Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Beauty and Brains" by Tonner Doll

Remember back in June when I visited the Toys R Us and FAO Schwarz stores in Manhattan?  The highlight of my visit to FAO Schwarz was getting to see several of the current Tonner dolls on display.   Tonner makes a huge variety of dolls, and I decided early on in my collecting years that it would be a good idea to specialize, rather than try to sample the breadth of Tonner's work.  Over the years, I have collected mostly dolls with the Cinderella face mold.  Lately, I have become more interested in Tonner's diversity, and this is due in part to my experience at FAO Schwarz.  The dolls that impressed me at the store were not dolls that I would have given a second glance in the catalog--partly because I have gotten in the habit of skimming past them to look for Cinderella or Cami.

My favorite doll at FAO Schwarz was a particularly big surprise because my initial reaction to her promotional picture was, Ooo, I don't like that one.  Well, in person I found her incredibly appealing.  It didn't take long after I got back from Manhattan to search out an excellent sale so that I could add this doll to my collection.  FAO's price was $199, I found my doll for $130 at the Doll Market.  She is called "Beauty and Brains" and is a fashionable female interpretation of the Scarecrow character from The Wizard of Oz:

Tonner Doll's "Beauty and Brains."
I am not a collector of Wizard of Oz dolls, per se, but they do have a special place in my heart.  As a child, I was not allowed to watch a lot of TV.  Mostly just The Muppet Show on Sunday nights and Little House on the Prairie when I could get away with it.   Every year, though, The Wizard of Oz would be shown late at night and my parents would let me and my sister stay up and watch the whole thing.  Because of this tradition, and a subsequent love for the Wizard of Oz characters, my sister and I accumulated all of the highly articulated Mego Wizard of Oz dolls.  Red-headed Glinda from this series, wearing Dorothy's simpler dress, was the heroine of all of my childhood games. I'm not sure where the doll is right now, but I found this old picture of her outside of her riding stable:

Her name is "Jinny."  
About ten years ago, when I became interested in collectable fashion dolls, the first doll I bought was Tonner's Glinda Good Witch of the North because she reminded me of Jinny.  I haven't purchased a Wizard of Oz doll since then, so I guess it was about time.  

Beauty and Brain's box is exactly like other Tonner fashion doll boxes, except for the fact that the top of the box is decorated with a colorful collage of photographs from the movie:


The doll is secured inside the box with two white ribbon bows.  


Often, Tonner dolls arrive with their shoes and jewelry packaged separately.  This doll is wearing her earrings and shoes, and she has a white hairnet covering her hair and face:


I prefer it when the earrings come packaged separately for two reasons.  First, there's no risk that they'll scratch the face if they're in a bag at the doll's feet.  Second, if I decide that I don't like the earrings, I can leave the ear holes unused and avoid the dark marks that are often left when earrings are removed.  I also think it is wise to have the shoes packaged separately to avoid staining.  You never know how long these dolls will sit in their boxes waiting to be bought--it could be years.  

Beauty comes with a Yellow Brick Road stand and a brown hat.  The stand has the waist-gripping style that usually accompanies male Tonner dolls.  Perhaps a saddle stand wouldn't fit under her narrow skirt?


The hat is made of a soft, flexible sueded fabric and is a rich chocolate brown color.  It has a rough-edged gold band that circles the crown of the hat and then hangs down off the back.  The brim of the hat is much wider than the Scarecrow's hat in the movie.  This looks more like a witch's hat:


It is very easy to get this doll out of her box and up on her stand.    

Um, how I am supposed to follow this???
The Yellow Brick Road stands are great because the base is made out of a very heavy resin.  It's fun to look at and much more stable than a regular Tonner stand--especially the newer hollow-based stands.

Because of the wonderful things it does...
All three of the dolls in this series (you can see the other two here and here) are wearing outfits that look very high fashion, but also successfully evoke the characters from the movie.  What a fun challenge this must have been for the designers at Tonner.  Somehow, Beauty and Brains manages to look chic, while also reminding me of a scruffy scarecrow:


I love the iridescent green coat-style top, but there seems to be a lot going on around this doll's face.  She has the wide-brimmed hat, large chunky earrings, and a tulle ruffle around her neck.  In addition, her hairstyle includes a long, loose strand of hair than hangs down and wants to cover her right eye.  Because it was this doll's realistic face that captivated me, I don't really like all of the distracting embellishments around her head:


The hat looks great from the front, but the sides and the back are not quite as elegant:


The pointed top of the hat tends to pull in one direction or the other, causing it to loose its cone shape:

It's melting, it's melllting!

The ragged trim makes the back of the hat less sophisticated, but contributes greatly to the scarecrow feel of the outfit:



Without the hat, her hair and face are easier to examine:


Her hair is long, and is worn in a fairly simple side ponytail.


There's a delicate braid that runs along one side of her face and then wraps around the base of the ponytail, concealing the rubber band:


The hair is smooth and soft, but it has a mild coarseness to it.  It's not as silky and smooth as some of the other Tonner hair.  Below I've photographed it unbrushed (left) and brushed (right).  Throughout the photo session, it required frequent tidying.


