I was fortunate enough to be able to do some early shopping at Paola Reina America, and my dolls were shipped to me directly from Spain. I think this is the first official perk I have enjoyed as a doll reviewer, and I am extraordinarily grateful. I must have spent over an hour on the website choosing which dolls to buy, and I probably changed my mind five times. I ended up with two dolls, and I don't think I they're the ones anyone would have expected me to pick (no redheads!). Of the two, I want to show you Marta first, because her size and coloring made a very strong impression on me from the moment she came out of her shipping box.
|"Marta" from the Paola Reina "Las Reinas de Paola" collection.|
The best way to show off the variety of dolls available at Paola Reina America is to share the Toy Fair pictures that the company was kind enough to send to me. The following pictures are the property of Paola Reina America, used with permission.
First, here is the display from the New York Toy Fair:
First, here is the display from the New York Toy Fair:
|Can you imagine being there? Ah!|
|What a gorgeous display!|
And from Toronto, where you can see some of the dolls up close:
|Soy Tu "Norma" (L), Las Reinas Marta (R) and Alma (on the screen).|
|I love the winged, pink-haired Las Amigas angel doll in front.|
|Something for everyone.|
Marta's presentation is very similar to that of Cristi Blue. The biggest difference is size: Marta is huge. Her box is four or five times as big as Cristi's box. Marta's box has a thin plastic window in front, and a white cardboard back with a colorful heart design:
Here's Marta's box next to 18" My Twinn Annie, who is the same size as an American Girl doll:
|That's a very big box.|
This little decal on the front of Marta's box explains one of the main reasons why I was excited about the Las Reinas de Paola dolls--they have more joints than the smaller dolls:
|Safe toy, but not for kids under 3.|
I was impressed with Marta from her catalogue pictures, but she's even more beautiful in person. Two special details weren't clear until I saw her in real life: the unusual color of her brown eyes and the faint, realistic spray of freckles across her nose.
|I love dolls with freckles.|
Marta is very securely anchored to her box, but it's also very simple to remove her. She has three elastic bands holding her down--one around her neck and one around each leg. These bands are looped around plastic hooks that are inserted through the cardboard:
The plastic piece under Marta's head is designed to support her neck and provide hooks for the elastic band:
Marta is quite heavy and can stand on her own, although she has very small feet that require some adjustment to get just the right balance.
Marta has a darker complexion than my Cristi Blue doll, but my indoor photo set-up makes her look yellower than she actually is. I'm working on getting some better lighting to avoid this problem.
Marta's has two crude ponytails that keep her hair under control in the box.
The hat was plastic-tied into Marta's head, which was a little disappointing. I think of this as a trick used for lower quality play dolls. I had to very (very!) carefully cut the hat out of Marta's hair.
I love the color of this doll's hair. In fact, her coloring was the primary reason that I chose her over the other Las Reinas dolls.
With her hair brushed out, Marta looks like a shampoo commercial. The hair is gloriously thick and shiny and is cut in a long layered style with a slight curl at the ends:
The hair fiber is nylon, which I tend to think of as a bad thing because of my experience with dolls like the original Bratzillaz Meygana Broomstick. However, high grade nylon can be very nice. It is a thick, shiny fiber, which might not work very well for smaller scale dolls, but is great for Marta's large mane of hair.
The hair brushes out very easily, but it is dense and needs to be separated into small sections. The hair isn't frizzy or coarse, but it's not slippery-smooth, either. It doesn't tangle easily, but it does require frequent brushing in order to maintain the wonderful glossy glow that is has in the pictures, above.
The hair is rooted, which surprised me because the bang style makes it look like a wig. The rooting pattern is not visible during normal hair handling, but pigtails would not be attractive:
Marta has the Paola Reina mark on the back of her neck:
Now, let me show you Marta's face. The Las Reina de Paola dolls have very distinctive faces. I think there are three different face molds in this collection, and Marta shares a face with Mei, Lidia and the Witch.
Marta has very full lips and wide, rounded eyes. The painted detail on the face is beautiful, especially the freckles. They are so delicate and realistic:
Marta has inset brown eyes that do not open and close. They are ever-so-slightly wonky in their placement. I have never seen brown doll eyes like this before. They are amber-colored and have a metallic sheen to them that reminds me of a tiger's eye gemstone.
Marta has long, delicate applied lashes on her upper eyelids. Her lower lids are bare:
The eyebrows are painted with feathered brush strokes and look very realistic--it's a shame that they're hidden behind the doll's thick bangs.
Marta's exaggerated lips have a lot of sculpted detail and are painted with a very natural-looking translucent pale pink gloss:
Only after I had inspected Marta's eyes did I realize that I'd had her necklace turned the wrong way around. The necklace actually has a painted leopard spot pendant that matches the color of the eyes almost perfectly:
Marta is wearing a multi-piece outfit that includes a fuzzy leopard print hat and a matching vest. The hat is elasticized at the back for a snug fit:
Two opposite corners of the hat are tied together with a brown cord decorated with pom-poms.
