Documentary Film English Subtitling * Translation & Transcreation of Documents
Working Fields: Social Sciences (including Politics, Arts, Music, Folklore & Mythology)

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Lilli Doll: The Barbie Origins

Hello there Barbie fans! You will definitely hate me for this...

Bild-Lilli Doll
(Source: Making the Modern World)
Barbie has a German grannie; Lilli.
Lilli started as a cartoon character created for the Bild-Zeitung, a German tabloid - currently known as The Bild - back in 1952 by Reinhard Beuthien. Lilli was an open, fortune-grabber, impudent, post-war figurine. As Lilli was very unashamed about her attempts to score a wealthy suitor and had no preservations about sex, she was the perfect discreet sex model.
The German tabloid decided to market a representation of Lilli in a form of a novelty doll, following Lilli's success as a cartoon character. The dolls were sold together with miniature Bild-Zeitung in a clear plastic tube. It was produced in 2 sizes; 30 cm and 19 cm.
The doll was made of plastic. The head, up to the chin, was moulded separately from the rest of the body. Most bizarrely, the hair was not attached directly to the head piece. The hair has attached first to a separate scalp piece, which was then attached to the head piece by a well-hidden screw.
One feature which Lilli was known for is directly related to the doll's legs! Lilli's legs did not spread open in a sprawl when she sat down.
Lilli was marketed in tobacco shops and pubs - obviously, not for children, but for adults - to only those who could afford her. Lilli cost about one DM per inch back in the 50's!
Alas, the production of Lilli stopped in 1964 when Mattel bought the rights to the doll. However, before it killed Lilli, Mattel had in fact cheated and had produced a Lilli-like doll, by the name of Barbie, in the US in 1959. Ruth Handler, a co-founder of Mattel, had visited Europe and returned to the US with a number of Lilli dolls, redesigned the doll, and, voila, Barbie was born. Just to make sure that Lilli would never be a threat to her American child-friendly copy, Lilli had to be officially assassinated.
However, saying that, Grannie Lilli still lives, but now, as a rare-ish collectable doll and costs a lot to acquire.

Technically, Bild-Lilli should have celebrated her 60th Birthday, only a couple of weeks ago.

Mattel (NASDAQ), the so-called giant of the toy world production, doesn't only acquire rights to small-scale successful original creations, it also reproduces re-designed versions of them with massively reduced costs through producing them in countries like China... Unoriginal and an exploiter of cheap labour... Tut tut tut...

A Steampunk Animation

I recently discovered a beautifully made animated short, influenced by the Steampunk genre. Written and directed by Andrey Shushkov in 2010, this short was a graduation project, which combined a Russian style alternate Victorian-like reality with folklore and original music.
Well done Shushkov!

More from the director here

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Teddy Bear Teddy Bear Where Art Thou?

Toys... toys... toys... Everybody likes toys from simple stuffed and cuddly resemblances of mascots to plastic nightmares.
I used to be a "normal" child once, who seemed to enjoy cuddly teddies - not to be confused with shimmies - at night and on family trips, but also obsessed about puzzle and structural games. However, I seem to have lost my playful child properties at the age of 9, when I was introduced to war, like a smack on the face. I knew fear and lack of settlement at the age of 4, but the concepts and the reality of things were not clear until the big hit, also given the age factor.
I remember the day my 8 or 9 year-old teddy bear was murdered. This was one of the very first teddies I even snuggled up with at night and read stories to. It was battered with small patches missing. It also had a fantastic quality; it had a velcro patch on each hand (paw) and came with a colourful fuzzy ball that stuck to the velcro. I did lose the ball at some point and the velcro had lost most of its 'stick' qualities. However, I loved that teddy that I didn't mind him ageing. It only felt fitting that my teddy grow older, 'just like me', I thought.
I remember the horrifying journey we took to safety - at least that's what we thought at the time. We had finally made it to the 'borders' of the West Bank from Jordan, little we knew that the journey hadn't even started. Too close, yet too far. We had to go through all sorts of security checks. Now, when I reflect on this part of the journey, it looks like the process some 'lucky' Nazi victims had to go through, those who didn't end up in concentration camps - or at least, in our case, not straight away. The process took almost a whole day and the procedures varied from multiple identity checks, to stripping of, to being locked in a small room with many other people, to searching for our shoes and belongings amongst piles of items, to having items confiscated, to interrogations, to shoving and verbal abuse... We almost lost our family 'treasure' - as my mom calls it. Photos... reminders of a past reality and people that we miss, missed, or may never see again, of smiley faces and kids stuffing their faces with birthday cakes, of presents under a Christmas tree or a granny hug, of the sea and the desert, of camping trips and roller coaster rides... "These shall be confiscated" we were told by an Israeli soldier and that's when the other horrifying thing happened... My teddy was gutted in front of my wide opened eyes by an Israeli soldier with a blunt knife. I was 9, damn it, and that teddy was my best friend. That was my treasure and a symbol of my childhood. I felt like I was a year older with every stitch that popped off teddy's front. I felt that the invisible boundary that separated me as a child from a woman was abruptly and untimely vanished in a most brutal way...
I realised later that teddy had sacrificed himself and my childhood to save the family's treasure. The soldiers seemed to have felt 'sorry' or 'ashamed' - I could never be certain - that they let my mom, who was nearing collapse of exhaustion and panic, have the many boxes of photos back...

I never cried teddy, you know, even when I watched it being thrown in the bin head and guts first. The transformation in my state-of-mind was instant... I was a woman then... I was a responsible human being... A Palestinian with a couple of stories and a big baggage of traumas...

Losing Teddy was just the beginning...