Monday, April 2, 2012

A Review of BFC Ink Pen Pal Doll "Britt" by MGA Entertainment

I have paused in my shopping to look at the BFC (Best Friends Club) Ink dolls on a number of occasions.  I even bought one of the extra outfits to see if it would fit my Lorifina doll (it did...kind-of). It wasn't until I started thinking about the charitable doll series of posts (here and here) that I considered reviewing one of the BFC Ink dolls.  Pondering the questions surrounding how charitable donations might impact a doll's price and quality made me brainstorm a list of 14"-22" play dolls that don't have an association with a charity to use as an outgroup in my investigation.  BFC Ink dolls made this list and appeal to me in particular because of their high level of articulation. The original BFC Ink dolls cost about $30, which would have been comparable to the Hearts 4 Hearts dolls, but I was happy to discover a newer and less expensive version of these dolls to examine.

The Pen Pal line of BFC Ink dolls were released late last year.  These dolls retail for $19.99.  In theory, they can be found at Target, Walmart, K-Mart and Toys R Us, however, as far as I can tell all BFC Ink dolls have disappeared from Toys R Us.  I actually haven't seen any of the Pen Pal dolls at my local Target or Walmart, either, but they can be purchased at Target.com (where they are called "Moxie Pen Pals" for some reason).  *Update 8/26/13: these dolls have been discontinued.

The Pen Pal dolls each represent a different country.  These dolls are meant to be the pen pals of the original club dolls.  There are 5 Pen Pal dolls: Britt (England), Carmen (Mexico), Nicolette (France), Elsa (Sweden) and Lily (South Africa).  I like Britt's combination of dark hair and blue eyes, so I ordered her.

Pen-Pal-Britt-Review
BFC Ink Pen Pal Britt
Apparently, there is online fun to be unlocked, but I am probably not going to investigate that.


On the back of the box, you can see all 5 of the dolls.  Although there is a male BFC Ink character, "CJ," all of the Pen Pal dolls are girls:


I saw this doll, Elsa, at a Target in upstate New York when I was there for my birthday:  

They've airbrushed out the articulation in her arms.
She looked really appealing and I wanted to buy her, but she had some tragically wonky eyes.  The eyes were so bad,  there was no possible way to imagine that they could be overlooked.  I walked away empty handed, even though I had a purse full of birthday money.  So, beware of buying these dolls without seeing the eyes in person.

Have you noticed that these dolls seem to enjoy raising their hands?

Raise you hand if you're Sure!
Britt comes in a tall window box with a cardboard insert.  The box looks harmless enough.  In fact, the first stage of de-boxing isn't alarming at all--you just slide the insert out of the box:

Raise your hand if you want to get out of the box!
Even at this stage, however, you can see hints of the horrors that are about to unfold:

Hmm.  Look at all of that plastic around her arm...
Ooh.  That arm, too.
Gulp.
Admittedly, I might be a bit of a box wimp, but this was the worst de-boxing experience of my entire life.  I wrestled with this doll for so long, pinching fingers and jamming scissors, that I wasn't even sure I still had it in me to be objective about the doll at the end.


I mean, I was even getting irritated with the doll's smile.  Her sweet smile.  She seemed to be mocking me and all of my travails. 

This picture right here...
Hee hee!  Nah nah!  You can't get me ou-out! 
...that was my breaking point.  Just when it seemed like Britt was finally free from all of her 5 million plastic shackles, I discovered that, in fact, her hair was deviously sewn into yet another wall of plastic with brown thread that had to be painstakingly snipped out. One. Stitch. At. A. Time.  I had to take a break and come back later.

 The wreckage:
It'll take me another 15 minutes to get that horrible thing ready for recycling.
This is exactly how the doll looked when she was finally free:

Um...could I just excuse myself for a sec and freshen up?
After she stood up and shook herself off:



And then finally after I ran a Liv doll brush through her hair (she doesn't come with a brush):

BFC-Ink-Britt-Review

BFC-Ink-Britt-Review

Whew!  So, let's look at this doll.  The first thing I noticed was that her hair has quite a bit of goopy whitish stuff in it, especially near her face.  It must be some kind of paste designed to work with the thread and rubber bands to keep any single part of her hair from moving even the slightest tiny bit while she's in the box.

BFC-Ink-Britt-Review
It's hard to see in this picture, but...eeew.
The hair is rooted and has several different shades of brunette mixed together.  It has a decent cut and doesn't shed much.  It looks very nice, and moves pretty well.  The feel of the hair is coarse and unsatisfying, though.  It's like a costume wig from a Halloween store.  It does not have the lovely sheen or softness of a Lorifina wig or a Karito Kid wig.  

