Madra Lord

The famous Hollywood icon – known for her beauty, feared for her temper – was recently seen in Venice.

Ashton Drake Unsung Melody Madra, wearing an outfit from Madame Alexander´s Alex line.

Sad news: Joe Tai

Yesterday, I learned on Prego doll board that Joe Tai has passed on September 17. He lost the battle with liver cancer. He was  two years younger than me.

Joe Tai was born in 1972 in Shanghai, but grew up in Taipeh, Taiwan. He was interested in dolls since he his childhood. He got his first doll when he was 9 years old.

He bought his first collectible Barbie in 1999 and soon after, became well-known as a customizer and repaint artist of Barbie dolls, winning several renowned doll makeover contests. You can see some of his OOAK dolls here:

http://www.rebeccachulew.com/joetai/joetai.html

The lack of quality accessories for his custom dolls inspired him to make some,  and from 2003, he also made these for sale.  He soon became very popular for high-quality scale shoes and fashions.

The release of  TylerWentworth and some other 16″ dolls inspired Joe Tai to work on his own doll line.  Joe Tai quit the customizing scene and started to work on his own doll line, although it would take several years until his 16″ doll, and even the 12″ version would be released. He revised many times and even discarded two finished sculpts.

Finally, in 2005, his first 12″ doll was released: Ingrid, named after Ingrid Bergman, her facial sculpt bearing a distinct similarity to Joe´s own features. So, in a way, Ingrid is his “daughter”.

She was made of a special porcelain-like vinyl, similar to Mattel´s “silkstone” and had straight arms and legs. In 2006, Ingrid would get two friends with different sculpts – Brigitte and En – and a multi-jointed, highly articulated body. The picture shows one of the first Ingrid releases that no longer lives here.

In 2008, the 16″ doll was finally ready. Initially named “Lara”, she was released as “Jo”, and her sculpt was a scaled-up version of Ingrid´s.  

Joe´s company is tiny. Established in 2004, he is working with approx. 20 artists who paint, craft and sew. Everything is done by hand, these dolls are not mass-produced. Each release is limited to a few hundred or less. We do not know yet what will happen with the company and the molds, now that Joe is gone. Perhaps his heirs will continue production, so that his legacy will stay around. 

Here is a 2006  interview with Joe Tai:  http://www.giorgiaclub.com/BarbieSite/JoeTai_mall/joetai_interview.htm

http://www.joetaidoll.com/JoeTaiDoll.htm

Fashion Boulevard – Christina and Felice

Fashion Boulevard has a very good name for producing well-made and reasonably priced outfits for 12″ and 16″ dolls. But they also have their own line of dolls.

The first incarnations

Christina St Clair was first introduced at IDEX 2001. Check out pictures here: http://lareba.com/idhs.htm

Under the aegis of Doris Mixon, several doll artists participated in her creation that were already famous as customizers, repaint artists and/or designers for Gene and Tyler.

This is what the box credits say: 

“FASHION BOULEVARD Presents Christina St Clair In “California Sun” By Doris Mixon, FB PResident

Fashion Blvd http://www.Fashion-Boulevard.com 11170 Spanish Hills Dr. Corona, CA 92883 909-277-4529 Christina’s Story

Christina Sculptress Helen Skinner

Christina Face Painter Debbie Sprouse

Designers: Harry Klein Charles Josef Anne Marie Burns Patricia Cronin James Bogue Elizabeth Rolins

 Introducing Christina St Clair

Christina was born into wealth and privilege, and lives in Beverly Hills, California. Her mother Cassandra Deomonte is a world famous actress and father Giles St. Clair a wealthy English businessman. Christina at a young age showed talent in art and sewing, and loved to design and sew for her many dolls. So after she graduated from high school, her parents sent her to the best design schools in Paris to learn fashion illustration and design. After graduating, Christina worked along side some of the top designers in their field, but she wanted to do something more with her talents. So in 1993 she and her sister Leah pooled their money and bought a small boutique called Fashion Boulevard from an older lady that was retiring and moved it to Beverly Hills. Christina soon built a reputation for her glamorous and elegant style and cutting edge fashions. So with Christina designing and Leah managing the boutique, it did quite well, especially with the rich and famous of the area. Eventually they were able to open boutiques in New York, Paris, Milan, and London. Christina also hired some of the world’s top designers to bring her wealthy and famous clients nothing but the finest in fabric and design. We invite you now to travel the world with Christina and enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

The first three dolls were issued in 2002: California Sun (auburn hair), April Violets (raven) and Shopping Elegance (golden blonde).

They had straight arms and legs and were made of a heavy, sturdy vinyl.

Unfortunately, there were some troubles in manufacturing. Some dolls came without eyelashes, and Doris related in one doll board how she sat up all night glueing eyelashes to all the dolls that needed some. Also, two of the sample dolls for the facial screening arrived smudged at the factory, so there was only one sample to reproduce and all the dolls ended up with essentially the same facial screening (only with color variations). And although Deb Sprouse´s face-up was beautiful in the prototypes, in the production dolls it had lost detail. In short, the overall reception was lukewarm. People liked the outfits that came with the dolls, but few cared about the dolls themselves.

