Friday, April 12, 2024

K: Kira

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter K

A discontinued Barbie line doll, Kira was one of several dolls in the line that attempted to capture Asian representation. Kira was introduced in the late 1980s, replacing a previous Asian character Miko. The two dolls used the same face mold. In Europe, Kira was called Marina. Kira's exact nationality has been debated.

Kira was discontinued in the early 2000s. A new Asian doll, Lea, took her place. Lea was passed out in 2006, leaving the line without any Asian characters, but was reintroduced in 2014.

See Kira's history in this video:

Thursday, April 11, 2024

J: Jazzie


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter J

A character in the Barbie line who is not well remembered. The aforementioned Francie wasn't the only cousin of Barbie's to have her own line. In 1989, Jazzie, Barbie's Cool Teen Cousin was introduced. Jazzie was something of a spiritual successor to Mattel's Starr line from a decade earlier. Starr was a high-school themed line that had no ties to Barbie. Starr had a boyfriend and two female friends, a car and several fashion sets. Only one doll of each character was made and the line lasted about two years. Starr's boxes were white with a notebook-paper design.

Jazzie's line was similarly packaged in white boxes, and she also had a boyfriend and two female friends. A Volkswagen Cabriolet (which the Heart Family also had) and a Burger King playset were also released, as well as several fashion sets (only for the girl dolls). Jazzie was launched in five different versions during  the first year of production, along with her three high-school friends. Jazzie came as a basic high school doll, as well as in Teen Dance, Cheerleader, Work Out, and Swimsuit themed outfits. The different dolls' outfits could be changed into more than one different look.

(From left) Jazzie, Chelsie, Stacie and Dude in 
the original white packaging.


Some Jazzie dolls and outfits.

Jazzie used the head mold of one of Starr's friends, Kelley (this was also used for the Caucasian Mrs. Heart dolls). Jazzie's boyfriend was named Dude, and he used the head mold of Derek from the Rockers line. Her girl friends were red-haired Chelsie (with the head mold of another of Starr's friends, Tracy), and African American Stacie. Stacie used an often-used head mold that will come into discussion later.

Chelsie and Stacie are two more names that have been thrown around in Barbie's world. The name Chelsie also appeared in the Barbie Generation Girl line. The differently spelled Chelsea was one of the dolls in the My Scene line, and that same spelling is used for the name of one of Barbie's current sisters (originally named Kelly). The doll Stacey (note spelling) was a British friend of Barbie's produced from 1968 to 1971, and another of Barbie's current sisters is named Stacie. Confusing, eh?

But let's get back to Jazzie. During her second year of production, her friends were discontinued and her white boxes were replaced with the hot pink color associated with Barbie. Soon Jazzie's own line was cancelled and she was absorbed into Barbie's annual swimsuit line (the same had been true of Francie), making three more appearances before disappearing altogether.

Jazzie's new pink packaging 

Jazzie's first appearance in
the Barbie swimsuit line. 

(from left): Ken, Barbie and Jazzie in the Sun
Sensation line.

 Glitter Beach Jazzie--
the last Jazzie doll

This was another line that came out way too late for me. I might have wanted it. So many things I learned about later in life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

I: Italian Barbie


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter I

Italian Barbie 

Having seen the Italian Barbie Doll in this book, I decided to look this one up more. This came out around 1979, when the company began producing international versions of the iconic doll. The box side (pictured below) listed several words in Italian, as well as some info about Italian culture. The book linked above said the head mold on this doll was a new one, but in another entry (for the Guardian Goddesses dolls of 1978), it said the mold from that earlier line was used on Italian Barbie. 

The aforementioned doll guide is sadly outdated, and when I Googled "Italian Barbie," the first thing that came up was the doll pictured below, that came out in the early 1990s. I was glad to see more than one iteration of this doll theme.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

H: The Heart Family

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter H

The Heart Family

The basic family sets (above and below).
 Both dads used
previous Ken head molds, thus bearing a
slight resemblance to Ken.

