Dolly Report: American Girl and My Thoughts on BeForever

One of the first doll lines I saved up my allowances for as a kid (4th grade through 8th) was American Girl.  Back in the day, American Girl had a neat freebie they offered future customers.  They would send a ‘saving guide’, so to speak, that would help you keep track of how much money you had saved.  Actually, it was really quite cool and totally useful, especially when your allowance evened out to $4 a month! (I can’t find evidence of this kit online and my mother doesn’t remember it, but I swear, I’m not making it up!)

The Pleasant Company Releases (Felicity, Josefina, Felicity, Addy, Samantha and Molly)

The Pleasant Company Releases (Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly)

There were many dolls I had my eye on, but the first doll I decided to purchase was Molly, the WWII doll.  Who didn’t love Molly?  She had some great outfits and the mixture of bangs, braids and glasses was adorable.

After Molly, I started saving again and eventually purchased Samantha, who’s stories were slightly earlier than Molly’s, taking place in 1904.  Samantha was a favorite of mine from the get go.  Her long hair gave a little more leeway for styling (A purest from a young age, I have never removed Molly’s braids!) and her outfits and accessories were just fantastic, so very different than Molly’s (also very neat) accessories.

The cycle continued until I had added two more dolls to my collection, Felicity was the third.  Felicity stood out amongst the other dolls in the catalog because of her lovely red hair.  To this day, I’m still very happy to have picked her up pre-Mattel. Last, but not least, I bought a Girl of Today made to look like me.  All of these were ordered before Mattel purchased Pleasant Company and averaged about a doll a year.

American Girl Dolls, believe it or not, were launched in 1986, making them young’ins in the doll industry.  Pleasant Company was founded by Pleasant Rowland.  Pleasant had noticed a gap between the ages represented in popular doll lines, noticeably the lack of  a doll meant to look between 8-11.  Marrying the idea that the dolls would give girls (and boys) a more personal glimpse into the past, American Girl dolls were born.

The first three dolls released were Samantha, Kirsten and Molly.  Interestingly, I learned from the American Girl Wiki that these dolls were developed by Gotz. (I’ve never been a huge fan of Gotz, so this was very surprising news!) I’m kicking myself for having never purchased a Kirsten doll while pre-Mattel.  Each of these three dolls lived in very different times.  Kirsten represented pioneer times.  Samantha represented the Edwardian Era.  And Molly, my original American Girl, represented the World War II era.  Each doll was accompanied by a chapter book that would give readers a glimpse into the world these dolls lived in.

In 1991, Felicity was released.  She lived during the Revolutionary War.  Felicity was the first doll to model a fleshtone body, unlike her predecessors who had white muslin bodies.  Addy, a Civil War era girl and the first black American Girl doll, was released in 1993.

In 1995, the Girl of Today line was introduced and allowed girls to create their own American Girl doll by choosing from various hair colors, eyes colors, and skin tones.  They came in a really awesome outfit that included a fun vest and awesome hat that was a pretty perfect representation of the mid-90’s girl!  Josefina joined the American Girl gang in 1997, representing the history of New Mexico prior to it becoming part of the United States.

In 1998, there was a big change with American Girl.  Pleasant Company sold American Girl to Mattel for a whopping 700 million dollars. She stayed on as an adviser for a few years after this sale.  I, personally, wish this deal had never gone through, as I believe the quality went a bit down after being purchased by Mattel.  They didn’t change much in the very beginning, but I feel like some of the magic was lost after Mattel picked these dolls up.

The first doll to be released after the Mattel sale was Kit, a girl living through the Great Depression, in 2000.  Of all the Mattel releases, Kit is the only doll I really love.  Her freckles and bob hairstyle make her look adorable!  2000 is also the same year that Pleasant Rowlands steps down from her advisory position with the brand and gives Mattel full control of the line.

In 2002, Kaya was released. Her stories focused on early Native American history.  In 2004, Mattel begins releasing friend dolls for past releases, starting with Nellie, Samantha’s friend.  The next historical doll wouldn’t be released until 2007.  That doll was Julie, a girl growing up in the 70’s.  In 2009, Rebecca was released, representing early twentieth-century America during the second wave of European immigration.  Marie Grace, a girl growing up in 1850’s New Orleans, joined the group in 2011.  The most recent historical girl to hit the stage was Caroline, who’s books focus on growing up during the war of 1812. Caroline is my least favorite doll.  I don’t like the look of her at all.  2009 brought along a new historical doll, Rebecca, from the twentieth-century America during the second wave of European immigration.

