January 24th, 2009
10:05 AM ET
7 months ago

Michelle Obama: 'Inappropriate' to use daughters to sell dolls

Ty, the maker of Beanie Babies, is introducing two new Ty Girlz dolls named Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha.
Ty, the maker of Beanie Babies, is introducing two new Ty Girlz dolls named Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – They’ve been in the White House less than a week, but the first daughters have already been co-opted by marketers — and Michelle Obama isn’t happy about it.

Ty, the toy company responsible for the popular Beanie Babies dolls, is now marketing “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia” dolls.

The first lady’s office said Friday Ty was out of line. “We feel it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes,” said a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama in a statement.

A Ty representative told CNN the company generally avoids naming dolls for “any particular living individual,” because doing so might interfere with how kids use their imaginations to play with them. But they wouldn’t reveal the source of their inspiration for the new figures, telling CNN that information relating to the development of the company’s merchandise - including how it comes up with products, product names, and trademarks – is proprietary.

Related video: First lady miffed by 'Malia,' 'Sasha' dolls

–CNN White House Producer Becky Brittain contributed to this report.


Filed under: Michelle Obama • Obama family • Popular Posts
soundoff (966 Responses)
  1. Joyce in Indiana

    I would have to say that this is different than the situation with Sarah Palin's children. The Obama girls have not been "paraded around", they have been present. The Palin family was set up by their mother as the example of what a good Christian family should be like. A private company is making money off of these dolls. The public media made money off of both the Obama and Palin children, not just the Palins.

    And by the way, Malia and Sasha are not the unwed teenage daughter of a "Christian" conservative who doesn't want children to learn about sex and birth control in school and doesn't want safe and legal abortion available, even for victims of rape and incest. The Obama girls are seven and ten years old. Sarah Palin's younger children were NOT attacked.

    January 23, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. Jamie

    I think a few people are missing the point. Rather it be apart of the territory or not or invasion of privacy or everyone wanting a piece of the action, they are children. And bottom line, that should be a boundary and common sense should tell anyone that. It has nothing to do with liking or disliking the first family and everything to do with the toy company making a bad decision. At that a bad decision concerning a child. People being greedy and always trying to make a quick dollar is why the economy is up in smoke. Look at it from that woman's/mother's perspective and ask yourself how you would feel. And then and only then tell someone to suck it up.

    January 23, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  3. Patti in Dallas

    I completely agree with Michelle Obama regarding Ty's use of her children in this way.

    What I think is MOST salacious – & laughable in its transparency – in all of this is the Ty company's official line on "how it comes up with the dolls' names" ... THAT'S proprietary. LOL. They must really believe that their target customer is BEYOND stupid. If you buy one of these dolls, then you must be just that stupid...or simply that indifferent.

    "Information relating to the development of the company’s merchandise — including how it comes up with products, product names, and trademarks – is proprietary." Yeah riiiiight. Some bozo marketing manager said, "let's make dolls that look like the Obama girls...and let's use their names!!" Ty clearly did not pull this idea out of a dark secret place that just "happened" to match the First Family exactly when Obama takes his oath. Riiiight.

    January 23, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. Juan

    I am coming up with a new set of stuffed animals called wonderful bean babes. I won't reveal the source of my inspiration for the new figures, and I am telling CNN that information relating to the development of the merchandise — including how I come up with products, product names, and trademarks – is proprietary.

    January 23, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  5. Gordon Shumway

    Welcome to the reality of free enterprise, Michelle. Just when you think you've got all the power in the world, and look what happens. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, we'll probably slowly see the free enterprise disappearing from our shores now that we've become a socialist democracy. What you sow, you shall also reap....................

    January 23, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  6. liz

    Kids are off limits, end of story. If the media isn't allowed to talk about the Bush twins drunk driving and not being punished, then they sure as hell do not get to profit off obvious representations of two small children without permission.

    January 23, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  7. Nobama Noway

    I bet if MO was getting a cut of the pie, she would talk a different talk. Just shut up now MO, you wanted the fame and fortune you got it. This is only the beginning.
    One suggestion, you had better crawl in a hole and stay there otherwise it seems that when you open your mouth you spew hate.

    January 23, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  8. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    Ty Warner can waffle all his wants about how the names were chosen, but it's pretty obvious he hoped to cash in on the first family's children. Perhaps he's hoping to offset some of the losses on his big resort hotel purchases that are tanking right now because of the drops in tourism.
    They need to re-name these dolls.... but then the ones that are already out there will become huge collector items. So folks if you want one, buy it now because some day it will be worth some big bucks when the economy rights itself.