The Heart Family was introduced in 1985 and were said to be friends of Barbie. Yet many did not see or even know the connection, as the Heart Family had their own blue packaging as opposed to Barbie's trademark pink packaging. Before Midge and Alan's Happy Family line, there was this family--Mr. and Mrs. Heart and their twin boy and girl babies, none of whom had names.The family was made in both Caucasian and African American versions. Grandparents were also made (but only one set, and no grandparents for the AA family), as well as a family dog. The kids were soon joined by several cousins and neighborhood friends, all of whom did have names. And long before the pregnant Midge Doll, the Heart Family had a New Arrival Set, with a new baby. Another toy that was pre-social media. For whatever reasons, the New Arrival Baby was never seen again after one year.

The family could be purchased in deluxe sets (all four dolls) or in sets with one parent paired with one baby. Originally the mom came with the baby girl and the dad with the boy, but the two later switched babies, presumably to make the dad sets better sellers, since female dolls sell best. Numerous sets of the family were sold over five years of production, including a basic doll set (shown above), and with themes such as birthday parties, "Kiss and Cuddle," school, bath time and a Disneyland visit (in 1990, for the park's 35th anniversary). Numerous playsets, such as a house, car, and a nursery (and too many others to mention) were available, as well as different outfit sets. The Heart Family also had several toys that were sold only on foreign markets. I so would have wanted this line, but I was too big for toys when it was out! And I likely would never have been able to get all the different sets!

The Disneyland sets (left and right),
and one of the baby cousins (middle).
Dad was once again packaged with the boy,
and Mom
 with the girl.
The cousins and neighborhood kids each came with an accessory,
 such as a rocking horse, wagon, walker or high chair.

The grandparents came with presents 
for their grandchildren.

The Heart Family was something of a modern-day spiritual successor to Mattel's 1970s line The Sunshine Family, (and their AA counterparts, The Happy Family, not to be consumed with the Midge line of the same name), a sort-of hippie alternative to Barbie. Strangely, there was a Barbie Babysits set in the Sunshine Family to establish a link between the two lines. But there were no "Barbie Babysits" sets with the Heart Family. If they were in fact her friends, then why did she not babysit for them? Perhaps Skipper could have sat for them (she would later get a babysitting line). A tie-in like this could perhaps have made the link to Barbie a little more clear. According to the link above, the "Barbie's friends" backstory was soon abandoned, perhaps because no one seemed to make the connection. No fancy Corvette or dream house, rather a Volkswagen Cabriolet and a basic four-room house (both pictured below) for this family. Certainly not indicative of a Barbie lifestyle. 

Despite not having a clear connection to Barbie, I decided to include this line since the Heart Family was something of a precursor to the Midge and Alan Happy Family line. Even before the Heart Family, there was a one-time bride and groom doll in the Barbie line in 1983, named Tracy and Todd, who may have served as a prototype for the Heart Family. (And I won't get started on how many times the name Todd has been thrown around in the Barbie line).  And an originally planned line of Alan and Midge with twin babies (seemingly inspired by the Heart Family following its cancellation) never came to fruition--more on this later.

Monday, April 8, 2024

G: Growing Up Skipper


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter G

Barbie's sister Skipper was introduced in 1964, and has had her own line of friends that has changed over the years. Her friends have included Ricky, Skooter (a little more on her later), Fluff, Tiff, Ginger (see below), Nikki and Courtney (more on Nikki later). She's had two different boyfriends, Scott and Kevin. Skipper was discontinued in 2003, only to return six years later. Her history is in the video below.

The main reference made to Skipper in the Barbie movie was to a controversial iteration of the character in 1975, known as Growing Up Skipper. See the commercial below to see what the doll was all about. And watch this video as well.

Ginger (pictured below), a one-time friend of Skipper's, was also made with the "Growing Up" feature. 

This was before the Internet and social media. No question on whether such a doll even be allowed to be produced today.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Sunday Break

Those of us participating in Blogging A to Z get Sundays off. I wasn't sure how often I'd be on the blog on Sunday, even though I have pre-written my A to Z posts and am still going over them. 