American Girl has steadily been changing the direction of the doll line by retiring certain beloved characters (including most of the original Pleasant Company girls– Felicity, Kirsten and Molly and others) and creating new illustrations and outfits for those that have stayed on in the line.  The Girl of Today line eventually was rebranded as Just Like You and now is currently dubbed My American Girl. And in 2014, the Historical Dolls were to be rebranded, as well.

BeForever Girls

BeForever Girls

My Thoughts on BeForever:  

A few months ago, Mattel really changed the game by re-branding the Historical Girls as ‘BeForever‘.  I’m not against change.  Change is important in keeping doll lines vibrant.  However, I can’t say I’m exactly on board with everything Mattel is doing with American Girl, especially with the Historical Girls.

Officially, the BeForever  line consists of Kaya, Caroline, Josefina, Addy, Rebecca, Kit, Julie and the once retired Samantha.  BeForever girls have a whole new line of clothing, accessories, furniture and new storybooks.

Some of the dolls have been tweaked a little, as well. One minor example is Kit’s hair, which has been cut a little shorter than her original doll.  There’s something about Samantha that looks different to me, too, but I just can’t put my finger on what it might be.  Who knows, it could be my imagination.

The one thing I love about this line is the inclusion of Samantha.  I am a huge fan of Samantha and her stories and am very happy they took her out of the vault.  It gives me hope that one day, some of the other retired dolls will come out and play once again.

That being said, Samantha’s outfits disappoint me a bit.  I really only like two of them, the others just don’t feel like Samantha.  It could very well be that I grew so used to the older outfits that these just don’t seem to fit the character in my head.  Still, though, it’s disappointing.

Samantha's Holiday Set

Samantha’s Holiday Set

Samantha's Fancy Coat

Samantha’s Fancy Coat

Kit, however, has some adorable outfits in this BeForever line.  She would win my ‘best dressed’ for sure!  Her Meet Kit outfit is adorable, as are her Christmas outfit and Floral Print dress!

Meet Kit Outfit

Meet Kit Outfit

Kit's Holiday Outfit

Kit’s Holiday Outfit

Kit's Floral Print Dress

Kit’s Floral Print Dress

Julie’s Patchwork Dress, Floral Jumpsuit and Calico Dress look fantastic (or should I say groovy?), too.

Julie's Patchwork Outfit

Julie’s Patchwork Outfit

Julie's Floral Jumpsuit

Julie’s Floral Jumpsuit

Julie's Calico Dress

Julie’s Calico Dress

As far as accessories go, Julie’s Egg Chair? I love it! The lack of jointing in American Girl dolls might make her look a little strange sitting in it but for more jointed 18″ dolls?  One nice feature about this, though, is it doubles as an MP3 player speaker, which makes it way more than just a doll prop.

Julie's Egg Chair

Julie’s Egg Chair

Samantha’s bike is another winner, though, again, it suffers from the lack of jointing. Her best accessory, though, has to be her Ice Cream Parlor!

Samantha's Ice Cream Parlor

Samantha’s Ice Cream Parlor

And Kit? She has an fantastic typewriter and a super fun Homemade Skooter. She also has a really nice School Desk set and Bed.

Kit's Homemade Scooter

Kit’s Homemade Scooter

Kit's Typewriter

Kit’s Typewriter

I’ll be totally, 100% honest here, I don’t care very much for the rest of the BeForever girls. They don’t excite me. I’m sure there are people that love them, but alas, I don’t.  Much of it has to do with the lack of excitement I felt towards the Mattel releases post Kit.  Kit is adorable and I’d love to have her, but the rest just never made me go ‘oh, I need that in my collection!’.

If anything, this rebranding made me recognize what I suspected already– I have fallen out of love with American Girl. I still love my American Girls (Molly, Samantha, Felicity and my Girl of Today) and the items that came out around their era, but the new items? They’re just not pulling at my heartstrings as much as they used to.  That’s not to say that I’m completely giving up on the line, because there will always be a part of me that looks forward to opening up an American Girl catalog or visiting an American Girl Store, but for now, I’m not feeling the awe that once surrounded the American Girl line.

Resources:
http://www.curtdanhauser.com/AG_Collecting/Main.html

http://www.agplaythings.com/

http://www.americangirl.com

http://americangirl.wikia.com/

Do you have fond memories of American Girl? What are your thoughts on this new BeForever line?  Share your thoughts below.

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September 24, 2014. Tags: , . Uncategorized.

22 Comments

  1. April replied:

    The sad thing is, the outfits you like of Julie’s are from before the change. The new outfits really don’t sing to me. Maybe because they don’t seem historically accurate, but more like stereotypical Halloween costumes.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Ha! Really? I must admit, I didn’t have interest in Julie before the rebranding. Now, she stands out as one of the few I like. Oy, change is hard sometimes! Agreed on the lack of historical inspiration in some of the outfits. Samantha’s are the worst, I think, which makes me a little sad!

