Doll History

Blythe, Created in 1972

Blythe (ブライス, bu-ra-i-su?) (pronounced "blithe" or like the 'bli' sound in "blind") is a doll created in 1972 by designer Allison Katzman with the now-defunct American toy company Kenner. Reportedly, she was modeled after drawings by Margaret Keane, similarly to many other dolls of the '60s and '70s. Her most unique and notable feature were blinkable eyes that changed color with the pull of a string attached to the back of her head. Blythe dolls were only sold for one year in the U.S. (produced in Hong Kong), during 1972. She was not very popular and faded from store shelves quickly.
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Blythe, Reborn in 2002

Thirty years after her first release date, Blythe regained popularity. In 1997, New York TV and video producer Gina Garan was given a 1972 Kenner Blythe by a friend and began using it to practice her photographic skills. She began taking her Blythe everywhere with her and took hundreds of photos. Then, in 1999, a chance encounter with CWC's Junko Wong brought Blythe to the attention of Parco and toy executives. In 2002, Gina published her first book of Blythe photography with Chronicle Books, This is Blythe. Later that year, Hasbro (Kenner's successor) gave the rights to make Blythe dolls to Takara of Japan. Blythe was used in a television advertising campaign by the Parco department store in Japan and was an instant hit. Success in Japan led Blythe back to the U.S., where she become a niche product in a marginal market, selling largely to adults. In 2003 she was the subject in a segment on the popular VH1 special, I Love the 70s, where she was said to look like either "Barbie with elephantiasis" or "Christina Ricci" among other things. One panelist asked if she could take a doll home! In 2004, the Ashton-Drake Galleries began to produce their own Blythe replica dolls in the United States.

How Close Were They?

This rare Blythe prototype, showing the early stages of the Blythe design. It only has green eyes which change by way of turning  a small lever at the back, she must have had lashes and hair, hence the glue residue on the eyelids and head top.
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Blythe Types, Neo & Petite

There are two types of Blythe dolls: the 28 cm version and the 11.2 cm "Petit Blythe." Only large dolls have color-changing eyes, which include the colors blue, green, orange, and pink (except for cases with limited-edition dolls). The measurements of Blythe: 4.17-2.76-3.89 (in inch) or 106-70-99 (in mm). Unlike Barbie, Blythe does not have a boyfriend. She also does not advertise her professional life. Kenner is now owned by Hasbro. The bodies of blythes varies depending on the time of the release. Earlier releases uses the BL body, which has some disadvantages. For example, the legs do not bend as well as the later releases.

BL: June 2001-March 2002. Licca body is used, matte face for some models.
EBL (Excellent): June 2002-October 2003. New body is introduced. Unlike the earlier Licca body, EBL bodies do not have bendable arms, though their legs have three "clicks" at the knee.
SBL (Superior): February 2004-2006. New face mold and new sparkly eye chips. The new head mold necessitates that, in order for inner-head customizations to be done, they must be sawn open. There is also a method to take off the face plate only, by soaking in hot water.
RBL (Radiance): December 2006-Present. New face mold to look more Kenner-like, including a slightly wider left eye. This mold allows for easy customization as her head is connected by three screws and an internal clip near the ears.

In August 2005, Takara announced that they will introduce a new head mold which reportedly will have the highpoints of both Excellent and Superior Blythes. These newer molds are more similar to the original Kenner mold and are labelled as Radiance or RBL for short.