Archive | Retired Toys RSS feed for this section

7 Dolls I Played With As A Kid That Shaped My Life As An Adult

23 Oct

Greetings Gen Next readers!

People often say that dolls can influence the children playing with them. As a huge doll enthusiast, I can agree with this to a certain extent. It’s amazing how a plastic item can make such an impact on a child. I’ve had dolls that really shaped my view of the world and I’ve seen dolls shape other children around me.

With that being said, I understand why parents, particularly mothers, are so concerned with how dolls influence or shape the lives of their children.

However, I can honestly say that kids view things from a different perspective than adults. While mothers might think a doll brand will influence their child in one way, the child may pick up a completely different message depending on the other surrounding things going on in their lives.

I can honestly say that has been the case for me. Growing up in the 1990s and early 2K, we didn’t have the technology these little kiddies have. We had TOYS! And in the 1990s, toy aisles had anything a kid could ever want to play with. They were filled to the brim.

My parents encouraged me to play at a young age. I was a shy anti-social kid who didn’t like playing too much with the neighbor’s kids. Toys were my escape. My mother, along with other family members, always tried to find the best toys for me. My family always considered how each toy would impact my life, but they never knew exactly how that would occur.

Toys became an integral part of my life. Being raised a girl, my parents and grandparents always saw it fitting for me to play with dolls. Early on, my mother encouraged me to be feminine. She would encourage me to play with the most pro-girl and pro-feminine dolls she could find. She was that way. Little did she know I would grow into a tomboy who loves androgynous fashion!

My other family members, like my grandparents, also tried to find dolls that instilled values.

With my family members encouraging me to play, you can imagine I had a lot of toys, especially dolls, growing up.

Still, you might be wondering, “How did those dolls influence you to the point they impacted or shaped your life right now, as an adult?” Well, let me run down SEVEN dolls I played with as a child that shaped my life today as an adult. When I mention how they influenced me, you might understand more…

I will do a countdown style.

If you hate reading, skip down…Skip

 

7. Kenya

Created by Tyco, Kenya was a doll that promoted the beauty of African American girls’ hair. Her slogan was literally “the beautiful hairstyling doll”. You could style her hair just like you do yours African American girls!

This was probably one of the first pro-black dolls I saw on TV. Seriously, all of the dolls that came out of the Kenya brand were images of black girls.

When I first saw Kenya in the commercials, the thing that stood out to me, as a kid, was how her hair could be styled to look just like mine. To me, she looked like my vision of a “real girl”. A “real girl”, in my mind, was someone who looked like me! It’s kind of how I feel about American Girl’s Melody now. Kenya was the “Melody” of the 1990s. She was more of a modern girl that encouraged me to love myself. And I could feel that message as a kid. She was actually one of the first black dolls I was exposed to and I loved that doll. I played with her everyday. I even tried to draw my own tattoos on her…Which didn’t turn out too good, but at least she was loved.

I think having a doll like Kenya did something to me. For starters, It exposed me to the country of Kenya. In school, when we were studying countries, I never forgot about the country of Kenya because the Kenya doll had the same name. Every time the teacher would ask us to name one country in Africa, I would always remember Kenya. And I still remember that country to this day. I paid a lot of attention to that lesson and now I know so much about the country.

Then, Kenya helped me love being black with thick hair and made me desire more black dolls. I think after seeing Kenya, the generic white Barbie wasn’t satisfying enough. I began looking for more diverse brands with dolls that looked like me. Kenya made me aware of the underrepresentation present in the media because I couldn’t find any other dolls like Kenya. I always wanted to braid my dolls’ hair and put beads in my dolls’ hair. There were few dolls that offered that.

Seeing Kenya take that spotlight helped me see the beauty in being African American. I think that’s why I push for representation and equality to this day.

The only thing I never loved about this doll was the commercial. It was basic and cheesy then, and it still is. XD

I heard Kenya made a comeback some time in 2012. She came with more modern clothes and more diverse skin tones. I heard she even came with a 12″ Barbie looking type. Kenya is still making waves with trying to push representation…

 

6. Global Friends

I’m sure most of you guys know nothing about this 18″ doll brand. It didn’t even come with a commercial or anything fancy (though they had a website back in the 1990s, which was a big deal back then, but I didn’t have a very good computer in the 1990s and the internet was dial-up). If you grew up in the 1990s, maybe you got one of their catalogues.

Created by the company of the same name, Global Friends Company, inc, it spawned a brand of around 12 to 13 dolls, all from different parts of the world. Their collections and accessories centered on their cultures and their friendship through the Global Friends pen pal service set up online. At that time, the computer was just becoming a household item, and the internet was the newest advancement. With the internet age, people were able to connect with other people from all over the world. I remember when I was in 4th grade, I got my first online pen pal. She came from a different world. That was so amazing to me at the time.

This brand was trying to encourage girls to connect with girls of different cultures and backgrounds. It was a brand trying to expand the minds of girls.

Like the other 18″ dolls of that time, they were apart of the “18”” doll trend (though they were technically around 14″), meant to look like real girls, and were sold only by “mail order catalogues”. That was the allure of these dolls. They were exclusive and expensive, yet educational and wholesome.

Unfortunately, I never got to buy a Global Friends doll until I was an adult. However, I always got their catalogues in the mail and would flip through them for hours.

Though the dolls may have highlighted mostly stereotypical forms of girls from around the world, they were the first dolls that got me interested in other cultures and traveling. The dolls looked so pretty to me and the outfits were bursting with color. The diversity was fulfilling. It filled my eyes up like I-candy.

Basically, these dolls at least exposed me or became a gateway to the world. The one thing I remember most about the dolls was their “greeting” printed next to them in the magazine. I literally learned how to say greetings in many different languages because of this brand. Gretchen from Germany was first, so I always remembered “Guten Tag” (which means “Good Day”). I always remembered “Jambo”, “Ni Hao”, “Oi”, “Ahllan”, “Dobree Dyen”, Bonjour”, “Konnichiwa”, among others! I may not have learned how to properly pronounce these greetings, but I learned OF them. It was an introductory exposure to other cultures. And it worked!

The brand expanded my worldview and got me thinking about how other people live outside of my existence. I think ever since I got into these dolls, I developed a desire to travel and meet people from so many different backgrounds. I still have that desire, and I want to take the greetings I learned with me.

