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Troll dolls, originally known as Leprocauns and also known as Dam dolls, Gonks, Wishniks, Treasure Trolls, and Norfins, became one of America's biggest toy fads beginning in the autumn of 1963, and lasting throughout 1965. With their brightly colored hair and cute faces, they were featured in both Life Magazine and Time magazine in articles which commented on the "good luck" they would bring to their owners.
Trolls became fads again in brief periods throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, with as many as ten different manufacturers (such as Russ Berrie, Jakks Pacific, Applause, Hasbro, Mattel, Nyform, Trollkins and Ace Novelty) creating them.
Originally created in 1949 by Danish woodcutter Thomas Dam, the dolls became popular in several European countries during the early 1960s, shortly before they were introduced in the United States.
At that time Dam's family was very poor and the things that he carved in wood were their only income. After making big dolls for fun fairs for a period of time all the members of the small family started making Trolls that were smaller. Everything was handmade. It was hard work, but sales went well and it made the family's living. Soon the little back building became too small, and the Dam family had to build a factory. The sales grew steadily in the 60's and thousands of Trolls travelled into the big world.
The originals, also called "Dam Dolls", were of the highest quality, featuring sheep wool hair and glass eyes. Their sudden popularity, along with an error in the copyright notice of Thomas Dam's original product, resulted in cheaper imitations and knock-offs which flooded the American and North American shelves.
These imitations, also known as Uneeda's Wishnik Trolls, Treasure Trolls, Gonks, Norfins, and other trade names, commonly shared the signature tall hair and shiny navel gem. It was not until 2003 that a Congressional law allowed the Dam family of Denmark to restore their original U.S. copyright and become the only official manufacturer once again.
Many people collect trolls; the originals maintain the highest value. Some collectors have thousands of troll dolls, ranging in size from miniature gumball machine prizes and pencil toppers to dolls over one foot tall.
The fan base of trolls has been acknowledged and prominently featured on the TV sitcom The Drew Carey Show, in which one of the characters, Drew's nemesis Mimi, collects them and keeps them on her desk at work. Another troll lover is Joy Miller from the movie The Beautician and the Beast; she is a beautician who is interested in making new hair styles for her trolls. A troll doll is also featured in the Toy Story movies but neither talks nor plays a significant role because of questions at the time regarding the doll's "public domain" status, which would eventually return ownership by the Dam family. The trolls are also seen in the movies The Borrowers, Tank Girl, Whore, 54, Over the Hedge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Snow Day, TV series Gomer Pyle, USMC, Living Single, The Nanny, Step by Step, 7th Heaven, The Treehouse Trolls, The Simpsons (episodes "Flaming Moe's," "Bart's Girlfriend," and "I Am Furious Yellow"), and the album The Bathroom Wall by Jimmy Fallon.
1990'S AND BEYOND
During the doll's period of popularity in the early-mid 1990s, several attempts were made to market the concept to young boys. This included action figure lines such as the Troll Warriors, Battle Trolls, Stone Protectors (which also had a brief animated series), and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trolls. The popular Mighty Max line also had a series named Hairy Heads, also known as Dread Heads. Success at these endeavors was marginal at best. Treasure Trolls were also marketed through other merchandise like T-shirts and even a gummy candy. A platform computer game was released in 1993 on Amiga and PC. Other games were released for the NES and SNES. This fad capitalization even saw a re-release of Dudes with Attitude simply modified into Trolls from Treasure Island.
In 2005, trolls were modernized in an animated series called Trollz, which stars five trolls who live in a world of ogres, gnomes, dragons, and a bit of magic, but who have the same problems to deal as teens everywhere: boyfriends, pimples, clothes, money, school, and figuring out what it means to grow Trollish. In other words, trolls are long haired dolls.