Follow TV Tropes



Go To
Not the first, but one of the most famous.

"Since the beginning of time, since the first little girl ever existed, there have been... dolls."
The Narrator, Barbie (2023)

Baby, teen, adult and in-between, dolls are basically human — or human-like — figures that are toys for children. Dolls go back for nearly all of human history and are likely some of the oldest toys to ever exist in some form, with archeological evidence of dolls being found as far back as Ancient Egypt, and continue to prevail as one of the most popular toys for children of all ages.

Doll frequently are a symbol for youth and innocence; a child that still plays with dolls is likely not yet knowledgeable to the darker ways of the world. Dolls are also frequently used to show that characters are girly or feminine — dolls often come in pink clothes and have pink accessories, and Pink Means Feminine. So the Tomboy character is likely not going to like dolls and may even wreck or destroy them, as opposed to the Girly Girl who eagerly plays with or collect them — or the Lonely Doll Girl who only has dolls as friends instead of real people.

Dolls often get a bad reputation from more "serious" people who think badly of them or think they're useless toys, under the idea that dolls don't "do anything" (like implied in a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic) — or if they do, it's not explained outside of being "magic" — and limit the girls they're targeted at to only caring about frivolous things such as fashion, taking care of babies, boys, Slumber Parties, makeovers, housework, and tea parties instead of "interesting" or "smarter" topics like science, math, sports, and technology. They're also considered childish, with older kids thinking they're too cool or old to care about things like dolls and that dolls are toys to grow out of fast; the idea that one still "plays with dolls" over a certain age means you're acting under your real age and should grow up and stop being a Manchild.

However, dolls have their own uses and can spark thoughtful activities and creative play of their own. These include pretend and imaginative play, hair and clothing styling, sewing and crafting (it's much easier to sew for a doll than for a person since they have set body shapes and are less pliable), photography, and much more. And not everyone ages out of dolls and considers them temporary toys; doll collectors range in ages from children to adults and a collector can focus on specific brands, types, or even one specific kind. Several doll brands lean into the Creepy Doll trope, focusing on macabre and strange dolls which are not aimed at the typical little girl audience. Some doll collectors even go beyond just getting and playing with them and highly customize dolls which can mean taking them apart and putting them together again, repainting faces, resculpting bodies, and changing them completely from factory default. (Akin to Sid from Toy Story, but with a lot more artistry.)

Dolls can be sorted into several variations:

  • Baby Dolls: Dolls shaped like babies or young children. Many of these dolls focus on the idea of caretaking of infants and young children, with diapers, feeding, cribs, strollers, and the like. These dolls get the worst rap when it comes to dolls being "for little kids" and are considered to have the "shortest" lifespan of playtime. However, there's an interesting use past childhood where realistic baby dolls (such as RealCare Baby) are used for teenagers Egg Sitting; these electronic dolls cry and need "feeding" and care, in an effort to inform the teens how much work a baby actually is before they go out and make one.
  • Companion Dolls: Dolls that are intended to be "companions", or friends or playmates to the owner. These — if named characters — are often elementary school child age (6-12), neither adults or teens for a child to look up to or babies to look after. Companions are probably one of the oldest kinds of dolls along with baby dolls, but are sometimes are treated like baby dolls in media. These historically were in the form of homemade cloth or "rag" dolls; one of the most well known "branded" rag dolls is Raggedy Ann, with the other highly known rag doll being Amish dolls whose distinguishing feature is having no faces. Manufactured companion dolls vary, but are frequently of 18" height; this is because one of the most prominent brands is American Girl which launched in 1986 and sparked many other companies to follow their design and sizing — though there were, as stated, companion dolls long before their style came along.
  • Fashion Dolls: Dolls intended to be dressed up in various fashionable outfits as play. Generally these dolls have characters in the range of teen to adult, with a plethora of dolls in the late 2010s and 2020s being focused on High School aged characters. The idea is to buy a few dolls and then lots and lots of clothes for them — or buy multiple dolls in various fashions to mix and match among them. Barbie is the most famous line of these dolls, having launched in 1959 and remaining some degree of popular ever since, setting the standard for modern-era fashion dolls. Many doll collectors focus on these since they're considered less childish and fleeting than baby dolls, with more to "do" with such as style hair, change clothes, and customize. Some of the oldest versions of fashion dolls weren't actually aimed at children and were intended to be miniature mannequins and show three-dimensional models of fashions to adults that could then request the dresses to be made for them in their size.
  • Ball-Jointed Dolls: Dolls (of varying sizes) that have ball-and-socket joints in the limbs and bodies, held together internally with strung elastic cord (much like dolls were in the late 19th and early 20th century). Abbreviated to BJD by collectors. The multiple joints allow for varied and more complex poseability. Many of these are designed in East Asian countries and have Animesque features, but Western style dolls may also be ball-jointed. Ball-joint dolls are one of the more expensive style of dolls due to the complex joints, small level manufacturing, and often being made of higher quality resin. Some brands are of PVC or vinyl plastics and may have permanent internal skeletons or permanently connected hinge-style joints.note  Many fashion dolls starting in the 2000s added multiple joints in the limbs and body similar to ball-jointed dolls, though most of the time they're similar to the larger PVC skeleton ones with hinge joints. Ball-joint dolls are also exceptionally customizable, with many dolls being purchased blank, nude, and/or as separate body and head parts; the blank canvas allows the owners to paint and design the look of the doll themselves, making them one of a kind.
  • Figurines and Display Dolls: Dolls that are less for play and more for display. A lot of porcelain dolls fall into this category. This also includes dolls intended for use in dollhouses, which can be played with but are rarely designed to change clothes and are intended to be the residents of the doll house they're made for.

