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SamNellieBestFriend

Samantha and Nellie as a Best Friends Set.

The Best Friend Characters are companion characters to the Historical Characters [1]. Best Friends are not given unique time periods and wholly share the era and stories of the characters they are paired with.

Best Friends are often prominent characters in the main series of their Best Friend; in the Historical Collections, they showed a different aspect of the same time period due to differences in their backgrounds and/or situations. Because of their ties to their companions, they were not generally considered separate collections of their own; and so were often subjected to the same archiving when their companions were.

Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner, while sharing their time period and marketed as each other's best friend, are not considered part of the Best Friends line since they are given equal prominence in their historical time period and share their Central Series books.

History and Information

The Best Friend line debuted in 2004 with the release of Nellie O'Malley, Samantha's best friend, who was released to coincide with the first American Girl Movie, Samantha: An American Girl Holiday and was a main character in both the movie and Samantha's original stories. While it was initially advertised that Nellie was going to be a limited edition doll, overall positive reception prompted American Girl to keep her as a permanent extension of Samantha's collection and expand the line to include other characters.

Elizabeth Cole, Emily Bennett, and Ruthie Smithens were each partially released as a tie-in to the upcoming movie of her companion; Ivy Ling was released with the initial debut of Julie Albright's release. In 2009, Chrissa Maxwell was the only Girl of the Year to have companion characters with Sonali Matthews and Gwen Thompson.[2]

Best Friends were given much smaller collections than Historicals and while they were never displayed in the Historical's personal outfits, they were marketed as being part of (and thus being able to share) the collection of their companion. Some collectors who prefer the Best Friend often purchase items of the main Historical Character's collection for a Best Friend. Collections were also tied together; when Samantha Parkington's collection was archived, Nellie O'Malley and her collection were as well. This was also true for Felicity Merriman and Elizabeth Cole; Chrissa Maxwell, Sonali Matthews and Gwen Thompson; and Molly McIntire and Emily Bennett.

In 2014 American Girl announced that the remaining best friends available for purchase, Ivy Ling and Ruthie Smithens, would be be retired along with Cecile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner, effectively ending the Best Friends line.[3] One of the many official responses from American Girl was that they were seeking to return the focus of the Historical collections on the main characters themselves, and later announcements for BeForever solidified the remarketing of the Historical line. The announcement stirred up frequent public criticism in multiple media outlets, mostly emphasizing the loss of diversity in Historical Characters as Ivy was (and so far has been the only) Asian-American historical character, and Cécile was the only other African-American Character available at the time besides Addy Walker.

List of Historical Character Best Friends

Book: Nellie's Promise
Book: Very Funny, Elizabeth
Book: Brave Emily
Book: Good Luck, Ivy
Book: Really Truly Ruthie

List of Girls of the Year Companions

Unlike the Historical Best Friends, Gwen and Sonali do not have individual books and came with a copy of the book Friends. This could be due to the fact that Chrissa has two companions and both feature with equal prominence in her books. During Chrissa's availability, she could be purchased with either Sonali or Gwen in small collections of two, but the two dolls could not be bundled together without Chrissa.

Changes to the Historical Best Friend Characters

Elizabeth

In Felicity's original illustrations until 2005, Elizabeth was shown and described as having brown hair and eyes. In Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, she was played by Katie Henney, who is blonde with blue eyes. The doll was made to resemble the actress and the original illustrations and texts were edited to prevent discrepancies between the books and movie.

Emily

Emily is not really considered Molly's best or even closest friend; she originally appeared in only one of Molly's Central Series books, Happy Birthday, Molly!, as a temporary house guest seeking refuge from wartime London and was only expected to stay with Molly for a few weeks.[4] She is thus marketed by American Girl as "Molly's English Friend." It was theorized that because Molly has two best friends (Linda Rinaldi and Susan Shapiro), a different character was chosen so that neither one would become more prominent than the other. Since Emily is from England, her story offers a different perspective from Molly's that neither Linda nor Susan could give (especially since most books feature the three as a group).

The movie Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front gave Emily a greater role and a different backstory than the books, as did the mystery The Light in the Cellar (which fit within Molly's Central Series chronology. Her own book, Brave Emily, mostly focused on the differences between cultures and the Looking Back section discussed English children during wartime.

The illustrations of Emily in Happy Birthday, Molly! were edited to reflect the doll's looks; namely, that her hair was lengthened from a bob to shoulder-length and clothes were changed to reflect actual items released.

Ruthie

The only major change with Ruthie was the doll being given grey eyes instead of the brown shown in book illustrations (which were not majorly changed).

Stirling Howard is also a close friend of Kit's but since AG at the time did not make boy dolls outside of the Bitty Twins, he was not considered as an option.

Unreleased Best Friends

Other Historical Characters were never given official Best Friend characters. Suspicions were that, because all but Rebecca and Caroline have a best friend of color, these characters were not released; however, the declining popularity of the line resulted in eventual termination before these characters could be released.

Magnetic Mini Worlds, as well as Paper Doll sets and Play Scenes and Paper Dolls paired each girl with a "Best Friend":

Josefina does not technically have a prominent best friend; Clara is her older sister and Mariana was only mentioned in one book and given no further prominence in the series. Both characters were shown in Josefina's Paper Dolls II; Clara was part of the Magnetic Mini World.

Much like Emily was marketed as "Molly's English Friend", the Magnetic Mini Worlds list Speaking Rain as "Kaya's Sister" and Clara as "Josefina's Sister." Ana is Rebecca's cousin and has significant presence in the series, as does Lydia in Caroline's.

Maryellen Larkin was released after the termination of the best friends line; her primary best friend in her series is Davy Fenstermacher. Melody Ellison is not given one specific close friend in her series, though her cousin Valerie Porter could qualify.

In MegaConstrux collections for Girls of the Year, Isabelle Palmer's ballet recital set includes a figurine of Luisa, and Grace Thomas's home playset includes figurines of both Maddy and Ella.

References and Footnotes

  1. And one Girl of the Year.
  2. While contemporary character Tenney Grant does have a companion in Logan Everett, he is not marketed whatsoever as a "best" friend and is more seen as an additional character in her stories.
  3. Announcement from American Girl's Facebook page
  4. Happy Birthday, Molly!, pg. 2-3: "No, just until her aunt gets better," said Molly. "But Mom says she'd be with us for a couple of weeks at least, and that means she'll be here for my birthday."
  5. Speaking Rain is her adopted sister/cousin.
  6. Based on Rebecca's Play Scenes and Paper Dolls and Rebecca's Fashion Design Portfolio.
  7. Based on Caroline's Play Scenes and Paper Dolls.

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