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).|
I purchased two of these dolls: Candy and Jacky. I chose these two because they have different eye colors and very different facial expressions. It was a tough decision--all six of the dolls are very cute. I will review Candy in depth, but I'll also show you some of Jacky's features.
All of the dolls come in blister packs with the same colorful tree-themed cardboard background:
The back of the box has a photograph of all of the dolls in the collection, and a short description of the Chou Chou Birdies:
Each of the dolls has a different outfit and hat design, and a coordinating owl. Each doll also has a unique face mold, although this is impossible to tell in the picture, below, and also hard to tell in real life. When I was at the store deciding which doll to buy, I assumed that Lucy and Mandy had the same face and that Flory and Candy share a face, too. I went back to the store to double-check this, and the faces actually have very small differences.
|Six unique face molds.|
Part of the problem with this picture is that the faces shown are not the faces that appear on the actual dolls. For example, the picture shows Jacky as having an open, smiling mouth while in fact her lips are only slightly parted in the center.
The text suggests that you "take [the dolls] on your adventures during the day then meet them again in your dreams!" For some reason this theme is a little creepy to me. Maybe I don't want these dolls to follow me into my dreams!
|Time apart is healthy for any relationship.|
|I seeeee you!|
It was only at this stage that I realized the spelling error on Candy's package:
|I assume they mean that Candy is imaginative.|
Mandy is smart
Lucy is carefree
Flory is talented
Jacky is a dreamer
Paisley is chatty
Candy is imaginative
These are fine, but not necessarily made with a six-month-old baby in mind. I guess babbling and drooling aren't as marketable.
Candy and her owl are tightly fitted into their plastic packaging, and nothing else is required to hold them in place.
|No ties, no rubber bands, no tape...nothing.|
Candy's owl is made out of hard orange plastic and is winking:
Owls can, in fact, wink:
The owl is hollow underneath and about the right size to act as a rigid tip-of-the-finger puppet:
The owl theme is carried throughout Candy's entire outfit. She has an orange owl hat, a shirt with three owls on it, and little shorts with an owl print. Only her shoes are owl-free.
Owls are awesome. They can be found almost anywhere on Earth, but because they're nocturnal, it always feels special to see one in broad daylight. We have a great horned owl in our neighborhood that has been making some cool (slightly spooky) noises at night.
|A great horned owl having a bad feather day.|
At first I assumed that the Chou Chou Birdies line incorporated several different bird varieties, but all of the animal references seems to be strigiform.
I don't necessarily think about owls when I look at babies, but this combination is fun, and reminds me of the Kawaii Crush dolls with their animal-themed hats. I like these Chou Chou babies quite a bit more than the Kawaii Crush dolls, though.
Candy's hat is not as flexible as the rubbery Kawaii Crush hats, but it is made out of vinyl and has some bend to it.
The hat is molded to look as though it is crocheted, with various colorful patch decorations:
I love the tail detail in back:
Without the hat, it's easier to see Candy's head:
She has a vinyl head with inset brown eyes. Her head looks round from the front, but slightly more square from the sides. She has subtle curls of molded hair that frame her face and simple painted features:
She has a dent defect on her right cheek that is hard to see in the pictures.
The open mouth does not have a lot of detail, but it is painted in a nice natural pink:
The inset eyes are big and round and have nicely detailed irises:
|This doll has some glue reside on her left eye.|
Candy's wide stare is not unlike that of an owl. Owls can't move their eyes much from side to side in the socket, so they're always staring straight ahead. Also, Candy has some orange highlights in her brown eyes, and this is a fairly common eye color for owls:
Owl ears are fascinating too. Unlike humans, owls do not have external ears. Instead, the feathers around their face funnel noise into ear openings at the sides of their head. Several species of owl have tall ear-like feathers above their eyes, but these have nothing to do with hearing.
In addition, some owls have one ear that is set higher than the other. This helps them localize sounds. For example, the barn owl's left ear is higher up than the right ear. This means that sounds from above are better heard through the left ear, and the right ear can focus better on sounds from the ground.
Like an owl, Candy's ears are on the sides of her head, but unlike the barn owl, her ears look pretty evenly set:
Candy's tee shirt is blue with a bib-like patch of white showing off three little printed owls.
I really like the different sizes and styles of owl on this shirt--it reminds me how many different sizes and shapes of real owl there are in the world.
None of the edges are finished on this tiny outfit:
She's also wearing peach-colored bubble shorts with an elastic waist and elastic-gathered legs:
The shorts have a white owl print:
This is a great outfit, but the shirt gets very short when Candy lifts her arms...
And the shorts slip down quite easily. This is what Candy's shorts looked like most of the time I was posing her:
Owls don't usually have this problem.
Candy is wearing light blue slippers with a molded knitting pattern and small apple-shaped buttons:
|Why apples, I wonder?|
|Real raptors don't wear shoes.|
Candy has a hard plastic torso, but her legs are made out of firm, solid vinyl. The vinyl in her limbs is less flexible than the vinyl in her head, but can still bend a little. You can see that there are slight color differences between her head, limbs and torso since all three are made out of different materials.
