Friday, August 28, 2009

Troll Dolls

Whose idea was it to have their eyes match their hair on these Treasure Trolls? Really, show yourself. That's probably one of the more frightening things I've ever seen.


When you think troll, what comes to mind? Is it a cute, cuddly, neon-haired pot-bellied figure, or a mythical violent under-bridge dwelling creature a la Three Billy Goats Gruff? If you can't answer it correctly, I'm pretty sure he'll make good on that threat to gobble you up. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Many of us did indeed grow up believing that the word troll was exclusively reserved for these hard plastic Einstein-haired elfin dolls. I didn't know that a troll was supposed to be scary, or mean, or snarly, or a generally unsavory character. I was too busy praying that mine came with a rhinestone belly button.

Troll dolls were originally conceived in the 1960s in Denmark and the first specimens were made of wood, leading us to deduce that the original troll-players were besieged by splinters. This semi-impoverished whittling man unknowingly started a Danish toy craze that quickly spread across the world. Though the general concept and design was based on the Danish woodcarver's prototype, he probably never in his wildest troll-infested dreams foresaw the insane breeds of trolls yet to come.

For instance, I'm willing to bet a fair sum of money that he never, ever had anything in mind even remotely like this when he carved that original little wooden figurine for his daughter:



I'm not embarrassed to admit as a child I longed to be in this commercial. I mean, what's better than singing and dancing in a toy store with a group of my troll-hugging peers? It's 90s cheesiness at its very best. That synthesizer in the background in pretty critical too. This has got to be one of the laziest ad campaigns I've ever seen. I understand the notion of a no-frills, gimmick-free commercial, but repeating "Can't stop hugging the troll kids" over and over is verging on neglectful.

But I digress. Trolls went underground for awhile between the 60s and 90s. Not literally, of course. Well, not the toys. The real things, I've heard they tend to do that kind of thing. Where was I? Oh yes, the Troll doll renaissance. The dolls were resurrected in the 90s with a big marketing push. The original trolls, however, just weren't kicking for these 90s children. The dolls were now battling the forces of video games, computers, and other mind-numbing recreational stimuli.

The 90s toy market was highly segmented, with toy manufacturers eager to market simultaneously to kid demographics across the board. Rather than offering one solid product, most toy producers opted to offer innumerable watered-down variations of the original. Hence was the case with trolls, leaving many consumers scratching their heads at some of these Troll releases. Here's a prime example of the ridiculous manifestations of the original:



Yes, you heard correctly. Troll Barbie. They don't explain why or how she's associated with Trolls or why she insists of wearing tufts of their multi-colored hair on her head. She wears pants with cartoon Trolls on them and has a Troll necklace. If you're thinking this makes no sense at all, congratulations. You've outwitted the 90s Mattel advisory board.

Clearly Trolls were a tad on the girly side, leaving toy companies scratching their heads as to how to effectively market these cuddly critters to boys. After all, that's a pretty significant segment of the market going un-Trolled. This is what they came up with:



I've officially changed my mind. This is the quintessential 90s commercial. I'm not exactly sure why they had to go ahead and kill a rustling meadowful of adorable, girl-friendly Trolls in order to prove their point at the beginning. Clearly subtlety was not on their marketing agenda. Not only do they claim these dolls to be "OUT OF CONTROL!", they also end the commercial with a threat: "Collect them before they collect you!" I'm sorry, what? What? That makes. Absolutely. No. Sense. Not even a sliver. I guess they got so caught up in the frenzied fast-paced excitement of the commercial, they forgot to proofread the script.

There was also this lighter male-directed line called Stone Protectors, who were supposedly equally bad-ass but who appeared as cartoons in the ads. They also conveniently come with an arsenal of accessories sure to lift the bills directly from your pockets.



If that wasn't enough to do it for you as a kid, how about some misleading and unverified claims? Treasure Trolls were a serious craze, differentiated from the original on belly button rhinestone detail alone. The commercial, however, leads us to believe that these trolls have magical powers to make all of our wildest dreams come true.



They really wanted to drive the point home, so they also came out with this winner of an ad, showing just how exciting your life could be if only you incorporated Treasure Trolls into your daily existence. This one definitely plays down the questionable Treasure Trolls Answer Your Prayers part, too.



