Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Our Generation "Poseable Morgan Horse" by Battat

Well, this review has been a long time coming!  I purchased the Our Generation Poseable Morgan Horse back in the fall of 2013, right after I wrote my review of the larger Paradise horses.  For one reason after another, this review has been postponed for over a year.  One of the problems is that it's tricky to photograph a large horse like this indoors, and it's also rare to have the right combination of weather conditions to complete an outdoor review (at least here in Maine).  I finally decided to just do the best I could with indoor lights and some pretty soggy outdoor winter weather.

Battat has three varieties of model horse for their 18" play dolls: there are unarticulated large horses, unarticulated foals, and two articulated large horses (the Morgan reviewed here and the pure white Circus Horse).  I wanted to review one of the articulated horses (because that's my thing), and chose the Morgan because he comes with a full Western tack set instead of circus garb.  All of the large horses cost $34.99 (on sale now for $30) and are available at Target.

I still fondly remember the year when there were two large Battat horses peeking out from under the Christmas tree for my own kids.  It's nice to write this review as I think about all of the lucky children who will add one of these impressive creatures to their stable this holiday season.  The question I have been asked a lot recently, though, is which large horse is the best gift choice, the My Life As horses by Paradise or the articulated Our Generation horses?  Let's find out!

Our Generation "Poseable Morgan Horse," $34.99.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The "Honey Lemon" doll from Big Hero 6

I stumbled on the Honey Lemon doll one day while I was casually browsing through the Disney Store's online collections.  At that time, I didn't know anything about the Big Hero 6 movie--I just noticed that there was a new redheaded Disney doll who looked really fun and full of character.

A few weeks ago, Christina recommended Honey Lemon to me over on Facebook, and I figured it would be a good time to actually see the movie and think about doing a review of the doll.  I still didn't know the story of Big Hero 6 when I went to the theater last week (the title doesn't give much away).  I knew the movie was loosely based on a Marvel comic book series by the same name, but that's about it.  I don't want to give away too much about the movie to any of you, but it's really a delightful, action-filled film with tons of heart.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and was even laughing out loud (and crying a little, too) on several occasions...even though I was the only one in the theater.

I think the Disney Store has only made articulated dolls out of two characters from this movie so far: Honey Lemon and Go Go Tomago.  Neither of these girls are the star of Big Hero 6, though.  The movie is carried by an engaging 13-year-old genius, Hiro, and his huggable robot companion, Baymax.  Still, Honey Lemon is a kind, brilliant, zany addition to the story and it's a treat every time she is on screen.  Although I'd really love to have a Hiro doll in my collection some day, for now I am happy to have the cheery, redheaded Honey:

Big Hero 6 Honey Lemon doll
The Disney Store's "Honey Lemon" from the Big Hero 6 movie.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Lammily Doll

Lammily is a unique new fashion doll who was released at the end of December.  The mainstream media is very interested in this doll, and has been since her conception in early 2013.  In fact, I didn't learn about Lammily through the usual doll collecting channels, but rather from my brother-in-law, who saw an article about her in The Atlantic last May.

Lammily was designed by graphic artist Nickolay Lamm, and the reason that she has captured such widespread attention is that she was designed to have the body proportions of a typical American teenager.  Unlike Barbie (and most other 12-inch fashion dolls) Lammily does not have an impossibly tiny waist, large chest, oversized head or spindly legs.  Mr. Lamm used body measurements published by the Center for Disease Control to ensure that his doll would not only be realistic...but would be average.  The word "average" does not tend to conjure visions of loveliness, but Mr. Lamm challenged this preconception and branded his doll with the inspiring logo, "Average is Beautiful."

I pre-ordered two Lammily dolls immediately after reading the article in The Atlantic (the dolls are $25 each).  This is exactly the kind of crowd-funded, vision-driven project that I love to see in the doll world.  I was inherently enthusiastic about the Lammily concept, but an email I received from Nickolay Lamm last May added to my excitement.  Mr. Lamm wrote seeking some advice about the doll's articulation--and you guys can probably guess that I, uh, had a fair amount to say on that subject.  Conversations back and forth with Mr. Lamm over the past few months have given me a fascinating glimpse into the creative process behind this unique new doll.  I have been on pins and needles to see how all of Mr. Lamm's ideas came together in the debut doll, and am beyond excited to share my initial impressions with all of you:

The Lammily Doll
The Lammily doll makes her entrance.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lalaloopsy Girl "Spot Splatter Splash" by MGA

I've said this before, but I am not a big fan of the traditional Lalaloopsy dolls.  I like the mini dolls a lot, but the larger characters are not my thing.  I think they look very enticing in the store--with their cute faces and clever, colorful, diverse themes, but I have never fully bought into the idea of a plastic "rag" doll.  The dolls don't seem especially cuddly to me, and they can't stand (or even sit) on their own, which limits how they can be used for play.  Because of this opinion, I don't review very many Lalaloopsy products.

Recently, several of you have recommended that I purchase one of MGA's new 9-inch dolls from the "Lalaloopsy Girls" collection.  I've noticed these dolls in passing a few times at Target and Toys R Us over the last few months, but couldn't initially appreciate the appeal.  I mean, how many sizes of Lalaloopsies do we need?  Besides, it didn't look like these new dolls would be able to stand on their own any better than the originals--a feature that would irritate me in a fashion-style doll.

It was actually a comment over on Facebook that convinced me to open my mind and finally take a closer look at these dolls.  Tanya's comment mentioned that she, too, was skeptical about the dolls at first, but ended up falling hard for these spaghetti-limbed newcomers.  I took her words to heart and bought the Lalaloopsy Girls version of "Spot Splatter Splash:"

Lalaloopsy Girls "Spot Splatter Splash"
Lalaloopsy Girls "Spot Splatter Splash," $14.99.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Generation Retro Doll "Joy" by Battat

At this time of year, I like to walk through the aisles of the toy stores in my area and pick out the dolls and accessories that I think would make the best gifts.  I don't have many doll lovers on my actual shopping list this year, but I still like to see what new items are in stock for the holidays and choose my favorites.  Most of the time I just make a mental note of the items I like best, but this year I purchased a few of my selections so that I could share them with you here on the blog.

I have been keeping a close eye on the 18-inch play dolls that are available near me (Journey Girls, My Life As and Our Generation).  While all of these brands have something new to offer for the holidays, Battat's Our Generation line is by far the most appealing to me.  I feel great about purchasing dolls from this company because I know that they use only recycled and recyclable materials in their packaging, they promote charitable work, and they avoid using harmful chemicals in the production of their dolls.  I also think that the Battat dolls are very attractive and well-made for their reasonable price.  Furthermore, whenever I am visiting my local Target store, the Our Generation section always seems to have the most constant stream of young admirers.

