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Girls of the Year

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LeaDollFull

Lea, the current Girl of the Year.

Girls of the Year, also known colloquially as Limited Edition dolls, are dolls that are only available for one year before retirement.[1] Originally, they were classified as part of the American Girl Today collection, but with Jess McConnell the line was separated into its own collection.

Girls of the Year were introduced in 2001 with Lindsey Bergman.

Traits of the Girls of the Year

Girls of the Year are always modern-day characters that are about ten years old in modern-day America during the year of her release.[2] The character is given a story that expands on her personality, a specific situation she is involved in, relevant social issue, and/or her personal hobbies. This creates an overarching theme for the year which is expanded in the collection.

While the line started modestly, Girls of the Year now have sizable collections including multiple outfits and at least one large furniture item.

Books

The Girl of the Year comes bundled with a book, much like Historical Characters. The books are targeted to ages eight and up. Originally books were smaller at only about five or six chapters and a little longer length than a Historical Character central story; they later expanded to ten short chapters each. With the release of Grace Thomas, books no longer had illustrations (much like BeForever books) and consist of about thirteen to fifteen chapters, telling a longer and more involved story.

Starting with Nicki Fleming, Girls of the Year started to receive multiple books. The first book is bundled with the doll and any additional books are available separately. The books expand the story and allows for a more rounded image of the character through the year. For several years, books had an after-story section which discussed real life girls who have done the same things the character has done; for example Nicki's books talk about other girls who have worked with service animals, Mia's had a question and answer section about sports, and Chrissa's had a question and answer section about friendship and bullying. The books are all written in first person narrative from the viewpoint of the main character.[3] With Isabelle, three books were available as well as a short story e-book; this has continued with Grace and Lea.

Originally, American Girl kept stock of all prior books. Starting with the release of McKenna Brooks, American Girl began to phase out older books when the books Lindsey, Kailey, Marisol, and Jess were retired from direct sale. Lately books have started to be phased out or placed on sale for clearance after approximately five years, and older character pages are removed from the site. In 2015 Lindsey, Kailey, and Marisol were temporarily removed from the Girl of the Year Archives and no longer seen on the site; they were later restored. No characters prior to Nicki are on the main Girl of the Year site [1].

Movies

Chrissa Maxwell was the first Girl of the Year character to receive a movie, Chrissa Stands Strong. Movies were not released again until McKenna Brooks and her movie, McKenna Shoots for the Stars, but have been consistently released since then. While the doll's collection is mostly released on January 1, movies generally do not premiere until closer to the summer. Movies are available on Blu-Ray and DVD[4] and were originally also broadcast--frequently on NBC--with commercial interruptions after the home release.[5] Since Grace, the movies are launched straight to DVD/BluRay. Every Girl of the Year appears that they will be given a movie for the foreseeable future.

Yearly Campaigns

Starting with Nicki, American Girl has held contests and campaigns to promote the Girl of the Year:

  • Nicki was a Real Girl 2007 contest to promote girls who were helping in service ways [2].
  • Mia was Real Girl 2008 of girls who performed in inspiring ways. [3]
  • Chrissa was part of an anti-bullying campaign and American Girl partnered with the Ophelia Project [4].
  • With Lanie, American Girl partnered with the National Wildlife Federation and the Be Out There™ Movement to encourage appreciation of nature and outdoor activities.
  • With Kanani, American Girl partnered again with the National Wildlife Federation to raise awareness of endangered animals and promote wildlife preservation as part of the Shine On Now campaign.
  • McKenna was part of an initiative aimed at increasing childhood literacy with Save the Children's U.S. Literacy Program.[6]
  • Saige's release included an arts contests for girls, a school grant contest for elementary arts teachers, and activities developed with Americans for the Arts.[7]
  • Isabelle's release included an online sweepstakes contest for girls, but no noted partnerships with campaigns for dance or design.
  • With Grace, American Girl launched a yearlong fundraising initiative, "For Goodness, Bake!", to support Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign to end child hunger in America.[8]
  • Lea's release included an arts campaign, Wild at Art, along with a yearlong partnership to support the World Wildlife Fund.[9]

MegaBlok Sets

In 2016, American Girl partnered with Mega Brands, a subsidiary company of Mattel, to create various Mega Blok sets. Girl of the Year sets have so far focused on Nicki, McKenna, Saige, Isabelle, and Grace; Isabelle and Grace have sets that include friends mentioned in stories.

Yearly Character Timeline

The Girl of the Year is released on January 1st (regardless of which day of the week it is) with at least one if not all books about her, extra clothing and accessories, and furniture or larger items. A "starter collection" of the doll with some of her beginning outfits and a few accessories come bundled at a discount.[10] A Girl Sized Meet Outfit is also made available as well, with any modifications needed (for example, Nicki's meet outfit was separated into a top and skirt instead of a bodysuit.) [11]

During the first three days of release at American Girl Place locations, various events are held for the Girl of the Year, including activities. Starting with Saige Copeland, a small giveaway item was offered as well, only available at the stores; no purchase is needed, but it is only offered the first three days of release. Saige and Isabelle received white t-shirts with their personal name and matched logos. Starting with Grace Thomas, the items tended to relate to the character personally and came in unique envelopes.

