is a line of dolls
and accessories based on pre-teen-girl characters from various periods of American history
. Pleasant Rowland
began selling them by mail order in 1986. Since then, 14 million American Girl dolls have been purchased, as well as 123 million copies of books about their adventures.
In 1998, Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc.
The company's flagship line is a collection of historical 18-inch dolls that come with books and accessories. The dolls, representing 9-10 year old girls, live through important times in American history and provide a child's perspective of significant events that helped to shape the United States.
In 1983, educator, writer and entrepreneur, Pleasant T. Rowland was looking for dolls to give her nieces for Christmas, and found only baby dolls and teen/adult dolls. That shopping experience, coupled with a visit to Colonial Williamsburg
, inspired her to create the American Girl line of historical dolls and books.
In 1986 the first Pleasant Company catalogs were sent out featuring Samantha Parkington, Kirsten Larson, and Molly McIntire. These early catalogs featured the first three stories of each character's eventual six-book series, as well as their pajamas, beds and trunks. The original facemold used for these dolls was designed by Götz, a German doll-maker. The company subsequently added three more historical characters (Felicity Merriman in 1991, Addy Walker in 1993, and Josefina Montoya in 1997) as well as a contemporary magazine American Girl, a line of contemporary 18-inch 'American Girl of Today' dolls and the 'Bitty Baby' collection for younger girls.
In the 1990s production was moved to Hungary for a year and then to China.
In 1998 Mattel, Inc. acquired Pleasant Company. Rowland retired as president of American Girl two years later. The layout of the catalogs gradually began to change, shifting to a greater emphasis on the commercial web site and the modern doll collection (versus the historical dolls which were at the core of Pleasant Company's marketing efforts).
In 2000, Kit Kittredge was added to the historical line. The company also introduced a line of Limited Edition modern dolls, each produced for only one year. An eighth historical doll, Kaya, was added in 2002 to coincide with the introduction of Hallmark Gold Crown American Girl themed products. Hallmark began to market ornaments, charms and bracelets, bookends and books..
In 2004, the name of the company changed from Pleasant Company to American Girl. In 2005, the name of the "American Girl Today" line was changed to "Just Like You."
In 2007, two American Girl Boutique and Bistros, smaller versions of the AG Places, appeared in Dallas, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. Another two American Girl Boutique and Bistros are scheduled to open near Boston and in the Mall of America in November 2008.
A ninth historical doll, Julie, was released in the fall of 2007, along with Julie's Best Friend doll, Ivy.
American Girl Movies
In 2003, American Girl teamed up with Red Om production company and Julia Roberts
to create the first American Girl movie Samantha: An American Girl Holiday
. Samantha was played by AnnaSophia Robb
In 2005, Red Om produced the second American Girl TV movie Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, which starred Shailene Woodley as Felicity.
The third American Girl television movie produced by Red Om, Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front, appeared in 2006 and featured Maya Ritter as Molly.
The first American Girl movie to appear in theaters was Kit Kittredge: An American Girl which opened in wide release on July 2 2008. It was produced by Picture House. Kit was played by Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin and notable co-stars included Stanley Tucci, Chris O'Donnell, Julia Ormond and Joan Cusack.
Young actress Sammi Hanratty noted during a red carpet interview at the premiere of the Kit movie that she plays the next Girl of the Year in a film scheduled to debut in 2009, but that she was not permitted to discuss details. A Variety Magazine citation for production comapny Sobini Films indicates that the movie is entitled "Chrissa Stands Strong" . It will be released by HBO directly to DVD on January 9, 2009. Cast members of note include Miss Hanratty, Annabeth Gish, and Michael Learned.
Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas is reportedly outlining a movie proposal entitled "Julie: An American Girl Musical".
Historical Character dolls
The American Girls Collection includes fourteen cloth-bodied vinyl play dolls, each character representing a particular period and region of U.S. history and dressed in clothing representative of the time, place and culture, and social background of the character.