There's also variations such as marionettes (dolls as puppets), bed or boudoir dolls — a fashion of the 1930s — paper dolls (flat dolls with paper clothes to dress up in) anthropomorphic dolls (dolls that are Funny Animals) and many more. Lots of media about dolls — or some that have them as a character's prop — will create the dolls as The Merch.

Compare My Little Pony, which are toy horses, and Teddy Bears, which are their own category. Notably, humanoid figures aimed at boys and/or adults (such as Figma or G.I. Joe) prefer to be called "action figures" or "figurines", lest they end up in the toy equivalent of the Girl-Show Ghetto. Voodoo Dolls are a completely different type of doll altogether. Also not to be confused with the following:

Please Note: Tropes that apply to dolls should be listed on Dolls and Puppets Tropes or Toy Tropes. This is intended to be an index of doll brands and media that focus on dolls or have a prominent doll character. Just having a doll being carried around by someone else (or as a motivation for character actions but the doll not being a character of their own) doesn't count. If you could replace the motivating doll with a lamp, toy truck, or a shoe, it's not doll media.

Media listed here needs to have dolls either be the foundation of the brand or episode, have major characters that are dolls, or the doll aspect needs to be just as prominent as other media that's related to it or has taken it over so that the dolls are more well known than the original media. So Child's Play counts (as the franchise is based on a murderous doll), but not Disney Princess (who, while many dolls have been released, is not a franchise based on dolls).

Media properties that have dolls released as part of The Merch aren't part of this index either, or we could list practically every media ever made.

Doll-Focused Manufacturers:

Outside of the large toy manufacturers Mattel and Hasbro, these brands are known for their various doll-lines:

  • Madame Alexander
  • MGA Entertainment
  • Tonner — released high-end character dolls for multiple franchises, as well as their own lines of Tyler Wentworth, Kitty Collier, Antoinette, and Ellowyne Wilde.
  • VOLKS — manufacturer of high-end ball joint dolls, and arguably the Trope Codifier of the modern day anime-style ball-joint doll.

Doll-Focused Brands and Lines:

Franchises and Media that are focused on or star dolls as characters:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Angelic Layer: A battle anime with dolls as the fighters.
  • Busou Shinki: Stars doll-sized Robot Girls as the main characters.
  • Dolls (1995): A shojo manga of various interdependent shorts that all revolve around a set of living dolls.
  • Frame Arms Girls: Focuses on the dolls of the titular doll line.
  • Rozen Maiden: Focuses on seven magical dolls and their master, who fight in a battle royale called the Alice Game.