 

5. Amazing Amy

Amazing Amy, the interactive doll by Playmates Toys, Inc, with over 10,000 phrases. This company had a lot of interactive dolls come out of it in the 1990s and early 2K era.

And oh no, I can’t forget about Amy. I still have the commercial jingle lodged in my head, “Amazing Amy! How does she know?” And she responds, “I just know!”

Of all the dolls I grew up with, this doll actually had quite a negative impact on me.

Maybe most of us have had a negative fear of dolls before, right? Especially fearing dolls that talk. I know people who have doll phobias. I’ve never really hated dolls neither have I been scared of them. Toy Story might have scared my friends, but it didn’t scare me…

But then came Amazing Amy.

Amazing Amy was battery-powered and mechanical, which was becoming a thing at the turn of the 21st Century. She had her own clock, which could be set to the player’s specifications. She came with lots of accessories. She was blonde and wore pink. I was told she had a black version, but I knew about the blonde one from the commercials.

Quite frankly, I’m glad I didn’t get the black doll. If any doll wanted to influence me to form self-hate tendencies, it would’ve been the black Amazing Amy.

This doll…was the most annoying piece of plastic ever to come into my life.

I first saw her in a commercial and thought it would be cool to have this cute doll that could talk to me. I thought it was appealing to be able to take care of my own daughter. Appealing…So I thought.

Amazing Amy came with some pretty cool accessories, too. She had a toothbrush, a partly chewed popsicle, a bottle of milk, hot dog, juice, pizza, a banana, a cookie, and a plate of disgusting-looking “mashed food”. She liked to play “Simon Says”, “Feed Me Something”, and her “Squeeze Games”, too. She had a dress, diaper, and pajamas.

Oh yes, Amazing Amy was going to be my daughter. It didn’t matter to me that she was white and blonde in comparison to her black mother. I was excited to have my very own daughter.

So how did this cute and interactive doll shape my life negatively?

Maybe it’s not all negative to everybody, but…I believe Amazing Amy is the reason I resolved in my heart, at a young age, that I never wanted kids. To this day, I not only take motherhood seriously but I have no desire to have a baby too soon. On the plus side, I think that’s why I avoided teen pregnancy.

When I got this doll at 8 years old, I was not ready to take care of a baby. Having Amy around and turned on was like taking care of a baby. Once you set her clock in the middle of her body and turned her on, her slogan took full effect: “She knows what she wants and how to ask for it!” At first, I enjoyed taking care of her needs and feeding her. Her sensors would glitch, which would be annoying, but overall I enjoyed giving her what she wanted.

Well, one night, I forgot to turn Amazing Amy off. All night, Amy kept asking for food, to play a game, to get her hair brushed. I was knocked out sleep. Well, Amy cried. She cried so loudly, it sounded like an alarm clock piercing through the night. She woke me up at 4:00 AM so that I could change her diaper, feed her, and play games with her. Then she glitched, so she started crying AGAIN! When I turned her around to turn her off, the button was stuck on “ON”! I tried taking out her batteries, but it was hard for my little hands to get the back open. So, she cried.

Eventually, frustrated, I snuck in the kitchen, picked out a fork, and pried out her batteries. Once those batteries were out, I never put them back in again.

The next day, I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake at school. My mother asked me why I was so tired. When I told her Amazing Amy kept me up all night crying, my mother laughed and said, “Imagine a real baby! But with your own, you can’t just take the batteries out!” That statement stuck with me.

So, now, every time I even think of having a kid, I think about how hard it was for me (at the time) to take care of that annoying, expensive little doll. Now, that I’m older, I’m wiser, but I still understand that taking care of a child is no glamorous or easy task. Amazing Amy definitely taught me that at a young age. Whenever my friends would say they wished they had a baby sister or a baby, my mind would flash back to this doll.

In some ways, I’m glad it taught me to take parenthood seriously. But when I’m interacting with others who really want children, I might not sound the most positive.

 

4. Barbie

Barbie has impacted thousands of girls the world over, including this girl.

Barbie is the world’s #1 fashion doll. Created by Ruth Handler while on vacation in Germany, and produced by the company Mattel, her husband’s company, Barbie was meant to be a challenge to the Baby doll industry and a response to the growing love of adult paper dolls. Ruth Handler wanted to create an actual plastic figure of famous comic and paper doll characters because she noticed her daughter preferred them to the baby dolls.

At the core, Barbie was meant to be a doll young girls could admire and dream of being one day. She fit the American ideal: white, blonde, beautiful, stylish, wealthy, glamorous, and forever young.

I grew up with her in the 1990s when she’d already had a huge empire and had expanded beyond the fashion world. Barbie could do and be anything by the 1990s! That’s the vision they sold us.

This blonde adult figure inspired a lot of playtime out of me growing up. I would always pretend she was my mother. She reminded me a lot of her. My doll was white and my mother was black, but they both were stylish, career-oriented, and could do things I couldn’t at my age.

Interestingly enough, Barbie’s fashion sense never appealed to me. I didn’t like her for her fashion. I liked her for all of the mini items she came with. For example, my Teacher Barbie came with a chalkboard, mini chalk, and desks. I always thought it was cool how I could create my own classroom in a mini-sized version.

So how did Barbie come to influence who I am today? How did she influence a messy tomboy like me?

It might shock you, but Barbie ushered me into the technology age. Yeah. She also expanded my interest in dolls. I have to give her credit for this.

When we first got a computer in my home, one of the first websites I knew about was Barbie.com from commercials. I can’t find that commercial anymore.

The jingle went like, “What can you be there, what can you see there? Now you can be there, uh-huh…” Something like that.

Anyway, Barbie encouraged me to navigate the internet. It was the first website for dolls I’d ever heard of.

Barbie also introduced me into video games. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I had always watched my young uncles and cousins play video games, but I didn’t have a system or games of my own. My mother and grandmothers didn’t think it was a suitable toy for “girls”. I would try to play games like Mortal Combat and NBA Sports at Arcades or at restaurants or laundromats.

But when I first got my playstation, the first game I played was Barbie Race and Ride. By playing this game, I learned the mechanics of the playstation system. Eventually, I moved on to more advanced games from there. I loved Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games, Tekken and Street Fighter, and eventually RPG games like Kingdom Hearts. It was because of Barbie that I fell in love with video gaming. I still love video games to this day.