Today I'll show you my favorite new Our Generation doll...along with an outfit set that I thought would go really well with her:

Our Generation Retro Joy
Our Generation Retro Doll "Joy," with pieces from the "Winter Wonder" outfit pack.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review Fusion #4

It's hard for me to believe that November is half over already!  There is so much excitement at this time of year in my house, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, the academic quarter ending, the first snowfall of the season, the big musical production at our high school, visits from family, and of course the beginnings of holiday shopping.

Amidst the happy pandemonium of the next couple of weeks, I'd like to try and do some shorter reviews of the dolls and toys that seem especially popular or interesting this holiday season, but I also want to squeeze in a few more guest reviews before I get too busy.  This Fusion post will attempt to address both goals: I have two really neat guest reviews to share with you, and I'll also offer my own quick evaluation of one of the most sought-after toys in this neck of the woods lately: My Size Anna.

My Size Anna (Target, $59.99).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Kate" and "Tara" by Wildflower Dolls

Today's post will not be a traditional review, but more of a showcase for a special kind of doll that I learned about recently: Wildflower Dolls.  These dolls have handmade, limited edition heads mounted on highly articulated brand name 1/6 scale bodies.  As you know, I am a huge fan of highly articulated doll bodies, but it is the extraordinary faces of the Wildflower Dolls that have enchanted me.

I first heard about Wildflower Dolls from my friend Séverine (the same friend who took the Avengers Black Widow picture).  Séverine was showing me some pictures of her doll collection, and one particular photo of spunky redheaded sisters immediately grabbed my attention.  These sisters caught my eye because they have my favorite kind of unruly red hair, but also because they have facial expressions that brilliantly capture two very different, very playful emotions.  When Séverine told me that her dolls were custom-made, I assumed that their prices would be out of reach.  However, when I visited the Wildflower Dolls Etsy store, I was amazed to learn that these charismatic creations can be custom ordered for under $200.  Better yet, some of the pre-made dolls can be purchased for under $100.  This realization marked the beginning of my own Wildflower Dolls adventure--a process that brought these two beautiful, happy sisters into my home:

Kate #45 (left) and Tara #32 (right) by Wildflower Dolls.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review Fusion #3

I am happy to have another Review Fusion post for you today!  It's been a while since the last one, so I'll quickly re-introduce this concept.  These eclectic, multi-author review posts are my way of highlighting guest reviews and incredible stand-alone pictures that have been sent to me.

These posts tend to produce unique and unexpected combinations of dolls and toys.  For example, today I have a great review of the new My Life As Camping set for 18-inch dolls, an in-depth look at a rare Sabrina the Animated Series fashion doll, and a mix of little blind box goodies (including Shopkins and Unicornos) that I have accumulated myself in recent weeks.

To start things off, though, I want to share a spectacular photo taken by my friend Séverine.  Séverine and I have been chatting on and off about action figure dolls lately (my newest obsession...), and she happens to own my grail doll in this category: Hot Toys' Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.  Look at how incredibly alive this doll seems--even compared to the awesomely detailed McFarlane Daryl Dixon:

The Avengers Black Widow by Hot Toys.
Photograph by Severine, used with permission.

Friday, October 31, 2014

McFarlane Toys' 10" Daryl Dixon Figure from "The Walking Dead"

I don't review action figures very often, but since tonight is Halloween, I am going to look at McFarlane's 10 inch Daryl Dixon figure from The Walking Dead.  Daryl (played by actor Norman Reedus) is my favorite male character in this gritty, gruesome and addictive television drama.  When I saw how accurate this figure is to Daryl's character, I knew he'd have to join my collection.  As an added bonus, it's nice to have this fearless crossbow hunter around to patrol my woods on such a spooky night....

10" Daryl Dixon meets a Gentleman.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Basic Patsyette" by Tonner Doll

Robert Tonner is one of my favorite doll designers.  A few of his Cinderella and Cami dolls rank among my all-time favorites.  However, it's been a while since I have reviewed a Tonner doll, and there's a great variety of new faces and characters to choose from right now.  For example: I am crazy about the Sheldon and Amy dolls from The Big Bang Theory collection, I'm thrilled to see the return of Tiny Kitty, and I'd absolutely love to have another Deja Vu girl in my house.  However, the rascal who grabbed my attention this time around is the 8 inch redheaded Patsyette.  With Tonner's high prices, this basic doll's relatively low $69.99 cost was also part of her appeal.

There's not a lot of information about Patsyette on the Tonner sales page.  She is introduced as "brand new" and credited to the Effanbee doll company (now owned by Tonner).  In fact, the Patsyette character has a rich history.  She was first produced in 1931 as the little sister of Effanbee's popular Patsy doll.  Patsyette was re-introduced in 2004 with a face sculpted by the original Patsy artist, Bernard Lipfert.  After another short retirement, the newest version of Patsyette debuted in 2014 with a brand-new face and the articulated Betsy McCall body.  While I have enjoyed all of the incarnations of Patsyette, it is the newest version of her face that I could not resist:

Tonner Basic Patsyette
"Basic Patsyette" by Tonner Doll, $69.99.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Elsa Mini Doll Wardrobe Set from The Disney Store

To follow up on Zoe's great review of the Frozen Ice Skating set, I want to do a quick review of one of the other new products from the Disney Store: a Mini Doll Wardrobe set.  There are quite a few of these new wardrobe-themed playsets available on the Disney Store site, and they include characters like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and even the Frozen princesses.  When I saw that the wardrobe version of mini Elsa is wearing her blue ice dress (rather than the coronation clothing of the first mini Elsa), I knew this was the set for me--especially because it's hard to know when these items will sell out again!

I will try to give a fair, objective review here, but you know what a soft spot I have for perfect little miniatures of larger dolls...and just look at these two!

Elsa Mini Doll Wardrobe set
J.C. Penney 12" Elsa doll (left) and Elsa from the Mini Wardrobe set (right).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Anna and Elsa Ice Skating Set from the Disney Store--A Guest Review!

Well, it seems like there has finally been an enduring re-stock of Frozen dolls over at the Disney Store.  While the 12 inch Kristoff and Hans characters sold out again fairly quickly (and Elsa comes in and out of stock) there are still many great dolls available--including a few new additions.  I was just starting to put together a review of one of the new Mini Wardrobe playsets for you when I got an email from Zoe.  Zoe has been waiting a long time to write a guest review, and as luck would have it, she recently purchased the exclusive Anna and Elsa Ice Skating set--another new addition to the Disney Store lineup.  So, I decided to create a short two-review series to close out this week:  Zoe will review the Anna and Elsa set today, and then I will review a Mini Wardrobe set tomorrow.

