Unboxing videos are pretty common on YouTube, where tech aficionados unsheathe the latest iPhone, tablet and similar gadgets from their packaging. But there's another type of unboxing that has taken hold of different audience — toddlers.
One wildly popular series of videos comes from a YouTube user known as DisneyCollector. In her videos, an anonymous set of hands opens various toys and other kitschy merchandise, often from Disney, while she narrates. Simple, yet her channel has more than 2 million subscribers and her most popular video has more than 94 million views.
Mireille Silcoff wrote about this growing phenomenon for The New York Times Magazine, and she tells NPR's Arun Rath that they videos came to her attention from her own 2-year-old daughter. Her daughter, she says, liked watching the hands take the toys out of the box.
"It sounds like the sort of thing a two-and-a-half year old would say, but when I investigated further it seemed to be the same reason everyone likes unboxing videos across the board," Silcoff says.
Silcoff made contact with DisneyCollector, who said her real name was Melissa Lima, a 21-year-old native of Brazil now living in Westchester County, N.Y. She told Silcoff she worked as a waitress and babysitter before doing her videos full time.
When Silcoff pressed DisneyCollector for some more information about herself, she went silent.
"It could all be false information that she gave me, at the moment DisneyCollector is a total mystery," she says.
Silcoff doesn't believe DisneyCollector works for Disney or a marketing company, and in fact says her type of unboxing is anti-marketing.
"It's people saying 'I'm not going to sit back and listen to advertising or listen to what marketers tell me; I'm going to tell consumers what I think of this product,'" she says.
While the popularity of these videos might remain a mystery to anyone without kids, Silcoff says she thinks a lot of media aimed at toddlers is too fast and has too much going on. This is more like slow TV.
"It's exactly their speed," she says. "It's just one thing happening: somebody's taking something out of a box."