I also used to play Barbie Super Sports (which was a little more challenging than Race and Ride) and Detective Barbie. The most fun Barbie video game I played was a PC/CD-Rom game called Secret Agent Barbie. That was my first PC game. I wish I could still play that game. It’s not compatible with anything nowadays.

In all honesty, Barbie made me into a gamer girl!

Barbie also got me interested in diverse and unique dolls. A lot of dolls have claimed to have been the first major diverse dolls out there, but Barbie has always had sister and spin-off brands that focused on a group of diverse dolls. Generation Girl was about 8 best friends from different backgrounds and cultures who attend International High. Diva Starz was also a diverse brand, and probably the first I saw with the big head and big feet design. Polly Pocket was innovative. Myscene was stylish and mature. Even to this day, Barbie’s sister brands Monster High and Ever After High continue to produce diversity. Going to Barbie’s website, I was able to get in touch with the other lovable brands.

Barbie’s mini world inspired me to look for more out of my collections. She pretty much set the bar for how far a doll line could expand. Barbie has had it all. I can only be impressed by how much this doll brand has accomplished for over 50 years. It’s amazing. The appeal of Barbie was that I could be in a lavish mini world I wouldn’t naturally be able to afford in real life. I could be anything when I had Barbie.

Barbie developed my interest in building a career, believe it or not. I always had working women around me. I didn’t have the privilege of a stay-at-home mom. My mother had to work. Barbie made that seem okay for me. Through Barbie, I could always pretend she was in a career. She had so many career options in the 1990s. I believe she inspired my ambitious nature.

Barbie may have had an influence on me, but she didn’t turn me into a materialistic and superficial broad. She may have done that to some kids, but not me.

Little did I know I would take this influence and drive it towards a rival brand…

 

3. Magic Attic Club

Oh, The Magic Attic Club. This club was like the Babysitters Club of the 1990s, only it dealt with magic and younger girls. But it was the club every girl wanted to be in. Magic Attic Club inspired me in many ways but also taught me valuable lessons. Let me explain.

Magic Attic Club was following that “18” doll” format. They were sold by mail order catalogue, were expensive, and exclusive. They were cheaper than American Girl though. Unlike American Girl, Magic Attic Club was a modern and more fantastical line. They came with a series of books that followed the characters’ adventures through a magic mirror that would allow the characters to explore their imagination. The adventures they would go on would also teach them how to deal with their everyday life (though the things they go through might seem minor).

Magic Attic Club dolls passed through the hands of many companies before retirement. They were first sold by Georgetown. They filled the gap American Girl didn’t fill at the time: They produced modern girls (while American Girl still primarily sold historical dolls). Eventually, Magic Attic Club went to Knickerbocker and last Marian (which was a company created by actress Marie Osmond and her husband Brian).

Magic Attic Club influenced my life in five ways.

First, Magic Attic Club got me interested in the fantasy genre. Magic Attic Club was able to be and do anything, at 10 years old. I was always excited about whatever adventure they would go on. And the outfits they came with! They were just bursting with color and luxury!

I think the mystery behind the Magic mirror was so intriguing that I longed for that mystery in other genres. To this day, my interest in the fantasy genre has expanded. I enjoy Harry Potter, Circle of Magic, Jewel Princesses…I got into a lot.

Second, Magic Attic Club made me realize indigenous people still EXIST, not as a foreigner but in my own country. Yes, I was an ignorant little child back then. I used to see indigenous groups as groups belonging to the past. I didn’t realize that there were still people from these groups, even little girls like me, living modern lives while trying to hold on to their ancestry. Rose Hopkins, the Cheyenne girl in the Magic Attic Club, taught me that. To this day, there are still very few doll lines that have a modern doll representing the indigenous groups of people. Ever since I was introduced to Rose, I have felt she was a rare gem, and I have looked for that kind of representation in every doll line. Rose is also one of the most gorgeous dolls in the brand.

Global Friends also had an indigenous doll, but at the time, it didn’t dawn on me that the character was “American”. Unfortunately.

Third, Magic Attic Club taught me to shut my mouth and stick with real friends. When I was younger, about 8 years old, that was the one time in my life I wanted to fit in with the other girls. I had so many popular girls in my class. They were kind of mean and stuck up to some of my friends. I used to be like a loser or an outcast because I would hang out with the underdogs.

But one day, I had been talking about the Magic Attic Club. All the “cool” girls liked Magic Attic Club because of how exclusive and pretty the dolls were. These girls found out I loved Magic Attic Club, knew a lot about the dolls, and let me be apart of their clique because of it. Me, being a fan of Magic Attic Club, would share fan info with these girls, insider knowledge. At that time, they were giving me some attention, and I liked it.

Eventually though, that died down. They started cooling off from me. I guess all they had in common with me were these dolls. So what did I do? I came up with the biggest and stupidest lie. I told them that my grandmother works for the company that makes Magic Attic Club dolls and that she could get them dolls for free.

After that, the girls came back around me.

But see, I had to keep up with this lie. The girls kept pressuring me and asking when they would get their free dolls. I had to keep pushing back the date to make it believable. Eventually, one of the lead girls got suspicious. She came up to me and said, “I don’t believe your grandma works for the company.” I tried to defend my lie. And I managed to defend this lie up until I was 10. I finally confessed that my grandmother didn’t work for Magic Attic Club and that my grandmother just happened to buy me two dolls and books. Obviously, this made me the bum of my elementary school days. I deserved it.

On the other hand, my real friends stayed by me and liked me for who I was. From that Magic Attic Club encounter, I learned that you can’t buy friendship and I learned to shut my mouth. If I can’t speak truth, I don’t need to speak. I learned not to lie about who I am.

The fourth way Magic Attic Club had an impact on me was it actually got me interested in doll fashion. The one thing Magic Attic Club had over all the other 18″ dolls of the time was they were girls my age that wore trendy and modern clothes. They were the first dolls that got me interested in the fashion aspect of doll brands. Beforehand, I just liked the stuff dolls came with. Magic Attic Club had an array of different outfits and clothes, but they were also on trend in my eyes. Barbie was fashionable, but she was an adult. The MAC were wearing clothes I could wear and WANTED to wear. My interest in their fashion expanded my interest in fashion dolls in general (even though they weren’t fashion dolls!).

