Is American Girl Corinne Tan Inspired by an Actual Girl?

‘American Girl: Corinne Tan,’ a kids‘ family movie, features the story of the titular character, Corinne Tan, as she attempts to fit into her new normal and embarks on a self-discovery adventure by seeking out her true calling. After her parent’s divorce, Corinne, a 13-year-old Chinese-American girl, struggles to find her footing following her mother’s remarriage. As such, once her paths cross with the rambunctious Flurry, training to be a search-and-rescue dog, the girl finds herself undertaking the task of training her new four-footed pal. In her quest to help Flurry pass his certification tests, Corinne learns crucial truths about herself and her loving family.

The coming-of-age film with a tween-centric storyline entails all the vital themes of its genre— from love, family, and self-identity to a lovable relationship between a misfit dog and an unsettled young girl. As such, the story charts a fun tale for Corinne that young people can easily relate to. However, viewers may find themselves curious about the story’s origins due to its protagonist’s familiar moniker.

American Girl Dolls and Corinne Tan, 2022’s Girl of The Year

Although ‘American Girl: Corinne Tan’ is not based on a true story that unfolded in real life, it possesses a rich origin story. The film is based on one of Mattel’s most popular toy lines, The American Girl. Established in 1986, the brand has always strived to create enriching toys for young kids that introduce them to strong, diverse characters with varying experiences, cultures, and personalities. The toy line creates dolls, accessories, and books centering around “American Girl Dolls” that are reflective of the real world.

Furthermore, the doll brand distinguishes itself from other toy lines, such as Bratz, Barbie, and Cabbage Patch Dolls, by using their toys to share knowledge about historical or contemporary experiences with little kids. While the toy line is most famous for its historical dolls that portray individuals from specific points in history, Corinne Tan’s story finds its basis in the brand’s “Girl of The Year” line.

Corinne Tan is American Girl’s 2022 Girl of The Year limited edition doll who comes with her own set of books, as is customary for most dolls from the brand. Furthermore, the doll also received a stop-motion short series with multiple episodes to expand upon her story. Corinne primarily finds her perspective and narrative through her book duology, written by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. The author wanted Corinne’s experiences as an Asian kid to remain reflective of the difficult post-COVID times of 2022. Therefore, she incorporated themes of culture and tackled Anti-Asian racism in Corinne’s story.

Alongside the same, the author also explored the nuances of growing up with divorced parents and the situation’s effect on a young child. Therefore, while Corinne’s storyline about self-actualization and discovery remains relatable, her unique worldview and experiences offer another realistic facet to her character.

Over time, other films following different narratives of American Girl Dolls have been adapted into film. For instance, the 2008 film ‘Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,’ starring Abigail Breslin and Stanley Tucci, focused on its titular character, as did the 2015 Olivia Rodrigo starrer, ‘An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success.’ However, Corinne Tan’s on-screen adaptation remains the first American Girl film produced under Mattel’s own production company since the other films were usually created under American Girl’s banner.

In developing the film ‘American Girl: Corinne Tan,’ screenwriter May Chan and director Angela C. Tortu certainly lifted from the source material, bringing Corinne’s story to the screen. However, in the transition between book to movie, Corinne’s storyline loses some elements and equips some new additions.

As such, although Corinne’s relationship with her Asian identity surrounding the casual racism prevalent in 2022 fails to make the cut, the film still strives to highlight Corinne’s pride and joy within her culture. Furthermore, the girl’s dynamics with her family are also explored in depth, alongside her yearning for her true passion. As such, her character remains relatable to people her age throughout the narrative. Yet, despite its rich origins in doll history, alongside literary connections, the film doesn’t have any basis in real-life people, rendering its narrative a work of fiction.

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