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How Polly Pocket became a toy sensation

How ’90s Polly Pocket Became a Toy Sensation

Updated September 21, 2022

6 min read

TLDR

Pa-la-la-la Polly! Every girl growing up in the 90s and early 2000s will remember the iconic jingle for Polly Pocket, the micro-doll sensation you could take anywhere. This small doll made big waves and is still strong today! Let’s look back at the history behind this iconic toy line and how the Polly Pocket brand has evolved over the years!

In case you needed a refresher, Polly Pockets were mini dollhouses that came in small compact cases. The whole point was that the entire playset could fit in your pocket, so you could easily take it to school, on holiday, or anywhere you wanted. Standing less than an inch tall, Polly Pocket dolls came packaged with various play scenarios – like dollhouses, beaches, amusement parks, pet stores, you name it.

Polly Pocket sets have undergone quite a few transformations since their inception. For a while, Polly Pocket was transformed from a miniature playset into more of a fashion doll akin to Mattel’s other blonde icon, Barbie. However, in 2018 the original Polly Pocket toy made a comeback in all her miniature glory. 

Read on as we open up and explore the history and evolution of the original Polly Pocket toys from the 90s!

Original Polly Pocket from 1989
“What is this? A café for ants!?”

When did Polly Pocket come out?

The original Polly Pocket toys appeared in stores in 1989, but a man named Chris Wiggs invented the miniature dollhouse six years prior. Chris wanted to make a new toy for his daughter Kate, so he crafted a tiny dollhouse inside an old makeup powder compact. Kate adored the miniature toy, and Chris realized he was onto something special.

Bluebird Toys, an England-based toy company, immediately saw the toy’s potential and licensed the concept (Bluebird also produced the popular Mighty Max toys, which were essentially Polly Pocket reimagined for boys). 

The original Polly Pocket toys hit the shelves in 1989, featuring plastic cases in different shapes like a heart, shell, or diamond. Each case opened up to reveal a hidden, dazzling interior space with movable parts. The miniature dolls came with a circular base that matched into various holes in the case’s interior, allowing them to stand up in different areas of the dollhouse.

In the early 1990s, toy powerhouse Mattel negotiated a US distribution agreement with Bluebird Toys. By 1994, Polly Pocket was one of the best-selling toys for girls between three and eight. Bluebird would create more than 350 distinct Polly Pocket sets throughout the 90s, each incorporating a new fantasy world equipped with tiny mechanisms, moving parts, and secret doors for little Polly and her various friends. 

However, by 1997 Polly Pocket sales had started to wane. Eager to salvage the brand, Mattel bought out Bluebird Toys in 1998 and redesigned the entire Polly Pocket line.


Polly Pocket had several redesigns
Polly really underwent a growth spurt going into the new millennium!

Mattel redesigns the original Polly Pocket toys

Depending on your age in the 90s, you might remember Polly looking slightly different. Polly Pocket 90s sets got a makeover in 1998. The new dolls were taller and had a Barbie-ish appearance (Polly now had a ponytail rather than a bob). As the dolls got bigger, so did the playsets.

The following year, Mattel introduced “Fashion Polly.” Fashion Polly dolls stood just under four inches tall and featured unique “Polly Stretch” garments. Mattel also added male dolls to the gang of girls. The rubbery, interchangeable clothes proved to be a hit, and Mattel still produces new Polly Pocket sets starring these stretchy garments.

The last of the smaller Polly Pocket dolls disappeared by 2002. Two years later, Mattel created another spinoff of Polly Pocket called “Quik Clik” where magnetic plastic clothes would snap to the doll. However, Mattel quickly shut this line down after children swallowed loose magnetic parts (yikes). As a result, 4.4 million of these Polly Pocket sets had to be recalled.

Mattel attempted to reinvigorate the brand with a relaunch in 2010. However, it failed to win over fans, and in 2012, Polly Pockets were discontinued in the US.

However, the toy did continue to sell in Europe and South America for a few more years. Eventually, Brazil was the only country where you could still buy Polly Pocket toys.


Polly Pocket's comeback in 2018
It took a while, but in 2018 Mattell finally took Polly back to her miniature roots.

Polly Pocket makes her comeback!