Last, Magic Attic Club has influenced my summers. Magic Attic Club always reminded me of summers spent with my great-grandmother (who I would visit every summer). When I was younger, I couldn’t afford all of the Magic Attic Club books. However, during the summer, my great-grandmother would take me to the library and I could find all of the MAC books! I would check them all out. The librarian knew which books I would get every summer. Eventually, this turned into a tradition. Every summer, even up into high school, I would check out the Magic Attic Club books and read them.

Eventually, the library closed. I also couldn’t spend as much time with my grandmother. But I managed to buy all of the ones in print (still looking for Jane in a Land of Enchantment). I still read them every summer. Summer doesn’t begin for me unless I read these books. Having the dolls also remind me of those lovely summers.

Overall, the Magic Attic Club dolls have had a profound impact on my life.

 

2. American Girl Dolls

The American Girl dolls come from a brand focused on educating and inspiring girls through play. They come with a line of historical characters and modern characters fleshed out through dolls, accessories, and books. Through storytime, their characters help girls face the real world around them. Honestly, of all the 18″ dolls, American Girl was the first to do this and has always been the most effective at this.

American Girl was originally produced by Pleasant Rowland through Pleasant Company. It was designed to combat Barbie’s influence as an adult figure and bring back dolls that looked more like girls. It also bounced off the popularity of the Little House on the Prairie, which had been popular decades prior due to the TV series. The dolls were meant to help connect girls today with girls of the past, to bridge generations of girlhood, tell history from the female perspective, and inspire future leaders.

Ironically, Barbie’s parent company, Mattel, ended up buying American Girl. American Girl continues to educate and inspire girls.

This company definitely inspired me. I got into American Girl in 1995 with the books I would get from my school library. I received my first American Girl doll in 1997. At that time, the modern girls were just becoming a thing.

American Girl influenced me tremendously. First, this doll brand inspired my love of history. It was the gateway to learning the important events in my country. And as they say, if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I think American Girl encouraged me to appreciate the place I live and even to appreciate the histories of other countries! American Girl made history come alive for me, and made history fun and appealing. In school, I always got As on my history tests. I would win history bees and competitions. American Girl didn’t have all the answers, but they were the only books telling history from an everyday perspective, not from one of those glamorized and over-dramatic perspectives. They would go over things about history I honestly never heard of, like what foods people ate and what clothes they wore. I literally got interested in how people live.

American Girl is the reason I have the job and career I have NOW. I was inspired to get into education. I was inspired to build up my own community of African American children and help them value education. Addy was my first American Girl and she made slavery and reconstruction even more real for me. I’ll never forget when she got her freedom and she still had to build her life. It wasn’t a walk in the park. The books were so real for me, not cheesy at all.

I currently work with black children and I try to get them into their own roots and history. I try to inspire them the way American Girl inspired me. I wanted to give back. American Girl showed me the importance of doing that.

American Girl instilled some really strong morals and character traits in me. I think the brand helped me develop courage, a spirit of adventure, open-mindedness, kindness, compassion, sacrifice, strength, and determination. Whenever I thought my life was hard, I would think about girls who came before me who had it harder. I try to live up to these qualities everyday. I think American Girl helped me see the importance of developing these qualities early in my life.

Having the dolls really made history real for me. I could pretend to be from a different time and place, a different race or culture, and through that playtime, I learned to understand people and I learned to understand life. I’ve learned how to cook foods and prepare them in ways different from my own. I’ve learned to study the way people dress and live. I’ve learned to melt my own prejudices when seeing someone different.

I definitely learned to transcend myself. Perhaps my favorite non-black characters are Kaya, Kit, Molly, and it doesn’t feel like American girl without Felicity. I’m still into the brand and have loved newer dolls like Melody and Julie. I do hope to have a 1920s character soon as well. That’s on my American Girl wishlist. Through these characters, I feel like I’ve lived several lives…

I feel like I’m recording a brand ad or something right now…

American Girl also helped me connect with my elders. By learning about times in the past, I knew about some things my grandmother and great-grandmother enjoyed. My great-grandmother always felt she could talk to me because when she did, I knew what she was talking about and showed interest. It helped me bond with my family. I was able to appreciate doing things with my grandparents and my mother, things a normal child wouldn’t find interest in. I think it helped me respect women of all ages and what they have done for me.

American Girl showed me that women can be strong leaders, and I take the lessons from the brand with me into my adulthood.

 

1. Bratz

Bratz is a brand of cutting-edge and fashion-forward dolls that arrived shortly after the 21st Century began. These dolls were meant to make the beginning of a new century, and they did that for me.

Just when I was losing interest in playing with dolls and was growing into a tween collector, out came the Bratz.

The Bratz were created by designer Carter Bryant (freelance designer on break from company Mattel) and produced by MGA Entertainment.

I got into the Bratz late 2000 when the website was under construction. Most of my followers know the story. I was actually looking for new dolls to get into. Something interesting. I had been looking for a particular doll when I accidently typed in Bratz. When I pressed the link and saw the website under construction, I thought it was going to be some kind of fashion cartoon (which I felt would’ve been awesome).

A few months later, the first Bratz commercial hit the scene and I was a different girl. The rest was history.

You might be wondering, “How can a line of fashion dolls top a girl-empowering line like American Girl?” I didn’t think that could happen either.

At the time I got into Bratz, I was what most people considered “too old” for dolls, especially during the surge of popularity Bratz received in 2004. I was a teenager by then.

The first thing Bratz taught me was that you’re never too old to like dolls. Bratz was set to target girls like me. I soon realized that. When I first heard Bratz was meant to target girls my age, I was shocked and excited. I knew that something different was brewing in the toy industry.

Bratz truly made me a COLLECTOR. I loved dolls before, but the clothing, items, and edge was so inspiring, I actually saved my money and bought even the hardest to find dolls if I could find them. Some items you couldn’t get anywhere.

Bratz exposed me to the toy industry in general. I’m not talking about as a toy but as a business. Bratz was on the rise during the computer age. MGA was one of the only doll companies FULLY open to suggestions back then. I remember I would email Mattel ideas of mine and would get one of those automated responses. I only got one real response and it was pretty rude.

