What is now known at Tonner Company as the “classic child body” started life as a younger, smaller character in the fourteen inch Betsy McCall line in 1998 – Betsy’s cousin Linda McCall. The entire Tonner Betsy McCall line is based on the art of Ginnie Hofmann who drew the paper dolls that appeared monthly in the McCall’s magazine. Linda McCall dolls are made entirely of hard vinyl, with elastic stringing (one loop joining the legs to the head and one loop joining the arms together). They have light blue inset eyes and blond wigs in a couple of different hair styles. The face and body were sculpted by Robert Tonner. Linda was produced through 2002.
In 2001, two years after Ann Estelle appeared, Tonner produced another line of ten inch child dolls based on the “For Better or For Worse” comics by Lynn Johnston - two characters (and a dog). These dolls were originally also made of hard vinyl, but in later years were made of a softer, more elastic vinyl. They are not strung with elastic. Instead the arms, legs and head pop onto “buttons”. (I know for certain that this is the way the head is attached and I’m assuming it is the way the arms and legs are attached.) They have painted eyes and rooted hair. April has brown hair in a couple of styles and Becky has blond hair. (The dog is named Edgar.) The dolls are just a tad taller than Ann Estelle dolls and their feet just a little bigger but all in all their clothing and shoes work well on the Ann Estelle group. You will, in fact, sometimes see For Better or For Worse clothing erroneously listed on eBay as from the Ann Estelle line. The line was produced through 2004.
As we discussed in more detail in the “Ann Estelle History” page of the website, Tonner started the Mary Engelbreit line in 1999, using the Linda McCall body (which is why you see the initials “LM” on the arms and legs), using the same construction of elastic stringing and hard vinyl. Robert Tonner did the face sculpts for the four characters (and the eventual fifth character Michael re-used the Sophie sculpt.) All have inset eyes and wigs.
Since the Mary Engelbreit line was started in 1999, during its first couple of years all three ten inch child dolls lines were being produced at the same time. My own vision is that the Linda strung body style and the April non-strung body style were devised as competing styles for the size and that the Linda strung body was the one that “won” and kept evolving whereas the April body was an evolutionary dead end. One thing I notice about the April body is that it is harder to dress since there is no “give” in the shoulder joints and thus it is difficult to bring the hands towards each other to fit through arm holes or sleeves in outfits. The later dolls made of softer vinyl are somewhat easier to dress, but still not as easy as the strung Linda body.
For the Fall/Holiday 2005 season, Tonner added articulated knees to the dolls. This necessitated changing the material of the legs and torso to hard plastic, although the head and arms remain hard vinyl. From this point on, the head and legs are no longer connected with strung elastic. Instead the head pops onto a button and the legs are somehow mechanically held in the hip sockets. The new torso is slightly smaller than the old hard vinyl torso, thus Tonner clothing made from late 2005 onwards can sometimes be a little too small for the older dolls. The change also means that the doll’s center of gravity is not quite as well placed as it is in the old straight legged dolls and often one has to pose the dolls bending slightly forward at the hips to keep them from falling over backwards (if not using a stand, that is.)
In 2008, using this same knee-jointed body, Tonner introduced the Petite Fille line. These are two characters, Mimi and Babette, based on paper doll illustrations by Elizabeth Gartrell Voss from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Their elaborate hair styles and first outfits are somewhat Antebellum in style and later outfits are international - Dutch and Spanish. They have inset eyes, applied lashes and wigs. The head sculpts were not done by Robert Tonner. They were produced for about two years.
In 2009, using the same knee jointed body, Tonner introduced Fancy Nancy’s Little Sister (who accompanies a larger doll, older sister Nancy). She is based on the character from the children's picture books written by Jane O'Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Little Sister uses the Linda McCall face sculpt, with dark inset eyes and dark rooted hair. Only one doll/outfit was made in this line.
In February 2011, again using the now “classic child body”, Tonner introduced the Disney Small World line, consisting of two dolls (Holland and India.) They have painted eyes and wigs of saran (said to be “Not Removable”).
Thus the “classic child body” continues to evolve. Where will it appear next?? Who will it be?? Rumors, rumors ……. something fun, I’m sure!!