I think if Oriental Land Company had created Duffy from the start, it would be much easier for the public/media/Disney to give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, since the original carnation of Duffy (the Disney Bear) was, in fact, a Disney idea, it makes things much more complicated. Part of the deal Oriental Land made when they licensed the parks was that they couldn’t go rouge. They had to uphold Disney values. They are not allowed to arbitrarily introduce new characters.
They brilliantly thought ‘outside the box’ by taking a throwaway character and developing him into a star. This is an ingenious way to use their creativity to establish something of their own. But, due to their relationship with Disney, this meant that they were required to share Duffy with the entire Disney Corporation.
Realistically, I don’t think the Japanese business model translates as well to the US market. The collectors market is different here. Think about BAB and American Girl dolls. Their target market is kids. Whereas it seems the serious Duffy fans (like me) are adults. With this in mind, I think they are trying to target kids instead of serious collectors. If this is their target market, they can cut on quality, because, most kids really won’t care if their Duffy has toes. (I wish mine did!) It is also evident in their choice to only sell costumes for Duffy instead of street clothes.
In retrospect, I think Disney should have respected the Japanese team enough to leave Duffy alone. Perhaps they could have sold his authentic DTS in the Japan section of EPCOT, but it devalues the artists to try to capitalize on Duffy at any cost.
For selfish reasons, I’m glad Duffy is at WDW. But, for the good of the character, Disney should have left him alone and allowed DTS to have their own character.