I have been interested in these dolls since 2009. I have always appreciated the fact that Sonja Hartmann designed an 18" play doll with multiple joints, offering a welcome contrast to the relatively inflexible dolls like American Girl, Carpatina and Magic Attic. I also admire the realism in the Kidz 'n' Cats features. These dolls do not have exaggerated proportions like large eyes or huge heads, but rather strive to accurately represent the features of real children. I also enjoy the funky, wholesome way that Kidz 'n' Cats dolls are dressed. They come in a colorful variety of multi-piece outfits made from an array of eye-catching, differently textured fabrics.
I purchased Evita back at the beginning of last summer during one of Samantha's Doll's incredible 40% off sales. The dolls cost around $150 at full retail, but great sales like this can occasionally be found. Of the five possible Kidz 'n' Cats face molds, Evita's is my least favorite. I selected her because she was one of only a few dolls in stock at the time, and also because I couldn't find very many real life pictures of her and was curious about how her open-mouthed features would look in person. I should admit that I wasn't thrilled with the pictures of Evita's stock outfit, either. Basically, Evita was an odd choice for me, given that two of my favorite things about Kidz 'n' Cats (their faces and their outfits) did not seem to be well-represented by this particular doll. After a week of ups and downs with Evita, I am ready to share my mixed emotions:
|Kidz 'n' Cats "Evita," by Sonja Hartmann.|
Helen. Paulette outfit.
Unfortunately, I was not very interested in play dolls at that time, and Helen's quality was not what I expected. Many things about her were lovely, but she had a rattle in her head, her wig cap was visible in several spots, her hair was too long and thin, her eyes were wonky, and I found her very hard to dress. In fact, the brown tank top that accompanied the Paulette outfit wouldn't fit on her at all. I quickly gave her away to the daughter of a nearby friend.
I had another chance to see a Kidz 'n' Cats doll over the summer because my youngest niece received Grace for Christmas last year:
By the time I met Grace, she had been played with for about a half a year, and I was shocked by how she looked, especially by the state of her hair. Her eyelashes had also fallen off and been re-glued at least once:
I was able to brush the knots out of her hair (it took a while) but the ends are still very rough and the hair could not be restored to the shiny smoothness shown in the catalog pictures--at least not with brushing alone.
The little plush cat's velcro arms make her pretty good on the bars, too!
Here's Grace with part of her original outfit (which is beautiful and very rugged):
I love how Grace's cat has a matching purple dress and bow:
Here they are with their monkey family friends....
By the end of my visit, I fixed Grace's eyelashes and brushed out her hair and actually grew pretty attached to her wonderfully realistic face and her great flexibility. Grace's clothes are beautiful and the little stuffed cat is a fun accessory with tons of personality of her own.
Ok, so now you're caught up with my limited Kidz 'n' Cats experience. When Evita arrived in the mail, I was pretty excited and immediately opened her shipping box to take a peek. The box is attractive and the presentation of the doll is great:
Kidz 'n' Cats are clearly marketed as play dolls. The advertising says that they are "made for children to play with and enjoy." This seems at odds with the "14+, Collectible Doll" statement on the front of the box.
A thin layer of protective plastic peels off of the front of the box to give an even clearer view of the doll:
The plastic lid of the box is held in place with a pink cardboard strip that says "Kidz 'n' Cats." This strip wraps around the bottom half of the box and snaps in the back with a real plastic snap
|I like that I didn't have to rip the strip in order to remove it.|
|Many joints = happy Emily!|
She has a vacant stare and her mouth shape is very two dimensional:
Evita comes with a little grey kitten who looks identical to Grace's pet. The cat is tied to the undecorated cardboard backdrop with thread:
|I got a cat this time!|
Evita also comes with a grey purse which is displayed right underneath the cat:
The box has a different design from other 18" play doll boxes I have seen. The white backdrop is set into the cardboard base of the box at an angle. The angled cardboard displays the accessories nicely. It can fold out to reveal a secret compartment. I wish they had tucked a little surprise behind that flap. That would have been awesome.