All of the details on the right side of her face leave the left side looking relatively plain:


Her attractive face is much more visible without the hat, but there's still a lot going on.  The dangle earrings can't move freely near the ruffle and tend to stick out.


The ruffled collar is held on by a single metal snap and is very easy to remove.


I realize now that the display doll I saw at FAO Schwarz did not have the tulle collar.  Perhaps they were worried about it getting removed and lost...or perhaps it got removed and lost.


Her eyes are a very plain brown color and she has practically no eyelashes, but the heavy black eyeshadow over her eyes gives her a subtly exotic appearance:


Two minor things bother me about her face paint.  First, she has a small flaw on the inside of her left eye (a tiny dot of black paint) and also her eyebrows are crudely painted.  The eyebrows look good from a distance, but up close they are very angular, and the texture detail is lacking.


With the collar removed and the hat back on, I can recreate the doll I remember from the store:



As I was taking these pictures, I realized that although I'm not crazy about the crowding around this doll's face, what bothers me most is the style of her earrings.  I really don't like the earrings.  They are made from three fairly large wooden beads.  The middle bead on each side is unevenly coated with gold glitter glue.  They remind me of lobster buoys, but maybe only because I live in Maine.

They don't really suggest a scarecrow, either.
I think the doll looks lovely without these clunky earrings, even with both the collar and the hat back in place.  She has a historical look about her in some pictures--maybe vaguely Edwardian, or even Elizabethan with that big collar.


In fact, without the earrings in the way, I really like the collar.  It's very haute couture, but it is also one of the pieces that reminds me the most of Scarecrow, with that straw that was always coming out of his neck seam.

Less itchy than straw, too.
Everything looks better without those earrings.  I love the simplicity of her hairstyle, with the little touch of elegance from that braid.  The ponytail is at just the right height to cascade perfectly over the ruffle of the collar:


She has a very slight overbite and delicately painted lips. She reminds me of Liv Tyler playing Arwen in Lord of the Rings.  I think her profile is especially pretty:

She has those ugly dark spots where the earrings used to be, though.  Grr.
I just love her face.  She looks so realistic and familiar to me:


I think she even channels Judy Garland as Dorothy a bit in this picture:


Let's look at the rest of the outfit.  She's wearing a green coat top, a long skirt, brown tights and boots:


The green top is my favorite piece in this outfit.  The fabric is gorgeous and the style is unique.  The neckline is an attached shawl with tulle ruffles sewn along the edge.  The bodice has princess seams and gathers at a high waist before flaring out over a tulle-lined undercoat:


The waist is accented with a simple belt:


Here you can see the bottom of the coat lifted up to reveal the undercoat:


The sleeves extend out over the doll's hands with elaborate tulle cuffs adorned with golden bows.  This is a fantastic interpretation of the straw falling out around the Scarecrows wrists:


In the back of the coat, the shawl neckline drapes down over Beauty's upper arms and the belt attaches with a single snap:


The shawl part of the coat tucks back underneath itself and the hidden edge of the fabric is not hemmed:


Here is the coat by itself so you can see all of the details more clearly.  It is fully lined and really beautifully made:





I am not quite as excited about the skirt.  In the movie, the Scarecrow's pants are brown with a few differently colored circular patches.  This long satin skirt is obscured by a patched swatch that is presumably supposed to hint at the Scarecrow's pants.  It looks more like a tablecloth to me:

 

Or maybe it's more like a square napkin, pleated twice in the middle and then tacked onto a pretty skirt:

Something is way off with this skirt.
The patches made out of this material are the biggest problem, I think:

That just screams picnic.
Beyond the dubious design elements, the skirt has some construction issues.  In the back, the fabric is bunched along the seams and the white lining shows around the slit:



Without the coat covering the waist of the skirt, you can see how bulky and unflattering it is:


If I only had a waist...
I do really like the basic design of the skirt, though.  It has some cool asymmetry.  I am so tempted to snip off that table cloth so that I can see the style better.


Here's the skirt on its own:


I'm no designer, but I'd love to see this skirt with a thinner lining (to fix the bulky seams), no slit in back, no table cloth, and just a tulle ruffle along the hem--or maybe even a gathered tulle bottom to the skirt.

The high-heeled boots are made of brown faux suede with zippers up the back and a tulle accent at the top.  They also have a translucent ivory ribbon tied in a loopy bow at ankle level:



The boots are great, but again, I think there's a bit too much going on.  Take away that ribbon detail and I think they'd be perfect:


Underneath the skirt, Beauty is wearing two layers of stockings--a nude pair of pantyhose covered by opaque brown tights:


She has the regular 16" Antoinette body with a Cameo skin tone.  As a reminder, this body has 14 points of articulation.