I first met Zoe back in June, right after Samehch's Bratz doll overview.  Not only does Zoe know a lot about the early Bratz dolls, but she also shares my passion for Liv dolls and fairy tales.  Zoe's fairy tale fondness enticed her into collecting Ever After High dolls, and also many of the Disney Princesses, which gives her some great reference points for this review.  Thank you so much for sharing this rare sister set with us, Zoe!

Elsa (left) and Anna (right) from the Disney Store Ice Skating set.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Beatrix Girls "Lark" by Popstar Club

The Beatrix Girls are 12 inch dolls that represent a group of four (teenaged?) friends who are in a band together.  Each character sings, plays an instrument, and writes music.  The girls are designed to be role models for young kids because of the talent, determination and hard work that have made their band a huge success.  The Beatrix Girls are manufactured by Popstar Club LLC, a new California-based company that plans to focus on cross-platform products.  The dolls are part of a multi-media world that includes short (live action) webisodes and tracks of pop music.

When I first saw the Beatrix Girls dolls on the shelves at Toys R Us last year, I was turned off by the huge heads and facial expressions on these characters.  Frankly, the combination of wide eyes, angrily-slanted eyebrows and large smiles made these dolls look sinister to me.  However, the body proportions on the Beatrix Girls reminded me of Pullip and Blythe dolls, and I couldn't help but wonder if this brand might be an interesting and inexpensive alternative to some popular large-headed collector dolls.

Over the past year, many of you have encouraged me to take a second look at The Beatrix Girls.  I took your advice, and will admit that by the third or fourth time I saw these dolls in the store, the faces started to seem less angry and more appealing.  However, I was still bothered by the fact that the first release dolls did not come with their instruments (nor were the instruments originally available for separate purchase).  This was an oversight for a doll brand designed around music.  Last May, however, I was able to find a Justice exclusive version of the redheaded character, "Lark," who actually came with her bass guitar.  I decided to purchase this doll for review and paid $24.99 for her through Amazon (where she's now on sale for $20).  Incidentally, all of the newest Beatrix Girl dolls come with instruments, and the instruments have also recently been released in separate accessory sets.  Here's my Lark:

Beatrix Girls Lark doll
Beatrix Girls "Lark" $24.99.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Zaria" and "Kaila" by Double Dutch Dolls

Stephanie emailed me over the summer to tell me about Double Dutch Dolls, a new company that is producing multicultural, articulated (!), slim-proportioned 18 inch play dolls.  The company's founder, K. Charles, grew up reading Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume books--wishing that there were similar fictional characters who looked like her.  Unsatisfied with the current market, Ms. Charles decided to write her own books about spunky, smart, unique and beautiful teens from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds.  The characters in these stories were so real to her, that Ms. Charles decided to turn them into high-quality 18 inch play dolls.

At the moment, only the main characters from K. Charles' book series are available in doll form.  These are Kaila and Zaria, identical 14-year-old twins who are navigating the challenges of middle school together.  With Kickstarter funding success, the company hopes to introduce a full line of doll characters, including Kaila's best friend Sacha, Zaria's Hispanic friend Alainna, Zaria's Irish/German/Asian lab partner Kadence, and (my favorite!) the redheaded African-American and Norwegian girl, Trinity.

After reading the website and looking at the dolls, I instantly wanted to get involved and support this wonderful project.  My experience with these dolls is a bit of an epic tale, though.  It all started back on August 9th, the day of Stephanie's email, when I ordered Zaria.  However, almost two months later, I am the proud owner of both Zaria and her twin sister.  And Zaria is sporting a new wig.  I'll tell you the whole story, of course, but let me start by showing you the beautiful twins as they look today:

Double Dutch Dolls
Zaria (left, re-wigged) and Kaila (right) by Double Dutch Dolls.  $69.00 each.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Zombie Shake "Rochelle Goyle" and "Venus McFlytrap"--A Guest Review!

Over the summer, several of you asked if I would consider reviewing the Zombie Shake versions of Rochelle Goyle and Venus McFlytrap.  Within weeks of those requests, almost like magic, I got an email from Katla, a lovely Monster High fan from Sweden.  Katla emailed to ask if I would be interested in a guest review of this exact Zombie Shake pair...and of course I eagerly said yes.  Not only was Katla's email brilliantly-timed, but this is a set that I have been curious about myself.  I think Venus and Rochelle are two of the most interesting and unique Monster High characters.

I've really enjoyed getting a look at this fabulous zombie pair through Katla's artistic, detail-oriented eyes, and I hope you will, too.

Zombie Shake Venus and Rochelle
Zombie Shake "Rochelle Goyle" and "Venus McFlytrap," by Monster High.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A 1:9 Scale Horse and Rider by Paradise Kids

Writing a review of the Breyer Let's Go Riding Western set last week inspired me to get some of my Paradise toys out of storage for their long-delayed review.  I have reviewed a few of the Paradise horses before, but only the larger animals designed for 18" play dolls.  I was so pleased to see the level of articulation on the Breyer doll, I wanted to find out how the Paradise riders compare.  Also, as a long-time fan of Breyer model horses, I was curious about the equivalently-sized 1:9 scale articulated Paradise horses.

This scale of Paradise toys has a few size options.  There are 9.5 inch horses (measured from hooves to ear tips) and also 8.5 inch ponies.  The riders also come in a few sizes.  In the Barn Buddies collection, there are 7.5 inch "adult" dolls to fit the horses, and 6 inch child dolls for the ponies.  The newer Cowgirl Cool collection of riders contains 10 inch dolls that I suspect are made to fit a different group of Paradise horses--the 10 inch fuzzy-skinned ones that look like miniature My Life As horses.  Today I will review a 9.5 inch (non-fuzzy) horse and one of the larger Barn Buddies dolls.

This review will serve as a companion to the Breyer post, and my hope is that it will provide a resource to help horse lovers figure out which company's 1:9 scale horse and rider toys are best for them.

Paradise Barn Buddies "Eva," and horse "Merlin."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Favorite Horse "Let's Go Riding Western" Set by Breyer

When I was a kid, I had a huge collection of Breyer model horses that was the center of my imaginary universe.  Every last one of these horses had a name, a personality, and a specific role in an elaborate game that I would lose myself in whenever I got the chance.  I played with these beloved horses more than I played with any doll.  Most of my games revolved solely around the horses, but every once and a while there would be doll riders in the plot.  I had some Mego Corp Wizard of Oz dolls and a Marx Jay who could ride really well, but I was never tempted by the Breyer dolls.  The first dolls, called "Brenda Breyer," had blank-looking faces and weren't articulated enough to ride the horses properly.

