MCA Creations

Slogan: 
Bringing history to life -- through play.
Years
From: 
2005
Still in Business?: 
No
To: 
2008
Address: 
Harrow,
United Kingdom
Sales channels: 
Direct to customer - website
About the company: 

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

"Bringing history to life -- through play." That is the tag line for a line of dolls called A British Child (ABC). They are the brainchild of Mitta Shah, a mother and business woman who lives outside of London. Back in 2001, Mitta was concerned that the main thing her six-year-old daughter was learning about history in school was that history is boring. She tried several hands-on ways of bringing history alive for her daughter, and then hit upon the idea of using dolls and historical fiction to help her daughter want to imagine herself in those times. "I thought the idea was brilliant!", Mitta said during a phone interview, laughing at herself. She found out later that she was not the first one to come up with the idea, but she was the first to apply it to the history of Great Britain.

It took a while for Mitta to find the right people to help her turn her vision into reality. She acknowledges that she has no background in publishing or doll making. When asked, she replied, "Any business training? None. I run a small domestic cleaning business. ABC was an idea I had as a Mum of a beautiful girl." (Mitta's daughter, Mira, is central to the business, which explains why her initials are the basis for the company name: MCA Creations Limited.) Then she adds, "I was truly blessed to find the team that I did."

Mitta used the Writer's Guild to locate Adam Pepper, the author who she decided was the best choice to turn her story ideas into engaging, historically accurate books. The book illustrator, Claire Carr, was also found through a professional association and provided classic illustrations for the stories.

For costume design, Mitta turned to Theresa Thompson, a long-time professional doll costumer who specializes in historical costuming. For the outfits the dolls come in, Theresa designed everyday outfits: a blue plaid dress and pinafore for Emma-Louise and a fairly simple red dress with white apron and cap for Jane. It is always a challenge to design (roughly) historically accurate clothing for a doll that is easy for a child to put on the doll, of durable materials and capable of being manufactured at a reasonable price.

Mitta gives the lion share of the credit for making the dolls become a reality to her contact at the Hong Kong factory, whom she refers to as "Mum". "She took me under her wing and made things happen that wouldn't normally be possible for such a small customer." Since a key to the idea was a doll who really looked like a little girl, Mitta engaged an artist to do sketches. Then, a sculptor at the factory in Hong Kong created the doll's face from the drawings. Mitta had very specific instructions for both of them: a natural smile, no baby fat in the cheeks ("like a real nine-year old girl, for goodness sake!"), soft, realistic eyelashes. These aren't the big-eyed, big-lipped, teen-fashion dolls that are being pushed on ever-younger girls by the big manufacturers. These are classic play dolls with soft, huggable, cloth bodies and jointed, vinyl limbs and head. The hair is long and straight for easy styling and the eyes open and close. They are not the quality of American Girl dolls but they are reasonable.

"I wanted the girls to love the dolls and, because of that, they'd want to find out more about them, not even realizing that they are picking up facts about history as they read and played." As the website states more formally in the For Parents section: "The stories are linked to dolls because, from observation and research, a child’s imagination is more easy stimulated if information is related to action. Combining playing with reading (whether by the child, or out-loud, by the parent) not only implants facts, but also creates a desire to learn more." And Mitta had specific things she wanted the child to learn: "That, regardless of whether they were rich or poor, girls' lives were not always easy during other eras. Still, they shared the same kinds of problems and joys with girls today."

Mitta showed Emma-Louise at the Toy Fairs in London in 2006 and the dolls were available in fine British toy stores. They were available to order directly from the company website and the company did ship outside the British Isles.

Customers immediately began asking for more dolls from other eras and from other parts of the former British Empire. But sadly, the company went out of business before it had the chance.

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