While thinking of what new dolls I could highlight as we head closer to Christmas, I couldn’t help but think of all the doll lines we have lost over the years. One of those doll lines was Huckleberry Toys Toffee dolls.
Thinking about it, I’m not sure if I ever really discussed Toffee dolls here on the blog. I discovered them back in 2009, when I attended San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) for the first (and last) time. Their web store opened to the public July 2nd of that year and because of the quirky nature of the dolls, they made an effort to visit at least a few comic cons with their doll brand, going so far as to have comic con exclusives.
It is one of those dolls that I left SDCC with. My mom is a big Sid and Marty Krofft fan. From Land of the Lost to HR Pufnstuf to Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, she’s watched a lot of Krofft shows and remembers them fondly. That’s why I decided the Toffee doll comic con exclusive Witchiepoo would be a great gift for her.
How It Began
Japanese creator Riri Fukuju had stepped away for lunch when I bought my doll, unfortunately, so my Witchiepoo wasn’t able to be signed by her. According to an article in Dolls (Sept 2009), Riri originally started out by creating traditional ball jointed dolls (BJDs). Wanting to find a new way to express herself through dolls, she had a thought.
From the article, “I thought of dolls with a stuffed body and resin face, which would be cute and huggable. I started out by making animals, but then wanted to experiment by attaching human faces and that’s how the Toffee series was born.”
Hugo Stevenson, head of Huckleberry Toys at the time, met Riri at a design show in Japan and was so taken by the uniqueness of her work that they eventually teamed up to bring Toffee dolls to a larger audience. Riri had been making Toffee dolls independently for a few years, but Huckleberry was a chance to get them to a whole new audience.
After making a few tweaks to the material Riri used on her original Toffee dolls, Huckleberry Toys had a new and unique doll on their hands; one they weren’t sure who exactly to market to! As the article states, Hugo said, “we really weren’t sure what our audience was. We thought it was teenagers and young adults. We were so far off base!” There was actually a much broader audience for these dolls, according to Hugo, with men and woman of all ages interested in the unique sense of style these dolls had.
Toffee dolls are stuffed dolls with a faceplate and molded hands. They are articulated at five points, but in a very simple way. You get basic articulation with them: shoulders, hips and neck. Huckleberry introduced the world to Toffee dolls with an inaugural wave of five dolls: Lily, Victoria, Marina, Hazel and Sakura (released in red dress and pink dress). Riri’s passion for animals inspired these dolls fun animal elements, like the adorable rabbit and cat ears. Outfits were removable and could fit other Toffee dolls.
Toffee dolls retailed for about $100-$130 dollars, making them a bit expensive for the average buyer. The idea was that each doll would be relatively limited. Around the first wave, they also released convention exclusive dolls: Hellboy Fan, Jessica and Witchiepoo. There was also an exclusive Toffee named Pinky available to those who purchased four or more dolls.
Unfortunately, the lack of knowing their audience, as well as the distinctive features on these dolls, made them more complicated to produce than your standard fashion doll. Again, according to the Dolls article, Hugo shared “Part of the complexity of these dolls is the way they’re made- the material. There’s nothing standard about these dolls.”
He elaborated, “They’re deceiving when you look at pictures of them. They utilize faceplates and hands. They’re articulated like an old world teddy bear with simple disc joints.” And that was just in the production of the dolls. The fashions, too, required attention, since Riri collaborated with professional designers to get them just right.
Halloween Exclusives & Wave 2
At the same time as the Wave 1 launch, a second wave was announced alongside some Halloween themed Toffee dolls. This second wave was riddled with production delays, which I think is one of the things that lead to the downfall of the doll line.
Spell and Pumpkin were special for Halloween 2009. Charm, Red, Prowl, Avery and Minnie were considered wave 2.
What I remember most about wave 2 was that it was always delayed. And honestly? I’m not even sure if they ended up producing or shipping any dolls for this wave. I couldn’t find evidence of them shipping any dolls out from wave 2, so it was most likely never produced. It’s a shame, because Minnie and Red are adorable. It’s sad they weren’t produced! (Pumpkin and Spell were released eventually.)
Huckleberry’s website is no longer available and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since November 25, 2009, less than a year from their first post. A long ignored Flickr exists. Riri Fukuju still makes dolls as an independent creator on Etsy. Toffee Dolls are available on sites like eBay.
If I had to wager a guess, I’d say that the handmade nature of these hybrid dolls with their slightly odd, avant-garde look and large eyes, which today would be all the rage with the rise in popularity of dolls like Blythe and Pullips, just wasn’t cost effective in 2009. Judging from the comments made by Huckleberry Toys Hugo alone, it seems the production of these dolls wasn’t as simple as, say, that of a fashion doll. Being designed in Japan and handcrafted in China and sold in the United States, there were a lot of elements that had to work JUST right for these rather expensive, simply articulated dolls to be successful.
If Huckleberry Toys were to produce these dolls in 2019, I honestly think they’d have had better luck. Add some better articulation to the mix to match what collectors today want and I think Toffee Dolls may have had a better chance of lasting past one wave of dolls. But, I’m curious– what are your thoughts on Huckleberry Toys Toffee dolls? Do you have any in your collection? Let us know in the comment area!