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So smillaraaq, This One Is for You ...

I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, or perhaps a bit of both:

The latest American Girls doll is Kanani: "From rescuing a baby monk seal to pitching in at her family's shop, Kanani loves to help others and share the aloha spirit of Hawai'i. Experience her world!"

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
smillaraaq
Jan. 10th, 2011 05:39 am (UTC)
Hee, I *just* saw the news about her for the first time yesterday and was squeeing a litttle bit to see a contemporary hapa doll in such a mass-market brand! I'm not crazy about the AG facial sculpts in general, they're kind of bland and baby-ish looking for my tastes, and charging $100 for non-customizable mass-produced vinyl seems kind of outrageous to someone who's been spoiled by hand-painted BJDs, and of course she'd be totally out of scale with my resin 'ohana...but still I'm halfway tempted in spite of it all. If I ever find one going for a more reasonable price on the secondary market, I might not be able to say no. XD
chomiji
Jan. 11th, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)

I was hoping her accessories might be interesting enough to be of some good to your girls, but I'm not sure they are.

I was curious as to how they were doing on cultural accuracy. The Rebecca Rubin stuff wasn't too bad, from my viewpoint.

smillaraaq
Jan. 11th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Yeah, sadly her accessories so far don't look nearly as nice as the stuff they put out for the historical dolls -- very plasticky. But apparently they tend to release two batches of stuff for the limited-edition annual girls, so maybe there'll be something more interesting in the second round later in the year. The only thing I can see working from this round is maybe the paddleboard, but I'd want to see it in person first -- it only comes as a set with a bunch of cheesy little extras I wouldn't use, and for something where I'd wind up reselling or giving away half the set, unless it looks really amazing I'd be more inclined to make something myself from scratch and do a detailed replica of some real local-kine surf brand, y'know? And the clothes of course are all out of scale -- the AG dolls are all about the same height as wee Roselani, but she's about half their width, so other than occasional accessory pieces the AG-size doll clothes would all swim on her.

I need to see if I can find the book somewhere to flip through to check it out more fully than the tiny handful of sample pages I've seen online. They apparently did have actual local cultural consultants, and the author is Asian herself and did visit the islands for research...but she's from California, so I expect there are likely to be a lot of little things that are slightly off -- just from looking at the available merch and sample pages there are already some small things I can see that are not quite right. But I really love the way the illustrator paints her, she looks so much like any number of folks I knew growing up...and even if it sounds like they've kind of whitened-up her family tree beyond the more typical island sort of mix, it seems that she is the very first explicitly multiracial rather than biracial AG doll, and that's a rather cool thing. I've seen a few folks complaining she doesn't have darker hair, but I'm honestly of two minds about that -- on the one hand, yeah, black or dark brown is certainly more common in the islands than lighter shades, but OTOH there are PLENTY of mixed locals with hair that color, too -- and given the usual mass-media stereotypes about what mixed-race people are "supposed" to look like, and the stupidity or downright nastiness I've seen directed at those of us who turn out darker or lighter than some people think we're supposed to look...I'm really also kind of glad that a line as high-profile as this is sort of bucking the stereotypes and showing a hapa girl whose hair ISN'T the sort of poker-straight, jet-black that an awful lot of people would assume she *must* have? And really, whatever quibbles I may have on a deeper meta level with some of the attitudes and cultural assumptions underlying AG's portrayal of their non-white dolls -- when I look at pics like this little girl gleefully hugging her new dolly, I just can't get too hung up on theory. Twenty years ago I bought myself a cheesy little 7" Madame Alexander Pocahontas doll, even though she was just wildly inauthentically-dressed and sculpted and I really wasn't even into dolls at the time, just because it was such a startlingly rare thing to even see a pretty "Indian" doll from a major company, and her coloring, whitewashed as it was for the historical character, was kind of close to one of my little cousins. So it makes me happy to see a wider, better range of options for little girls today (and some grown-up POC collectors making up for what wasn't available when they were little), even if they're still not ideal portrayals.

Edited at 2011-01-11 04:27 am (UTC)
chomiji
Jan. 12th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)

Awww, I like that picture of the little girl! Yes, that's the kind of thing I hope always happens when someone makes inclusive toys like that.

(Are you familiar with Manhattan Toys' Groovy Girls? No big attempts at being intelligent or educational;, but they've always come in a variety of skin tones. We used to get them for The Young Lady and my friend K's two girls because they had clothes and accessories like Barbie without nearly as much of the unfortunate body image baggage. Plus, they have mermaids and stuff!)

It'll certainly be interesting to see what the second set of Kanani gear includes.

smillaraaq
Jan. 12th, 2011 12:12 pm (UTC)
I know I've seen them linked around somewhere before, the name and the pictures look familiar, although they don't seem to be in the current inventory of the domestic doll shop I get a lot of my supplies from. Cloth dolls like that aren't something I tend to go hunting for readymade since I was sewing plush animals and cloth dolls with my mom all the way back in middle school, but it's so cool that they're available ready-made and affordable for less crafty folks, and with a nice range of accessories and skintones! If I ever find the time to sit down and do soft dolls again, I really want to try doing something more sculptural like one of Nuno's patterns, since that would be an interesting expansion of technique and complexity from the sort of more basic cloth dolls I made as a child.

