Friday, August 30, 2013

Hearts 4 Hearts "Lauryce"

This will just be a very short post that's meant as a companion to Nethilia's amazingly thorough review of the lovely Hearts 4 Hearts Mosi and Shola.  I went to Target to look at Shola in person after I read Neth's review.  Shola is a very beautiful doll, but I ended up falling for Lauryce instead.  I never would have guessed that Lauryce would be my pick, since I think her promotional pictures are the least appealing of this new Hearts 4 Hearts group.  The promo picture makes it look like she has a spray tan or something.  In person, this doll is gorgeous:

Hearts 4 Hearts "Lauryce."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hearts 4 Hearts Dolls "Shola" and "Mosi" by Playmates Toys--A Guest Review!

I am excited to present another special review!  This time, my guest writer is Nethilia from the American Girl Outsider blog.  I love Nethilia's writing style and eye for detail.  Her educated, sensitive insights into other cultures are perfectly suited to reviewing these two gorgeous new Hearts 4 Hearts dolls.  Over to you, Neth!

Hey y'all--I'm Nethilia (Neth for short). I've been into dolls, toys, ponies and the like since I was a child. I'm the head administrator and founder of the American Girl Wiki and recently started blogging about the dolls (and fandom around them) at American Girl Outsider. While the main doll focus on my blog is American Girl, I personally collect and display all kinds of dolls and toys ranging from easily found shelf play dolls to limited edition resin ball jointed dolls. 

I tend to focus my collection on dolls of color because, as a woman of color, I feel it's very important to see other cultures properly respected and reflected in dolls--not just for the sake of people's exposure to other cultures outside their own, but so that children worldwide can see themselves reflected in their media (you have no idea how much it meant when The Princess and the Frog came out and a Disney Princess finally looked like me). I feel it's very important that even the smallest things and influences try to accurately reflect the diversity of the world--and that dolls of color aren't just, as I've heard it said, "re-dipped Barbie dolls" with the only sign of diversity being the color of the plastic/resin/vinyl/etc.  So, it makes sense that one of the lines that has really caught my interest is the Hearts 4 Hearts dolls. I fell in love with them soon after the initial release: first getting Nahji and then later adding Lauryce and Rahel to my lineup. When Mosi and Shola were announced at Toy Fair, I knew I was going to get my hands on them the moment they were available:

Hearts 4 Hearts "Mosi" and "Shola."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Rubens Barn Linné "Moss" Doll

It is back-to-school week here in Maine, so I am getting my kids ready for their first day and, of course, I am thinking about science and learning.  This doll fits right in with my current state of mind.

Rubens Barn is a brand of handmade Swedish cloth dolls that have recently made their way to the United States.  At first, I thought that the name of the brand was Ruben's Barn--meaning a guy named Ruben had a barn, and the dolls were in it.  Actually, barn means "children" in Swedish, and "Rubens" is possessive without the apostrophe, so the dolls are "Ruben's Children."  These dolls can be found at Magic Cabin, and also on Amazon.  They cost $25.

I could look at the cutes faces on the Rubens Barn website for a long time.  The larger babies are fantastic, but my favorite dolls are in the Linné collection, a new group of babies that are dressed in outfits that represent something from nature.  There's a bluebird, a bumblebee, a butterfly and even a pinecone.  I almost bought the pinecone doll, because a pinecone is Maine's state flower--even though pinecones aren't flowers.  I think we're the only state in the nation that has a seed as its state flower.

After looking closely at all of the dolls, it was Moss who I couldn't resist.  This fellow is not only lovable, but he might be the only doll ever in the history of the world that is made to look like moss:

Rubens Barn Linné doll, "Moss."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Little Pony Equestria Girl "Rainbow Dash," by Hasbro

I am not a serious My Little Pony collector, although I own a few of the figures and I remember these friendly little faces from my childhood.  Most of my pony-playing days were in the 1980s, so I have a special fondness for the chubbier, more docile-looking ponies of that decade.  Among my favorites were the mid-80s first generation (G1) ponies that look to one side (like Applejack) and the half-rearing characters (like Skydancer).  I also love the original mold, and in my youth, I badly wanted the larger My Pretty Pony toy that shared that same basic shape.

