Next up we have the Alexander Doll Company or Madame Alexander as it's more commonly known. Madame Alexander is another company that has been producing Oz dolls for almost two decades. Most of them are made in the 8 inch size. I, for one, have never tired of the cherubic little darlings. Madame Alexander has shown innovation not only in the costuming of these dolls, but also in introducing oft neglected characters such as Miss Gulch, Auntie Em, the Emerald City hairdresser, and new for 2005 the first ever Uncle Henry doll. Also new in the 8 inch line we have Alexander's second Auntie Em doll and the very cute Wendy Loves Munchkinland.
Wendy, Madame Alexander's popular character is, wearing her Dorothy dress with illustrations of Munchkins decorating her skirt and she comes with her very own Dorothy doll. Wendy is adorable and looks ready to plunk down for a viewing of The Wizard of Oz on television or to skip down the yellow brick road to one of the many Oz conventions held around the country.
Madame Alexander produced 9 inch play dolls for 2005 as well and they are just that; suitable for handling by small hands and less expensive than the "collector dolls".
A Wendy Dorothy fashioned of wood debuted in the Fall as an FAO Schwarz exclusive. She is an edition of 750 and has been carried over to the 2006 Mainline Catalog.
I love the Madame Alexander dolls and every year I marvel over the workmanship put into the dolls' attire, not only in their Oz line, but in all their wonderful dolls. They truly are a joy to collect.
I have saved the most frustrating.....er, challenging doll pursuits for last. The dolls by Brass Key and Nanco have been some of the toughest finds I can remember. Many collectors are still looking for a doll or two to finish their sets. These companies made me very thankful I mostly collect Dorothy and Toto. I still had a dickens of a time finding just those two.
Brass Key, oy! The dolls aren't perfect portraits of the characters but they are pretty good and the price was very reasonable. To test the waters, the 14 inch porcelain Dorothy was available in 2004 only at "selected" Kmarts. Many collectors, myself included, have had great difficulty tracking this little girl down. Oz collectors had to network like crazy. Thanks to someone I consider a dear friend, I was able to locate a Dorothy at a store 500 miles away and have her delivered to a local store for pick up. More Oz dolls were planned but the fate of the line was to be determined by the initial sales of Dorothy. Frankly, I wasn't sure we'd ever see the other Oz dolls. Miraculously, she must have sold well because in 2005 Brass Key continued the line, but sure didn't make them any easier to find. Brass Key re-issued Dorothy in a slightly different box to match the rest of the set; the Scarecrow, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch and Glinda. These were available at "selected" Walmarts. Sometimes the "selected" Walmarts only got in half the set. Collectors made many phone calls and return trips only to find the remaining dolls were never stocked. I only saw Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch at my Walmart. It seems the Wicked Witch grows in popularity every year. She is always the one people are left looking for. She and the Cowardly Lion seem to be the hardest to find of this set. Around the same time, Brass Key issued a set of 7 inch porcelain characters available at "selected" Kmarts. These were just as difficult to locate as the larger ones. Still worn out from hunting for Dorothy the year before to no avail, I made a couple of half hearted attempts to get the 7 inch Dorothy. I still ended up having to rely on a friend to help me get this doll for my collection. What a mess! I do like the Brass Key products very much and hope to see more Oz from them.
Brass Key 14" Collection
Brass Key 7" Collection
The Nanco dolls were understandably hard to find because Nanco does not sell direct to the general public. They make licensed plush and toys for amusement parks, carnivals, fairs, arcades, crane games, and special events.
The New York department store Macy's decorated their windows with scenes from the forthcoming telefilm The Muppets' Wizard of Oz in March. In conjunction with the windows Macy's sold a small array of Muppets' Oz merchandise which included 14 inch to 16 inch plush dolls of Kermit the Frog as The Scarecrow, Fozzie Bear as the Cowardly Lion, Gonzo as the Tin Thing, and Miss Piggy as Tattypoo (the name L. Frank Baum's successor Ruth Plumly Thompson gave to the Good Witch of the North). Muppet and Oz fans were delighted and the limited supply of Muppet plush was snapped up quickly.
A few months later, I was surfing eBay as I often do, and *gasp* ! There's a new Dorothy doll. I was excited but I was hoping she wouldn't be a hassle to track down. Well, I was to find out she was made by Nanco. Dorothy was one of a set of 11 characters that was made for the Sugarloaf crane machines that grace the entrances of grocery and department stores. The other soft dolls were The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, Glinda, The Wicked Witch, The Lollipop Boy, The Wizard, The Munchkin Mayor, a winged monkey, and Toto in a basket. All but Toto were made in 14 inch and 7 inch sizes.
And so the hunt began......
Sugarloaf employees who filled up the machines into giving them some dolls. Never underestimate the persuasive powers of an Oz collector. Those of us without skill, luck, or charm resorted to getting out dolls off of eBay.
They are cute little dolls if you don't have to spend a small fortune to get them. Handle them with care as they do seem cheaply made and may not hold up well under duress.
As of this writing, I'm still seeing these dolls in the Sugarloaf machines so if you're feeling lucky and have some spare quarters.......
There were still more surprises from Nanco. Sculptured cloth dolls of The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow, and The Wicked Witch were made in at least three different sizes for carnival games.
The Muppets plush resurfaced in sizes ranging from 7 inches to 28 inches at amusement parks, carnivals, and oversized crane machines in arcades. I do not know how, if at all, these Muppets differ from the ones sold at Macy's. If anyone has both and would care to comment and/or email a photo I'd love to know.
This is it for the 2005 doll review. In the coming days I'll be posting about other noteworthy treasures from 2005.