The end of an era: Tonner Doll company shuts down

I was expecting to begin the new year with happier news, but unfortunately that is not the case. Robert Tonner announced in an email that Tonner Doll shut down with the end of 2018. Of course it was to be expected, after the restructuring of his business and his focus on Phyn & Aero, which left Tonner Doll only with licensed product, which was obviously not as commercial as it should. Licensing has the fees sucking out most of the profits, and if a company deals only with such a sector, it needs to have mass production and a wide array of product to be sust, something Tonner Doll had not. I’ll always cherish the Tonner dolls I own, and hopefully will acquire some more in the future. From now own, doll collectors will follow his endeavours with his other company, Phyn & Aero. Below is his letter. 

 

 My Dear Friends,


I was lucky enough to start Tonner Doll at a point when it seemed that everyone was collecting, making, buying or selling dolls.  At the same time, the Far East was willing and eager to produce whatever we wanted at a price that couldn’t be beat.    High demand and inexpensive, quality production led to the golden age of collectible dolls and great success for Tonner Doll.

It’s often said that the only thing you can count on is change; I whole heartedly agree with that statement.  I could go on and on about the changes in the collectible doll industry, but in short, the business model that I used to build Tonner Doll is no longer viable or sustainable.  Therefore, Tonner Doll Company (including the Tonner Doll web site, doll hospital, phones and emails) was closed as of December 31, 2018.

However……

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”
― Jenna Evans Welch, Love & Gelato

I’m very excited that Phyn & Areo will continue with a brand-new business model, one that addresses some of the changes mentioned above and we will be exploring new ways of doing business.  Through Phyn and Aero, I’ll be working directly with our favorite retailers to create unique and exclusive dolls (look for the first Ellowyne out this Spring).  I will continue to design for and attend events throughout the year (Dollology, Shaker Doll Club, Doll Circle and UFDC to name a few).  At Phyn and Aero I will also continue to develop new product; we’ll be doing small batch, design driven products.  Rayne, a new character with unique (and I mean unique) accessories will debut around Toy Fair.  In addition, I am working on design projects with other companies (I just did a huge amount of work for FAO; that was both a challenge and a delight).  I think it’s going to be a very busy, very exciting 2019!

Over these past 28 years I have had to honor to meet, work with and befriend some of the most wonderful people there are—doll collectors, doll lovers and doll retailers.  I want you to know how deeply I’ve appreciated our journey together—and here’s to a bright, exciting, shiny, new future!
Warmest,

Robert

P.S.  Starting today, please visit our website at  www.phynandaero.com or call us at 845-802-5552.  You can also reach us through info@phynandaero.com

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All photos courtesy of Tonner Doll.  

December to remember - a special invitation by Tonner Doll

Tonner Doll sent out today an invitation for a sale event at Best Western Plus in Kingston, NY, something they have done before. This time though they are clearing house, so they will be selling lots of prototype dolls. Full information in their text, below:

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Dear Friends!


We're inviting YOU to an "Event" quite unlike anything we've ever hosted before!

Here's a bit of what's to come...
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, in just three days...we will send out an email with registration information (and a link) for signing up for this "Once in a Lifetime Opportunity."  Regonline is our hosting site for you to "sign" up as we've done for all our events in the past.  PLEASE NOTE, and READ CAREFULLY HERE, the registration will begin at 12 Noon Eastern time on Thursday, November 15, 2018th.  Once registration is complete (125 people maximum) we will conduct a lottery and assign entrance numbers to everyone.  Once you arrive and check in begins you'll receive your name badge and entry number and line up accordingly.  Ooooh, and the excitement begins!
For what you ask...

As you can see from the "snippets" below through images, we've collected quite an array of items over the years to rival even the most compulsive saver.  BUT we're turning over a new leaf and YOU get an opportunity to "peek into the Bat Cave" and take your pick from...
Never produced samples, assortments of dolls, and bodies, line products, pre-production samples, patterns, wigs, and outfits
Can you say TONS of fabric, swatch bags, trims, flowers, bits, bobs, beads, baubles and more
How about LIFE SIZE Robert Tonner Fashion Line Clothing (with a private tent for trying on)
Costumes from Conventions even, and perhaps holiday decorations
Doll furniture, props, foamboard/posters of your favorite characters, stands, bags, and books 
Puppies, kittens??  Okay, perhaps not...
Other ephemera YOU would never guess we have
When, Where? - The Event will be December 9, 2018, from 10am-2pm at the Best Western Plus in Kingston, New York. (Come on, you've been here before, join us won't you) Entrance is $25.00 AND includes a continental breakfast starting at 9am.  We will be allowing people into the room in groups of 25 for a defined period of time.