The doll is attached to the cardboard with several wire ties and one large plastic cable tie.
Here is Evita with her accessories. Both of her wrists have hanging tags:
The smallest tag has the Kidz 'n' Cats logo and the two larger tags are care instructions and a small catalogue:
I was surprised to read that you can shampoo the hair on these dolls. I have always assumed that it would be bad to get wigged hair wet. Wouldn't it be too hard to get the wig cap completely dry? Apparently it's ok to use a hair dryer at a low setting, too. I am not sure I'm brave enough to try this, but it was very interesting to learn. Watch out, My Salon Doll!
The photographs of the outfits are beautiful and tempting. Too bad I know that the Paulette outfit has a shirt that doesn't fit.
This page displays my two favorite Kidz 'n' Cats dolls--Tara and Jakob. I love everything about both of them. Unfortunately, Tara is super hard to find.
|The kitty's orange long johns are amazing. I love them.|
Evita's purse is made out of stiff silver imitation leather. The body of the purse has an extra white lace layer over the silver:
The purse has a sturdy working zipper:
And a working buckled strap with reinforced holes:
The little grey kitty is wearing a white cotton knit ballet outfit with an opalescent sequined collar and a short tulle skirt:
Her front paws have squares of velcro so that she can grab onto things (and do gymnastics!):
Her clothes are removable, including her ballet-style shoes. The ribbons on her shoes are tied to her legs at the bow, though, so I left them in place.
Her white head ribbon in sewn in place, too. I think the cats in this series are fantastic. They are very well made and have a ton of personality.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Evita's face was not what I was hoping it would be. There are some endearing qualities about her features, but there's just something that doesn't look right:
While her eyes are a nice size, they are very widely spaced, especially when compared to the other Kidz 'n' Cats faces.
Here she is side-by-side with Grace so you can see how striking the difference is:
The other difference I noticed between Grace and Evita is that Grace's lip paint is very delicate and natural, while Evita's is opaque and overly pink. It looks like she's wearing cheap lipstick.
I think the biggest problem with Evita's eyes is that her right eye is placed further away from her midline than her left eye. Here's a grid I made to check this: the red arrow on her left eye stops right in the middle of the pupil. On the right side, the same arrow only reaches the edge of the iris.
Evita's eyes are quite beautiful. They are plastic, but they have a realistic three-dimensional pattern in the irises:
She has subtle painted eyelashes, and a strip of applied lashes. The applied lashes are very heavy and burgundy-colored:
I think the painted lashes are very nicely done, but the color of the other lashes really bothers me, and the thick fibers detract from the delicate eyes:
It's risky to manufacture an open-mouthed doll with visible teeth. If this kind of expression is done well, the doll can be full of joy and personality. Done badly, though, this expression can be a real liability. Evita's face is stuck in between a smile and a worried gasp:
I see the potential in this mouth shape--there's a hint of shy sweetness in her half-smile, but the monochromatic opaque paint color and blocky teeth ruin the effect for me.
She has a fairly flat profile:
Evita looks best in half profile, an angle that underplays the distance between her eyes and shows the most depth in her mouth.
I tried some graphic modifications on Evita's face--moving her eyes closer together and blocking two of her teeth. I think the eyes look better, but I might have made the mouth worse:
Normal Evita Altered Evita
Evita has very, very long hair. It is a beautiful natural brown color with highlights. It is very similar to My American Girl Keira's lovely hair. The fibers are straight, smooth and shiny, and the hair feels wonderful to the touch.
The length of the hair is impractical for a young child, but it does offer a lot of styling options.
The wig has lots of short strands near Evita's scalp. These strands help conceal the dark brown wig cap, but they stick out in some funny ways, especially on the very top of Evita's head:
As you can see in the pictures below, the hair is prone to static frizz. Rubbing it with a dryer sheet helps a little.