    BTW to Jan– the dolls are NOT ugly. They're cute as can be. My little blonde headed munchkins would love them.

    January 23, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  9. Leilani

    Tacky! The dolls don't even look like them!

    The toy company had better get a clue and leave those little girls alone.

    January 23, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  10. Matt

    I just placed an order for 10,000 units.

    January 23, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  11. Butterfly

    Some of you people are down right scary. I wonder how would you feel if these girls were your daughters and grandchildren. Hum... Maybe one day you'll get the opportunity to find out.

    January 23, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  12. Kathy Chico Ca.

    They should be ashamed (TY) I am a doll collector, but i will NOT be adding these dolls to my collection!

    January 23, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  13. pongo

    What the difference of selling these dolls and selling Obama plates, tennis shoes, shirts and so on. Michelle probably not getting a kick back, so she is upset. Grow up!!

    January 23, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  14. Jim

    Poor Barbie – she must have been just as upset with Mattel!!!

    I guess we should collect all the new dolls and burn them. That would show TY how we really feel!

    January 23, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  15. Tired of BS

    Anyone with an ounce of sense knows this is plain old exploitation of trying to make a buck. Things like this, the stupid "first family" coins, "commemorative" 9/11 coins and on and on. This sort of stuff sickens me when companies use and abuse to make money. We all know Ty is not clever enough to come up with such names on their own. And when asked where the name are from, their answer decoded for everyone is "We, Ty toys plead the 5th.." This has already gotten enough bad press and opinion to soil this lackluster attempt and I'm glad. These dolls are neither historic, commemorative, nor appropriate.

    January 23, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  16. respectprivacyof kids

    The Ty company just did it to themselves. i will organize a BOYCOTT of their dolls!

    January 23, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  17. desi

    I will never again purchase Ty Coroporation products, They should be ashamed. I hope their execs aren't planning on an invitation to the White House.

    January 23, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  18. John

    Ya know, its not the use of the names that;s infuriating, it's another coporation telling lies. For them to say it's not the Obama kids is a lie and they know it. Lying seems to be so easy for corporations. Well TY, looks like you are in for a boycott. Lie your way out of that one.

    January 23, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  19. Larry

    There is a possible lawsuit for misappropriation of the daughters' name and/or likeness for a commercial purpose, which appears sufficient for monetary damages and/or an injunction against the company.

    January 23, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  20. desi

    I will never again purchase Ty Corporation products, They should be ashamed. I hope their execs aren't planning on an invitation to the White House.

    January 23, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. Katherine Kirkland

    The Ty Company has just ensured that none of my nieces and/or grand nieces will ever get another Beanie Baby or Ty doll. I'm not sure what is worse: the blatant exploitation of the Obama sisters or their lame excuse that it is simply coincidence. I know cow patties when I see them.

    January 23, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  22. Sue

    How dumb does Ty think we are?

    Of course these dolls are supposed to represent the Obama girls, or at least make money off of their popularity. 'Sasha' might be sort of a common name but I had never heard 'Malia' until the Obamas came along. And the dolls just happen to be black! What an astonishing coincidence! They might not be officially based on the girls, but the little kids snapping them up won't know that.

    Pretty sneaky.

    January 23, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  23. Matt

    Yes the presidents kids can only be exploited on the campaign trail to get votes and allow the canidate to be percieved as a family man.

    Michelle Obama needs a reality check. They spent two years promoting themselves and trying to be the new ideal American family. Now that people bought into it and kids might want to emulate their more famous peers that is now wrong?

    Two years ago when Barack said to Michelle he was thinking of running for president and did she have any issues against doing so. The fear that someone may use their family and image to sell a product should have been addressed then. Now is way too late. You made the bed now sleep in it.

    Their names are not Trademarkable nor unique to only them. So it is fair game for anyone to use them. Will they also complain if people start to name their babies Sasha and Malia?

    January 23, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  24. sunoverla

    the obamas market their kids everyday on the campaign trail. And were more than happy to let everyone know that their kids clothes on inauguaration day for made by J. Crew.

    Now isn't J. Crew marketing that the kids wore their clothes.

    Hmmm?

    Get over it Michelle!!

    January 23, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. German,Irish American

    For all you Palin haters and liars- The chickens have come hooome to roost.

    January 23, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
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