Friday, March 31, 2006

2005 Oz Collectible Review Dolls Pt. 2

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, 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.

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Out with the old, In with the new.....not quite yet

While planning out this blog I've been trying to decide whether to recap 2005 or just dive right in to 2006. I've decided I am going to do a recap of last year because there were so many great new items. Right now though, we'll take a sneak peek into the year ahead.

Just like last year, it looks like 2006 is shaping up to be another banner year for dolls. Robert Tonner's Wizard of Oz line last year was a huge hit, selling out within two months. The 2006 line, last I heard, seems to be selling out rather quickly as well.

Also generating a lot of excitement this year are Madame Alexander's Oz dolls. A perennial favorite since 1989, enthusiasm does not seem to be waning in the slightest. Virginia Turner has recently introduced the Wicked Witch and Glinda is planned for release this year as well.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas........" I'm happy to report that Wizard of Oz items are back in Kurt Adler's novelty line after a bit of a hiatus. There is also a new ornament added to the Polonaise collection. A couple of days ago pages of Hallmark's Dreambook leaked out. There seems to be a table piece, a Glinda ornament, a set of miniature ornaments, and a light up ornament. Details coming soon.

Westland has some new household items that I'm sure will delight new collectors and people who love to garden.

San Francisco Music Box has some new waterglobes added to their popular Oz line with at least two more pieces still to come.

One of the more exciting releases of 2006 is the USPS Judy Garland stamp to be issued in June.

Mardi Gras certainly threw out some surprises this year as well.

And lastly but certainly not least there will be two sets of Japanese dolls, rubber ducks, and a set of trading cards.

I will get more specific about the aforementioned collectibles in future posts after my 2005 recap. Stay tuned!! :)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hello and Welcome to the Curiozity Corner.

My goal here is to promote the love of Wizard of Oz collecting and Oz in general.

Though I collect mostly Dorothy and Toto, I also have a keen interest in other characters' collectibles as well. I have been a collector for 14 years and an enthusiast for life. I do not remember my first Oz experience the way many people do. For me it seems I was born singing 'Over the Rainbow' while clutching a copy of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' in my hands.

Here's a little of what you can expect from the Curiozity Corner....... I plan to announce new releases and anything else of interest to Oz aficianados. I will write reviews of Oz collectibles and probably commentaries on anything else happening in the Land of Oz. I will try to be as accurate as possible, but please be aware that release dates can be changed and and sometimes collectibles can be cancelled altogether. I am not affiliated with Warner Brothers, any collectible company or Oz organization. This is all purely for the love of collecting.

This blog will be family friendly but on occasion adult themed merchandise does hit the market. I will do my best to keep my reporting of adult related news as G-rated as possible.

I welcome comments and questions about all things Oz. I will do my best to answer them or point you to someone who can. My email can be found in my profile. I won't promise to update every single day. Sometimes life gets in the way and that can't be helped, but I will update frequently as it seems there is always something exciting coming ouf of the Land of Oz. Please check back often and tell your collector friends. I hope you enjoy your visits to the Curiozity Corner and that maybe you'll even find your heart's desire.