I still gaze admiringly at the Breyer horse displays in toy stores, but I haven't purchased a new horse for a while.  Recently, a friend told me about the Breyer Stablemates "Mystery Foal Surprise" sets.  It's hard to think of three words that would entice me more than mystery, foal and surprise.  That's a triple threat.  These little $10 toys each contain a mare and a stallion, and also a tiny foal that's concealed behind a closed door.  I can't resist surprises, so I bought one of these sets on a whim the other day (some pictures are posted over on Facebook).  This experience inspired me to put aside my Breyer rider prejudices and look more closely at the doll-related products that this company is offering right now.

Today I will look at one of the larger (Traditional size) horse and rider sets from the 2013 My Favorite Horse collection.  I have to admit that after spending most of my life as a Breyer horse fan, I was really excited to finally get my first close look at one of the Breyer dolls.  The set I bought is called, "Let's Go Riding Western," and I chose this particular toy because the rider looked unexpectedly pretty and realistic to me:

Breyer "Let's Go Riding Western" set
"Let's Go Riding Western" set by Breyer, $39.99.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"We Are Monster High" Five Pack--A Guest Review!

I am happy to share a guest review with you today, and am especially delighted to welcome back a previous guest, Toy Town, for another fun Monster High review.  Toy Town reviewed the Power Ghouls Cat Tastrophe doll for you last November, and is here today to look at the large "We Are Monster High" set.  This tempting multi-pack has five dolls, including a new character, Gilda Goldstag, and one of the elusive Monster High males, Sloman Mortavich--also known as "Slo Mo."  Please tell us more about this intriguing set, Toy Town!

Hello everyone, Toy Town here! Today, we will be looking at the new We Are Monster High 5 pack! I know a lot of you are wondering if it’s a must-have or not, so I’ll share my personal opinions about this pack and hopefully it will help you decide.

We Are Monster High
We Are Monster High set, $56.99.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Princess Malucia from "Barbie and the Secret Door"

Like my previous reviews of the Kitty Surprise toys, this is a post that I didn't plan on writing.  During one of my "research" outings a few days ago, I saw a doll in the Barbie section that stopped me in my tracks.  I'd never seen this particular doll before, and she intrigued me to the point that I put everything else on hold so that I could take a closer look at her.  Judging by other pictures that are cropping up on places like Flickr, I am not alone in my reaction to this character.

Let me back up, though.  The doll I'm talking about is "Princess Malucia," the antagonist in the recently-released Barbie movie, Barbie and the Secret Door.  Why is this doll so interesting?  Well, she's a relatively new Barbie character with a new face, which is newsworthy enough, but the reason I had to buy her is that her face bears a striking resemblance to the Ever After High characters:

Barbie's "Princess Malucia" flanked by Madeline Hatter (left) and Poppy O'Hair (right).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Puppy Surprise Problems

I had such a fun time with my Kitty Surprise cat, Snow, that I decided to buy one of the new Puppy Surprise toys, too.  I was especially interested to see the dalmatian character, "Gigi," because she is advertised as having two "magic" babies with eyes that can change from open to closed with the application of cold water.  That sounded fun and intriguing to me...even though I was warned that the effect wasn't great.

This will not be a full review of Gigi and her puppies, but just a quick description of this toy and some of the things that were different from what I experienced with Snow and her kittens.  

Two puppies from Puppy Surprise, "Gigi."

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Kitty Surprise by Just Play

Once again, I got sidetracked from another review I am writing because of a routine stop at Toys R Us.  I don't regularly check the stuffed animal section at this store, but the other day there were no new dolls to look at, and so I wandered into some less-frequented aisles.  To my amazement, I saw three pink boxes with Kitty Surprise plush inside!  I absolutely love surprises, and so this is one of my favorite toys of all time.

The "Surprise" line of stuffed toys started way back in the early 1990s with vinyl-faced plush dogs, cats, ponies, bears and bunnies that came with an undisclosed number of babies in their bellies.  The original animals were released by Hasbro.  Playskool (a division of Hasbro) re-introduced the line in 2005 with a few changes.  The new animals (only cats, dogs and rabbits this time) did not have vinyl faces and resembled more typical stuffed toys.  A couple of years ago, I looked at some of the Puppy Surprise toys that were made by Playskool in 2005.  Those toys didn't last long on the market, and so when they were discontinued, I figured we had heard the last of this brand.

As it turns out, the line has now been turned over to Just Play (whose Doc McStuffins doll I recently reviewed), and the design has gone back to a vinyl-faced version similar to that of the original toys.  So far, there are only dogs and cats in this new collection.  I found several of the cats at my local Toys R Us, and thought the pink and white kitty, "Snow," was especially cute:

Kitty Surprise Just Play
Kitty Surprise "Snow," by Just Play, $24.99.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

BeForever Mini Doll "Kit" by American Girl

Just a few days shy of a year ago today, I reviewed the mini Rebecca and Kit dolls from American Girl.  Little did I know back then that these dolls would be re-designed and re-released within the year.

At the end of August, American Girl released a re-imagined version of their Historical line called BeForever.  This maneuver seems designed to help modern girls feel more connected to characters from the past.  In the advertising, there's a big emphasis on values that transcend generations.  There are also new collections of girls' clothing that incorporate themes from the historical dolls into modern designs.

What does the BeForever change mean for the actual dolls, though?  In the 18" scale, the new dolls are largely the same as the old Historical collection dolls, with a few noteworthy changes.  First of all, two of the characters (Cécile and Marie-Grace) were discontinued.  Another character (Samantha) was brought back from the archives, and all of the re-released girls got new outfits.  I learned early on from many of you that the new versions of the mini dolls had different face molds and full vinyl bodies, so I was especially interested to see these smaller dolls in person.

I ordered BeForever mini Kit and mini Rebecca because I have the older versions of these dolls on hand for comparison.  I also chose these two because they have different face molds--giving me the chance to see two of the new faces.  Rebecca was backordered (she finally arrived today) but Kit shipped right away and is ready for her review:

BeForever Kit mini
New BeForever mini Kit (with old mini Kit in the background).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New "My Life As..." Dolls from Walmart

What a week this has been!  I apologize for not being present in the comments section recently, but I have been reading and appreciating every comment--or at least every comment that isn't spam (did you guys see those crazy ones last week?  Whoa).  There have been a few minor changes here on the blog that I'd like to mention.  First, I had to shorten the format of my feed as part of a time-consuming battle against someone stealing my content.  What a drag.  However, on a positive note, I am on Twitter now (@ToyBoxEmily) and am paying attention to my poor neglected Facebook page (about time, right?).  So that's all good.

