I'm grateful to Julia for writing her guest review of the Disney Store's Anna and Elsa dolls, because if she hadn't taken the initiative, I never would have purchased any Frozen dolls right away, and now they're sold out almost everywhere and insanely hard to find for a reasonable price. Of course the dolls I really wish I owned are the Disney Store's limited edition dolls--especially the set with Anna in her coronation dress and Elsa in her ice dress. I always at least consider purchasing these Disney collector dolls when they are first announced, but all four of the Frozen dolls sold out in minutes and I was too slow to get one.
Fortunately, the Disney Store's 16" singing dolls (like the talking Merida I reviewed last year) occasionally share a face mold with the limited edition dolls. The singing dolls are play quality and therefore not as nicely made or as highly articulated as the collector dolls, but they're still a decent, affordable alternative for anyone who likes the larger size or the face mold. When I learned that the singing Elsa doll features a verse from Let it Go, I knew she was the doll for me:
|Singing Elsa Doll from Frozen, $39.95.|
At the time of this review, most of the Elsa dolls (except for the plush doll and the toddler) are sold out from the Disney Store. I assume that this is temporary, but until they are re-stocked, prices are soaring on eBay and Amazon. The 16" singing Elsa is currently selling on eBay for close to $100--the original price of the limited edition dolls. Meanwhile, the limited edition dolls are selling for $200 and up. It's a little crazy. I hope this review will help anyone who is considering these prices but feeling unsure.
Elsa comes in a large cardboard box with a plastic window:
The front of the box advertises the song that she sings:
And also the fact that this song can be activated by motions like a simple hand wave:
I'll admit (SPOILERS!!) that before I saw the movie, I assumed that Elsa was the evil villain. I might be the only one on the planet who thought this, but I jumped to this conclusion because the pictures of Elsa in the advertisements make her look shifty and sly--like the picture on the front of this box:
The back of the box is fairly simple, with two small portraits of Anna and Elsa, some holes for the sound to get through, and a little bit of text:
There's a small plastic tab sticking out of the back of the box. This tab says, "pull me" and is connected to the doll. Once the tab is removed, the motion-activated singing will start. I'm glad that this tab was still in place when my doll arrived. I would not have been able to look the UPS guy in the eye if Elsa had arrived singing at the top of her lungs...no matter how good the song is.
A cardboard panel pulls out of the main box. Elsa is securely attached to this panel with two big wire ties:
The glittery train of Elsa's dress is crossed in front of her legs and held in place with those tiny little hard-to-see plastic ties:
Elsa's hands are bright blue, and apparently light up when she is singing. I guess this is another explanation for the higher-than-usual retail price on this doll.
Since Elsa is often wearing blue gloves in the movie, the blue hands don't look too out of place. However, if I'm being picky, by the time Elsa changes into her ice dress, she's not wearing gloves anymore. It's a big, turning point moment in the film.
The blue hands also reduce the versatility of this doll, so I am hoping that the light effect is impressive.
The cardboard behind Elsa is decorated with a picture of Arendelle. It also has a molded plastic base made to cradle the head and torso of the doll.
Here's Elsa right out of the box:
One of the wire ties that held Elsa in place is looped in under her dress, so it takes some additional effort to pull it out. I assume the tie was placed this way to prevent it from wrinkling the front of the dress. The area of the dress just under the velcro looks tattered and unraveled from rubbing against the wire tie, though:
Elsa's ponytail is rubber-banded to her left arm:
When I cut the rubber band holding the hair in place, I noticed that the thin blue fabric of the sleeves seems to snag easily. There are areas like this on both sleeves:
One edge of the skirt's hem is wrinkled from its position in the box:
The slit in the blue satin dress is also tacked together with tiny plastic ties:
After I removed the plastic ties, I pulled the skirt back to inspect Elsa's legs and shoes. She has a sheet of white tissue paper wrapped around her upper legs to protect them from the bright color of the dress:
On closer inspection, the edges of the dress' seams are all very unraveled and messy:
The shoes are also disappointing. These are not at all like the shoes Elsa wears with this dress in the movie:
I shifted my focus to Elsa's hair, and noticed that she had something plastic on the back of her head:
There's a circular piece of clear tape stuck to the back of her head. I think this is to hold some tendrils of hair in place:
I very carefully peeled the tape circle away from the hair...
...only to find two more strips of tape underneath it! These were harder to peel away because they were firmly attached to the hair:
I don't think I have ever seen tape in doll hair before--at least not on purpose. Still, the hairstyle survived quite well and came out looking neat and tidy, but very flattened down:
There are several large, crispy curls stuck tightly to the top of Elsa's head. These merge into a long braid that runs down her back. The top part of the hairstyle is extremely hard--the hair barely moves at all, and only in big chunks. In contrast, the braided hair is very soft and moves easily.