  • Saige Copland: Decorated T-shirt
  • Isabelle Palmer: Decorated T-shirt
  • Grace Thomas: Red Apron
  • Lea Clark: Pink Beach Sarong

Later in the year, near the summer or early fall, a second set of items is released. Lindsey's and Kailey's collections were small and had no additional releases. Jess and Marisol had their larger items, Marisol's Spotlight Stage and Tiara and Jess's Motor Scooter and Helmet, released mid-year. Since Nicki, all large items are released at launch and the second fall release is generally a single additional outfit and a related accessory set.

After the second release, a character's "whole world" collection originally become available for purchase which includes every item available for the doll bundled at a discount. Chrissa was not given a whole world set which was assumed to be because of her companion dolls. Lanie was also denied a Whole World Collection. Kanani received a Whole World collection, but no character since McKenna has received Whole World Collections; this is likely due to both larger items in their collections and the general phasing out of the Whole World option.

Occasionally, items that are not specific to the stories or character outfits but connected to the collection are released for children; these generally involve shirts and accessories.

All items in the collection remain available through about November or December, though larger items may begin to sell out in October.[12]Starting in November, any items that become sold out are retired and not restocked. The entire collection, regardless of any remaining stock, is officially retired after December 31st and no longer made available to purchase. The character is also listed on the American Girl Archives.

For a while, books and other media, such as movies, remain available from American Girl for purchase. While quite a few dolls and their lines have sold out before the end of the year, the new doll is still not released for purchase until January 1st of the new year.

Sometimes outfits and items are rereleased for the My American Girl line in sales; but may be modified or be missing components; these generally sell quickly. [13]

Criticisms of Girls of the Year

There are two major criticisms of the Girl of the Year Line:

The first is that with the focus by American Girl on the Girl of the Year Line--particularly the emphasis that she and her items are only available for one year--other lines, such as the Historical Characters Line, suffered in lack of focus. Many American Girl Place locations give larger or more dominant display space to the Girl of the Year, emphasize the character more prominently (barring any other product launches or changes), and items and meals in bistros generally focus on the character. With BeForever, this has been less of a concern, but is still brought up.

The second is a considerable lack of diversity through the life of the product line. In the sixteen years since the launch of the line in 2001, only one main character--Marisol Luna, who is Latina (specifically Chicana/Mexican)--has not been either white or partially white. (Jess and Kanani are both specified as having at least one fully white parent; in both cases this is their mother.) Sonali was characterized as having a South Asian (Indian) mother, but she was a companion to Chrissa. No other Latina characters since Marisol and marginally Lea (Lea is marked as one-eighth Brazilian through heritage, but does not personally identify as Latina), no black characters, no Asian or South Polynesian characters that have not been biracial, and no Native American characters (to name some, but not all ethnicities) have ever been released in the line.

Critiques to the company about a lack of diversity in the Girls of the Year Line have generally been dismissed, often with suggestions for consumers to look towards BeForever or Truly Me characters as available for diversity. However, these problems are specifically with the Girls of the Year line.

Girl of the Year Characters

Girl of the Year Companions

In 2009 Chrissa Maxwell came with two companion dolls, the only time that a Girl of the Year came with any other accompanying dolls. This was predominantly because Chrissa's story emphasized friendship. Her two companions were:

Each doll came with the American Girl book Friends; there was no additional stories from their viewpoint or unique items for them in Chrissa's collection.

With American Girl no longer emphasizing companions for any characters and the retirement of the Best Friends side lines, it is unlikely that there will be any future companions for a Girl of the Year.

References

  1. The exception was Lindsey, who was available for about a year and a half. However, she did so poorly that it was not until 2003 that another Girl of the Year was released. Kailey was also available for multiple years.
  2. While Jess's book was predominantly set in Belize, she is from Michigan.
  3. Kanani is the exception, her books are written in third-person narrative similar to the Central Series, Short Stories, and Historical Character Mysteries for the Historical Characters and BeForever.
  4. Since Chrissa's movie was released when Blu-Ray was not a widespread format, it is only available on DVD.
  5. Chrissa's movie was broadcast on HBO and Isabelle's movie was broadcast on the Disney Channel.
  6. Ready to Fly! American Girl’s 2012 Girl of the Year McKenna Inspires Girls to Face Challenges with Spirit and Determination: McKenna Online Initiative Promotes Save the Children’s U.S. Literacy Program, accessed December 27, 2011
  7. American Girl to Introduce New Girl of the Year Doll, accessed December 31, 2012.
  8. American Girl's 2015 Girl of the Year: Meet Grace Thomas, Baker and Entrepreneur, abcnews.com, accessed December 31, 2014.
  9. American Girl's 2016 Girl of the Year Is Lea Clark, Photographer and Animal Lover, abcnews.com, accessed December 31, 2015.
  10. Grace did not receive a Starter Collection upon her debut.
  11. Lindsey's and Kailey's Meet outfits were not made available for girls, though Kailey's Bikini was.
  12. The earliest an item has sold out is Grace's French Bakery which went out of stock in September.
  13. With Isabelle, multiple additional components were made available in AG sales online after her retirement, though the doll remained retired and items could not be purchased in store.

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