I decided to schedule my posts, at least for a while. This will come in handy on the day of my colonoscopy, since I''ll have to be up super early that morning. My pre-op phone appointment is this Tuesday (a week before the procedure) and I am working on questions to ask during the call. I'm getting more and more nervous about preparing for the exam, and took the previous day off from work as I can see myself feeling dizzy while refraining from consuming certain foods. This will be safer and I'll be able to rest. 

If I do any posts outside of A to Z in April, they will be on Sundays. I don't picture doing very many with all I've got going, but I hope to maybe get in a post for the Book Blog Discussion Challenge. I schedule-posted my monthly reading bingo card today. I usually post it on the third when it comes out.  

April Bookish Bingo

 Here is the new card for April.

My Books:

  1. Pirate Passover--Judy Press (1 square): E-Book
  2. Apocalypse Baby--Virginie Despentes (11 squares): Library Book, Physical Book, Not in a Series, LGBTQ+, Crime Boss, Job/Career, Sleuthing, Presumed Dead, Missing Person, Cliffhanger
  3. How to See--Thich Nhat Hanh (1 square): Audiobook
  4. Mystique--Amanda Quick (6 squares): Free Book, Shelf Love, Free Space, Love/Lust, Jilted Lover, Trust Issues
  5. Check & Mate--Ali Hazelwood (1 square): Book Club Read
  6. Another Kind of Madness--Stephen P. Hinshaw (1 square): Mental Illness
  7. By the Light of the Study Lamp--Carolyn Keene ( squares): In a Series, Library

Saturday, April 6, 2024

F: Francie


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter F

Francie was Barbie's MOD'ern Cousin from the U.K. The character capitalized on the British Invasion in pop culture, coming with mod-style clothing of the late 1960s and early 1970s. She had a friend named Casey, whose head mold was also used for Mattel's Twiggy doll.  Francie was also made as an African American doll, but this version was not labeled as Barbie's cousin. The AA Francie doll used a now-outdated term in the doll's name. Francie never got a boyfriend, however. Before she disappeared, Francie was incorporated into the annual Barbie swimsuit line (known by the Malibu name until the mid-80s).

Mattel's 1971 catalog promoted a doll named Becky (with Casey's head mold) as a new friend of Francie, but the Becky doll was never produced. In 2009, however, a Most Mod Party Becky doll was made. Yet another use of the Becky name in the Barbie line. 

Francie would not be the only cousin of Barbie's to have her own line of friends and fashions. Another will be mentioned later.

Friday, April 5, 2024

E: Earring Magic Ken


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter E

One of the iterations of Ken depicted in the movie is that of Earring Magic Ken from the early 1990s. This one caused controversy as the doll made people believe that Ken was gay. His story is documented in this video (Warning: May contain harsh language):

This was in the pre-Internet, pre-social media era, yet there were plenty of media remarks about the doll. The short-lived Chevy Chase Show on Fox and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno both made remarks about this Ken. (see Wikipedia article). 

Around the same time as the Earring Magic dolls, Mattel produced a line based on the hit TV show Beverly Hills 90210. The Dylan doll in this series was made with a single pierced ear, but received none of the negative publicity that Earring Magic Ken faced.  

Earring Magic Ken has since been a sought-after doll by collectors as well as a gay community icon.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

D: Derek, Dana, Dee Dee, and Diva


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter D

Derek, Dana, Dee Dee and Diva

These were the bandmates of Barbie in the Barbie and the Rockers line of 1986. Dana was Asian; Dee Dee, African American; and Diva, a redhead. Derek was supposedly Hispanic. Ken (with rooted blond hair) would join the band a year later. Yes, Barbie had a band at one point among her many careers. Another missed opportunity for a movie reference. A video was made of the band, and cassettes were included with the dolls. The Rockers line was designed to compete with Hasbro's Jem and the Holograms line. 

The Rockers line was succeeded by Barbie and the Sensations, a video of which was also produced. 

