Monday, May 28, 2012

A Review of Hayden's House...as the Last of the Liv Dolls Leave the Shelves.

For a few months now, there have been whispers that Spin Master is shutting down production of the Liv doll.  A friend on Flickr warned me about this a while ago, and it was confirmed on Dana's blog last week.  Now, even Wikipedia reports the sad news (although I read Wikipedia with a skeptical eye).

This decision is surely based on low profits, so my question is--why weren't Liv dolls more successful?  Well, I want to hear your thoughts on this, but here are mine for starters.  First of all, the beauty of Liv dolls is that they are highly customizable.  In theory, you could buy just one Liv doll and then change her wig and outfit every day for endless new looks.  At most, it seems like you might want one of each character, and then you could focus your spending on accessories and new wigs.  Two problems with this from a marketing standpoint--first, people don't feel the need to buy very many dolls, which is good for buyers but bad for business.  Second, Spin Master didn't make enough outfits, wigs and accessories for these smaller items to carry people's enthusiasm or turn a profit on their own.

My second thought is related to the first.  The earlier waves of Liv dolls were all very similar.  Except for different outfits and wigs (and some small changes in face shape and eye color) the dolls were almost identical.  This contributed to consumers feeling that they didn't need every single doll that came out.  In addition, I can imagine some resentment in people who felt like they had to buy a whole new duplicate doll just to get a cute outfit or wig.  Spin Master seems to have tried to remedy the sameness in their dolls by making some drastic changes to the most recent doll's bodies.  In my opinion, these changes were a big mistake.  The Twist and Dance dolls' gimmicky bodies are virtually impossible to play with, and the Liv for Color and Brites dolls, while not awful, have definitely lost the Liv magic.

My last hypothesis is much simpler--Monster High dolls came out right after Liv and these creative and seemingly rare creatures stole everyone's attention and allowance.

So.  Whatever the reasons, the news is sad.  The silver lining is that Liv merchandise is on clearance everywhere and I am taking advantage.  I have always wanted the Toys R Us exclusive Hayden's house:
Hayden's house playset

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Flamingo" from the Tonner Doll Convention

From what I have heard, Tonner Doll conventions are extremely fun.  I have never been to one, but when there's a convention going on, I follow the excitement through Tonner's high-coverage blog, the Prego message board and Terri's blog.  Photographs from these events always include lots of big smiles, lots of people in elaborate costumes, lots of creative decorations and centerpieces...and of course tons of gorgeous dolls. This year the convention was in Chicago and the title was "Tonner Air."  Dolls from the event had an aerial theme, including airline staff characters and dolls dressed as different colorful birds.  How fun does that sound?

My primary objective when I am watching a Tonner convention from afar is to scope out any Cinderella-faced dolls.  Because, you know, I am a bit obsessed with this face.  Some of the most beautiful Tonner Cinderellas and Camis have come from conventions; Christine Daae, Lady G, Blue Fairy, Delight, Fare Game, Party All Night and Silver Splendor to name a few.  While I adore Cami, my heart belongs to Cinderella, and so I like it when Tonner revives this sweeter, less modern version of the face mold, as he did with Nu Mood Jess.  I also prefer that my Cinderella dolls be in ball gowns, rather than the more modern wardrobe of the Cami line.  So, considering all of that, you can picture my glee when I saw this year's convention Cinderella-faced doll, "Flamingo:"

Tonner-Flamingo-Doll-Convention
Tonner convention "Flamingo," LE 300.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Emily the Strange by Ashton Drake

Nicki asked to see my Emily the Strange doll, and I happen to have a few pictures of her, so here we go.  I think Emily provides an interesting contrast to my Little Apple Doll, Erro.  Both are white vinyl dolls with black features and black hair, and both have a gothic edge to them.  The difference is that while Erro's character is caught in between the living and the dead (and is therefore a bit creepy), Emily is fully alive and just...strange.

I have liked Emily the Strange since her emergence in 1990.  I remember that when she first appeared, it wasn't clear who she was.  She was just this girl who wore black and liked cats and lurked on tee shirts.  I used to buy Emily the Strange tee shirts because, you know, she and I share a name (and the tee shirts are pretty awesome).  Nowadays, you can buy a ton of Emily the Strange merchandise, including books, stickers, comics, clothing and dolls.  I think there's even going to be a movie.  But this isn't a full review, I just want to show you the doll really quick, if I can manage that.