Although the books are written for the seven-to-eleven-year-old market, they cover child labor, child abuse, poverty, racism, slavery, animal abuse, and war, among other topics. The tone is gentle so as to appeal to a school-aged girl. In the back of every book is a "Looking Back" section that talks about the historical setting the characters live in, each tied into the theme of the book (the introductory book introduces the time in history, the birthday story talks about childhood and growing up, etc.)
Short stories in small hardback books were published starting in 1999 that gave more insight into the characters, set either during or after the events of the six central books. Some of these were published in American Girl Magazine before being released as small hardcover books. Different "Looking Back" sections pertaining to the story were given (e.g., Addy's Summer Place talks about Cape Island in 1864; Kit's Home Run discusses baseball in 1934.) The last group of stories was published in 2003 and the company discontinued the single books in early 2006, before releasing a "Short Story Collection" for each character. Each book has five stories.
The first dolls in the American Girl/Historical line — Samantha, Kirsten, Molly — all share the same face mold. New face molds were added later as noted below in the summaries of individual dolls. The dolls were originally created with white muslin bodies. The cloth bodies weres changed in 1991 in response to the low necklines of Felicity's period gowns.
Each of the historical characters is given a historical year ending in 4, although their stories roughly cover about two years each. The "Best Friend" line of dolls (companions to the historical dolls) have stories set either during or after the events of her companion's series.
Kaya (pronounced KY-yah) is a Native American
girl of the Nez Perce
tribe living in the state of Idaho. Kaya's full name is Kaya'aton'my
, or "she who arranges rocks." Her story takes place in America's Northwest in 1764, before white settlers disturbed the Native American way of life in the west.
Kaya was introduced in 2002. American Girl worked closely with the Nez Perce Native Americans to create her. She is the only doll that does not smile with her mouth open, as baring one's teeth is considered offensive to Nez Perce people. Kaya is the oldest doll in the AG timeline but the third most recently introduced historical doll. She has dark skin; deep brown eyes; and dark brown, almost black, braided hair. No other doll shares her face mold. Her collection and books do not follow the trends established by previous dolls (for example, there is no Happy Birthday Kaya, or Kaya Learns a Lesson, like with the other girls), and instead more accurately reflect the cycle of life in tribal society. American Girl notes that most of the animal-related products in her collection are simulated unless it is otherwise noted. There are many Nez Perce words and phrases in her books, and a glossary is included. The words are spelled phonetically
to ease in pronunciation.
Felicity Merriman, 1774
Felicity Merriman was the first doll added to the American Girls Collection following the initial introduction of Kirsten, Samantha and Molly in 1986. Felicity is a colonial girl living in Williamsburg, Virginia
, caught between Patriot and Loyalist family and friends at the onset of the American Revolution
. Themes in her books include loyalty and staying true to one's ideals. The horse Penny features prominently in the stories.
Many items from Felicity's collection were retired in the early 2000s, leading to rumors that Felicity herself would vanish from the historical line. However, following the success of the made-for-TV adaptation of Samantha's stories, Felicity's core books were dramatized and Felicity: An American Girl Adventure aired on the WB on November 29 2005. Many discontinued items from her collection were reintroduced, while other items were redesigned (including Felicity's so-called 'Meet dress' which was changed in 2005 from a rose print to her what was formerly known as her purple flowered 'Traveling Gown'). The doll's appearance has also changed over time. Felicity's hair was originally a carrot-red and she had soft green eyes, but these features have been changed to a more auburn shade and vivid green eyes.
Elizabeth Cole, 1774
Elizabeth is Felicity's best friend. She is the daughter of a Loyalist
family during the American Revolution
, which causes some conflict with Felicity, who is a Patriot. In contrast to vivacious Felicity, Elizabeth is described as very shy. Elizabeth's book, "Very Funny, Elizabeth" was written by Valerie Tripp
and is set in 1775. The plot concerns the engagement of Elizabeth's snobby older sister, whom Felicity and Elizabeth take every opportunity to tease. But after a joke goes terribly wrong, Elizabeth finds herself facing a move back to her native England.