For years, Polly Pocket fans had nothing to look forward to, and it seemed the glory days of everyone’s favorite miniature doll were over. However, in 2018, just shy of the Polly Pocket 30th anniversary, Mattel announced the original 1990s Polly Pocket sets were making a comeback!

The new Polly Pocket dolls (still available for purchase today) are a little bigger than the original from the 90s and are made from a flexible plastic that can stick to the surface of the playset. This was the first time Polly Pocket had been produced in her original form since 1997, and fans everywhere celebrated with glee.


Popular Polly Pocket sets
There were so many fun and unique Polly Pocket sets for kids to collect.

The most popular Polly Pockets

The fun, portable, and imaginative Polly Pockets delighted children throughout the 90s. While there were hundreds of various sets and scenarios to play with, many 90s kids have especially fond memories of the toys featured prominently on Polly Pocket TV commercials. Also, the sets that had an option to add water, like the 1995 Splash n’ Slide Water Park, were among the best sellers.

Here’s a commercial from a 1994 launch featuring a collection called Fairy Fun to jog your memory:

In 1995, another popular collection of Polly Pocket sets was released called Pollyville. Described as the “Polly Pocket town you’ve been wishing for”, Pollyville had everything young girls believed a functioning town would need, including a fast food restaurant, bridal store, and treehouse clubhouse. 

Check out the commercial:


Polly Pocket value and worth
With all the hype around Polly’s comeback, your vintage Polly Pocket set could be worth more than you think!

Are Polly Pockets from the 90s worth anything?

Yes! Because of how different the original 90s Polly Pockets from Bluebird Toys are from later iterations by Mattel, they are now coveted collector’s items. The 2018 reboot of the toy started a nostalgia frenzy that raised the value of these older playsets and accessories. Still, even before then, vintage Polly Pocket sets were selling for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on sites like eBay.

Depending on the condition and year of your set, it could be worth anywhere from $50 to $800. Because individual pieces and accessories in these sets were so small and easy to lose, incomplete sets can still sell for a decent amount. 

Sets that are still sealed with all of their accessories are extremely rare and are worth the most. For example, a sealed Pollyville set (including the play mat and all the figures) has sold for $1000 online.


Polly Pocket media film strip
Polly and her friends get up to all kinds of hijinks across a variety of movies, web series, and TV shows.

Polly Pocket movies and media

In the early-to-mid 2000s, Polly Pocket’s success guaranteed her eventual debut on the big screen. Developed by Universal Studios, the Polly Pocket filmography includes two short films, Polly Pocket: Lunar Eclipse (2003) and Polly Pocket 2: Cool at the Pocket Plaza (2005) as well as one feature-length film, PollyWorld (2006). These early films established the ‘Pollyverse,’ as it were, introducing characters who would reappear in later media.

Like every other big-selling toy, Polly Pocket also needed her own tie-in TV show. In 2010 Polly got her own 2D flash animated web series featuring the titular character and her group of friends from the movies, including a new boy character. The show was well-received, and in 2013 the second web series would make the leap to 3D animation.

You can even watch an hour of the full-length episodes from the official Polly Pocket YouTube channel:

Later, to tie in with the 2018 relaunch, Polly Pocket returned in a new 2D-animated series. Unlike the previous movies and shows, this new series actually acknowledges the concept of the toy, with Polly having a magical locket that allows her and her friends to shrink down to a tiny size. This essentially gave Polly Pocket a hidden superpower, helping make the show’s storytelling a little more interesting.

Need more Polly? Since 2020, the Polly Pocket YouTube channel has released several animated shorts where Polly and her friends go on adventures that interact with the various Polly Pocket sets being released. Some of the earlier ones are adorably low-tech, with the actual figurines being manipulated with transparent sticks, imitating how kids might bring the toy to life.


New Polly Pocket movie
Soon Polly fans will be able to see their favorite toy brought to life in a live-action film!

A new Polly Pocket movie is in the works!

Polly Pocket is getting ready for her return to the big screen. Golden Globe winner Lena Dunham, the creator, director, and star behind the sharp HBO hit “Girls,” brings the children’s toy to life in a new live-action Mattel and MGM movie crossover. “Emily In Paris” star, Lily Collins, is set to star and produce. The film will concentrate on a young girl and a pocket-sized woman who form a friendship.

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90s Toys mascot lying on the floor reading some facts for peeps asked!

Peeps Ask!

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