This doll's hair is very light blonde. It's not as platinum white as the movie Elsa's hair, but it's quite pale. Many of my pictures seem to accentuate the yellow in this hair, making it look darker than it actually is.
Elsa has an adorable face that does a nice job of capturing the spunk of the movie character. Her face is more exaggerated than the sweeter features of the 12" Elsa doll. I will use Julia's picture to show you a comparison:
The 16" Elsa has large, side-glancing blue eyes and a lopsided, knowing smile. I actually don't think that this doll has the same face mold as the limited edition Elsa dolls. My doll has a quirkier smile, and she has squinty, smiling eyes.
The asymmetry of her mouth gives Elsa two very different profile shapes. The right side of her face looks happy and bright, while the left side looks more subdued:
Elsa's vinyl is very pale with a faint blue tinge. Her cheeks and nose are red--as though she's been out in the cold:
From some angles, this doll appears to have wonky eyes. I think this is because the eyes have a steep slant, and the doll is looking very far off to her right side. This gives the illusion of the right eye looking up and the left eye looking down:
She can be positioned so that both eyes are looking at the camera, though:
Elsa has blue eyes with black and blue lined iris detail. I think that her entire iris is the same color blue in the background, but it looks two-toned because of the differently colored iris lines:
She has iridescent purple eyeshadow surrounded on all sides by heavy black eyeliner and lightly drawn eyelashes.
Elsa has a small number of brown freckles around her nose. Her lips are a rich red color. I think the shiny areas around my Elsa's nose and mouth in these pictures are spots of hair product. They washed right off.
|Notice the glitter everywhere. It was all over my face, too!|
Elsa's dress is a simplified version of the movie dress. Sadly, it does not have any ice crystal details on the train. It has a plain blue satin a-line skirt with a glitter-laden sweetheart bodice:
The translucent pale blue train attaches under Elsa's arms. The fabric of the train is quite stiff, and it took a while for the packaging wrinkles to soften.
The neckline and sleeves are made out of a very fine, gauzy blue mesh that does not have any glitter. This part of the dress looks great, but seems fragile, as evidenced by the snags I showed you on the sleeves.
Here you can see that the train attaches along the seam between the blue satin bodice and the pale blue top of the dress. The train lifts completely away from the main part of the dress to reveal a non-glittery back and that messy velcro closure.
The blue satin skirt does not have any glitter. It has a high side slit, just like in the movie, but the skirt is nowhere near as form-fitting:
The stitching along the slit causes the edges to bunch and gather, giving a rumpled overall appearance:
|Maybe I could iron that back into a straighter shape?|
And, again, with the dress removed, it's even easier to see the unraveling along all of the inside edges:
Elsa's blue shoes are flat slippers. Not only are these not true to the movie, but they do not allow the doll to stand on her own. Her arched feet need a heel!
The Disney Store's Singing Cinderella doll's "glass" slippers are more accurate to the movie and they give Elsa much better balance.
Without her clothes, Elsa looks almost exactly like the other Disney Store singing dolls. The only obvious exception is her blue arms:
Elsa's back has a heart-shaped speaker for the sound, a battery compartment, and an on/off switch on her side. That small slit on the battery cover is where the pull-tab connected, keeping Elsa from belting out her song while she was still in her box.
The articulation in these dolls is frustrating. Elsa has nine points of articulation, but her arms and knees are very simple hinges with no rotation whatsoever. When I pose Elsa, I am constantly trying to move her arms in ways that they cannot go.
|That's as far as her hips can flex out to the side.|
I understand that the limited arm movement is probably because of Elsa's light-up glove feature--just like the previous singing dolls' stiff arms helped accommodate the voice-activating mechanisms in their hands. However, since the voice mechanism has been moved out of the hand with these Frozen dolls, I wish Disney had dropped the light-up features and given the dolls rotating elbows and bending wrists instead. I mean, they've already made that body for the limited edition dolls...why not use it?
|She can kneel, though!|
Here's Elsa next to my 16" singing Cinderella so that you can see how similar their bodies are--and also see how pale and blue-ish Elsa is:
|Cinderella has fancier underpants.|
|How does it work?|
It's a total mystery to me how waving at this doll can have any effect on her voice chip or her hand lights. Does the sensor work through the hard plastic? That would be impressive. I wish I could do a cat scan of this doll to see what was going on in there.
Speaking of the lights, Elsa's forearm is translucent blue vinyl:
When Elsa's voice mechanism is activated, her hands light up. I should pause to say that I had a very hard time getting Elsa's voice mechanism to activate. I waved at her, I snapped at her, I flipped her around, I jumped her up and down on the table...but only when I brought her out of the light and into a dark hallway did she start to sing...and her hands lit up very nicely.
I can't see exactly where the light is coming from, but it is a strong, pretty light.
Still mystified about the mechanism behind Elsa's motion activation, I decided to dress her back up and take her outside for some icy photographs in natural light.
