The Tonner Doll Co. released images of the remainder of its spring 2015 line yesterday, and, like every other fashion doll collector on the Internet, I have an opinion about it.The fashion doll items were limited; out of 37 dressed dolls and fashion-only offerings, only 12 could properly be called “fashion dolls,” and that includes those from Tonner’s “Re-imagination” series. There were also four female superheros, although only one of those was ready for photography.
Does this mean that Tonner is moving toward primarily becoming a designer of child dolls and superheros? Patsy and Patsyette have been generously represented in the past few lines, and Tonner’s new child doll line, “My Imagination,” seems to be set up as a clear contender for American Girl fans, especially since the outfits appear to be designed to fit the AG body. Like many long-time Tonner fashion doll collectors, I yearn for the days of yore when Tyler and Company ruled the fashion doll market, and each line brought a bounty of different sculpts and fashions to choose from. Collectors rushed to get their orders in before editions as high as 1,500 sold out overnight. The stock market was up, times were good, and money was flowing. Of course, that was before we were all laid off in 2008.
That said, this line does see a return to the venerable House of Wentworth, although Tyler, Sydney, Esme, and friends appear to have faded into the annals of fashion doll history. Yesterday we were re-introduced to Marley Wentworth, Tyler’s all-grown-up sister. She has a strong angular profile and a colorful sense of fashion. One basic, two outfits, and three dressed dolls are being offered. I must admit that my first reaction to Marley’s sculpt was “What the hell pissed HER off?” She has a stern expression, with eyes set wide apart and lips that appear slightly pursed. But my reaction to new sculpts is often unfavorable at first–even with sculpts that I end up adoring. Even Sydney rubbed me the wrong way in the beginning. And now I have about 60 of her.
So I revisited the images of Marley throughout the day, and she did grow on me a bit. It does appear that this doll is still early in the manufacturing stage, as the sculpts appear a bit inconsistent. We probably won’t have a truly accurate representation of her until she is in stock.
Marley bears no resemblance to her 12-year-old self, but that matters little to me. Out of the four fashions pictured, two really appeal to me. My personal fashion taste favors bright, bold colors, and Marley seems to share the same aesthetic. “Skyline Blue” is a bold dress-and-skirt sleeveless ensemble that is a new, refreshing take on Tyler’s classic outfits. “Rose Rouge” has a colorful ’50s vibe with its full circle skirt and contrasting colors. On the other hand, I could do without the gowned doll “Positive Negative.” Other than its nod to No. 1 Barbie, I see nothing new or innovative–just a tired old one-shouldered gown. “Cool Chic” also does nothing for me. It seems recycled from past Cami designs, although it’s hard to really tell without being able to see what is underneath the coat.
My biggest problem with the Marley line is that it is presented in a vacuum. Clearly, these dolls are meant to be characters in an ongoing narrative–only, the narrative is conspicuously absent. There are plenty collectors who discovered Tonner’s dolls after the reign of the House of Wentworth. Who is Marley to them? Without a backstory, she’s some new doll with a weird name. I can’t understand why a company that goes to such pains to give backstories to some of its characters (Deja Vu came with her own book! Ellowyne keeps a diary!) completely ignores this vital element in other lines. I recall the days of Tonner’s portfolios, neat little booklets tucked into each doll box, describing and giving a backstory to each character and fashion. I understand that such little touches may no longer be economically feasible in today’s market, but how difficult would it be to write a little vignette on the website, filling us in on what Marley has been up to during the past ten years?
I can’t make the same complaint about Tonner’s most recent “Re-imagination” line, an enchanting reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Although this line is not to my personal taste, I certainly appreciate the artistry and creativity that went into it. Casting Alice as a male character with Lewis Carol’s given name is very imaginative, and the new Mad Hatter and White Rabbit are colorful and expressive. Sometimes I think that Robert Tonner is at his artistic best when conceiving and executing Re-imagination characters. One doll that I do possess from this line is “Sheehee,” a half-man/half-woman in the Sinister Circus. I love the playfulness of this doll, and it is executed flawlessly.
So that’s my take on the fashion portion of Tonner’s 2015 Mainline Release. I anticipate purchasing Skyline Blue Marley and perhaps Haddy Madigan. Take a look for yourself and see what appeals most to you. I’d love to hear your feedback!