The dollmaker: NC man tells story of how he made the infamous Annabelle doll

Wilmington man, Tony Rosen’s first big gig in the film industry was designing the Annabelle doll. Lucky for him, the prop master didn’t like the designs he was getting from the original artist and wanted to go in a different direction.

Wilmington man, Tony Rosen’s first big gig in the film industry was designing the Annabelle doll. Lucky for him, the prop master didn’t like the designs he was getting from the original artist and wanted to go in a different direction.

Let’s rewind for a second. For those that don’t know, Annabelle, those movies with that creepy, possessed doll, is actually based on real events. In real life, the doll was a Raggedy Ann doll that was gifted to a nursing student from her mother. The girl placed the doll on her bed and didn’t think much of it. Until it started appearing in different rooms of the apartment.

“Sometimes the doll would be found with legs crossed, arms folded, other times it would be found upright, standing on its feet,” according to the Warrens website. “Several times Donna sometimes left the doll on the couch before leaving for work and would return to find the doll back in her room on the bed – with the doors closed.”

But it got creepier. The doll started leaving messages that read “Help Us” and “Help Lou.”

Lorraine Warren with the original "Annabelle" doll. (Source: The Warrens)
Lorraine Warren with the original “Annabelle” doll. (Source: The Warrens)

Eventually, paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren got in contact with the girl about the doll and immediately came to the conclusion that the doll itself was not possessed but it was manipulated by an inhuman presence.

For those that have seen The Conjuring and Annabelle movies, you know this. For those that haven’t, feel free to read more about it here.

Anyway, when it came time to make the Annabelle doll for the films, they quickly realized they couldn’t use an actual Raggedy Ann doll because of licensing rights.

People who worked on the film, which was filmed in Wilmington, NC, turned to special effects artists to have them make different versions of the doll. But all the designs they were getting back just didn’t feel right.

A makeup effects artist working on The Conjuring had seen some of Tony Rosen’s work in Wilmington and let the prop master know of his talents.

“They had a bunch of designs that someone else had done and they said they didn’t want anything like those designs because they didn’t like what they had been getting,” Rosen said. “So they just said, “Go make, not what this is.’”

Rosen said they gave him two days to come up with 10 different designs for what would become the infamous new Annabelle doll.

Annabelle from The Conjuring. (Source: Movieclips)
Annabelle from The Conjuring. (Source: Movieclips)

“James Wan, the director of the film, picked apart what he liked from all the designs and matched them up and I made that version,” Rosen said.

Rosen says he is pretty happy with the way Annabelle (the doll) turned out.

For the films he had to make three or four different versions of the doll.

“There was The Conjuring which was the really aged down one and then there was the stunt version and then the Annabelle was the newest version which was fresh, no damage or anything like that and then there was one that was partially in between each two.”

Annabelle was Rosen’s first big gig in the film industry. He has since done special effects and prop work for other big productions in Wilmington such as Swamp Thing, Sleepy Hallow, Under the Dome, Savannah Sunrise, and more.

He is currently working on Halloween Kills right now.

But as for getting creeped out when looking at the Annabelle doll, Rosen says it doesn’t faze him one bit.

“I don’t have much for fears.”


Stay Connected

Stay up to date on all things Cape Fear Weekend!

Like us on Facebook Contact us