This Feature Story appeared in the Keeping Ken Ken News! on January 5, 2003.
Keeping Ken Ken News Feature Archive
Mattel's new Happy Family™ Alan® and Ryan™ gift set along with Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby gift set are appearing in stores now! The "Happy Family™" name may seem familiar. The Happy Family™ was a similar doll line from Mattel in the mid-70's, part of the Sunshine Family™ doll line (more info on the Sunshine Family™ here ). Mattel's next family doll line, The Heart Family™ (1985-1990) grew to EPIC proportions in just five years. Mattel's new line of family dolls places three existing Barbie® doll friends in their own line. The longevity of each existing friend added to the Happy Family™ line runs the gamut from 40+ years to not quite a year. Will the mixture of old and new Barbie® doll friends in their own line be a hit? Will the new Mattel Happy Family™ line be as popular as the family doll lines before?
|A NEW ALAN®!
Ken® doll's very first friend from 1964 Allan is updated and solves many mysteries surrounding his character. Back in 1991 Allan®, with the spelling of his name changed to Alan™, was available again for a one time stint as Wedding Day Alan. The event was a marriage to his long time girlfriend Midge®. After the wedding (available in a six doll Wedding Party Midge Gift Set, or individually) he promptly dropped off the face of the earth and has never been seen again....until now! Bride Midge® continued to be part of the present line, but it appears she will be removed from the Barbie® main line to be part of the Happy Family™ line exclusively.
Midge® fans/collectors must be having a heyday. They have to be excited that Mattel designed an entire line for her, but are fans/collectors equally excited that Midge® was instantly made the mother of two children? Midge® has been placed in a precarious position. Collectors and long time lovers are faced with the fact that this line is a gamble. if it doesn't pan out, what will then happen to Midge®?
I have to admit that frankly, I am more concerned about Alan®. I have been wondering since I started the site whether Mattel would ever release Alan® again. Now I have my "yes" answer, in the form of a Happy Family™ Alan® and Ryan™ gift set (pictured left).
But there were still a lot of unanswered questions about Alan® after he resurfaced and disappeared again. Hopefully I can answer a few of those questions now!
happened to Alan®?
A: The idea was to have Midge® and Alan® become similar to the discontinued Mattel Heart Family line. Both are pictured as Mom and Dad in the booklets the year after the wedding dolls were released, with twins (a boy and a girl). Mattel used the Wedding Day Midge® and Alan™ dolls for the promotional pictures (pictured right). Unfortunately, none of the dolls made it into production. Mattel must have decided that not producing the dolls was a good choice at the time. Sometimes old ideas become new ideas with a little tweaking. Even though the twins were dropped in place of new children for the Happy Family™ line, the parents are the same. Which brings us to the next question.
Q: Why did Midge® continue in the Barbie® line with no mention (or doll) of her husband Alan® after the wedding dolls?
A: Blame it on swim line Steven and Ken®, and Mattel's disinterest in producing more than one male Barbie doll friend other than Ken®. Alan® would (most likely) have been in the swim line only. At the time (and just like now) two male dolls of different ethnicities are status quo in the swim line. While there was no reference to Midge® doll's martial status during this period, most collectors painfully stopped talking about it.
Q: Why the name spelling change from Allan® to Alan™?
A: This is purely speculative, but it may be because of a real-life divorce between Barbara Handler and husband Allan Segal, whom she married when she was only 19. Allan® was named after him.
|If you read the back of
the box, you'll even get more info, including a new wedding picture
of the happy couple.
Like the Heart Family™ line, the new Happy Family™ line has a tie to Barbie® doll. She serves as Baby Doctor Barbie®, and it will be interesting to see if she is mentioned again if more Happy Family™ items are produced. A Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby gift set is also available. The female baby, by the way, is not named. Both Happy Family™ gift sets are available as African American as well, marking the first time Alan® or Midge® have been available as African Americans. Happy Family™ Alan® and Ryan™ have been added to the Keeping Ken Allan/Alan page.
Right: Happy Family™ Alan™.
Many people have emailed me asking whether the new Alan® head mold is the "young" Mattel Frank Sinatra mold (pictured left), and I can definitely answer, "no" it isn't the same mold.
Alan® has a new head mold marked:
TM/ © 2001
And happily, the head mold does not appear as big as the prototype pictures (which seemed gigantic). Also new are articulated elbow arms on a non-articulated body mold with non-articulated legs. I think this is a first for this combination.
Alan doll's traditional chestnut color brown eyes have changed to an interesting color of gray. His hair has also changed from a molded auburn red, to a two-tone brown/lightest brown color. For the first time, an AA version of Alan is also available. The head mold markings are the same and the doll has rooted brunette hair and brown eyes.
As far as the fashion goes, it's not spectacular, but I hope you will be as surprised as I was when I found out the cargo pocket on the shorts is a REAL pocket, and the tank is separate from the woven shirt!
Right: Happy Family™ Alan™ AA.
Above: Amusement Park Ryan. Right: Happy Family™ Ryan™. Below Right: Happy Family™ Ryan™ AA.
