I had some moments of concern over the summer when I noticed that Cutie Pops were getting less expensive, and they were not being re-stocked at Target and Toys R Us. I worried that the dolls weren't selling well and might be poised for discontinuation. I needn't have worried--Cutie Pops seem to be doing fine, and Jada Toys has rolled out an interesting triumvirate of new dolls for the fall.
I will look at each of the three new varieties of Cutie Pop (Crown Cuties, Hattitude and Fashion Pups), but I'll do it in a series of three short reviews...short for me, anyway. At the end, I'll weigh in on which of the new dolls is the most exciting. I want to start with a Crown Cutie, arguably the most different of the new dolls. There are two Crown Cutie characters to choose from, Crystalina and Pearlina. I chose Crystalina because I like her ice-blue hair:
|Cutie Pops Crown Cutie, "Crystalina."|
Crystalina's box is more similar to the Swirly Brights packaging than it is to the first wave's frustrating heart-shaped containers. She is in an asymmetric cardboard box with a large plastic window:
What makes the Crown Cuties different from the other Cutie Pops is that they have really long ponytails and a crown which is meant to support big, up-do hairstyles. The back of the box has a description of this new hairstyling concept:
The hairstyles look great on the box. It's nice to see a Cutie Pop wearing something other than simple ponytails:
There is a photograph of both Crown Cuties at the bottom of the box. Crystalina looks darker-skinned in comparison to Pearlina, but she seems pale in real life, so it might just be a shadow effect. I have never seen Pearlina in person.
|Still the heart-shaped eyelashes, but that's ok.|
They make it sound very simple:
|Snap! Twist! Wrap! Clip!|
|To infinity and beyond!|
The doll is secured to a large purple backdrop which slides easily out of the main box. It takes some effort to get the doll and her accessories removed from the cardboard, though. The most time-consuming part is finding and cutting seven or eight tiny plastic ties out of Crystalina's dress. While the de-boxing procedure is easier than it was with the first wave dolls, there's still a lot of extraneous packaging here:
Here are all of the extras that come with the doll:
|A lame comb, 3 pops, two eyes, two clips, a crown and a hair extension.|
The pops that come with this set have a royal theme:
There's a pink feather plume:
A blue and silver crown:
And a red and white cameo. The face on this charm is hard to see clearly, but it looks nice from a distance:
The two clips are simple and grey. This style of clip can be found for sale at a lot of stores like Target and Walmart--even the grocery store, so it would be easy to pick up some extras.
The braided hair extension is attached to a larger blue clip:
Crystalina's closed eyes have a butterfly and swirl pattern against a pink background. The heart eyelashes have the same color pattern as the open eyes--alternating light blue and burgundy:
The silver crown is made out of plastic. It has three arrow-shaped pegs that insert into the doll's head:
There are little bumps along the sides of the crown that look like they are for keeping the hair from slipping around too much:
The crown is painted entirely in silver, but there's a translucent blue heart decoration at the very top:
Conspicuously absent on this crown are attachment points for pops. I guess the crown can not be decorated.
Another new feature with this doll is her molded hair. It doesn't have the straight bowl-cut bangs that the earlier dolls have. It's shaped into an elegant chignon:
There are three rather glaring holes on the top of her head:
|Bowling ball head.|
Crystalina's ponytails are not removable. Interchangeable hair is one of the hallmarks of the Cutie Pops, so I was surprised to see this feature. I was assuming that I would be able to share Crystalina's blue hair with my other Cuties. Humph.
The ponytails are connected inside of the head and exit through two holes:
The hair is soft and long. Because it is permanently attached to the doll's head, it is very easy to brush.
I like Crystalina's face. The relatively normal eyes and textured hair give her a softer, prettier appearance than her predecessors:
Here are Candi (first wave) and Magenta (Swirly Brights) for comparison:
She has exaggerated full pink lips with a little smile:
As with all Cutie Pops, Crystalina's eyes are removable, but she has painted eyes underneath them...with heart-shaped holes in the irises.
These holes are hard to get used to. She looks hypnotized...or possessed:
|Look into my eyes....|
Maybe it would look better if the insides of the eye holes were painted black?
|Look deep inside the hollow caverns of my eyes...|
Actually, painting the eyes was an easy experiment for me to try. Here's Crystalina with some black acrylic paint in the backs of her eyes:
|Eeep! What have I done??|
That might be even worse than the soul-sucking skin-colored holes. Her pupils are freakishly huge.
I added some reflective dots to her eyes to see if that would bring her back from the undead:
I'll see how that paint lasts over time.
Here are the closed eyes--I wasn't sure which eye went on which side. The open eyes have a clear shape that can only fit on one side of the head, but these closed eyes are more ambiguous:
Butterfly on the outside... ...or the inside?
I went with the doll's right, but I don't think it matters much. This is the "wrong" way:
And this is the correct way:
|Also looks fine.|
Crystalina is wearing a fancy blue dress with five attached pop decorations. The dress has a glittery pink tulle underskirt and a long glittery blue tulle train in the back. It's fairly generic, but the pops add a nice three dimensional effect and a little customization fun:
The bodice of the dress has a shiny pink inset in the front and is decorated with blue tulle puff sleeves and two pink bows. The skirt is made out of a shiny blue fabric and has an applied pink glitter design.
When the pops are removed, they reveal heart-shaped pink plastic attachment sites:
I noticed some more tiny plastic ties in the dress. These were holding a cardboard support in place:
The support didn't make much of a difference. The skirt is still nice and full without it:
Here are all of the pops that were on the dress:
There's one large, heavy rhinestone pop with a painted silver border:
There are two butterfly pops--one pink and one blue:
There's another crown:
And another cameo:
Here's the dress all by itself:
There are also little holes left by every single one of the plastic ties that was put through this skirt:
The pink tulle underskirt is nicely gathered and attached to the rest of the dress:
Crystalina's shoes are fairly plain. They are blue high-heeled wedges with a painted pink bow in the front:
The paint job on the bow is half-hearted:
Aside from the differences in the hair, the Crown Cutie body seems to be exactly like the older Cutie Pops bodies. Crystalina has seven points of articulation (neck, shoulders, hips and knees):
|Mismatched bowed legs.|
At this point, I've accepted that the dramatic curve in the lower legs of the Cutie Pops is intentional. All of the dolls have it.
Crystalina's knee articulation isn't great. One knee bends freely, but it doesn't even reach a 90 degree angle:
The other knee wouldn't bend at all the first time I tried. I had to work on flexing it slowly and carefully for quite a while before I could get it to budge. I was pretty sure I was going to break it. This is exactly the same problem I had with my Swirly Brights Magenta. I guess I can no longer dismiss that as an isolated incident.
Even after I bullied both legs into bending, the flexibility in these joints is limited:
I had really hoped to see improved articulation with this season's dolls...not the same problems cropping up again. Sigh.
The ball-jointed head articulation is great with this doll, though, and despite several frustrations, she can strike a few fun poses:
I put Crystalina back into her dress in preparation for trying out the hairstyling crown.
The crown's three prongs insert into the holes in the doll's head:
It was trickier to get the crown attached than I expected it would be. The plastic is kinda flimsy, and I was nervous that one of the pegs would break as I was trying to wriggle the crown into place. I did manage to get it on without damaging anything:
I also tried taking the crown off again, and this was even more nerve-wracking than putting it on. I can't imagine that the crown could be put on and taken off too many times before it would break. It does not seem well-suited to small children.
The directions on the box are a little vague, but I got the general idea: first, twist the hair into cords...
...then wrap it around the crown and clip it into place.
So, I twisted:
|Ooh. That's ugly.|
Still pretty ugly, though.
The styling is, shall we say, a little harder than it looks on the box. Here we go again:
|Twist (and shout).|
Clip (and tuck).
I still wasn't very impressed with myself. And it looks even worse from the back:
I resorted to getting out the paper instructions to see if I could glean any useful tips or suggestions. This pamphlet just goes through the same old "snap, twist, clip, wrap!" rigamarole:
I did learn something new, however: apparently the crown is a "one-time snap which could not remove:"
|In other words, don't take off the crown, silly.|
So, I buckled down and practiced a few times, adding in the braided hair extension for some extra flair:
I was fairly happy with this:
And actually quite proud of this!
With the fancy hair decorations, the large eyes, and the sparkly, tulle-heavy dress, this Cutie Pop princess is strikingly similar to the new La Dee Da princesses. Even their articulation is the same.
Crystalina can close her eyes, though, which is such a cool feature:
Despite my early struggles with the crown, by the time I had completed my third or fourth hairstyle, I realized that I was having fun. In fact, once I stopped trying to imitate the hairstyle on the box, and just worked on some of my own ideas with the hair, I had a lot of fun.
I tried eliminating the "twist" step and just wrapped the hair flat:
I tried pinning the hair up without wrapping it:
I tried braids...
And I found that if I tied the ends of the hair with clear rubber bands, I could have a little more flexibility in how I moved chunks of hair around:
I actually found it very hard to stop playing with this doll. The hairstyle possibilities might not be endless, but there are apparently enough of them to keep me busy for hours.
Bottom line? I ran through a full spectrum of opinions as I reviewed this doll. Initially, I loved her promotional pictures because of her fancy hairstyle, princess-themed pops and bright blue hair. Right out of the box, I was thrilled with her relatively normal eyes and the new molded hair, but dismayed by the fact that her ponytails were permanently attached. My disappointment intensified as I realized that she has the exact same frustrating knee defect as my Swirly Brights doll. I almost gave up on her completely as I wrestled with the fragile plastic crown and the learning curve of the hairstyling technique. At one stage, I was grouchily thinking that if I couldn't re-create the beautiful up-do that attracted me to her in the first place, and I couldn't share her cool blue ponytails with my other Cutie Pop dolls, then what in the world is the point?
Well. The point is that once you get used to it, the new hairstyling technique is surprisingly, wonderfully entertaining. The hair is silky, tangle-free, and really fun to play with. The ponytails are also long enough to allow a wide range of different styling approaches. Not only is it unnecessary to follow the "twist, wrap and clip" technique, but I actually recommend that you forget about it entirely and let your imagination run wild. Once I did that, I had a hard time putting the doll down to type up this review.
One concern I have with these dolls is that younger children might not have the dexterity to master the hairstyling technique. Little ones might also need help with the fragile crown and sticky knee joints. On the other hand, these same young kids could benefit from a Cutie Pop doll with hair that doesn't fall off. As an adult collector, the fun of the crown hairstyling feature is more than enough to justify the permanently attached hair. I would have been happier if the crown itself was sturdier, and if it had some attachment sites for pops. More hair extensions would be nice, too, especially if they didn't have such bulky clips. And of course I would always be happier with better articulation. Still, two of my criticisms from the last wave of Cutie Pops were resolved in this doll--her eyes are much more normal-looking, and she comes with an extra pair of close-eyed pops. That's good progress.
I don't know how the Cutie Pops do this to me every time. Even though this review was a bit of a bumpy ride, and even though Crystalina has a few flaws that I don't easily forgive, I find that I'm completely charmed by this blue-haired newcomer.