I think Times Square is impressive no matter how many times you've seen it or how old you are. Between the massive screens and billboards, the throngs of fascinating people, and the sidewalk sideshow-like attractions, there's always something unexpected. On this visit, the scene that had me stopped in my tracks was this:
Well, okay, the Naked Cowboy also stopped me in my tracks...
...but what I really want to show you is Merida, larger than life, adorning the Toys R Us store front. I can't wait for June 22nd!
I didn't take that many pictures, but for those of you who have never been to this massive store, it is pretty incredible. Just inside the door, there's a huge ferris wheel. You can buy rides on this wheel and get a preview of the multi-leveled toy wonderland:
The ferris wheel sets the tone for the rest of the store, where every display is as massive as it is impressive. For example, there's a life-size animated Tyrannosaurus rex that eyes you hungrily and roars as you browse the Lego section:
There are Lego sculptures that tower ten feet above you:
I especially liked the Calico Critters display with its huge flocked rabbit family and lighted diorama:
|And, of course, they have every single Calico Critters set.|
Capturing the attention of most of the little girls (and many of the older girls) in the store was this pink Barbie house:
The house is packed with every imaginable Barbie product. You can even climb up the stairs and look out over the rest of the store from the upper level windows.
You might notice the Monster High display to the right of this picture:
While there were lots of Monster High dolls, there was not a huge variety. It was mostly Sweet 1600 Frankie Stein, Sweet 1600 Clawdeen Wolf, A few of the classroom dolls (the ones with lockers) and some of the Skull Shores dolls. In the aisle there, you can see Clawdeen's bedroom playset, which seems pricey at $40.99. They also had Lagoona's Hydration Station and many of the cloth dolls.
In the end, the selection in this store was not that different from my humble local Toys R Us. There was consistently more of everything, of course, and there were certainly some brands with a better variety of product on the shelves, but for the most part there was nothing I hadn't seen before. One exception was in the Barbie house, where this little gem was displayed:
|The William and Catherine wedding set.|
Having spent part of my youth living in the United Kingdom, I have a soft spot for the British royal family. I thought these two dolls looked very well made, and even though (as my mom pointed out) William is a bit caricatured, the overall effect is lovely. I left the store with these two under my arm, so you'll be seeing more of them.
My last visit to FAO Schwarz was disappointing. A few years ago when we stopped by, there were huge crowds, no Tonner dolls and practically no Lego. We almost decided not to make the trip this time, but I am so glad we did. This was a much more special shopping experience than Toys R Us. There were Tonner dolls, Madame Alexander dolls, Monster High dolls, Barbies, Lee Middleton babies and more. It was amazing.
In this case, there were dolls that I have not seen before, and that I simply can't get in Maine. For example, they had about ten of the Meowlody and Purrsephone Monster High sets. They also have a whole area called the Doll Factory where you can customize your own 18" or 10" Madame Alexander play doll. These looked like pretty nice dolls, especially the smaller dolls (which unfortunately aren't on the website). They also have a Lee Middleton nursery, where baby dolls are displayed in bassinets and the staff are dressed as nurses. This seems like it would be a wonderful doll buying experience for a small child. The impressive Lego stock and cool displays were back, too:
|Lego Jack Sparrow|
The best part for me was seeing the Tonner dolls. There were not very many on display, maybe twenty in all, but any time I get to see an expensive doll like this in real life, it is a huge treat. I tried to take pictures of all of the dolls, but I didn't want to mortify my kids or attract the security brigade.
First, from the Harry Potter collection, they had Ron, Harry and Dumbledore on display. These are the smaller scale dolls--Harry and Ron are 12 inches tall, Dumbledore is 17 inches. Ron is adorable, although his hair is too thick and long:
Harry was missing his glasses, and I thought he was not as impressive as Ron. The Ron doll bears a good likeness to Rupert Grint, and he is also just a cute doll. The Harry doll is not particularly reminiscent of Daniel Radcliff, nor is it an especially striking doll in and of itself. The clothing and shoes on these two dolls are wonderful, but because the dolls are out in the open for customers to handle, everything was a bit rumpled.
Dumbledore was extremely ratty and his hair, in particular, was a horrendous tangled mess. Even when I tried to be forgiving about his handled status, he was disappointing for a $200 doll. After seeing these three, I wouldn't buy Dumbledore or Harry, but I am still tempted by Ron and dearly wish Hermione had been there to inspect.
Sharing a nearby shelf were two slightly creepy dolls that I have honestly never given a single glance. First, there was Ms. Beetlejuice:
|She's like Scarlett Johansson gone goth.|
This was my mom's favorite doll. It took me a while to process her unique appearance, but in the end I think my mom has good instincts. This is a cool doll. She has inset eyes that are very nicely done and are quite realistic. Her hair is incredible--it is this poofy beehive of blonde curls with subtle blue highlights.
She is an excellent mix of beautiful and odd. Her dark eye make-up, funky striped clothing and crazy hair are outlandish, but her features are pleasant and appealing. She has the Monica Merrill face sculpt and a 16" curvy body. I really like this combination and it piqued my interest in the Monica Merrill line of dolls for the first time. Ms. Beetlejuice was a serious temptation.
