1981 Sindy Scenesetters

This was an auspicious year for Sindy scenesetters because it was the first year that we see the introduction of Sindy’s classic 3 storey house. Interestingly, Sindy’s slot-together Home (Ref 44571 – see 1979 Scenesetters) was still available but the trade catalogue now noted it as “A low priced starter for every new collector.” Thereby positioning it as the low-cost alternative. This is not unsurprising as the new Sindy House’s RRP (Recommended Retail Price) was £29.99 which would be the equivalent of approximately £117.92 at 2021 prices. It was a ‘big ticket’ item, but it was not the only iconic Scenesetter to be introduced in 1981 as we shall see.

Returning to Sindy’s existing Scenesetters:
Sindy’s bedroom furniture was now described as “A first priority for Sindy collector” and showed the existing bedroom furniture first introduced in 1976. They were the Wardrobe (Ref 44502), her Bed (Ref 44503), Dressing Table (Ref 44505) and the Bedside Table (Ref 44506). The ‘Bedroom Gift Set’ (Ref 44585) consisting of the Wardrobe, Bed and Dressing Table was also still available. Added to the bedroom scene in the trade catalogue was Sindy’s Gown Rail (Ref 44387) which had been introduced the previous year (see 1980 Scenesetters). Tantalisingly, the catalogue scene also showed a white wicker-style bedroom chair with the matching aqua patterned seat cushion, but the catalogue remained silent on this item.

Shown next in the trade catalogue was Sindy’s sunshine yellow bathroom and it was largely the same and still included her Hairdryer (Ref 44524), Washbasin (Ref 44541), Toilet (Ref 44551) and Shower (Ref 44573). This year however Sindy was given a new modern style bath replacing her original rectangular bath which was first issued in 1975. We believe the ‘Bathroom Gift Set’ was updated to include the new bath as it was given a new reference (Ref 44592), although the picture on the box was not immediately updated to show the new bath. It consisted of Sindy’s remodelled Bath, plus the Washbasin and Toilet.

Sindy’s “Luxury” kitchen used previous items and their accessories. They were the Hob Unit (Ref 44547), Sink Unit (Ref 44548), and Wall Oven (Ref 44550) together with her new Washing Machine (Ref 44483) which was introduced in 1980. The ‘Kitchen Gift Set’ (Ref 44587) consisting of the Hob Unit, Sink Unit and Wall Oven was also still available. Sindy’s Magic Cooker (Ref 44481) also introduced in 1980 was still available, and the trade catalogue had now been updated to show the correct orange pots and pans. However, Wall Cupboard (Ref 44546) was neither shown nor referenced any more.

Sindy’s Dining Room still consisted of her elegant white Dining Table (Ref 44582) and China Cabinet (Ref 44583) both of which had been introduced in 1979.

New in for 1981 and helping to complete the job that had begun the previous year to update Sindy’s lounge furniture was the introduction of a new look coffee table set and a re-coloured rocker to complement Sindy’s ‘Regency’ style cream Armchair (Ref 44517) and Settee (Ref 44518).

Sindy’s scenesetters for her outdoor activities remained largely the same as 1980. Her Horse (Ref 44569), and the vinyl Horsebox (Ref 44567) and Stable (Ref 44578) were still shown in the catalogue for 1981. So were her Camper (Ref 44542 – the buggy and tent) in the blue and white stripe livery and her Camping Scene (Ref 44577 – her large orange frame tent and accessories). As noted in the 1980 Scenesetters, we believe the vinyl Horsebox was revised as shown to address some stability issues that were encountered in the first design.

Interestingly, Sindy’s Caravan which was also made of vinyl covered board in 1980 now had a slightly different description and referred to the construction of the caravan as being an “injection moulded and vinyl” caravan. However, it still had the same reference number (Ref 44574) and it looks like a prototype of the Caravan which is shown in the 1982 catalogue which had updated reference. We will therefore show the new caravan in 1982 in keeping with its new reference, although it is mostly likely that the newly designed Caravan became available at some point in 1981.

Sindy’s Garden Furniture (Ref 44386) and Swimming Pool (Ref 44388) which were introduced in 1980 were still available. These items were joined by her new Country Garden described below.