Anyway, last week I was working on a different review when I got an email from Nonna (of Mommy's Doll Club).  She told me about the new My Life As dolls at Walmart and asked if I had seen them.  I actually did see these newcomers during my Sparkle Girlz quest, but dismissed them pretty quickly because I wasn't crazy about the new faces at first.  Nonna bought one of the new girls (a redhead!) and made some neat observations, tempting me into purchasing my own doll for a closer look.  At the same store where I bought my doll, I found another exciting My Life As release that I will show off at the end of the review.

I never would have written this review without Nonna's tip, so I want to start the post by having her share some of what she found with her doll (My Life As a Party Planner, redhead), before I review the doll I chose (My Life As a School Girl, brunette).  Thank you so much for the inspiration, Nonna, and congratulations on your beautiful new blog!

New My Life As doll, "School Girl" (left) and older My Life As doll, "Outdoorsy Girl" (right).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2013 and 2014 "Ariel" and "Merida" from the Disney Store--A Joint Review!

The Disney Store tends to release their new versions of the Classic Princess dolls every summer, and I have been slow this year in taking a look at the new lineup.  I assumed that Anna and Elsa would be generously re-stocked (and perhaps re-designed) as part of this summer release, but I am amazed to see that the Frozen dolls are still only fleetingly and unpredictably available online.

All of the other Princesses are readily available, and there are even some new deluxe sets that look appealing.  I have plans to review the Rapunzel Deluxe Talking Doll set that I bought, but today I am going to look at two of the redheaded Classic Princesses--Ariel and Merida.

I am always curious to see what differences there are in the Disney Store dolls from one year to the next.  Some years the releases are very similar to their predecessors, but other years bring big changes--like new face molds, or (as in 2012) completely re-designed legs.  Last summer I chose Rapunzel and Mother Gothel to review, so I don't have the 2013 Ariel and Merida dolls here for a direct comparison.  Fortunately, my friend Morgan (who you met in the first Fusion post) has both of these dolls and agreed to help me write up this review.  Morgan will show you the 2013 Ariel and Merida, I will show you the 2014 dolls, and then Morgan will end the review with a side-by-side comparison.

2014 Ariel Disney Store
2014 Classic Ariel from the Disney Store.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

More Minis! Part 2: Collector's Lane Kids by Battat

There is a lot of talk and excitement about the American Girl BeForever release.  Personally, I am particularly interested in the new mini dolls, since it seems that they have all-vinyl bodies and different face molds.  These new American Girl dolls, along with Battat's recent Our Generation mini release and the cute little Moxie Girlz sibling dolls, make for a very exciting season for those (like me!) who enjoy smaller dolls.  I have to be patient and wait for my BeForever dolls to arrive, so rather than look at something brand new today, I am going to go back in time and look at Battat's mini doll series from 1999.

While I was writing my review of Battat's newest Our Generation minis, I did several online searches to see what I could learn about the company and its history.  Apparently, Battat has made a few different mini dolls over the years.  In 2011, there were 4-inch Our Generation vinyl dolls with rooted hair.  These minis came packaged with a book and an assortment of accessories.  More than a decade earlier, when the Battat doll line was called "Collector's Lane," there was a group of cloth-bodied 6-inch mini dolls.  Like the current Battat minis, these dolls were made to be little replicas of the concurrent 18-inch characters.  Because of the similarities in construction and size between the new Our Generation minis and the Collector's Lane dolls, I decided it would be fun to see how Battat's smaller dolls have changed over the last fifteen years.

Collector's Lane Kids mini
Battat's Collector's Lane Kids mini "Rachel" doll.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Minis! Part 1: The Funville Sparkle Girlz

I had so much fun reviewing the new Moxie Girlz Friends dolls and the Battat Our Generation minis, that I've stayed focused on smaller dolls for the last week or so--hunting around locally and online to see what else is out there in the 5-10 inch size range.  Locally, I visited Target, Walmart, Toys R Us and the Dollar Store to see what mini dolls are readily available here in my part of the world.  Online, I hunted down some older Battat mini dolls that I learned about while researching the new dolls.  In a two-part mini series, I'll show you my favorite dolls from this search: the Collector's Lane Kids 6-inch dolls by Battat (that'll be Part 2...), and today, the inexpensive line of 4-inch dolls from Walmart called Funville Sparkle Girlz.

There are a few different sizes of Sparkle Girlz.  There are 20-inch play dolls, 12-inch fashion dolls, and 4-inch toddlers.  I was interested in the toddlers for this review, but these smallest Sparkle Girlz are actually quite hard to find around here.  There are four Walmart stores in my immediate area, and I've visited all of them within the last five days.  All of these stores had plenty of the larger dolls, but most had only one kind of mini...or just empty cardboard display cases.  Since these dolls cost $2.47, it's no surprise that they are hard to keep in stock.  At the very last Walmart I visited, I finally found a representative variety of little Sparkle Girlz.

In this post I will show you four different dolls from this series and contrast them to the comparably-priced Moxie Girlz Friends dolls.

Sparkle Girls Little Ballerina
Funville Sparkle Girlz "Little Ballerina" mini doll.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Doll Durability: American Girls, Journey Girls and Hearts for Hearts Dolls--A Guest Review!

My next guest reviewer, Emma, emailed to ask if she could write a piece on how some of her larger-scale dolls have weathered a few years of play.  I think this is a brilliant idea.  I am always reviewing new dolls right out of the box, but that's only the first step in determining quality.  I think that the durability of a play doll over time is the true test of its worth, and this is something that I would really like to learn more about.

Not only was Emma's review idea great, but I think you'll agree that she's done a nice job of summarizing her experience with three popular brands of doll: American GirlHearts for Hearts and Journey Girls.  I am very grateful to Emma for her hard work, creativity, and professionalism in bringing this new dimension to the blog.

This topic is so interesting to me that I hope many of you will contribute your own experiences in the comments section.  I am very curious to know how other well-loved dolls have stood the test of time.  In fact, I'd love to get some photographs of your older dolls (which you can email to toyboxphilosopher@gmail.com) so that I can add them to the bottom of this review.  If we keep this discussion limited to the 18" scale dolls that would be great, but I will think about ways to add "Doll Durability" posts as a recurring feature.  That's enough chatter from me--I am excited to sit back and hear what all of you have to say on this subject.  Take it away, Emma!

American Girl dolls of various ages.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Moxie Girlz "Friends" Mini Dolls by MGA Entertainment

On the same day I found my Our Generation mini dolls, I also saw the new (Target exclusive) Moxie Girlz minis for the first time.  It was a mini doll kind of a day, I guess.  The Battat minis grabbed the spotlight, but I wanted to show you some of the Moxie minis, too.  These dolls are pretty cute, but what really impresses me about them is their price.  They are $2.99 each, which is hard to beat.  I think Walmart's Sparkle Girlz are less expensive at just under $2.50, but I can't think of much else.  Even some of those blind bag foil-wrapped toys cost more than this.

