Checking out MINT Museum of Toys’ newest Toys Figurines exhibition

The exhibition consists of 10 collections of classic dolls such as Barbie and G.I Joe.

Harshiyne Maran

Hidden talent: Knowing the lyrics to every High School Musical soundtrack by heart.

Published: 27 May 2022, 6:15 PM

Toy enthusiasts will now have a chance to check out classic toy figurines that sparked generational shifts, such as Barbie and G.I. Joe, at the MINT Museum of Toys’ UNBOX Presents: Toys Figurines exhibition.

The pop-up exhibition is a part of the museum’s UNBOX series, which are seasonally themed exhibitions that spotlight rare and vintage toy collections. This edition of UNBOX showcases 10 collections of various dolls that highlight the socio-cultural issues of the different eras. 

Upon entering the exhibition space, visitors are greeted by an array of dolls lined up against the walls in clear display cases. 

The space is categorised according to a timeline of the different eras: the Pioneers, the Twentieth Century and the Internet Age.


The cases are grouped together by brand, with each brand having a few cases dedicated to it. For example, the front section of the exhibition showcased different collections of Barbies. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/HARSHIYNE MARAN


The exhibition starts off with the pioneer of all dolls, Barbie. The Barbie dolls span across five different cases, with each case housing a lineup of Barbies released during a specific era. 

The Barbie collection encompasses the change that the dolls have sparked in the gender norms and societal expectations of women over the years. 

When Barbie dolls first debuted in the 1950s, it was part of a select number of dolls that had adult-like features. In comparison to many infant dolls, Barbie represented a resistance against the culture of that time – using dolls to prepare girls for motherhood.


The dolls also encompassed fashion trends through its clothing, from the posh fluffy dresses and fur coats of the 80s to the more colourful Y2K fashion of the 90s. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/HARSHIYNE MARAN


As the years progressed, Barbie dolls have evolved with girls and women worldwide and signifies a commitment towards empowering them. 

Be it through Barbie’s bold, in-trend fashion choices or the growing number of careers she has acquired, the doll has always challenged the societal expectations of women in that era. 

Walking further down the line of cases, the classic G.I Joe dolls can be spotted. Fashioned after American military personnel, it is another doll that has majorly challenged gender norms.

Initially launched in 1964, G.I Joe dolls were the first of its kind as boys dolls were largely unheard of back then. Dolls were often just regarded as toys for girls. 

However, with its appeal to the era of military regime, G.I Joe gained popularity quickly amongst the public. Coined as “action figures”, the line-up of G.I Joe dolls showcased include military personnel such as pilots, soldiers and sailors. 


The dolls are also accompanied with add-ons such as rifles and swords.


Apart from the classic dolls like Barbie, the space also features dolls that made their mark in the twentieth century.

Just beside the G.I Joe collection, lies an Asian counterpart of Barbie, Licca-Chan. 

With the success of G.I Joe and Barbie in the American markets, a demand to release similar dolls for the Asian market arose in the twentieth century. 

As such, Licca-Chan came into existence. Dubbed as a ‘Barbie’ for the Japanese, the doll is an 11-year-old elementary school student that embodies the Japanese kawaii (cute) aesthetic through her round eyes and girlish demeanour.


The doll is also of mixed heritage, “born” to a Japanese mother and a French father. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/HARSHIYNE MARAN


Licca-Chan went on to eclipse the popularity of Barbie in Japan. Her girlish spirit was much more palatable for the conservative Japanese society in contrast to provocative Barbie.

Towards the second half of the exhibition space are the dolls that became popularised with the pop culture wave in the internet age. One such collection is the Rainbow High dolls. 

Released in 2020, the doll line revolves around six students studying at an elite high school for visual arts. Each student represents a colour from the rainbow. 

The exhibition also includes Shadow High dolls, another collection that comes under the Rainbow High universe. Opposite to their colourful counterparts, the Shadow High dolls are monochromatic in colour and sport edgier clothing such as leather jackets.  

The collection is unique to this exhibition as it has yet to be released in Singapore, and is only available in stores from June onwards.


The Rainbow High dolls are clad in brightly coloured cheerleading uniforms while the Shadow High dolls provide contrast with their black and white jackets and boots. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/HARSHIYNE MARAN


Both lines’ custom outfits pay homage to designer street fashion and millennial style icons.

Circling back to the original collection at the start, Barbie, an updated collection of Barbie dolls titled Barbie (Project Dawn) is featured at the tail end of the exhibition.  

Receiving criticism for their cookie cutter standard white dolls, Mattel (the company behind Barbie) decided to create a new line of dolls that celebrate diversity.

The line includes Barbies with different heights, body types and skin colours. It even features a Barbie with a prosthetic leg.


The Barbies of the collection have varying features such as skin tones (left) and a curvier figure (middle). It also represents people with physical disabilities as it features Barbies with a prosthetic leg (right). PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/HARSHIYNE MARAN


Those interested can check out The UNBOX Presents: Toy Figurines exhibition from May 28 to Nov 28. Admission costs $15 and tickets can be purchased here.

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