The same year, a second doll in the line was announced. Felice LaRouch was to be Christina´s “bad girl” friend, a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. She would have shared Christina´s sculpt with different facial screening. But the line was put on hold before Felice came out.

 

I regretted that since I had really liked her – the short-haired prototype reminded me of Brett Ashley from “The Sun Also Rises”.

 I was disappointed – until I realized that the Felice prototype shared Christina´s sculpt. I had originally only bought one Christina, California Sun, because it was priced lowest and reminded me of our trip to California, but had gotten the other two somewhat later at a fraction of the original cost. So I touched up the face of my April Violets Christina to recreate the Felice prototype for my own collection. While I was at it, I also touched up my Shopping Elegance (named Leah) to resemble the Christina prototype a bit more. California Sun remains original. I am quite fond of my trio.

The second incarnation

Some time later, the line was relaunched with completely new dolls. The new bodies were much lighter and had bendable knees, the heads were completely new, too. This time, Felice was issued first. Christina followed some time after.

The third incarnation

Yet some time later, around 2006, Felice (not sure about Christina) was offered on a ball-jointed resin body. The head was that of the vinyl doll and some people used the bodies with other fashion dolls.

The fourth incarnation

In 2007, a resin ball-jointed version of Christina was produced. There was now also a male doll in the line: Robert Bandacourt. Both were very limited.

Here´s an article about Doris Mixon and Fashion Boulevard.

http://www.dollsmagazine.com/fashion-dolls-ball-jointed-dolls/189-doris-mixon-fashion-boulevard.html

Palesa – A South African Princess

Back in 2000, the concept of 16″ fashion dolls really took off. Between 1995 and 1999, there had been only Mel Odom´s Gene. At Toy Fair 1999, Robert Tonner introduced Tyler Wentworth, but it would take until early 2000 till the first dolls were in shops. Then, in 2000, hell broke loose: Madame Alexander Doll Company followed suit with Alexandra Fairchild Ford, Jakks Pacific offered Elle, Susan Wakeen introduced her short-lived  but beautiful Eve line, Knickerbocker had the Mod British Birds Daisy and Willow, Effanbee had the first version of Brenda Starr (strung, and with different proportion than the Brenda Starr that was produced after Tonner had bought Effanbee). In 2001, Sandra Bilotto´s Butterfly Ring was introduced.

It is little known that in 2000, there was also a South African 16″ fashion doll introduced: Palesa.

As information on this doll is already hard to find, and some of the links no longer work, I am quoting what I can find in order to document and preserve it.

Palesa is the perfect companion

THERE’S a new girl in toyland. Her name is Palesa, the African Princess.

And she has been greeted in the few retail stores she occupies with right royal treatment.

The reason is that, for the first time, little black girls now have a choice of indentifying with “a beautiful black doll”.

That is how her creator, Anne Hoosen, describes her.

Palesa’s creation was a unique business idea.

When Hoosen was struck with an idea to make a doll with which her grandchild could identify four years ago, she had little knowledge of the production of toys.

But her desire for black girls to have dolls that reminded them of their own faces and lifestyles inspired her to achieve what some would have considered impossible.

Hoosen’s story is inspirational and sweet.

She was in the process of getting a divorce and, without any skills other than those of a housewife, she viewed her future very gloomily.

“I was out of touch with the commercial world and was not even computer literate,” she recalls.

By calling around and researching the toy industry in South Africa, some of the shocking and discouraging findings about our toy industry did not deter Hoosen from her goal.

Although toys generate more than R900 million rand annually in this country, the manufacturing is done largely overseas, with Asian countries producing up to 85 percent of the toys.

What chance did a single woman have against the might of the international companies and globalisation?

Hoosen equipped herself with business management skills and started knocking on the doors of financial institutions trying to sell her idea.

Initially it looked as if the doors would never open.

“I had to fight against the `black-doll-syndrome’ the perception that black dolls are ugly and scare kids, that children could not relate to them and therefore they would not sell in the market,” she says.

A R150 000 bank loan, guaranteed by a financial and development agency, gave her capital for a kick-start but producing the doll meant Hoosen had to do business in China.

Fate may be said to have played a role at that time, because her landlady introduced her to a Chinese woman with contacts back home.

This chance meeting made the next step possible.

After she had designed the features of her doll, using a picture of one of her three daughters, a trip to China followed to secure a manufacturing partner.

Armarsam Educational Toys, with the name derived from the initials of Hoosen and her three daughters, had already been registered in 1998.

Her grandchild’s name, Palesa, which means “flower” or “beautiful”, was a natural choice for the name of the doll.

“In China, identifying a manufacturer that could give us a good quality product was a priority,” says Hoosen.

Even though Palesa missed making a grand entrance into the local market by arriving too late to be promoted during last year’s festive season, Hoosen remembers December 1999 with special fondness.

“The day she touched down on African soil, I remember getting a call from a Durban shipment agent asking me about arrangements to transport her to Johannesburg.

