The Top 25 Things That Changed Dolls…

Not quite the change I had in mind...

Not quite the ‘change’ I had in mind…

The idea for this post came to me during the course of a few previous posts – the thought that dolls have changed over the centuries, and even more dramatically in modern times. But what caused those changes? I sat down and went through a dozen books on doll history, and I scoured the internet looking for common themes. Behold, the top 25 biggest influences on dolls and their evolution – things that changed dolls forever…

It's a doll, man...

It’s a doll, man…

1. Religiondolls have existed for millennia, and earliest recorded versions as playthings were found in Roman children’s graves around 100AD. But beyond the concept of a doll being a toy, they have been used and persecuted since the dawn of human time. Before The Ten Commandments unequivocally destroyed the crafting of graven images for the purposes of worship, civilizations across our planet fashioned such figures to aid in religious focus. Despite the conclusion drawn in The Color Purple, God is vain; therefore, you better not have any other gods or demons sitting around taking worship time away from Him. However, in the ages that followed, Christianity would divide into Orthodox and Protestant convictions, and the use of religious veneration with Saints, The Virgin Mary, and Jesus (in baby, toddler and adult forms) would eventually pop up all over the Christian world.

The Bible Gang

The Bible Gang

The presence of dolls arising from religious beliefs created havoc across secular communities, as interpretation often does with two or more human beings. Make a statue, but don’t worship itdon’t make it three-dimensional, and it’s OK – do it period, and we’ll kill you. Better yet, let’s put it in the hands of a child, pretend we don’t notice, and then either feign innocence, or blame the little bitch for witchcraft and burn her at the stake.

Jesus is your Buddy...and Bobblehead.

Jesus is your Buddy…and Bobblehead.

Whether it be Christian-based, polytheistic pantheons, or good ol’ Voodoo, dolls created to fortify good and condemn evil – most religions involve some type of ‘graven image’. The trick to getting around this rule is to not worship it – and good luck with that – we all know how we feel when we debox a new doll, right?

That's alot of pink...

That’s alot of pink…

2. The Assembly Line – The advent of the Industrial Revolution brought many changes to the way we operate, live and think. In a world where items were crafted by one, or a handful of artisans through to completion, the creation of the assembly line not only made mass production possible, but it gave way to an economic force that continues even today (if not actually in the West). For dolls, the assembly line put a gaggle of dolls into the hands of many children that did not have access to wealth, or a relative who could make such items by hand. Paper and rag dolls are fun, but they aren’t that fun.

They're having fun.

They’re having fun.

When you really stop and think about it, most of the dolls we cherish and love would have never even existed without the introduction of the production process – try to imagine Barbie carved out of wood – nah, me neither…I’m sure it’s been done, and there are many wonderful dolls still crafted by the hands of gifted artisans, but our access to those types of dolls just isn’t as realistic as those being vomited out by mass production.

Yup - they're dolls.

Yup – they’re dolls.

3. The Wedding – Bridal dolls have been around as long as weddings have, but you will find the ‘modern’ bride to have something those in antiquity did not – an attached industry. Over the centuries, weddings were a life milestone, marked by revelry and celebration. Since white gowns were popularized by Queen Victoria, most Western weddings involve all the elements that make for a great doll – most notably, the costume. But in today’s standards, weddings of old were rather lame, unless it was royalty. In addition to the brides inspired by Western weddings, Eastern and other world cultures have spawned even more diversity in matrimony attire. It’s not enough to simply include bridals gowns with the ‘Fashion’ influence below; they have their own set and feel that bring a unique nature to the classification.

There's been a grave misunderstanding...

There’s been a grave misunderstanding…

From dolls that are inspired by an entire wedding party, to those darling little toppers on the cake, to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, you will find this one genre of dolls so vastly encompassing based on a single common element. ‘Baby ‘ and ‘toddler’ dolls may also draw upon a single theme, but it is the phenomena associated with the wedding that makes it stand out.

First comes love, then comes marriage...

