Monster High dolls made their debut in 2010, not long after Liv dolls were first released (2009). I remember being slightly irritated by their arrival on the scene. Back then I was so excited about Liv dolls and their amazing articulation, and I was hoping they'd have big retail success. Liv was exactly the type of play line doll that I wanted to see on the shelves. I didn't like watching a Mattel doll steal Liv's thunder, especially because at first glance, the Monster High girls seemed very strange and vampy to me...pretty much the opposite of Liv in most ways.
After being irritated for a while, I became gradually drawn in to the Monster High mania. I would circle ever closer to the section of the toy aisle where those dolls were displayed (it is, after all, usually right next to the Liv section...). I found myself picking up the boxes and examining the dolls up close. I finally broke down and bought Clawdeen Wolf, using some lame excuse like, well, I don't have any dolls with wolf ears yet. There are definitely things about these dolls that I don't like, and yet my overwhelming feeling towards them is very positive. But...I am getting ahead of myself.
There are tons of new and exciting Monster High releases that I want to cover at some point, and so this entry will serve as an overview. I will, however, de-box a doll so that I can go over packaging and accessories. I will de-box "Physical Deaducation" Ghoulia Yelps and also her "Comic Book Club" outfit:
Why this particular doll? Well, I have SDCC Ghoulia and I can't seem to bring myself to take her out of the box. She has increased a bit in value and, well, she's displayed really nicely in her box. Look:
She's hugging her beloved Dead Fast comic book...
...and she comes with this amazing little Dead Fast mini action figure. I love miniatures.
Before I de-box Ghoulia, though, let me back up a bit and talk about Monster High dolls in general. The concept behind these dolls is that they are the offspring of famous monsters. Draculaura, for example, is the daughter of Dracula. She has fangs and pink skin and just turned 1600. Deuce Gorgon (a male character) is the son of Medusa and he has green snakes for hair and shouldn't be looked at directly. Some of the connections are more vague--like Ghoulia Yelps being the daughter of "The Zombies," and Spectra Vondergeist being the daughter of "The Ghosts."
The original doll release consisted of five dolls; Draculaura, Clawdeen Wolf, Frankie Stein, Cleo De Nile and Lagoona Blue. There have been (I think) 15 new additions to the line since then, not counting the variety of Create-a-Monster characters that are possible. Most of the ghouls are about 16 years old, dress in flamboyant fashions and have very distinct personalities based on the Monster High TV show.
I have found these dolls for sale at Target, Walmart, Angelic Dreamz, Toys R Us, Justice, Mattel online, and I think I saw a few dolls at the Claire's at my mall. They range in price from $13-$35. It is definitely best to buy them in person, both because of the inflated online prices and to avoid obvious defects.
The dolls are about 11" tall and have plastic bodies and vinyl heads with thickly-rooted saran hair. The body on the female Monster High dolls is the strangest fashion body I have ever seen. The dolls have an exaggerated arched back, long neck, small chest, pinpoint-knees and very high foot arches:
They have a fairly normal range of flexibility, slightly limited in the neck and knees, but high in the arms and hands.
Their hands have splayed fingers that are unusually expressive:
Dressing the dolls in thin-sleeved clothing with those splay-fingered hands is impossible, but the arms detach at the elbow and the hands themselves also come on and off for very easy dressing.
The dolls have a bizarre facial profile:
Overall they have an exaggerated, cartoon-ish look with lots of clever details making each doll unique. For example, Clawdeen Wolf, the daughter of werewolves, has brown skin and doesn't have normal ears, instead she has pierced wolf ears on the top of her head:
|First wave Clawdeen Wolf|
The newer Clawdeens have sharp canine nails:
|New limb on the left|
Lagoona Blue, daughter of the Sea Monster, has blue opalescent skin, webbed fingers and little fins on her arms and legs:
Frankie Stein, the daughter of Frankenstein, has green skin, mismatched eyes, little bolts coming out of her neck and paint that makes her look stitched together:
Abbey Bominable, the daughter of the Yeti, has a bit of an underbite with upward-pointing fangs, glittery ice-blue skin and sparkling aurora-borealis hair:
So, those are the bare basics of these dolls. Now, let's get back to freeing Ghoulia from her box. I think the Monster High boxes are part of their appeal. The notebook-shaped window boxes are very colorful and inviting. There's a lot going on inside that box, and you have to peer in there and look around to see all of the things you're getting with the doll. It's pretty fun.