Looks can be deceiving.
Her outfit is very simple.  It consists of a light pink cotton top with gathered sleeve details, a pair of plain navy blue legging capri pants, and a pair of pink rubbery shoes:


The sleeve detail is a nice addition to an extremely basic outfit.
The shoes fall off really easily.
There's no creativity in the design of these dolls.  It doesn't seem like there was any effort to incorporate the nationality of the doll's character into the elements of her outfit or styling.  Britt could be the girl from France, for all I can tell.  And, come on--"Britt" from Great Britain?  Ugh. That doesn't even make the top 100 baby names of 2011 in the UK.  Why not Matilda or Keira?  Imogen? 

Anyway, Britt has a pleasant expression.  She has a soft smile and wide, innocent eyes.  I lucked out in that my doll's eyes are only minimally askew.  Her coloring is very natural and subtle and the plastic eyes are a nice realistic blue color with some depth and detail.  The brush strokes of her eyelashes and eyebrows are a bit crude, but it looks fine:


Slightly off kilter eyes.
My only issue with her face is that it seems to be the face of a child--maybe a five to eight year old.  Her body, on the other hand, is more that of a teenager:


The body is made out of hollow plastic and has 14 points of articulation:


The head and torso joints can be swiveled a full 360 degrees.  The neck joint is very loose and her head spins and bobs around a bit too easily, especially with the weight of the hair to get it started.

Her preferred head position.
She stands really well on her own, which is a feature I love to see in a larger doll.  The lateral range of motion in the limbs is also good:


She can easily pose on bended knee:


And can also kneel on both knees, with a little fiddling and balancing:

I got this.  Don't breathe.
The wrist joint movement is not as good as that of a Liv doll or a Monster High doll, but it is better than the MiM doll wrists, and certainly better than no wrist joint at all:


Britt can sit very naturally, both on the ground:

I love that her toes can touch!  Very endearing.
And on a chair or bench:

Knees together, chin up!
However, the rotational movement of her torso and neck allow her to assume some very bizarre poses!

Whoa!
At first this might look fine...but look again.
Her hands seem chunky and awkward to me.  I think they're too big for the rest of her body.  They look in proportion to her head, maybe, but not the rest of her.  Usually these big-headed dolls have hands that match their bodies, not their heads.

Man hands?
I already have an extra BFC Ink outfit, so let's see what it looks like on Britt:


It took a bit of wrangling to get this outfit on.  The hardest part was pulling the sleeves of the shirt and the coat over her huge hands.  This could get frustrating for a smaller child.  As I wrestled with her, her tendency was to go all Exorcist on me:

That head can really spin.
The outfit looks nice on her, but the shiny purple material of the coat is not aging very well.  It's prone to snags.


Stop!  In the name of love, before your big hands break my heart...
Notice in this picture how the area where her lips meet isn't painted.
Not sure if that is intentional or not..?
This doll is extremely posable, which is fun:

I like that the soft boots don't restrict her ankle movement.


I bought the extra BFC outfit to see if it would fit my Lorifina, so I thought it might be interesting to compare Britt to my Lorifina doll.  First of all, they can't trade clothes.  Lorifina rocks Britt's outfit, but Britt can't pull Lorifina's shorts up:


And she doesn't quite fill out the camisole top:


Lorifina looks very Princess Diana in this, I think.  Probably because of the big shoulders on the shirt, and her serene expression:


Here's a body comparison of Britt and Lorifina with my MiM doll thrown into the mix.  The most striking things to me in this picture are:
1. The different colors and qualities of plastic.  
2. Britt's head is HUGE.
3. Britt's hands are big and her arms are loooong.  This looks strange to me because her legs are relatively short.

MiM wins this lineup for me, hands down,
despite looking ghostly pale by comparison.
With their original outfits:

Best outfit = Lorifina
MiM can wear Britt's clothes, but not the other way around (there's no way Britt's mongo paws are fitting through MiM's sleeves...).


The other two dolls I want to compare to Britt are the charitable dolls, Nahji and Ling:

BFC-Ink-Karito-Hearts

Their prices are so varied, it's difficult to say anything definitive about them as a group.  Ling should cost about $100 (even though I got her for $30) and Nahji reatils for $29.  Of the three, Ling is definitely the best doll by a long shot.  Everything about her is superior to Britt.  Nahji is also a better quality doll than Britt, both in terms of the materials she is made out of and the quality of her clothing and accessories.  Let's leave the packaging out of it so I don't get upset.  Britt is the least expensive doll of the three (even if you completely ignore any charity donation calculated into the retail price) and it shows.