In the spirit of cross-marketing, they also released Troll video games, computer games, and even straight-to-video VHS releases like this one:



Really, just don't ask questions. You'll only strain your brain. If nothing else, retrospection on Trolls shows us just how much toy manufacturers were able to get away with in the 90s. Their many Troll releases were pretty shameless. It's almost as if they simply sat around the board room table, everyone coughed up one marginally absurd idea, and they called it a day. When a brand is elevated to craze status, you can pretty much release whatever you want. Looking back, they may have been a bit silly, but at the time I'd give anything to add to my troll collection. I won't lie to you, I'm still sort of coveting that Troll Barbie. What? The commercial was pretty persuasive.

46 comments:

nicole addison said...

haha, believe it or not i have one of these in my purse as i type this! thats what you get when you work with kids.. even tho it is past their time :)

LiLu said...

All I can think of when I see those little creepsters is Mimi from the Drew Carey Show. They've been ruined for me.

Cory said...

Back in the day I loved trolls, prompting my parents to get me one of the troll movies. What no one expected was how completely and utterly terrifying the movies would be. There no sugar-coating this: they scared the crap out of me. Uncoincidentally, my troll phase started to wane after that.

Nic said...

I LOVED trolls. Me and my sister must have had about 50 or more of the things, in all shapes and sizes. I think my mum might still have them at her house, actually. I'll have to ask!

Lauren From Texas said...

you are AMAZING. i hope you never run out of things to blog about! you're taking me back to my childhood!

xo

Barefoot in the Park said...

oh i had several. my favorite? bathtime troll complete with scrub brush, shower cap (that let its hair poke out, naturally), towel slung around its waist, and rubber ducky (rubberbanded to his hand.)

sweet life.

the Pizza said...

nice. I'd seen a stone protector troll in the package at the thrift store. I'm kicking myself now for now buying it. the whole trolls for boys things baffles me.

however, linked to my name is a troll item I actually did buy at the thrift store.

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

I remember my teacher who had a troll collection. She would have them sit on her desk. She had them all lined up then one day one of the trolls went missing. And well she became a troll and went into a total panic mode. hahaha

Amanda said...

I didn't know they made a Troll Barbie...I miss the 90's sometimes! :)

Anonymous said...

Who doesn’t love a troll doll with a little jeweled shape on its belly?? (They bring good luck)
Love the new Children of the 90's header.

Mike K said...

I absolutely LOVE the new header! AND the blog... but mostly the new header :) Keep up the awesomely amazing work!

Adorably Distracted... said...

hahahahahahahahah I LOVE these trolls!!! I'm so glad you found me!!

Children of the 90s said...

Thanks! I was sitting here with bated breath waiting for someone to comment on the header. Okay, not exactly, but this was my first-ever venture into (extremely) amateur design.

Carol said...

Oh I loved playing with my trolls, but looking back, they are so bizzare. I remember I had one with rainbow hair. haha!

Kristen said...

I LOVED troll dolls!! I used to collect them :) Oh I would love to have one just to sit on my desk now!!

Okie said...

All through High School (and even sometimes after), I wore a troll around my neck. I had about 2 dozen different hair colors and styles. I even had a "high school spirit troll" that I would wear on game days onto which I had added a tiny shirt with my high school's logo.

Warren said...

People in my elementary school used to line their trolls up on their desks and stroke their hair for good luck during tests.

I thought those people were weird.

Freck said...

Ha, this is awesome. I had like 3 trolls. Why is it that they were awesome and cute back then, and now they're friggin scary and creepy??

Sweet post :)

The Blonde Duck said...

I used to love trolls!!! I collected them!

Couture Carrie said...

I totally had one of the mini ones on the end of my pencil back in the day!
Fun post!

xoxox,
CC

smile steady said...

hahaha... this reminds me of a girl named Theresa I grew up with. We called her Troll, and she loved it! She had big frizzy hair and would hang upside down from the monkey bars at recess with a rock in her belly-button (I'm not even kidding)!

for the love of pictures said...

I had so many of these when I was a kid (loved them), yet I have no clue where they all went - back under their ridiculously colorful bridges perhaps? :)

Andhari said...

AWESOMEEE, i had a lot of these. I brought them to school and often trade with friends :)

bananas. said...

OMG...i so had a drawar filled with these little creatures. i thought they were so cool.

Lil' Woman said...

lol..I used to always make wished on my trolls rhinestone belly button! :)

La La La Leah said...