Sindy’s Airport Trolley (Ref 44385) from 1980 still aided her travelling plans, and when she arrived at her destination, her Carrycase (Ref 44563) which opened up into a hotel bedroom was still her instant ‘home from home’.

Sindy’s Scenesetter activity packs from 1980 were still available. They were

  • Horse Care Set (Ref 44394) now shown with yellow brushes
  • Hair Styling Set (Ref 44396) and
  • Spring Cleaning Set (Ref 44397).
Whilst there were not many new scenesetters introduced in 1981, three of them are particularly notable.

The focal point was Sindy’s new greenhouse. It was made of caramel coloured plastic to simulate a wooden frame with clear K-resin sheets to simulate the glass panes. This type of greenhouse is a ‘lean to’ greenhouse; designed to be positioned against a wall or the side of a house. Thus, it is externally decorated on three sides, with the fourth side being blank. The greenhouse had to be assembled. When it was built, adhesive labels simulating wood panels could be stuck to the outside, and three decorative greenhouse interior panels could be stuck to the inside back wall. This realistic greenhouse had a side door with a latch and an opening window vent in the roof. Inside along the window front there was a realistic slatted potting shelf.

Country Garden (Ref 44389)

Sindy’s Country garden was a clever addition to Sindy’s 1980 garden scenesetters. It was partly a scenesetter and partly an introduction to a new hobby i.e. horticulture. The focal point was Sindy’s new greenhouse. It was made of caramel coloured plastic to simulate a wooden frame with clear K-resin sheets to simulate the glass panes. This type of greenhouse is a ‘lean to’ greenhouse; designed to be positioned against a wall or the side of a house. Thus, it is externally decorated on three sides, with the fourth side being blank. The greenhouse had to be assembled. When it was built, adhesive labels simulating wood panels could be stuck to the outside, and three decorative greenhouse interior panels could be stuck to the inside back wall. This realistic greenhouse had a side door with a latch and an opening window vent in the roof. Inside along the window front there was a realistic slatted potting shelf.

Similarly to Sindy’s swimming pool, this scenesetter came with a printed plastic play mat. This one was decorated with a lawn, garden path, paved areas, flowers and flower beds and a pond filled with koi carp. There was also a separate moulded raised flower bed with an integral pond made of plastic and painted to blend with the garden mat. This gave added play value and provided a 3-D effect to garden.

Thoughtfully, four red plastic pegs were provided to keep the garden mat from blowing away when used outdoors. The photo on the right shows one of these for the detail. As you can see it has been clevely shaped to push into soft ground with a long horizontal lug to hold down the playmat.

The set came with some lovely accessories which included some great product crossovers from some well-known British horticultural firms. Shown above from left to right are:

  • A set of gardening tools in red plastic which consisted of a watering can, hand trowel and fork, and a dibber
  • Six Richard Sankey & Son Ltd miniature flowerpots
  • Five packets of Johnsons Seeds packaged especially for Sindy
  • Four Jiffy peat pellets also packaged for Sindy and, 
  • Three yellow seed trays with drilled holes to allow for drainage.
The Country Garden also came with a helpful Wall Chart with gardening hints and instructions. The Wall Chart noted that as the seeds would “not grow for a week or more” (which seems very optimistic!), there was a sheet of cut-out flowers which could be coloured in and used immediately in the pots and trays to provide colour. Felt pens or crayons were recommended.

This was a very carefully designed scenesetter and there is a great Pedigree story behind its creation, this is what its designer Tom Harper told the Museum:

“New designs for product usually came from designers, both in-house and external and of course from Marketing. Sometimes R&D (Research and Development) staff had ideas but with no incentive they were very few and far between, so I approached the R&D Manager and suggested that if some form of incentive was put to the Department, something might come to fruition.

