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Kiddles were dolls originally produced by toymakers Mattel Inc. in 1965. They were introduced at the 1966 New York Toy Fair and put on the market soon after. Initially about 3 inches tall, they were tiny by doll standards. The sensation they created in the toy world caused other toy companies to produce their own tiny dolls.
Mattel founder Elliot Handler oversaw the project. He told engineers and sculptors that he wanted the dolls to resemble little children in neighborhoods across America. Martha Armstrong-Hand, the famous doll sculptor at Mattel, made the first Kiddles in 1965. She explained that the first set of ten dolls in a premier series called "Liddle Kiddles" used only four different head molds (3 of which were sculpted by Martha and 1 sculpted by another artist) but had different hairstyles and face paint. ( Martha Armstrong-Hand also sculpted other Mattel dolls, such as Drowsy (1965), Baby First Step (1965) and Cheerful Tearful (1966). A fun accessory introduced in 1968 was the Liddle Kiddle Talking Town House, this had one of the famous Mattel talking voice units inside. When the "chatty-ring" was pulled you would hear one of 8 different phrases, such as "This is where the Liddle Kiddles live!" The voice unit was the very same one that had been introduced in 1960 inside Mattel's Chatty Cathy doll, and used in all other Mattel talking dolls and toys.
Kiddles were made of soft vinyl with painted facial features and rooted, brushable hair. The first, second, and third series (called "bigger bodies" by collectors) ranged from 2¾ in to 3½ in, while the Skediddle Kiddles were 4 in tall and had a special mechanism inside the body which allowed them to walk, wave, and ride vehicles with the push of a child's hand. The Kola and Kologne Kiddles were 2 in, and the mini Jewelry Kiddles were 7⁄8–1 1⁄16 in. All the dolls were marked with "Mattel" or "MI", a date, and either "Japan", "Hong Kong" or "Taiwan" on the back of the shoulders or on the back of the head near the hairline. The smaller dolls were marked under their non-removable clothing. Most Kiddle accessories were also marked. Some were marked with the Mattel seal, and some were only marked with a number.
The bigger bodies (the first ten dolls) were designed to resemble typical neighborhood children at play. The name Liddle Kiddles was actually taken from the words "little kid". Each of the first 24 dolls had detailed clothing and accessories that perfectly matched their theme and size. Wire skeletons inside the vinyl bodies enabled the dolls to be posed and re-posed realistically. The first series of 9 Liddle Kiddle dolls plus 1 special doll set available only through the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog, were conceived in 1965 and released to toy shelves in 1966. The following year additional dolls were added to the Liddle Kiddle series, and the Storybook Kiddles series and Smaller Lucky Locket Kiddle series were introduced. The small 2-inch dolls, however, had no wires inside for posing and, unlike the first 10, and the new Storybook Kiddles, their clothes were not removable. The year after that, 1968, the last 6 additions to the Liddle Kiddles series were added, as well as 3 more Storybook Kiddles, and new Skediddle Kiddles that could walk, the very popular Kologne Kiddle series, and the itty bitty tiniest Kiddles of them all – Jewelry Kiddles. Parents and children were delighted and intrigued by the ability of Mattel Designers to keep making the dolls smaller and yet maintain the use of real hair and clothes. Mattel also released a series of 4 2 inch tall kiddles dressed up in animal costumes and called Animiddles. Ride and Run Skediddle sets consisting of a Skediddle walking doll and specially designed riding toys they could also use were introduced to the Skediddle Kiddle series. 3 new Kiddle Kolognes were added. More Lucky Locket Kiddles were released in pretty new pastel locket colors. 1969 saw a new series of 2 inch sized Storybook Sweetheart Kiddles, portraying famous star crossed lovers, such as Romeo and Juliet, and Robin Hood and Maid Marion. Also that year Mattel introduced the Kozmic Kiddle series of 4 glow in the dark adorable aliens in groovy space ships, the Tea Party Kiddles portaying little girls dressing up as fancy ladies, each coming with a fancy child sized tea cup and saucer. The very popular Zoolery Kiddles were also released. These were 4 teensy animals about the size of the previous years Jewelry Kiddles that came in tiny cages that could be worn as Jewelry. There were additional Ride and Run Skediddles added to that series too! And Lucky Locket Kiddles were re-released in bright gold lockets that collectors refer to as "Gold Rush" lockets. A very busy year for Mattels Kiddle Doll Line! By the time 1970 rolled around there was a global oil crisis taking shape and plastics, and especially vinyl which is derived from petroleum based products, was getting harder and more expensive for toy companies to buy. Mattel still released some Kiddles that year, but drastic cuts would ultimately lead to restructuring of what doll lines would continue and Barbie and her family were the star performers of the doll lines. Kiddles were discontinued at this time. Many design concepts for new kiddles and several new series were killed and never made it to production. Mattel records from the time were painstakingly researched by Paris Langford for the creation of her Liddle Kiddles value guide released in 1996. In this amazing and extensive book Paris included original concept art and a section showing pictures of prototype dolls that actually were under way at the time that Mattel killed the line. Especially interesting were the new concepts for fresh Jewelry Kiddle series, some dressed as bumble bees or tiny mermaids. The Bigger Body dolls with wire skeletons had a series under way centered around Circus Performers. Many of these records have since been destroyed according to Mattel. Paris Langfords value guide now stands as one of the final records of these lost designs that never made it into production. Though the book is out of print, copies do surface on the secondary market and owning a copy enhances any Kiddle collection.
- Kettelkamp, Sean- Chatty Cathy and her Talking Friends (1998) by Schiffer Publishing.