First comes love, then comes marriage…then…

4. Urination – Ick, I know…but it’s a natural bodily function, and one that launched a company into the mainstream. By having the ability to ‘drink and wet’, another dimension to playing with dolls began. With Effanbee’s Dy-Dee Baby in the 1930’s, changing a baby doll’s diaper now became a fun, playtime activity, prepping little girls to be perfect mommies. As was common in playline doll development, it wasn’t long before the idea would be ripped off – by Ideal, specifically. ‘Betsy Wetsy’ would even aid in legal precedent in patent law that human functions could not be patented – right? The concept would crossover into another huge play doll of the 20th century, Tiny Tears.

I pee.

I pee.

What makes this such a milestone in the doll world was how it firmly established a child’s plaything into a gender-defining teacher for the masses, one that would continue with dolls well into the 1950s and beyond, only recently being seriously challenged by critics. Now that is taking the piss

This ad just makes me laugh...

This ad just makes me laugh…

5. Plastic – Development of porcelain and plastic made doll manufacture a reality, but plastic didn’t require firing, or pain-staking finishing – and it was (and still is) durable. Plastics are inexpensive for profit purposes, and when you consider that it is present in almost every conceivable part of a doll and its packaging today (even silk dresses largely use a poly-blend thread in their construction), living without it is simply inconceivable.

Yup - it's plastic.

Yup – it’s plastic.

Even the resin purists in their anime worlds cannot argue this point – for what is resin anyway? Yup…it’s plastic. Silkstone is plastic. Rubber (today anyway) is plastic. Porcelite (whatever the hell that shit is) is plastic. While you sit pondering the universe and its mysteries…just try to think of a world without corn or plastic. Wait…aren’t they the same thing? Well, not yet anyway…

Probably not made in Japan.

Probably not made in Japan.

6. World Wars – Europe was pretty much the center for doll making prior to World War I, and when that little conflict screwed over everyone, doll production shifted to the United States – and really…in a much bigger and badder way – you see, we Americans don’t do anything lightly (except help to screw up the world). And with plastics now becoming the material of choice, America would regurgitate many manufactured dolls into our planet to give us our vintage plastic nirvana. That is until World War II, when Americans decided they didn’t want to do production line work anymore. So they took shattered Japan and set them up with Dr. Deming – the results led to the destruction of factory manufacture in the U.S. and the rise of the Far East production phenom now currently being dominated by China and India. Stupid war

Maggie Rouff getting it on for the War...

Maggie Rouff getting it on for the War…

7. Fashion – Without fashion (which I have discussed at great lengths here), dolls really wouldn’t matter. Dolls and fashion have always been a dynamic duo, but it wasn’t until the 1950s when Madame Alexander introduced Cissy (with a fully formed adult bust and high-heel feet) that the term ‘fashion’ when paired with ‘doll’ would create a uniquely powerful change in dolls as people knew them. I still find it funny that adults were outraged by Dy-Dee Baby’s ability to piss itself, and yet the beauty of the female figure bothered them even more, thanks in part to Cissy – but firmly established with the arrival of Barbie. As fashions change, so do the dolls – and by today’s standards, the more detail in miniature the better.

It's about the clothes, silly...

It’s about the clothes, silly…

8. Scale – Size matters, but not always like you pervs might think. A doll’s scale to the human form has long been the way to identify dolls, and as such, by the time fashion dolls were introduced in the 50’s, they kinda went all over the place, ranging from 8 inches to 22 inches (or more). But it was Barbie that challenged that proportion in both height and proportion to create a toy doll scale that would reign supreme as the standard in toy doll sizes. Oh yes, challengers came along, most notably tiny Dawn, who was popular in her own right – Chatty Cathy, a popular child doll, was enormous! But none of them could break the Barbie 11.5 inch/1:6 scale realm.

"But I wanted a Barbie"

“But I wanted a Barbie”

That was until it would happen once more as a challenger entered the arena – one that barely even had Barbie in her sights. Gene Marshall stood at 16 inches tall, and like Barbie to a child’s hand, Gene sat perfectly in an adult’s hand. A handful of dolls would come along in different sizes, perhaps the most interesting and appealing was Tonner’s Kitty Collier (18 inches) and Tiny Kitty (10 inches) – but none of them made a single scratch in what would become the new norm for the adult’s collectible fashion doll.