The main body of the vest is made out of fuzzy leopard print, but the two front panels are lined with ultra-soft light brown fake fur:
The top corners of each front panel are folded over to create small lapels. These are held in place with black shiny decorative buttons:
Most of the edges are finished, save for the arm holes, which are not stitched on the leopard print side.
Underneath the vest, Marta is wearing a white cotton peasant-style blouse:
I love how Marta looks in this blouse:
The pendant looks great and conceals Marta's neck seam very well. However, the necklace gets in the way of the white buttons on the blouse, so I decided to take it off. There's no clasp, so it has to be untied, but the knot is easy to re-tie.
The charm looks like it is made out of the opalescent interior of a shell. It is painted on one side with a slightly iridescent abstract leopard pattern:
The painted side is difficult to photograph. It looks like it should have some depth, but it's very two-dimensional. The colors are a beautiful mix of orange and black.
With the necklace removed, the joint seam is exposed, but it's also easier to see the graceful lines of the blouse:
The blouse opens in the back with velcro, but the velcro only goes down about three quarters of the way. This makes the blouse difficult to get on and off:
It has wonderful details, like two smocked lines at the elbows, beautifully gathered cuffs, and two pearly white buttons adorning the collar:
The blouse is fitted loosely through the torso and then has a tighter band that sits over the waist. It's just a gorgeous, impeccably made piece of clothing.
The skirt is an interesting contrast to the blouse. It is made out of a dark, heavy tweed that is densely gathered at the waistband for a thick, full drape. The hem is decorated with two tiers of fine white lace:
Underneath the skirt, Marta is wearing cream colored tights with fake fur leg warmers that match the lining of her vest:
I expected her to be wearing boots under those leg warmers, but she's actually wearing delicate brown dress shoes:
The straps open and close with a working white pearly button:
As much as I enjoyed examining Marta's beautiful outfit, I was eager to get a closer look at her articulation and her body mold. She is made out of heavy, hard, high-quality vinyl and has 13 points of articulation.
She has a slender, elongated torso and chunky, visible hinge joints at her elbows and knees:
Her body has the Paola Reina mark just above the right hip joint.
The neck joint can only rotate around, there is no up and down movement. This is always a bit of a disappointment, but is common for most larger play dolls. I was relieved to see that (unlike Cristi Blue) Marta's head does not looking increasingly upwards as she turns her head--it stays level:
The shoulder articulation is also rotational, with no hinged movement. Many larger play dolls, like American Girl, Carpatina, and 18" My Twinn, have strung joints, which allows them to change the angle between their arms and their body. It seemed strange at first to manipulate a large doll that could not lift her arms this way. However, the hinged movement in the elbows and the additional rotation in the wrists actually give Marta more overall arm movement than dolls like American Girl. It's just a different kind of movement that takes some getting used to.
Marta can almost touch her face, if her head is turned, her elbow is bent, and her fingers are rotated towards her head:
The elbow joint has a large metal peg that is clearly visible:
The wrists have a simple rotating joint:
The lower limbs have what is essentially the same articulation as the upper limbs: the hips can only rotate, the knee joints are secured with large metal pins and have simple hinged movement, and the ankle joints rotate exactly like the wrists.
The maneuverability of the ankles is critical for helping Marta to stand. Because her feet are so small, it's often necessary to adjust the feet to an angle that will support her large, heavy body.
When Marta bends at the hip, her leg moves up and away from her body. This causes the knee joint to turn outward and the lower leg to angle towards the opposite side of the body:
This articulation is great for doing the splits...
And perfect for kneeling...
But not so great for sitting in any kind of a chair:
Here are a few other poses to show Marta's flexibility:
At 26" tall, I assumed that Marta would not be able to share clothes with any of my other dolls. She's much taller than 18" My Twinn and American Girl dolls, but as you can see, her torso width is actually quite similar:
I wondered if Marta might be able to wear American Girl sized shirts, at least, but her arms are too thick and long.
Karito Kids come closer in height to Marta, but have a more slender frame:
For fun, here's Marta next to Cristi Blue so you can see how much larger the Las Reinas de Paola dolls are than the 13" Las Amigas:
Marta is very similar in size and proportion to the older My Twinn dolls like Hazel:
The stuffed torso of the the My Twinns is larger, so their skirts and pants don't fit Marta very well, but many of the tops and dresses would probably work on a Las Reinas doll...if you roll up the sleeves and don't mind a slightly loose fit.
I like this orange sweater set with Marta's coloring:
Marta's coloring really comes to life when she's outdoors, so I'll end the review by showing you some photographs of her visiting a few frozen Maine locations. First, I took her to the frog pond near my house:
She immediately noticed that the pond was still frozen solid and wanted to walk across it.