WE hope to see you there!

Team Tonner

 

Tonner Doll Toyfair 2018 reveals

It was good to see that among the other toy companies participating at The New York International Toyfair this year was Tonner Doll, with many new releases, either already announced (but not seen) dolls, final versions of dolls that had already been previewed sometime ago or first time appearances. amazing and it was so great to see and hear about everything that’s happening in the doll world. The dolls and accessories shown below include everything showed at Toyfair with a couple of new additions. When you click through to the site there are buy buttons on many of the items in this release, if still available. Some are shipping now and some have projected availability dates in the future. Please be aware that if you add one of those items to your cart and complete the transaction, you will be charged for all the items now and they’ll ship as they become available. Tonner Doll allocated limited quantities on some items to their direct sale inventory and once they are sold the only way to obtain them will be through one of the Tonner Doll retailers, should they have availability left. Let’s check the dolls out!


T18DCDD01 Wonder Woman-Training Armor - $210.00

Featuring a portrait sculpt of Gal Gadot with hand painted details, this ¼ scale figure on the new 16" RTB 101 hard plastic/vinyl body, is heavily articulated and outfitted in a replica of the Themyscira training armor as worn in the Wonder Woman movie. The removable molded armor is movie accurate and hand painted. “Bracelets of Submission” and three sets of hands (relaxed, fists and gripping) are included with this figure. Diana’s sword, shield and fully adjustable base are available separately. Features mink colored saran hair in a long braid and dark brown eyes. June/July estimated shipping (subject to change).

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Another great Wonder Woman doll, again very accurate and detailed. I wonder how many of the people who got the first one would get this one too.She comes without the stand, which is always a problem. Would I buy just the outfit? Maybe. But, there’s a second version of this one...

 

T18DCGS01 - WW Training Armor Deluxe Set - $310.00

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Featuring a portrait sculpt of Gal Gadot with hand painted details, this ¼ scale figure on the new 16" RTB 101 hard plastic/vinyl body, is heavily articulated and outfitted in an exacting replica of the Themyscira training armor as worn in the Wonder Woman movie. The removable molded armor is movie accurate and hand painted. “Bracelets of Submission”,  three sets of hands (relaxed, fists and gripping) , her mythical sword, shield and fully adjustable base are included with this ultra-limited set in a custom, collapsible box. Features mink colored saran hair in a long braid and dark brown eyes. June/July estimated shipping (subject to change).

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Same doll as before but with all her weapons added, apart from the lasso. We get to see the lovely braided hair at the back here, great job. 

 

T18DCDD03 - Wonder Woman Variant # 1 - $275.00

The new 16" RTB 101 hard plastic/vinyl body has 15 points of articulation and Gal Gadot’s likeness is captured in detail. Saran is used to create lifelike hair set off with an accurate, highly detailed tiara. Accurately sculpted depicting her movie costume, the WW armor consists of a molded breast plate with a genuine leather battle skirt; her armband and “Bracelets of Submission” are made of real metal. Wonder Woman carries her golden lasso in a genuine leather harness. Boots are made of detailed vinyl and resin.  Figure comes with changeable open hands, fists and gripping hands. Fully adjustable Wonder Woman themed stand, sword and shield are available separately. Wonder Woman has mink saran hair and dark brown eyes. June/July estimated shipping (subject to change).

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Third WW doll. She’s like the first release, with the cape added. I don’t like the cape, always thought it looks out of sync with the rest of the outfit. The cape is sold separately as well, for those who have the first doll and want to add it. Still no stand. I really don’t like this policy with dolls. They all should come with a stand, so the buyer can display them properly. Making people buy them separately does not look nice, to me at least. 

 

T17DCOF01  Wonder Woman Gala Gown Set (outfit only) - $109.00

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Featuring an asymmetrical plunging neckline, and draped accurately to reflect the 1918 period, the gown is completed with a train and, in true Amazonian warrior fashion, Diana conceals her “God Killer” sword, which is included. Matching blue pumps (authorized by Warner Bros.) are included should you choose to dress another Tonner doll in this outfit. As Shown on WW#1 with an updo. Shipping Mid-March.

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This is one of her outfits I really wanted to have. The sword does look plastic in the back photo but I’ll wait to see it in real life. Could not preorder it fast enough. 

 

T18DCOF01 Wonder Woman 2018 Black Cape (outfit element) - $50.00

Replicating the one from the 2017 movie, this version is complete with a hood and arm holes and the chevroned elements are top-stitched to accentuate the accurate detail. As shown on WW#1. June/July estimated shipping (subject to change).

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And here’s the cape, as sold separately. Meh.

 

T18GWDD01 Scarlett O’Hara BBQ dress (dressed doll) - $235.00

Scarlett’s chiffon gown, emblazoned with green floral sprays and highlighted with a deep green satin sash, is further accentuated by a wide-brimmed straw hat with a generously proportioned matching green satin tie. The outfit is complete with a petticoat, pantyhose and green “velvet” pumps. Featuring the 16" RTB 101 hard plastic/vinyl body and new Vivien Leigh portrait sculpt with green eyes and mink saran hair. Acrylic base stand included.  Limited Edition 300 Shipping Mid-March.

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I wonder why did Robert Tonner feel the need to make a new sculpt for his Scarlett dolls. It does not look like Vivien Leigh at all and it’s harsh and square looking, compared with the previous sculpt. She looks more like Heddy Lamar would have looked had she gotten the part. And that’s no 17” waist, fiddle dee dee.

 

T18OTDD03  (previously T17OTDD03) Jamie Fraser  (dressed doll) - $235.00 (PROTOTYPE)

A portrait sculpt of Sam Heughan, the actor portraying Jamie Fraser in the TV series Outlander, by Robert Tonner, authorised by the licensor. Jamie is wearing a monochromatic but elegant black suit and striking white dickie and cuffs, brocade vest, stockings and black knee high faux leather boots, from the episode where he makes his formal entrée to French society, attendind the levee at Versailles hosted by King Louis XV. Offered on the 17" “Matt” body with Jamie’s deep rich auburn hair and blue eyes. Acrylic base stand also included.  Limited Edition 500. June/July estimated shipping (subject to change).

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We had already seen a peek of this sculpt months ago, when a photo partially showing the doll was posted on social media and now we have the full monty. He looks a lot like the actor, the outfit is gorgeous and I’m so glad I preordered him way way back. Only thing I don’t like: the boots that look plastic (the description says faux leather) and cheapen the whole look. He’s has a larger edition than Versailles Claire had, so that’s good, I hope that his body is tall enough to stand next to Claire, who, lest we forget, has Wonder Woman’s body. I will be able to tell sooner, rather than later, since the first WW Doll is almost here and I have a few Matt Tonner dolls to measure them against her.

 

T17OTDD04 Claire’s New Look (dressed doll) - $235.00

Claire and Christian Dior converge as she re-interprets 18th-century fashion with a version of Dior’s 1940’s “bar suit”. The bespoke off-white satin jacket and floor-length black satin skirt are accented by sparkling faux diamond earrings, white gloves, stockings, family crested bag and bow-front black pumps. The outfit also features a black straw hat which completes the ensemble. Claire’s New Look is on the  16" RTB 101 hard plastic/vinyl body and has a Robert Tonner portrait sculpt of Caitriona Balfe with mink saran hair color and ice blue eyes. Acrylic base stand also included. Limited Edition 300. June/July estimated shipping (subject to change).

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La pièce de résistance! That’s the outfit I most wanted to have Claire in, even more than the red Versailles dress! The genius of Terry Dresbach, Outlander’s costume designer shines through in all of her work for the series, but so much more in this particular outfit. A 40s woman, getting her clothes made in 18th century France, presaging the New Look that would debut a few years after her first time travel. Brilliant. Preordered already!

Tonner Doll Winter 2018 release - Outlander Claire Fraser in the iconic Red Dress

After quite a lot of time and retailers publishing information before them, Tonner Doll finally releases the first official photos and information about Outlander line’s second and much anticipated doll, Claire Fraser in the famous red dress. Alongside her, the first couple of Mary Astor dolls (it is almost a year since they were previewed in Toyfair) will be also available to buy from their website, if you haven’t already preordered them from dealers. Claire has not even appeared on the Tonner Doll website. Their ultra limited editions mean they could be sold out already at dealers though. They will ship in late February 2018.

 Claire Fraser - T17OTDD01 - $235.00

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Claire stands 16” tall, is made of vinyl and hard plastic and has 15 points of articulation.  Highlighting her blue eyes, her deep rich brown rooted saran hair is styled to accent her period gown. Made of a deep ruby-red taffeta the separate bodice of the dress is trimmed with tiny satin ribbons crisscrossed over the rib cage and cuff of the three-quarter sleeve.  Her drop-dead skirt is fashioned of the same taffeta as the bodice. Deep pleats add detail interest and richness to the full skirt.  Of course she needs something to hold the skirt up, so a tulle cage is included. Under all that are nude pantyhose (a nod to the modern) and costume accurate satin shoes with buckled straps to hold them in place. Her “ruby” and “diamond” rhinestone earrings finish off the outfit. Claire comes with an acrylic based stand.  Limited Edition of 300

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Sooooo, here she is. She looks better than the first Claire doll. I love the look of the dress and how they managed to convey the same impression that the actress in the actual costume conveyed when first appeared in the corresponding episode. I’m glad I preordered her... but. There are some things that look weird or feel unnecessary. 

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First of all. The shape of the décolletage is wrong. The original costume was designed with a very low neckline, as was the norm in that period, but Terry Dresbach, Outlander’s amazing costume designer wanted Claire without a corset, so that she could show more flesh, as described in the book. So she took a typical bodice of the era and deconstructed it, to make Claire more provocative, in an era where provocative was de riguere, especially in the court of Louis XV. 

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The doll, on the contrary, is not provocative at all. Her breasts are completely hidden by the dress, even if you lower the front a bit. From the Tonner description above, it looks like the dress is two separate pieces, the bodice and the skirt. I wonder if that is the case in reality as well, but from the photos it looks like one piece - a real dress. I know it would be easier to put on as separate pieces, but it would not look right when the actress moved. Also, the bodice looks like it incorporates the front panel of the skirt, something that is not happening in the real costume. 

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Now the skirt, apart from the non-separate front panel, also has different pleats. Terry Dresbach mentioned in an interview that she loves cartridge pleats, even though they are not very period appropriate, and that is what you see on this dress too. But the doll outfit has knife pleating. It is actually more correct for the period but not for this particular costume. It helps wth the volume and overall feel but it does not look right, despite the photographer’s effort to make the doll look like Claire in the publicity photo of her and Jamie going up the stairs.  I wonder how the back looks, cause the real one is this:

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The back in the real dress has fastening (even though adult dresses of the period had front fastening) so that the dress can have the extra low décolletage sans corset look. It works. And below you can see the cartridge pleats in close up.

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The doll description by Tonner mentions nude pantyhose as a node to modern times. Really? The whole dress design is a nod to modern times (inspired by Dior gowns and Gruau sketches of the late 40s) with Claire supervising its creation in the series. I’m pretty sure she did not have pantyhose with her - they did not even have any in her proper time period! Thankfully they got the shoes right, which are an amalgamation of Louis XV and modern era styles, thanks to Claire (and Terry Dresbach of course). They might have missed a buckle and strap or two but the feel is there.

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Most of the other details are spot on. The crisscrossed bodice, the ribbons at the finishing of her sleeves, the volume, all look really good. Dresbach said that the actual costume took 15 yards of duchess satin to produce. I wonder how much fabric this doll needed. The use of taffeta is probably due to practical and production reasons but the fabric in the photos looks quite thin to mimic duchess satin, which is particularly luxurious and heavy.

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The earrings, her only jewellery in the episode, look very close to the real thing. Pity she does not have the gorgeous Stag fan Claire uses throughout the ball. The hair has the proper volume and shape but could use some hairspray to keep it together - the photographed doll already has flyaways. Her face looks better in this release, more like Caitriona Balfe, the actress playing Claire, then the first doll.

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I will do a proper review of the actual doll when she arrives , which will probably be sometime in March.

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Doll photos courtesy of Tonner Doll, costume photos from Terry Dresbach’s blog

Tonner Doll presents its first Outlander doll for Metrdolls “A Novel Romance” luncheon

Fans of the Outlander series have been anxiously awaiting for the Tonner Doll recreations of the protagonists  Claire and Jamie dressed in their gorgeous Terry Dresbach costumes. The first doll in the series was presented as the souvenir doll in this year’s Metrodolls luncheon, appropriately named “A Novel Romance”.  

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This is the Garden Encounter Claire doll. It’s from a scene in the fifth episode of the second season of the series, when Claire and Jamie attend a horse auction in Versailles with king Louis XIV of France. I am a huge fan of the series and it’s costume designer, Terry Dresbach, who keeps on producing one after another of gorgeous costumes for the series protagonists and especially Claire, portrayed by actress Caitriona Balfe. 

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Terry Dresbach wrote in her blog the story of discovering the fabric:

 “What the hell was this?? What could I do with it. It was amazing, outrageous and so over the top, I wasn’t sure it could be a dress. It was an extraordinary woven fabric. But I was pretty sure I was going to buy it and figure out later what to do with it. But there was 12 yards, and we need 15.  I could pick up one of the colors and make a petticoat, but that still wasn’t quite enough. While it was spread across the table and I kept saying to Ron, “it’s incredible, right, is it too much??”, and the poor man has no way to answer, so he just agrees. A customer walks by and stops, “that is amazing fabric, have you ever seen a show called Outlander? That looks like a fabric they would use!” I said, “yes as a matter of fact, I’m the Costume Designer on Outlander.” She was somewhat flabbergasted, and then said, “Do you know the guys who runs it? He did my other favourite show, Battlestar Gallactica.” “You mean this guy?” I asked, pointing to Ron. It was too much, I thought she might faint (kidding).

I bought the fabric, obviously. I sat with it for a few weeks and finally decided that Claire would wear it. It felt like a 1940s chintz and fit into my overall scheme. Or it would be a riff on these fabrics from the mid 18th century”.

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From Access Hollywood:

 "It's a great dress. I adore it. That's Caitriona's favorite gown," Dresbach said of the gorgeous costume.

"It's really spectacular. That fabric is actually woven. Those flowers are woven and that was a fabric I found at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, my favorite store, so I always plug them. And I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I saw it because it's an outrageous, outrageous fabric. … I had that fabric before I had that idea of making Claire's costumes have a 1940s feel to them, so that then when I circled back to make this costume I knew that this fabric was perfect because it is almost -- for lack of a better description -- it almost looks like curtain fabric from the late '40s with those big flowers on it, so it was a very out-of-the-box choice, but really spectacular. I mean, she just looks amazing in this costume," Dresbach said.

Claire's outfit is given an additional pop of color with elegant gloves, which Dresbach said can be described as "a real butter yellow."

"Real butter is actually this sort of marigold color that you see a lot of in the 18th century French paintings. Every costume that I do for Claire is trying to weave in elements of both the 18th century and the 20th century so that you have a sense that she could have had that fabric, or she was standing in a dressmakers at some point going, 'I want that, and I want that, but put it together this way,' so that we end up with a kind of look that she has that's so distinctive."

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First let’s talk about the doll. She does remind me of Caitriona Balfe as Claire but her jaw s a bit too pronounced, a thing that often happens with Tonner dolls. She is beautiful and has a hint of that otherworldly beauty that Balfe has. Can’t wait to see the Red Dress version.

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And what about the dress? Hmmmm. Let’s start from the top. The hat colour is so wrong. The original hat is not dark brown but has a more natural sisal colouring to it. It also curves downwards and not upwards. It is also doubled with draped fabric underneath as one can see in a photograph of the outfit displayed at Saks 5th Avenue.

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As much as I can see on the badly lit promo shots, the colouring and design of the dress do try to recreate the human sized costume...BUT! The pattern of the woven flowers is difficult to emulate but it’s close enough, albeit with fewer flowers than the original one, obviously for cost cutting. The pleats and draping of the skirt at the back of the doll dress leave a lot to be desired.  Not to mention the unsightly back fastening, which is also inappropriate for the period and is nowhere to be seen on the original - adult dresses of the period always fastened at the front.

Sketch by Terry Dresbach for Outlander  

Sketch by Terry Dresbach for Outlander  

The seams of the sleeves cut the flower pattern, something not happening on the original outfit, where they fall precisely between the pattern. The overall shape of the dress will probably need a lot of attention and fuss to come close to its inspiration. This does not bode well for the red dress, which has an even more expansive and draped/pleated skirt. And these are not cheap dolls mind you. It’s unfortunate that they only got the yellow “dishwashing” gloves right. 

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UPDATE: Tonner Doll published proper photos of the doll on their Instagram. The skirt looks a bit better regarding the pattern density but all my other observations still stand. In one of the two photo collages, you can see the shoes peeking from beneath the skirt.

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That back closure is so wrong...but they seem to have fixed the curve of the hat...

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...even though it looks again wrong in the close up.  

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