“It was too late to sell her during the Christmas rush but I was so excited Christmas came a little early for me.”

Less than a year into the market, Palesa has already made waves by winning several awards, including the Toy of the Year award, at various trade fairs for toys.

A leading toy store, Toys R Us, has started placing regular orders with Hoosen at her Johannesburg North, Randpark Ridge home, which doubles as her office.

Although Hoosen’s enterprising venture has won her respect in business circles, manufacturing the doll overseas has posed several challenges. Because she has had to use Asian expertise, production costs have to be paid in American dollars. The weakness of the rand against the dollar means Palesa has to be sold at R99.

Like her equally expensive US rival, Barbie, she cannot be accessible to every little girl.

Hoosen’s other biggest challenge is what she calls “an institution called Barbie”.

Association with the already established Barbie means guilty by association in several respects.

Because Palesa’s looks and body shape is almost identical to Barbie, many assume that she is the black friend whom US toy company Mattel created for Barbie to target the black market.

Although hugely popular after more than 40 years in toy stores worldwide, Barbie has had her fair share of criticism.

The makers of the toy have been accused of promoting sexism, nationalism and racism while syphoning money from the unsuspecting public.

Feminists regularly attack the makers of dolls like Barbie for capitalising on commercialising a women’s body as a valuable commodity and encouraging stereotypes of gender roles for boys and girls through toys.

The dolls are also criticised for promoting looks over other important qualities.

Here at home, Hoosen also has to defend the way Palesa looks.

She often finds herself caught in the middle of the African beauty debate whether her nose is flat enough or her hips wide enough.

Unfazed by such comments, Hoosen says there will always be criticism about how Palesa looks.

It all depends on how different people interpret African beauty.

To overcome some of the problems and to respond to some of the criticism, Palesa’s 52 ranges include the latest ethnic collection depicting the doll dressed in various traditional outfits.

Although some of the dolls have the braided or dreadlocked look, Hoosen’s aim is for Palesa to have frizzled hair, instead of the straight long silky black tresses she is now sporting.

To complement the doll, Little Miss Palesa, which is the toddler version, will sell at a much cheaper price of R49 when she hits the shelves later this month.

“What I am trying to do is to create a choice so we are not forced to buy white and blue-eyed dolls and to present Palesa as a role model for young women by inspiring them to be someone.”

(http://152.111.1.87/argief/berigte/citypress/2000/10/01/22/1.html.)

The article does not mention that Palesa was a 16″ doll.

Some had beautiful braided hair, others had wild curls or soft waves. The most striking feature, however, was her wide smile with those bright, bright teeth. 

I came across the website by chance and, after some hesitation, picked two Palesa dolls and two outfits. One, dressed in a red gown, lives with my mum now and reminds her of her trip to South Africa some years ago. The other one, which came dressed in a black and gold cheongsam-style dress and evening coat, lives with me. One of the dresses was an orange and green gown, the other one a sweet white nightie. I remember the site offered a variety of  casual, glamorous and traditional outfits.

I don´t remember many details about the transaction but boy was it complicated transferring the money to South Africa (long before Paypal was established), and shipping was hell, of course, but Anne Hoosen was incredibly friendly in the e-mails we exchanged. Of course, I had no idea that she herself was the creator of the doll.

Now I just discovered that Anne Hoosen´s daughter Amanda was a contestant for the reality show “Survivor” in 2007.

Heat Magazine has unearthed an unexpected piece of Amanda trivia: the hard-nosed career woman’s visage was once used as a template for a doll!

It all began many years ago, when Amanda’s mother, Anne, decided to tap into the black doll market (that’s a market for black dolls, not a black market for dolls). She supplied a photo of little Amanda to her manufacturers as a template, but named the doll Palesa, after her first grandchild. Palesa comes in African Princess, College Graduate and AIDS Activist varieties.

This Friday, Amanda will be celebrating her 30th birthday with a fabulous bash at Jozi’s Catwalk Club in Fourways. We’re celebrating along with her… by giving away three Palesa dolls to loyal Amanda fans!” (Oct 4, 2007).

http://www.mnet.co.za/SurvivorII/news.asp?id=68

I am including this trivia mainly because the site features a picture of Amanda with a range of Palesa (and Little Miss Palesa) dolls, which is the only Palesa picture I was able to find on the net, and if you´re familiar with the dolls, the resemblance to Amanda is really striking . 

   “CITY PRESS                                                   6  FEBRUARY  2005     P26

  LIFESTYLE
  JOHANNESBURG FINAL 
  Battle of the dolls!

It’s a war of the dolls. After decades of dominating the market, Barbie faces a mid-life crisis as new brands and local dolls begin to shake her dominance. MAPULA SIBANDA reports

IS Barbie past her sell-by date? US sales of Barbie fell 15 percent in the first quarter last year, despite a stunt which saw her “breaking up” with her suitor of 43 years, Ken. That combined with other problems to see overall profits at the Barbie maker Mattel slump by 73 percent . Barbie is feeling the heat from rival brands such as the feisty “Bratz” dolls. South African sales of Bratz have exceeded expectations with 140 000 dolls sold last year.

