My Pretty Ballerina ™ was an interactive doll produced by Tyco Toys, and released onto the US, UK, and other markets worldwide in 1989.
With several television commercials, multiple doll styles, costumes, and other accessories, plus a double page spread in the 1990 Tyco Toy Fair catalog, it’s safe to say that My Pretty Ballerina was a core product for Tyco’s 1990 toy season.
But was it a good toy?
Taking 2 x C batteries, My Pretty Ballerina is an animatronic toy that steps and dances on her toes, moves her arms and head, and more or less performs basic ballerina moves while you hold her hand to keep her stable and upright. It’s decent technology for 1989 I guess, though as a guy it’s not really my cup of tea (though admittedly I am a huge fan of several other ‘girls toys’ such as Flower Makin’ Basket, so cool!).
There are mixed reviews online. Some report they had the doll and loved it, many say they desperately wanted the doll after seeing the commercial but it remained only in their imagination – and perhaps for the better.
This quote really makes the issue clear
“When I was 8, I BEGGED my parents for this doll. I finally got it for Christmas. Huge disappointment….she made this horrible mechanical noise, her jewelry fell off, arm didn’t work after 3 mos. I didn’t even know she could bend her feet! I ended up taking off her rubber shoes and putting them on my fingers, THAT was more fun.”– lautanner on YouTube
Of course, there are others who have better memories.
I had this doll… loved it so badly!!– usagi18 on YouTube
What was your experience? Was she a beautiful Ballerina doll to play with, or a noisy crunchy mess that you left on your bedroom floor after 5 minutes and never played with again?
Let’s take a look at the marketing copy for this product…
She Dances Like a Real Ballerina!
Every little girl dreams of beautiful ballerinas. Now, there’s My Pretty Ballerina to make those dreams come true.
My Pretty Ballerina is the only ballerina doll that dances like a prima ballerina. She dances on her toes, forward and back, moving her head and arm gracefully. She’ll spin and twirl…even spring down on her feet and back up “on point” to her toes! Little girls simply guide her by holding the rose in her hand.
And My Pretty Ballerina looks beautiful for every performance in her leotard and tights, sparkling tutu, toe shoes, and jeweled hair and leotard ornaments. For her practice time, just remove her tutu and jeweled ornaments, then put on her leg warmers. She even has a ballet practice barre (for serious workouts)!
My Pretty Ballerina is 16″ tall and fully poseable. She comes with everything she needs for real ballet performances, including a comb to style her hair and a cassette of Tchaikovsky ballet music. (Two “C” batteries required/not included.)
Real Ballet Music Cassette inside.– Tyco’s Toy Fair Catalog 1990 Season
double page spread advertising My Pretty Ballerina
Representing their audience
The 1980s marked a significant period where range and representation became increasingly important to toy companies and consumers alike who began to recognize the importance of children having dolls that resembled themselves. Through the late 80s and early 90s, popular lines of dolls started to more consistently offer a variety of skin tones, hair types, and other features to reflect a broader spectrum of the community.
Tyco for their part would release model 1601-1 that depicted a Caucasian ballerina, and 1601-2 that depicted an African American ballerina, including packaging, photographs and marketing that was unique to each model of doll.
Dress and Music Packs (Sold Separately)
There were three additional packs available with new costumes and cassette tapes.
Swan Lake Queen (1614-1)
Elegant outfit comes with music from the Swan Lake Ballet.– Tyco 1990
Sugar Plum Fairy (1614-2)
Creative outfit comes with music from the Nutcracker Ballet.– Tyco 1990
Silver Bride (1614-?)
With Midsummer Nights Dream ballet costume and music.
Tyco produced several television commercials for the doll, with the below video the longest and most well produced. Analogue VHS recordings that are over 30 years old don’t tend to look so sharp, but I’ve cleaned it up the best I can.
Availability and Collectability
Individual dolls (unboxed) are widely available online in various conditions, and boxed versions aren’t too hard to find either. Accessory packs including new costumes and cassette tapes are there, and overall you could score a complete collection for less than a popular Tyco RC car.
As for collectability, it all depends on your nostalgia. If you never had a My Pretty Ballerina you may be more inclined to boy one, simply to settle that Christmas present that never arrived. But if you had one as a child, and loved it, would you look back with nostalgia and pick one up? Or was it really a dud that just didn’t have any real playability? I’m interested to know.