Where do Dolls Come From? Pt 2

dolls 1

Have you ever wondered where dolls come from? Not geographically — although that can be an interesting story as well — but where a particular doll started and how it came to be?

I’ll be going to Toy Fair in NYC in a few weeks, and for The Pattycake Doll Company this is probably the biggest link in the supply chain for us. I’ll be making a few posts about Toy Fair, but today’s post is more about ‘where dolls come from part 2,’ a follow-up to last week’s post.

Last week we got from the beginning – an idea or a design up through the manufacturing of the doll. Let’s pick up her ‘journey’ from there:

  • Regardless of whether a doll is made in Spain, or the Phillipines or in China, the next step is to place her in her packaging – the box that she will be in when put on the store shelf.
  • Then she’s put into cartons… from as few as 2 to as many as 48 dolls per case, and then those cartons are put into containers (the trailer part of a tractor trailer), and then the containers are stacked on a ship.
  • Dolls are not flown to the states, they are shipped by sea.
  • There are various ports of entry but the majority of the dolls enter via the West coast ports, and then are sent to warehouses. Most companies do not warehouse their own dolls, but rent space in huge warehouses near the docks that they share with all the other renters.
  • From those warehouses, the dolls will be generally be sent to the stores, but they may also be sent to distribution centers like Walmart’s or Amazon.
  • But before the dolls can be ordered and sent to the stores, they must be shown to the various buyers like myself. That’s where Toy Fair comes in.
  • For the Pattycake Doll Company, I’ll go to The Jacob Javitz convention center in NYC, and over the course of a few days – walking up and down the aisles of three floors of toys, dolls, games and books – meet with almost every manufacturer of dolls.
  • I’ll place my orders, (I will generally spend upwards of $30,000 in just two days – and I’m small potatoes compared to most!), and then return home and wait for the dolls to arrive.
  • The dolls I saw at Toy Fair may or may not yet be ready to ship… I have ordered dolls in February that didn’t arrive until December!
  • I photograph and write copy for the dolls, enter them onto the website, and that’s when you, my dear customers place your orders.

And now you know where your dolls ‘come from!’

Where do Dolls Come From? Pt 1

2

Have you ever wondered where dolls come from? Not geographically — although that can be an interesting story as well — but where a particular doll started and how it came to be?

I’ll be going to Toy Fair in NYC in a few weeks, and for The Pattycake Doll Company this is probably the biggest link in the supply chain for us. I’ll be making a few more posts about Toy Fair, but today’s post is more about ‘where dolls come from’ in general than Toy Fair.

So. Let’s start at the beginning and describe the steps of how those beautiful dolls end up in your children’s loving arms.

  • Dolls start as an idea. Whether it’s an entrepreneur who thinks they’ve come up with something new and innovative that the doll market just needs to have, or a long time doll manufacturer like Madame Alexander or Kathe Kruse that wants to freshen up their line or reissue a classic doll for today’s children.
  • Next comes the design. A doll artist or doll sculptor or a doll design team starts making sketches and drawings. What could the new doll look like? What will it wear? What features will it have? How detailed shall it be?
  • Here is an example of a doll proposal: A 13 inch doll with open and close eyes that has a cloth body and soft vinyl head, arms and legs. We want it to be machine washable. We want one of the hands to have a thumb that will fit in the doll’s mouth so that it ‘sucks it’s thumb.’ We want it to be able to sit by itself, so we want a beanbag insert in the butt. We want it to be for a 12 month old or older. It will need to pass The European, Canadian and US safety regulations so that the one design can be sold in all three markets.
  • Once a design is finalized, negotiations begin with the factories. Most dolls are made in China, but quite a few are made in Spain, Eastern Europe, and Pacific Rim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Longtime manufacturers will have their regular factories established already, but every year there are new company start-ups who will have to establish their own relationships with the factories. Alibaba is one way for these new doll companies to locate potential manufacturers.
  • Costs are agreed upon, samples are made and either returned for correction or approved. There will be a mold made, and then various different colored vinyls will be used, different eye colors will be inserted, the finished features will be decided – like painted cheeks or what color paint for the hair… things like that.
  • Clothing will also be decided on at this point. A couple of different outfits will be hand sewn to fit the doll. Safety rules will need to be followed here as well. Using our example of a doll safe for 12 months old, there will probably not be any buttons, bows or ribbons that can be pulled off and swallowed.
  • The doll by now will have been named and it’s features settled on, so now the packaging designers will start their part of the process.
  • The new doll is manufactured, dressed and packaged.

Next week we’ll pick up from there… the journey from the factory to your child.

Breaking the ‘Doll’ color barrier

There’s no really nice way to say it, so I’ll just blurt it out: It’s a crying shame that with 50% of American kids now ‘non-white’ ethnically, it’s still about 100% White in the children’s doll design and manufacturing world.

The numbers are a lot better in the ‘Art Doll’ world, but the Toy Industry as a whole is still pretty much ‘lily white.’