MICRODIVA

MICRODIVA

The folks over at Microdiva have quite an interesting and wonderfully realized tiny fashion doll in her diminutive 7-inch height – but I am not seeing the wide appeal in that scale like we saw in Barbie, and subsequently Gene. Today, it’s hard to imagine a fashion doll outside Barbie’s world in anything other than 16 inches…and the truly interesting point to all of this is that it’s unlikely you will see it again. Why, you ask? Because in today’s doll market, size compatibility is fairly important, despite the whole range of boob and waist sizes you see out there – no one is willing to take the risk to invest in a truly revolutionary size – it just cost too much. With that being said, doll makers are playing with proportions to vary their products in new and interesting ways – so I’d be happy to be wrong here.

Sixteen inches of fun!

Sixteen inches of fun!

9. The Doll Store – Before malls and the internet, there were lovely little things called shops. These little stores were usually run by a friendly couple, and their inventory consisted of like-themed items in one comprehensive assortment. There were toy stores, drug stores, ladies fashion stores, men’s apparel stores, hardware stores, and grocery stores. Once again, from the unique and domineering mind of the Americans, some dick decided it would be great to have everything in one place to make shopping more convenient – and then some of those people got on the internet bandwagon and decided Americans were just too busy to leave their recliners and cheese puffs while watching Judge Judy, that they decided to sell it all on the internet at a discount. The world caught on, and the doll store’s fate was finally sealed if it had already survived the rise of the malls. Some still exist to this day, but not like they used to be – and you will never see them like that again.

Now that's a doll store...

Now that’s a doll store…

Wow…what a downer…but it is true. Before the ascension of the collectible doll, towns had little toy and/or doll shops – a place dedicated to play. You could browse these places, spending the whole afternoon falling in love over and over again. With the coming of more widespread department stores, you still had a doll department to enjoy. But just prior to the dot.com bubble popped – as Gene Marshall entered the market – and Beanie Babies were driving everyone crazy with their resale prices heard on the 6 o’clock news – we saw a wonderful rise in doll stores across America. These places were magical, and the entertainment usually came in varied forms like a lively owner, an artist signing, or a doll club meeting, etcetera.

Doll store events...

Doll store fun…

What the doll store did for dolls was undeniable. Seeing these little gems in person could easily prompt even the most somber of prudes into a glowing ball of playfulness. Finding the right outfit for your girl, or dreaming big over that doll house in the window – the visual impact of experiencing a doll cannot be matched in any other experience – and when the doll is new, or a personal favorite, therein lies the most emotional and personal of moments – when you connect with that doll. Looking at two-dimensional images can invoke a frothy experience in your heart, but nothing compares to seeing the doll in person, because your mind and senses want more. That is what the doll store imparted – that is what few can still enjoy today – and who knows about tomorrow? We’ll probably be playing with virtual dolls, because we don’t have the space anymore. You think I’m kidding here, right? No. It’s only a matter of time before technology replaces the ‘in person’ experience altogether with virtual dolls with endless wardrobes, and a digitally rendered room we can meet our online friends and bitch about pixelated head sizes.

What...no bra?

What…no bra?

10. Women’s Liberation – I am actually for women’s (and anyone’s) equal rights – as long as they don’t drag Barbie into it. Bitch, I am tired of your using Barbie to castrate the male-dominated corporate cosmos. That being said, with women’s liberation rising to its history-making pinnacle in the late 1960s and 1970s, you can also thank the movement for many interesting changes in dolls and the at-large view of dolls.

One less accessory to deal with...

One less accessory to deal with…

If it weren’t for the brave women who pioneered equality for women, we would have never seen such thought-provoking concepts come into play. Barbie for President – really? Giggle all you want, but that simple concept resonates strongly with little girls (and boys) that their role model can run this country instead of her boyfriend, Ken. Of course, there have also been body changes, facial changes, and color-infused nightmares of pink and lavender, of which many activists sought to replace. Good or bad, the elevated voice of women in politics and business created a new mindset in children’s toys, including dolls.

How much did her wardrobe cost?

