Tonner on TV

Tonner's Captain Jack, Redressed

The Tonner Doll Company might not be as big as Mattel or Madame Alexander, but don’t underestimate just how far-reaching their customer base is.

Many long-time Tonner collectors lament about how the company has changed their focus away from fashion dolls and I can understand the frustration. My own interest in TDC originates back in ’99 when I saw advertisements foreshadowing the coming of their first fashion doll, Tyler Wentworth. She was Tonner’s more modern answer to Gene Marshall, whom I already collected, but did not fully connect with. I received my first Tyler immediately upon her release and a long-lasting love affair for Tonner fashion dolls ensued. As a result, I will forever think of Tyler and friends when I hear the name “Tonner.”

Mass Appeal

The truth is that character dolls appeal to a much wider audience and have really brought the Tonner Doll Company much more attention and success than their fashion doll line alone probably ever could. This is particularly the case with their celebrity dolls. I myself really like some of their celebrity dolls, but others, not so much. In fact, I’m downright angry at what they’ve done to some of their vinyl celebrities. It’s really a pity that the quality of their celebrity likenesses is so profoundly inconsistent from doll to doll.


The Golden Compass series from years back is a good representation of just how much of a crap shoot it can be with a Tonner celebrity sculpt. The Lord Asriel at Oxford doll was quite a good likeness of Daniel Craig and a great example of just how well executed a Tonner celebrity doll can be. In the very same collection, however, the Mrs. Coulter dolls didn’t really capture Nicole Kidman at all. It was a huge disappointment for me and I never purchased one, despite being a big Nicole Kidman fan.

So while it’s doubtful we’ll ever see Tyler Wentworth make it to the big screen like Barbie in Toy Story, I probably wasn’t as surprised as I could’ve been to catch a glimpse of a celebrity Tonner doll on TV a while back…

Pizza Order

I am flipping through channels, looking for something to serve as background noise while I wash the dinner dishes. Although I really like stand-up comics like Amy Schumer, Louis K and Bill Burr, I don’t usually stop on the Comedy Channel, but why not? Tonight I’m in the mood for funny so I pause for a long moment to watch and within a few seconds, a close-up shot of Tonner’s Arwen from Lord of the Rings pops up on screen. My doll radar suddenly activates and my back snaps straight in attention, my head cocks to one side, and I squint at the TV in momentary disbelief. Since I actually watch TV on my computer, I move browser windows around to make sure it was the TV I was looking at and not some doll board.

It is indeed TV that I am watching: a show called “Key & Peele” that I’ve never seen before. More precisely it’s one of the show’s parody skits in which an overweight, socially awkward couch potato orders pizza delivery over the phone. He is apparently a doll and figurine aficionado and the scene takes place in the living room where he is surrounded by his collection. As he is on the phone with the delivery guy, he begins talking to the dolls as if they are real people, calling them by their names and asking them what else they might want to order.

“My God!” I think, “Is this what the rest of the population thinks of doll collectors?” The thought makes me shudder, but having had dolls all my life, I’m actually pretty cognizant of the stigma associated with collecting dolls as an adult.

I found the skit on Comedy Central’s website so am posting it here for those who’d like to see it. Arwen pops up at the 2:23 mark.

More “Key & Peele” skits can be found at Comedy Central. Their “Retired Military Specialist” had me rolling!

What is your favorite Tonner celebrity doll? How do you feel about “Key & Peele’s” depiction of doll collectors?