Ashton Drake made their 12" vinyl Emily the Strange doll in 2010.  She retails for $60, which is too high, but I decided to buy her anyway.  She is still readily available.

Ashton Drake's Emily the Strange

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lalaloopsy Cloth Dolls and Lalaloopsy Littles

You might remember that when I reviewed the Lalaloopsy Marina Anchors doll, my biggest complaints about her were her price tag, her packaging and her unruly top-heavy body.  I was also conflicted about the notion of a plastic rag doll.  I appreciate the superior durability of a plastic doll, and I also admire how MGA gave the Lalaloopsy dolls floppy articulation to mimic a cloth doll, but it seems to me that a magical doll who, "comes to life when her last stitch is placed," should probably have some actual stitches in her.

In what seemed like an instantaneous response to my complaints (but could have been coincidence) cloth Lalaloopsy dolls showed up in Toys R Us right after I wrote that review.  These newer dolls are about 10" tall and made completely out of fabric.   They come in simple cardboard boxes, and they cost under $20.  I found mine at Target for  $14.99.  They are more expensive on Amazon.  I chose Mittens for my review because she has blue hair and black eyes, just like Marina:

Lalaloopsy-Cloth-Mittens
Lalaloopsy cloth Mittens Fluff 'N' Stuff

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Little Apple Doll, "Erro," by Ufuoma Urie for Underground Toys

The reason I asked everyone to share a favorite doll during the Monster High Cupid giveaway is that I love learning about new kinds of doll.  I had a wonderful time learning about the dolls that were mentioned.  I think the Jude Deveraux Barbie is lovely, the Fisher Price My Friend doll looks like the perfect companion for a young child, and the Sleeping Beauty Barbie, whose eyes can close, is something I should compare to the Sleepover Party Liv dolls some day.  There was one doll mentioned, though, that stood out to me as something I should investigate immediately--the Little Apple Doll.

Little Apple Dolls are 14 inch vinyl dolls with an eerie, minimalist appearance that conjures Japanese kabuki theater and goth horror.  These spooks are the creation of British artist Ufuoma Urie ("Yurei").  Yurei's strange, otherworldly dolls were sold by Underground Toys until 2008, when the company decided to drop the L.A.D. line.  Currently, Little Apple Dolls are being made in small editions by Yurei and sold through her company, Screaming Matriarch (love that name).  The new dolls have clothes that are designed and hand sewn by the artist herself.

From what I can tell by looking at pictures, the difference between the Underground Toys dolls and the newer Screaming Matriarch dolls is mostly in the quality of the clothes.  The prices are also notably different, with the older dolls retailing for around $25 and the newer dolls selling for three or four times that.  I'd love to have found a newer Little Apple doll for this review, but price and availability forced me to settle for the Underground Toys version.  Check out this picture of the first doll Yurei made independently, though.  She is called Supernae.  Now, compare Supernae to the doll I bought.  My doll is called Erro and is from 2005:

Little Apple Doll, "Erro."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Poppy Parker and Chip "Baby It's You" Gift Set by Integrity Toys

Typically, when fashion doll pre-order season comes around each year, I select a few Tonner dolls with Cinderella faces to add to my collection and that's about it.  This leaves me in a position where I can get out the popcorn, sit back, and watch the chaos that surrounds the yearly Integrity Toys pre-order extravaganza.  I have tried once or twice (half-heartedly, I'll admit) to buy a new Integrity doll, but by the time I get my act together, the dolls I want are always sold out.  Why are these dolls so popular?  Well, the edition sizes are pretty small (400-600), and the dolls are also Barbie-sized, so they fit nicely into the collections of established Barbie fans.  Furthermore, Jason Wu is a brilliant designer and many people want to own something he has created (have you seen his clothes at Target, by the way?  They are very nice).  But I also suspect that there's another intangible element to these dolls that makes them so tempting--a kind of "X factor."