The Elizabeth doll was introduced in August 2005 and the character prominently featured in the Felicity DVD. In the original book illustrations, Elizabeth had dark hair and eyes. Due to alleged concerns that the dolls would too closely resemble one another and that the young actresses in the movie would look too much alike, the Elizabeth doll was given blonde hair and blue eyes. Subsequent editions of the Felicity books were re-illustrated to reflect this change. The face mold used for the Elizabeth doll is the same mold used for the Josefina, Marisol, Nellie and Julie dolls.
Josefina Montoya, 1824
María Josefina (ho-she-FEE-na) Montoya is Mexican, living in what is now the US state of New Mexico
when it was still a part of Mexico
in Sante Fe. She and her three older sisters must face a new way of life after the death of their beloved mother and the arrival of their Tia(Aunt) Dolores. Josefina's family speaks Spanish
, so there are many Spanish words and phrases in her books, which also include a glossary/pronunciation guide. The focus of her stories is on family, Mexican culture and traditions, and incorporating the past with the present and future in the wake of their mother's death.
Josefina was the last doll introduced before the Mattel takeover (although Kit and Kaya were in development) and the second of three dolls to have a cultural panel to assist in her creation (the first being Addy and the third being Kaya). The Josefina doll debuted with a brand new face mold, medium skin, dark hair, and brown eyes. Her collection initially included many period-appropriate outfits and household items, but most have since been retired and are now only available on the secondary market and not directly from American Girl.
Kirsten Larson, 1854
Kirsten (Kiir-sten) Larson is a Swedish
immigrant who lives in the Minnesota Territory
with her extended family. She faces the hardships of adjusting to life as a pioneer in a new and unfamiliar country and the challenge of learning a new language. Kirsten was one of the first three dolls produced by American Girl. Unlike many of the dolls, Kirsten's books have maintained their original illustrations (with the exception of the covers). The doll has long blonde banged hair that is braided and looped; fair skin; and crystal blue eyes. Like Josefina, Kirsten's collection initially included many period-appropriate products which are now only available on the secondary market.
Addy Walker, 1864
Addy Walker is a fugitive slave
who escaped with her mother from North Carolina
to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
during the American Civil War
after her master split up her family. Addy dreamed of a new life of freedom but realizes that starting over means starting from the bottom and facing on-going prejudice
. Addy's core books were written by Connie Porter
and originally illustrated by Melodye Rosales and Bradford Brown, but later redrawn by Dahl Taylor.
Currently the historical line's only African-American, Addy was the fifth doll to be added to the collection. She was the first non-white doll to be added to the historical line and was the first doll to have earrings. A new mold was created for this doll to give Addy more ethnically appropriate features, but a few Addy dolls have the original mold and tend to fetch high prices on the secondary market. The doll has very dark skin; dark brown eyes; non-removable earrings; and thick black hair.
A play about Addy was commissioned and produced by the Seattle Children's Theater in 2007. Entitled Addy: An American Girl Story, the play was taken on limited national tour from January through May 2008 through Kids Entertainment,Inc.
Samantha Parkington, 1904
Samantha is an only child growing up during the Edwardian
period. An orphan since age 5, she has been raised by her wealthy Victorian-era grandmother in Mount Bedford, New York. Samantha befriends a poor servant girl named Nellie O'Malley. Eventually Samantha, Nellie and Nellie's young sisters are adopted by Samantha's Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia. Themes touched on in Samantha's books include women's suffrage, child labor, and classism. The first two books in the core series were written by Susan S. Adler
; the third book by Maxine Rose Schur
; the last three by veteran American Girl author Valerie Tripp
. The multiple authorship has been criticized for disconnectedness of the characterizations. The Samantha doll has dark brown hair; fair skin; and light brown eyes.
Red Om Productions produced "Samantha, An American Girl Holiday," in cooperation with American Girl. This made-for-TV movie starred Mia Farrow as Samantha's grandmother and AnnaSophia Robb as Samantha. The show premiered on WB Television Network in November 2004 and was released to DVD soon thereafter.
