Liv dolls are ~12-inch tall, highly articulated plastic dolls with changeable wigs and inset eyes. Several other doll companies have made mass-market play dolls with changeable wigs at this point, but as far as I know, Liv was the first girl on the block to have one. You can find Liv dolls at all of the big department stores for $15- $20. They are often on sale for less. Target, Walmart and Toys 'R' Us have had exclusive editions. FAO Schwarz carries them now, too.
There are 6 Liv characters; Sophie, Daniela, Alexis and Katie (the original four), Hayden (who joined in 2010) and Jake (the only guy so far). They all have different physical features, but I will talk about that later. Here is Katie from the "It's My Nature" wave:
This style of box is very attractive. The front has an enhanced photo of the doll, and then you can lift the cardboard flap to inspect the actual doll you are getting. This is a good idea, by the way, since Liv dolls suffer from the occasional wonky eye.
Katie is really nicely displayed with all of her stuff. There's a lot of stuff in there, including a cute-looking hat, a sweatshirt, a skateboard (with only two wheels...dangerous!) and some skateboard gear. There are also codes for an internet site...never been there, so I can't comment on its quality.
It seems Katie is the athletic one in the gang. The back of the box has more pictures of Katie and some descriptions about what she likes to do. Apparently Katie is also a bit of a klutz.
The plastic insert comes out of the cardboard really quickly, but that's where the easy part ends. Someone at the factory got super-happy with the device that attaches those little plastic tag holder things (you know--THESE). They are everywhere and they are tiny. I highly recommend going at these with a nice small, pointy pair of scissors, like maybe finger nail scissors or something. I tried with Fiskars and cut part of the sweatshirt off by mistake.
You have to get in there and find every last one of those plastic things and snip it, or you run the risk of snagging the clothes when you try to pull them out. Everything that isn't nailed down with plastic holders is held tight with plastic rubber bands. Those are easier to cut because you can stretch them a bit. Anyway, I gave up at this point:
I don't need another brush and it wasn't worth my time to free the skateboard pads. Sorry, Katie.
Garbage pile--some recycling:
Here's Katie--isn't she cute?
The braids seem a bit big and ridiculous to me, but no worries. Remember, Liv dolls can change their hair. She doesn't look quite as fresh out of the box from the back:
But at least you can see how the boots work--a big slit in the plastic allows them to slide easily on and off:
Here's her face up close--slightly wonky eyes, but nice overall, I think. She has a sweet, non-bratty look about her.
Ok, get ready, because here's the best feature of a Liv doll..she can kneel:
I don't know of any other play doll that has a double-jointed knee and it is so much fun! It seems like such a simple detail, really, but it increases the range of movement dramatically. For instance, she can ride a horse, and her legs don't stick out like twigs in front of her! I mean, her foot can actually go into the stirrup:
Here she is bare-kneed and you can see that the joint isn't even that unsightly when she is standing. She's just got a knee-cap:
Less impressive but still noteworthy is her waist joint, which allows her to do some stretching and yoga:
Here's the joint up close and you can also see that she has some tasteful painted-on panties:
I have seen some stop-action movies on YouTube with Liv dolls, and this seems like a really cool and creative way for older kids to play with these dolls. I think the joints are part of what make this so appealing.
Ok, on to the accessories. In general, the Liv clothes are well-made, stylish and age-appropriate. The color combinations are often fantastic and bold. I love Katie's yellow halter top and the striped leggings. These are very well-made and look great. The shorts are real denim. The hat she comes with is not as great as it looked in the picture on the front of the box:
But it looks ok on:
The sweatshirt is a little ratty on the inside:
But this is a $20 play doll we're talking about, and it looks nice when she's wearing it--lots of cute details like the fake zipper and the little drawstrings:
Slightly off topic, but look at this--this is super-awesome. You can get a little mini of Katie in this same outfit at Mc Donald's in a Happy Meal (or you could get them at Mc Donald's, now you can get them on eBay...). I love minis.
So, the other great thing about Liv dolls is that you can change their hair. Furthermore, underneath the hair is a very cute painted-on pixie cut, so she doesn't even need a wig all of the time:
The wig stays on because there is a hole in the back of each doll's head like this:
And a peg coming out of the inside of the wig like this:
If you push the peg forward with your finger, turning the wig partially inside-out, then you can line up the peg with the hole...
Insert the peg securely...
