Bild-Lilli dolls (Photo: http://www.musee-imaginaire.de)
Bild-Lilli was a sexy cartoon character, created by Reinhard Beuthien, that first appeared in the German Bild newpaper on June 24, 1952. Her persona was that of a country girl who had come to work in a newspaper office in the big city, a curvaceous girl with a quick wit, who wore her blond hair in a high ponytail and favored perilously high heels with her tight skirts and capri pants.
The Bild-Lilli cartoon was such a big hit with readers that it was decided to produce a Lilli novelty doll, aimed at the adult readers rather than children.The task of creating the Lilli doll was given to Max Weissbrodt, of the Hausser/Elastolin company in Neustadt/Coburg, Germany who designed the doll, an 11 1/2" doll, made of plastic (elastoline) coated with paint, with hand-painted painted features, and molded on shoes. A smaller version of Lilli, 7 1/2" tall, could be suspended from the rear view mirror of a car, on a little swing.
Bild-Lilli at the Barbie Museum, Prague
1st Edition BILD-Zeitung, 24 Jun 1952
BILD Zeitung 2nd August 1952, the Bild-Lilli cartoon is seen to the right of the page.
Source:Original Bild-Lilli catalog
Barbie had already become a runaway success in the USA, allegedly unknown to Bild-Lilli's stake holders, by the time Mattel approached them to negotiate a deal. Whatever the circumstances, the outcome was that the owners of Bild-Lilli sold the rights for a relatively small lump sum, even in relation to the money Barbie was generating at the time. Not surprisingly, the settlement was an uneasy one and court cases followed, with even a court case as recently as 4 or 5 years ago.
These days Bild-Lilli has found recognition among serious Barbie collectors, with original Bild-Lilli dolls fetching up to $3,500.00 US or more at auction, easily rivalling the No 1 Barbies.
Hong Kong Lilly
The Bild newspaper now has a new updated Lilly, (now Lilly with a "y"), seen here next to her creator Ully Arndt. (www.ullyarndt.de)
Bild-Lilli Doll seen in Barbie Bazaar Magazine