In an unprecedented move, American Girl sent an email to select customers on October 6, 2008 stating in part that "...Samantha's complete collection - including Nellie and her accessories - will be moving into the American Girl Archives..." at some point in the near future, at which point only her books and DVD will remain available for purchase.
Nellie O'Malley, 1904
In the core Samantha stories, Nellie appears as a poor servant whom Samantha befriends. Born to Irish immigrants, Nellie works for Samantha's neighbors. She and her sisters are eventually orphaned and later adopted by Samantha's Uncle Gard and Aunt Cornelia.
In 2004, American Girl broke new ground by introducing Nellie O'Malley to the historical doll collection. Marketed as Samantha's "Best Friend," Nellie was launched with a small collection of clothing and sold with a book written by Valerie Tripp. Nellie's story, "Nellie's Promise", is set in 1906 (Samantha's core books run from 1904-1905). Despite challenges, Nellie is determined to honor the promise she made to her mother while keeping peace in her new family and holding true to her ideals. The Nellie doll was given the Josefina facemold, short strawberry-blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and freckles.
American Girl announced on October 6, 2008 that Nellie and her collection would be moved into the "American Girl Archive" with Samantha and her collection at some point in Januray 2009, and thus becoming unavailable for purchase through American Girl.
Kit Kittredge, 1934
Kit Kittredge faces the hard times of the early years of the Great Depression
. Her family struggles to adjust to the realities of the economy after Kit's father loses his job. Although referred to as 'Kit' in almost all books and promotional material, Kit's full name is Margaret Mildred Kittredge. Kit debuted in 2000 as the seventh historical doll and the first to have short hair and freckles. The Kit books were illustrated by Walter Rane
The feature film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was released on July 2 2008. Many new items were added to Kit's collection as product tie-ins to the movie. Kit is the second doll to have her own DS game, "Kit Mystery Challenge". Kit also has a PC video game called "A Tree House of my Own".
Ruthie Smithens, 1934
Ruthie is Kit's best friend. Her family is well-off compared to the financial struggles of Kit's family. The character of Ruthie adores fairy tales and idolizes movie stars. She is generous and often tries to help Kit, but sometimes wounds her friend's pride instead. Ruthie is the most recent historical Best Friend doll marketed by American Girl. Her accompanying book, "Really Truly Ruthie" by author Valerie Tripp
, is set in late December 1932 and showcases how Ruthie helps the Kittredge family save their home from foreclosure.
Ruthie is the 5th doll in the Best Friends collection and was released June 1 2008 with a small collection in anticipation of the Kit movie. The Ruthie doll has the original facemold, dark brown curly hair and light gray eyes.
Molly McIntire, 1944
Molly's story is set during World War II
. Molly lives in Jefferson, Illinois
with her parents and three siblings, where she helps her family and loved ones stay cheery during the war. Her physician father is stationed in England
caring for wounded soldiers. Molly's report card reveals her middle initial to be "J." Throughout her core stories, Molly has two equal best friends but gains a third friend in her birthday story named Emily Bennett. Molly's six core books focus on themes of teamwork, family adaptation to her father being gone during the war, and setting and maintaining priorities.
Molly was one of the original three dolls offered by Pleasant Company. She has medium brown, braided hair; gray eyes; and wears distinctive round glasses. While the company sells eyeglasses separately to fit any 18" American Girl doll, Molly is the only doll to be sold with them. Molly has a large collection based on fashions from the WWII era.
Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front was the third TV movie based on the historical characters and the only one to air on the Disney Channel on November 26 2006. The movie deviates from the books in many ways, including the omission of the youngest brother, Brad, from the family.
Emily Bennett, 1944
Emily Bennett is an English
girl who was unexpectedly sent to America to temporarily stay with the McIntires for two weeks in the story "Happy Birthday, Molly!". At first Molly thinks of Emily as snobby and prim, but their bond strengthens when they discover a shared fascination for the English princesses and other girlish pursuits.