|I see a plastic locker, a ball, a cute extra dress--maybe stickers?|
You could spend a while just reading the back of the box and learning a bit about Ghoulia's personality. This is good for me since I don't watch the TV show.
Here's her face up close--she is very nicely displayed in there, but I am dreading trying to wrestle her out!
The outer box comes off very easily, and then Ghoulia and all of the accessories are sewn onto a cardboard background:
It didn't take too long to get her out--the hardest parts were her head (held in by three tight plastic ties) and the ball, which was encased in plastic.
Here's all the loot!
|That would've fit in a much smaller box!|
|Stickers for her locker...or your locker|
|The "Physical Deaducation Survival Guide"|
This is a 10-page booklet with some amusing little details about Phys Dead class. For instance,
they play "batminion," not badminton and "casketball" instead of basketball:
A brush, a water bottle, a small plastic book (doesn't open), and a miniscule pen with a skull on it:
The very realistic dodge ball:
|It doesn't bounce.|
And the pink coffin-shaped locker:
|That little skull lock actually opens and closes!|
The first thing I did with Ghoulia is sit her down. The stands are a pain to use, I think, because they mess up the clothes at the waistline. So, I put Ghoulia in a sitting position and immediately something weird happened with her hip joints:
The elastic from her two pairs of shorts had gone into the joints and was making her hips loose and wobbly:
|Why is this happening?|
I think I might like "Dead Tired" Ghoulia better with her lighter lips, but I like the original Ghoulia with blood-red lips best of all. I think this girl looks great with red lips because the brighter lip contrasts really well with her hair, and all of her clothing has red in it.
|"Dead Tired" Ghoulia in Phys Dead's dress|
I got her out of those pesky shorts and into the extra dress. Very nice!
|Where's my red lipstick??|
Her everyday glasses:
|A little smudging of white paint on those lenses|
Now, for the "Comic Book Club" outfit:
|OMG...you got me a Dead Fast action figure?! Eeeeeee!|
Again, the packaging is very bright and appealing, and there is a lot of stuff in that box! You get the outfit (shirt and skirt), glasses, shoes, the action figure, a comic book, a headband and some bracelets (at least I think they are bracelets):
|Oh--and this description of the comic book club.|
|Awesome green glasses|
|The comic book has some detail inside|
|He and the SDCC figure are running in opposite directions|
|He comes out of the package!|
|A little bit less paint and box detail than the SDCC figure|
It is a fun overall look, I think. My favorites are her green glasses, the brain-patterned skirt (with a tiny net detail on the hem) and the graphic tee.
Some problems: that skirt is insanely short and she can't sit without looking...overexposed:
The seams in the back of her legs look like they are split. Not sure if this is going to get worse over time, or if that's just the way it will stay.
And this (which might be my fault from de-boxing--but I cut the plastic ties from the back of the cardboard this time!):
|Her earrings are little red brains. :)|
I often gripe about the decreasing quality of dolls. I do think it is a pervasive problem. However, I have to give credit to Mattel, because I feel like Monster High dolls, in general, have improved over the last year. I remember when I was driving back and forth to Toys R Us to seek out a green-haired "Dawn of the Dance" Clawdeen Wolf. After more attempts than I care to admit, I just gave up. I never found one that was free of obvious flaws. The hair was cut badly, the hair was plastered to her face, the face was stained, there was some kind of ick on her clothes, the arms had fallen off...you name it. These days, however, I feel like the majority of the dolls on the shelves look pretty good. I also think the arms stay on better than they used to, and Mattel keeps changing and improving the body sculpts. Furthermore, each new character that is introduced has its own intriguing features to make it unique. There isn't much recycling of old ideas.