She has five points of simple articulation. She's best at standing straight up and sitting on the ground:
Her legs don't move enough from front to back for her to do the splits, but with the help of her owl, she can be propped into a running position:
Because owls cannot move their eyes within the sockets, they rely on head movements to look around their environment. Owls can rotate their head over 180 degrees, meaning that they can turn and look straight back without moving their bodies. Candy can do this, too:
Candy is five inches tall, which is a similar height to many of my other small dolls:
|Ty Li'l One, LPS Blythe, Chou Chou Birdies, Chelsea, Kelly|
In front: Cabbage Patch mini.
Candy makes a reasonable baby for some of the large-headed 12" play dolls, like Liv Hayden:
Here are a few more picture of Candy:
Her summer outfit is a strange match for the crocheted winter hat and warm booties, but I still like the overall look of this doll when she's fully dressed:
I can even imagine her running around on the beach in only her shorts, perhaps wearing the owl hat because it is her favorite and she refuses to ever take it off:
I chose Jacky because I think she has one of the nicest outfits. I love her mini dress and white owl hat. She comes with a baby blue owl companion:
Each owl has the same shape, but a slightly different design. While Candy's owl is winking, Jacky's owl has both eyes wide open. There are also differences in their body decorations, although each is made to look like it is stitched. This reminds me a lot of Lalaloopsy (another MGA Entertainment license).
|Owls are solitary creatures, so it's rare to see two of them together like this!|
Jacky's dress opens down the back and is very easy to get on and off. Her hat is made out of the same vinyl as Candy's hat, but it has a completely different shape:
This hat is also supposed to be in the shape of an owl head, but the features are more rounded and from some angles it looks like a cat.
The blue eyes on this hat are molded to look like sewn buttons:
I love the tail on this hat--it hangs down the back and definitely reminds me of a real owl's tail:
*Update: Thank you to EllaCedar13 for the suggestion to try these hats on Disney Classic dolls...they don't fit many of the newer Disney Store dolls (like Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa), but they might fit some of the smaller-headed characters like Belle and Cinderella (I can't test this because of those dolls' hairstyles).
The hats do fit Barbie Midge pretty well!
Jacky's dress is blue with an owl and leaf print.
There's one larger owl on the top of the dress, and then smaller owls camouflaged among the printed feathers (leaves?):
Candy and Jacky's heads are the same in their basic shape and coloring, but Jacky has a different mouth, blue eyes, and her molded hair has a different pattern.
This doll has a small dent defect on her left cheek:
The two dolls have the exact same body design:
Here's a close-up comparison of their faces--I think Jacky might have a slightly bigger head overall:
The molded hair is faint, but you can see that each of these babies has a different hair pattern:
The babies are still cute without their owl clothing, but they lose some of their uniqueness. Looking at them like this, my brain wants to compare them to the larger Circo mini babies at Target. Those babies can cost less than half the price of these Chou Chou Birdies, and are large enough to be used with American Girl dolls.
Here are a few more pictures of the two dolls together:
Of course all of their clothes are interchangeable:
The babies can kind-of use the owl figures as puppets...but it seems a little undignified for the owls:
Bottom line? Well, these dolls are certainly cute, but what makes them special is their unique owl-themed clothing and hats.
The clothing is very simple and has mostly unfinished edges, so I am not sure how well it will last with rigorous play. However, the owl prints are fun and I like that each doll has a very different style to her outfit--not just the same pieces repeated in different colors. The hats are especially neat, and each one has a different owl design and a completely different knitted or crocheted pattern. There is some shoe variety in the Chou Chou Birdies line, I just happened to get two dolls with the same style of shoe. All of the clothing is very easy to get on and off and can be mixed and matched between the different dolls.
The bodies have a nice shape and decent movement. I like that the dolls can stand on their own and sit on the ground. The head, limbs and torso are all slightly different in color because of their different composition. This was an odd choice for such a small doll, especially since the bendable material of the limbs doesn't add anything to the doll's flexibility. The eyes are great and the painted features are minimal and unobtrusive.
The $10 price surprised me at the checkout--I was expecting something more like $6.99. Other mini dolls (like Lalaloopsy, Mooshka, and Kawaii Crush) tend to cost under $10. I wonder if part of the price is due to the fact that these dolls are Toys R Us exclusives? While the price is a little high, I do think these dolls have more play potential than most minis, especially because they are the right scale to be included in some 12" doll games. Also, for those seeking a toy under $20, the options are limited; these little dolls offer a quirky new option in that price range.
All of the Chou Chou Birdies seemed so similar in the store that I didn't think there would be much benefit to owning two of them. However, the contrasting facial expressions, different hats, and varied outfits make this pair better than either of them are on their own. Rather than repeating one generic owl design, Zapf opted to explore a fun diversity that hints at the fascinating range of owls in the real world.