How much did her wardrobe cost?

And as annoying as they and many other well-minded activists are, they stand for change – and change is good, because it brings evolution. Despite many women’s groups hating the fashion industry, we can all agree that the visual world is a happier place for it. Now if we could just convince the Walmart shoppers to acknowledge fashion – we might even see a change in that product mix, too.

Matchy-matchy!

Matchy-matchy!

11. The Celebrity – no, no – not graven images – you’re not worshipping them – or are you? Think about what it means to be a celebrity – an occupation that relies solely on the public’s adoration and – dare I say it – worship? Even past cultures have had their celebrities – Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Susan B. Anthony (though not as glamorous, there were dolls made of her). Whether it be a religious figure or one engorged with noble blood, the famous and infamous have found his/her way into a sculptor’s mind and hands to create a doll.

Susan B by Effanbee

Susan B by Effanbee

The phenomenon created by the celebrity doll is almost as old as the doll itself. Perhaps the most famous of celebrity dolls based on the charming likeness of Shirley Temple can be attributed to the rise and fall of doll companies, much in the same way The Virgin Mary does in Catholic gift shops. Today, companies turn to them to boost their brands and repainters craft their likenesses in miniature. There’s no denying that without them, many dolls would be much less interesting.

supermary

12. Television – Through the use of mass appeal, the idiot box has catapulted dolls into our living rooms since the 1950s in advertising and content-related programming. The Saturday morning ad assault alone was enough to make your head spin, but when you added dolls based on popular children’s shows (or those programs created solely as a means to sell a toy), the resulting invasion into children’s minds in the days before a birthday or Christmas could be nerve-shattering. Thanks, Madison Avenue – we have another reason to spank our kids.

Truly.

Truly.

But dolls weren’t limited to just weekend cartoons – companies like Mego and Hasbro were popularizing prime time characters like Wonder Woman, Sonny & Cher, and Farrah Fawcett to combine celebrity and fictional characters into a whole different subset. Many felt this had gone too far when All in the Family’s sweet little infant, Joey, was made into a doll – not just any doll…but the first commercially produced baby doll with a – wait for it – penis. ‘Cause yeah – little boys have those. Ahhh – the power of television.

But Daddy, I want it now!

But Daddy, I want it now!

13. The Action Figure – In and of themselves, action figures really had only two influential impacts on dolls, and they were big. The first and most simple was that action figures were dolls, but makers refused to use the moniker because ‘boys don’t play with dolls.’ Much like the women’s liberation movement, the invention of the doll for boys created just as much damage to poor little children confused over what gender his or her toy was trying to project. Of course, the children never give it any thought – it’s usually some parent who thinks a Barbie will make your son confused. I never really knew anyone who thought G.I. Joe would make a girl lesbian. To each her own, I suppose…

Full of action...

Full of confusion…

Action figures wouldn’t make any real impact on dolls until the search for hyper-articulation grew as a desired feature. Many doll makers obsessively studied the jointing, wondering how they could accomplish the same thing within their tiny development budgets (with the exception of the big toy makers, of course). Resin sky-rocketed as a medium in making such dolls, but many found that in order to successfully re-create such jointing in resin, a great deal of finishing would be required to make the joint work – and even then, they didn’t have the durability that plastic did.

Much better...

Much better…

Both doll and action figure industry professionals are constantly looking at each other to create the perfect hybrid of doll and action figure, but this is theoretically improbable seeing as action figures are dolls – that, and the huge volume of male collectors that buy action figures just want big boobs with good detail. Therefore, you won’t be seeing very many female action figures in visually interesting, thought-provoking, cutting edge fashion. There’s only so much you can do with a triple D cup – and it takes way too much fabric.

Drape these, designers...

Drape these, designers…

14. Direct-to-Consumer Marketing – In the 1980s and 1990s, companies like Ashton-Drake, The Franklin Mint, The Danbury Mint, and many others were creating dolls that were marketed directly to households via means of print catalogs. These companies sold all kinds of collectibles, too – and in their bold and deceptive marketing, they convinced millions of potential buyers that their collectibles were actually worth something – not just now, but in the long-run, too (see below).

