A troll doll, also known as a Dam doll, is a type of plastic doll with furry hair depicting a troll. They were originally created in 1959 by Danish woodcutter Thomas Dam. They became one of the United States’ biggest toy fads in the early 1960s. They became fads again in brief periods from the 1970s through the 1990s and were copied by several manufacturers under different names. During the 1990s several video games and a video show based on troll dolls were created. In 2003 the Dam company restored their United States copyrights, stopping unlicensed production. In 2005 the brand was modernized under the name Trollz, but it failed in the marketplace.
Troll dolls were originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam. Dam could not afford a Christmas gift for his young daughter Lila and carved the doll from his imagination. When other children in the Danish town of Gjøl saw the troll doll, they wanted one as well. Dam’s company Dam Things began producing the dolls in plastic under the nameGood Luck Trolls. The dolls became popular in several European countries during the early 1960s, shortly before they were introduced in the United States. They became one of the United States’ biggest toy fads from the autumn of 1963 through 1965. 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 North American shelves.
The Dam company never stopped making the trolls in Europe, where they were always a popular item. In the late 1980s the Dam trolls started making another come back in North America. The E.F.S. Marketing Associates, Inc (located in Farmingdale, New York) was one of the few corporations which was granted permission to import and market the Thomas Dam trolls for re-sale in the United States. These Dam Trolls were marketed under the trade name of Norfin (R) Trolls, with the Adopt A Norfin Troll logo on the tags.
During the period of popularity in the early-mid 1990s, several attempts were made to market the troll doll concept to young boys. This included action figure lines such as The Original Battle Trolls from Hasbro, the Stone Protectorsfranchise, 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.
There was also a 30 minute DiC cartoon special in 1992 called Magical Super Trolls written which featured an evil troll named Craven.
A platform video game, simply titled Trolls, was released in 1993 for Amiga, DOS and C64. Other games were released for the NES and SNES (Super Troll Islands). This fad capitalization also saw a 1994 re-release of the gameDudes with Attitude simply modified into Trolls on Treasure Island.
The 1990s troll doll fad also included The Trollies Radio Show, which was a direct-to-video musical with trolls singing hits, such as “Kokomo,” “Woolly Bully,” and “Doo Wah Diddy,” as well as some original songs.
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. A division of Uneeda, a company that made millions of dollars various times by manufacturing troll dolls in the U.S., challenged the restoration of that copyright in court. They lost when the court ruled that the Dam Company was the sole owner.
In 2003, Toy Industry Association named troll dolls to its Century of Toys List, a roll call commemorating the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century
In 2005, the troll brand was licensed to DIC Entertainment and modernized in an animated series called Trollz. It stars five trolls who live in a world of ogres, gnomes, dragons, and a bit of magic, but who have the same problems as teens everywhere: boyfriends, pimples, clothes, money, school, and figuring out what it means to grow Trollish. Products like fashion dolls and fashion accessories were also sold under the Trollz name. The new Trollz campaign made no impact in the aisles of toy stores and on USA’s children. It was soon dropped. In 2007, the Danish company filed a lawsuit against DIC Entertainment claiming that the company financially misrepresented its ability to create and market a modern troll doll toy campaign and destroyed the image and goodwill of the doll.
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.
On April 11, 2013, DreamWorks Animation announced that it has acquired the intellectual property for the Trolls franchise from the Dam Family and Dam Things. DreamWorks Animation, which has “big plans for the franchise,” has become the exclusive worldwide licensor of the merchandise rights, except for Scandinavia, where Dam Things remains the licensor.