Her bad performance domestically in the first three months of last year followed even worse figures in the last quarter of 2003, when sales fell by 25 percent. Global sales of the doll have also continued to fall, dropping 6 percent in the first quarter following a 5 percent drop in the one before.

Barbie’s career has encompassed hundreds of jobs, and her makers have striven to keep up with the latest trends. Barbie now uses computers and sends text messages on her mobile phone. A Barbie-branded range of designer clothes for girls and a branded perfume are also in the pipeline.

But Mattel’s attempts to keep pace with modern life have not always gone down well with customers. One letter to the New York Times following Barbie’s split from long-time partner Ken complained that “the breakup . . . discourages — even insults — permanence and commitment”.

The BBC’s Duncan Bartlett says Barbie continues to attract interest among adult collectors but the problem is getting children interested in her adventures. Meanwhile, Barbie has some hip new rivals on the scene. MGA Entertainment’s Bratz dolls come in a range of different ethnicities and boast fashions described as “totally dangerous, totally ferocious and totally funkadelic”.

The Bratz multi-ethnic identities fit well into an urban funk hip-hop world and their cool activity sets reflect an equally cool lifestyle. Marketing manager of Prima Toys, Tracy Diamond, describes the Bratz dolls as trendsetters: “All girls aspire to be like them. They are replicas of girls today and they dictate where the fashion is heading.”

They have won two Toy Industry Association, Toy of the Year awards, and figures suggest rising sales are eating directly into sales of Barbie. But analysts say with thought and investment Barbie could still have a future .

“It’s disappointing from a margin standpoint, but it’s clear Mattel’s priorities are to grow the top line and it’s going to take some money to do that,” Mark Foster, portfolio manager with Kirr Marbach Value Fund, told Reuters.

“We have a great deal of confidence in the management team. They’ll get it turned around, but it’s not a quick fix.”

But the manufacturers of Bratz are confident that, after nearly 50 years of dominance, Barbie’s time is up. “Bratz is not a fad,” Isaac Larian, MGA’s president and chief executive officer, told Los Angeles Daily News.

“This is the No 1 lifestyle brand for girls aged seven to 14. If we keep innovating, this brand will be around forever. Bratz is the truth, and Barbie isn’t anymore.”

Locally, many heaved a sigh of relief and appreciation when doll maker Anne Hoosen launched the “Palesa: Princess of Africa doll“. It was high time African young girls were affirmed by having their own images reflecting back to them when looking at a beautiful African doll named Palesa.

The excitement was beyond the cosmetic features of Palesa, which is a seSotho name meaning flower, but the confirmation that African beauty can be turned into a commercial success.

Rooted in the politics was the issue that young girls would now have a doll that represented a positive image about African beauty.

However, even locally it is still the US brands like Bratz and My Scene, a hiphop version of a doll also made by Barbie’s manufacturer, Mattel, that are slugging it out in the market. Mattel came up with My Scene to hold the competition that was eating away at their market share of Barbie, but it seems the latest declining sales of Barbie mean young girls are more fixated on the two competitors at Barbie’s expense.

Palesa is not even a notable player in this regard .

“I must concede that Palesa is not doing well locally (last year she sold a measly 1 000 units) because you have these old buyers who still believe that black dolls do not sell. As weird as it sounds the buyers say black girls don’t want black dolls, but how can they want anything else if they do not see our new products on the shelves.

“Go to any toy store and you will get two or three isles of a range of Barbies and you will be lucky to see a few Palesa dolls placed in some corner. We are still finding it very difficult to break through the retail market,” Hoosen said.

The strange aspect however, is whyMattel came up with an African ethnic version of Barbie called “Princess South Africa” when buyers insist black dolls do not sell. This version looks like Barbie smeared with soot but retains the same sharp features. The doll wears traditional outfits like IsiNdebele and IsiZulu — just like Hoosen’s Palesa ethnic range. It does not have to take Einstein to suspect that Barbie has not taken kindly to Palesa encroaching on her turf.

Hoosen believes Barbie’s monopoly in the doll market is shaken because the doll’s Beverly Hills 90210 little-rich-girl lifestyle is not a reality that most young girls today identify with. She said a little girl can buy only so many Barbies and that a choice of different dolls had begun to chip away at her dominance.

Her daugher Rogene, concurs that Barbie is stuck in a mid-life crisis. “Barbie is like Paris Hilton, but what is influencing young girls now has now changed. Their role models are now known for their achievements in business, sports and global politics, instead of their physical attributes.”

She said young girls surfed the internet, played sport and aspired for greatness with a different set of values. The hip-hop generation is far from the Stepford wives lifestyle projected by Barbie and that is how the makers of Bartz managed to get it right.

The CEO of Reggies/Toys-R-Us, Maurice Sacher, said he would not rule out Barbie yet. He said it was difficult to conclude if Barbie was facing trouble as the market went through various phases. He said Barbie was still a market leader and would remain dominant because of the commitment by its company to reinvent her further.