MGA always responded in a very thoughtful and engaging way. And the things I asked for at my age…They delivered! I think after I heard Bratz was releasing a CD in Japan in 2003, I asked for MGA to get a CD created for worldwide release. Shortly after, Bratz’s “Who We Are” and “Bratz Rock Angelz” was released. When Bratz had a show released in Japan to tie in with the CD, I asked for the Bratz movies and shows and got it shortly after! I wouldn’t say my emails made a difference, but by seeing the results, it made me feel like my opinions mattered.

I realized my own fan power in shaping the success of my favorite brand and I brought this fandom power into many other fandoms.

I also realized harsh truths about the doll industry through the Bratz. I think the Bratz business is the only one I’ve followed closely. I’ve seen how a doll line could rival another doll line in sales. I saw how that impacted the direction of toy brands. All of this at age 11 to 17.

I began to see the difference in companies. When I was a kid, companies didn’t matter. I didn’t know Amazing Amy, American girl, and Barbie were even from different companies. They were just toys.

After getting into Bratz, I realized the difference.

I learned the legal system that works around toys as well, especially seeing the legal issues surrounding Carter Bryant, MGA, and Mattel. I learned that just because you created something doesn’t always mean you are allowed to have full rights over the product. That whole situation made me “business-smart”.

Bratz has taught me so many valuable lessons about toys in general.

While American girl inspired the career I’m in now, Bratz is inspiring my future goals. Everytime I see a Bratz doll, I feel inspired to get creative. The amount of detail and coolness that goes into Bratz draws out a lot of ideas in my mind.

Bratz has even inspired my sense of fashion and developed my social identity. I think I told followers that I was raised in a very super-feminine home. It was so suffocating, I couldn’t slouch, spill messes, or accidentally ruffle an ounce of my attire. I used to hate fashion and femininity because of how I was raised.

When I first saw the Bratz, and this may not be anyone else’s experience, I saw girls in baggy pants, beanies, bandanas, and sneakers. The dolls were wearing a diverse range of styles. They didn’t fit into one feminine box. Sure, some wore skirts. But they could throw on a denim jacket and sneakers in a heartbeat. That had an impression on me. I finally felt I found a doll brand that represented someone like me.

Later on, Bratz tried many outrageous styles, which helped me explore all possibilities in fashion and even other forms of art! I had developed an interest in cutting edge and avant-garde fashion. I really began taking a liking to androgynous fashion. As a youth, the Bratz produced an image that encouraged me to be my individual self. They helped me explore my identity.

Bratz has developed me into an adult that is willing to take risks, stand in my truth, and explore my options. I believe these were the last dolls that truly inspired me. Bratz has changed my whole world vision.

Bratz set the bar for this century. For all new dolls, I’m looking for a spirit of individuality, style, and innovation. I take that attitude with anything I do.

That’s my list of dolls that have had an impact on who I am today! Leave me a comment and let me know of any dolls or other toys that influenced you in your youth! What do you think of my list? Let’s get the discussion rolling!

MGA’s CEO, Isaac Larian, Said, “Bratz Are Coming Back the Fall of 2018!” Can the Bratz Deliver This Time?

30 Jun

 

 

Greeting Readers! This is Gen Next!

I know I haven’t talked about the Bratz in eons. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with my Girls with a Passion for Fashion!

In fact, I have been hard at work preparing for their return. I intend to have a strong hand in the comeback this year. Why? Because I see that the Bratz dolls still have the potential to make their mark on the toy industry. I’ve got quite a few things in mind.

Three months ago, I sent MGA’s inventor team a 13-page proposal stating all of the things I feel the Bratz brand needs. That may have been overly-ambitious, and possibly overstepping my boundaries, but I feel better now that I’ve said what I wanted to say.

So, I’ve been busy with Bratz, don’t you worry.

I’ve had some readers ask me if I’ve heard about the Bratz’s comeback in 2018, and I have.

Why have I been silent? Two reasons: 1) I wanted to wait to do a major article on the brand when the comeback officially releases. 2) I didn’t want to repeat rumors and over-hype the brand just to let myself and others down. 3) I have several concerns regarding the comeback, and I didn’t want my negativity to rub off on the hopefuls.

As for number 2, I have this tendency to get super excited about a brand, to place all of my ideas out there, and I try to get others on-board, too. In the end, my expectations soar way too high. In 2015, I was really let-down by the Bratz dolls.

Read my article: Bratz Are Back Again in 2015: What Happened to the Bratz?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure the Bratz truly WERE going to come back this year. Companies often say one thing, it doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen. Delays happen, too. The toy industry has been suffering. Even Toys R ‘Us took a hit. I wasn’t sure if Mr. Larian could make this happen and I didn’t want to recklessly post my thoughts on it too quickly.

What changed my mind now? Well, I’m starting to see some extremely promising little updates happening.

We all should know by now that Isaac Larian has been hinting at the Bratz comeback since last year. He basically said “Bratz are scheduled to release this fall”.

The fall quarter is basically around the corner now.

We’ve also got some teaser Instagram posts lately:

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

View this post on Instagram

Happy 17th birthday to the Bratz!

A post shared by Bratz (@officialbratz) on

View this post on Instagram

Exciting things are coming.

A post shared by Bratz (@officialbratz) on

View this post on Instagram

Keep being patient… it takes time to look this good.

A post shared by Bratz (@officialbratz) on

With all of this, I have every reason to be excited… but concerned, too.

I’m excited because it’s time for a doll brand like Bratz to come back to shelves. I’ve been through toy shelves recently to find inspiration, and diversity is seriously lacking. Even Disney’s dolls and brands are so white-washed.

Dolls are so….boring nowadays, too. They don’t have flash. Most come with cheap clothes, one outfit, and no accessories. Everyone is afraid of makeup. They are so busy trying to appeal to feminist social agendas, they fail to actually interest anyone.

The last time Larian said the Bratz were “coming back better than ever”, we got 2015 Bratz, the goo-goo eyed dolls with a sweet touch.

One of my concerns deals with retailers. Since Bratz’s debut, retailers have had so much control, they managed to alter many of the Bratz dolls’ older lines. Carter Bryant, the original designer of the Bratz dolls, mentioned that retailers’ opinions, especially the Market buyers at Walmart, are what led to the alterations of Bratz Fashion Pixiez (and I’m certain other lines as well). They couldn’t handle Bratz being so edgy, sassy, and fierce.