It was not easy to get Elsa back into her dress because the sleeves are a little tight for her wide hands. This is a problem because of the fragile sleeve fabric:
|I see more snags in this sleeve's future.|
Here's one last picture of Cinderella with Elsa (in their glittery clothes):
The snow here in Maine definitely suits Elsa, although her hair looks even more yellow against the white backdrop, and the blueish tint to her skin is easier to see. Still, she was right at home in the frigid conditions:
|I promise her hair isn't really this yellow.|
Here's a picture of one of her eyes in the daylight:
Elsa's exuberance about the winter landscape was clear...
|Here I stand, in the light of day!|
But she kept losing her balance...
The damp snow helped release the wrinkles in Elsa's dress, and the falling snowflakes added the decoration that was missing from her train:
When Elsa's hair got wet from the snow, the styling product became very sticky and soft. I took the opportunity to try and loosen some of the crispy curls. They don't move around too much, but I got them to sit a little further away from Elsa's head, which creates a more three dimensional style:
Elsa's rigid arms limit her posing, but she's very good at pointing to things outside:
Elsa enjoyed admiring all of the fresh, light snow covering the trees:
|Hmm...maybe I could build a snowman?|
She also enjoyed running through the snow...
|I can't hold it back anymore!|
|The cold never bothered me, anyway.|
I thought that the snowy landscape would be a good place for Elsa to show you how nicely she can sing. It took me a while to get her voice to activate out in the daylight. I still have no idea how the voice mechanism works, but I know that once I got her started singing (by turning her switch on and off a few times and then bouncing her around...), it was difficult to make her stop. Every little movement would trigger the song to start over again.
Here's my cheesy little movie:
The song quality is great and Idina Menzel's voice is amazing, but I wish there was more than just this one section of the song. My other Disney singing dolls cycle through multiple parts of their songs. My family was walking around the house for days filling in the parts that this doll leaves out.
So...what happens when that braid comes out?
The long part of the braid comes out very easily, but there's a small braided section tucked up under the crispy curls that is anchored with another rubber band.
This section is a little harder to release:
Here's the hair completely let down:
The rooting is slightly thin in the back, but the hair fiber is very soft and smooth:
The shorter strands of hair that were braided at the very top of Elsa's head don't behave very well once they've been freed...
...so I gave the hair a quick boil wash:
I was very careful during the washing process not to get Elsa's body wet. I would hate for her to stop her beautiful singing! She wore a very stylish napkin dress to help protect her body.
The waves from the braided section of hair did not boil away completely, but the short sections of hair around Elsa's face are nice and straight:
The hair dried into a nice fluffy mass of softness. It's fun to brush, but a little on the thin side in the back.
With some French braiding, it's possible to get the hair back into a simpler version of the original style:
The hair is not very versatile, but at least it's not a disaster if it gets taken down or messed up.
I'll end with a few more pictures of Elsa outside in her element:
Bottom line? I had a lot of fun with this doll, and she is a wonderful souvenir from the movie. Her face clearly resembles Elsa, and captures a lot of the character's spunk and charm. The doll's ability to sing a segment of the beloved song, Let it Go, in bright, clear audio adds significantly to her appeal. I only wish she could sing more of the song. I also enjoy the glowing blue hand effect, but I would gladly trade this gimmick for better arm articulation.
The biggest disappointment with this doll is her outfit. The dress seems carelessly sewn, and is lacking many of the details that made the movie dress so special. A fancier, more flowing train would have made a huge difference--or even just a decorated train like the one on the 12" Elsa doll. Also, the shoes are an oversight. Elsa never would have worn such frumpy slippers with her sexy ice dress. I worry about the fragility of the fabric in the sleeves of this dress, especially since the doll's hands don't fit easily into the narrow openings. All that being said, I did enjoy the dress to some degree, especially after some of the wrinkles relaxed and I saw how well it stood up to getting wet out in the snow. The train might be stiff and plain, but it still adds a nice touch of drama to the otherwise plain outfit.
Overall, this doll is easily worth her original $40 price tag, mostly because of the connection to an unforgettable character, an epic song, and a wonderful movie. Elsa is not a very versatile doll, but she is perfect for bringing the magic of the movie character into a child's games. Depending on when the Disney Store retires this doll, she is also likely to hold some value as a collector's piece. As to whether or not she's worth the $100-and-up prices on the secondary market right now, I'd say probably not--or at least not until she's permanently sold out from the Disney Store, which, of course, is always hard to predict.
I still yearn for the limited edition version of Elsa--to have that gorgeous, crystal-encrusted dress and the wonderful arm articulation. However, this 16" singing version has her own charm, with her cheery, unique face mold and her ability to sing so nicely. I'd love to design this doll a custom ice gown (with a long, flowing train), and maybe re-style her hair into a dramatic, non-crispy up-do. That could be a pretty special doll. So my bottom line is that while I like this Elsa quite a lot...she's a bit of a fixer-upper.