And now that she is single again after dumping boring old Ken, it remains to be seen what new possibilities are in store for Barbie.”

http://152.111.1.87/argief/berigte/citypress/2005/02/06/C1/26/01.html.

Out Loud: marketing SA’s answer to Barbie

17 October 2007

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South Africa’s attempt to address children’s low self-esteem and desire to be like Barbie has failed. The country launched Palesa a few years ago, but the full-figured black doll is not selling as well as expected, which suits marketers and the industry quite well, writes Matebello Motloung.

A friend of mine yesterday rocked up at the movies proudly wearing a t-shirt stating “Barbie is a b***h” across her 38DD breasts. While I don’t approve of the wording, I totally agree with the sentiments. The 50-something-year-old legend was a source of torment for us when we were small and continues to be one now that we have nieces who obsess over the doll.

Ask my four-year-old niece what she wants to be when she grows up and she will tell you that she wants to be Barbie – not Bibi or Mimi, the two chubby-looking black dolls she owns, one bald and the other with long braided hair (courtesy of moi). Miss-Thang also carries a Barbie back-pack to crèche, has Barbie clothes and even sleeps in Barbie pyjamas.

While we try not to fuel this obsession, it’s difficult as friends and family buy her Barbie items as gifts. When my sister protests, she’s told she is overreacting and that every child goes through this phase.
“Matebello, ke batla moriri wa ka otle so, le so,” (Matebello, I want my hair to be like this and like that) she would show me when I comb or plait her very kinky Afro do.
She doesn’t understand why she can’t have a fringe like Barbie or have her hair bounce around when she runs. Of course this is possible through hair relaxers but we feel she’s too young to be using chemicals. So for now, she’s stuck with her two kinky piggy-tails, and she seems to be content with that, at least for the moment.

We were watching the Tyra Banks show with my sister recently where children of different ethnicities under the age of five spoke about beauty, race and racism. At one point the children were asked to choose a doll which they think would make a perfect princess and they chose the white doll. Why? One black child said it’s because she has never seen a black princess before.

This was an eye opener because I’ve always thought children were colour-blind and this is why Barbie has such massive appeal. But obviously they aren’t, and I suspect marketers have known this all along and intentionally want to keep the status quo because doing otherwise would be too risky. What if sales fall? They just can’t afford to risk finding out and the market is not demanding this of them, so why bother?

And this is why we still have television adverts promoting the new Barbie, showing her with her new friends who include a black doll. I doubt if much effort has gone into marketing the black doll or whether children even know her name.
Despite South Africa’s history of activism where many people complain about their children being exposed to the Western image of beauty, they seldom bother to ask themselves why Barbie, in this age of interaction, still does not have an Indian or Coloured or Chinese friend.

And when faced with an option such as the Afro centric full-figured dark-skinned doll Palesa (meaning ‘flower) which was launched in SA a few years ago, they still choose to buy Barbie or her white-skinned counterparts.
I believe Palesa has not done well – selling a mere 1,000 units in 2005 as opposed to the Bratz’s 140,000 units locally – because marketers have succeeded in creating the type of consumer they want: one who is unquestioning and just goes with the hype, and parents are proof of their success.”

http://www.marketingweb.co.za/marketingweb/view/marketingweb/en/page71654?oid=95964&sn=Marketingweb%20detail

Those two articles tell the sad story that is the fate of so many dolls that offer an alternative to Barbie. 
At present, I have not found any indication that Palesa dolls are still around, although in August, 2009,someone named Sami commented on an article about Mattel´s AA So In Style line: “Not keen on black barbies coz they r still skinny!I’ll stick to the true african doll called Palesa!”
 
http://www.blackcelebkids.com/2009/08/20/so-in-style-barbies-perfect-for-barbie-collectors/

 

Buyer beware

Some years ago, I bought a Steffi Love mermaid doll by Simba. She had beautiful long hair in just the right shade of red to make a Ranma-chan custom. I repainted her face, but did not do anything to her hair except for braiding it. Now I just took this girl out of her box, and found that her hair fell of. Yep. Just like that. The fibres broke off where they came out of the head. This girl is bald now except for her bangs. While it gives her an interesting punk look, and she might be saved, this is not at all what should happen.

This is not the first time I bought a Simba product that I am not happy with. In fact, I own four Simba dolls, and three of those have problems: I bought an Evi (the Simba clone of Barbie´s little sister Kelly/Shelly) in a Japanese outfit to borrow her kimono for another doll,  and the kimono came apart at the seams and frayed almost immediately after I took it off and put it on an Orientdoll So Ji (which has now moved on). This outfit did not get handled or played with a lot, and considering that this is not a collectible one is not supposed to change, but a product made for children who usually give some wear and tear to their toys, this is not what should happen in a quality product.

Problem doll number three is a Tinkerbell I bought nude at a flea market. While this girl had been played with quite a bit, her main problem is one her former owner can´t be held accountable for: Her face is “sweating”, i.e. the vinyl is leaking plasticizer.