Now, retail chains are suffering. With the closing of Toys R’ Us, and the power of Walmart and Amazon, what will be sold has completely gone into the hands of these major retail giants. Without their approval, Bratz can’t return to the shelves. Does that mean Bratz may have to sacrifice some original ideas in order to be marketable to these giants? And can Mr. Larian sell the Bratz to these “family-friendly” retailers?

I did offer a different suggestion in my 13-page proposal, but I’m not sure they will really consider these ideas, and I’m not expecting them to. I’ve offered different ideas before the release of the last “re-launch” in 2015. None of those ideas were used, though all of my ideas were given a “thumbs up” when I posted them on Facebook. I have no doubt they tried to implement my ideas, but if retailers didn’t like it…Well, that’s that.

Talking to Carter Bryant back in 2015 has given me a lot of insight and has taught me one thing about the doll industry and creative property in general: You can create what you want, it doesn’t mean you have power over what you create.

Carter Bryant has helped me realize how powerful retailers are in the posts he made on my blog:

Carter Bryant has shown us that Walmart buyer Lori was responsible for a lot of the edgiest lines being dumbed down significantly. Walmart is one of the leading supermarket chains in the USA. Their buyers decide what gets sold on their shelves. They buy the product, sell it at their stores, and get a percentage of the profits.

She’s an older lady, and to me, she seems to favor Barbie. I mean, it’s not unexpected. She probably grew up with Barbie. Bratz probably rattled her cage. I’m not sure if she is still a toy merchant with Walmart, but whoever is will decide what happens with Bratz, and if she is still the primary girls’ toy merchant, we are in trouble.

So, despite the fact that Isaac Larian wants to bring out a doll line that’s “like no other”, would he really have the power to do it? I do have one solution to this problem, but will Bratz’s marketing team consider my idea a good one? Will that idea be enough?

Then, there’s the issue with the generation itself. Do girls even play with dolls anymore? Would they even BUY the dolls? Girls today have shown some interest in toys, but far more interest in technology. Children are more sophisticated than they were 10 years ago, and more girls reject traditional femininity than they used to ten years ago. Will they see Bratz as an outdated brand? Will they see Bratz as a brand that promotes superficial values and reject the brand as a whole?

Last, I’m concerned about feminist and mommy bloggers as well. Will they tear the brand down and influence their “soccer mom” supporters to help them?

There’s a lot to be concerned about.

Despite how negative I might sound, I am fairly optimistic about TWO things.

For starters, I’m optimistic about the Bratz brand’s quality. Lately, Mr. Larian seems to have come across some cash, which might be good for the overall quality of the Bratz brand. He offered to buy Toys R’ Us AND he’s offered to merge with Mattel, his original competitor! He seems well-equipped to polish the brand this time.

Article on MGA’s ambitious desire to merge with Mattel

He’s seen some success from his LOL Surprise brand. Project MC2 seems to have a steady beat. And both of Isaac Larian’s children have invested in their own brand, Cult Gaia, which brings the family more wealth. He seems pretty confident that he will reap even more profits from his planned Bratz return. So, who knows what he has up his sleeve.

Hopefully, this businessman has hired the right team and is ready to bring Bratz into the future full-force! But until then, I won’t be posting some of my ideas or hopes for the brand. I’m literally “cleansing palates of expectations”. For now, I will just sit back and wait until it all unfolds.

Second,I’m also excited to learn that Hayden Williams, a fashion designer and illustrator who was rumored to be hired to assist with the design of Bratz, actually WAS hired. This means MGA is at least considering the fans’ expectations for the brand. Hayden Williams has officially tweeted me to confirm that he is one of the Bratz designers!

Hayden Williams Response

At one time before this update, I wasn’t sure Hayden wouldn’t be interested in being a designer for MGA because it might mean he would lose his freedom as a designer.

Turns out, he’s doing a collaboration with MGA, so he will be free to work as he pleases. His dolls will be Amazon collectors’ exclusives available this fall!

I’m excited to know that MGA recognized his talents and vision.

Have you all SEEN his work? Check him out on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hayden_williams/?hl=en

The best part about the release of these dolls is that they will be available ONLINE ONLY (for now). One of my other concerns was that I wasn’t sure Hayden would really be on-board with designing (despite most Bratz fans’ desire to have him design for the dolls) because I was afraid retailers would try to restrict his freedom if the dolls came out too edgy. I was afraid retailers might be skeptical to buy the Bratz because of their reputation, and that Hayden would have to curb the Bratz’s stylishness. One of my suggestions in my 13-page proposal was for Bratz to be sold online if retailers got funky. Glad to know MGA got the same idea.

I don’t think Amazon will restrict the design of the dolls as bad as other retailers (considering they don’t seem to be biased in what they allow to be sold on their website). Hayden said on his own Twitter:

Hayden Williams Tweets

MGA gave him the freedom to really give his all to these dolls. That’s all us Bratz fans really want!

Still, I hope all retailers recognize this brand’s ability to bring back consumers’ interest back to toy aisles and don’t try to change the image of the dolls to get them there.

Now, here’s where I’m uncertain again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear Hayden Williams is going to be designing all of the Bratz lines. If they do hire others, they better be on par. I believe that Hayden understands the original “Bratz” design best. He said he has been into the Bratz since 2001. We need fans like him that understand what the Bratz were. No offense to fans who came with the TV series, the movies, or when Meygen jumped in ’02, but you have to have known the Bratz their entire career to understand their image and message FULLY. If you believe you can be on par, do thorough research on the brand, backwards and forwards. I believe that’s why the other designers struggled. The TV series and movies changed a lot about the Bratz, which I don’t appreciate (Read or listen to Bratz 2018: What I Want to Return and What I Don’t)…and some of the people who are fans of the brand mostly remember the media entertainment portion of the brand. While it is one part of the brand, there’s more to it.

I really hope they don’t get Project MC2 designers on-board for the Bratz. If they do, we’re going to have another Moxie-Bratz 2010 problem.

Oh, you don’t know? Remember when Cloe’s leggings were recycled from Moxie Teenz? Yes, that problem.

We’ll also get cute, because that’s what Project MC2 is. They’re cute.