There are exceptions of course, and one, ‘The One World Doll Project,’ is the subject of today’s post.

the Doll designer Stacey McBride

Me with Stacey McBride

The One World Doll Project makes dolls of color. Beautiful Dolls. They’re a young company as far as how long they’ve been in production, so currently there are only two dolls available: Lena, an African American doll, and Valencia, an Hispanic doll (whose back story has her hailing from Mexico City.) In the pipeline are dolls from Africa and India.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl dolls are built to the 11½ inch fashion doll scale, so there are literally thousands of additional outfits and accessories available for them.

What makes the Prettie Girls special is that they are designed by a woman of color, to represent women of color – for little girls. They have individual personalities and ‘ethnic looks,’ as opposed to the mass produced Barbie Dolls® and her cloned sisters. No one in their right mind would ever expect to meet a woman who looked like Barbie on the street. I see women who look like the Prettie Girl dolls every day. That’s huge in my book.

Seriously, walk down any major Toy ‘Big Box’ retailer… you’ll find plenty of Black  Barbies and her clones. But they all look alike. Prettie Girls look only like themselves, and are beautiful at that. I sincerely hope that this new doll company becomes a tremendous success. Absolutely nothing against Barbie mind you… I’m just a little tired of her ‘look,’ and ready to see real ‘Dolls of Color’ and especially ‘Doll Companies of Color’ take the stage.

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Disclosure Notice: The Pattycake Doll Company, as of the date of this post, does carry and sell Prettie Girl dolls. We were not paid nor asked to do this review. It is as the largest Ethnic Doll site on the internet, and as authors of this blog about ‘Dolls and the Doll industry,’ that we wrote this post as a comment on the industry.

Barbie’s figure and other foolishness

Unless you’re living in a cave, you probably know that there are some people who think that Barbie’s ‘figure’ is damaging to a girl’s self-esteem.

I don’t think American five year olds think like that. But I’m not a psychologist, just a simple doll salesman.

My point is this: We sell 1000’s of dolls each year, and because little girls don’t have credit cards we know darn well that it’s adults who buy the dolls.

It is my firm and utter belief that when adults give a doll to a child they don’t ever say: “I hope you grow up to be just like this doll.”

I think what they say is: “Here’s a new doll for you to play with and love.”

Where I get stuck with the argument below is: ” The impossible physical proportions of the doll idolized as perfection by so many.” Who’s idolizing a Barbie doll as perfection? Five year old girls? I’ve seen some lady – in Europe I think – who is altering herself to look like Barbie. She’s pretty enough I guess, but I would hardly think that her doing that to herself is Barbie’s fault. 

And when Mattel makes a ‘Celebrity Barbie,’ like the Katie Perry or Nicki Minaj charity Barbies, does that mean little girls who idolize these singers are going to have messed up body images and self-esteem because of the impossible proportions of the dolls? (And from what I’ve seen of those two dolls, they don’t do their real life model’s assets justice either.)

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

As a doll store, in all our years selling thousands of Black, Biracial, Asian, and other Ethnic dolls, none of which have we ever presented as looking like a real person… not once has anybody returned a doll and said : “This is such an unrealistic representation of a real human body (ethnic hair style, skin tone, eye shape or whatever.) and it’s screwing up my kid’s mind.”

Just saying is all. My opinion.

via Rehabs.com

Black Doll versus White Doll

Is it okay to use the same face for a Black doll and a White doll? Is that the same thing as making a white doll and coloring it brown?

What if we ask: “Is it okay to use the same sculpt for an African American doll and a Caucasian doll?”

Or ask: “Does using brown plastic make a doll a Black or African American doll?”

At The Pattycake Doll Company we think about issues like this a lot. After all, we are the largest ethnic doll store on the internet, and the decisions we make affect the lives of thousands of children every year.

We’d be interested in what your answers are to these questions, really. But here’s our take on the issue.

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” to all of those questions… when looked at through the eyes of a child. You see, children love dolls unreservedly. It’s adults who quibble, and overthink and add political correctness and feminist and every other kind of ‘ism’ and righteousness to dolls.

You can take a tennis ball, draw a smile on it with a marker, drive a piece of dowel into the ball and wrap it in a rag… and if you present it with all your heart and love to a child, they will accept it with all of their heart as the gift of love it was meant to be. (And love it to pieces – because it came from you.)

But looking at these questions as adults and parents and the owners of The Pattycake Doll Company, we have a slightly different answer, and the answer is this:

If you are making a doll, and you give the doll realistic racial features, noses and ears and eyes and hair and skin tone etc., then you need to make a different sculpt for each ethnicity.

But if it’s a ‘Doll’s Face,” an artistic expression of the art of the doll, than once you’ve created the face, you’re fine.

To give you an example, we have posted two kinds of Doll’s Faces here. Adora Doll’s Kayla, which was sculpted to look like an African American child, and Paradise’s Lia doll, which was sculpted with what we would call a Doll Face.

Can you see the difference?

Black Doll Faces

Compare doll face designs. On the left a ‘realistic’ sculpt. On the right a ‘generic doll’s face’ sculpt