...and then flatten the wig around the head. It couldn't be any easier!
It's like getting a whole new doll:
Katie in another awesome Liv outfit:
I love the colors in this dress. It has an orange underskirt and purple tulle!
I tried on this Barbie outfit, just to see if the two dolls can share clothes:
It's a bit short, but fits in the arms and torso:
As you can see, there are a ton of options for how to style this doll. There are dozens of cool wigs to choose from at this point, including many bright colors and funky styles. It almost doesn't matter which doll you get, because each is very capable of so many different looks. A few basic physical differences to consider when selecting a character, though:
Katie, of course, has light skin and bright green eyes:
|"It's My Nature" Katie in her own wig|
Sophie has light skin and blue eyes:
|"Twist and Dance" Sophie (see below) in a blonde wig (sold separately)|
The first wave Sophie has much brighter eyes than the later Sophies:
|Debut Sophie in a Moxie Teenz jean jacket and a separate Liv wig|
Best Sophie face so far (in my opinion...): Wave 2 (the dolls that come with dogs)
Alexis has darker skin and hazel eyes:
|Target exclusive "Moonlight Dance" Alexis in Liv coat and hat (sold separately) and second wave Katie's wig|
Best Alexis face so far (in my opinion...): Target exclusive "Liv in Wonderland" queen of hearts. She has darker skin than the one above and is gorgeous.
|"Making Waves" Daniela in a Monique wig.|
Best Daniela face so far (in my opinion...): "Making Waves."
|"It's My Nature" Hayden in red ponytail wig (sold separately)|
"Twist and Dance" Liv
This is already a long review, but I want to quickly show you the one wave of Liv doll that I do not recommend at all, the "Twist and Dance" line. Here is Sophie from that line:
The packaging is bad--just a plastic shell with some cardboard on one side. She is wedged in with a huge plastic device that is there just so you can demo her "dancing" action in the store. The dance action consists of her bending side to side at the waist when you move her legs up and down. Very limited in its usefulness.
In addition, she's sewn into another plastic thing that holds her hair in place:
Still, you get her out and she looks cute, right?
Well...lose the headband and then she looks cute, right?
But, this is how well she sits in a chair:
She has zero flexibility at the waist and zero flexibility in the legs. Well, ok, she can do the splits, kind-of:
And she can do this...?
Ugh. So, Spin Master took the best thing about Liv dolls and decided to completely delete it from this wave. Bad idea. She's got such a nice face, too, that seems wasted on this body:
The wig sheds a lot. I have not had this problem with the other Liv wigs, so it makes me worry a bit about a potential decline in quality. Oh--that reminds me, you're supposed to be able to spin the wig around for a completely new look! Like this:
That's definitely a look. Now I understand the headband better...
Ok, I know, I am sure I could have dampened the wig and figured this out, but it didn't work magically right out of the box.
So, about that inflexible body--the good news is, you can pull Sophie's head off and attach it to a regular Liv body if you love her face. You could also just share around her cool clothes and wig if you have other Liv dolls at home. I got this doll on clearance at Walmart, and so for the sale price, it's not a bad deal for the nice clothes and groovy pink wig.
Speaking of pulling off doll heads, there are a lot of neat customization options with Liv dolls beyond changing their wigs and clothes. Some people change their eyes and re-paint their faces to make really beautiful and unique dolls. I tried my hand at changing the eyes and re-painting the face once, but it is not simple:
I thought I would at least mention it for those of you out there who have skills in this department.
Bottom line? Incredibly versatile doll. So many different looks are possible, I suspect a child could make these dolls be almost any kind of personality they imagined. The quality and design at this price are really great. My only concern is that the newer "Twist and Dance" Liv dolls are a huge disappointment, and I hope it doesn't herald a decline in creativity and quality in this outstanding line of dolls.
Can be played with by 3 and up, but probably best suited to 5 and up because of the wigs.
Varied, depending on the wave.
Great quality. The jointing in the dolls is very well done, wigs and clothes are excellent, face paint and eye placement more hit than miss.
Attractive boxes for some, plastic mess for others. See review.
Play quality, but with some interesting customization options for doll collectors and doll crafters.
Liv can share clothes with other dolls (Pullip, Barbie) and is a nice size. Many different looks are possible with all of the clothing and wigs available. Excellent posing makes her a good YouTube star.
Definitely Recommended...except for the “Twist and Dance” line, which I do not recommend.