That being said, I do still think it is possible to get a "good" Monster High doll and a "bad" one, and it isn't always possible to tell which is which while they're still in the box. My new Ghoulia, for example, has those loose hip joints. My first wave Lagoona had rat's nest hair right out of the box:
|From too much salt water?|
My "Dawn of the Dance" Lagoona has wonky eye syndrome at its most extreme:
The new Clawdeen, awesome she is, has boots that will not come off. Well, ok, they did eventually come off, but it was really super-hard to get them off. It hurt my fingers, and one of the heels came loose during the battle and will need to be re-glued.
And, while this isn't a manufacturing flaw, some of the dolls are dressed in clothes that are pushing the boundary between daring/trendy and exhibitionist/gross:
|That skirt looks really cute at first, but it is SO short and underneath there is a|
black ribbon thong-type thing. Eeew.
However, for every bad thing about these dolls I can name six good things. First of all, the shoes. Oh, my goodness, the shoes!
|"Dawn of the Dance" Lagoona's shoes|
|"Dead Tired" Ghoulia's shoes|
The freaky little pets are great:
|"Neptuna," Lagoona's piranha...in a bowl-purse|
|Comin' to get ya!|
|"Sweet Fangs," Toralei's saber-toothed tiger.|
The accessories are current, creative and, for the most part, enhance the enjoyment of the doll:
|Ghoulia's Dead Fast action figure|
|The new Cleo's bag|
Look at that nifty little clasp...that actually works!
|Cleo's notebook...which opens!|
I even love the smaller accessories like Lagoona's sweet seahorse necklace and Clawdeen's spiked brass knuckles.
The hair! Whether it is the color or the style, Monster High hair is killer:
|"Dawn of the Dance" Lagoona's gravity-defying mohawk|
|"Skull Shores" Abbey's full-spectrum hair.|
|"Dead Tired" Ghoulia's true-blue.|
|"Dawn of the Dance" Frankie's salt and pepper mix.|
Bottom line? The dolls have their flaws. While quality control seems to have improved a bit, there are still dolls on the shelves with poor stringing, facial marks and seriously wonky eyes. I am very sympathetic to kids who save up for the doll of their dreams and end up getting a dud. Another thing is that some of the clothing choices on these dolls cross the line in terms of appropriateness for younger kids. I do not like a doll who has a thong, or who can't sit because her skirt rides up and exposes her underwear. Last, as visually appealing as it is, the packaging contains a lot of waste. The dolls are a slender 11 inches tall and yet the boxes are 10"x13". Pretty much all of the accessories are made out of plastic.
However, these dolls have so many interesting and appealing qualities that the good overshadows the bad. There is a huge diversity of characters in this line, and each new character that is introduced has the same level of individuality and attention to detail as the original five. The fashions are fabulous and edgy, and the design team that makes the shoes is genius. The face paint is quite beautiful and is getting better. The accessories, while all plastic, are well conceived and well executed, down to the tiniest earring. The body shape of the girl dolls is fascinatingly unusual. The splayed-finger hands and cartoonish features are appealing and expressive. There is a huge variety of skin color and appearance. More than anything else, though, it is the seemingly endless creativity of this line that keeps me coming back for more. Wolf ears, transparent limbs, skeleton faces, dragon wings, extra eyes...what on earth will they do next? I can't wait to see.
Box says 6 and up, I would evaluate outfits individually when shopping for a younger child.
You get a lot for your money with most dolls.
Variable. Great attention to design details. Quality control fairly good, but still some serious flaws in a few of the dolls. Lots of plastic.
There is a lot of extra stuff cluttering the boxes. Makes them visually very appealing, but there’s a fair amount of garbage.
Yes. Because of their mass appeal and scarcity, some of these dolls have significantly increased in value.
These are character dolls, for sure, but you don’t need to watch the show to enjoy their diverse personalities. The creativity in the dolls' design is very inspiring and the fantastical themes will surely open a child's imagination.