Speaking of cute island photos -- it's no longer directly linked in the sidebar like when I first loaded that news story, but the Star-Advertiser has a photo gallery from a recent New Year Japanese culture festival...and along with all the cute photos of cute local kids interacting with the Okinawan lion dancer, this pic utterly cracks me up. SOMEBODY isn't scared of that big ol' lion! And he even has his very own New Year omamori, which is almost as big as his head! XD

(Did I ever show you the adorable videos of a lion dance held at a Cali pow-wow a couple years ago?)
chomiji
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:28 am (UTC)

Lion dance: No, I don't think so!

(OMG, Nuno did a Keiki from Twelve Kingdoms!)

smillaraaq
Jan. 13th, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)
She has Hikaru no Go dolls too! And many other familiar chaaracters, if you poke around a bit, including some from Western media as well as anime...

The video's in two parts for some reason, even though it's very short:





Part one has a little more of the kids and spectators (with the inevitable Random Dog), part two you can see some of the musicians, although the singer and sanshin player is usually half-hidden behind one of the drummers. Not the greatest video quality ever, but it never fails to make me smile.
lady_ganesh
Jan. 13th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
My daughter has a pile of Groovy Girls and they are so fun!
lady_ganesh
Jan. 13th, 2011 02:12 am (UTC)
In my experience, the American Girl plastic merch is OK, but the sewn stuff is pretty much never worth it.

I am officially ded of cute after that picture, omg.
chomiji
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)

Yikes, then their QC is slipping. My sis Amy got the Young Lady a hiking outfit for her Josefina 10 years ago, and the details on the clothing were just amazing. Ame was like "These shorts! They're just like the ones I have from REI!"

smillaraaq
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
Supposedly they're going to be opening a store in Tyson's later this year...maybe we can make a trip and check out their tailoring in person? :)

The clothing from some of the BJD manufacturers is expensive, but just so exquisitely tailored -- there's a Korean studio called Freedom Teller, for instance, that seems to specialize in men's suits that are just astonishing miniature works of arts, fully lined jackets and vests and tiny working buttonholes and everything.

ETA: some examples here -- functional welt pockets! jacket vent! full linings! tiny working buttonholes and beltloops! perfect zipper fly with facing! working trouser pockets! The only piece that isn't made *exactly* like a human garment in miniature is the necktie -- at that scale, trying to work in all the layers of folded fabric and lining and interfacing that make up a real tie would end up leaving you with something impossibly bulky for its scale, so the ties look OK flat but never quite tie and drape as smoothly as their weightier full-size cousins. But that's such a minor thing compared to how amazing all the other tailoring details are. I could squee for days, this stuff is just perfectly calculated to hit me square in the love for fine tailoring and textiles and the irresistible draw of perfect miniature anythings.

Here's Nasir all dressed up in his Freedom Teller ensemble to escort some smaller friends to Kennedy Center:



I am just ridiculously in love with that suit, ZOMG. (I'm still debating whether it would look better with black patent dress shoes instead of the lower-gloss smooth leather/pleather ones he has on here -- the suiting material itself is pretty lustrous so I worry the shinier shoes might be too much of a muchness in some lighting conditions...)

Edited at 2011-01-13 05:47 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh
Jan. 15th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
I suspect the quality slipped after (I think) Mattel bought them, yeah. It's not bad, just not great.
smillaraaq
Jan. 16th, 2011 05:30 am (UTC)
*checks AG-otaku wiki*

Hmmm, Mattel bought them out way back in '99, but it apparently took about three more years for the transition over to the full-on Mattel dolls to be completed -- I'm seeing a lot of talk about the dolls themselves being slightly lower quality and more of the accessories switching over to plastic as the years went on. The clothing talk mostly seems to focus on the fit issues since the post-Mattel dolls had slimmer bodies/limbs and smaller feet, but I wouldn't be surprised if the changeover also led to corners being cut on construction/material quality. So yeah, an outfit purchased ten years ago, even though that was at the start of the Mattel era, might have been manufactured pre-Mattel, or at most were very early in the transition phase when quality might still have been a little higher.
lady_ganesh
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
Interesting!
(Deleted comment)
smillaraaq
Jan. 10th, 2011 11:20 pm (UTC)
Bwah! I am now picturing a baby-seal Sanzo grumbling endlessly about how hard it is to light one's Marlboros with flippers, especially when the waves keep putting them out. XD
lady_ganesh
Jan. 13th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
Bwah!
chomiji
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)

The Young Lady decided that your description cried out to be illustrated.

smillaraaq
Jan. 13th, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
*dying*

Ah ha ha, if she will let you repost to one of the comms, that is too funny not be shared!
lady_ganesh
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
Ha!
chomiji
Jan. 11th, 2011 02:18 am (UTC)

Hee, that's certainly a very different mental image!

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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