Down the Rabbit Hole – Alice in Wonderland Dolls by Susan Brewer (follow Sue on Twitter @bunnypussflunge)
Of all the children`s books ever written, Alice in Wonderland must surely be the favourite.
When Oxford University professor Charles Dodgson, using the alias `Lewis Caroll`, penned the story in 1865, he couldn`t possibly have foreseen the amazing success of his dream-like tale. Today, Alice is almost a cult figure and thousands of collectors worldwide concentrate solely on accumulating dolls dressed as Alice. They have plenty to choose from, and there are prices to suit all pockets.
Near the top of the range must surely be R. John Wright`s skilled felt creation of Alice which was issued last year in a limited edition of just 750 pieces. Standing 17 inches high, the detail in this doll is stunning, from the top of her fair beribboned hair to the to the toes of her hand-cobbled leather shoes.
Her dress is made from fine blue felt, her apron is white cotton trimmed with silk, and she has traditional-style blue-striped stockings. The dolls are not cheap – Alice retails at around £925 – but once these dolls have been seen `in the flesh`, it is easy to see why.
More easily affordable is the delightful representation of Alice made by the Amanda Jane Company of South Wales. Amanda Jane dolls have been made since the late 1950s, and have scarcely changed in style – they are eight-inch tall little girls with sweet faces and are dressed in Britain in well-designed costumes. The Amanda Jane Alice In Wonderland has short, bobbed, blonde hair, a blue dress, pink pinny trimmed with broderie anglaise, and carries a tiny felt doll.
Plenty of other small versions of Alice have appeared over the years; particularly attractive was the doll in the `Patsyette in Story Book range` made by Effanbee a few years ago. Her solemn face, moulded hair and pretty costume were enhanced by the packaging which resembled a book with an illustrated cover. Inside the box with the doll was a small, doll-sized version of the story. Look out too for Vogue`s Ginny as Alice, Madame Alexander`s Wendy dressed as Alice and the tiny Paulinette Alice by Pauline Bjorness-Jacobsen.
Pauline has also issued larger sized Alice in Wonderland dolls, in both porcelain and vinyl. The vinyl version stands 19 inches high and sports a blue check dress with an apron which is embroidered with a design of flowers and the name ‘Alice‘. The porcelain version is slightly smaller, at 14 inches, but is just as pretty. She comes with a white rabbit and a large watch. The Lee Middleton company released a large, 26 inch tall, Alice in Wonderland last year. This version, designed by Eva Helland, wears a dark blue full-skirted floral-print dress, white apron and red-striped stockings. She carries a white rabbit wearing a playing-card design tabard.
Many collectors of Alice dolls like to seek out an example of the large Palitoy talking Alice in Wonderland which was made in 1972 to coincide with the Josef Shaftel television production starring Fiona Fullerton as Alice. The doll stood 24 inches high and originally came with three double-sided records narrated by Fiona, telling the story of Alice and singing songs from the film. She wore the traditional light blue frock, a pink-trimmed white apron, white tights and black shoes. Unfortunately, over the years the record mechanism tended to break, the discs went astray and the doll would often be redressed, so mint in box Palitoy Alice dolls are becoming quite valuable.
The Walt Disney cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland was first released in 1951, and various pieces of memorabilia were issued at the time. During the 1970s Pedigree issued a Sindy-type doll dressed as Alice, as a tie-in with Disney. The doll had a Sindy body, though the head was slightly remodelled. She was simply dressed in a blue cotton frock with white apron, but the box was eye-catching, featuring colourful graphics from the film. Collected by both Sindy enthusiasts and Alice fans, this doll is in considerable demand.
Modern Disney versions of Alice in Wonderland are quite easy to find. In the 1990s, a version was sold in Britain featuring a smiling face with painted eyes, long wavy blonde hair, a blue silky dress and apron, packaged in an attractive box decorated with cardboard cut outs of the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.
This is another good one for collectors and sometimes crops up on internet auction sites such as ebay. An Alice with a difference is the recent Pullip version. Pullip dolls are manufactured in Japan, and bear a resemblance to the 1970s Blythe dolls, with large heads and round, moveable eyes. Pullips, however, are quite difficult to obtain in Britain. These dolls are fast becoming collectables, most editions selling out extremely quickly.
One of the most creative of the Alice in Wonderland dolls has to be the recent introduction by JellyCats. JellyCats have more-or-less cornered the market in cloth play dolls with their colourful, smiley designs, and recently they issued a range of `Topsy-Turvy` dolls, which give you two for the price of one!
Their innovative Alice in Wonderland doll is beautifully dressed in a blue silky full-skirted dress, appliquéd around the hem with green trees and images of creatures such as the white rabbit. Alice`s apron is trimmed with red, and she holds a blue striped teapot containing the Dormouse. When the doll is turned upside down, a quick re-arrangement of her skirts reveals the Queen of Hearts, superbly arrayed in scarlet trimmed with gold.
Various other cloth Alice dolls can be obtained from time to time, as well as representations of other characters from the books such as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. A couple of years ago Disney issued a super fluffy pink, maroon and purple Cheshire Cat, with tufted hair and an enormous grin. Though not a doll, he certainly complements any Alice in Wonderland collection.
Alice in Wonderland Information