  2. Heather Holden replied:

    I had a Kirsten doll growing up. Sad to learn she and others from this line have been retired! I agree, all these changes really don’t make American Girl feel that much like like American Girl anymore…

  3. Barbara Forde replied:

    I purchased Addy pre- Mattel and love her, Even a couple of the outfits were worth cost because of the details. I also purchased Bitty Baby . Now, it seems like all Mattel is doing is using the same face mold and different names. The accessories aren’t of great quality either. I love the ice cream parlor but what parent could afford the it??? $300 is a bit steep! Even as a collector I would hesitate to purchase it .

  4. Teresa B. replied:

    I ALWAYS longed to have my own American Girl doll. I loved Samantha the best and always dreamed of having her. I practically wore out the catalogue that came in the mail looking at it so much. I have a few of the books but the story that most intrigued me was Addy. I thought her background was very well written, my second favorite story was Molly.

    I feel sad that they don’t have the same quality. If I saw a pre-Mattel one reasonably priced I would pick it up but the newer ones don’t have the same luster as the old Pleasant Company dolls.

    • Doris Winter replied:

      I have an original Samantha. I still shed a tear when I think of her giving away her cherished doll. Sadly my daughter is mentally ill and does not want her dolls. Would you be interested in having a preMattel Samantha and many outfits. Amelia my daughter is an only, lonely child and the doll and accessories are in great shape. I can send photos. This is one of the hardest emails I have ever written but it is time to move on..
      Doris age 70 Sacramento

      • Janet replied:

        Hello Doris, I am interested in your Samantha doll, and am wondering if you could contact me, Janet, if you still have the doll. Will tell you more when you contact…Thanks in advance for your reply.

  5. honilee replied:

    As April has said before, all the Julie outfits you mentioned are pre-BeForever. The only new things Kit has that were mentioned in this article are her meet outfit and the revised typewriter (she had a very similar set that was retired awhile back).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the AG brand. I’m a much more recent fan (didn’t really get into them until around this time last year) so I think seeing all these changes aren’t quite as jarring for me. Not everything new appeals to me, but a lot does. Overall I really love the direction BeForever is heading in–I hope it is a great success and helps many more children gain a better understanding of history.

  6. Nicole Tan replied:

    I would really love to get Kit and her floral dress on the website cuz you’re right! She’s so cute!( ^ω^ )

  7. Neicy P replied:

    Hi there!

    I found your blog via Toychest Snarker and I’m already a fan! 🙂

    I too remember the Pleasant Company era and I was extremely fortunate enough to receive Samantha as a gift as a child. Getting back into collecting as an adult, I was trepidatious about what Mattel had done to the line, but they’ve actually improved the quality in many areas. I loved my Sam (and Molly, too! But I never got her) but the shoes for one were lacking in quality and Mattel has actually improved a lot of little stuff like that, which was a surprise. My Sam can now wear the boots the same as she wore on the old books! (Ok, they’re actually from one of Rebecca’s outfits, but… they still look the same and really well made!)

    Just a minor correction: you’re missing a very interesting character and one of my favorites! Cécile Rey was actually intended to be the “main” character of the 1850s New Orleans girls, but AG decided to make the best friend (Marie-Grace) a co-character instead. Unfortunately Cécile and Marie-Grace got axed along with the best friend doll line, but Cécile and her fabulous fashions turn up on ebay on the regular.

    And I remember the American Girl saving guide! I have a few old catalogs from the mid and late ’90s and there it is! It’s be neat if they decided to implement that again.

  8. BlackKitty replied:

    Thank you for this brief history, i’m not interested in this line but thanks to you now I’ll have the basic knowledge to understand AG talk. I like how they changed Kit’s face, the previous one gave me the creeps 🙂

    • kewpie83 replied:

      No problem! Over the years, I’ve fallen more and more out of love with AG, but I still like to keep up with a bit. They really need to step up their game.

  9. renzanity replied:

    I completely agree. Great assessment of the decline of AG. It makes me sad!

    Also, I had that money saving kit. You’re not crazy. But I never earned anything. Hahaha!

  10. renzanity replied:

    I completely agree with your assessment of the decline of AG. It’s so sad! I had pre-Mattel Samantha and my parents sold her in their divorce, which is heartbreaking and infuriating because now my daughter wants Samantha for Christmas. The new one just doesn’t seem the same. At least I still have the original books.