Alongside Ms. Beetlejuice was Emily, the Corpse Bride (from the Tim Burton movie):
|Her hair is more blue than purple. The lighting here is misleading.|
I walked right past her on the first sweep, tripping over myself to get to the Ellowyne Wilde dolls. I am really glad I was with my mom, though, because once again she saw the potential in this doll and prompted me to give her a closer inspection. If you look at her carefully, she's hauntingly charming. Her eyes are wide and vacant, but they're very well done. No wonkiness, and the blue actually has some nice detail and depth when you look at her up close. She also has the Monic Merrill head and curvy body, although she and Beetlejuice look incredibly different. I almost left the store with this doll, but the $200 price tag was a bit daunting.
I was so happy with my Disney Showcase Rapunzel doll, I almost ordered Tonner's Ariel, despite her less-than-amazing promotional pictures. I am glad I didn't order her, because she is very similar in real life to those promo pictures...in fact the promo pictures might be better. She doesn't look anything like the Disney character, and unlike the Rapunzel doll, I don't think she has enough independent charm to be a tempting interpretation of the character.
Her dress is exquisite and her hair is a rich golden contrast to her black outfit and porcelain-pale skin. This is a gorgeous doll, but I have just never been tempted by her for personal taste reasons. She's very statuesque and serene with a ton of beauty and very little character.
|That's awesome hair.|
Midnight is also beautiful, with even more impressive hair, but a less impressive outfit and a huge feather obscuring her face and hair:
Next to these two ladies in black was the 22" American Model doll Anna Karenina:
I was very excited to see Anna because I have been watching an eBay auction of this doll for ages, almost buying her on several occasions. She is amazing. Her dress and jewelry are gorgeous, and her hair is perfect. The articulated wrists on this body are a wonderful addition (why did that take so long?), and she poses like a dream. There's something in this doll's face, though, that I don't like. My reaction to her face is mild--it's not a strong dislike, but it's enough that I doubt I'll be plunking down the $300-$400 necessary to bring this one home.
I had never seen a Tonner Scarlett O'Hara doll in person before, and I was amazed by Heartbroken's likeness to Vivien Leigh--Tonner got this one right:
I am now going to have to exercise some serious restraint if I want to avoid buying the lovely new Scarlett's Wedding Day doll.
There were several Ellowyne Wilde dolls, and these had clearly been handled more than all of the other dolls. They were in pretty bad shape. I am not an Ellowyne expert--I don't own any of these dolls and I don't look at the catalogue very often, but I can still give you my overall impressions.
I'll show you the pictures in inverse order of how much I liked them. I didn't really like any of the dolls with inset eyes at all. I especially didn't like A Dark and Stormy Night Amber:
|She looks pissed at me.|
I prefer Ellowyne's face sculpt, but I still didn't like the inset eyes and heavy eye makeup on Woeful Romance (an FAO exclusive). I also found her outfit to be overly busy and confusing (maybe just because it was messed up?).
Feeling Fatigue was my favorite of the inset eyed dolls, and I thought her outfit was creative, well made and attractive, especially the jacket:
I liked all of the painted eye dolls, but am not crazy about Going in Circle's bangs:
I liked Check on Me quite a lot (although maybe not her hat...):
But my favorite, and the one I wanted to buy, was Languid. She has, in my eyes, perfect coloring and an interesting and elegant chiffon outfit.
The last group of dolls on display were the interpretive Wizard of Oz dolls. These dolls came out in 2010 and I never looked twice at them. Face-to-face with them, though, they are captivating. They all have the highly articulated Antoinette body. First, there was Hear Me Roar (the lion). She has an Antoinette face and the Honey skin tone. I thought she was the least impressive of the Wizard dolls, but still quite striking with her rich skin tone, pale eyes and mane of curly blonde hair:
|She's very monochromatic.|
My husband's and my mother's favorite of the trio was Heart on My Sleeve (the tin man):
She has the beautiful Duchess face with amazing icy grey eyes and bright red-orange hair.
|Her lips are red, but they have a silver gloss on them.|
My favorite, and the biggest surprise of the day, was Beauty and Brains:
I don't know what exactly it is about this doll, but she seemed very special to me. I don't particularly like her skirt (although I appreciate the fashionable interpretation of the scarecrow's look), but her face is so real. She reminds me of someone I know:
She has the DeAnna Denton head sculpt (although you could have fooled me) and a Cameo skin tone. I love her. I didn't actually buy her, but of all the dolls I saw over the weekend, this is the one I keep thinking about. I know I've said it before, but this is what I find so exciting about doll shops--there are always surprises. Sometimes, as in the case of Ariel, Dumbledore, and even Anna Karenina, the surprises end up saving me lots of money. Other times, obscure dolls that I have completely dismissed turn out to be the stars of the show.
If you ever get a chance to check out the Toys R Us in Times Square, or especially the FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue, go for it. There's nothing like an over-the-top toy store to plaster a huge smile on your face and make you feel like a kid again. I highly recommend it.