The Derek head mold would be reused in a later Barbie line that not many people remember--one of the posts to come.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

C: Christie


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter C

Christie was Barbie's first African American friend, though not the first AA doll in the line. That would be Barbie's cousin Francie in an AA version (more on this to come). But let's get back to Christie. She was first introduced in 1968 as part of the Talking line. She got a new face mold that was also used on the Julia doll

Christie seems to have come and gone from the Barbie line many times. After disappearing in 2005, she came back in 2015 only to be discontinued once again. She had a boyfriend in the 1970s named Brad, but the two were temporarily replaced by Cara and Curtis. Cara appeared in three Barbie lines, but Curtis's only appearance was in the Free Moving Line of 1975. Barbie herself was first made in an AA version in 1980, and Ken's first AA version was in 1982. New AA character Steven was introduced in 1988, but he only appeared in the annual swimsuit lines. 

I would have liked to have seen Christie portrayed in the movie.

See Christie's history in this video:

Although the character was discontinued in 2015, a 55th anniversary Christie was issued in 2023 (pictured below). Christie's place in the line-up of friends has been taken by another doll (this will be in another post). 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

B: Becky


#AtoZChallenge 2024 badge B

Becky was a friend of Barbie's who used a wheelchair, introduced in 1997. This was one attempt by Mattel to show diversity in the line. She appeared in three lines (the first of which, Share a Smile, is pictured below) until she was discontinued, the reason being that her wheelchair could not fit into Barbie's Dreamhouse. From this link:
... Kjersti Johnson, a girl with cerebral palsy, realized Becky’s wheelchair didn’t fit in the dream house elevator, so she wrote to Mattel to ask if the dream house elevator could be modified to accommodate Becky’s wheelchair. After several unsuccessful redesign attempts, they discontinued the doll. In the 2019 Barbie Fashionistas line, Barbie was finally actually in a wheelchair herself, offering a more diverse representation of beauty....

It's too bad the doll had to be discontinued for reasons like this. But least they found another way to represent those in need of such accommodation in the line.

This is not the only time the name Becky was used in the Barbie line, however. Mattel tends to reuse names in the Barbie line (and in other toy and doll lines), seemingly not to lose the rights to the names. But when used in the same line, it can get confusing.

One character named Becky was in the Barbie and the Sensations line from the late 1980s (the successor to Barbie and the Rockers, which I will be discussing later). Becky is the doll on the left of the photo, with Bopsy in the middle and Barbie on the right (the fourth member, African American Belinda, is not pictured). A video was made of this line.

And in 1995, Barbie's Baby sister Kelly (now called Chelsea) was introduced, and she had her own line of toddler friends, one of whom was named Becky. Becky and the rest of Kelly's little friends (including Ken's little brother Tommy) disappeared after Kelly's name was changed to Chelsea.

Are you confused yet? There is still another use of the name, which will come into discussion in another post. Sorry to keep you in suspense.

--Ending for today.

Monday, April 1, 2024

A: Alan

 Blogging A to Z 2024 has begun. My theme this year is Barbie. For Day One:

#AtoZChallenge 2024 badge A


"There is only one Alan," so says the narration to the Barbie movie. Indeed, Alan's best-known version is the one depicted by Michael Cera in the film, in the multi-color striped shirt. Originally spelled Allan, the character was introduced as Ken's friend in 1964. He was named for Mattel founder Ruth Handler's son-in-law.

Allan was discontinued after 1965, but reintroduced in 1991 (and the spelling of his name changed to Alan), when he and Barbie's friend Midge were married, in the Wedding Day series. A year later, a proposed line with Alan and Midge with twin babies was shown in promotional booklets, but never made.  

In 2002, the Happy Family set with Alan, Midge and their son was produced, with Midge pregnant with their second child. This caused controversy, and Walmart pulled the dolls from their shelves. Read more about the doll series here. An African American version of the series was also released; this was the only time Midge and Alan were portrayed as such. 

The pregnant Midge was depicted in the film, but apparently has no relationship with Allan in the striped shirt. This despite Alan being discontinued a second time. More on Midge herself to come.

One of Barbie's younger sister Skipper's early friends, Ricky (pictured below), bore a strong resemblance to Allan. Ricky was often thought to be Allan's brother, though that was never said to be true.

End of Day One.