Three in one...

Three in one…

As the doll industry pathetically wandered out of the 1980s, these companies continued into the 1990s offering celebrities, royalty, sleeping babies, fairy tale heroines, Native American goddesses – you name it. You can dislike their products all you want, but what they did for dolls is irrefutable – they increased the public awareness and perception of the collectible doll. Hell, I could almost argue that they created the ‘collectible’ doll, because their efforts revitalized a sagging market populated by vintage Barbie (not so ‘vintage’ in the 80s), Madame Alexander ‘don’t-touch-me’ heirlooms for your great, great grandchildren, or happy-go-lucky companies like Effanbee that made some of the worst celebrity dolls ever (and the funny thing was – they sold – largely because there was little else available).

You heard me...

You heard me…

The direct marketing companies changed all that by offering beautifully photographed advertisements ad nauseum in every ladies’ journal, weekend Parade Magazine, and gossip rag across the United States. They offered convenient monthly payments, and they implied heavily that the value of these dolls would increase over time. Say what you want to (and I have) about deceptive marketing techniques, but the impact these companies had on the public’s views on beautiful dolls was changed. As we will see in the next item, these dolls’ failure to return on investment would have a similar impact on dolls – though not as positive.

Obviously a hair piece...

Obviously a hair piece…

15. Investment – As the direct marketing companies continued to scam American buyers of the ‘value ‘ of their collectibles, the outrageous resale value of Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids hit the evening news, and madness ensued. People paid thousands of dollars for a cheap bean bag teddy bear that was emblazoned with an embroidered heart to commemorate the death of Princess Diana – people remembered how customers fought for Holiday Barbie or Cabbage Patch Kids during the holidays – and when little Elmo urged us all to tickle him, some did so all the way to the hospital, but still holding that electronically vibrating Muppet. And while people planned shrewdly about their next acquisitions due to the newly announced Gene Marshall retirements – eBay was lubing you all up for one of the greatest cluster fucks in all of commerce history – the online auction.

pdianabeanie

It even actually worked for a while until the dot-com crash – and people finally started to learn they’d been taken – and in a big way – that none of these ‘collectibles’ was going to ‘put your kids through college’. Doll retailers who invested heavily in the Ashton-Drake, Enesco, etc. business model (more affectionately known as the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers – or NALED) tanked, some almost overnight. Dealers such as these were hit hardest because they hoarded ‘retired’ dolls and placed them for sale in print advertisements where they could dupe buyers into believing the rarity and value – not to mention implying they only had one or two – when they, in fact, had dozens.

Still worthless.

Let’s paint some light…

The fall of these deceptive practices and the rise of eBay, where people found nothing sold for very much, changed the collector’s perception about investment collecting. Those that became collectors for the sole purpose of investment disappeared entirely. I personally feel it was one of the ugliest periods in doll collecting history because of how if affected the public perception of dolls. I can only hope someone’s building a new level of hell for these people.

dollhell

16. The Doll Magazine – There was a time when doll magazines were thick and full, much like a whopping issue of Vogue, crammed with images, news and information about dolls and advertising. Yes, the ads were largely placed by the direct-sell companies. But there was no denying that special moment when you saw the varied covers on magazine stands, or waited eagerly to receive your copy in the mail.

dollreader1

The doll publications were the voice of the doll industry, and like all other print media that revolved around a common subject matter, this is where you turned to learn all that subject had to offer. Magazines changed the doll world because they were the only place one could turn for information, except the doll store if you had one nearby. This isn’t the same as receiving those Christmas catalogs, dreaming of toys when you were a kid. These collective resources of eye candy and news could make a Sunday afternoon melt away ensconced in dolls and pretty.

contdoll

They still exist today, and heroic efforts are being made to keep them relevant and worthy of their subject matter. Despite efforts to stay current in the digital age, woven with companies increased ability to sell directly via their own resources, they struggle to compete and remain germane. Those of you reading this blog on a digital tablet probably don’t understand the sublime simplicity of flipping through the glossy pages of a good doll magazine – unless of course, you have a good internet connection.

bbazaar

17. Far East Manufacturing – this impact on dolls pretty much goes without saying, because we see news of it every day as domestic companies fail due to excessive outsourcing of labor from China, India, Malaysia and elsewhere in the Far East. The attraction began in the 1990’s when even the smallest of doll companies could contract with an oversea manufacturer to reduce costs and increase developmental budget and profitability. But labor in China isn’t so cheap anymore – that with varying transportation fuel prices and petroleum needed for plastics – well – that reality is only going to worsen. Hmmmm…how novel to think we could actually bring manufacturing back to America, but few businesses have the financial means to establish such an operation, and those that do have stockholders to appease.