  11. erika63 replied:

    Thank you for great post. I discovered American Girl when me and my family visited Chicago in 2010. My daughters were 5 and 10 years old at the time, and we visited the AG “temple” again and again! We have loved the dolls and accessories every since, but since they are not available here in Sweden, we have made our own stuff, worn out a catalogue or two, and imported a few very, very expensive items. In the end, we bought Molly and Emily before retirement: super expensive, however lovely dolls that are much appreciated and played with more or less on a daily basis. Even my oldest daughter, who is 14 now, loves her dolls, although she doesn’t actually play with them anymore. We make things: today I am looking up the retired Kirsten accessories in order to teach my youngest how to make a doll’s quilt – a school assignment.
    However, I do agree about the recline in quality. Also, as a fashion scholar and historian, I am pretty outraged about new Samantha’s dress: pink was considered a particularly masculine color around 1904 – it is just historically inaccurate to put a pink dress on a girl.

  12. dollsteachgirls replied:

    My daughter has Bitty Baby, a blonde/grey eyed modern doll, Kit, and Kaya…awaiting a future granddaughter. Supplemented with clothes I sewed and furniture lovingly made/painted by relations. Good times. Loved Pleasant Rowland’s “vitamins in the chocolate cake” concept where she made a doll package that appealed (appeals still) to women/girls across religious/political/racial boundaries (with rare exception)

    In a moment of annoyance over American Girl’s partnership with the partly dubious Girls, Inc.(who offended some American Girl parents because of Girls Inc. “need” to provide too-early and too controversial sexual info to young girls). I gave away all the AG books except for the great large book about Molly’s World War 2 era book. My mom (the age of Molly) thought the book spot on. A keeper!

    I do check the news on AG every few years. Maybe I’m waiting for a really great recapturing of the old magic…suitable to 2015 and beyond.

    I am conflicted about the company like some of you above. It’s great to really have a GIRL place (like the AG stores). But Mattel’s business model is different than Pleasant Co. Mattel wants to sell each girl as many of the same doll…as they can. (Think of the PILES of Barbies many of you had in your homes!)

    American Girl stuff makes Mattel several hundred million dollars a year. They made back their $700 million purchase price many times over. AG is a cash cow. One past report suggested that the Stores and the Doll of the Year were usually their Biggest profit centers. I love little girls having their day in the sun–I mean the store…tho I regret the super consumerism. And the AG magazine no longer has the wonderful Historical Girl paper doll made to show a real girl’s female ancestor…with historical outfits and short story. It’s still a pleasant magazine…But with less of the richness of history. I’m Conflicted still.

    But poor son-to-be-retired Historical 1812 Caroline Abbott…Decent stories, but…AG is already going to retire her despite the rich history time she comes from! I saw pics of One Caroline Regency dress with printed on embroidery. Weird. Eww. Other big accessories still had the Big Price but lacked the details / small accessories of past historical dolls.

    Somehow they also failed to capitalize on the Jane Austen worldwide popularity also! (Austen is HUGE. Books, movies, Jane Austen societies in Britain, US and elsewhere, etc.). Had they somehow bridged American Caroline to British Austen…Caroline might be surviving…even thriving.

    (I know Caroline is am American Girl, but this is where AG could have figured out an international connection somehow. Maybe some relation in her town sailed on a ship a few years ago… with a British naval officer named Austen who told him stories about his sister who actually writes stories (a huge novelty at the time). You get the idea…

  13. Mackenzie Wachter replied:

    You do realize there’s a new BeForever historical character named Maryellen. Right? There’s also another historical character named Melody!

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Yep, but this post was written back in 2014. 🙂

  14. Kerry replied:

    I am disappointed in the lack of quality in the American Girls since Mattel took over. But, mostly I am disappointed that they combined all of their books into larger Beforever books. I am a children’s librarian and I do an American Girl book club which is very popular. However, busy girls do not have time to read 1 Beforever book for a book discussion as it is basically 3 books combined. Also, they have left out the beautiful pictures that were in the original books. So I will continue to do the book club only while our library system still has the original books. The modern girls and their stories are not nearly as compelling as the historical girls’ stories. Girls today need to learn American history more than they need to learn popular culture. Mattel’s experience with Barbies should have taught them that lesson.

    • Sheila replied:

      I, too am a librarian. I would be interested in knowing more about your American Girl Book clubs. What grade level do you work with?

  15. retrotvshows replied:

    I couldn’t agree more! I love the older AG dolls. Their accessories were better quality. I am not a fan of Beforever. I understand the need to adapt to stay relevant in the sales business, but I think they just lost their charm. The new items look too modern for my taste and are not true to the characters.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Thanks for writing! I’ll be a Pleasant Company girl forever.

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