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'Obama girl' dolls renamed after First Lady complains

The US toy company that makes the popular Beanie Babies is to drop the names Marvellous Malia and Sweet Sasha from its Ty Girlz collection following criticism from first lady Michelle Obama.

The dolls have been renamed Marvellous Mariah and Sweet Sydney, chief executive Ty Warner of Oak Brook, Illinois-based Ty Inc said.

The original names were inspired by what Mr Warner called "this historic time in our nation's history", but he said the dolls were not intended to look like President Barack Obama's daughters.

The switch was made out of respect to the first family after Mrs Obama said using her daughters' names was inappropriate, Mr Warner said. Profits from sales of the original dolls will be donated to charity.

"We appreciate the company's response to this matter," Mrs Obama's press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said last night.

To collectors, the dolls with their original names will become more valuable, said Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of timetoplaymag.com in New York.

"I'm sure many of them are being put away in a closet and are never going to be opened," he said. "Those who bought them for their children to play with, they're not going to have much value."

Chicago lawyer Marc Cooperman, who has represented another toy company in lawsuits involving Beanie Babies' names, said he believed Ty Inc had got what it wanted - publicity.

"I would suspect that the company knew when it introduced the two dolls, they would cause some commotion and the company would get some press out of it," Mr Cooperman said.