I do own a few Integrity dolls, but only ones that don't sell very well for some reason.  For example, I got my 16" AvantGuard dolls on a big clearance sale and I found my I.T.B.E. doll collecting dust at an online shop two years after her release.  I really like these dolls, though, and that got me thinking that if mine are the undesirable Integrity dolls, the hot dolls must be pretty spectacular.  So, this year I decided to put a little more effort into my quest for a popular Integrity doll.

Lately, one of the most sought-after Integrity characters is Poppy Parker.  Poppy portrays a teenaged fashion model from the 1960s.  2012 has been an exciting year for Poppy Parker doll releases, because along with the usual 12" additions to the Poppy collection, there are new 16" versions of this character as well.  The 16" Poppy dolls are actually among the few Integrity dolls still available to order now, but the 12" dolls were typically scarce.  I managed to get my hands on one of the 12" Poppy dolls, the "Baby It's You" gift set that also includes Poppy's boyfriend Chip:

Poppy-Parker-Chip-Set
Poppy Parker and Chip Baby it's You gift set.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Monster High Cupid Giveaway Results!

The time has come to see who wins the elusive Monster High C.A. Cupid doll!  I love giveaways, but I hate that not everyone can win.  I wish you could all win.  I've only ever won one thing in my whole life I think--my dad and I won a quilt raffle once when I was a teenager.  That was pretty awesome.

Also, I loved reading through your descriptions of favorite dolls!  I learned about a few dolls I had not been aware of, and I added a few dolls to my wish list.  I got a new idea for the blog, too.  I think once a week I'll share a doll from my collection that doesn't need to be reviewed, but just wants to show off.  Kind-of and oldies but goodies feature.  We'll see how that goes.

Anyway--the good news is that I found a few more Monster High girls to join in the fun:

Monster High runner-up prizes.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Review of the 12" Tangled Rapunzel from the Disney Store

I'd like to review a few more of the Rapunzel dolls I bought during my crazed Tangled obsession last month.  As a bit of an aside, the first Rapunzel doll I ever bought was actually Robert Tonner's 16" Rapunzel, who was an FAO Schwarz exclusive in 2008 (way before the Disney movie).  This doll was expensive ($200) and massively disappointing.  I actually sent her back to the store.  Her hair was thin and uneven and her outfit was of poor quality for such a pricey collector's doll.  She was nothing like the exquisite FAO Schwarz Cinderella Rose exclusive.  Anyway, the Tonner company redeemed itself big time with the Disney Showcase Tangled Rapunzel, but she's pretty expensive.  What about a Rapunzel doll in a more affordable price range?  Well, both Mattel and the Disney Store have a variety of 12" Rapunzel dolls based on the movie, and these range in price from just under $13 to about $30.  I prefer the Disney Store version of Rapunzel, mostly because her face is unique and more reminiscent of the quirky movie character.

When Tangled first came out, my niece got one of the $12.50 12" Disney Store Rapunzel dolls, and I was very surprised and impressed by the doll's articulation and quality.  I immediately bought one for myself, of course, but for some reason I have never taken her out of the box.  I was looking at the Disney Store the other day and noticed that the newer version of this Rapunzel doll is actually a bit different from the original.  This demanded further investigation.  I ordered the newer version and in this review I'll de-box the newer doll and compare her to the older Rapunzel...and I'll also compare her to the Ever After wedding version of the same doll.

Disney-Rapunzel-Comparison
Disney original 12" Rapunzel doll (L)  and the current version (R)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Monster High's Elusive Cupid Giveaway! (Now Closed)

Giveaway is now closed to new entries--winning names are posted, above! 
(May the 4th be with you!)
It's been raining in Maine for what feels like forever.  It's good for the flowers, I know, but after a while, it gets kind of old.  To cheer things up, I decided to do a giveaway!  The Monster High poll is now closed.  Thank goodness.  The all-caps heading on that poll was giving me a headache.  Anyway, with a healthy 64% of the vote, Cupid won the distinction of being the hardest Monster High doll to find in stores.  This isn't surprising, really, since she's a Valentine's Day themed doll exclusive to Walmart.  Skull Shores Frankie got second place, but if the five zillion Skull Shores Frankie dolls at my local Toys R Us right now are any indication, that information is slightly out of date.

I managed to get my hands on a Cupid the other day.  Here she is--and she could be yours!

Monster-High-Cupid
Monster High C.A. Cupid