Sunday, March 26, 2006

2005 Oz Collectible Review Dolls Pt. 1

2005 was a great year for doll collectors. Robert Tonner, Effanbee, Virginia Turner, Brass Key, Madame Alexander, Nanco. Dolls were available in various mediums and sizes for every budget. The doll world in general was abuzz with excitement. Personally, I was in doll heaven last year.

I'll start with the company that was a huge hit at Idex and Toy Fair last year. Who would have imagined the witches of Oz were so stylish?? Robert Tonner, that's who! Perhaps he took a cue from the costume designer for the smash Broadway musical Wicked. Susan Hilferty won a Tony for her amazing work. It would be a gross understatement to describe her designs as merely stunning. Both she and Robert Tonner have displayed extraordinary vision in bringing out the allure of the witches. I think Gilbert Adrian, the costume designer for MGM's 1939 spectacle would agree.

The dolls were first revealed online in January. The photos took my breath away. But I was to find out photos can not do these dolls justice. When I finally saw most of the line in person over the summer I swear my heart skipped a beat or two and tears came to my eyes. The Wicked Witch and Glinda had never looked better. Both witches are beguiling beauties with wickedly winsome wardrobes. Glinda and the Wicked Witch measure 16 inches and are made of hard plastic and vinyl. They were available as limited editions attired in their MGM finery or as basic dolls wearing pretty lingerie. The latter can be dressed in one of three separate fashions created for each doll that were made in editions of 1500.

The Wicked Witch's apparel was aptly named Forbidden Forest Winter Stroll, the Witches' Cotillion, and Winkie Guard Reception. Glinda's are Winter in Oz, Oz Gala, and Reception in the North. The most ozzy of the 6 costumes was Glinda's sumptuous Winter in Oz outfit with poppy embroidery on her cloak. The other clothing isn't very Oz-like in appearance, but is very appealing to fashion doll collectors. Robert Tonner has certainly created a niche for himself in the fashion doll market and has been the first to introduce the Oz characters to that realm. The Oz witches of the Tonner Doll Company have garnered a whole new fanbase with their unique ensembles. The dolls and fashions took the collecting world by storm and quickly sold out from the manufacturer. They certainly didn't gather dust in stores and flew off retailers' shelves.

Let's not forget dear Dorothy. Though no less beautiful than her witch counterparts, the witches are the real stars. Robert Tonner stated that Dorothy is more of an accessory to the line, but she was very popular nonetheless.

Ruby Slippers were also available that would fit any of Tonner's 16 inch dolls.

But wait.....then came the fall releases! A Miss Gulch doll!!!! What a treat! Miss Gulch is just as pretty as her green alter ego. This is only the second doll of Miss Gulch that I am aware of barring artist dolls. (The first was by Madame Alexander.) Also added to the line were holiday witch dolls. Holiday witch dolls!!!! I couldn't stand it! As soon as I saw the Bubble Ballroom Golden Gala Glinda and the Crimson Castle Holidays Wicked Witch visions of sugarplums started dancing in my head and I envisioned them either putting aside their differences for the joy of the season or even better yet as friends, trimming a tree together at an Emerald City holiday ball.

Wait, there's still more! The Wicked Witch trunk set sold exclusively at FAO Schwarz. The Forbidden Forest trunk came with the Wicked Witch doll, the traditional black witch MGM costume, a very regal Flying Monkey Legion dress, and a medieval inspired burgundy dressing gown. This set was a limited edition of 300 and like the rest of the Tonner line was a quick sell out.

Robert Tonner attended the International Wizard of Oz Club's Munchkin Convention giving a presentation and offering a one of a kind 29 inch Betsy McCall Dorothy that sold for $800 at the club's auction.

Tonner's motto is "believe in the power of play" and thanks to his imaginative take on our beloved Oz characters, we'll be believing for years to come.

To see more of Robert Tonner's  Oz Line please see

In 2002, Robert Tonner purchased Effanbee saving it from bankruptcy. A staple in the doll community since 1910, the Effanbee doll company has made many Oz dolls over the years. It would have been unfortunate had they closed their doors forever. However, the following year the company resumed producing fine quality "dolls that touch your heart."

Effanbee introduced a set of four 14 inch vinyl Wizard of Oz Patsy's last year. Patsy was originally introduced in 1928. Coincidentally, the Patsy doll was sculpted by none other than the famed doll artist Bernard Lipfert who would also sculpt Ideal's Judy Garland as Dorothy 11 years later. The dolls' costuming is faithful to the MGM film. Fall saw the release of Glinda and the Wicked Witch 14 inch Patsys also dressed in authentic looking costume recreations. Dorothy and Glinda's eyes are more striking than they appear in the photos of the prototypes. I think Glinda, the Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy are the cutest dolls out of this set.

A photo of Dorothy appeared in a Doll Reader magazine article about Turner Dolls. Inquiries started pouring in to Virginia Turner's website. Doll collectors were aflutter, eager to add Dorothy and her three friends to their collections.

The future of the dolls was in question for a short time due to some wrangling with copyright issues. The dolls were based on the MGM film's characters as most Oz dolls are. L. Frank Baum's heroine from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, wearing silver slippers is a public domain character while MGM's ruby slippered Dorothy is not. So, in the meantime, Dorothy was changed to "Kansas Girl" and her ruby slippers were changed to silver as they originally were in L. Frank Baum's classic. But all's well that ends well. The Tonner Doll Company was able to assist Virginia Turner and the dolls, ruby slippers and all, are finding their way into the homes of happy collectors where they belong.

The dolls are quite large with Dorothy standing at 32 inches and her three cohorts measuring 35 inches. They are vinyl with handpainted features and the costuming has been painstakingly recreated. These intrepid little moppets look ready for whatever adventures await them along the yellow brick road. The impish Cowardly Lion proudly baring his badge of courage peers mischievously through his lush, curled mane. The Tin Man clutching his axe and his heart looks anything but heartless; a cordial little gentleman with a face full of compassion. Dorothy with her thick dark hair in braids is all innocence and sincerity as she holds her basket with her beloved Toto inside. Last, but not least, is the faithful Scarecrow holding his diploma appearing rather pensive perhaps musing about what he and his two new comrades will do once Dorothy returns home.

I'm sad to say I'm writing this assessment of the Turner dolls based on descriptions I've read and photos. I stare longingly at the Turner Dolls 2005 catalog as I try to come up with words befitting these lovely dolls. This is a set I would dearly love to see in person and I desperately want Dorothy for my own collection, but she's a little spendy for me to manage right now. Someday...........someday...... :)

****The photos of the witches dolls  and ruby slippers are the property of the Tonner Doll Company.

Wicked character photos property of Joan Marcus. The costume photos are courtesy of Aaron a poster on the Unexamined Life Wicked forum.