Is necessity the mother of invention? I was brought up hearing that maxim, and on face value, it certainly seems true enough. But being a mother—and with that, a part-time inventor of road-trip games, Halloween costumes, and blue-ribbon-worthy science projects—I don’t think it’s really “necessity.” It’s more likely “creativity.” Necessity makes you run out to Walmart and Target when you’re in a fix; creativity urges you to stay up late at night with a glue stick, a glob of glitter, and a gut feeling that a unicorn’s horn can be constructed from an empty paper towel cylinder.
Since my life has become inundated with the needs and desires of two grammar-school siblings, a 6- and an 8-year-old, I’ve designed stay-at-home movie nights. One of the things I’ve noticed is how many movies I’m currently discovering are “old hat” for doll designers. (Certainly, the Harry Potter “sorting hat” and all of its accoutrements have been tackled by Robert Tonner for years and years by now.)
But what about the brave, noble, and virtuous characters from Narnia? Those dolls are now as rare as the centaurs, satyrs, and Minotaurs that frolicked and stalked across the films’ landscapes. The vinyl heroes and heroines of C. S. Lewis’s epic fantasy franchise have vanished from shop windows like the dodo bird and the T-rex. Why are there no tie-ins on toy shelves for the three movies that are still big hits to rent, download, and buy?
That’s why I’m proposing the DVD line of collectibles. Call it creativity; call it necessity. Either way, I think dolls from past movie hits can have extended existences if they are re-released as DVD companions. Especially with Christmas looming before us, these well-known characters would certainly have an evergreen staying power.
If you’re not familiar with Narnia, it’s the mythical locale that a family of British schoolchildren stumble upon during World War II. The youngest of the brood, little Lucy, seeks shelter in an armoire during a spirited game of hide-and-seek. As she pushes through the hats, scarves, and coats to reach the back wall, she discovers more than she imagined: namely, “the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
This was the first installment of the trio of films, and was released in 2005 (the second is “Prince Caspian,” 2008, and the third is “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” 2010). They were certifiable money-makers—turning a large profit here in the States and abroad—but their receipts didn’t measure up to the Potter portfolio. Hence, the lack of Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan figures.
But the DVD and Blu-ray releases have breathed new life into this children’s series. With more and more movies only masquerading as kid-friendly—too many double entendres and sly winks at the adult chaperones—the Lewis-inspired flicks are wholesome, inspirational, and adventuresome. I know a PTA’s worth of parents who are presently screening these films on a routine basis. Why, then, the dearth of dolls?
Back in 2005, the Alexander Doll Company fashioned adorable interpretations of the characters—their tiny Lucy in a flowing fur coat was precious!—and Robert Tonner, likewise, brought his usual meticulous and painstaking attention to detail to crafting dolls that could have passed for studio stand-ins.
These dolls, however, are gone with the wind. (Oh, wait a minute! That’s another movie blockbuster that never goes out of style.)
Are any of these Alexander dolls languishing in warehouses? Or are there Tonner creations that are archived and crated away, sort of like the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” booty at the end of the first outing?
Can these dolls be re-released as Blu-ray buddies or DVD darlings? Why do these characters, which are beloved by millions of readers, fare so shabbily in the collectible realm? It’s sad that they are perennials on bookshelves, but are one-hit wonders on toy shelves. True, Potter’s Lord Voldemort is a horrible, heinous arch villain—ugly in appearance and behavior. But Narnia’s White Witch, who appears so lovely and caring, hides a heart of darkness beneath her pure, snowy robes. She is icy and malevolent, making Snow White’s stepmother seem simply misunderstood. Her Alexander rendering was quite sultry and scary.
I know that the licensing and the copyrighting and the marketing of movie memorabilia could inspire its own documentary—“The Lying Corporate Shark, the Agent, and the Publicity Flack”—but can’t doll artists sidestep the issues by some clever name-changing and sleight of hand?
I think it would be fantastic to be able to buy “Valiant Little Sister,” “Brave Big Brother,” “Strong and Sincere Older Sister,” and “Confused Middle Child.” (Poor Edmund, there really is no flattering way to describe him in that first film.) Dressed in circa-1941 outfits, or in their splendid coronation robes, and accompanied by their talking animal friends and magical weapons, these Robert Tonner creations would attract a new generation of owners and fans.
Yep, necessity is not always the mother of invention.
In this case, childhood desire is.