The life and times of the wide-eyed, beautiful, Blythe

When the Blythe dolls came out, they weren't huge hits. Now they have a cult following, and no one was more surprised than the woman who created them. Long before dolls come out of boxes, they live inside an artist's mind. Allison Katzman spent half h

SEATTLE - When the Blythe dolls came out, they weren't huge hits.  Now they have a cult following, and no one was more surprised than the woman who created them.

Long before dolls come out of boxes, they live inside an artist's mind.  Allison Katzman spent half her life creating toys for children.

The year was 1972.  Allison had moved to Chicago and was working for one of the nation's biggest toy invention firms, when she came up with the idea for a Blythe Doll, loosely based on Betty Boop.

"She kind of inspired it, but the real reason was, I was out to compete with Barbie, that was where I started. I wanted to make a fashion doll."

Allison innovated a stylish feature no other doll had - eyes that change color with the pull of a string, inspired by her own daughter's colored contacts.

"Well, there was a mistake made in the lab and the contacts were very very olive green. And she wore them home, and of course she couldn't see and they made her another pair, but they were beautiful!

 

 

Blythe was totally unique, but when she hit the market, her haunting face didn't resonate with little girls, and after a couple years, she disappeared from store shelves.

Unbeknownst to Allison, Blythe was far from gone.  Over the next 30 years, a fan base quietly grew, and adult collectors paid thousands of dollars for original dolls.  A photography book was published, and in 2001, a Japanese CEO saw the potential and started producing a new line of Blythes.

Allison couldn't believe it.

She was also suddenly in demand, invited to a fan event in Japan, where Blythe was an instant sensation.  In the U-S, the doll starred in an ad campaign for Target and maintains a legion of devoted collectors, many of them in Allison's hometown of Seattle.

An unprecedented second act, for a doll, and her creator, who were ahead of their time.

 

Evening is your guide to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.   Watch it weeknights at 7:30 on KING 5 TV or streaming live on KING5.com.  Connect with Evening via FacebookTwitterInstagram or email: eveningtips@king5.com.

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