One last question I had was, how do American Girl size clothes hang on Britt?  Her body is much slimmer than the American Girl body, and yet surely children who enjoy American Girl dolls will also be drawn to the BFC Ink girls.  Well, I tried the blue Springfield Collection dress on Britt, and it is a bit sack-like without the sash:


It looks pretty nice with the sash tied, but my guess is that, for the most part, American Girl sized clothes are not a safe buy for the BFC dolls at all.


Cinched in back.
Bottom line?  Well, the packaging certainly got me off to a rough start with this doll.  It is abysmal.  Once you get past that hurdle, though, there are several things to admire about Britt.  Her best feature is that she has a very high level of articulation for a $20 18" play doll.  The joints move well and Britt can strike a ton of interesting and realistic poses.  On the down side, some of the joints (like the neck) are very loose, and this means that she is often torquing her body into strange and slightly disturbing positions when you'd rather she didn't.   

Her face is pleasant and appealing, and while I don't feel that it matches her body type very well, it seems like the open and honest face of a good companion.  The inset eyes are a realistic color and have nice detail and depth.   However, you have to be careful about ill-set eyes in these dolls.  My doll's eyes are not set perfectly, and I know from personal observation that some of the dolls on the shelves have eyes that are so poorly placed that they are no longer acceptable at any level. 

BFC-Ink-Britt-Review

The outfit is so simple that it is barely worth mentioning.  There are no special details or accessories that help distinguish this as a doll from another country--she is very generic.  The BFC Ink outfit that I bought separately is difficult to get on over Britt's large hands.  It seems to me that a child might become rather frustrated with this.  The shoes fall off pretty easily.  

The hair is the biggest disappointment.  The hair on play dolls is perhaps their most important attribute.  Kids (and adults!) love to style and pet the hair of their dolls.  Britt's hair looks nice from a distance, but the coarse, cheap feel of the fibers and the strange white paste that is used throughout the region framing her face are extremely off-putting.  It is bad hair.

Britt's $20 price tag makes her more accessible for a wider range of shopping needs than many of her competitors, however, of all of the dolls in this approximate size range that I have reviewed, Britt is my least favorite.  I don't think she's a bad doll, necessarily, and I certainly find her more appealing than many of the American Girl knock-offs, but she doesn't quite make the grade in my eyes.  I'd love to know if the quality of these Pen Pal dolls is significantly lower than the quality of the original and more expensive BFC Ink dolls.   

My advice?  If you can only spend $20, buy a Liv in Wonderland doll instead--while you still can.  If you can afford to spend a bit more, buy a Hearts 4 Hearts doll and you'll be teaching your child something about another culture, sending a little bit of money to charity, and getting a higher quality doll.  

Summary:
Age Level
6 and up
Value
Fair price at $20
Quality
This is a relatively inexpensive 18” doll, especially with the high level of articulation, so I don’t expect amazing quality, but the hair is pretty bad and I find poorly placed eyes of the degree I saw at Target unacceptable at any price.  Many elements of the doll seem cheap and rushed.
Packaging
Horrible.  Way too much hard-to-manage plastic.  Tons of thread and paste in the hair.  I wonder how much they could knock off the price of this doll if the packaging was simpler?  Hmm.
Collectable?
No.  This is a play doll.
Versatility
BFC Ink dolls have unique measurements among the 18” play dolls--they are very slender, with large hands. American Girl or similarly sized doll clothes are too big.  Britt can’t fit into some of the slimmer doll’s tops because of her large hands.  The high level of articulation makes these dolls very versatile in terms of posing, and the faces  and wardrobes are pleasant, generic and adaptable.
Overall
Cute and articulated, but generic and uncreative with low quality hair.  I'd spend my money on something else.

BFC-Ink-Britt-Review

22 comments:

  1. She is so pretty!! I have to agree though that the quality is not too great on these dolls. The hair can be ruff especially with a small child playing a lot with her. I have one of the first ones that came with the extra outfit and diary. I got her at Marshall's for 15.00. Since she was half of the original price I thought I would take a chance and while she is cute and I love her face. I would not buy another one and I am glad I did not pay full price. I love yours in that purple outfit by the way. :)

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    1. She is really pretty! It's hard because these dolls look SO tempting in the box. That Elsa was so lovely I almost bought her even with the horrible eyes (thinking I might be able to fix them). Glad I didn't.

      You got a great deal for $15, especially with the extra outfit! It is very interesting to learn that the original $30 dolls had similar quality issues. I had hoped that the Pen Pal quality was just a result of shortcuts made to bring the cost down.

      I was also wondering if the hair would tangle easily with regular play...I have never seen hair quite like this before, so I didn't know what to predict. Thank you so much for your input!