After some time, it was agreed that if an idea from R&D staff was put into production then that person would receive £100, not bad for the late 1970s. Several ideas/concepts were duly forwarded to Marketing, so I decided it might be nice for Sindy to have a greenhouse in her scenesetters. At that time, we had a garden in over half an acre and being a keen gardener, it came naturally for me design a greenhouse and sensible accessories. I put forward my suggestion and it was accepted by the Marketing Department. The design was formulated, and I made the prototype. Everything went well, tooling was made and it went into production. Ken Gadd who was then in charge of tooling and materials selection was apprehensive about the use of our existing HIPS (high impact polystyrene) which we had used for the clear doors on the Magic Cooker (1980 Scenesetters) for the new flat Greenhouse window glass and researched moulding materials available and he selected K-resin. It was a fairly new material, but it seemed to work really well. I knew that some of the accessories like the little pots and seeds (except for packaging) were already available so this kept tooling and other costs down.

As it happened this was the only product that I know of which was ever put into production with this incentive and quite soon after that the incentive was dropped. I did see one for sale some little time ago, as always I could have got hold of one when at Pedigree but I never did, shame.”

Thank you Tom for this lovely Scenesetter.

Rocker (Ref 44554 - updated)

Sindy’s 1976 Rocker was recoloured in cream vinyl to match her newly modelled lounge suite introduced in 1980. 

It was a moulded cream vinyl chair fashioned to look like a soft button style upholstered chair. This chair did not have arms, and it was able to rock gently back and forth on the rocker-style base. The reference remained the same as the one allocated in 1976.

Bath (Ref 44513)

Sindy’s new bath was made in the same “sunshine yellow” plastic as her 1975 bath. It was a much softer, more modern design with a curved front and rounded corners. The white plastic moulded mixer tap and a matching plug on a metal chain (which could be fitted into a plug-tidy between the taps when not in use) was repositioned to the back creating a double-ended bath. It still came with the same brown cotton towelling set of a flannel, bath towel and bath mat however the yellow plastic bath tray was omitted.

The old straight-edged rectangular Sindy bath was beginning to look very dated compared to the trend in the real world towards more rounded edged baths, but there was also another pressing reason to redesign it. The old bath was very long for the new Sindy House bathroom (see below) and could only be comfortably positioned against the back wall. So, the new bath was 2 inches (5 cm) shorter so it could be placed on either the back wall or side walls of the bathroom.

Sindy’s House (Ref 44570)

1981 saw the first “space saving play house” for Sindy in the UK. Although this house was actually first issued in North America for the Marx Sindy (as ‘3 Level Home with Automatic Elevator’ (US Ref 1615 – Canadian Ref 1615F) – see  Marx Sindy
It finally arrived in the UK two years later with some modifications. Most notably, it no longer had the automated lift (elevator).
It had three storeys and a ground floor. It was a flat pack item, made of a rigid white plastic frame which was fitted together and fixed with little two-part white plastic screws. Inserted into the frame were printed single and multiple-fold-out rigid cards which created the walls and floors. The cards were printed on both sides to provide interior and exterior walls and floors and ceilings. The House came with a leaflet of consisting of 6 pages of assembly instructions.
The rear was styled as an attractive yellow brick Georgian-style town house with a white front door with a carriage lamp each side of the door and arched windows. The house number “Sixteen-Fifteen” was printed on the lintel referencing the original Marx reference number (Ref 1615). The exterior was decorated with black railings, flowering plants, bushes and plant pots.

The interior was also attractively decorated using colours which complimented Sindy’s existing furniture. The walls were adorned with faux windows, and with decorations which match the room’s intended use. The floors were also carefully considered and styled with flooring to match the room.

The ground floor was divided into two with a decorated cardboard partition and the rooms were decorated as a kitchen and bathroom.

The first floor was very pretty and decorated as Sindy’s bedroom. The net curtains festooned around the window and the attractive bedroom rug are particularly nice.

The second floor was designed to be a living room with an offset white spiral staircase leading to the top storey.

The third storey was a tiled terrace with an area decorated with custhions and towels for a spot of Sindy sunbathing. The terrace had a white plastic balustrade to the back and sides adorned with hearts. Thoughtfully the void around the spiral staircase also had the safety feature of a circular balustrade so that Sindy didn’t inadvertently end up back in her living room if she took a wrong step.