It's not too surprising that Mattel chose an existing Lil' Friend of Kelly® doll for the couples three year old child. Ryan™ was featured in the Ken® News back in January of 2001: Feature Story Archive 01/07/01. I think Ryan™ was chosen simply because his name was already trademarked, and he was the only male doll in the line without any family tree. When he first appeared in the Lil' Friends™ of Kelly® line, Mattel probably didn't plan on Ryan™ eventually being part of the Happy Family™ line. Happily, he fits in nicely.
Both Ryan™ and Ryan™ AA have head molds marked:
© 1994 MATTEL INC
Ryan™ doll's eyes have changed from that mysterious green color to blue. His hair has lightened to auburn and he doesn't have freckles anymore. The hairstyle is actually pretty awful, with a center part...with bangs. His clothing matches Dad's. The Ryan™ AA is much better with rooted brunette hair and hazel eye color.
I'm betting that the Happy Family™ line is as successful as Mattel's family lines in the past! I plan to collect the line completely because it is a "family" after all. My only worry is how long the line will run, and what will happen to the characters afterwards.
Happy Family™ Midge® Won't Deliver At Wal-Mart
Printed in newspapers across the country on Christmas day 2002, Wal-Mart Inc. officially asked all stores to remove all Mattel Happy Family™ items from store shelves. Items removed were Caucasian/African American Midge® doll and Baby doll, Caucasian/African American Alan® doll and Toddler Ryan™ doll, a Happy Family™ Nursery Play Set and Happy Family™ Midge®/Baby doll fashions. Surprisingly, Baby Doctor Barbie® Caucasian/African American were not pulled even though this doll is a tie-in to the Happy Family™ line. The pregnant version of Midge®, which pops out a curled-up baby when her belly, attached by a magnet, is opened--has been pulled from Wal-Mart shelves across the country following complaints from customers, a company spokesperson said Tuesday 12-24-02. She's Barbie doll's oldest friend, happily married and visibly pregnant--which, some parents complain, makes her unfit for children.
I visited several chain stores that carry Mattel toys in my area, and asked whether the Happy Family™ line was staying or going. In several circumstances, I confirmed answers with company spokespersons. Please remember, these were opinions gathered at publish date. The following companies' opinions may change at a later date.
Target-Wal-Mart's biggest competitor placed the Happy Family™ line on shelves in early January 2003 during their after Holiday toy sets. Target is not planning to censor the line and has made no plans to change the current Barbie® doll product placement settings.
Toys R Us-Toys R Us plans to continue carrying the Happy Family™ line, even though they are carefully reviewing complaints on a store-to-store basis. A District Manager said that they will not remove the product from the floor or remove it to the backroom. "Doing so would disrupt consistency within store-to-store concepts for our customers".
KB Toys-KB Toys is also addressing complaints on a store-to-store basis. It seems that KB Toys is giving Store Managers that have received complaints the decision (in some cases) to remove the product to the backroom or merchandise it above eye level. There have been rumors that KB is pulling the line, but I contacted a company spokesperson, and was told these rumors are not confirmed. "We are reviewing complaints and no decision company-wide has been made concerning the Happy Family™ line".
K-Mart- K-Mart is carrying the Happy Family™ line without censorship.
I think that Wal-Mart made
their decision based on customer complaints. Executives based their
decision on whether the Happy Family™ line went against their core
family values as a corporation. Personally I feel that Wal-Mart made the
wrong decision. By making (and announcing) their decision, they basically
dictated what they believe to be morally and acceptable "family
values" for ALL of their customers.
As doll collectors and customers, if you don't "fit in" to the dictated "family value" system at Wal-Mart, then embrace other stores that decided to continue carrying the line (like Target, TRU and KB) by spending your money there!
I included both versions of Happy Family™ Midge®/Baby to my personal collection along with the Happy Family™ Nursery and Happy Family™ Midge®/Baby fashions. I find the doll and concept quite beautiful! Below you will notice that I am keeping the original story I wrote on Happy Family™ Alan®/Ryan™ in December on the news page for a little while longer (story follow the pictures). I'm not afraid to say that I love the Happy Family™ line. It deserves praise, not censorship.
Vivian from La Princesa Plastica has posted some valuable information on her site to promote the value of the Happy Family™ line. Follow this link for important contact numbers. Call, write or email Mattel in support of the line, and follow this Wal-Mart feedback link to leave messages about their decision to censor the Happy Family™ line.
Wal-Mart Mangles Midge®
If you've ever wondered if the world's leading discount retailer had any pull on product, you can stop wondering. This week, Happy Family™ Midge made her second appearance at Wal-Mart after being pulled earlier during Holiday 2002 following customer complaints. This time she isn't pregnant, and Wal-Mart seems to like it better that way.