Today, I will review Tally (the redhead...of course), and compare her to Neve and Amorie:

Moxie Girlz Friends mini dolls, $2.99.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scaremester "Invisi Billy" by Monster High--A Guest Review!

I have two neat guest reviews for you this week, but they are about two very different things, so I decided that instead of doing a Review Fusion post, I will publish the reviews separately with a little break in between.

This first review is written by Ana, a new friend of mine from Italy.  I always get extra-excited to share reviews from different parts of the world, because I think they highlight the universal and timeless fascination with dolls in our culture--a phenomenon that makes me really happy.  Ana and her six-year-old daughter Ellie are fortunate to share a passion for dolls, and are both particularly fond of the Monster High characters.  Ellie is a girl after my own heart, and has an impressive collection of the Monster High werecats and werewolves.  Ana's own favorite dolls are Scarah and Venus, who she likes for their beautiful personalities.  From the short time I have known Ana, I can tell you that her personality is equally lovely.

Ana is just the right person to review one of the new Monster High boy characters, Invisi Billy, because she has an extensive collection of ghoulish guys and a keen eye for their similarities and differences.  Without further ado, I will turn the post over to Ana!

Invisi Billy Monster High
"Invisi Billy" by Monster High.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Doc McStuffins" Dolls by The Disney Store and Just Play

My husband was reading the New York Times the other day and stopped to ask me if I knew anything about Doc McStuffins.  I giggled a little at the name (while picturing Doctor Dolittle, Doctor Who and other such doctor characters...) and said, "nope."  Well, as it turns out, I should have known about Doc, because she's the lead character from a new animated Disney Junior television series called Doc McStuffins.  This show has become incredibly popular among preschool children (and their parents) and the merchandise is starting to appear in all of my favorite stores.

Dottie (aka "Doc") McStuffins is a six-year-old girl who has a special way with stuffed animals and toys.  Following in the footsteps of her physician mother, Doc has set up a small toy hospital inside her backyard playhouse.  In each television episode, Doc fixes or helps a different toy, imparting simple bits of wisdom along the way...and glowing with a kindhearted, intelligent personality.

Miss McStuffins got the attention of the New York Times because she's black, and because she represents a success story for Disney--a company that has been working hard to overcome the racial and gender stereotypes of their past.  I certainly recommend taking a look at the Times' article.  It's short, well-written, and it outlines the reasons why this show is a big deal, both for Disney, and also for a multitude of families who have been waiting for an African-American roll model just like Doc.

I watched several episodes of Doc McStuffins and quickly became enchanted.  It's fantastic.  If my kids were younger, this is what we'd be watching.  When I was a child, Doc's animal-loving personality and affinity for toys would have made her my hero.  As a quickly-converted fan of this show, my first question became: "which is the best Doc Mc Stuffins doll out there?"  Today, I will review two of the larger Doc dolls.  One of them is sold at the Disney Store, and the other is made by Just Play and can be found on the shelves of Toys R Us, Walmart, Target and other big box locations.

Doc McStuffins doll from Disney Store
"Doc McStuffins" doll from the Disney Store, accompanied by Just Play figures
"Lambie" and "Stuffy."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our Generation Mini Dolls by Battat

Yesterday was one of those magical summer days.  The weather was perfect, and my husband took a rare day off of work so we could all have a mini vacation at our favorite ocean beach.  I usually like to bring a doll or two along whenever I go to the beach, so that I can embarrass my children take some photos for the blog.  However, the doll I am reviewing right now is not exactly dressed for the ocean, so I didn't have any obvious doll companions for this adventure.  However, as luck would have it, my kids needed a large tub for their own beach project (don't ask) and so they asked to stop at Target on the way.  Of course I am always happy to stop at Target because it gives me a chance to take a quick run past the dolls.

As I rushed through the toy aisles, I noticed that there were mini dolls in the Our Generation section.  Mini dolls!  I was so surprised to see them, I had to stop and do a double-take. I realize now that there's been some buzz about these dolls for a little while, but I have simply been too busy to notice.  I'm actually glad I didn't know about them ahead of time, because I adore surprises and this was a really great surprise.  In the doll world, there's very little I get more excited about than miniature replicas of larger dolls.  Better yet, one of the minis is Kendra--a redheaded Our Generation doll that I already have in 18" scale.  I scooped up mini Kendra and also Sienna (because she looked really cute) and headed off to the beach...with the perfect doll companions:

Our Generation mini dolls
Our Generation mini dolls "Sienna" and "Kendra," $9.99 each.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Inner Monster "Fearfully Feisty and Fangtastic Love" by Monster High

After finding Avea Trotter, who for me is the ultimate Monster High doll, I didn't think I would be spending as much time in the Monster High aisles of my regular stores.  However, I have found myself quite interested in seeing the new dolls come into stock--particularly the remaining items in the Freaky Fusion line.  It's fascinating to see the different combinations of characters.  So far, my favorites are Lagoonafire (Lagoona and Jinafire), Dracubecca (Draculaura and Robecca) and maybe Neighthan Rot...although I still think he should have been a centaur.

Anyway, while I was examining these mixed-up monsters last week, I noticed a lone box with a slightly different design sitting off to one side.  At first, the bright neon colors on this box reminded me too much of the Sweet Screams collection and I was a little turned off.  But then, I found myself seduced by how many accessories seemed to come with this doll for her relatively low price--it looked impressive.  Finally, a single sentence made me grab the box and head straight for the checkout: push brain to change my eyes.  Well, that's the kind of thing you don't have to tell me twice.  I was sold.  This ghoulish temptress had me at "push brain."

Fearfully Feisty and Fangtastic Love
Inner Monster doll, "Fearfully Feisty and Fangtastic Love" $21.99.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

W.I.T.C.H. Dolls "Taranee" and "Will" by Giochi Preziosi--A Joint Review!

My next guest reviewer, Emma, emailed me over a year ago to ask if I had ever considered reviewing any of the large range of dolls made by Giochi Preziosi.  I didn't know much about this Italian toy-making giant at the time, so I thought it was an excellent idea--and a great learning opportunity.  Emma recommended several of the Giochi Preziosi doll lines, including the Winx Club dolls, the Sailor Moon series, and (most enthusiastically) the girls from the W.I.T.C.H. comic books.  I took Emma's advice and ordered several of these dolls for review.  I messed up with the first doll I ordered, though.  I ordered a Winx Bloom doll with a Giochi Preziosi label, but learned that I had actually chosen a Witty Toys Boom doll that is merely distributed by Giochi Preziosi.

