“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.

Barbie Is Now Giving Coding Lessons

Mattel wants to help 10 million kids learn to code by 2020, and the toy giant is enlisting one of its most career-focused assets: Barbie. According to Engadget, Mattel is working with the coding education company Tynker to make seven Barbie-themed computer programming lessons.

Barbie has been a pilot, an architect, the president, and a computer engineer, so there may be no better character to teach kids the joys of coding. The lessons, arriving in summer 2018, will be designed for youngsters in kindergarten and up, and will teach Barbie-lovers more than just how to make apps. They’ll use Barbie’s many careers—which also included veterinarian, robotics engineer, and astronaut—as a way to guide kids through programming concepts.

An illustration depicts Barbie and her friends surrounded by cats and dogs and reads 'Barbie: Pet Vet.'

A screenshot of a Barbie coding lesson features a vet's office full of pets.

There are plenty of new initiatives that aim to teach kids how to code, from a Fisher-Price caterpillar toy to online games featuring Rey from Star Wars. This is the third partnership between Mattel and Tynker, who have already produced programming lessons using Hot Wheels and Monster High.

Kindergarten may seem a little soon to set kids on a career path as a computer programmer, but coding has been called “the most important job skill of the future,” and you don’t need to work for Google or Facebook to make learning it worthwhile. Coding can give you a leg up in applying for jobs in healthcare, finance, and other careers outside of Silicon Valley. More importantly for kids, coding games are fun. Who wouldn’t want to play Robotics Engineer Barbie?

[h/t Engadget]

All images by Tynker

Pop Culture
Mister Rogers Is Now a Funko Pop! and It’s Such a Good Feeling, a Very Good Feeling

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood for fans of Mister Rogers, as Funko has announced that, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the kindest soul to ever grace a television screen will be honored with a series of Funko toys, some of them limited-edition versions.

The news broke at the New York Toy Fair, where the pop culture-loving toy company revealed a new Pop Funko! in Fred Rogers’s likeness—he’ll be holding onto the Neighborhood Trolley—plus a Mister Rogers Pop! keychain and a SuperCute Plush.

In addition to the standard Pop! figurine, there will also be a Funko Shop exclusive version, in which everyone’s favorite neighbor will be wearing a special blue sweater. Barnes & Noble will also carry its own special edition, which will see Fred wearing a red cardigan and holding a King Friday puppet instead of the Neighborhood Trolley.


Barnes & Noble's special edition Mister Rogers Funko Pop!

Mister Rogers’s seemingly endless supply of colored cardigans was an integral part of the show, and a sweet tribute to his mom (who knitted all of them). But don’t go running out to snatch up the whole collection just yet; Funko won’t release these sure-to-sell-out items until June 1, but you can pre-order your Pop! on Amazon right now.


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