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All about Blythe: the provenance (1972-2008) of this female doll's original toy "Vintage Blythe" design birth and its current life and popularity through "Neo-Blythe" 62+ designs and production models
What is Blythe?
Manufactured by Kenner in 1972, the original Blythe was designed by Marvin Glass & Associates, one of the world's foremost toy design studios. When the Toy Industry Hall of Fame was established in 1984, Marvin Glass was in the first group inducted (which coincidently also included Merrrill L. Hassenfeld of Hasbro, Inc.), ten years after his death . Kenner was bought out by Tonka Toys, which in turn was bought out by Hasbro in the mid-1980s. And that is how Hasbro has come to own the Blythe property. The original Blythe (now known as "vintage") was produced for only one year and then was retired because of poor sales.
For 28 years, Blythe was a curiosity that only doll collectors were interested in. Then, in late 2000, she made her comeback in Japan when CWC produced a charming TV commercial for Parco department store starring Blythe.
In December 1999, at the opening of an exhibition for the CWC International artists in Soho, New York, Gina showed her photos to Junko Wong. Junko knew immediately that Blythe would be popular in Japan. Later that year, Parco chose Blythe as the image girl for the Christmas 2000 campaign. In the summer of 2000, This is Blythe, photos by Gina Garan, was published by Chronicle Books. After the Parco TV commercial, Blythe became an overnight sensation in Japan and Asia. On eBay [s/a eBAY.com, vintage Blythes jumped in price from $35 to $350. Blythe continued as Parco's "image girl" through the spring and into the summer of 2001. The price for vintage Blythes jumped to thousands of dollars U.S. on eBay. (Even some of the limited edition Neo-Blythes are sold for up to four times their retail price on the Yahoo auction site in Japan.)
In June 2001, to meet the popular demand of this new Blythe fanbase, CWC produced an 11 inch neo-Blythe doll, Parco Limited Edition, with the permission of Hasbro and the manufacturing help of Takara.
In June 2001, the first of the Neo-Blythes - produced by CWC and manufactured by Takara - went on the market. The launch of the neo-Blythes was in conjunction with a photo exhibition by Gina Garan. Gina made the trip from New York for the launch and exhibition.
The Parco Limited Edition (1000 dolls), sold out in less than an hour, was followed by the Mondrian, and then Rosie Red, Holly Wood, All Gold In One, Kozy Kape Inspired, Aztec Arrival Inspired, Sunday Best, and in conjunction with the first year anniversary of the neo-Blythes in Japan, Miss Anniversary Blythe. The first year anniversary was marked by a series of Blythe events in Tokyo, which included an exhibition and charity fashion show at the Spiral Hall in Aoyama and exhibitions at the Rocket and CWC Galleries, and at IMS in Fukuoka, Kyushu. The exhibition featured photos by Gina Garan and dolls styled by artists, fashion designers, and Blythe fans. The fashion show featured couture for Blythe by such internationally known designers as: Issey Miyake, Chisato Tsumori, and Hysteric Glamour.
Since the June 2002 events, Blythe dolls feature the "excellent body." Bohemian Beat went on sale on July 31. Asian Butterfly and Piccadilly Dolly followed in early autumn, 2002 with Skate Date and Rouge Noir at the end of 2002.
Dolls in 2003 include Cinnamon Girl, Excellent Hollywood, Bohemian Beats Again, Tea For Two, Disco Boogie, Cherry Berry, and Love Mission (Kuen Kuen), Courtney Tez by Nike, Fruit Punch. On December 20, 2003 Superior Skate and Very Inspired by Pow Wow Poncho debuted out at the Blythe Cool Mod exhibition at Printemps Department Store in Ginza. These two dolls were the first "Superior Blythe" dolls made from a new mold which is based on a 3-D laser scan of a vintage Blythe. All the Blythe dolls after Superior Skate are the "superior" dolls.
In January 2004, Velvet Minuet and Silver Snow were released, and in March: I Love You, It's True, and Sunday's Very Best. In April , Over the Stripes Happy Everyday, a limited edition of 3000 was sold by lottery. Lounging Lovely came out in May. The 3rd Anniversary Blythe, Art Attack, a limited edition of 2004 dolls, was featured at Spiral Hall sold to lottery winners. Paradis by Mono Comme Ca, another limited edition of 3000, was also sold by lottery in June with French Trench a Blythe Shop exclusive. The dolls for the rest of the summer include: Birdie Blue, Mademoiselle Rosebud, and Samedi Marche. That fall saw, Groovy Goove, Mitten by Blythe (ltd. Edition collaboration with the Mitten character), Lil’ Heart (a limited edition collaboration with the fashion brand, Milk)
The dolls in 2005: Tweedly Do, Inspired by Pinafore Purple, Margaret Meets Ladybug, V-Smash, Candy Carnival, Roxy Baby, Good Neighbor Café, Cinema Princess (anniversary doll), Tommy February, Asian Butterfly Encore, Samedi Marche Encore, Rendezvous Chou Chou, White Magic Morning, White Magic Afternoon, White Magic Night.
Dolls in 2006: Merry Skier, Cute and Curious, Black Berry Bush, Tea for Two Encore, Rosie Red Encore, Strawberry Mille-feuille, Night Flower, Honey Bunny Once More, Prima Dolly Ashlet, Prima Dolly Ginger, Pima Dolly Voilet, Darling Diva (anniversary doll), Piccadilly Dolly Encore, Last Kiss, Star Dancer, Yukinonamidahime, Ichigo Heaven.
Dolls in 2007: Prima Dolly Melon, Feel the Sky, Prima Dolly Aubrey, Prima Dolly Saffy, Prima Dolly Ebony, Ultimate Tour, Tailor Gibson, Rainy Day Parade, Gentle River, My Best Friend, Prima Dolly Peach, Save the Animals, Princess ala mode (anniversary doll), Hello Harvest, Prima Dolly Cassis, Cloud 9 Bowl, Dainty Biscuit, Mrs. Retro Mama, Enchanted Petal, Angelica Eve, Odekake Kimono Musume, Mod Molly.
2008: Welcome Winter, Happy Harbour, Natasha Moore, Heart of Montmartre, with more coming!
Since that launch, 62 and still counting! editions of neo-Blythe dolls have been produced. A year later, a 4 1/2 inch version of the Neo-Blythe was invented, titled "Petite Blythe" and affectionately called "Pucci". By the spring of 2006, there have been 100 and still counting! editions of the Petite Blythe doll produced.
Nowadays, Blythe's photogenic style can also be found gracing countless accessories and stationary goods the world over.
Who designed the first Blythe?
Blythe was actually created by three people at Marvin Glass Studios, a famous toy design company. The eyes came first, but Rouben Terzian wanted to use them in a dog toy. Gordon Barlow, who was considered a genius in the studio (he created Mouse Trap), kept telling Rouben, "No, it's a doll, let's make a doll." So the eyes were used for Blythe. Alison Katzman modeled the face. Originally, the body was going to be proportional to the head, but because of packaging restrictions, the body size was reduced, so that the head became proportionally large compared with the body.
Neo-Blythe was released in 2001 from Takara, produced by CWC based on the Vintage Blythe. The head of the Neo-Blythe is a faithful reproduction of the Vintage Blythe and the body is the same size of Licca-chan doll of Takara.
After several improvements, "Miss Anniversary" was released in 2002, in commemoration with the 1 year anniversary. Its body was fairly close to the Vintage Blythe's and was called Excellent Body. ( Excellent Blythe).
Designs and concepts, including fashion, accessories and package designing for Neo-Blythe and the Excellent Blythe are done by creative directors of CWC's team (Junie Moon) headed by Junko Wong. The 60's and 70's fashions are important to Blythe, because this was when she was born. The style taste of this era is then re-mixed with current styles. Also there is a series of Inspired Dolls, which are inspired by a fashion of the time of the Vintage Blythe.
Neo-Blythe's body is the same size of Licca-chan doll and has slender limbs and made from plastic, which enable it to bend at various angles. The Excellent Body is full-fleshed and more glamorous compared to the Neo-Blythe's body. Its legs can bend at the knee, but its arms cannot be bent.
Pull the cord behind the head of Blythe, and here eyes change color . There are four colors in all: blue, green, pink and orange. However, special dolls like anniversary dolls or collaboration dolls have special eye colors.
Who is Cross World Connections (CWC)?
CWC holds the license granted by Hasbro to produce Blythe dolls in Asia and Oceania. CWC represents Blythe for all commercial licensing and modeling opportunities throughout Asia and Oceania. The Blythe dolls, design concepts, fashion accessories and package design are all conceived by and created by CWC (aka Junie Moon) in conjunction with Takara for Neo-Blythe and e-Rovolution for Petite Blythe. CWC also hosts Blythe fashion shows, curates Blythe exhibition, and produces the annual Blythe Charity Fashion show and other Blythe related Blythe event.
CWC functions as a large creative agency, managing over 40 international artists, including illustrators, graphic designers and photographers. We manage this wide range of artists from our offices in Tokyo and in New York. We also run the Blythe shop "Junie Moon and Gallery LELE" and cafe & gallery "hana" in Daikanyama, Tokyo.
Who is Junko Wong?
Junko Wong CWC Group Executive Creative Producer
Junko Wong is the founder and president of CWC and is also the creative producer of Blythe. Her career in Japan started in 1986 as a free-lance exhibition organizer and creative agent for overseas artists. She founded CWC in 1991 and later established CWC International in NY.
As one of the first to introduce and successfully present international commercial artists to Japan, Junko Wong is a pioneer in creating a borderless network between the Japanese and International commercial art industry. As a producer of Blythe, she is in charge of every aspect and actively involved in all of the marketing and promotional planning.
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