She has a very good range of motion and is fun to pose:





Of all the joints, the ankle joints are the only ones that bother me a bit.  They don't move very much, and so it is hard to see the point in having that added articulation.  Here a picture where I tried to pose them in the two extremes--the foot on the left is extended as far as it would go and the foot on the right  is flexed as far as it would go:


I really appreciate the creativity and whimsy of this doll's outfit, but ever since I saw her at the store, I have been wondering what her delicate features would look like in a simpler outfit.  I don't have a ton of modern-looking Antoinette sized clothes, but this dress from Gold Label Cami seemed like a nice choice:






An unexpected perk of having the elaborate scarecrow outfit is that several of the pieces can mix and match with this simple dress to create fun, modern looks.  Here's the coat over Cami's dress:




The ruffled collar works well with this dress, too:



You can even add in the belt for a more balanced look:




Or remove the collar and have just the belt:


Whether she's all decked out as a scarecrow...


Or modeling a modified high fashion style...

 

...the bottom line is that this is a beautiful doll.  It was the face on this girl that initially drew me in, and it is her face that makes me glad I own her. I'm still not quite sure why I find her face so appealing and familiar...maybe because she resembles the original Tyler Wentworth doll?  Maybe it's something less tangible.  Despite her basic makeup and odd eyebrows, she has an attractive, natural face that can handle high fashion or everyday simplicity.  She reminds me of my old Jinny doll in that she would make an excellent, versatile heroine for a wide variety of imaginative childhood games.

I am surprised by how much I enjoy this doll's outfit.  When I saw her at the store, I appreciated the stylish and creative interpretation of the Scarecrow's costume, but I also assumed that if I ever bought her, I would change her into something more mainstream.  As it is, I feel pretty certain that I will display Beauty in at least some of the pieces from her original outfit.  I don't care for the patchwork on the skirt or the out-of-scale wooden earrings, but I think the shimmering green top is fantastic, the hat is surprisingly elegant and the boots are cute and versatile (and could be more so if they lost their gauzy bows).  The tulle accents throughout the ensemble are great, particularly the ruffled collar.  These details suggest haute couture while also brilliantly evoking the Scarecrow's exposed straw stuffing.  

When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it at the exclusion of other options. It's a good way to avoid disappointment.  I could probably collect only Tonner Cinderella-faced dolls and be completely happy forever after.  However, I'm always delighted when an unexpected character comes along and charms her way into the group.  This kind of experience reminds me to stay open minded and to try and look at every doll with a fresh perspective.  When I look at the 2013 Tonner catalog in a couple of months, I'll try to keep this unforeseen treasure in the back of my head.


13 comments:

  1. A great review as always. I don't know of any shops that sell Tonner dolls here in Australia so always have to buy online.I must admit that, like you, I had overlooked this doll based on her photos. Now I've seen your review and photos I have a much better idea of what this doll is really like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so hard to buy online sometimes, isn't it? I have made many bad calls over the years from having only the tiny promo pictures to look at online. I really wish there were more real doll shops, but I think it is becoming a difficult business. I have a list of several shops in the US that I would love to visit someday, but many of them are a days drive away...or more!

      Delete
  2. This doll's face captured me the first time I saw it - I think I have to do a bit of saving-to-buy, now! Regarding the details of her outfit, I personally like the skirt although I agree that it could be better stitched and a bit less bulky. The asymmetric portion is attractive to me as a feature, however I think I would have not used checks for the patchwork design ... perhaps something in tan stripes would work better, or some of the same material as the strip on the hat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am impressed that you could appreciate her lovely face underneath all of the clothing, Barb--especially from pictures. I need to practice to be better at recognizing these hidden gems! Tan stripes on the skirt are a great idea--that would offer some contrast to the rest of the skirt without being too literally scarecrow.

      Delete
  3. stunning doll I wish I had the money to buy her

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello from spain: this doll is very pretty. Tonner dolls are not sold in my country. I see this doll is very elegant. Great purchase. Keep in touch

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marta--is there another 16" fashion doll that you can collect in Spain? It would be interesting to hear about the different kinds of doll that are popular in each country!

      Delete
    2. Hi Emily! I think the most popular spanish dolls are probably Mariquita Pérez, Nancy and Barriguitas.

      Mariquita Pérez was very popular during the 40s, 50s and 60s but during those times only well-off families could afford her. I believe they're not very popular these days, although she's still produced, but I think she's more appealing to collectors than kids.

      Nancy and Barriguitas are from the same company, Famosa, which now also produces a doll called I love Minnie. Nancy was very popular during the 70s and 80s. I was born in the early 90s so I didn't live the popularity of these dolls, but I believe during those years almost every home had a Nancy doll :) After changing her image a little bit she hit the stores again but not as popular as before.

      With Barriguitas happened the same thing, they were very popular during the 70s and 80s but lost it during the 90s. They recently changed her image and made her bigger (they used to be quite small dolls). I prefer her previous image, she was very innocent and charming but I understand doll makers need to change with the times.

      Had you heard about this dolls before?

      Delete
  5. Emily, you have given me a better eye. Thank you for your insight, good sense, and humor.

    I cannot wait for your review of the 2012 Tonner fall/holiday catalog, especially New York Night.

    Best regards,

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hmm.. Am I the only one who thinks her face looks a little like Katniss from the Hunger Games? Jennifer....Jennifer... crud, whatserface. Gorgeous doll though! :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. She kind of reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence

    ReplyDelete
  8. She reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, especially in the gold Cami dress, it gives off that "Girl on Fire" vibe.

    ReplyDelete