Documentary Film English Subtitling * Translation & Transcreation of Documents
Working Fields: Social Sciences (including Politics, Arts, Music, Folklore & Mythology)

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Lilli Doll: The Barbie Origins

Hello there Barbie fans! You will definitely hate me for this...

Bild-Lilli Doll
(Source: Making the Modern World)
Barbie has a German grannie; Lilli.
Lilli started as a cartoon character created for the Bild-Zeitung, a German tabloid - currently known as The Bild - back in 1952 by Reinhard Beuthien. Lilli was an open, fortune-grabber, impudent, post-war figurine. As Lilli was very unashamed about her attempts to score a wealthy suitor and had no preservations about sex, she was the perfect discreet sex model.
The German tabloid decided to market a representation of Lilli in a form of a novelty doll, following Lilli's success as a cartoon character. The dolls were sold together with miniature Bild-Zeitung in a clear plastic tube. It was produced in 2 sizes; 30 cm and 19 cm.
The doll was made of plastic. The head, up to the chin, was moulded separately from the rest of the body. Most bizarrely, the hair was not attached directly to the head piece. The hair has attached first to a separate scalp piece, which was then attached to the head piece by a well-hidden screw.
One feature which Lilli was known for is directly related to the doll's legs! Lilli's legs did not spread open in a sprawl when she sat down.
Lilli was marketed in tobacco shops and pubs - obviously, not for children, but for adults - to only those who could afford her. Lilli cost about one DM per inch back in the 50's!
Alas, the production of Lilli stopped in 1964 when Mattel bought the rights to the doll. However, before it killed Lilli, Mattel had in fact cheated and had produced a Lilli-like doll, by the name of Barbie, in the US in 1959. Ruth Handler, a co-founder of Mattel, had visited Europe and returned to the US with a number of Lilli dolls, redesigned the doll, and, voila, Barbie was born. Just to make sure that Lilli would never be a threat to her American child-friendly copy, Lilli had to be officially assassinated.
However, saying that, Grannie Lilli still lives, but now, as a rare-ish collectable doll and costs a lot to acquire.

Technically, Bild-Lilli should have celebrated her 60th Birthday, only a couple of weeks ago.

Mattel (NASDAQ), the so-called giant of the toy world production, doesn't only acquire rights to small-scale successful original creations, it also reproduces re-designed versions of them with massively reduced costs through producing them in countries like China... Unoriginal and an exploiter of cheap labour... Tut tut tut...