Thanks for nothing...

Thanks for nothing…

18. Horror – Horror as a form of entertainment mystifies me. I mean, I enjoy a good thriller, and if it has a great storyline with excellent acting talent, who can walk away from a good old scary story? Right? Films like Jaws and Alien touch a nerve in their suspenseful storytelling where you have to imagine screams no one can hear because you’re under water or in space. I remember seeing these movies, thinking how terrifying the monsters were – much more so than that lame Dracula or Frankenstein – even The Fly (the original) was just too goofy for me.

What, no clothes?

What, no clothes?

As monster films scared audiences everywhere – another style of horror film took hold – the slasher film. Friday The 13th and Silent Scream set an entirely new standard for shock value horror. Good storytelling was no longer needed as long as you had pretty girls, a decent make-up artist, and ‘dead’ bodies to throw at the screen when you least suspected it. I don’t know about you, but that’s just not the way I like to be scared. Even a good old-fashioned slasher film like Psycho captured you in a story with remarkable cinematography – and left loads to your imagination without showing you guts and gore. I have a good imagination, so I was scared shitless. But this new genre left little to the imagination with thin plot lines and buckets of fake blood.

Did I leave the door unlocked?

I forgot to condition…

And so it came to pass we were all introduced to Child’s Play, and dolls would never be the same. Many of us had already seen Talky Tina and Trilogy of Terror, but these stories were isolated in their uniqueness, and ran with a feeling that dolls and horror didn’t really mix at all. Not with Chucky – nope – he came fully accessorized with murderer possession, and he had all the slashing tools, too. He became a successful film franchise, and today people still refer to Chucky when it comes to general conversation about dolls and horror.

Bitch.

Bitch.

But aside from Chucky, there have been plenty combinations of dolls and horror that fed the ‘dolls are creepy’ stereotype (Voodoo dolls, anyone?). I suppose it’s because dolls are representations of human beings that draws us so close to them – I have yet to see a Hula Hoop possessed by Satan, and it takes out half the village in one scream-filled night of terror. But I still find it sad that non-doll people cling to such negatives as are portrayed in horror and critics of Barbie’s impossible boobs. Maybe they really like dolls, but are afraid to admit it – who knows? But when you analyze the impact of horror on the world of dolls, you cannot escape the sobering fact that it has been tremendous.

Oh crap...

Oh crap…

19. Technology – By technology, I typically am referring to engineering, and not so much of the Internet (see below) – but in the 20th century alone, technological advances in everything from machine tools, doll parts, mold making and materials have changed dolls significantly. When you combine the manufacturing of a doll to the digital technologies of 3-D scanning, you can easily see where efficiency is created, and previous renderings are outdated with almost lightning speed. Even the doll artist is able to take advantage of technological advances, allowing them to pour resin in their own homes without toxic side-effects, or maintain their own kiln without torching the entire house.

Listen to friends through her navel - talk to them through her butt!

Listen to friends through her navel – talk to them through her butt!

20. The Collective – You will be assimilated – resistance is futile. I don’t really know any loner doll collectors. In some way, shape or form, they want to gather in doll clubs, conventions, dolly play dates – you name it – they only need an excuse. The gathering of collectors to celebrate the dolls they love has early origins in the 20th century; however, the popularity of such collective groups has seen a much wider reach with the Internet. That being said, this is not about social media and chat boards – dolls are best celebrated in the flesh; because much like the dolls, collectors enjoy celebrating each other, too.

You taste like vinyl...