The ponies have morphed quite a lot in the last few years.  I have never seen the Friendship is Magic TV show, but I find the G4 toys cute in a new way.  Although they've shed the cow-like appearance of some of the 80s molds (G1 Posy looks particularly bovine...), they don't necessarily look like horses to me.  These little guys remind me more of Chihuahuas...but that's cool because I love Chihuahuas.

When I started hearing bits of information about the new line of Equestria Girl dolls, I wasn't sure what to think.  The Equestria Girls are teenaged human versions of the regular My Little Pony characters.  These teens appear in a new movie, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.  The promotional pictures of the dolls did not look great to me.  For starters, they don't look human.  The movie characters look like reasonable cartoons of human beings, but the dolls have huge horse ears on top of their heads.  The other problem was that the promo pictures I saw showed only dolls with very limited articulation.  However, at one of my visits to Toys R Us, I found a small stock of the Equestria Girls, and I was delighted to see that two of the dolls (Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash) have articulated knees and elbows.  Furthermore, the dolls looked way cuter in person than they seemed in their pictures.  Won over by Rainbow Dash's colorful hair, I left the store with her, feeling unexpectedly excited about this review.

My Little Pony Rainbow Dash
Equestria Girl doll "Rainbow Dash" and her Crystal Masquerade Pony equivalent.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Monster High "Picture Day Cleo De Nile," A Guest Review!

I am delighted to introduce a young reader who wrote to ask me if she could review a doll for the blog. I always love to have new voices and new perspectives posted here.  My guest, who I'll call "Monsterific," lives in Sweden and is a Monster High super-fan who also collects Barbie, La Dee Da and Liv dolls (a girl after my own heart!).  Monsterific just had a big birthday, and with it came some wonderful new dolls.  She let me pick which of her new dolls I would like to see on the blog, and I chose the saucy Cleo de Nile.  Happy birthday, my Monsterific friend!  Over to you!

Hello! I'm Monsterific and I will be doing a review on Cleo de Nile Picture Day from Monster High!

I was walking in my local toy store two months ago when I saw around 20 Abbey Picture Days, but only one Cleo. I convinced my mom to buy it, but she said I would get it for my birthday, in August.  So now I finally got her!  She is my first Cleo, and as I live in Sweden, it's quite hard to get Monster High.

Monster High Picture Day Cleo de Nile.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pinkie Cooper Jet Set Pets: "Li'l Pinkie" and "Saltine"

I have really been enjoying my Pinkie Cooper dolls.  I was impressed during my first encounter with Pinkie in July, and since that review, my feelings have solidified.  Pinkie is friendly and cute, the fashion packs add some great new outfits and hair colors, and Pinkie's friend Pepper is just as delightful out of the box as I hoped she'd be.  I adore almost everything about these dolls except for those silly click knee joints and rubbery legs.  I'd be happier if Pinkie could stand up on her own and bend her knees more, but otherwise I am totally hooked.

Many of you contributed to a clearer understanding of what is going on with the headband variation in the Runway series.  Thank you!  I was able to see this for myself at my local Target last week.  Here's a summary of the three confirmed versions of the Runway dolls:
United Kingdom: doll with a headband but no brush.
United States: doll with a brush but no headband.
Target (US): doll with a headband AND a brush.

Anyway, I have been eagerly waiting to de-box Pinkie's pet dog to see if she is as charming as her owner.  When Kitty asked in the comments section when I might do this review, I jumped at the suggestion!  Thank you, Kitty--it was a perfect weekend for playing with puppies.

Pinkie Cooper Li'l Pinkie Saltine
The Jet Set Pets: Pinkie Cooper's dog, "Li'l Pinkie" and Pepper Parson's dog, "Saltine."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Our Generation "Jenny and Her Gourmet Kitchen" Set

I am absolutely crazy about kitchen sets, as you know if you've read my Muppet kitchen review, my Li'l Woodzeez bakery review or my Monster High Coffin Bean comparison review.  Oh--and also my Kurhn kitchen set review and my Sylvanian Family bakery review.  Hm.  I didn't realize I had quite so many food-related play sets.  Anyway, I am also on a bit of a 18" play doll kick thanks to my recent introduction to American Girls.  So, my current obsessions certainly make this play set very timely, but I think it is an unequivocally neat kitchen set that might also be the best doll purchase bargain of the year.  If I had younger kids, this set would already be stashed away and ready for a big, wonderful surprise on Christmas morning.  It packs a huge amount of fun into a surprisingly small (yet still impressive) box.  In fact, there are so many pieces with this set, my usual review approach got a little ridiculous.  There are a ton of pictures in this post.  I have tried to make some of them small to save space, but as always, you can click on pictures to make them larger if you want to see more detail.  If you don't want to see pictures that ruin the surprise of what's in the box, just read the first few paragraphs after the jump.  There's a weird marketing thing going on and I don't want anyone to mistakenly buy the wrong set.

