New York The American Girl of 2009 is a newbie at school, lives in an extended-family household and loves to swim and work on crafts. And she’s learning to stand up to a bully.
She’ll also be the first contemporary American Girl character brought to life in a movie, which previously were centered on girls from other eras.
“Chrissa” is the latest creation of the Mattel-owned American Girl brand that includes dolls, mega stores with restaurants and theaters, books and a monthly magazine. The company offers a new Girl of the Year each January.
While the movies have covered such eras as the Great Depression and colonial times, the annual dolls are always contemporary, created to reflect the always changing interests and lifestyles of tweens, says Shawn Dennis, senior vice president of marketing.
The Chrissa doll has a bouncy medium-brown hairstyle, blue eyes and an overall free-spirit look that reflects her creativity with some patchwork and floral prints. Like those before her, she is a fourth-grader.
On Jan. 5, a full-length DVD of her story “An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong” will debut on HBO and then be available for sale the next day.
The young actress Sammi Hanratty, who has appeared on TV’s “Pushing Daisies” and “The Suite Life of Zac and Cody,” will bring Chrissa to life on screen.
Even though she’s a bit older — an eighth grader! — Sammi sees similarities between her life and Chrissa: they love animals, they’ve both been “the new girl” and they both learn to stand up for themselves and their friends.
She hopes other girls relate to Chrissa and learn from her.
“I think it’s good to get out there and be active, and to be in good groups of friends that you can trust, friends that are good for you,” Sammi says. “And I like to try new things. I was on the swim team in ‘American Girl’ but I had never been on a team before. I love swimming, and I play tennis all the time with my cousins, but now I’d think about being on a team for something.”
Team sports resonate with American Girl tests groups, says Dennis, and so does the bullying theme.
“Bullying isn’t something that was invented this year, but it is something that in some ways has gotten more difficult,” she says. “Giving girls tools and different ways of handling it and a guideline for when it’s bullying or not, when to standup for yourself or your friends or not, is something that’s a part of the American girl’s life.”