You taste like vinyl…

Collector clubs, whether they be private organizations, or those sponsored by a doll maker have been around for over 50 years – and as a collective, they have had strong influences over doll makers as they grew in numbers. Madame Alexander’s Doll Club is independent of the company, and it now actually works directly with the company forci…um, recommending the company incorporate their wants and desires in its new dolls. Despite the fact that they are not the only buyers of Madame Alexander dolls – they do make up a collective of significant revenue.

LOVE IS IN THE DETAILS!

LOVE IS IN THE DETAILS!

This is exactly where the collective has changed the doll world: as a combined voice that can directly influence the financial success of any doll maker. Internet chat boards don’t make a significant collective because not all people there like the same things – interests are too broad. Collectors who will spend hundreds of dollars to attend your private function can be considered a collective because they have more conviction to pay that kind of money and travel to another city just to enjoy your product. People who pay an annual fee to join your club and buy your exclusive product can also be considered a true collective because they put their money where their mouths are.

Just add fire!

Just add fire!

Tonner sponsored its own doll club for years – squeezing it out of the Betsy McCall collectors, and building it through the more popular fashion doll, Tyler Wentworth, to make a direct marketing resource. It discontinued in the mid-2000s, presumably because it failed as a revenue maker. It’s likely the club wasn’t needed anymore because of advantages gained via the Internet. Combine this with the company’s self-sponsored convention and participation in other doll events, one would think Robert Tonner had a direct tap to his collective. However, recent years suggest a decline of popularity for the doll maker – possibly from a lack of focus on its collectors because of too broad a product line, or fans’ decreased perception in the value of Tonner dolls. The Collective has to be entertained and pleased – or at least baffled with bullshit. When a company reaches into many product directions, yearning to make it big in one of them, but showing consistency in none – well, people bore easily. And just like the fashion industry, you’re only as good as your last hit…so says the Collective.

Now that's some baffling bullshit...

Now that’s some baffling bullshit…

21. The Artist – Oh my…those creative little buggers who paint, sew, sculpt and all that jazz…what a conundrum you are! Some of you have advanced to the level of making your own doll and selling them successfully to the public. Others prefer to stick to one specialized skill, such as repainting, and mastering the art. Still others sculpt dolls, but don’t actually manufacture any?! What? Such a crazy bunch…

What's on your mind, huh?

What’s on your mind?

In the final decades of the 20th century, dolls have been more impacted by the artist than perhaps any other influence. Before, artists were simply employees or contracted individuals – it was all business. Sculptors, designers, painters, sewers – all skilled workers making a doll together. Today, the artist is held in much more esteem. This fashion was designed by Robert Best, that doll was sculpted by Helen Kish, that face was painted by Sherry Miller – the new millennium now somehow knows who did what. And that’s a good thing, because today’s discriminating collectors identify with a particular artist, and they follow them much in the same way collectors follow Maggie Iacono, The Popovy Sisters, Superdoll and other fellow doll artists.

Why are we following this kid, again?

Why are we following this kid, again?

Artists fascinate (and annoy) non-creative people. Watching an artist evolve over a period of time can be a celebratory adventure leaving extraordinary art in its wake. Yes, there are instances where the collective of artists brought a bit too much to the brand, such as the Gene Team – but what they did under the unified name of Gene Marshall was fashion doll brilliance.

Just dress me already, will ya?

Just dress me already, will ya?

22. The InternetSocial media to be more current, but you must also include online retailing and auctions, email, and the personal website into all the Internet contributed to change in the doll world. And it’s really easy to see why – everyone who has a computer is a potential customer – not just the doll people who live within a 2 hour radius from your store by car, not just the local doll club with 100 members, and not just the people who attend your events – but all of them – all over the world. Yeah – that’s what the Internet brings.

Yeah...us.

Yeah…us.

Social media has created all types of collectives the world over that can share their doll loves and hates, images, creations, parties – bringing a much more visible aspect to doll collecting than ever before – and who knows exactly what it will bring next? You may get bored with MySpace and move to Facebook – think Facebook is too old for you and hit Instagram, but you still need the Internet to get there – and the dolls will be found wherever you go.

Ready or not...!!!

