MARCH 14, 2003
Chicago Sun Times
Fairy tales spring to life with Brass Key, Inc.'s Disney Princess doll collection. Introduced last year, the company has added Ariel, Jasmine and Tinker Bell to its 2003 line of licensed Disney products, which is a huge departure from the company's original offering of brass beds.
The Family-owned, Seattle Wash. Based company was started in the 1980's by Bill and Margaret Suiter, who established a successful furniture empire. The company entered the world of dolls in the early '90's when second generation Suiter siblings (Judy Mullins, COO, and Mary Gustaff, CEO) decided to spread their wings-purely by accident. It was on a visit to one of their brass bed vendors, who shared a connected office space with a doll studio, that the idea was triggered.
"This room was filled with beautiful dolls," Mullins recalls.
Transfixed by the creations, it wasn't long before Brass Key entered the doll business. The company's first lot of dolls were carried in the Nordstrom catalog. Target eventually began carrying the line, and by the late '90s, Brass Key Inc. established itself as a major contender in the industry.
Mullins says that the beauty of the dolls is the selling point. That might be true, but the price is also right. Brass Key's porcelain dolls with glass eyes range from $24.99 to $29.99.
"We want to bring affordable collectibles to the collector," she said.
Brass Key searches worldwide for fabrics that are replicated for use in costuming the dolls. During production, Brass Key representatives live at the overseas factories to ensure that the product lives up to the company's standard of excellence.
It was that dedication and passion for creating beautiful, quality products that led to a licensing agreement with Disney. Known for being very select in choosing licensees, Disney's partnership with the small family business might come as a surprise to some. The elaborate costuming of the Russian doll from the Orient Express line is what won over Disney officials.
"The Russian doll was so exquisite and detailed that when presented as a representation of our work to Disney officials it was believe that the doll carried a price tag of several hundreds of dollars rather than its $29.99 price," said Mullins.
Brass Key was given the green light and in 2002 launched the first series of Princess dolls. The 2003 collection includes Ariel, Jasmine and Tinker Bell.
Tinker Bell, while not a Disney princess, is every bit as magical. The fairy, who served as Peter Pan's beacon of light to Never Never Land, wears a green dress adorned with beads with a purple and green lily flower on its skirt and an under layer of crinoline. The back of the dress is embellished with beads and a tulle bow. Tinker Bell's upswept blond hair is adorned with a flower matching her dress. She carries her magic wand and is complete with iridescent wings and green slippers.
Ariel from "The Little Mermaid," with her flowing cascade of red hair, wears the turquoise blue mermaid outfit featured in the movie. The costumer has an iridescent fins-shaped tail and hand-beaded straps.
Jasmine, princess of Agrabar in Disney's "Aladdin," is decked out harem threads. The two-piece, teal-colored garment sparkles with golden accents as does Jasmine's faux jewels, which were replicated with precision from the movie.
The Princess dolls are 16 inches and come with a hinged box that houses a symbolic icon from the movie. The dolls each retail for $29.99.
In August, Brass Key will introduce its Disney Porcelain Village Holiday Collection. The lighted houses set will include Pooh's Hundred Acre Woods, Snow White's Cottage, Cinderella's castle and Mickey's Toy Shop. Each set comes with a building and two figures. Price range is $25-$30.