Six months later, I am trying again--this time with the invaluable help of Emma herself.  This review will focus on the 13" Giochi Preziosi W.I.T.C.H. dolls.  Emma is a huge fan of the W.I.T.C.H. comic book series, and so she is the perfect person to introduce this line.  Emma will share her new "Taranee" doll, and then I will end the review by showing you my redheaded W.I.T.C.H. character, "Will."  It has been fascinating for me to learn more about the magical world of these Witches, and I owe this experience to Emma's persistence, patience, and enthusiasm.  Many thanks, Emma!  This review never would have happened without you.

W.I.T.C.H. doll "Will"
W.I.T.C.H. doll "Will" by Giochi Preziosi.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Flora, Fauna, and not so Merryweather," an Ellowyne Wilde Doll by Wilde Imagination

It is my privilege to introduce another accomplished guest reviewer today.  I should have put "guest review" in the title of this post, but the name of the doll is so wonderfully long, I had to cut the rest of the title short!  My guest goes by "N," and is a fellow blogger and doll artist.  N's writing over at Paper Doll World focuses on her wonderful handmade paper doll collection and the many accessories she has designed and made for those dolls.  N's paper dolls are modeled after characters from doll lines such as American Girl, Wilde Imagination, and Ever After High.  I highly recommend taking a trip over N's unique site.  The world she has built for her adorable dolls is rich food for the imagination.  N also collects some three dimensional dolls, including...lucky for me...Ellowyne Wilde.

I have had many requests to include an Ellowyne Wilde review on the blog, but for some reason I never get around to adding one of these dolls to my collection.  I had one years ago (before I started the blog) but I wasn't crazy about her inset eyes and she was a basic doll, so she didn't have one of the extravagant and creative outfits that tend to come with the dressed dolls.  I have reviewed Robert Tonner's first Disney Showcase Rapunzel, a doll that shares a body style with Ellowyne, but it's really high time that Ellowyne herself joined the crowd of reviewed dolls.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when N emailed to ask if she could review this particular doll.  Without further delay, I will turn the blog over to the multi-talented "N" and her Ellowyne Wilde doll, "Flora, Fauna and not so Merryweather."

"Flora, Fauna and not so Merryweather" by Wilde Imagination...
playing with some of the Paper Doll World dolls.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

An 18" My Twinn Face Mold Guide

I don't know what it is about My Twinn, but they're ridiculously good at sidetracking me.  I had a completely different review planned for this weekend, but here I am writing about My Twinn again.  This is actually more of a project than a review, though, so let me back up and explain.

The other day I got an email from AJ, admitting that she had been bitten by the My Twinn Adopt-a-Friend bug during the most recent $49 sale.  Hearing about AJ's experience in picking her new doll (which you can see on her blog) sent me scurrying over to the My Twinn site myself.  Before I knew it, I was back in my old habits--hunched over the computer, entrenched in the process of peering at tiny pictures, trying to find some treasures amidst about a thousand discounted Adopt-a-Friend dolls.

The most recent sale was for the newer, smaller, 18" Adopt-a-Friend dolls, and I found the process of choosing one of these characters more difficult than it was for the older 23" Friends.  I think the biggest problem is that the facial features aren't as distinct.  I ended up spending most of my time just trying to identify the different face molds, which was really hard for me.  I searched the internet looking for clues, and couldn't find a single resource on these new faces--there certainly isn't anything on the My Twinn site (there should be).  So, for this post, I am going to share some of the faces I've deciphered, with the ardent hope that many of you will know more than I do, and will pitch in to fix any mistakes and help me create a complete, accurate resource.

18" (left) and 23" (right) My Twinn Katie faces.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review Fusion #2

I am delighted to have another Review Fusion today!  I wasn't sure if this idea was going to work, so I'd really like to thank all of the reviewers who have been willing to share posts with one another and contribute to these fun combinations!  I love grab bags and surprises, and I think this ever-changing blend of dolls and perspectives feeds into that passion.  I hope you enjoy the mix, too.

I am in the midst of trying to inject some order into my madness (in other words, rearrange my doll room) and so having the help of such wonderful guest reviewers is amazing.  Today, I have two reviewers, George and Amanda, and they will be talking to you about a Mattel Winx Club Bloom doll and a Disney Store singing Cinderella (eeee!).  The cover picture this week is an extraordinary photograph that I have been holding on to for months, waiting for the right moment to share it with you.  This exquisite girl is a new Cutie Face Makie (like Effie) named "Ever."  Ever is owned by Amy and was customized to Amy's specifications by Sioux.  You can see more of Amy's pictures of Ever on her gorgeous Flickr photostream.  I think Ever is magical:

Makie doll, "Ever."  Photo by Amy, used with permission.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mega Bloks Barbie's "Pet Shop" vs. Lego Friends' "Heartlake Pet Salon"...a Comparison Review!

My kids have always loved Legos.  My youngest son is particularly passionate about these toys, and has built some impressive models over the years.  We've also owned a certain number of Mega Bloks sets--the most memorable ones being from the Dragons series.  While my kids were never as happy with the design of Mega Bloks' actual building blocks, we were all amazed by the realism of the dragon figures, and my eldest son played with his Mega Bloks dragon hoard for years.  Despite my family's passion for building, I rarely talk about this kind of toy here on the blog.  I did a short post way back when the Lego Friends were first introduced, but nothing since then.

Despite the atypical subject of this review, it was actually inspired by a doll.  I was browsing the aisles of Walmart when I came across a display of Mega Bloks Barbie mini figures.  These tiny 2.5 inch dolls are packaged in single lipstick-sized boxes and cost under $3 each.  I've seen these Barbie figures before--or at least seen the place on the shelf where they should be--but usually the display is mostly empty and not very appealing.  On this particular day, the display was almost completely full, with six different varieties of doll in stock.  I was struck by how fun the range of dolls was: there were several versions of Barbie, two Ken dolls, and a Nikki.  There was even a Barbie with pink hair!  Since the aisles were packed with out-of-school kids begging their reluctant parents for a new toy, I was also struck by how clever this individual packaging is.  For kids over four, these mini figures offer a cute, articulated Barbie figure that costs less than than a latte.

I scooped up a few of these mini dolls, thinking that they would offer a fun, quick, mid-week review of what seemed like a nice, detailed, portable little Barbie doll:

Mega Bloks Barbie
Mega Bloks Barbie figure.

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Saila Qilavvaq" by Maplelea Girls

Maplelea Girls are 18 inch dolls that represent girls from several of Canada's diverse provinces and territories.  The dolls are designed to be durable companions, but also to educate children about the geography and culture of Canada.  These dolls were introduced in 2003 by Avonlea Traditions.  This company got its start by producing Anne of Green Gables merchandise, but has since sold that franchise and is solely focused on the Maplelea Girls.

