Doll Review: Hot in the wrong way

I saw this story about a recalled doll today: Wal-Mart Recalls 174,000 Dolls Over Burn Risk.

And pardon the pun, ‘it burned my butt.’ You see I think Barbie dolls are great, and totally disagree with the feminists and other carpers who insist that playing with a Barbie Doll is harmful to a little girl’s psyche.

And then I see this doll, which is a Walmart exclusive and sold 174,000 in two years.

To quote the article: The 16-inch doll is packaged with a toy medical check-up kit. The doll babbles when she gets “sick” and her cheeks turn red and she starts coughing. Using the medical kit pieces cause the symptoms to stop.

recalled wal-mart doll

recalled: UPC Code: 6-04576-16800-5 Date code on tag: starts with WM

A doll that heats up? Whose cheeks turn red? Who can be ‘cured’ by playing using the medical pieces? In my humble opinion, this doll is much worse than a Barbie.

First of all, (And I am guessing here) this doll apparently only came in ‘white.’ I make that assumption because there is only one UPC code being recalled. If there were a Black version of this doll, it should have had a different UPC. If I am guessing correctly, I find that kind of insulting.

Second: The package is marked ages three and up. Which means the accessories are going to get lost. Which means at some point you’re going to have a doll that can never be cured? Coughs until her batteries run out? What kind of message does that send to kids?

Don’t get me wrong… I know this is commenting on someone else’s misfortune… and of course I am writing this post ‘in hindsight.’ I am not a Walmart hater. I know that as a professional retail doll buyer, if I had been shown this doll, I might have said ‘great idea’ too. (Although I would have wanted the ethnic version, because that’s what we sell at The Pattycake Doll Company.) I know darn well that the buyer at Walmart would never have knowingly wanted to potentially burn a child.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog “It’s not easy being a doll buyer.”

Ganz, Gund and Grumpy Cat

One of the strangest coincidences from my many years in the Doll Business: Ganz, GUND and Grumpy Cat!

GUND's "Grumpy Cat"

GUND’s “Grumpy Cat”

I recently read the story below in the trade press about a recall. It caught my eye because, while walking Toy Fair last month, I happened to see the Grumpy Cat plush in the Ganz booth. As I had already been in the GUND booth (we carry a lot of GUND products), I knew that they also had a license to manufacture Grumpy Cat plush.

And I felt bad for GUND, because I think the Ganz recall for Grumpy Cat plush – a possible choking hazard because the eyes can come off – is going to affect consumer perceptions of GUND’s Grumpy Cat plush. (And of course I feel bad for Ganz… I’m sure they spent a small fortune to make their toys safe and meet CPSIA regs… it just goes to show that even the best designers and manufacturers can have something like this happen.)

But in the end, I think parents are going to remember ‘Grumpy Cat Plush,’ and not differentiate between Ganz and Gund. They’re both going to suffer for awhile.
Isn’t that a strange coincidence? Two famous Plush Doll companies, both have four letter names, both start with the letter ‘G,’ and both have a license to make Grumpy Cat plush!

Ganz Recalls Grumpy Cat Stuffed Animal Toys

Grumpy Cat Sitting Toy

Ganz’s Grumpy Cat

WASHINGTON – Ganz, in cooperation with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), has recalled three styles of its plush Grumpy Cat stuffed animal toys due to a choking hazard.

(You can read the full story by clicking here)




Is playing with dolls gender based?

In the toy industry these days, one of the ‘industry trends’ popular in the trade press and under a lot of mommy-blogger discussion, is the topic of gender and toys. Toys – the argument goes – should not be gender specific, nor should the packaging, or the marketing or the store aisles themselves.

In England, Toys R Us and Harrod’s both did away with gender segmentation of the toy aisles. And many manufacturers are now making toys that used to be considered ‘boy’s toys,’ like building sets or engineering sets, for girls. ‘Lego Friends’ and ‘GoldieBlox’ are two examples.

So the trend seems to be… as an industry… that it’s been agreed that we shouldn’t make toys specifically for one gender or the other. But when it comes to dolls, I disagree.

The Pattycake Doll Company sells thousands of Boy’s Dolls and Boy Dolls every year. But we sell many more thousands of Girl’s Dolls and Dolls for Girls each year. And we sell thousands of gender neutral soft plush character dolls like Sesame Street, Disney and Dr Seuss to both boys and girls.

Baby Boy Doll

Baby Boy Doll

There is no question that boys play with dolls, and sleep with Teddy Bears. But Boys generally don’t play with the same dolls as girls. Most boys prefer boy or gender neutral dolls. Boys will play with their sister’s dolls if that’s all there is. But boys do not generally want or ask for a baby girl doll to play with. 