The "non-pregnant" Wal-Mart version of Happy Family™ Midge is just adding more fuel to the flames of a fire that Wal-Mart started. And the switch is not "not" being noticed, especially by Megan Kennedy, a Wal-Mart shopper with three young Barbie® hungry daughters in tow. I met Megan recently while cruising the Wal-Mart pink isle. Megan's three daughters Sara, Bailey and Jessica were busy selecting a gift for a birthday party (and a few things for themselves). Megan and I had never met before, but when I saw her grumbling with Happy Family™ Midge® in her hand, I had to ask why. After a brief introduction and a phone call after the birthday party, Megan admits to being a Target vs. Wal-Mart savvy shopper, but not a Barbie® doll collector. "It makes me wonder if Wal-Mart thinks consumers like me won't notice that this dummied down version is different than what Target is selling". Megan continued, "I mean, most people read the article on Christmas day in the newspaper. Wal-Mart made a big deal over her [Midge®]. Now they bring her back and want me to buy her. Not only that, well...they changed her...it's really ridiculous".
Wal-Mart must have realized that in it's brief showing, the Happy Family™ line has literally flew off store shelves, particularly because of the nurturing play aspect that go along with the pregnant Happy Family™ Midge® doll. "Now they bring her back, different, and we're just supposed to act like we don't remember it being pulled from their shelves two months ago", Megan said.
Wal-Mart wants to cash in too. The new versions have distinct box graphic and text changes along with a new stock number that you'll only find there.
For expanded image, press on the pictures.
First Release Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby Box Back.
Pictured Above: Wal-Mart Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby Box Back.
|Text: "Ryan™ can't wait until the day arrives that we can bring his new little sister home".||Text: This sentence is removed.|
|Picture Graphic: Picture of pregnant Happy Family™ Midge® with Ryan™ on chair touching her stomach and Baby Doctor Barbie®.||Picture Graphic: This picture is removed.|
|Picture Graphic with Text: Picture of pregnant Happy Family™ Midge®, stomach detail and Happy Family™ Midge® holding Baby. Text, "Waiting for her new baby to arrive!" and "It's a girl!"||Picture Graphic with Text: This picture and text is removed.|
|Stock Number: 56663||Stock Number: B8719|
The Wal-Mart version also has new text (circled in the picture above) that reads "Product varies slightly from that TV advertises. For more information call 1-800-524-TOYS". If you turn the boxes over, the most obvious difference is the missing stomach, but you may also notice the addition of a Happy Family™ Alan™ and Ryan™ chipboard cut-out.
|Pictured Below: First Release Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby Box Front.||
Pictured Below: Wal-Mart Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby Box Front with new Happy Family™ Alan™ and Ryan™ chipboard cut-out.
And not only that, Wal-Mart's had a new version of Happy Family™ Alan™ and Ryan™ with the addition of a Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby chipboard cut-out (pictured below right). This newer production run will be available in all stores. No other changes were made to the new box text, graphics or the dolls and content.
|Pictured Below: First Release Happy Family™ Alan™ and Ryan™||
Pictured Below: Wal-Mart Happy Family™ Alan™ and Ryan™ with new Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby chipboard cut-out.
Are we unfairly judging Wal-Mart? Could the new non-pregnant Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby gift sets with the new stock numbers be available in other stores soon too? Is this actually a second production run that will eventually turn up everywhere? Only time will tell.
As I left Wal-Mart, Megan's 6-year-old daughter Bailey probably put it best, "I don't want this one [Happy Family™ Midge® and Baby] because I already have the real one anyway".
|HAPPY FAMILY GRANDPARENTS!||
Coming this year is the new Happy Family™ Kitchen and Grandparent dolls, priced around $60.
Description courtesy of http://www.dollgallery.com/: "This is a house that comes with two Happy Family™ dolls (Grandma and Grandpa). The gift set is themed to a holiday dinner at the grandparents' house and includes color change food, a working mechanical blender, a table with 5 chairs, and much more.
Happy Family House Theme: Holiday Dinner At Grandma's House General features: 1) Carrying case opens up to kitchen environment 2) Oven unit able to color change food 3) Color change turkey and pastries 4) Blender w/mechanical wind-up feature Piece count: 1 blender 2 trays of pastries (color change) 1 cereal box 1 popcorn box 1 milk carton 2 juice containers 2 cakes 1 ice cream container 6 plates 6 cups 6 spoons 6 forks 6 knives 1 frying pan 1 spatula 1 ladle 1 turkey on platter (color change) 1 oven rack 2 bowls 2 dessert goblets 1 puppy 1 puppy bed 1 puppy bowl w/food dispenser 5 chairs 4 chip art gift boxes 1 label sheet w/refrigerator magnet graphics 4 x 6. 63 pieces total".
Photo courtesy of http://www.mastercollector.com
After this picture
(left) was released of the
Happy Family™ Grandparent dolls at Toy Fair by Master
Collector.com, I received over 100 emails asking me questions
about these new dolls. I contacted Ria Freydl from
Mattel Public Relations about them. Ria said that they are
Midge® doll's parents and they will not be given first names, just
"Grandma" and "Grandpa" [Hadley].
Like I said, I was bombarded with emails about this from the collecting community. Many thanks to Ria for her quick reply and answers!