Maplelea Girls are sometimes referred to as "Canadian Girls," probably because they are the rough equivalent of American Girl dolls.  There are six Maplelea characters who have distinct personalities, cultural backstories, and themed accessories.  This collection is similar to American Girl's historical lineup.  There are also "Maplelea Friend" dolls that parallel the My American Girl collection.  These dolls have a range of physical feature options, but don't come with pre-set character traits.  While American Girl places a large focus on their in-store buying experience, Maplelea Girls can only be purchased online from the Maplelea website.

I have been eyeing the Maplelea Girl website for over a year, but it has taken me a while to buy a doll and write this review.  My problem was not choosing a doll--I knew instantly that I wanted Saila, the Inuit girl from Nunavut.  Her story and appearance are incredibly unique in the doll world, and her name reminds me of someone special in my life.  My biggest hesitation has been the fact that there are already several excellent reviews of this doll.  Doll Diaries has a great collection of posts about Saila, and Maple Leaf Mommy has a review that features some magical pictures of her young daughter toting around this beloved doll friend.  I figured I could contribute to this review mix by doing some comparisons to American Girl, showing you a few of Saila's extra outfit pieces, and of course addressing my usual hangup: articulation.  My biggest reason for buying this uniquely beautiful doll, though, was that I simply wanted her in my collection:

Maplelea Girls "Saila" doll
Inuit doll, "Saila," by Maplelea Girls.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Life in the Dreamhouse "Raquelle"--A Guest Review!

Back when I reviewed Life in the Dreamhouse Midge, I mentioned that my second favorite doll in this series is Raquelle.  Raquelle has a smirky half-smile that gives her a unique (strong!) personality among the Barbie lineup.  My fondness for Raquelle made me especially happy to hear from Kayleigh, a fellow doll collector who was interested in writing a guest review of this doll.

Kayleigh has a wide range of doll interests--most of which overlap with my own.  She enjoys Barbie, Monster High, Ever After High, Disney Store dolls, Bratzillaz, J-Dolls, and Moxie Teenz.  Life in the Dreamhouse Raquelle is her all-time favorite doll.

Kayleigh's wonderfully thorough review of Raquelle includes a comparison to the 2012 Raquelle "Clutch" Fashionista doll.  I'd like to thank Kayleigh for all of her hard work and enthusiasm, and turn the rest of the post over to her!

Life in the Dreamhouse "Raquelle" (redressed).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

American Girl Happy Meal Toys from McDonald's

I don't eat McDonald's food very much as an adult, but I have to admit that I have a shameless fascination with the Happy Meal toys--especially the dolls.  I think it all started when my kids were really young and we used to stop at McDonald's on our road trips.  I can remember one particular 13-hour trip to North Carolina during which I realized that the current Happy Meal toys were Madame Alexander mini dolls.  As a long-time collector of Madame Alexander (and a fan of miniatures in general) this started something of an obsession.  I asked my husband to stop at pretty much every McDonald's between New York and North Carolina, just to see if they had different dolls in the different locations.  At first, I would order a Happy Meal for my own lunch, or try to strike a toy trading bargain with my boys, but by the end of the trip I was just asking at the counter if I could pay for the doll and skip the meal.

By the time McDonald's released Liv mini dolls in 2011, I had figured out that I could simply go to eBay and purchase a complete set of Happy Meal dolls without having to set foot in a McDonald's at all.  This approach takes away the questing excitement of driving all over the place to try and find certain toys, but it also saves time and money...and cuts down on my French fry consumption.

When I saw that American Girl was doing a series of mini dolls for McDonald's, I was pretty excited.  American Girl already has 6 inch versions of their iconic 18 inch dolls, so I was really curious about the scale of the Happy Meal dolls.  At first I was hoping for recursive scaling, with the McDonald's dolls scaled to the minis in the same way that the minis are scaled to the full-sized dolls.  This would have made the Happy Meal dolls only about 2 inches tall, though, which is pretty tiny.  It turns out that the McDonald's dolls are about 3.25 inches tall, which is a nice size.

American Girl mini doll, "Kit," with a pile of American Girl Happy Meal toys.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chou Chou Birdies by Zapf Creation

I have reviewed several Zapf Creation dolls in the last year, including Little Princess Cinderella and Best Friend Sam--the toddler doll I found in Edinburgh.  Zapf is better know for their baby dolls, though, including the popular Baby Annabell, Baby Born and Baby Chou Chou lines.

The name "Chou Chou" comes from a French term of endearment.  The Zapf site says it means "darling," but I always thought it meant "cabbage."  The Chou Chou babies I have seen in the past have either been 8 inch mini dolls or more realistically-sized 19 inch babies.  To me, the most fascinating Chou Chou on the Zapf website is "My First Tooth," a baby who cries and goes red in the cheeks until you give her a binky, at which point she giggles and "grows" two bottom teeth.  The teeth are hysterically large, and (at least in pictures) make the baby look like she has a ferocious underbite.  Her crying and laughing sounds are very lifelike, though.

A few weeks ago at Toys R Us, I noticed a new line of 5 inch Chou Chou dolls called the "Chou Chou Birdies."  This is a visually appealing group of mini dolls that appears to be exclusive to Toys R Us.  The collection includes six plastic baby dolls, each dressed in her own owl-themed outfit and accompanied by a plastic owl figure.  The dolls cost $9.99 each:

Chou Chou Birdies "Jacky" (left) and "Candy" (right).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review Fusion #1

I have been getting quite a lot of guest review requests these past few weeks for some reason, which is really wonderful.  I love how guest reviews can change my feelings about certain dolls (I bought my first Bratz!), how they can help encourage me to write a review that I had been putting off, or how they simply remind me of the fact that dolls make people happy for so many different reasons.

The problem with these guest review requests (as those who have emailed me know too well...) is that I am painfully slow to get things organized and published, and the waiting times are getting long.  In an attempt to lessen this problem, I have decided to combine guest reviews together into occasional "Review Fusion" posts.  This should allow me to share more perspectives while still doing my own reviews each week.

I have also received some amazingly gorgeous single photographs by email over the years, and have been looking for a good way to share a few of those with you.  My plan is to start each Review Fusion volume with a beautiful photo, and then move into the actual reviews after the jump.

I knew exactly which photo to share first: this is a Pullip doll, "Nanette," posed in front of the Great Wall of China.  This amazing picture was taken by LagoonaLicious, author of the Skelita Calaveras review from last year:

"Nanette."  Photo by LagoonaLicious.