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The contagious smile of these dolls was once the smile of a young woman named Annalee Thorndike. Annalee painted her whimsical creations’ faces to resemble her own cheery expression; an expression that has brightened lives for more than 80 years!
Annalee literally looked in the mirror to draw her own smiles, smirks and grins. She detailed each wrinkle, dimple and squiggly brow hair in the mischievous expressions she made. The artwork was then fine tuned and tweaked to create each mouse, elf, and animal face that was desired…freckles, whiskers and a sparkle in the eye were added.
In the beginning, Annalee painstakingly painted her faces directly onto the felt. Once the orders began flooding into the Meredith, NH, factory, a more efficient technique was needed. Annalee and Chip turned to the silk-screen method and began printing the faces onto the felt in order to keep up with the demand for the dolls. To this day, all of the artwork that is used for each doll’s face or other markings, like dots on a dog or stripes on a zebra, is Annalee’s original hand-drawn work.
To the untrained eye of the beginner collector, the faces of the mice may appear the same. After a closer look, you’ll see that the same style mouse has a variety of facial expressions. This was Annalee’s clever way of making the dolls appear to be interacting with one another. She would set up elaborate scenes with multiple characters such as swimmers at a beach and skiers making their way down the mountain. When people browse the collections, they might see an expression and be reminded of certain people in their lives: “Oh, the sweet smile of this mouse reminds me of my favorite friend from high school,” or “Aww, that elf wears the mischievous grin of my little nephew!” Annalee always said, “If you smile someone else has got to smile back.” The magic is in the smile at Annalee Dolls!