Bottom line? Industry trend or not, ‘playing with dolls’ is not gender based. Both sexes play with dolls. Period.

But I don’t think we’ll ever see Barbies marketed to boys. Because the two sexes definitely have their preferences of which kinds of dolls they prefer to play with, and those preferences are gender based.

Guest Post: Barbie: Evil or Not?

Phil on JTVGuest Blogger: Phil Wrzesinski is president and owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan, recently named “One of the 25 best independent stores in America” in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. You can learn more about Phil at”

I remember the story my grandparents told about how they were introduced to Barbie© at Toy Fair in New York. They were taken into separate rooms so that they would each give their own opinion without influence. My grandfather hemmed and hawed and wasn’t sure about it. My grandmother walked out and said to him, “You ordered a lot of them I hope?”

Ruth Handler Introduces Barbie

Ruth Handler Introduces Barbie 

While the critics of Barbie© have their points – her unattainable figure and her deep pockets (who can afford a Corvette working at McDonald’s©?) are definite cons, there are also some positives Barbie© has brought to young children everywhere. Two of the most powerful are Imagination and Aspiration.

Imagination: One thing Barbie© has done is ignite imagination. Barbie© didn’t come with scripts or stories or TV shows. Those all showed up later. Barbie© came with clothes and the kids who played with her had to create the stories behind the clothes. Barbie© wasn’t from the traditional mother/daughter world that these girls knew. They had to create the world in which their Barbie© lived. And in that imagination, these kids created worlds that had never existed.

Aspiration: Prior to Barbie©, most dolls were babies. Young girls played with them as caretakers and friends. Barbie© was the first doll that was older than the girls who played with her. Barbie was the doll they aspired to be. Besides being glamorous and fashionable, Barbie© took on the characteristics of the adult females in a young girl’s life. This changed the way young girls looked at the future. Suddenly they saw themselves being and becoming more than they ever thought possible before.

My grandmother saw all that in a private room in New York in 1959. Fortunately, she convinced my grandfather to buy a lot of them.

Doll House Dolls – Homeless?

I think there’s nothing wrong with having homeless doll house dolls. Not that I’m against doll houses per se, but I think that your kids will super charge their imaginations when you give them a set of homeless doll house dolls. Why?

A doll house doll family

A seven piece doll house doll set

Because doll houses limit their imaginations. They’ll exercise their imaginations all right, but they’ll structure their doll play against the setting of the doll house.

Here’s an African American doll house family from Pattycake Doll. Three generations in seven pieces. Grandma and Grandpa dolls, Mom and Dad dolls, Brother, Sister and Baby Dolls. Now imagine you give your kids this homeless doll house family… what won’t they come up with now? Maybe they’ll ask for a cardboard box and make their own doll house. Budding architects anyone? Maybe they’ll drape a towel over a chair and create a tent city or a tepee.  Maybe they’ll take the doll house dolls into the yard ‘camping.’ Maybe they will put them in their toy cars and have races.

When you give doll house dolls to children with a doll house, they are more likely to just play with them in the doll house… they ‘assume’ that’s what they’re for. So give them a set that’s homeless! Let their imaginations run wild!

PS: PC Police alert. If you think this post is about homelessness in people, or encouraging homelessness, then you have no sense of humor and we don’t want you reading our blog. Go Away.

Hinamatsuri – Doll’s Day

One of my favorite days of the year as a doll lover is March 3rd, because that’s when I get to celebrate Hinamatsuri – Doll’s Day. It’s a special day in Japan, but just like everybody becomes a little Irish on St Patrick’s day, I think any true-blue doll lover should celebrate the Japanese “Doll’s Day!”

One Japanese tradition on Doll’s Day is to set up a display of dolls representing the Emperor and Empress and various other officials and objects associated with palace life. My friend Tomoe sets up this display in her basement:

Hinamatsuri Doll Display

My friend Tomoe’s Hinamatsuri Display

But unlike American doll collectors who generally display their dolls year round, Tomoe has to take her doll display down before March 4th. If you have daughters (and Tomoe has two), it is thought that leaving the dolls up after Doll’s day, (even by one day!) may cause your daughter’s marriage to be delayed!

PS: A few years ago I took a trip with some friends to The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester NY. They have a decent selection of dolls there, including these antique Empress and Emperor dolls. (As they are displayed year round, I kinda wonder if the museum’s doll curator has daughters?)

Dolls Day Emperor& Empress

I personally love having a special day to ‘love dolls,’ even if I have to borrow a Japanese day to do it.

Actually, I love dolls all year round… you can’t own the internet’s largest specialty doll store without loving dolls. That’s like a restaurant owner who doesn’t like to cook!  Doll’s Day is just a special opportunity to admit it!