Watch a Charming (and Creepy) 1968 Newsreel About a Doll Factory

Dolls, like clowns, straddle the line between adorable and terrifying. In this video from 1968, you get a bit of both.
Dolls Factory: How Dolls Are Made (1968) | British Pathé
Dolls Factory: How Dolls Are Made (1968) | British Pathé / British Pathé

Dolls, like clowns, exist right at the crossroads of delightful and terrifying. The video above, from the archives of British Pathé, is a perfect illustration of how dolls can straddle the line between adorable and unnerving.

“Doll’s Factory” is a 3-minute documentary from 1968 that takes you inside the Rosebud Mattel toy factory in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England. (Rosebud is the name of the doll being produced.) Watch as the tiny tots go through production, from getting their heads modeled in plasticine all the way to being outfitted in the latest fashions. The short film is charming—and a bit creepy, too.

“Modern dolls are really tiny robots,” exclaims the narrator as groovy music propels the action along. “A tape in the tum gets them talking and a power pack in the back gets them walking. The whole process has a chilling, macabre tinge! It’s almost horrific the way they pop in the doll’s eyes with workaday nonchalance.”

Watching this video might make you wonder: Just why do we find dolls so creepy? Thalia Wheatley, a professor in the psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth University, looked into this, and apparently it boils down to how our brains perceive faces and whether there’s consciousness behind them.

When assessing something that looks like a face, Wheatley told VICE, “You’re basically looking to see whether this person has a mind you can connect with. Is somebody home?” Dolls are creepy because we recognize that they have faces, but we can’t find consciousness under that. “There are these signals that are telling our brain this thing is alive,” Wheatley said. “But we know it’s not alive. And that juxtaposition is really creepy.”

If you want to get even more creeped out after watching this video, check out Thomas Edison’s talking doll, read up on the sale of haunted dolls, and learn about some famous haunted dolls.

A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2024.

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