Polly Pocket was first designed by Chris Wiggs in 1983 for his daughter Kate. Using a makeup powder compact, he fashioned a small house for the tiny doll. Bluebird Toys of Swindon, England, licensed the concept and the first Polly Pocket toys appeared in stores in 1989. Mattel held a distribution arrangement with Bluebird Toys for Polly Pocket items in the early 1990s. In 1998, while production lulled, Bluebird Toys endured multiple hostile takeover attempts until Mattel finally purchased them later that year. The sets made by Bluebird Toys are now valuable collectables.
The original Polly Pocket toys were plastic cases that opened to form a dollhouse or other playset with Polly Pocket figurines less than an inch tall. The dolls folded in the middle, like the case, and had circular bases which slotted into holes in the case interior, allowing them to stand securely at particular points in the house. This was particularly useful for moving points in the case. Because the dolls were so small, sometimes they came enclosed in pendants or large rings instead of the more typical playset cases.
In 1998, Mattel redesigned Polly Pocket. The new doll was larger, with a more lifelike appearance than the original dolls. She had a straight ponytail, rather than the curly bob hairstyle used previously. The following year, Mattel also introduced "Fashion Polly!," which used the same characters from the new Polly Pocket (Polly, Lea, Shani, Lila, etc.), but they came in the form of 3+3⁄4 inches (9.5 cm) plastic jointed dolls. They gave a new spin on fashion dolls; instead of traditional cloth clothing, Polly Pockets used unique "Polly Stretch" garments, created by Genie Toys, rubbery plastic clothes that could be put on the dolls and removed. There are also some boy dolls (Rick, Steven, etc.). Like Barbie and Bratz dolls, they also star in Polly Pocket movies, books, and sites.
In 2002, Mattel stopped producing the smaller Polly Pocket playset range but continued to produce the larger fashion doll.
In 2004, Mattel introduced the Polly Pocket "Quik Clik" line. Instead of having rubbery clothes, the dolls had plastic clothes that would click together by magnets. On November 22, 2006, 4.4 million Polly Pocket playsets were recalled by Mattel after children in the United States swallowed loose magnetic parts. Affected toys had been sold around the world for three years prior. (The use of magnets in children's toys — and particularly the inclusion of two or more magnetic parts in such toys — has resulted in many significant injuries in children, and has been repeatedly flagged as hazardous by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), who have sued many companies over such toys and announced many recalls).
For the 2010 relaunch, Mattel made further changes to the Polly dolls, including increasing feet size, head size, and leg size, although the height remains approximately the same. However, fan reactions were mixed. It also introduced the Cutants, which are inanimate–animal hybrids.
In 2012, Polly Pocket toys were discontinued in the U.S. but remained available in Europe and South America. The brand dwindled, eventually only being sold in Brazil. By 2015, Polly Pocket was completely discontinued by Mattel.
On February 12, 2018, Garrett Sander announced on his Instagram page that Polly Pocket would be making a comeback. The new toys are miniature dolls in playsets, like the original 1990s Polly Pocket, rather than the larger Fashion Polly. However, they are slightly larger than the original 1990s version. Rather than slotting into holes in the case, the new Polly is made of a flexible plastic that sticks to certain surfaces, but also bends so she can sit in a chair.
Below are the list of characters who appeared in the Polly Pocket series:
- Polly Pocket: the title character with light-toned skin, blonde hair, and light blue eyes. She is described as being very confident, cool, friendly, optimistic, adventurous, resourceful, and loyal. She loves having fun, adventures, and, importantly, friends. She has many hobbies, such as skateboarding, water-skiing, snowboarding, shopping, playing music, and singing. Polly has a fun and cool fashion style.
- Shani Smith: dark-toned skin, dark brown hair, and brown eyes. She is described as being intelligent and creative. Shani is a technical genius who loves taking things apart to see how they work, as well as a proficient inventor. She loves gadgets, such as MP3 players and headphones. Shani has an urban fashion style.
- Lila Draper: pale-toned skin, brown hair, and light purple eyes, and later strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes, then a redhead and green eyes. She is described as being sweet and fashionable. Lila is a fashionista who loves to go shopping for the latest styles, trends, and accessories. She is also best friends with Crissy, as well as a talented dancer. Lila's fashion style is glam. She is of Scottish ancestry.
- Lea Torney: tan-toned skin with freckles, orange hair, and light green eyes, and later red hair and blue eyes. She is described as being athletic and giggly. Lea is an athlete who enjoys many sports, like skiing and soccer. She is also an animal lover. Lea's fashion style is girly. She is of Irish ancestry.
- Voiced by Natalie Walters (2003–06) and Erin Fitzgerald (2011–15)
- Crissy Maxwell (originally called Ana Leeth): pale-toned skin, black hair, and blue eyes, and later olive-toned skin, black hair with a magenta streak, and brown eyes. She is described as being stylish and outspoken, and hates it when her looks are messed up. Crissy is an aspiring fashion designer who is always full of many artistic, fashionable ideas and she'd love to be a rock star. She has many hobbies, such as roller-skating, snowboarding, practicing sports, shopping, singing, and playing music. Crissy has a fun and cool artsy fashion style. She was white, then Latina, then Asian.
- Rick: light-toned skin, blonde hair, and light blue eyes, like Polly, and has a crush on her. He enjoys playing pranks, skateboarding, and likes being his own rock star. Like Crissy, Polly, and Shani, he has his own fashion style.
- Todd (originally called Steven): light-toned skin, dark brown hair, and dark brown eyes. He is Rick’s best friend and follower.
- Voiced by Matt Hill
- Kerstie Perx: light-toned skin, dark brown hair, and blue eyes. She is described as being humorous and enthusiastic. Kerstie is a talented cook who is proficient and somewhat familiar with old and new recipes. She also likes telling her friends about her adventures.
- Voiced by Debi Derryberry.
- Polly Pocket: Lunar Eclipse (2003)
- Polly Pocket 2: Cool at the Pocket Plaza (2005)
- PollyWorld (2006)
Web and TV series
In 2010, a web-animated series based on Polly Pocket dolls was released, primarily to promote the reboot of the franchise in that same year. The first season was made in flash animation and other CGI. In 2013, the webisodes were given a significant makeover on character designs, however the voices stayed the same. The series was canceled after the line was discontinued in 2015.
To accompany the 2018 relaunch, a cartoon titled Polly Pocket aired on Family Channel on July 8, 2018. The series featured a young girl named Polly who has a magical locket that allows her and her friends to shrink down to a tiny size. The series was produced and distributed by DHX Media (now as WildBrain) and Mattel.
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