The Bratz are not meant to be “cute”. We don’t need designers who think “cute” will make the Bratz better. N-to-the-O.

So far, I have so many mixed feelings about this comeback now. I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m happy, I’m nervous. I just don’t know what to think anymore!

Readers and fellow Bratz fans, what do you all think of the Bratz’s upcoming “return”? Do you believe the Bratz will deliver this time? Or do you think retailers and critics will find a way to ruin the brand once again? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Read up on some of my other articles:

How Well Do You know the Bratz? Quiz

A Walk Down Memory Lane: Bratz Music

Bratz Dolls Say Good-bye to the Toy Industry

In case you couldn’t find it above: Bratz 2018: What I Want to See Return and What I Don’t

 

Question: Do these girls look like Bratz dolls or what?

Bratz Dolls Say Goodbye To the Toy Industry

23 Oct

Bratz 2001

After a year long hiatus, Bratz returned to the doll scene in 2015. However, MGA decided to take the Bratz in a whole new direction. Thus, the doll line suffered. It’s bad enough that children seldom want to play with toys anymore, especially with tablets around.

MGA tried too hard to appeal to the wrong demographic and took away what made the brand special.

To read more about the Bratz story: What Happened to the Bratz?

For the past year and a half, the Bratz dolls have been suffering in sales. As a result, MGA confirmed in an email to a fan that they are planning to discontinue the Bratz this year. 😦

The fashion doll industry is dying out due to low funds to support doll lines, lack of inspiration, soccer moms, and vocal online and offline radical feminists (who have been against Barbie’s and Bratz’s “sexualization” , “attitude”,  and “materialism” for years now and have been influential when it came to stopping girls from buying these dolls). Apparently, having a passion for fashion is considered “anti-empowering” for women. Further, I guess the soccer moms just couldn’t let these dolls thrive, no matter how hard MGA tried to compromise with them.

The following links show just how many website articles (written by feminists) supported “feminist” makeovers and hated the Bratz:

These Bratz dolls got an amazing feminists makeover

Tree Change

This artist is giving Bratz an awesome feminist Makeover

Over-sexed and over here: The ‘tarty’ Bratz Doll

New Bratz dolls Tell Girls “It’s Good to be Yourself”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-411266/Over-sexed-The-tarty-Bratz-Doll.html#ixzz4gPS3FGyI

How to Explain Monster High and Other Hyper-Sexualized Dolls to Young Kids

Among many other articles. Most of the above articles are recent. The Bratz “controversy” has been going on since debut!

As a long-time super crazy Bratz fan, it is the saddest doll news I ever had to tell.

What saddens me most is not the fact that the Bratz will no longer be around, but the fact that they had so much potential. The Bratz dolls had the ability to bring the future of fashion (and a bit of history) to a fashion doll line–In a REALLY fashionable way. When I look back at Bratz Rock Angelz, for example, I remember a time when everyone wanted to be in a rock band. I reminisce on the styles of 2005 through that line. Bratz kept a record of the trends. I loved that about them. No other fashion doll line is doing that right now. None are capturing our generation’s fashions.

MGA mentioned in the email that this won’t be permanent. But I’m done believing they will bring back the awesome Bratz they once had. They got rid of the original designer, the court cases exhausted most of their funds, and social agendas in the world are influencing MGA’s direction. The only way the Bratz could get back on top is if MGA had the money to get them there and a designer who understood the original designer’s vision.

My next best bet is that another company buys out the brand and makes it awesome. The likelihood is slim, considering “rights” issues and all, but it’s a hope of mine.

My other big optional hope is that the original Bratz designer will gain the rights to the dolls once again and take the brand to a company who will really bring the vision to life.

If the Bratz make a return in a couple of years, when people are feeling nostalgic, there are a few things they truly would need to make it successful. Back in 2001, Bratz suffered at debut. A couple of things were needed to help boost the Bratz reputation. Any future designers and producers of the Bratz should take note.

1. Advertisements with Animation, a Tasteful Tune, and with Girls 10 to 14 

The coolest part about the first Bratz commercial was the animation mixing with the real girls. It was very interactive, fun, and funky.

Having older girls in the commercials made it sassier. The Bratz wasn’t written off as something that was just meant for little children when people saw older girls in the commercials. With older girls, it clearly seemed to appeal to the Tween market. If felt like something tweens and teens could relate to.

The Tween market has a lot of power nowadays, especially when dealing with social media and current trends in general. They register the world more than smaller kids do. If you want to bring power to a brand, tweens and teens will more than likely obsess with it before children will. It will help the brand stand out, like it used to.

The new commercial failed to do that, which was why it failed to promote the Bratz very well. The only thing good about it was the song “What’s Up?”

2. Give the Dolls a Glossy Eyed Look with Nice Make-up

13346-bratz1

Forget what feminists and soccer moms say. Make-up is and always has been ART, since Ancient Egypt. The Bratz used make-up in a very unique and artistic way in EVERY line. The glossy eyes added attitude and sass. They looked fierce and stylish.

The doe eyes make them look like deer who are lost in a forest. It’s bad enough people come after the Bratz for the head and feet. Now they hate the eyes.

Future designers should not let Tree Change Dolls intimidate them. Those dolls are not examples of art or creativity, just something slapped together to push social agendas and make moms feel comfortable with themselves. There was no inspiration behind those dolls. I’m sorry, not sorry. Bratz need to stay away from lines that mirror Tree Change.

Bratz needs to stick with what they do best and they are best a defying expectations when it comes to style.

3. Cut the Girlishness, Bring the EDGE

I’m sorry, but if Bratz is going to be back on top, it also has to appeal to the boys, like it once did. Bratz was for everyone. You won’t believe the number of MALE fans! Why? Because Bratz was not afraid to step over boundaries.

The one thing that annoys me about many doll lines today is that they only come with SKIRTS or DRESSES. Where are the pants? The jeans? The tomboys?

The cool thing about Bratz was that they always came with one skirt or dress and one pair of pants (unless it was a formal line). The mix and match potential was endless.