There's a lot to see here, so without any more delay, let's look at Our Generation Jenny and her Gourmet Kitchen Set.  Fasten your seat belts.

Our Generation Jenny and her Gourmet Kitchen.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Zwergnase Junior Doll "Ivanca" by Nicole Marschollek-Menzner

Nicole Marschollek-Menzner is the German artist responsible for the zany, joyful, grouchy, mischievous and unforgettable faces of the Zwergnase line of collector dolls.  Nicole also designs happy, long-necked art bears and unique play dolls.  The Zwergnase art dolls are among my favorite dolls in the world.  These dolls are produced in small editions and tend to cost over a thousand dollars.  The art dolls have cloth bodies with hand-painted vinyl heads and extremities.  They have large, gorgeous glass eyes, and wear human hair wigs that tend to be unruly and dramatic.  These masterpieces are made in Schalkau, Germany, surrounded by a landscape that has served as Nicole's creative inspiration since 1994.  I have always wanted to own a Zwergnase art doll--or at least see one in person.  In particular, I covet little Annemor--a delightful, grinning girl with strawberry blond hair and enough personality to fill a room.  Annemor was released in 2002, so I have been admiring these dolls for over a decade.

I am not likely to ever own a Zwergnase art doll, but I did stumble upon a wonderful opportunity to purchase a doll from one of the Zwergnase Junior play lines.  The company has two styles of play doll: colorful cloth-bodied dolls with simplified vinyl heads and limbs, and more realistic fully vinyl dolls.  Both groups of dolls are appealing to me, but the faces on the all-vinyl dolls are more similar to the art doll faces I love so much.  Samantha's Dolls carries a great selection of Zwergnase, and during one of their amazing 50%-off sales, I decided to buy a Junior doll.  The play dolls retail for between $220 and $250.  The half-price sale brought the price of my doll down to $110, which is comparable to the cost of American Girl, Carpatina and similar dolls.  Samantha's huge sales usually only apply to 2010 or earlier dolls, so I made my selection from a small number of remaining older dolls.  I ended up choosing Ivanca for her bright red hair and interesting expression.  I call her Ivy:

Zwergnase Junior doll, "Ivanca."

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kawaii Crush "Katie Cat Meow Meow" Doll by Spin Master

I am always interested in what Spin Master is doing.  Even before this company produced my favorite play dolls--the Liv girls, they had me running all over Maine looking for that special, impossible-to-find Bakugan dragon for my boys.  Spin Master's latest doll line, Kawaii Crush, was announced at Toy Fair in February.  These anime-style dolls represent the trendy Japanese kawaii culture, epitomized by popular characters like Pokemon's Pikachu and Hello Kitty.  Kawaii means "cute" or "lovable" in Japanese and has taken on the secondary meaning of "cool."  Kawaii culture centers around everything looking cute--be it physical appearance, collectibles, jewelry, art, clothing...even vehicles and food.  For example, Lolita fashions, like those embraced by some of Groove's Pullip dolls, are common in kawaii style.  Kawaii merchandise seems to be very, very popular right now, and not just in Japan.  In Maine, I see a little bit of this craze...if only in the knitted animal hats that are being worn by people of all ages.  While I wasn't really captivated by the promotional pictures of the Kawaii Crush dolls, I assumed that these toys would be popular.  Spin Master seems to have their finger on the pulse of what's trendy, and a real a knack for making toys that fly off the least initially.

Just so you know, it is very difficult for me to review these dolls objectively.  Although my rational brain totally understands that Spin Master didn't stop making Liv dolls in order to make Kawaii Crush figures, my emotional brain can't help but compare everything this company produces to my beloved, discontinued Liv girls.

Kawaii Crush "Katie Cat" and Liv "Katie."