situation. King Albino gets rid of life discoloration forever and is known as the agent for all albino animals as well as in chemicals such as bleach. King Albino is useful for getting rid of all embarrassing moments to help you move forward in life. Albino Squid, considered the jerk out of all the "Friends", is helpful in reminding you what not to be. Though if you, yourself are a jerk then Albino Squid will help you kick the ass of all your competitors and help you rule the world. Poppings is easily known as having the charm and charisma you've been wishing you had. Carry a Poppins foot with you and you'll gain some of its unique qualities. Shoebaca can telecommunicate with you as his friend in order to help them with their life's toughest decisions. All you have to do is ask a question and concentrate to find the best solutions to all your problems. Shoebaca also comes with removable kidneys. Together all these "Friends" form what is now known as the Plush Series 1. The original launch production of this series is considered very rare and hard to find.
Each of the characters within the "gang" share the same background while all having unique abilities. Their back story indicates that they all come from the Black Forest as amulets from a time when children Gods owned these toys as wooden charms. When these toys are treated with respect they may grant all your very wishes. Black Foot, A.K.A Captain Bingo, is a black and golden cubic figure said to possess the potential for the ultimate life adventure. The totem-like being known as Sweet Tooth is said to give its owner surprises. Each of the heads that come with Sweet Tooth grant different things; 'Lil Bernie brings stress free-days while Baby Derwin gives either an amazing fortune or really bad luck. Squid Racer is a robotic friend that is lead by the Singing Robot Head and piloted by faithful Elby and is known to be the hardest working and fastest teams ever. Squid Racer uses its power of momentum to help you reach your full potential. Mr. T.T.T. Burger, an alternation of Plush Series 1s Mr. T.T.T., is quite similar looking to a hamburger but comes accompanied by a Lucky T-bone. Mr. T.T.T. Burger has been stated to help you enjoy the great life you have while satisfying all your indulgences. Lastly there is baby-looking Lucky Doovoo. Lucky Doovoo is an ever- sleeping dream guide who can make dreams come true. To help make your wishes come true write them on his trusty blackboard. Lucky Doovoo also comes with three magical belly button trinkets you can attach to him; The Heart to concentrate on your relationships, the Power Ruby to concentrate on your goals, and the lollipop for carefree slumber.
Roughly around the same time as the release of the Malfi based Plush Series 2 a team of toys known as The Burger Bunch was launched. Each of the toys had the distinct ability to have their parts moved around or shared similar to changing out the stacked ingredients in a hamburger sandwich. There were three friends in The Burger Bunch. Bumble Grump is an imaginative baby that gets into wild adventures. Mr. T.T.T. Burger, a different burger looking version of Plush Series 1's Mr. T.T.T., was magically awakened by Bumble Grump. Mr. T.T.T. Burger makes everyday filled with delights. The adorable Muffin is considered a shapeshifter that can turn into anything he wants, but only sometimes. The pieces of all these toys can easily be interchanged between each other to create unique looks and sizes.
Alongside the release of The Burger Bunch Friends With You created The Boy. The Boy was summoned from outer space with his best friend Penelope the invisible white elephant who loves magical cherries. The Boy uses a special transmutation device that has unknown abilities and powers but seems very important to whatever The Boy's secret mission is. Due to a our planet's atmosphere being different from what The Boy is use to his body structure changes as well as the molecules that make him up. The large secret behind The Boy is unknown but will save the earth and all the people too. As well as the toy The Boy was also a strong focal character in the installation and performance of Cloud City at MOCA.
Friends With You's latest toy line is the appropriately named Wish Come True. Based around the concept of making anyone's wish come true, similar in fashion to what a genie does, all characters are assigned lucky numbers. One other similarity between all models of toys in this line is that they all have weighted bottoms and built-in bell chimes giving each one a playful rocking motion and a subtle, soothing sound. There are six main \"Friends\"; Popa the magic key, Mr. T.T.T. the wormhole, Buddychub a form of friendship, Malfi the lucky, Coco the universe, and Fluffy Pop a representation of balance. There are also ten other unknown variants and alternate characters hidden randomly in Wish Come True that can be collected. The series came in what is known as blind \"mystery box\" packaging.
Friends With You also have done other toys not part of any series or line of product. The very rare Foofee and Feefee share the same fluffy cylindrical design but are contrast towards each other in terms of color variation. Friends With You has also had a hand in creating a custom designed Dunny for Kidrobot.
December 21, 2006 marked the premiere of Friends With You's first permanent installation. It was built as the first artist designed conceptual playground in Miami specially built in Aventura Mall. The opening also was the first art installation to be displayed from Turnberry for the Arts, a new initiative that seeks to enrich and enlighten patron’s shopping experience through exposure to the arts. During the initial showing of the playground a special limited print Rainbow Valley coloring book was given out at the event that explained the back-story of the characters within the playground. The playground resides in front of a Sears store located within the mall.
The story behind the Ranbow Valley playground is one of Peeko, a baby mountain, and his new-found friend Cloudy that have all their adventures together. The playground has some rainbow bridges, slides, a control center, and crawl-in mountains in bright and playful welcoming colors. The entire area is foam-covered similar to a nursery school wrestling mat. At the entrance of the playground stands two clouds with an arching overhead rainbow with the title of "Rainbow Valley By FriendsWithYou" curved across it accompanied by red and blue diamond designs. Multicolored seating surrounds the inner edge of playground, presumebly desiged for parents. The matted flooring has light grass green colors with illustrated rivers, lakes, and flowers covering differentiating areas. Rainbow Valley is open to the public and still can be visited within the Aventura Mall to this day.
There are some designs such as the slides and matted elements that share similarities from Friends With You's other installation Cloud City.