For those out there who aren't Danny Bonaduce or have built a huge publishing empire with a rabbit as its symbol (which covers pretty much all of us), who would like to take a Playboy Playmate home? You can put down all the hands because now you can give thanks to the Stronghold Group and Playboy.
After hearing about making dolls of Playboy Playmates, we felt it was important to get the whole story straight from the source. (The things we will endure for our readers...) We had a chance to catch up with Lori Carty, who is the Brand Manager for the Playboy Licensing Group, and Jeff Ahlholm, the CEO of Stronghold Group and they were both extremely helpful and enthusiastic about the new dolls.
The idea's genesis comes from Jeff Ahlholm and the other co-founder Living Toyz, who both thought that it would make a great collectible to get a small version of a Playboy Playmate. "After we came up with the concept and sold Playboy on it we spent eight months designing the look of the dolls, just to make sure they are the best we could possibly make them" offered Jeff. Lori Carty adds, "Playboy has been building a program of high quality collectibles for fans of the magazine and especially the Playmates, and the figurines fit perfectly."
The Playmate figures are not done as toys to be played with but as high-end collectibles that are the most accurate depictions of a particular Playmate and her body short of the woman herself. Much in the way that Playboy magazine has presented women with an artistic eye to represent them as strong and to celebrate their beauty, these dolls are done as works of art to celebrate an individual Playmate.
Victoria Silvstedt, the 1997 Playmate of the Year is going to be the first doll released, followed by Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year. Karen was originally planned as the inaugural Playmate, but the popularity of Victoria and more work being done to refine Karen's doll caused the slight change in line-up. Karen McDougal should debut around late March to early April 2002 (right around her birthday, though which one it is we won't tell!). After that there will be three new Playmate Dolls each year.
While the focus will be on the most popular and generally recent Playmates, there will be some 'classic' Playmates added to the rotation. The first classic Playmate is tentatively scheduled for early 2003, and next Christmas's Playmate will be dressed in the famous 'bunny suit' that is a trademark of Playboy and the Playboy Clubs. With the bunny suit, only certain girls ever wore the outfit so that will limit the choices for that particular Playmate. The next few figures will be revealed at the International Toy Fair in New York in February 2002.
Each figure will be unique, and is being produced with close supervision from the Playmate on a very personal basis. "Victoria Silvstedt worked with us at every step to ensure that her doll would represent her in the best possible way," mentioned Jeff. After the figure has been designed, sculpted, re-sculpted and essentially complete it still has to get approval from the Playmate and Hugh Hefner, Playboy's founder.
Design for these figures starts with deciding which Playmate to translate into a 'mini-me' copy. The choices are made jointly by the Stronghold Group and Playboy and are strongly affected by the relative popularity of the Playmates. Finding volunteers hasn't been difficult, "especially since the girls have been able to see how well done Victoria's figure is," noted Lori.
Once a subject is chosen the design work can begin. There a variety of things that have to be decided, and many depend on the personality and character of the Playmate. Clothing will have to be chosen, an appropriate pose that defines the Playmate and the articulation that will be used for the figure. Each figure is being designed uniquely, so each figure's articulation will be dependent on the Playmate and what poses she is best known for, as well as her outfit.
The sculpting of the figure is done by a synergy of several techniques, all of which are more traditional sculpting methods. Sculpts were created based on a combination of photographs, live modeling with the Playmates (sign me up as an intern!) and some casting of the Playmates’ bodies. The face and hands were cast and used as a basis to model those areas while the sculptors worked very closely with the Playmates who supervised the process. Computer scanning wasn't used for the first two dolls, though it will be considered for the subsequent Playmates.
The figures are designed to have soft skin and to have movements that look real. "It's like an update to the Charlie's Angels figures with soft skin that looks more realistic, but avoiding any obvious or clicking joints," explained Jeff. "Each Doll will be uniquely designed and engineered, making each Series of Doll different from the others to guarantee its collectability." For example, "We have already developed several designs for Karen's doll, none of which looks like the pictures previously seen at last year's Toy Fair and in the Trades. The varying prototypes differ with respect to external articulations, detailing and clothes - we will seek feedback from the fans before unveiling the finished Series II Doll at Toy Fair in February." added Jeff.
The dolls are going to be done in limited runs, and the first Playmate will be limited to 30,000 figures WORLDWIDE, with less than half of those making it to US shores. The reason for the smaller runs is, according to Jeff, "to keep these figures collectible. These are being made as collectibles and the smaller run maintains that." If only there really were 30,000 Victoria Silvstedts to go around…
Since these dolls are 16" tall, they are a little too much for GI Joe (at 12") to handle, so who's a Playmate to hang out with? While there are currently no plans, once the line is well established Stronghold would like to "do a really great version of Hugh Hefner," Jeff added
While Evil Genius Toys has done work on these, they will be manufactured and produced under the Stronghold Group brand starting January 1, 2002. These dolls retail for around $39.99 to $49.99 US and due to their nature they are for adult collectors over 18 years of age. They are available from your local comic book store, Spencer Gifts, TowerRecords.com, and the playboystore.com. There will also be a very limited number (approximately 100) that will be autographed and available via Victoria Silvstedt's personal site that you can have personalized -- www.victoriasilvstedt.com.
For a detailed look at the Victoria doll, please check the RTM Spotlight on Victoria.
The photograph of Victoria with her doll is courtesy of Playboy and Stronghold Group. Used with permission. "Playboy" "Playmate" and the rabbit head symbol are marks of Playboy.