If sweating vinyl happens in a vintage doll, such as the 1961 Barbie dolls, or other dolls made in the 1950s and 1960s – I guess it has to be lived with. (Indeed it has, because there is really nothing you can do to stop or reverse the process.)  After all, I guess no manufacturer can be certain just how the vinyl will react over several decades, but as this is not a new problem, it should not happen with a contemporary doll , whether play doll or collectible, and especially not after only a few years.

Simba is not the only company whose dolls have this problem, though. Charles Roark mentions Barbie dolls made in Indonesia which get greasy:

http://www.dollstuff.net/diary/200903291

and I own both a Takara Jenny friend Flora (made in 1998) and an Igel Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon (also made around 1998, and the only Igel Sailor Moon doll that was actually cute) whose faces got greasy. I got replacements for both, and these are already starting to show the same problem (none of my other Jenny dolls does, though, knock on wood), and as if that wasn´t enough, Beryl´s legs also fell off. Grr!

The fourth Simba doll is an Ariel that a friend found forgotten on a bus and gave to me. I´m glad that this girl at least does not show any problems. PHEW!

My personal consequences: I will never buy a Simba doll again. My experience has convinced me that though their products are cheap, they are still overpriced given the quality.

I don´t think it´s likely that I will buy another Igel doll, my experience with Beryl was too sad, but as far as I know, the Sailor Moon dolls are their only 11″ vinyl dolls anyway, so they have nothing that could tempt me (except perhaps their Tuxedo Mask that looks delightfully like a gay Dracula, if I find him very very cheap).

Miss Piggy

I grew up with the Muppet show on TV, and Miss Piggy was and still is a favourite character of mine. I have been looking for a Miss Piggy doll for years but so far there was none that really was what I wanted…  and a lot of the Piggys out there are really bad likenesses.

My first Piggy was the vinyl figure from Bully that I had as a child. No idea where that ended up. At some point, I made a Piggy figure of my own from felt. She´s still at my parents´, next time I go there I´ll take a picture.

Then I found the Dakin Piggy from the 1980s at a garage sale a few years ago, and while the vinyl head is a decent likeness, she has a stuffed fabric body that I am aching to throw out as soon as I find a decent poseable body to replace it, and stringy, greasy hair. She does look a lot like the Fisher Price Piggys from the 1980s, which also have the vinyl head and fabric body, but she has a sewn-on pantsuit. If not for the Dakin tag, I would have guessed she was a Fisher Price one.

I really like the look of the Brass Key Piggy. She is 10″, and porcelain, and she can actually borrow some Barbie pieces. Which is just as well, since the Blythe gang stole her dress. There was also a 16″ porcelain Piggy from Brass Key.

I just recently won a nude 16″  Tonner Miss Piggy and she is just adorable! A good likeness, sturdy vinyl and while I would have liked her to have elbow and knee joints, at least her wigs can be exchanged so she can have many different looks.

Unfortunately, Tonner´s outfits for her are too expensive for my budget, and she has quite unique measurements so it´s not easy to dress this girl. At least, she doesn´t have as much of an  hourglass body shape as most other fashion dolls, she can borrow pieces from adult and child dolls alike, provided Piggy likes the style.

I am sharing my finds here, since I guess I´m not the only one facing that situation…

Shoes

Miss Piggy has large feet. She can just about share Cissy shoes – the vintage-style sandals with a solid sole and stretch ribbons work, but shoes with less leeway, that enclose Cissy´s foot tighter, very likely won´t. She can also share some of those trainers that you can get as keyrings (they also work well for Tonner´s men, MSDs and even some SDs).

Pants

Piggy´s waist and hip size is close to that of a Super Dollfie. Of course, her legs are a lot shorter, but she can borrow some shorts and skirts and can definitely shop in their lingerie department.

Tops

Piggy can borrow some SD-sized tops, although her arms are much shorter.

Patterns – tried and tested

I have enlarged Jo Barkley´s pattern from the Yahoo AnnEstelle group for a simple dress for Tonner´s 10″ Ann E. to 165% to make a 1950s-style day dress for Piggy. This works well, although the original pattern neckline ends up very close around the neck, so I modified it a little. The cut of the bodice would also make for a neat 1920s silhouette if combined with a straight shirt, not a wide one. I will have to try that soon.

Measurements

Chest: 22cm/8.7″

Waist 18.5cm/7.3″

Hips 23.5cm/9.3″

shoulder to wrist 11cm/4.3″

waist to ankle 18.5cm/7.3″

Sharing Guesstimate

Jugding from measurement comparison tables, Piggy might be able to share some pieces made for 20″ Miss Revlon (Miss R´s hips are smaller!), and 20″ Cissy (Cissy´s chest, waist and hips are smaller, so pieces that are too tightly fitted won´t work. Also, her arms and legs are longer), 18″ Sweet Sue and Crissy (their waist and hips are slightly smaller, so  pieces that are too tightly fitted won´t work. Also, her arms and legs are longer), 18″ Magic Attic and other slim vinyl child dolls (they are a bit wider in the chest, waist and hip area, but can be made to work; legs and arms are longer). Piggy´s measurements are also very close to those for 16″ Saucy Walker and Terri Lee, so their pieces ought to fit quite decently.

Here´s some of my calculations how pattern pieces can be enlarged or reduced to work for Piggy:

14″ Toni (chest: 125%, waist 110%, hips 120%, arms 110%, legs 100%).

14″ Betsy McCall (chest, hips 130%, waist 125%, arm and leg length remain the same.)

21″ Cissy (chest 105%, waist 120%, hips 110%, arms, legs 70%)

10″ Ann Estelle (chest, leg length 165%, hips 150%, waist 135%)

16″ Saucy (chest 95%, waist 75%, hips 95%, arms 88%, legs 90%)

22″ American Models (=Tyler Wentworth patterns enlarged to 138%) won´t work, the body shape is too different.

By the way, Ty´s Beanie Baby “Rascal” makes a perfect Foo-Foo.

Unfortunately, the dog came with a non-removeable big blue button on its butt, which has some connection to some online game crap I couldn´t care less about. At first I was dismayed, but then I figured out a way to remove that button after all without damaging the dog. I pried the blades of my scissors under the button “head” to cut off the stem. What remains is a small hole in the fur fabric, approx. 7mm (1/4″) in diameter, which is closed up  by the button stem. I just pulled up a bit of the fabric around it and secured it with a few stitches to cover the hole. It turned out to be easy, but really, Ty: I should not have had to do it.

Pics coming up when I´ve got time to take some.

In the meantime, here´s Piggy with Foo-Foo. And lots of Superman.

Azone Dolls

Azone International is a Japanese company who offers a wide variety of doll outfits and accessories and also their own line of dressed 1/3 and 1/6 scale dolls, featuring both anime or game characters and their own.

They first appeared on the scene in 1999. The  first years´ 1/6 dolls used the SAJ (Super Action Jenny) body by Takara as well as some Takara head sculpts, but with Azone´s individual facial screening. Around 2004, they also started to collaborate with Obitsu and some Azone dolls now have Obitsu sculpts and bodies as well.

       Azone´s main character and mascot is SAHRA (SAARA, SARA) who shares a head sculpt with Lycee, Maya and Mana. The main difference between the three is the eye shape: Sahra has simple, straight-forward-glancing, more roundish eyes than Lycee, whose upper lashes extend very softly outward and Maya´s eyes seem to be like Lycee´s but with slightly more detail in the upper lashes. Mana, with her side-glance, is the most easily distinguished but she is also the rarest of the four. Blank heads are being offered as Azone Doll Edit Head 01. There is also a 60cm version of this head which has been offered both as Sara and Lycee.

This website shows some nice close-ups: http://garden.egloos.com/10001776/post/16468

This is Sara Blue Curacao and Maya More than Today. The companion doll, More Than Yesterday, had a blue school uniform. Below is Mayumi, the first Doll Edit Head I painted. The eyes turned out a bit larger than I wanted them to.

 Azone Doll Edit Head 02 shares the sculpt of Takara´s Jenny friend Lina. Takara has also used this sculpt for several anime and games-related dolls such as the Fighting Vipers Honey, Mai Shiranui from Fatal Fury/King of Fighters, Kusanami Risa from Last Bronx, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chen from Virtua Fighter, celebrity dolls Puffy AmiYumi, Takarazuka star Yuuki Amami, et al.  It was used by Azone for Belinda the Tangerine Cat, Luke and Michiru the Cosplay Twins. The short-haired blonde is Luke, the raven-haired twin is Michiru. Also seen is Mai Shiranui.

Azone Doll Edit Head 03 shares the sculpt of Takara´s Jenny friends Kisara/Rie/Shion. Takara has also used this sculpt for Licca´s friend Charles and some movie, anime and games-related dolls such as Boogiepop and the Mothra twin fairies. Azone uses it for their doll Ai (Happy Clover).

Here´s a link which lists the different Takara head sculpts:  http://www.larraine.ca/takaraheadmolds.htm

   

Azone Doll Edit Head 04 is the sculpt used by Azone for their dolls Minako (who has appeared most frequently so far) (seen here in Kimono and as Blast of Wind), Yuuki, Suzuna, Nao, Reina and Katy (the blonde cheerleader), as well as gravure idol celebrity doll Yuuko Ogura (right).

Azone Doll Edit Head 05 is the very stylized sculpt used for their Pure Neemo line and Anemone.

After 2004, Azone has also used Obitsu sculpts for their dressed dolls.

ELENA One Mission (2005) uses the stylized anime-type F04 head (I am going by the numbers they have on the website of Parabox, the distributor). 

A3 LADY AN (2005) and Biohazard/Resident Evil Claire Redfield use either the Obitsu F01/F06 or F02 head (I am not quite sure as these are so similar in the pictures).

Since I haven´t found a website with an overview yet, here´s my attempt at a list of Azone dolls (which I´ll try to keep adding to); sorted by sculpt and year of issue.

