Dolls Grow Up A Little For The Holidays

  • Toy dolls have undergone many changes over the years — from wooden to porcelain and plastic. From a doll you can only look at, to a doll you can play with and dress up. And over the years, dolls have come to signify a reflection of U.S. history as doll clothing and hairstyles mirror those of the times.
    Hide caption
    Toy dolls have undergone many changes over the years — from wooden to porcelain and plastic. From a doll you can only look at, to a doll you can play with and dress up. And over the years, dolls have come to signify a reflection of U.S. history as doll clothing and hairstyles mirror those of the times.
    Brian News Service, 1929
  • When the first Barbie doll debuts in 1959, it's an adult doll unlike any other dolls of the time — long limbed, shapely and fashionable. The 11 ½-inch tall plastic Barbie was named after the daughter of creators Ruth and Elliot Handler. Within 10 years of Barbie's release, $500 million worth of Barbie products are sold.
    Hide caption
    When the first Barbie doll debuts in 1959, it's an adult doll unlike any other dolls of the time — long limbed, shapely and fashionable. The 11 ½-inch tall plastic Barbie was named after the daughter of creators Ruth and Elliot Handler. Within 10 years of Barbie's release, $500 million worth of Barbie products are sold.
    AP
  • Mattel releases Barbie's boyfriend in 1961. Like his girlfriend, the Ken doll is fashionable and comes with accessories. His hair has gone from felt to plastic over the years to reflect the style of the time. Ken doll is named after the son of Barbie creators Ruth and Elliot Handler.
    Hide caption
    Mattel releases Barbie's boyfriend in 1961. Like his girlfriend, the Ken doll is fashionable and comes with accessories. His hair has gone from felt to plastic over the years to reflect the style of the time. Ken doll is named after the son of Barbie creators Ruth and Elliot Handler.
    Dima Gavrysh/AP
  • Barbie starts getting friend and family dolls in 1965, as the Barbie brand goes through different phases including modern, Malibu and disco. Barbie also begins to take on different professional and political endeavors. She is an astronaut and a nurse. In 1989, Barbie joins the U.S. Army, and in 1992 Barbie runs for president.
    Hide caption
    Barbie starts getting friend and family dolls in 1965, as the Barbie brand goes through different phases including modern, Malibu and disco. Barbie also begins to take on different professional and political endeavors. She is an astronaut and a nurse. In 1989, Barbie joins the U.S. Army, and in 1992 Barbie runs for president.
    Wally Santana/AP
  • In 1986, American Girl dolls, books and accessories are first introduced as pre-teen fictional characters from important times in U.S. history. Marisol Luna is the Mexican-American character in the popular doll maker's line. The dolls, which still stand at 18 inches tall, are priced at about $100. While toymakers have seen doll sales slow during the recession years, sales of American Girl dolls...
    Hide caption
    In 1986, American Girl dolls, books and accessories are first introduced as pre-teen fictional characters from important times in U.S. history. Marisol Luna is the Mexican-American character in the popular doll maker's line. The dolls, which still stand at 18 inches tall, are priced at about $100. While toymakers have seen doll sales slow during the recession years, sales of American Girl dolls have increased, and manufacturers have started to look at the taller American Girl dolls as a doll with staying power.
    AP
  • In 2001, MGA Entertainment released the Bratz dolls. The dolls are represented as teenagers, and distinguished by their large heads with big eyes and lips, skinny bodies, and heavy face make-up. The original dolls stand at 10 inches tall, but the toymaker also released pocket-sized mini-Bratz dolls. By 2006, Bratz dolls has 40 percent of the global fashion-doll market. In 2010, Barbie's Mattel ...
    Hide caption
    In 2001, MGA Entertainment released the Bratz dolls. The dolls are represented as teenagers, and distinguished by their large heads with big eyes and lips, skinny bodies, and heavy face make-up. The original dolls stand at 10 inches tall, but the toymaker also released pocket-sized mini-Bratz dolls. By 2006, Bratz dolls has 40 percent of the global fashion-doll market. In 2010, Barbie's Mattel Inc. sues for rights to the Bratz brand, but fails.
    AP
  • Last year, Dollie and Me dolls hit the market. The 18-inch tall dolls are designed to look like and feel realistic and appeal to pre-teens and early teens. Unlike the American Girl dolls, these new fashion dolls are modestly priced and come with matching dresses and sleepwear for young girls. There is also an interactive website where young girls can play dress up games. The hope is that dolls ...
    Hide caption
    Last year, Dollie and Me dolls hit the market. The 18-inch tall dolls are designed to look like and feel realistic and appeal to pre-teens and early teens. Unlike the American Girl dolls, these new fashion dolls are modestly priced and come with matching dresses and sleepwear for young girls. There is also an interactive website where young girls can play dress up games. The hope is that dolls designed to look like pre-teens will keep girls beyond age seven playing with the toy longer.
    Todd Williams/PR Newswire

1 of 7

View slideshow i

While buzzing and beeping electronic toys fill the wish lists of kids this holiday season, the humble doll still stands in quiet dignity.

But some dolls are standing taller these days. Toy-makers are increasing the size of dolls in hopes that children will play with the toy longer.

A fashion doll is typically 11 inches tall. But Wall Street Journal toy reporter Ann Zimmerman tells NPR's Renee Montagne that "manufacturers are making dolls 18 to 21 inches" tall now.

Zimmerman says popular Walt Disney princesses like Ariel and Belle are now about 7 inches taller. There is now also a line of private-label dolls at Toys "R" Us called Journey Dolls that are also 18 inches tall, as well as Dollie and Me dolls, and others, she says.

Ten years ago, manufacturers started noticing that girls were growing tired of dolls at a younger age.

"Barbie started appealing to younger and younger girls," says Zimmernan. And now, she says, girls are giving up dolls at around age 6.

It's led to a decline in doll sales. But the classic American Girl dolls have continued to sell well, even during the recession, says Zimmerman.

"These are 18-inch dolls, very expensive [at about] $100 just for the doll," Zimmerman says. "And while sale of toys weren't great, American Girl dolls went up 7 percent in 2008, which is amazing."

The original Barbie next to a modern version of the doll.

A new, modern version of the original Barbie doll stands next to the original 1959 doll. Chirs Pizzello/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Chirs Pizzello/AP

Zimmerman says other manufacturers started thinking American Girl dolls have "staying power," which is in part why the toy-makers started making their dolls just as tall.

Barbie: The Undisputed Queen

Barbie, however, is still at her original height. And Barbie and Barbie accessories still dominate toy best-seller lists. Zimmerman calls Barbie the "undisputed queen of the doll aisle," but she says Barbie's growth has slowed.

Young girls have left Barbie and other dolls for computer-based games and social media sites, Zimmerman says. The hope is that making dolls taller will help them appear like pre-teen and early teen dolls, instead of babies and adults.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.