    Audio Play 
  • The Dolls of New Albion: The Mad Scientist Annabelle McAlistair develops a method to bring people back to life by sealing their souls into lifeless dolls, and bringing back her first love Jasper who had previously died. After her death, her son Edgar turns it into a business, resulting in hundreds of these dolls being created.

    Brands and Franchises 
  • Betsy McCall, a mascot of the McCall pattern company, was initially released as a promotional paper doll in the 1950s that came in magazines with her outfits based on patterns for girls' clothing. A physical doll was released in the 1950s with patterns to make doll clothes; there was a 2000s revival by the Tonner company.

    Comic Books 
  • Dolltopia: A comic book focused on a doll who wants to be more than one.

    Fan Works 
  • The Secret Life of Dolls is a fan fiction of dolls representing the media characters they're based on and their exasperated owner, Cleolinda.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Air Doll stars an inflatable sex doll that suddenly becomes sentient.
  • Annabelle stars a Creepy Doll possessed by a malevolent spirit.
  • Barbie: The main character, Stereotypical Barbie, lives in a world of living dolls and has to cross over to the human world to find out what's recently wrong with her while her boyfriend, Beach Ken, is Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life.
  • The franchise Child's Play focuses on the evil possessed doll Chucky — who was based on the My Buddy line of dolls.
  • The Christmas Toy has among its main characters Apple the Doll, who is trying to explain to stuffed animal Rugby Tiger that he won't be under the tree a second year.
  • The Doll (2017): A Mongolian horror film about a Creepy Doll who grants wishes with blood sacrifice.
  • M3GAN: The titular M3gan is a doll-like robot designed to be a child's greatest companion and protector. Things go wrong because this is a horror film.
  • Small Soldiers: The Gwendy dolls collection (Barbie knockoffs) of teen girl Christy Fimple are turned into reinforcements by military-themed living action figure Major Chip Hazard and his squad using the A.I. microchip of a dead squad member.

  • The Doll People: Focused on the lives of two dollhouse families and the adventures of the two girl dolls in each family, Annabelle Doll and Tiffany Funcraft.
  • Girls of Many Lands: The line launched with display-style dolls to accompany the books, showing the characters as they appeared on the covers.
  • Hitty, Her First Hundred Years is a fictional memoir of a peg companion doll who was created in the 1800s and follows her through her various adventures and travels.
  • The Lonely Doll: A series of picture books about a doll, with the images consisting of photographs of a doll and her two teddy bear companions.
  • Mary Frances: The second book, The Mary Frances Sewing Book, focuses on teaching young girls to sew by making a wardrobe for a doll — in book, it's for Mary Frances's doll Mary Marie, who is a prominent character. There was even a mail order option for readers to send off to get a physical doll of their own. The 100th anniversary version of the book resized the patterns to fit 18" dolls (as the original book was sized for 16" jointed dolls of the era).
  • Raggedy Ann: Started as a book series, but branched out to physical dolls and is one of the most iconic styles of rag doll.
  • The Story Of Holly And Ivy: The Holly of the title is a Christmas-themed doll who wants to be purchased and loved by a little girl in time for the holiday.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Dollhouse (RPG Maker): The game revolves around the titular Creepy Dollhouse shop, with Marionette Master Antoinette and her living dolls serving as the child-kidnapping antagonists of the game.
  • Poppy Playtime: Set in an abandoned toy facility, the titular character is a childlike technologically sophisticated doll named Poppy Playtime.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Holly Hobbie and Friends started out as a greeting card character, but was popularized as a series of rag dolls in the 1970s.
  • Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, a 1940 short animated film, tells the story of how two characters came to be. Notably this one deviates from most depictions by making Ann and Andy have a romantic relationship instead of being brother and sister.
  • Rainbow Brite: Dolls were a heavy part of the brand marketing in the 1980s and have been rereleased over the decades where the animation hasn't.
  • The Raggy Dolls focuses on imperfect dolls tossed out at a toy factory who have come to life and have adventures together.
  • Strawberry Shortcake: From early on as a media, the line released dolls based on the characters during most versions, with the first ones being in the 1980s.