The line choices were inspiring, too. Bratz had a rock and roll line, a punk line, a gothic line, a spy line, a Tokyo-inspired line, and many other creative lines. They weren’t girlish or babyish or cheesy, like the new lines have been (Yes, that Selfie line was cheesy). They didn’t just borrow from the runways, but from the underground subcultures. It made Bratz seem fun and dangerous yet stylish. I had given suggestions to MGA in 2014, suggestions I knew only the Bratz could pull off. They seemed excited, giving my suggestion a thumbs up on facebook and approving by email. After 2014, MGA seemed to have forgotten my suggestions.

Or perhaps retailers just didn’t approve (I quickly learned how much power retailers have over the doll industry). In this case, Bratz need better marketing strategists.

Finally, Bratz do best in darker shades, not bright colors. It’s fine to add some variety to the color palette, sure, but mostly stay away from bright colors. Color-blocking bright colors with darker colors would be a good idea.

Bratz tokyo

pretty-n-punk

4. Make an Interactive Website

bratzpack-com

When I first got into Bratz, they weren’t even released yet. None of my friends knew about them when I became a fan. So how did I get them into the brand? Through the super awesome website of course!

The website formats were always so interactive, even the first format. It had music, games, interactive bedrooms that introduced the characters, and other things. As Bratz got bigger, the website got better. It didn’t take a whole lot of money to make a decent website.

With this generation’s obsession with apps, companies have put less value on websites, thinking they don’t matter, thinking that all they have to do is post an app and some news on their websites. NO. Kids who can’t afford apps will appreciate an interactive website where they can play some games. In fact, it will encourage kids to enjoy something OTHER than an app. And who doesn’t like games that are free? It makes the brand look better. It adds quality to the brand.

By reaching out to those kids, you are reaching out to ALL of the target audience, not just the ones that have cool android phones and tablets.

The last Bratz website was so sad and lonely. It had a plain white background, news, and boring apps.

5. Bring Back the Boyz Line

The thing that was always best about this doll brand was that they didn’t treat the boys as just accessories to the girls. The boys had their own lines, their OWN clothing, their OWN unique hairstyles, and their OWN accessories. Even the boys looked stylish and cool! No other brand has mastered this yet! Bratz is the only brand that has catered to the males in this way.

Bratz_Wildlife_Safari_Boyz_Dylan_Doll

6. Keep the Core FOUR

Bratz started out with four, and were always more successful that way. It’s best to switch out characters for the fifth. Lines do worse when all four girls aren’t in them.

In 2007-2009, MGA made the mistake of focusing on the Closmins (Cloe and Yasmin dolls).

In 2015, MGA made the mistake of adding Raya to the core line, making it difficult to switch dolls out.

7. Maintain Quality

“Quality Over quantity” is a motto that rings true in the doll industry. I would rather high quality dolls than 10 lines a year. If that means coming out with less lines until Bratz is popular again, so be it.

When Bratz first arrived in 2001, they didn’t have a whole lot of lines. But the outfits and hair were amazing to the eye and touch.

In 2012, Bratz lost their quality. The one plus to the 2015 reboot was that most of the lines had decent quality. With enough attention to detail and fine quality materials, the Bratz can be back on the map.

8. Bring Back the Old Bratz Bodies

The original Bratz bodies looked fine. There was never a need to add any extra movement or poses to these dolls. The shorter dolls looked more appealing and the bodies had more of a curve to them. Plus, they would be able to fit all of the old outfits. They should at least bring the old bodies back at debut or for a couple of months, just to test to see whether the fans want the old look back or a newer look. Later, they can decide to try adding more articulation.

In the modern day, some people may like a little more articulation so that the dolls can be posable on social media. However, the classic look gives Bratz their staple appearance, adding value to the brand. It also allows standing to be easier. Bendable arms and legs make standing difficult without a stand.

9. Allow Buying Opportunities On the Company Website or Main Website 

I heard the biggest problem came from retailers. Apparently, they have most of the power over Bratz. They have issues with selling edgy dolls to children. I’ll bet most of these retail chains are full of soccer moms and feminists (which is why I’m against female designers for Bratz. I just don’t trust they will deliver.) I was told it was the reason so many prototypes had to be altered.

If retailers won’t accept the edgier dolls in their stores because of feminists and soccer moms, then MGA should be their own store. They should produce competition for retailers.

Sure, actually building a chain of stores would be difficult. It requires a lot of money. So instead, why not allow Bratz to be sold online, at the main website, right from the company? There should be a “shop” section. With so many people online, why not? It’s easier today with everyone connected to internet.

I suppose they want help with promotion and such from large retail chains. Still, if retailers refuse to sell certain “alternative” dolls, MGA should sell the dolls on their own website, just to give people better options. They have to make retailers want the dolls. They can better do that by taking the doll matters into their own hands.

With Bratz’s popular name, gaining someone to promote Bratz wouldn’t have been too difficult if they had just created a fierce doll line. Someone would’ve wanted to fund these dolls.

10. The Packaging

I don’t know what possessed MGA when they decided to put rainbows, ostriches, and emojis on the packaging. Who thought that would be a good idea? It might be the universal “Digital Age”, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to see emojis everywhere. It seemed like whenever and wherever MGA tried to be up-to-date with the new Bratz, they seemed more out-of-touch.

The packaging used to be unique. Each package fit with the theme of the current doll line. Some almost looked like purses, too. For instance, the Pretty N’ Punk line’s packaging had one chain at the top, to make carrying it easier. That became a trademark for Bratz.

Bratz 2001 website

The Bratz may not have had a good year, but Bratz had one of the longest runs of any fashion doll line next to Barbie! Bratz have been a successful doll line for more than 10 years! That is a victory in itself.

Enjoy a slideshow full of the Bratz’s doll line creations!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoy all of the commercials that have come out over the years. My, have things changed.

 

Enjoy the Bratz music!

Want to test your Bratz knowledge? Try my Bratz Quiz!

Bratz Quiz: How Much Do You Know?

Well, that about wraps up this discussion. So Bratz fans, what do you think of the news? Are you heartbroken Bratz are leaving? Happy that they won’t look bad anymore? Mixed in your feelings? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. And if you have any more suggestions on what you think would make the brand better, please share!

😦  (2001-2016)

READ NEXT: One brave feminist goes deeper into the “feminist” dislike of Bratz, stating how the Bratz “appearance” relates to black and Latino communities, and how that conflicts with “White feminism”. Check out her article: Brave Feminist

%d bloggers like this: