The original Blythe doll was created by designer Allison Katzman in 1972 and sold by the toy company Kenner. Blythe’s oversized head and eyes that changed colours with a pull string did not go over well with children. The four original dolls were only sold for a year.
In 1997, NY photographer Gina Garan received an original Kenner Blythe as a gift and began using the doll to practice her photography skills. After taking thousands of photos of the doll, Garan’s published her work in a book titled This is Blythe. The book was spotted by CWC Director and toy producer, Junko Wong at an event in New York. Junko knew that this quirky doll would be popular in Japan and sought out the rights to reproduce the doll in Asia.
In 2000, CWC produced a television advert featuring a new and improved Blythe doll for the department store Parco. The dolls were an enormous hit in Japan and 1000 dolls were produced to meet customer demand. The original doll Parco is a highly sought after collectible.
US company, Ashton Drake Gallery also began producing replicas for the US market, however they were not as popular as their Japanese counterparts. While Takara’s Neo Blythes were based loosely on the 1972 originals, Ashton Drake attempted to produce exact replicas.
Takara continued to produce Blythe dolls until 2021 when production was taken over by the Good Smile Company. This included an updated mould and high hopes from the collecting community that quality issues found in Takara releases would be addressed.
Ashton Drake ceased producing the dolls in 2008 after producing 12 different releases.
Takara has been producing Petite Blythe since 2002, they are 11.2cm high. In 2010 Takara began releasing Middle Blythe which are in their words “Not too big, not too small” measuring in at 20cm.
The Kenner Blythe Guide covers the complete history of the original Blythe dolls made in 1972 (Kenner Blythe) and the Blythe Guide features the production history of dolls created after 2000 (Neo Blythe) and other Blythe related releases such as Popmart X Molly, Luvhug, Blythe Bells and Kubricks.
Blythopia is a catalogue of Neo Blythe dolls and Middie Blythe dolls released after the year 2000 and official clothing/shoe sets.
For the full history of Blythe, refer to BlytheDoll the official website.
Neo Blythe moulds
Blythe is a 28cm/12 inch doll, or 1/6 scale. The head is disproportionately large compared to the body. The eyes change colours and directions when the string hanging from the back of the head is pulled.
The stock eye colours and positions for Neo Blythe are blue (left facing), orange (front facing), green (right facing), and pink (forward facing) although many limited edition Blythe’s have different coloured eye chips.
Blythe has fairly flat feet (Barbie shoes normally don’t fit) and only early Neo Blythe have bendable arms and legs (Licca bodies) The body is approximately the size of Mattel’s Skipper.
Takara Blythe dolls have evolved over the years with numerous mould changes, finishes and manufacturers producing them.
BL – Blythe mould (2001-2002)
The original 2001-2002 Neo Blythes had Licca bodies with bendable arms and legs. These BL dolls had face moulds with eyes that glanced far to the side and some dolls had “boggled” eyes where the eye lid did not show. Several of the dolls had matte faces.
EBL – Excellent mould (2002 – 2004)
In 2002, Takara switched to the Excellent (EBL) design. The new bodies were less flexible, with only the legs bending in a 3-click range. The eyes were improved to show more of the eyelid and had a less extreme sideways glance. Takara redesigned the face mold completely in 2004, based on scans of the original Kenner Blythes.
SBL – Superior mould (2003 – 2008)
The new design, Superior (SBL), also had updated eyes, producing a sparklier look. The first four dolls after the redesign have eyes that look sharply downward, but Takara fixed this for the rest of the dolls.
RBL – Radiance mould (2006 – 2013)
In 2006, the Radiance (RBL) mould was created. The head can be easily opened, and the face itself is more child-like. In September 2008, Takara announced a new body style with more bendable/durable knee clicks.
FBL – Fairest mould (2009 – 2016)
In 2009, Takara introduced a new face mould called the Fairest, supposedly based on the EBL face mold, with chubbier cheeks, bigger eye pupils, and semi-matte skin. Takara is currently releasing both RBL and FBL dolls, after announcing the discontinuation of the SBL mould in May 2009.
RBL+ – Radiance Plus mould (2013 – 2019)
After the original RBL mould was damaged, the RBL + mould was used from 2013 until 2019 to produce Neo Blythe dolls.
RBL – Radiance Renewal mould (2017 – 2021)
Used from June 2019 to 2021 the renewal mould replaced the RBL+ mould.
RBL – Radiance Evolution mould (2022 – present)
In 2021 the Good Smile Company became the manufacturer of Blythe dolls and with this change came a new mould. The new mould has slightly angular features and the face looks more mature.
Blythe has an ever growing fan base around the world and online. While some collectors like to keep their dolls in mint condition, most play with their dolls and many customize her clothing and features. Customization can range from new make-up and re-rooted hair to carved eye sockets and new eye chips. Takara has catered to this growing trend toward customization by releasing several dolls with minimal accessories and a cheaper price tag, called prima dollies.