CLOSE

“Mighty Dolls” Turn Children’s Toys Into Inspirational Action Figures

Store-bought dolls these days have a certain sameness to them. Despite variations in hairstyle or shade of lipstick, choosing between Barbies on the shelf can be a process that comes down to such insignificant considerations as which one's shoes are trendiest. Based on a personal belief that toys can have significant impact on a child’s self-image, artist Wendy Tsao made it her mission to take those off-the-shelf dolls—in this case, figures from the controversial Bratz brand—and turn them into positive symbols of female inspiration and empowerment, rather than just “Girls with a Passion for Fashion.” The end result is a series of “Mighty Dolls”—playthings with something to be proud of.

Tsao didn't originally set out to design a line of role models with movable limbs. Inspired by the work of Sonja Singh, who had earlier released a series of doll "make-unders," Tsao simply wanted to play with the process herself to see what she could do with the mass-produced figurines. An earlier post on her website features her first set of "refurbished" dolls, scrubbed of their heavy makeup to better resemble the young girls who might want to play with them. These earlier dolls come with everyday names like Abby, Carina, and Emma, and each has her own mini-biography penned by Tsao.

Abby, for example, gets in trouble for reading under the covers when she should be sleeping, and Bella wants to study dolphins when she grows up. Even in Tsao's first foray into repainted dolls, she demonstrated a latent desire to show them not only as relatable, but admirable.

It wasn't a far leap, then, from Tsao's real-world dolls to her "Mighty Dolls," modeled after real women made famous by their various accomplishments. A post on Tsao’s website features an international cast of respected women, from Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar to Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, each with her own distinctive outfit and accessories. The J. K. Rowling doll features a knit scarf in Gryffindor’s signature colors, and Jane Goodall is shown with a cuddly primate posed by her feet. There are certainly no complaints to be made about sacrificing style for substance here. By Tsao’s account, these are “real-life people who are heroes too, with inspiring stories of courage, intelligence, strength, and uniqueness,” well suited to raise the tone of playtime. Her repainted, re-costumed dolls mimic the features of these grown heroines, but Tsao strives to portray even the older women as young girls, to reflect the dolls’ target audience (the exception being Malala, a heroine nearly young enough to still have dolls of her own).

A mother herself, Tsao says she would be thrilled to have her child play with these dolls and “have conversations about them,” taking into consideration not just their appearances, but their accomplishments as well.

Original image
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
14 Things You Owned in the '70s That are Worth a Fortune Now
Original image
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

From old toys and housewares to books and records, these pieces of '70s memorabilia have aged (and increased in value) like fine wine.

Original image
iStock
arrow
fun
The '90s Called: Original Tamagotchis Are Coming Back to the U.S.
Original image
iStock

Like the school project eggs and crying baby dolls that came before them, Tamagotchis taught '90s kids real responsibility. The handheld digital pets were needy little pixels that demanded constant attention, food, and cleanings. Armed with just three buttons, Tamagotchi owners had to take care of their creatures by raising them from eggs and keeping them alive.

Now today's youth can also attempt to parent digital pets: Back in April, The Telegraph reported that the beloved gadgets were making a comeback, but that the newly designed eggs would only be on sale on Amazon Japan for around ¥2000 (about $18). The retro toy proved popular enough that it will now be making its way to the U.S. According to Mashable, Tamagotchis will hit stores in America on November 5—just in time for holiday shopping.

After both Furby and Trolls made their own triumphant returns, it only makes sense to see other classic toys try to court a new generation of kids. Despite the simple nature of the toy, the plastic devices were a huge hit, with over 76 million being sold around the world. Since the success of the handheld games, the franchise has expanded into other realms like video games and board games. This latest venture is a return to form, embracing the old characters and repackaging them in a new, smaller device.

[h/t Mashable]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios