American Girl, Doll Collecting
Comments 3

Tenney: A Kansas City Report

“Oh God,” I moaned while holding my stomach, “I think I’m going to die.”

“I never want to see food again,” said my husband, Forehead.  “I hate myself.”

We were lying flat on our backs on a bed in an IKEA room display.  After my visit to American Girl we’d gone to Jack Stacks for lunch, as is our custom for Kansas City day trips, and we’d both eaten way too much of the best barbeque Kansas City had to offer (also as is our custom).  I’d wanted to stop by IKEA to get some new linens to redecorate our guest bedroom, but the drowsiness was already setting in, we were both waddling as we walked into the store as a result of our gluttony and when we saw that particular display apartment with furniture (“only 680 square feet!”) we thought, “surely we will feel better if we lie down for a little bit.”  Let things redistribute.  Rest and digest.  But this was a tragic error because once we’d laid down, we didn’t want to get back up.  As a result, other shoppers were giving us odd looks.

I turned my head to the side to look at my husband.  “We better move,” I mumbled to Forehead.  “We’re embarrassing ourselves.”

“Who cares?  We’re from out of state.  Nobody knows us.  We’ll never see these people again.”  A pause.  “Uh oh.  I have to poop.  What are the odds that toilet over there in that tiny bathroom is real?”

“FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T POOP IN A DISPLAY TOILET,” I squawked, and after I’d rolled him to the men’s room we were able to carry on with our plans for the day.

We had arrived at American Girl earlier that Saturday at around noon and was the first stop we made as soon as we got to Kansas City.  The store was surprisingly not nearly as packed as I thought it would be.  They had a little stage set up outside of the store with a young woman (late teens?) dressed up like Tenney and singing pop tunes with a guitar.  I think they also had crafts and things like that earlier in the day, but by the time I got there the tables were empty and the store wasn’t that crowded at all.  By that time of day most of the people I saw in the store were people with their kids who just came in to look and squeal over the new dolls on display.  There wasn’t even a queue at the registers.

I think Tenney is absolutely gorgeous.  But the one who slammed the ball out of the park of this release was definitely Logan.  I watched lots of girls rush straight over to the stage and pick up Logan while saying “look, a boy doll!” or words to that effect.  By the time I got to the store at noon on Saturday there were only six Logans left and the manager had no idea when they were going to get more.  I spoke with an older gentleman who assured me, “oh yes ma’am, Logan has been very popular” and that their store had hit their monthly sales goal for Logan by closing time on the first day of release.  I think we can count on more boy dolls making an appearance.  That boy went fast.  I would be extremely curious to see the numbers–if Tenney and Logan were produced and shipped to the store in equal quantity.
If I had to make a guess how many Tenney I saw on the sales floor I would guess around 30-40, but I’m not sure how many were in the back.  It is obvious that I was not the only one waiting for this release!  (Isn’t finally purchasing a doll you’ve been wanting for such a long time the best feeling ever?)

So: the hands.  I am currently in the car driving through rural Kansas (Forehead is the one behind the wheel–don’t text and drive, folks!), so I can’t do a comparison shot yet but I will once we get home.

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Honestly, I think they are very slight differences, but ones that work.  The index finger on her right hand is ever so slightly crooked for strumming and/or a pick.  That pick is going to be the next Saige’s Ring.  Look how tiny that thing is!  Anyone want to take any guesses on how many seconds before that pick disappears in a target-market home and gets hoovered up by a vacuum…or say, a treacherous dachshund?

I didn’t think to squish her face before I purchased (I got distracted comparing her side curl, which varies wildly between dolls) so jury is still out on that.  The Logan on display had a softer face, and the limbs of both dolls were fine.  Both had removable knickers.

I didn’t see any of the picnic outfit or the hat, and there were very few picnic lunches left.    Spotlight outfit was in great quantity, however.

I inspected the stage.  I’m not sure I’m going to buy it because I don’t think it’s worth that price.  I like the amp, which has a real fabric screen cover, leather like handle, and can play music.  But the plastic floor of the stage is a problem for me, the curtains are a cheap feeling velour that don’t stay back on the rod very well and the back wall has “introducing Tenney” printed on it–so versatility with other dolls is lacking in that regard.  I’m just speaking for myself here–if I’m buying a big piece, it had better be able to work for multiple dolls and preferably a few time periods.

That chair.  It’s so fake and plastic looking I can’t get on board with it.


No.  No.  NO.  Bad AG.  Would it really have been so bad to have a fabric backed chair?

The odds and ends on her desk are a nice touch, but you can easily replicate the snacks from Etsy sellers.  I honestly do not see anything here that can’t be replicated….although I really like those roses.  Quite well done.  But something else that bugged me about the dressing room and stage was that it’s clearly country themed, and yes, I know that’s canon to her story.  But I personally will probably not bring this home because I need to be able to use big pieces for multiple characters or I can’t justify the space.  Having a stage with “INTRODUCING TENNEY” front and center in huge font is a dealbreaker in that regard.  As always however, YMMV.
The “on air” light is a nice detail, and the one in the store stayed lit for roughly fifteen seconds.

All in all I think the stage would be an easy piece to replicate for not a whole lot of money.  I would think with some hardwood flooring that is appropriate to scale (if you know where I can find this please drop me a line) and scrapbook papers I would be able to duplicate the concert hall where Forehead and I were married.

Now, to the piece I was most excited about seeing: the drumkit.

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I was surprised it was as light as it was and plasticky feeling–but take that observation with a grain of salt.  I have dragged band instruments all over my state and around the country for several decades, so I’ve got the real thing referenced in my mind.  I would feel more comfortable with a $45-50 price point for what you get though.  However! The hihat is real metal.  (My guess would be an aluminum but I’m not sure.)

The drumsticks have plastic handles so it’s easy for the dolls to hold.  I am waiting to order the drumkit and banjo until I get a free shipping code, since I don’t pay tax on AG products ordered online since there is no state in my store.  Since I have bought both Logan and Tenney (Logan is being shipped from AG Chicago, I’ll explain why later) I had to put some stuff on the back burner.

I did buy the guitar, figuring that the $5 off would offset the tax on that purchase. I also really liked it.  The fact that it plays music is a fantastic touch.  When I saw it was a Taylor my mind immediately went to the song that became an online sensation: United Breaks Guitars–an excellent lesson on how a company that neglects customers does so at their peril.  It’s actually a pretty catchy tune!  (I don’t think I can write a county song about permapanties so don’t ask.) So yes, her guitar is “from” a real guitar company.  It’s also the most twee looking instrument I’ve ever clapped eyes on; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The color scheme works with the character and, if the epic temper tantrum thrown by a target aged girl in the store when Mom said “no” was any indication, has a lot of target appeal.  The strings on the guitars are real metal wire.  The banjo is also very well done with soft pink rose accents.  An American Girl banjo!  This is right up there with the hot air balloon in the “things I never would have thought AG would make, now shut up and take my money” file.

A more detailed look and photographs of Tenney, the guitar, and the Spotlight Outfit should be posted either tomorrow or Tuesday; this post will specifically be for my time and observations spent in store.

*sigh* all right, time to report on Pantygate.  I picked three dolls at random from all the historicals on display and spot checked eight Truly Me dolls of varying numbers on the floor.  One of them was #55.   All of the dolls were in the old boxes with the circle window for the doll’s face, including Wellie Wishers.  I see why they switched over to the new boxes–it displays the product better on the shelf–but as far as storage goes they are not doing me any favors.  Opening up multiple boxes and sliding the cardboard insert in and out got old fast.  Using these for storage is going to be a massive pain.  However I think we have bigger fish to fry like the redesigned torso and the vinyl issue.  I did not find a single permapanty doll and the vinyl was not squishy.  The staff I talked to did not know when they would be getting the new dolls and I got the impression that they were not excited for this change.  I can’t blame them for that.  They are the ones who are going to be dealing with the brunt of unhappy customers who return dolls because of this mess and listening to the complaints.

Gabriella’s corner was completely deserted.  The rehearsal outfit was in stock though, so if you’ve been looking for it give them a ring and see if they’ll ship it.

Kit’s Mini Golf set was not in stock or on display due to a supply issue–KC simply never got any.

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Now, I like the basic pattern design of this dress for Kit.  If that white bodice had been a coordinating color of the dress and not white, I think it would have been better.  And you completely lose me once we get to the embroidered monogram.  It seems like my colleagues and friends have absolutely everything monogrammed in that style–from folders to planners to vinyl decals on insulated metal tumblers–but come on.  How is that historically accurate?  How does that even look good, or who think that was a good idea?  A monogrammed handkerchief–now that makes sense.  But on the front of her dress smack dab where her navel is?   It’s a shame, because I love those socks.  But this outfit is a swing and a miss for me.


Maryellen’s bathing suit, however, hits all the right notes.  Flamingos and cat’s eye glasses–yes, that is suitable for the 50’s.  I would like to get this outfit as well at some point.

On to Julie’s Bathroom (which, of course, none of the new dolls will be able to use):


Love’s Baby Soft was the first perfume I ever owned that was given to me for Christmas one year.  The nostalgia is high with this particular little accessory, so it gets its own shot. Yes!  This is the attention to detail I want!  Well done, AG.  You may have f***ed up the doll torsos but at least you got the accessories for the bathroom right.  (I will take my victories where I can find them.)

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And we’ve got blue water in the toilet too.  The medicine cabinet opens, and while the color scheme is rather…vibrant, I like it.  I also think that if you really wanted to, you could alter the bathroom with scrapbooking papers and paint the orange bits to be appropriate for multiple time periods, from the 50’s on.  Thumbs up for it being able to fold up.

No one was in the Wellie Wisher corner, but I did get to look at some of their new releases.  The only thing that really bugs me is the plastic crown that goes with the mermaid gown–just looks cheap.  The fabric is thin and very synthetic feeling, but I think it will be popular with the target market.  Once my little nephew (1.5 years) stops putting everything under creation in his mouth, I’ll get my little niece, Hedgehog, a Wellie Wisher of her choice (as long as her mom says yes).  Once that glorious day comes, I will invite Hedgehog to be a guest correspondent here on the Mouse Lair.

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I inspected the Easter offerings.  I will pass on both items.  Friends, I swear that lump of jellybeans looks like a brain.  A very colorful brain, but still a brain.  Although, on second thought, it might mix in well with those OG science accessory sets…

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Personally, I was pretty disappointed in the Easter dress.  Now you have to remember that I am extraordinarily picky about texture, feel and weight of fabrics and I always have been.  But this just looks and feels cheap.  It’s a shame, because the actual flowered print design looks quite nice and very easter-like.  But the teal hem feels like parachute fabric and the belt looks very badly done up close.  Just skip the cheap jewels and leave the belt as is, for crying out loud.

This also caught my eye:


Screened on sequins.  If they were sewed on I might see that, or if it was a real collar in a metallic fabric.  But screened?  For a $34 outfit?  No.

The Easter dress and this outfit here are two examples for why I’m extremely suspicious of buying doll clothes direct from AG nowadays without seeing them in person first.  Cheap trimmings, cheap feeling fabrics, and glued or screened on accents instead of the actual, real thing (collar, pocket, whatever) especially since they are remaining at a premium price point.  Kids (especially the young ones) might not care.  But even before this Pantygate the quality of the clothes and accessories was really starting to bug me.

Yes, I know that the clothes and Pantygate and newly redesigned bodies and the squishy vinyl are more than likely here to stay.  But it’s depressing for me, that a company I have taken great joy in for a long time is gradually losing more and more of my support because I just can’t justify the cost for quality any more.  I won’t wax about how much better things were in the Good Ol’ Days With Saint Pleasant of Real Wood and Metal and Glass, but…it gets me down.

want to be excited about new American Girl products.  I want to buy new clothes, dolls, accessories, and showstopper items.  I want this company to do well, make sound decisions and continue to innovate while maintaining a quality product at a fair price.  And that seems more and more like something that just is going to start happening less and less and I’m disappointed in AG leadership because of it.  When WW came out, I was very optimistic but things came screeching to a halt with Pantygate.

It’s like seeing someone who has been your best friend since Kindergarten continue to make the same bad choices and suffer the same negative consequences over and over again.  You want them to succeed, but at some point you just have to walk away.

There is no great loss without some small gain, however, and in this case it’s a pretty big positive–the rise of Etsy and online websites with independent cottage industries.  That is what will keep me going in enjoying my collection.

Stay tuned for Part II, for a more detailed review of Tenney herself.


  1. Enjoyed your full review and hope your stomach has recovered. Screened on sequins? Wow. I’m with you on the Loves Baby Soft… wasn’t there a Lemon one too? That lone item is one of my favorite ones in the release. Also Julie’s basketball outfit.


  2. I was going to make a post on my blog just like this but I think I’ll pass because you did it for me! I completely agree with everything you say. When I saw that Easter basket all I could think was “cheap, cheap, cheep!”


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