In 5th grade I had 10 of them and I displayed them in my room proudly! I think that was also the the year that if I did not get a troll doll from each of my Birthday Party guest as their gift to me I publicly shunned them...

horse wife said...

awwwe, i loved troll dolls. how could you not? bright colours, jewels, plastic smell... mmmmm. youth. ofcourse i never had as many as other kids.

Red said...

Oh my gosh.

I had the troll doll obsession while my sister had the Barbie thing.

I had at least 100 dolls, was a member of the 'troll doll club', (which was basically a money wasting thing, where i got a newsletter, maybe once a month), a troll doll bedspread, and so much more that i can't even remember.

Yes, i was that cool. ;)

Jeanshorts And Baggedmilk said...

Oh man, I had a Battle Troll AND one of those Gem protectors or whatever. The ones that light up when you crank their arms. What is that anyway? I'm pretty sure it's some kind of sparking mechanism like a lighter, which can't be safe can it?

And my dad still rocks a little troll doll chef in his kitchen.

Kristin said...

Remember that Roseanne episode when Roseanne got addicted to Bingo and that lady had all those Troll dolls. Anyone?

Dustjacket Attic said...

I had totally forgotten all about trolls! Thanks for bringing it back. Laughed so much at your .. "too busy praying that mine came with a rhinestone bellybutton"!

Great post,
xoxo

ark said...

Insane. Just insane.

ReRe said...

oh trolls!!! i had about 100. and then we had a fire at our house. i remember going through the debris of my room and finding melted troll dolls. i cried for weeks.

Lisa said...

hahah, I can't stop laughing. Trolls!! I definitely remember them. My two older sisters had one of those gigantic ones (they were like a foot tall) and I remember being so jealous!

Cheryl said...

Do you have videos on this post? Because I can't see them, although it's probably not your fault. Just that I'm in China, and they've blocked youtube, and everything else cool. I'll also have to remember to follow you guys when I get to work on Monday because this blog is cool, and this proxy thing is not because it's not letting me click the follow button, but anyways, that's besides the point.

We used to have a couple of these trolls. I can't remember why I thought that buying them would be a good idea because they're kind of freaky looking... Chucky-ish, in fact.

defining amy said...

i can not tell you how happy i am i found your blog. how did we ever think owning multiple trolls were okay?

CoCoNoir said...

dude, i have been looking these up on ebay for the last week!! they're so adorable...I WANT ONE!!!

Kate Savage said...

OK, OK so maybe I was a child-wimp, what with being scared of MJ's Thriller to the extent of having to take my poster down before dark every night, but trolls have always scared the shit out of me. I should be thankful my mom refused to buy into fads (thereby rendering me morbidly uncool), because getting one of those little guys for my birthday would've been almost as unbearable as getting the homemade Cabbage Patch Kid instead.

Es said...

OMG trolls were the best!!!

Girl With The Golden Touch said...

I had a troll party! SO cool!

soeren- said...

Hi troll fans!!
I have lived with Dam trolls, since 1960.
I was born in Gjoel, where Thomas Dam made the trolls.
In 1985 I joined the factory, I had to cast the trolls, today I still work with the Dam Trolls in Gjoel.
I am stock manager, seller and creating new models.
Latest the Santa with sleigh and Reindeer.
I have written 2 books abot the Dam trolls, I own the website, damworld.dk and I can not live without the dam trolls.
Trollregard from

Soeren Petersen

Anonymous said...

Children of the 70s more like

pinkcupcake said...

i still have a troll with a pink heart shaped jewel in it belly! in the 90s, these things were HUGE! definently up there with beanie babies! im a child of the 80s, but i was a preteen/teenager in the 90s and even though i feel like the 80s had way better toys, cartoons ect, the 90s had alot of fun stuff too and watching those commercials makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic! i dont remember troll barbies, but it doesnt surprise me at all! mattell jumps on any trend thats big at the time-barbie and the rockers came out at the same time that jem and the holograms did, secret spells barbie came out around the same time that harry potter did ect anyways, thanks for the memories!

MissTD said...

Does anyone else remember a troll board game?! All I remember is saying starlight starbright the first star I see tonight, i wish I may I wish I might have this wish I wish tonight. And trying to collect theme like gem/bead things?!

Shanna said...

Do you remember the name of the movies??

Shanna said...

Does anyone by any chance remember the names of the movies???

Digg This!