Ready or not…!!!

23. The Gay Mafia – Not the real Gay Mafia, mind you – but the ones who hide behind the champions for equal rights while exerting a discriminating influence over those that aren’t them. Yes, they do exist – I’ve observed them directly, seen them in action, was once actually a part of an unofficial chapter in Washington, DC. These are the men and women, who also happen to be gay (it’s not because they are gay), who infiltrate entertainment, politics, religion, fashion, dolls and toys – they are everywhere. They sometimes have misguided opinions about how norms should be installed (such as Hollywood – what the hell is going on there?) – but know this – they do exist, and their hand’s reach is wide.

Fighting for their rights...

Fighting for their rights…

For the doll world, the Gay Mafia has caused widespread change that affects business, design and affiliations – I’d tell you more about this, but I’d have to knock you down with attitude and re-do your hair (killing is so messy, really).

We do hair!

We do hair!

Yes, they are activists for equal rights – but they have evolved into so much more than that. They are mostly wealthy people, firmly established in their community and businesses, and many do not like anything that challenges what they consider to be appropriate in style or behavior – a new breed of Stepford Queers, if you will. If you don’t fall within the prescribed mold, then you will leave the runway, darling. They connect with other members in other industries to make things happen – what used to be called connections – but today, they reach deeply into areas that involve decision making at its very core. When they’re good, they’re good…but when they’re bad, they are not always better.

Dorothy, who?

Dorothy, who?

24. Fantasy Genres – Never has an ambiguous barrage of design style ever so invaded and captured the doll world with visual wonder than that of the fantasy genre. Before the rise of the doll artist, dolls were pretty much all part of the same dolly-verse – teen fashion queens, perky little girls in polka dot dresses, babies that pee. They all existed within the same dimensional plane with like-creatures of the same planet – humans. Gradually, things began to change – and the one genre that really headlines this category is anime. Rising from the anime influence, a whole new spawn of human-like and non-human dolls came forth. Interject fantasy-extreme design styles such as goth, Middle Earth, or steampunk, and you push dolls beyond the limit of human norm.

Dollmore Trinity Doll Jude

Dollmore Trinity Doll Jude

One can always argue the changing proportions in bodies or facial features follows this track, but they really don’t – they are only exaggerations of the same creature. Fantasy themes move beyond those established in a human’s world, bringing us faeries, mermaids, angels, sorcerers and their apprentices, and babies who pee fire. This is a world of Disney Princess meets Hellraiser, where Wendy and Brian Froud make Muppets you’d only see in your nightmares, and home to vampires who don’t sparkle.

Such a pinhead...

Such a pinhead…

The boundaries are limitless when it comes to the fantasy genre, and once it slammed its foot into the doll world, it never looked back.

Enchanted Dolls – Marina Bychkova (image sourced from Tumblr alicemurphy)

Enchanted Dolls – Marina Bychkova (image sourced from Tumblr alicemurphy)

25. Digital Photography – I didn’t include this in Technology, because photography has always played a key role in modern dolls as a stand-alone influence on change in the doll world – but when the technology fairy-dropped digital cameras into our hands – everyone became a photographer. Add Photoshop, and honey, you could create virtual worlds that were cumbersome and expensive to accomplish in print…

Another time and place...

Another time and place…

Never before was it possible for collectors to share, like and flame images of their favorite dolls. So much so, that many got quite good at it, too – creating an entirely unique form of dolly play. All dolls lay claim to the benefits of digital photography whether it be showing off an original design, advertising to customers, telling a story, proving authenticity, you name it. The ease and convenience of digital photography has transformed the way we see our dolls in a two-dimensional format – albeit confusing and frequently misleading simply because of its lack of a third dimension. Nevertheless, the technological capture and manipulation of light and color is pretty fucking awesome.

That IS awesome...

Don’t you agree, Angels?

3 thoughts on “The Top 25 Things That Changed Dolls…

    • There’s Haute Doll, Dolls and FDQ…there are some digital magazines that are worth a look. Jones Publishing bought Haute Doll and now they do both Dolls and HD…

My blog is satire, but your thoughts are welcome!

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