Emily is the third doll in the "Best Friends" collection. She was released September 5 2006 in anticipation of the Molly made-for-TV movie. Since technically Emily is not Molly's "best friend," she was marketed instead as "Molly's English friend." The Emily doll has red hair and light blue eyes. Her accompanying book, "Brave Emily," by author Valerie Tripp is set in 1944. Its "Looking Back" section discusses children during WWII who were sent outside of Europe for safety.
Julie Albright, 1974
Julie Albright is a young girl growing up in San Francisco
during the period of September 1975 through September 1976. Her six core books were written by Megan McDonald
and illustrated by Robert Hunt
and Susan MacAliley. Her series is the second to break from the traditional titling pattern (Kaya was the first, as noted above). She is the first historical character to have divorced parents. Following their divorce, Julie moves with her mother and older sister to a different part of the city, leaving behind her pet rabbit and best friend, Ivy. Julie's books focus on gender equality in school sports: America's Bicentennial
celebration; preserving endangered species
like the bald eagle
; running for class president. Her stories also touch on sign language
, the Vietnam War
and deal with general issues of responsibility and adapting to change. Many references to the events and zeitgeist of the mid-1970s are included.
The Julie doll was released September 10, 2007. The doll has long, very straight, blonde hair with a small side braid; brown eyes; and the Josefina face mold. Her "Meet Outfit" is the first that does not include a dress or skirt.
Julie is the first doll to have her own computer game, entitled Julie Saves the Eagles. Previous computer software such as The American Girl Premiere 1st and 2nd Edition and American Girl Paper Dolls were themed around multiple American Girls. Julie is also the first American Girl character to have her own Nintendo DS game, Julie Finds a Way.
Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas is currently outlining a movie proposal entitled "Julie: An American Girl Musical. If this movie makes it to the production stages, open casting calls are planned.
Ivy Ling, 1974
Ivy Ling is a Chinese American
girl who also lives in San Francisco
. Her solo book is entitled "Good Luck, Ivy" by children's author Lisa Yee
. The book is set in May/June 1976 and focuses on Ivy's conflict with gymnastic competition obligations and her family traditions and responsibilities. The "Looking Back" section in her book is about Chinese-American history.
The Ivy doll debuted with Julie, thus being the first "Best Friend" doll to be released with the main character. Ivy is also the first Asian doll in the historical collection. Ivy has Jess' face mold: straight black shoulder-length hair with bangs, brown eyes, and gold removable earrings, and a very limited collection to date.
Just Like You dolls
Formerly known as the "American Girl of Today" and "American Girl Today" collection, this line was introduced in 1995. In December 2005, the name of the line was changed to the current name.
The "Just Like You" dolls have included thirty-two different dolls (although several have been retired and are no longer sold by American Girl), each with a unique combination of face mold, skin, hair and eye color. Many of the dolls use the original mold used for the American Girl/Historical line; some use the molds designed for Addy and Josefina, and two dolls have East Asian facial features. (There are currently no Just Like You dolls with Kaya's face mold.) This allows the owner to choose a combination that best resembles herself; dolls are not uniquely customized by the company. The doll comes dressed in a modern outfit, the style of which is changed by the company every two years across the entire collection. Clothing, accessories, and furniture are available for these dolls.
Girl of the Year dolls
Beginning in 2001, American Girl introduced Limited Edition Girl of Today dolls, which feature smaller, specific collections and individual storybooks, similar to the historical doll's "Meet" book. Although each collection is specific to the doll's character, each features accessories based on the book's plotline. Each of these dolls were only available for a year after being released.
2001-2002: Lindsey Bergman
Lindsey was the first of the "Girls of the Year" series. She used the "original" face mold. Described as a girl "who is eager to help," her accompanying book details the difficulties her impulsive attempts at "helping" can cause. Lindsey is Jewish, and her book touches on her brother's Bar Mitzvah
experience and party plans. The doll had light skin, short, curly auburn hair, blue eyes, and freckles. A small collection consisting of a scooter set and laptop accompanied her release.