I suggested that it wasn't safe, but she just got exasperated with me and insisted that she'd be fine.
In fact, the ice was so thick that I even ventured about half way across myself.
This picture totally looks photoshopped, though, doesn't it?
I think because Marta is standing on ice it looks like her feet aren't really touching a surface. I promise that she's actually standing on a frozen pond!
We took a short walk through the woods, but the sun was going down and it was getting pretty cold.
Marta found a nice log and was able to soak up a few last rays of sun before we headed home.
Later during the week, when the sun came out in force, I took Marta to one of our state parks for a few more pictures. In this bright sun, her eyes and hair come alive.
Of course Marta immediately wanted to scale some of the nearby boulders, and asked for a hand up:
It was wonderful to sit on the rocks and look out over the warming ocean.
Marta even spotted an osprey nest on a nearby island!
|Can you find it?|
Marta found a lot of pretty shells along the beach, including this one that reminded us both of her necklace:
I thought that the yellowed Ascophyllum seaweed went really well with Marta's hair and eyes, and so I convinced her to lay down in it for a few last pictures. She was reluctant at first, but then agreed that it made a pretty comfy bed!
|Look at those eyes!|
Bottom line? Marta took my breath away when I first saw her in the box. Her size and weight alone are enough to make an impression. It's more than that, though. I must have spent twenty minutes just looking at Marta in her box--taking in all of the details of her face and outfit. After gazing at her for a while, I think I said to my husband, "this is an epic doll."
Even before Marta arrived at my house, I was in love with the idea of the Paola Reina company. The dolls are made entirely in Spain, with materials gathered throughout Europe--beautiful fabrics from France and Spain, and hair fiber from Germany and Italy. The level of quality, caliber of manufacturing, and careful control over sales suggest that this company is driven by an underlying love for dolls--not necessarily the singular desire to net tons of money. The Las Reina de Paola dolls cost between $120 and $130, which is comparable to the price of an American Girl. I feel that the size and level of quality in the Paola Reina dolls easily justifies a much higher price.
Marta's articulated body has a pleasant vanilla scent and an impressive weight and feel. She has a large number of joints (especially when compared to similar play dolls), but she doesn't move quite as well as I imagined she would. She can't look up and down, although I appreciate that her head spins on a level plane and doesn't rotate upwards as she looks around. Her shoulders and hips can only spin around a single axis--they don't have any hinged movement. This led to several instances where I was trying to get Marta to strike poses that were impossible. Perhaps the most disappointing feature of the articulated body is that it can't sit gracefully in a chair. Still, the body is heavy, very sturdy, and holds poses extremely well. The doll can stand on her own and keep her balance--even in windy, slippery conditions. The joints themselves are chunky and obvious, but the overall appearance of the body is very nicely sculpted and realistic. Marta's articulation is different, and takes a little getting used to...but the more I handle this doll, the more I like her. She might be a bit of a handful for younger kids, simply because of her weight and size: I would recommend her for anyone over five.
Marta's clothes are outstanding. She has a unique, multi-piece outfit made out of a wonderful mix of high-quality fabrics. Each item of clothing is sturdily constructed with no shortcuts or design gimmicks. These are real clothes. I especially love the combination of Marta's gauzy peasant blouse and her heavy tweed skirt. My only complaint about the clothes is that the blouse is difficult to put on and take off...and this would be such an easy thing to fix by just making it open all of the way down in back.
Marta's hair is made out of gorgeous, high quality, flame retardant nylon. I love the hair, but it isn't quite what I expected. It does not have the slippery-smooth feel of my American Girl Keira's hair, and it needs a bit of maintenance to keep it looking great. However, the maintenance is easy. The hair fiber doesn't tangle and isn't the slightest bit frizzy, so it is quick and effortless to run a brush through the full length. The hair is deliciously thick, holds its style well, and the color and shine are spectacular.
Marta's face is very stylized. She has rounded eyes and exaggerated, beautifully-sculpted lips. She looks soft and kind and has a pleasant, versatile expression. Her face is perfectly painted, with light blush on her cheeks, naturally pink lips, and amazing hand-painted freckles. Her eyes are fixed in place, but they have a unique shimmering brown color that reminds me of exotic gemstones. Marta's outfit and accessories compliment her coloring extremely well.
Marta feels like a precious, collectable doll to me. She has the kind of special qualities that I am much more accustomed to seeing in my art dolls. She reminds me of the Gotz and Zapf dolls from decades ago--dolls with high-quality outfits, mohair wigs, sturdy bodies and mesmerizing glass eyes. I thought that play dolls like this had gone extinct, moved aside for the abundance of products mass-produced in China. To have a creation like Marta in my hands, for a price well under $200, fills me with joy. Welcome to America, Paola Reina. I could not be happier to have you here, and I desperately hope that you will stay.