Whilst the back wall of each room was solid card, the sides of the house were only partially enclosed to facilitate a nifty new innovation; a Sindy lift to the first and second storey. The sides of the house were a white plastic frame which were pushed together and then screwed to a white horizontal front floor edging providing stability to the frame of the house. Long vertical decorated cards were inserted on each floor each side of a central opening and held in place by a small plastic lug on the side of the plastic frame to enclose the sides of the house. 

The lift itself was made from one piece of moulded plastic. It had a roof embellished with a moulded heart and open sides with a safety barrier to stop Sindy falling out (unlike the 1979 Marx Sindy Home which was open). It was pulled up and down the side of the house using a cord which was wound around a simple pulley attached to the side of the top storey of the house. At the end of the cord was a white plastic widget which could be hooked onto the side struts to stop the lift from plummeting. The lift could not be pulled up to the terrace because the placement of the pulley hence the need for the spiral staircase up to the terrace. This had clearly been thought about and was a nice touch.

Despite the intricacies and care in the design of this house, two issues were quickly identified:

The first was quite a significant problem, the cardboard floors turned out to be not robust enough to bear the weight of Sindy(s) and her assorted furniture. This was probably first identified with the Marx Sindy Home in North America. So, Pedigree turned to a metal fabrication company in Southend on Sea for an answer. The company normally dealt with designing solutions for industrial problems and they were somewhat bemused at the task of solving a doll’s sagging floors. Their solution was to fit an aluminium metal extrusion lengthways under the middle of the floor of the bedroom and living room similar to a floor beam.

The second concern was not all of Sindy’s furniture could be accommodated in the house and to manage expectations, the box included a note to parents which stated that whilst all individual items of Sindy’s furniture had been designed to fit in the house, because the range was so large, only a selection could be played with at any one time. 

Therefore, Pedigree included some suggested floorplans. The floorplans took into account the older longer style bath and also suggested how Sindy’s Shower should be tilted to avoid the floor beam so it could be placed in the bathroom.

Wall of Sound (Ref 44581)

Another new big-ticket item for Sindy was her “electronic” Wall of Sound. Following the success of Sindy’s 1980 Magic Cooker (Ref 44481), Pedigree followed up in 1981 with the iconic Wall of Sound. Much loved and still sought after today, this was a new lounge scenesetter. The Wall of Sound was a lights and sounds battery operated toy and had six “homely” sounds including a real working AM radio and two items that lit up. It required one PP9 radio battery to operate. It was a cleverly designed item, but at £19.95 (£78.44 at 2021 prices) it was an expensive purchase.

The centrepiece for this scenesetter was a fireplace wall with a Yorkstone brick fireplace and chimney breast, which was very fashionable in late 1970s and early1980s. There was an imitation ‘cast iron’ fire basket with burning logs topped by a faux bronze plastic fireplace canopy detailed with rivets. The canopy cleverly hid a speaker grill. The back wall itself was a pale stippled-blue painted wall made from printed card. There were built-in plastic white shelving and floor units around the fire. The wall was decorated with many things that would not have been out of place at the time. if you look closely you can see a macramé owl, spider plants, an ivy and fern planter, and tasteful framed flower prints. Top left as you look at the Wall of Sound there is a statue that looks remarkably like a brunette ballerina Sindy (or that might just be wishful thinking on our part), and next to her is an Aladdin oil lamp which is a nice tie-in to Sindy’s new lounge set (see below). The Wall stood on buttercream faux tile plastic base.

Placed on the shelf above the fire was a red carriage clock, there was a red telephone on the left floor unit and a stereo record player with a Perspex lid on the right floor unit as you looked at the Wall of Sound.

Ticking Clock

The Wall was switched on by sliding the red carriage clock on the mantelpiece to the left. The ticking clock indicated that the Wall was now switched on. To listen to just the sounds, you had to ensure that the record player arm was in its rest position. This was because the player arm was the on-off switch for the radio and to avoid the Wall of Sound noises spoiling the enjoyment of radio programmes the operation of the radio would automatically cut out the other sounds. The clock could not be removed from the shelf and could only be moved left or right to switch the unit on or off.