2003-2004: Kailey Hopkins
Kailey Hopkins lives near tide pools in California and is an avid swimmer and surfer. When development threatens to destroy the tide pools, she engineers a protest to make a difference. The Kailey doll has blond, sun-streaked hair with two mini braids, brown eyes, and the "classic" face mold. Kailey's collection included various beach outfits and toys.
2005: Marisol Luna
Marisol is a dancer from Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood who moves to a new neighborhood and struggles to find a dance school. Marisol uses Josefina's face mold, has wavy brown hair, brown eyes, and is Hispanic. Introduced during the Christmas season of 2004, Marisol's extensive collection of dance outfits and accessories sold out in early December, 2005.
2006: Jess McConnell
Jess Akiko McConnell accompanies her archeologist parents on a several months-long expedition to Belize where she learns new lessons about responsibility and preservation of history. To illustrate her mixed Japanese-American and Irish heritage, the Jess doll debuted with a unique face mold (which was later slightly modified for Ivy.) Jess' collection was small and had little to do with her actual story.
2007: Nicki Fleming
Nicki Fleming is an animal lover who volunteers to train a service dog
when her mother cannot because she is pregnant and faces friendship difficulties which test her loyalty. Nicki was the first Girl of the Year to have two books: "Nicki" and "Thanks to Nicki", both by Ann Howard Creel
. The Nicki doll featured the original or 'classic' face mold and had long, curly caramel hair, blue eyes, and freckles. Her extensive clothing and accessory collection sold out early in December 2007. On January 15 2007 Rachael Ray
gave Nicki dolls to each of the audience members.
2008: Mia St. Clair
A preview of the 2008 Limited Edition doll, Mia, was unveiled on the November 21 2007
episode of Oprah
. She was released on January 1 2008
with numerous outfits, accessories, an ice rink, and furniture. Following the precedent set by Nicki, Mia has two books:(Mia
and Bravo Mia
both written by Laurence Yep. Her stories chronicle her passion for competitive figure skating
, which is at odds with her hockey
-playing family. In "Bravo Mia", she is going to a Regional skating competition when her mother is injured. The Mia doll has the classic AG facemold, red layered hair with a 'half-braid', hazel eyes, and freckles. Mia was originally prototyped with a new dark-skinned (not the same as the Addy mold) face mold. Like Julie, Mia has a game, called "Mia Goes For Great!"
2009: Chrissa Maxwell
A Variety Magazine citation broke the newe in September 2008 that the name of the 2009 Girl of the Year doll is Chrissa. The doll, book, and her collection will be released on January 1, 2009, and a direct-to-DVD film entitled "Chrissa Stands Strong" based on her story will be released by HBO on January 6, 2009.. The theme of her books and DVD appears to focus on bullying.She will have dark brown hair, and it appears to be gray eyes.
Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins dolls
Bitty Baby, a baby doll, comes in several different styles (African American
, Asian American
, Blond white
white, and Hispanic
). She is 15 inches tall. She comes wearing a sleeper and with her own Bitty Bear (a small, 5 inch tall stuffed bear)
This collection was originally introduced in 1990 as 'Our New Baby,' with a complete line of realistic accessories for the doll as well as matching ones for real infants. However, this collection was revamped for toddlers, with accessories becoming less realistic and a change in clothing .
Also part of this line are the "Bitty Twins", a set of toddler/preschool-aged dolls which come as a pair in any gender combination. They have wigs, unlike the molded hair of the Bitty Baby line. Originally the Bitty twins were marketed as babies in sleepers like Bitty Baby, and only blonde versions were available (although brunettes were later released). In July 2006 the twins were marketed as roughly pre-school aged, and the girls were given longer hair to reflect this. The outfits have also changed to reflect the twins' aging, including potty training accessories and pull-up underpants. In addition to the Caucasian dolls, African American, Asian, and Hispanic twins became available in 2008, allowing for a total of fifty five "twin" combinations. Bitty Twin dolls can be purchased indivdually at an American Girl Place store.
