One of the most popular toys of the 90s has endured a radical transformation since its debut in 1989.
The premise of Polly Pocket was that it was a little miniature dollhouse that fit in a necklace. Unfortunately, while Polly and her world and accessories were indeed tiny, there is only so tiny you can make an elaborate world, meaning the ‘pocket-sized’ plastic toy was actually fairly large and clunky (considering it was meant to be worn or, I guess, put into a pocket—yeah, perhaps a backpack pocket or something because there was no way that thing was fitting into the pocket of a pair of little girl jeans).
Behold: Old Polly
But at least the original creators, Bluebird Toys, ATTEMPTED to keep Polly and her accessories tiny and pocket-sized. When Mattel bought out the company in 1998, they ‘supersized’ Polly (supersizing meaning that they doubled or tripled her size—Bluebird’s Pollys were under an inch tall, while Mattel’s ranged from two to three inches, depending on which Polly set you were buying.) In Mattel’s version, only Polly herself was pocket-sized, not her world. Basically, Mattel just tried to shrink down Barbie and call it ‘Polly Pocket.’ (Oh, Mattel, you just keep trying to strike gold again, dontcha?)
Behold: New Polly and her Friggin' Jet
Most of us little girls who had a Polly Pocket had the old school Polly. Y’know, the one tiny enough that your parents were worried that you would accidently swallow her (although she was tiny enough that even if you had, you probably wouldn’t have choked!). She was made entirely of plastic and certainly didn’t have little removable clothing the way the new versions apparently do. She WASN’T a miniature Barbie—she was this tiny little plastic toy with a circle for feet that you could place in little circle cut-outs in her little world that fit around your neck, however large and clumsily. Here’s Polly in the kitchen! Here’s Polly in the bedroom! Here’s Polly at the park!
The original Polly Pocket playworld was a make-up compact that creator Chris Wiggs made into a miniature toy for his daughter. The models around in our time kept this sort of design. They did get larger than a compact, but they were still wonderfully portable, which was one of the best features of the toy (which makes it even more baffling to me that Mattel decided to make it so much larger than it originally was.)
This Polly was a simpler Polly, and yet we enjoyed hours of entertainment simply moving Polly to and fro—the way we enjoyed moving dolls around a dollhouse. This Polly also didn’t have movies and books dedicated to her and her friends (did original!Polly even have friends? I remember her being a more solitary kind of girl. She certainly didn’t have male friends the way she did now—come on, Mattel, you can make Kens and Polly-sized Kens all you want, BOYS STILL WON’T PLAY WITH THESE.)
I must say, I mourn the loss of the original Polly. Was it as cool as we thought? Personally, I think so. It was a neat idea, creating a world instead of a compact. Unfortunately, Mattel decided that they would rather just have another Barbie knock-off than continue to feature the portability of such a toy.