This one is probably more for the girls, because as far as I can remember, no guys ever played with minature animals. A family friend of mine had the Grand Hotel and probably the largest collection of Sylvanian Families I have seen (maybe the only one too).
Sylvanian Families were made by a Japanese company called Epoch and were originally produced in 1985. They became so popular that in 1987, 1988 and 1989 they were awarded Toy Of The Year by the British Association of Toy Retailers. A TV Series was made and was shown in Spain, the UK and the US.
In 1993, Tommy, who were distributing Sylvanians, lost the rights to the name 'Sylvanian Families" in Canda and the US and so they were renamed "Calico Critters". By the end of the 90s the toys had been discontinued in the UK and France.