American Girl Magazine
The American Girl company also features a bimonthly magazine, targeted at girls aged 7-13, although girls much older subscribe. The magazine includes a letters to the editor section, crafts, short stories, story and art contests, and inspiring articles. The magazine contains no advertising. In most issues, a mini cut-out magazine for dolls is placed. Most of the models on the cover are aged 8-12.
American Girl Stores
American Girl Places (AGP) are stores where the full line of American Girl dolls, clothes and accessories can be purchased directly, instead of through a catalog. The first store debuted in Chicago
, followed by one in the New York
. The most recent store opened in Los Angeles
in 2006. In addition to displays for each historical doll and a large Girl of Today section, the stores have a café, doll hair salon, a drop-off doll hospital
, a photo studio, and a theater. The theaters have presented three different shows: musicals The American Girl Revue and Circle of Friends, and a show for younger children called Bitty Bear's Matinee: The Family Tree. It was announced in winter 2008 that all of the theaters would be closing by late-summer 2008.
Two American Girl Boutiques and Bistros (AGB) opened in 2007. The AGB venues are smaller than the AGP stores, with rotating stock and casual restaurants. The first Boutique and Bistro opened in North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Georgia (north of Atlanta). A second Boutique & Bistro opened in Dallas, Texas, at the Galleria Dallas Mall. In summer 2008, American Girl announced plans to open a boutique in Natick outside of Boston, and a new two-level store in the Minneapolis Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe. Both stores have a targeted November 2008 opening.
Retired product lines
are a collection of books designed like a marbled composition book, supposedly written by a 9-year old girl named Amelia (actually written by author Marissa Moss
). The books were set in a personal narrative
-like format, and had numerous doodles all about the book. Amelia spoke of her adventures in school, at home, and other common places. American Girl used to have a portion of their website set aside for Amelia, with games, and other features. Amelia's Notebooks is no longer published by American Girl Press, but is still published under Simon & Schuster.
Hopscotch Hill collection
Based on the book series by Valerie Tripp
, this was a set of four dolls in first grade. Unlike other dolls manufactured by American Girl, the dolls had hard plastic bodies and multiple joints. The first dolls to be introduced were Hallie
, and Logan
. They were then joined by Gwen
. Lindy, Delaney and Conner were characters featured in books but not produced as dolls. These dolls are no longer available through American Girl.
American Girl Mini Rooms
American Girl Mini Rooms, usually carrying the logo of A*G Mini•s, were small collections meant to be set up as miniature rooms and locations released in October 2000. The basics consisted of a light box, a clear shield for the front, a drawer to store small parts in, and ways of connecting room together. None of these were meant for dolls to play in, but merely as creative room decoration. Each set had wallpapers, furniture, lights, and other small details to make the room look "real."
The major sets were the Blue Room, Purple Room, Horse Stable Set, Lil's Diner, Groovy Room, Loft Apartment, Rooftop Patio, Petite Boutique, Paddock, and Cabana. Lil' Pets were small pets to display in the room, and Lil Extras were add-ons and not part of any specific set. The first three had second releases with various changes.
When the line was first released, it was tremendously popular and the American Girl warehouse quickly emptied. Rooms were seen on eBay selling for as much as $2000.
The line ended a few years later. One speculation for the ending of the line is that a lot of the electric wiring was defective, either causing electrical shorts or failing to light and thus meaning a return. The sets were small and elaborate, and targeted more towards older children, as well as expensive for the size and lack of playability--a complete room was $178, much more than a doll, and the decor sets were about 20 dollars. According to former employees, the line was discontinued following the purchase of Pleasant Company (American Girl) by Mattel due to the high cost of manufacturing.