Ringing Telephone

Sindy’s telephone was designed to ring at random intervals when the wall was switched on. If you did not want the phone to ring you needed to take the handset off the hook. The handset was made of metal and when it was placed in the hand cradle of the phone, it touched two metal contacts which caused the phone to ring intermittently. The telephone was fixed in position and couldn’t be moved.


Purring Happy Cat

Besides the fire was a mat for a cat, with a flower pattern decorative adhesive label. When the plastic cat was placed on the cat mat and its head was stroked with a slight downward pressure, the cat figure pushed down a metal contact in the centre of the mat. When the cat meowed, you released your finger, it would purr for four seconds and then stop automatically.

Lighting the Fire

By pushing the pointed end of the plastic poker into the little hole at the front of the fire basket, the fire would make a crackling noise and lights would flicker amongst the logs. Leaving the poker fully inserted for 10 to 15 seconds would cause the fire to burn more brightly. Removing the poker, the fire would gradually die away to a gentle crackle. Switching off the unit using the clock switch which would put the fire out completely.


Switching on the Lamp

The standard lamp came with a plastic covered wire lead with a plug on the end. Plugging this plug into the socket, which could be found at the bottom of the right-hand wall unit beneath the stereo record player, would switch the light on. Care had to be taken on switching off the lamp, because you needed to grasp the plug itself, and not pull on the wire because it was quite fragile and could pull away from the contacts in the plug.


Turning on the Vacuum

Sindy’s vacuum looked to be one of her standard upright vacuums from her household cleaning sets. This one was predominantly white plastic with a blue trim. It had running from the base a cord attached to a plug. Similarly to the lamp, by plugging it into the wall socket vacuuming sounds were triggered. And just as in real life, the vacuum was noisy and would drown out some of the quieter Wall sounds. The lead of the vacuum cleaner was decorative only, it was putting the plug in the socket which completed the circuit and triggered the sound.


Using the Record Player Radio

The stereo record player was a nice piece of kit. It came with two speakers made of red plastic with black felted paper to simulate speaker grill cloths. The speakers were purely for show and could be placed anywhere on the shelves. Also included with the record player were three Sindy records. They were the same ones as was used for Sindy’s 1976 Hi-Fi (Ref 44545). The controls for the radio could be found on the top left-hand side of the chimney breast looking at the Wall. There was both a tuner and a volume thumb wheel. The radio was switched on by moving the record arm over to the centre of turntable which switched off the other Wall of Sounds to aid in your listening enjoyment.

The controls for the radio could be found on the top left-hand side of the chimney breast looking at the Wall. There was both a tuner and a volume thumb wheel. The radio was switched on by moving the record arm over to the centre of turntable.

This Wall of Sound is almost 40 years old and it still works perfectly. Unfortunately there aren’t so many AM radio stations to listen to these days.

Lounge Set (Ref 44584)

The attention to detail on this set is really lovely. The centrepiece was a brown plastic Georgian style, pedestal leg, pie crust coffee table. The top of the table was decorated with a faux darker ‘wood inlay’ and with faux acanthus carving on the three feet. Accompanying the table was a brown plastic, high-backed cane-weave style rocking chair with curved armrests. For comfortable sitting it had a creamy white silky nylon seat cushion which was tied to one of the back uprights with a matching nylon ribbon.

On Sindy’s coffee table stood an Aladdin-style oil lamp. Its base was made of copper coloured plastic and it had an opaque plastic lampshade. In a lovely touch, it was also a working battery-operated lamp.

Sindy’s tea set came with settings for two and was similar to her 1978 ‘Tea Time’ set (Ref 44416) but with the yellow and white colours reversed. It consisted of a contemporary plastic tea or coffee pot and lid, milk jug and sugar bowl. There were two teacups, saucers and plates, a chocolate cake with two removable portions on a cake stand, two knives, and two spoons. None of them bore the “S” logo. The knives and spoons are worth noting, they were slim and elegant and are less ornate than the cutlery previously seen with her Dining Table sets.

We have spotted different combinations of the yellow and white crockery and cakes both with and without the white frosting on top.