      I have another doll waiting in the wings who I hope will offer a good alternative to this one. We'll see. ;)

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  2. That's really too bad about the quality, I've been tempted a lot by these dolls. But her face is really cute.
    Since you compared Britt to MiM and Lorifina, which of those two do you like better? I'll probably end up with both eventually ;) but not for a while, so I can't quite decide which I want more. Lorifina is beautiful but MiM's modularity and sweet face lures me in too.

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    1. That's a tough question, Molly. Lorifina is very poised and elegant, MiM is an imp. I think I prefer MiM because I like character dolls. She smiles out at me from the shelf and it makes me happy. I also like swapping eyes and hair and the parts for MiM are a bit more accessible these days.

      I lucked into a serious-faced MiM doll for an amazing price and will show her off here on the blog soon--that version is really nice, too, just to make your choice even harder. ;)

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    2. Thanks! Can't wait to see your serious-face doll, that's the one I'm more interested in too.

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  3. Hello from Spain: I just discovered your blog and I also collect dolls of great variety. Now I have a blog dedicated to Barbie I invite you to visit: all4barbie.blogspot.com If you're still in touch from blog to blog.

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    1. Thank you for the invitation, Marta, and welcome to the blog! I need to learn more about Barbie, that's for sure, so maybe your blog will help! :)

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  4. Do you think the BFC Ink dolls are a good body replacement for a less articulated doll, like the Disney Princess and Me dolls for example?

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    1. That's a great question! The heads are certainly similar sizes, but I can't see clearly how the BFC Ink head would come off! I am not the greatest expert at removing heads. ;) If you want, I can send you Britt and you can see if the swap works. Just send me an email if you decide you want to try it out. I'd love to know if she's a good body donor!

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    2. I'd love to but I don't have a P&Me yet since I am holding out hope that someday they will do a Jasmine since she is the only one I would want. Anyways I think I'd rather try putting a big headed doll (like a big Blythe or Pullip) on there for more normal proportions and at least in the case of Pullip, a more mature face. When I have the money to afford a Pullip that is.

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  5. If you wanna give it away please give it to me! I have been searching for her everywhere! She is the only one I will accept. So please please please give her to me I've bought every outfit for her created her one wrote a name tag for her booked a tour to american girl France. So i'm begging hard even crying for her. My birthday is soon. Please?

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  6. Hi, my name is Liz from the UK do they sell that bfc ink doll in the UK because my sister wants one really bad for X-mas.I had told my sister about the quality but as always she never listans to me !!!!!! (little sisters these days !)


    xxxLizxxx

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  7. I happened upon this review randomly, and I cannot agree more about the hell that is deboxing Britt. My husband just got her for me this Christmas, and I almost broke a pair of scissors and hurt my hand trying to free her from her plastic cage. (And yes, WHY was her hair SEWN to the plastic?)
    As far as the (lack of) quality: again, completely agree with this review. I specifically wanted her for a customization project. But if I had wanted the doll in her original state, I would have been UPSET. Her hair was dry and crusty and horribly snarled at the ends right out of the box. She had weird black stains all over her feet, and there are a few tiny green-black specks on her face that appear to be debris in the actual plastic she is molded from. Her lip paint was crooked and had a smear on one side of the upper lip. I was willing to overlook it because I had a rewig and re-paint planned from the start... but she is the first BFC doll I've ever gotten new in the box and I was actually shocked at how shoddy she was. I love my BFC girls-- pretty faces, great fixer-upper/blank slate dolls for customizing, and a great size and shape to sew for-- but I can't help but think the extremely low quality played a big part in them being discontinued.

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  8. These are the type of dolls that I see at stores and go: Heh... and later see in a thrieft shop for 5 dlls and go... Ok, now we´re talking! Lol.

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  9. I have been searching Target's website for these dolls but can't find them. Can you give me a direct link or a search term? I tried BFC, BFFC INK, Moxie Pen Pal, Pen Pal, and going through the dolls by price!

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  10. Unfortunately BFC ink have been discontinued. You may find some on Amazon and Ebay but beware of the prices, they're now regarded as collectibles and people are asking alot for them.

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  11. can the bfc ink doll clothes fit a hearts 4 hearts girl? can you please let me know

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  12. is the bfc ink doll fit america girl????????????????????????

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    1. Anonymous: the photo of Brit wearing an AG dress (blue with ribbon sash) was on this blog. Scroll to see the pictures. READ. AG

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  13. Hi Emily. Can you tell me if the head will come off easily? I am interested in re-rooting her. I don't have one and hope you can describe how the neck fashions to the head. Ball jointed? Flanged? Thanks.

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  14. For some reason, she reminds me of Miranda Cosgrove.

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  15. Do BFC Ink doll clothes fit Hearts for Hearts dolls?

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I value and welcome all opinions, but comments with abusive or offensive language will be deleted.