SARA Premium Version (2000, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA Omoiataru Special 1 (2000, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA or LYCEE Sweet Lolita (200?, purple hair, greyish eyes)

SARA Black Sorceress (2002, white, green eyes)

SARA Omoiataru Special 2 (2002, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA One Mission (2002, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA in Cure Maid Cafe (2002, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA Cyber Tricks (2002, pink hair and eyes)

SARA Fairies of Darkness (2002, purple hair, blue eyes)

SARA Blue Grass Edition (2003, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA Brazillian Skies (2004, brownette, blue eyes)

SARA Azone One  Mission (2004, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA Virginity (2005 – blonde, closed eyes)

SARA Chinese Fantasy (2005 – pink hair and eyes)

SARA Blue Curacao (2005, tan skin, blonde, blue eyes)

SARA Montana Rubens (2005, auburn hair, blue eyes)

SARA Naturally (2005, blonde, blue eyes)

MAYA Cyber Tricks (2002, yellow hair and eyes)

MAYA Visit to UK (2003, blonde, brown eyes)

MAYA More than Today (2005, red hair with green eyes)

MAYA More than Yesterday

MAYA Chinese Fantasy (2005,yellow hair and eyes)

MAYA Cherry Kiss (2005, strawberry blonde, blue eyes)

MANA Sweet Mochachino (2005, brown hair and eyes)

LYCEE Kimono (2003, brown hair and eyes)

LYCEE Cyber Tricks (2003, blue hair and eyes)

LYCEE Love Impulse (2003, pink hair, brown eyes)

LYCEE Love Blitz (2003, pink hair, brown eyes)

LYCEE Combat Nurse (2003, wine red hair, grey eyes)

LYCEE Urban Camouflage (2003, wine red hair, grey eyes)

LYCEE Christmas: Amazing Grace (2003, blonde hair, blue eyes)

LYCEE Seduction (2004, brown hair and eyes)

LYCEE Cure Maid Cafe (2004, raven hair, grey eyes)

LYCEE Chinese Fantasy (2005, blue hair and eyes)

LYCEE Ocean Wind (2005, tan ski, brown hair, golden eyes)

LUKE and MICHIRU (1999)

BELINDA Tangerine Cat

AI Happy Clover

YUUKI Azone Premium Version (2000, red hair, green eyes)

MINAKO Fairies of Darkness

MINAKO Aoki Chihaya (2003, brown hair and eyes)

MINAKO Blast of Wind

MINAKO Kimono (2005, raven hair with purple eyes)

MINAKO Loco Island (tan)

CATY Fairies of Darkness (2002)

CATY Rocket Rabbits

NAO Incarnation of Gerbera (2005, brownette, greyish eyes?)

SUZUNA Dream of You

SUZUNA Fuukomeibu (Kimono, 2005, black hair, brown eyes)

YUUKO OGURA (2005)

ANEMONE Full Metal Prowess (2005)

ELENA Mission One (2005)

A3 Lady An (2005)

60CM

SARA60 Favorite Time (2004 brown hair and eyes)

SARA60 Kimono (2005, strawberry blone hair, blue eyes)

MAYA60 Heart of Gold 2004 (blonde short hair, brown eyes)

MAYA60 Wonderful Kiss 2005 (blonde, brown eyes)

MAYA60 Cherry Kiss 2005 (strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes)

LYCEE60 Premonition 2005 (brown hair and eyes)

LYCEE60 Seduction 2005 (brown hair and eyes)

KOTORI Pure Style 2005

To be added to! 🙂

Little Big Legless

Bummer! I decided to redress my Little Big Eyes doll today, and when I took off her stock outfit, one of her legs fell off.  It seems this is a common problem with these dolls. Until I´ve figured out a way to reattach the leg, it is held in place by a pair of bloomers. The Re-Ment Kimono looks awfully cute on her, though.

Little Big Eyes dolls were introduced in 2001. They are basically cheap Blythe clones, with the same oversized head and huge eyes that change color, only they do not have a pull-string but a button on the back of their head.  Their hair is coarser than Blythe´s and greasy until you wash it, and their facial sculpt is a bit crude, though these dolls can look very cute in their own right. I originally planned to customize mine but when she arrived I decided I like her as she is.

Since I haven´t photographed her yet, here´s a link to someone on flickr who has the same one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/topazcat/2195434447/

Custom Esme

This is a former Cover Girl Esme (2000) that I bought nude to customize. By the time I had painstakingly rerooted her, Tonner had issued a factory Esme with a similar hair tone and even hairstyle (so I could have saved myself all that work… grrr.) On the other hand, all that work I put into her made her special to me, and while she´s far from perfect, she still makes me proud.

I made her sheath from a Gene pattern in Dolls In Print magazine. The magazine was, sadly, short-lived but it contained one of my all-time favourite patterns.

And here´s Tonner´s Sumptuous Esme (2004). Not identical, but similar enough that I wouldn´t have re-rooted mine if Sumptous had been available when I started.

Kozy knit

Sunset Grille Alex in a sweater that I knit from a pattern in Faszination Fashion Doll.

Here´s Allie (Capital Investment Tyler, 2002) in the same sweater. The pants were also from a pattern in Faszination Fashion Doll.

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