Angelina Ballerina dolls
American Girl produced a line of dolls for Angelina Ballerina, stories based on the life of a fictional mouse girl, Angelina Mousling. The line was similar in scope to one of the Historical Collection dolls, incorporating a large number of accessories and playsets, a Best Friend doll in the way of Angelina's companion Alice Nimbletoes, and a cousin to Angelina named Henry Mouseling. The line was produced from 2001 until 2004, when the toy rights were transferred to the Target Corporation.
Miss American Girl Bear
A teddy bear named Miss AG Bear, and several doll-style outfits, were available through the American Girl catalogues from 1994 through 1996.
Girls of Many Lands
Designed for American Girl by renowned American doll artist Helen Kish, these dolls represented 12 year old girls from various historical periods around the world. The line included Isabel Campion (1592, Tudor England); Neela (1939, India); Minuk (1892, native Yup'ik village, Alaska); Kathleen (1937, Dublin, Ireland); Cecile (1711, France); Spring Pearl (1857, Canton, China); Saba (1876, Ethiopia); and Leyla (1720, Turkey). Each doll was accompanied by a book which detailed her unique story. The dolls were nine inches tall, exquisitely dressed and elaborately coiffed. The dolls were marketed from 2002-2005 as collector items for an older teenage market, and are now retired.
The company has earned many awards, most notably the Oppenheimer Toy Award, eight times.
The company has been criticized on several fronts.
- The pricing of the American Girl products has been a consistent issue. Dolls themselves cost $90(When from 2005 to 2008, they cost $82), and most outfits cost around $26, with furniture sometimes costing over $100. However, the prices have held steady with minimal increases over the company's 20+ year history.
- Longtime collectors have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with Mattel's management of the product line. In particular, there has been criticism of the replacement of many items by inferior quality products.
In August 2005, one of the products offered by American Girl was the "I Can" band. The company web site stated that "American Girl will give 70 cents for every dollar of “I CAN” band sales, plus a $50,000 donation, to Girls, Inc., a national organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold". The relationship to Girls, Inc.
has been criticized by some conservative activists on the grounds that Girls, Inc. supports abortion rights and acceptance of homosexual orientation. American Girl states that these donations are earmarked to support the work of Girls, Inc. in the areas of intellectual development, leadership, and sports programs. American Girl has since severed ties with Girls, Inc.
In 2005 residents of Pilsen, a neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois
, claimed the book Marisol
portrayed their neighborhood as unsafe, because in a passage Marisol's mother explains that they are moving to the suburb of Des Plaines
because Pilsen is "dangerous" and "there is no place to play." The Latin-American
community decided to protest the book and doll.
Stephanie Spanos, senior public relations associate for American Girl, responded: “We feel that this brief passage has been taken out of context in the book...In the story you’ll see that Marisol’s parents want to have a house and a yard, and a place for her to play. As well as [those], there are some other reasons, too, that they are talking about moving."
De-emphasis on educational aspects
Some fans of American Girl complain that the company has lost the educational focus of its original characters and accompanying books. The name of the modern doll line was changed from "American Girl of Today" (which emphasized modern girls being part of history, and complemented the historical line of dolls) to "Just Like You." This line was originally sold with six blank books and a writing kit to encourage the owner to write stories about her doll, in the same pattern as the historical characters' six core books. This package was replaced by selling the doll with one book and a writing kit, and later replaced by a "fill-in-the-blanks" scrapbook for the owner to complete about her doll's interests. Beginning in 2007, the dolls came packaged with a single book and a short music CD
, and advertising campaigns present the doll as a stand-in for the child herself (a concept similar to that of other popular doll companies like My Twinn
The American Girl Place store in New York City
was the center of a labor dispute with Actors Equity Association
(AEA). The American Girl Theater runs two shows: a one hour fifteen minute musical theater production with child actors performing the roles of the historical girl characters and adult actors performing supporting roles, and a shorter musical theater show for younger audiences in which adult actors portray the stuffed animal "Bitty" characters. On August 32006
, fourteen of the eighteen adult actors at the store went on strike.