It's hard to imagine Evita's gorgeous hair ending up like my niece's Grace doll. I would not have predicted that outcome, since the hair seems so smooth and easy to manage right out of the box.
Evita is wearing a white and silver two-pice outfit with grey cowboy boots:
The shirt does not open in back, but the skirt has a sturdy zipper and an adjustable silver imitation leather belt:
The white shirt has fabric flowers sewn onto the sleeves, making the doll look more broad-shouldered than she is:
The tee shirt fabric is a thin synthetic knit with a slight sheen. If you look closely, you can see something showing through from underneath the shirt. It turns out that Evita is wearing a netted training bra with thick edges that are visible through the shirt:
The shirt is made out of a stretchy fabric, but it still takes some wrestling to pull it over Evita's head. I really wish it had an opening in the back.
The little flowers are stitched into the sleeves and the thread is glued to the back of the shirt. The flowers are not finished around the edges, and so they shed tiny little pieces of white thread all over the place.
The top of the skirt is made out of the same shiny knit as the shirt, and is decorated with more fabric flowers and flower-shaped silver sequins. The bottom part of the skirt is made out of white lace and has a thin underskirt.
The belt is adjustable, and has reinforced buckle holes. It's pretty flimsy, though, and it has an odd discoloration around the edges that makes it look dirty:
The colorful Kidz 'n' Cats logo tag is sewn into the back hem of the skirt:
One of the skirt's belt loops broke while I was dressing the doll. I glued it back together.
Here is Evita's lacy underwear:
Evita's boots are grey (not silver) imitation leather accented with white lace. They have sturdy zippers running down the entire back of the boot, which makes getting them on and off very easy.
The boots have nice stitched details and seem sturdy.
After examining Evita's clothes, I was struck by how many things about this doll seem like a little girl trying to be an adult. Her hair is too long for a small child, her lip color looks artificial, and her glitzy cowgirl outfit and lacy underwear are a glaring deviation from the youthful printed fabrics, rich-colored knits and cozy scarves that the other Kidz 'n' Cats dolls wear. Even Evita's name strikes me as too grown-up for such a little girl. The name might have a different feel in Germany, but when I hear the name "Evita," I think of Madonna, showgirls and Argentinian politics. I think I'll call her Evie instead.
|Don't cry for me, Argentina....|
The first Kidz 'n' Cats bodies had nine points of articulation, but in 2011 a wrist joint was added. Evie is from 2012, so she has eleven points of articulation. Her body is made out of hard vinyl and is strung with elastic.
Like A Girl for all Time's Clementine, Evie has fairly broad shoulders for a little girl. Unlike Clementine, though, Evie has a good range of motion in her arms:
You can see in these pictures that my doll's right lower arm is more yellow than the rest of her body.
Strung joints don't hold their poses as well as hinged joints, so Evie has limits to the things she can do--especially with her legs. Her joints are strung very nicely, though, with just the right amount of play in the elastic. She is strung tightly enough to stand very solidly on her own, but all of her joints move easily and don't snap back into a straight position.
I really like how this doll moves, and I think she can strike some adorable, natural-looking poses:
Evie's knees bend easily, but if there isn't some kind of pressure holding them in place, they won't stay at a right angle. This makes her chair-sitting pose slightly awkward....
...but better than Clementine's equivalent pose:
Here is an up-close peek at one of Evie's hip joints. The two legs are connected through the body by a double strand of elastic:
|There are several stains and bits of grit inside this joint.|
The arm elastic runs through a white plastic tube. This construction is very similar to the My Salon Doll stringing.
Here is the neck joint with the neck on the left side of the picture and the head on the right:
The neck has a solid plug with two holes. The elastic is threaded through the two holes and then runs up into the doll's head, through a length of PVC pipe and is presumably secured to a flared anchor piece.
Evie is a few inches taller than Clementine, and has more realistic body proportions:
I really wish Evie could wear Clem's gorgeous dress, but it doesn't close in back because Evie's chest and waist are wider:
Clem can wear Evie's outfit, although the belt is necessary to keep the skirt from falling down.
|Do I have to wear this??|
Getting the tight shirt over Clem's head was a struggle, and it left her short hair in a mess:
Evie is similar in size to Carpatina Erin. Erin's torso is a little longer and her shoulders are narrower
Evie can wear Erin's Guinevere dress, but it's a tight fit through the chest:
Evie can wear Magic Attic clothes (and shoes), too, especially if the tops have a little stretch in them, like Heather's pink striped shirt:
I gave up trying to get Evie's shirt over Erin's head. Why, oh why, didn't they put some snaps on the back of this shirt? It would make dressing so much easier.
The skirt and boots fit fine.
|That's a special look.|
Here's a comparison picture with BFC Ink Kaitlin, even though these two can't share clothes. The biggest differences are the shoulder width, the waist size, and the thickness of the arms. Evie can't even start putting Kaitlin's shirts on with her big arms:
Evie makes My Salon Doll Sydney look very angular--especially in the jaw.
These two dolls will be able to share some items of clothing. Sydney can wear Evie's skirt, but I don't know about the shirt because I got fed up taking it off and putting it back on again. Evie can wear Syd's outfit, although the shirt is a little big. The shoes, as anticipated, are a perfect fit.
Evie is quite a bit slimmer than American Girl and Our Generation dolls. She looks strikingly realistic and well-proportioned next to My American Girl Keira:
Evie can wear some items of American Girl sized clothing, like this Springfield Collection dress:
Keira can not squeeze into Evie's shirt or skirt.
So, this is where my review should have ended. I could have snapped a few more pictures of Evie and called it a day. The things is, I wanted so badly to love this doll, I had to try a few things to make her better. The easiest thing to fix was Evie's thick, maroon eyelashes. I felt like the lashes were interfering with my camera's ability to focus on those pretty blue eyes. I knew from my experience with my niece's Grace doll that the eyelashes could come off pretty easily, so I pulled Evie's eyelashes off:
She looked too deer-in-the-headlights like this, so I replaced her lashes with some natural brown wispy lashes I had laying around:
|From my eyelash stash.|
I also tried to find some clothing that might be more appropriate for a young girl. Here's Evie in a striped Our Generation shirt and EuroGirl pants, sporting her lighter eyelashes:
I took her outside, thinking that this would be the end of my review:
I think at this point Evie's odd face was growing on me quite a bit, but I still couldn't get past her funny mouth.
So, I did a dumb thing.
I got out my acetone (which I try to stay far, far away from) and erased Evie's mouth. I was lucky that I didn't completely ruin the vinyl on her face. Acetone is often a terrible idea and I have melted a few dolls trying to remove paint in this way. I don't recommend it.
|Are you kidding me?|
Still, the investigator in me was excited to see what was underneath all of that pink paint. This is hard to see in the pictures, but the shape of Evie's mouth is actually quite nice--different from what the crude paint suggests:
|She needs to floss.|
It was really, really hard to re-paint this mouth, so I have a whole new level of respect for the original face paint. Here's my first attempt, which was too bright and red:
I re-painted this face about five times and never really felt like I captured the original facial sculpture as well as I wanted to. I finally gave up and accepted an attempt that I felt was decent. Also, since I was clearly in over my head, I decided to give Evie a haircut while I was at it. And, as if all of that wasn't enough, I ripped the flowers off her shirt, and sewed a single flower back on to the middle of her neckline.
Here's Evie as she is today, with a re-painted mouth, a new haircut, new eyelashes and a modified shirt.
Side-by-side with the original:
I am pretty smitten with Evie now. Her new mouth is better, but my increased affection might be because I enjoyed the project of changing her features, or perhaps because I spent a prolonged amount of time just getting used to her face. Whatever the reason, I am glad to have a doll that I can enjoy. She looks like a more natural five or six year old child to me now. She even looks happy from most angles...and she is certainly fun to pose:
Ever since I reviewed the Paradise horses, I have been curious to see how well the Kidz 'n' Cats dolls can ride. I took Evie outside again and let her ride Avena. Whether these two are realistically in scale or not, I find that they suit each other well:
And the joints in Evie's arms and knees make her an excellent rider:
Bottom line? This was a difficult review for me to get through. I think it's because I had so many preconceived ideas about Kidz 'n' Cats and really thought I knew what I was going to say. Based on my brief experiences with Helen and Grace, I was going to say that the dolls have wonderfully lifelike faces, fun clothes (with some sporadic quality and fit issues), and the best articulation of any 18" play doll I've owned. I was going to warn about the potential for frizzy, tangled hair and strongly recommend a haircut or a permanently braided hairstyle for dolls that will be used for play. All in all, I was confident that my bottom line would be overwhelmingly positive, mostly because of the beautiful faces and great articulation on these dolls. I think that's basically the review I would write for Grace. Evita threw me for a loop, though.
I didn't see this before, but now when I look at a group picture of Kidz 'n' Cats dolls, Evita stands out as the one who doesn't belong. Even Galina, the only other doll that shares Evie's face mold, seems cute and appealing. I find the contrasts between Evita and my niece's Grace to be symptomatic of my biggest problems with Evita. Grace's face mold is simple, and yet it is one of the most realistic doll faces in this scale, and it radiates a complex, versatile personality. Evita's factory face is wall-eyed and vacant in comparison. Her lips are painted with a flat, opaque pink and her open-mouthed expression looks more scared than happy from most angles. Grace's eyelashes might have fallen out too easily, but Evita's heavy, strangely-colored lashes mask one of her most beautiful features--her detailed blue eyes. Grace's outfit features a sweet cotton pinafore with layered tiers of lavender print. Evita is dressed in a shiny, synthetic pageant cowgirl outfit. Her thin tee shirt shows her bra, is difficult to get on and off, and has fake flower decorations that accentuate her broad shoulders-- the only feature of this doll's body that might be considered unattractive.
What saved Evita in my eyes is that I love her body proportions and her articulation. Her articulation is different from that of a Monster High doll or a Tonner doll because the joints don't hold their position very well. However, the doll moves in a very natural, fluid way. She can stand perfectly and solidly on her own, and yet she folds into my arms and can move her limbs well enough to achieve some fun poses--including a very realistic horseback riding position. While my niece's Grace's couldn't hold a lot of static gymnastics poses for the camera, in our live-action game, she could wrap herself around the bars and vault off the beam in a satisfyingly accurate way. Because I had so much fun with Evie's articulation, I felt moved to look past her uninspiring outfit and peek underneath her flat face paint. I am so glad I did. My novice painting skills might not have done the original face mold enough justice, but neither did the factory paint. There's a cute smile on this doll, it's just tricky to make it shine through. Unfortunately, Evita's odd eye placement is a problem that is not fixable.
There are some exciting developments in the Kidz 'n' Cats world that make me very optimistic and enthusiastic about the line as a whole. I am most excited about Heart and Soul's newest doll, Henriette. Henriette, also know as the Wunschpuppe or "wish doll," is special because collectors were given a choice between three different hair colors and three different eye colors, allowing for nine slightly different versions of this doll. Henriette also has a gorgeous new face mold and wonderful clothes that are tasteful, flattering and fun. I was thrilled to learn that while most Kidz 'n' Cats dolls are made in China, Henriette's small edition will be handmade in a studio in Germany. This might eliminate some of the quality issues that bothered me with Evita. I will review Henriette because this line definitely deserves another serious look.
As for little Evie, I have grown very fond of her, but it was a bumpy road. Unless you fall in love with this doll's unusual face at first glance, or you enjoy a good repainting challenge, I would recommend selecting a different doll like Grace or Henriette--or pretty much any of the other adorably realistic Kidz 'n' Cats characters.