Lucy in the Media
The January 2002 issue of Doll Reader magazine includes not one but two stories about Lucille Ball dolls... The first, by associate editor Toni Fitzgerald, celebrates the new "Vinyl Portrait Doll" recently released by Franklin Mint. That story is reproduced here, with permission of the publisher.
A second article, by Myrna Rubenstein, addresses Lucy's celebity status, quotes people who new her (including fan club member Michael Stern), and shows various Lucy dolls released over the years.
For complete information about Doll Reader magazine, visit their web site at www.dollreader.com .
For information about the new Franklin Mint Lucille Ball Vinyl Portrait Doll, see Franklin Mint Lucy Doll
Why do we love Lucy? Because she made us laugh, and she made us cry. She was like a member of the family, not just the Lucy on TV. She invited us into her life, and we responded by taking her into our hearts. So it only seems appropriate, during the 50th anniversary year of the I Love Lucy TV debut, that the Franklin Mint has added Lucy Ricardo to its collection of dearly loved celebrity dolls. The recently released 16-inch Lucille Ball Vinyl Portrait Doll joins other Franklin Mint fictional creations such as Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind and Titanic's Rose DeWitt in the collector cupboard of beautiful, intelligent and feisty heroines.
Franklin Mint is no stranger to the challenges presented by portrait dolls. With iconic characters and personalities comes a demand not just for accuracy, but for a loving homage as well. I Love Lucy's famous housewife, played to perfection by Lucille Ball, is one of the most beloved TV characters of all time. That presented no small challenge for the Franklin Mint design team, whose members screened hours of Lucy footage and studies research provided by CBS Worldwide, Inc. and Desilu, too, LLC on audience reaction. "This doll is different from many of our celebrity dolls, such as Princess Diana, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor, because they are depicting the celebrities themselves, not a character they portray," explains Joyce Reavey, the Franklin Mint's director of design for dolls and plush. "We based the doll on Lucy Ricardo because, for all Lucille Ball's breadth of work, this is how we remember and love her best. It is the first thing you think of when you think of Lucy."
The team, headed by Dick Tahsin, knew one thing for certain -- it wanted to present a doll whose personality shown through the sculpt. The team did not want to present a caricature of the infamously ditsy housewife. That meant special attention to detail. For example, Joyce explains, the Franklin Mint designers paid close attention to the subtleties of Lucy's face. They wanted to reproduce the high cheekbones and wide-set eyes in the sculpt, instead of adding them in the facepaint. Joyce says, "Our goal was to capture Lucy's personality. We purposely tried not to focus on her glamour shots, especially for the face painting. Although she was drop-dead gorgeous in them, she didn't look like the Lucy we watched faithfully on TV and held close to our heart."
Their design came about from hours of study. The Lucille Ball doll successfully recreates the sparkle in Lucy's eye, the mischievous, yet gentle expression she wore when she and her friend Ethel Mertz schemed. Those touches came through a lot of effort. "Her mouth was the most challenging," Joyce says. "It looks simple, but if the inside or outside lip is off ever so slightly -- she doesn't look like Lucy. Another key was to give the eyes Lucy's wide-eyed look without making her look surprised or shocked." Then there is the body. Her proportions, down to the size of her feet, were taken from Lucille Ball's real life measurements, not from an existing doll. But that wasn't the toughest aspect to reproduce. Lucille Ball seemed capable of twisting any which way for a laugh. While the Lucille Ball doll may not show the effects of Vitameatavegamin in quite the same way as Lucy, it is fully articulated so that collectors can pose her in suitable comic positions.
Those poses wouldn't be complete without the right outfit, and the Franklin Mint offers several variations. Lucille Ball comes dressed in the black-and-white polka dot dress (with a white, red rickrack-trimmed apron) that Lucy wore in the hilarious "Sales Resistance" episode. In that show, a pushy salesman convinces Lucy to buy an appliance she doesn't really need. Ricky forces her to return it, but this time Lucy buys a pricey vacuum cleaner. Scared of what Ricky will say, she attempts to sell the vacuum cleaner door-to-door. When that doesn't work, Ricky confronts the salesman -- and ends up buying a refrigerator himself. It's enduring hits like this one that made Lucy such a comedic pioneer. "We picked this particular episode because not only is it a very popular episode, but it captures the classic Lucy look that spans all the years the show was on television," Joyce says. Also available is a Lucille Ball trunk, a familiar Franklin Mint accessory, that was inspired by "The Passports" episode. Ensembles from "Job Switching," "Lucy Gets in Pictures," and "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" are included, with several more outfits currently in the works. After all, there are too many "favorite" episodes to stop at just three!
Many members of the design team remembered watching Lucy as they grew up; others had seen the reruns. The best news for I Love Lucy lovers and doll lovers alike is that this familiarity bred content. Members of the team loved Lucy and her nutty antics, and the love shines through in the attention to detail. In fact, you could probably call the whole project a labor of love. Time-consuming, but well worth the effort. "Capturing her likeness outweighed any timing issues we had," Joyce says. "Sometimes you have to walk away from the sculpture for a few days to see mistakes clearly. The clay sculpture alone can take anywhere from three weeks to two months to get it to our standards." Once it's up to standards, the results are spectacular. "We have already seen a great response from vinyl doll buyers who recognize that a portrait doll of this quality is a must-have in their collections."
Simply put, I Love Lucy made people feel good. Lucille Ball can do that, too. "Memories of Lucy evoke feelings of nostalgia for simpler times, times when the whole family gathered together to enjoy her show on their black-and-white TV," Joyce says. "Most of all, memories of Lucy make people smile. The doll itself earns a spot in pop culture because it is Lucy. Everyone who sees the doll smiles and is compelled to share their favorite Lucy moment -- the episode or scene that just makes them laugh out loud recalling it."
For this, and many more reasons, we still love Lucy.
For more information, contact The Franklin Mint, US Route One, Frankin Center, PA 19091; 1-800-THE-MINT.
"Everybody Loves Lucy," by Toni Fitzgerald
© 2001, PRIMEDIA Enthusiast Publications, Inc. Photos by Simone Associates, Inc.