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The elves have been incredibly busy this year with an extraordinarily special project, the first-ever illustrated biography of Annalee Thorndike. We compiled a lifetime of stories about Annalee, her beginnings, inspirations, family, and business. Make sure to order a copy of Behind the Smile – The Story of Annalee Thorndike – it’s an amazing story!
Through the research, we began to think wholeheartedly about humble beginnings and the fine details that went into some of Annalee’s very first designs. This gave us a fantastic idea!
To pay homage to Annalee, the team at Annalee wanted to create a very special doll. After all, this is how Annalee liked to celebrate milestones and achievements! Several of our team who worked with Annalee were instrumental in laying out a vintage design in the original style of Annalee’s first elves with a wool blend felt and featuring incredibly rare faces drawn by Annalee herself. On November 9, we are releasing this incredibly special vintage elf: 8in The Magic is in the Smile Elf, which can only be purchased with one of the original copies of the biography.
The 8in Magic is the Smile Elf is based on early 1980’s 10in Christmas elves, which had a simple elf hat with white pom and white fur trim. Unlike most of the elves we make today, these vintage elves were designed without hair. These elves also featured plastic holly. Annalee always trimmed the holly by one leaf. We used that same signature technique for this new exclusive design.
You may be wondering why we didn’t create a 10in elf? Well, the truth is the size is actually the same. Historically, dolls were measured based on the frame size before they were positioned and feet bent to determine the height. Collector feedback has changed the way we measure the dolls we design today. We now measure the actual height of the doll in its final standing position.
Take a look at the elves that inspired this limited-edition design.
There are four unique and rare faces or expressions chosen for the Magic is in the Smile Elf exclusive. The face artwork was hand-drawn by Annalee for the 1960’s Go-Go Collection. Director of Design Gracie Blackey (you can read more about her in the biography) worked with transparencies from the archives to create the five color strikes (brown, black, blue, white, and red) that were then screen printed locally on to felt. Gracie, who worked alongside Annalee for years, also die cut the heads and bodies for these elves.
Original Annalee artwork from our archives was used in this design.
The elf faces were printed locally by Gregory St. Gelais, owner of Brighter Image in Laconia, NH. The cheeks were hand-painted by Debbie Hayward. Debbie has been a long-time employee of Annalee Dolls. She started in the Finishing Department but also worked in Design and is now our Gift Shop manager.
Faces were printed locally and hand-painted at Annalee headquarters.
The furrier stitch has long been a signature element of Annalee designs (you can read more about this in the biography). Designers Barbara Danforth and Peggy Angelo are both long-time employees and worked alongside Annalee. Barbara (Core Collection Designer) and Peggy (Exclusive Collection Designer) were responsible for the intricate furrier stitching on these exclusives.
The furrier stitch is a trademark of Annalee dolls.
Another long-time employee, Jackie Verrill, stuffed the heads and bodies. Jackie has served many roles at Annalee, as a homeworker, in the Stuffing Department, and as our Warehouse Manager. The stuffing in the Magic is in the Smile Elf is unwaxed and uses the same type of string from the 1980s from Brassard Maurices & Fils Inc., of Plessisville, Quebec.
We are expecting the 8in Magic is in the Smile Elf exclusive to sell out fast. Only 250 were made. We were greatly inspired by this project and what the team at Annalee can do when they rally for a project that honors our founder. We are definitely thinking ahead to other rare or vintage designs that we could revive from the past. Annalee taught us all that there is magic in the smile.