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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Good Luck Trolls

As we approach the Christmas season, this is the time of year in which most toy companies end up making a bulk of their profits. It certainly makes sense. After all, what do most kids between the ages of three and thirteen ask for on their Christmas lists? Toys, of course.

So, for the next few weeks, I thought that I would do spotlights on some popular toys that were huge when I was a kid...and these are toys that I have actually received as Christmas presents back in the day myself. So in addition to learning more about these toys, you'll also be entertained by some personal stories in relation to my experiences with these toys. I hope you enjoy it.

Okay, so because I'm trying to make this blog a little more personal, I should share with you a little bit of a story in regards to my Christmas well as my family.

It's no secret when I admit that my family didn't have a whole lot of money available for holidays. When you come from a one-parent family income, which barely covered the essentials needed for survival, there wasn't a whole lot of extra money available. And yet, I can always remember having great Christmases. My parents really worked hard to make sure that my siblings and I partook in the joy that Christmas had to offer, and it wasn't just about the gifts either. It was about spending time together, and enjoying the traditions that came with the holiday season.

One of these traditions for the holiday that I can always remember occurred on Christmas Eve. When my siblings and I were children, we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve night...the only catch was that it was the same thing every year. We weren't even allowed to choose which gift we could unwrap...we had to open a gift that our parents chose for us.

Those gifts ended up always being some form of sleepwear. Pajamas, slippers, baby doll nightgowns (well, okay, I personally did NOT get that last option). When I was a kid, I admittedly found it to be a drag getting pajamas every single year. I almost would have welcomed opening up socks and underwear least it would have been a change! It wasn't until I got older than I really began to appreciate the tradition for what it was. And if I'm ever lucky enough to have a son or a daughter of my own one day, I plan to share that tradition with them.

So, what does a story about getting pajamas as a present have to do with today's toy spotlight? After all, pajamas are not toys. I'm getting to that.

You see, one of the key elements in trying to figure out which gift underneath the tree was the one we were to open on Christmas Eve was how it was labeled. On our Christmas Eve gifts, the gift tag attached to the present was always from “Dad”. This always meant that every present that had the “Dad” gift tag contained pajamas.

Now when I was twelve years old, I knew the drill. On December 24, I would search under the tree, looking for a gift that was from “Dad”, and opened it up expecting to see some form of pajamas. To my surprise though, when I ripped off the red and green wrapping paper, and opened up the box, I found this instead.

Now clearly I couldn't wear this to bed. But I couldn't figure out how I ended up with a Troll Doll for a Christmas Eve present instead of a pair of pajamas. And neither could my parents, who were just as shocked as I was!

That is until my parents looked over the shredded wrapping paper all over the floor and saw where the mix-up took place. Do you know those ribbons and bows that have the peel and stick backings on them? Like these ones below?

Apparently when my parents were wrapping presents in preparation for Christmas, they accidentally put a big bow so close to the gift tag that it obscured the word “Mom” in the “From Mom and Dad” written on it. And soon after, we found the right Christmas Eve gift, I got my Christmas Eve pajamas, and all was right in the world...well, aside from the fact that I ended up with two Christmas Eve gifts.

Not that I complained too much, of course.

In fact, I'll level with you. The Troll Doll that I accidentally unwrapped that Christmas Eve was a gift that I had never gotten before. It was a toy that looked so ugly, but yet it was kind of cool at the same time. And hey, the troll's hair was my favourite colour (purple), so it had that going for it as well. I think I ended up getting about a half a dozen when I was a kid, just because I thought they were interesting.

In fact, I've decided to use this blog to talk about Troll Dolls, as well as the origin behind them and how they initially became popular during the 1960s, and enjoyed a brief comeback in the 1990s.

The history of the Troll Doll begins a little over five decades ago in the country of Denmark. The year was 1959, and Danish fisherman Thomas Dam was having difficulty coming up with the right Christmas present to give to his daughter, Lila. So, he decided to do what a lot of other people have done...make something. In addition to being a fisherman, he was an experienced woodcarver, and he decided to carve something special for Lila. Christmas came, Lila ended up getting her special present, and she loved it very much.

And apparently, so did all the other kids in the Danish village where Thomas and Lila lived.

This is one of the original designs of what would come to be known as the Troll Doll as it appeared back in 1959. Adorable little creature, isn't he?

So, Thomas Dam decided to mass produce the Troll Dolls so that every kid in the village would have one, substituting plastic for the original wooden one that he had made Lila. The dolls were produced by his company known as Dam Things (a rather unfortunate name for a company when you stop and think about it), and were sold under the name of “Good Luck Trolls”.

The dolls became instant sensations in several European nations, but it wouldn't be until 1963 until they began to make an impact on North America. From 1963 until 1965, “Good Luck Trolls” became a huge fad in the United States.

Of course, with the success of the Troll Doll came the knockoffs and sub-standard versions. The original Troll dolls created by Thomas Dam were known as Dam Dolls (again, a rather unfortunate name), and were made of quality materials including glass eyes and hair made from sheep wool. But due to the sudden popularity of the troll dolls, coupled with a copyright notice error of Dam's original product, cheaper versions were made that flooded North American shelves.

By 1966, Troll dolls were fading in popularity in North America, but the company remained open to produce them for the European market, in which they were still widely popular well into the 1970s. But around 1988, Troll Dolls began to make a reappearance on store shelves all across Canada and the United States. The E.F.S. Marketing Associates Inc. were one of the very few corporations that the Dam family (you can tell I'm having a lot of fun with the play on words here, can you) allowed to market the dolls.

The dolls were sold in the United States under the name of “Norfin Trolls”, and several versions of the Troll dolls were mass produced including the classic Troll...

...Trolls with lucky gem stones...

...Trolls with clothes...

...believe it or not, there was even a two-headed Troll doll! As if they weren't ugly enough already!

In 2003, a Congressional law allowed the Dam family to restore their original copyright and become the sole manufacturer of the dolls...forty years after the misprint in the original copyright statement was made. Despite an American company's decision to challenge the restoration of the copyright in court, the court ruled in favour of the Dam family, and the copyright has been in their possession ever since.

As of 2012, Troll dolls are still being manufactured, though their popularity has waned in recent years. It certainly didn't help that DiC Entertainment tried to capitalize on the popularity of Troll dolls by creating its own animated series known as Trollz – an attempt that failed miserably in the United States, and prompted the company that held the rights to the dolls to file a lawsuit against DiC in 2007. But I'd reckon that Troll dolls might find their way back into toy stores all over the world once again. Believe it or not, there are plans to release a Troll doll movie!

The plans were announced by DreamWorks Animation in the summer of 2010, and as of right now, Chloe Grace Moretz has been cast as the female lead of the film. It even has a tentative release date of June 2015!

So, okay, we have to wait three years before we see any motion pictures featuring the spiky-haired trolls of yore...but would you care to take a wager that if and when the movie comes out, you'll see the fad make a comeback?

Remind me to revisit this topic in the summer of 2015, to see if I'm right!

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