Adding my opinions to the mix…

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.

Rose Rouge Marley Wentworth

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!

They hide in plain sight

A gay friend of mine once told me—half-jokingly—that it was easier for him to come out as a homosexual than as a doll collector. He recounted to me how for years he had taken his dolls off a shelf in his apartment and hid them in a closet whenever he was expecting company. He described how he once literally threw them into a box while his sister knocked on his door for an unannounced visit.

Finally, he said, it just became too exhausting to carry on his charade. He told me that when he did “come out” to his family as a fashion doll collector, they seemed even more confused than when he announced to them that he was gay and had a boyfriend. “It was insane,” he told me. “My heart was beating faster than when I introduced my partner to them.”

In my experience as a doll collector, this story, while amusing, isn’t all that far-fetched. I may not hide “my girls” when I have company, but I do find myself censoring myself when it comes to talking about my dolls. I’ve also found myself mentally categorizing my friends and colleagues into those who “know” and those who “don’t know”—much, I suppose, like a closeted homosexual.

Now I don’t mean to equate being a doll collector who gets smirks when revealing her hobby with being a lesbian who must put up with homophobia on a regular basis. But there are some interesting parallels, nonetheless. Doll collectors are more than aware that many people find their hobby odd, to say the least. We are regularly confronted with questions like, “Do they stare at you at night?” “Is that a Chucky doll?” and (my favorite) “How much money did you pay for that?”

It’s no wonder we seek one another out for company. The company of other doll collectors is one of the few places we can revel in our love of all things doll and know we won’t be judged for it.

So it’s safe to say that collecting dolls is far from mainstream. This line of thinking led me to wonder if any celebrities collect dolls—and, if so, what the general reaction to that is.

The handful of famous people I already knew of who collect dolls of some sort (or at least are open about doing so) tend to be people who are otherwise perceived as—how shall I say this—“quirky.” The fact that Richard Simmons and Marie Osmond both collect and produce dolls doesn’t exactly lend a lot of credibility to the rest of us. Ditto for Morgan Fairchild, Annette Funicello, and Kathie Lee Gifford.

One mainstream doll collector who has never felt the need to closet herself is Demi Moore, although the media has taken its share of jabs at her substantial collection (by some estimates, more than 3,000 dolls valued at more than $2 million, all displayed in a house of their own). It seems that Demi’s first husband, Bruce Willis, initiated her love of dolls by purchasing her a pair of Anne Mitrani dolls early in their courtship. Demi loved the dolls and quickly got bit by the collector bug. Her second husband wasn’t all that enthralled with his wife’s blossoming collection. Here’s one quote from Ashton Kutcher that doll collectors will find particularly endearing:

“They upset me – I saw Chucky! These things freak me out, man, and she’s got like thousands of them. They’re everywhere – and they’re freaky. I think the dolls have souls. And they’re always looking at you – we have some in the bedroom and that makes things just weird. Some of these things are worth a lot of money apparently but they frighten me a little bit.”

What a prize he was. You’re better off without him, Demi.

Demi Moore holds a Robert Tonner doll purchased for her at a charity auction by her then-husband Bruce Willis.

I had dug up this information on Demi last week, while I was researching for this post on celebrity doll collectors. Demi seemed to be the most “mainstream” collector out there. And then, performing yet another doll/celebrity Google search, I saw a headline that I was certain I had read wrong.

Johnny Depp, ardent collector of celeb dolls

And this:

Johnny Depp’s Barbie collection: Depp says ‘It’s one of the things I’m good at’

I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

It appears that Johnny Depp, the coolest of the cool kids in Hollywood, one of the most respected, most celebrated male actors of our age, collects dolls.

No way.

According to the various Hollywood media reports I uncovered, Depp’s collection includes “dozens and dozens of Barbies, all limited and special editions.” His focus, apparently, are dolls depicting Hollywood celebrities, including himself. Beyonce, Elvis, Paris Hilton, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Lindsay Lohan are also listed by anonymous “sources” as some of the celebrity dolls in Depp’s collection. In interviews, Depp has no qualms talking about how he plays dolls with his kids and owns that he has “a lot of Barbies in storage.”

Fun with Photoshop

In fact, it seems like Depp enjoys his own play with his collection. Several Hollywood news sites state that the actor dresses and accessorizes his dolls to reflect the goings-on of various Hollywood divas. This includes his Lohan doll, which sources say Depp had accessorized with an ankle bracelet when Lindsay was put under house arrest. Johnny Depp, it seems, is a collector who has learned “the power of play.”

“Surely,” I thought, “if Johnny Depp collects dolls, then it will be perceived as ‘normal.’ If someone this cool is a doll collector, how can I be called weird?”

Pretty easily, it seems.

“Johnny Depp: Barbie Enthusiast, Creepy Doll Collector” rang out the headline of Details magazine. “No, that’s not creepy at all,” wrote Details’ resident blogger, in response to Depp’s confession to Jimmy Kimmel that he “has a lot of Barbies in storage.”


Apparently it will take more than Johnny Depp’s Barbie collection to break the general distaste and contempt our society as a whole reserves for doll collectors. I believe that even if that embodiment of the very pinnacle of masculinity itself—Don Draper—acknowledged possessing a doll collection, it still would likely not remove the stigma associated with it.

Then again, I thought, perhaps it’s not so bad to be in the company of Johnny Depp and Demi Moore. Demi’s selection of fine artist dolls shows that she has a deep appreciation for art in doll form, and Depp’s admission that he enjoys accessorizing his celebrity dolls illustrates that he is open to expressing his creativity in unconventional ways.

I’ve definitely been in worse company than that.

That’s one hunky doll