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:
|New BeForever mini Kit (with old mini Kit in the background).|
Kit's box has the same basic construction as the older mini doll boxes, but it has a larger window on top, and a secondary window near the bottom that makes the book visible. It also has "Beforever" printed across the front:
This box has more pink in its design than my older dolls' boxes, but I think mini Saige (from 2013) and mini Isabelle (from 2014) have mostly pink-covered boxes.
The message on the back of the box is in keeping with the theme of drawing connections between historical characters and contemporary girls:
Here are my two Kit dolls in their boxes so that you can see the differences:
The book is held separate from the doll with a small plastic tray:
This new book has a soft cover and a glue binding. The cover design is a photograph of Kit near her typewriter.
The older book has a hard cover, a stitched binding, and a dust jacket. The dust cover and the hard cover have an illustration of Kit standing outside of her house:
There's a big difference in size and quality between these two books. The new book seems thin and cheap in comparison:
Maybe this is just me, but the shiny photographed cover of the new book is missing the nostalgic charm of the old cover...making it harder for me to imagine going back in time with Kit.
The books contain abridged versions of the same story. For some reason, I assumed that there would be new stories to go along with the BeForever theme.
|Not "good news" if you like quality books.|
Once the paperback book is opened, it won't close completely again. The pages stay fanned apart.
The old book has one full-page illustration and one half-page illustration, along with tiny pictures adorning many of the margins. It's also much easier to read.
|Illustration from the older book.|
So, in this first comparison, the old Kit wins by a landslide. The original book is a beautifully-bound and illustrated miniature, while the new book is essentially a gimmick.
Now, let's look at the doll herself:
She comes with plastic wrapped around her waist. I don't see a clear purpose for this, but it's really easy to get off.
This version of Kit is wearing a teal flower-print sundress that matches the outfit of the new BeForever 18" Kit.
Right away I can tell that this doll does, indeed, have a brand-new face mold:
Here is my old Kit next to the new Kit. I will have the original Kit on hand for comparisons throughout the review.
|Older Kit (left), BeForever Kit (right).|
The new face mold is still clearly recognizable as an American Girl face (in a large part because of the mouth), but several of the features have been changed. What strikes me right away about these two dolls is that the new Kit has a much higher forehead. She also has shorter hair, which magnifies her longer face. The new doll also has wider eyes and lower eyebrows.
Older Kit (left) and BeForever Kit (right).
Here's the new face up close:
She's wearing a red plastic barrette that matches the trim on her dress:
This doll has detailed light brown eyebrows with several little twig-shaped hair lines. Her freckles run along the tops of her cheeks in a fairly even pattern, but the shape of the freckles themselves is not regular.
In contrast, the older Kit has raised eyebrows with uniformly-shaped hair lines. Her freckles come closer to her eyes and span the bridge of her nose. I like the new Kit's eyebrows and freckle distribution better.
The new Kit does not have as much detail in her blue irises as the old Kit. Also, the new doll has regularly-spaced eyelashes, while the older doll has two clusters of eyelashes at either side of her eyes:
Older Kit (left) and BeForever Kit (right).
The new doll's eyes can look a tad wide and vacant in some pictures, but I don't notice this in real life.
The mouths on these dolls are very similar:
|BeForever Kit (notice the paint defect at the corner of this doll's right eye).|
The old Kit has very tightly-rooted hair all around her face. The new doll's hair is rooted more sparsely. The dolls also have different shades of blonde hair. The new Kit has more golden blonde hair with highlights, while the older doll's hair is a uniform white-blonde.
I took these pictures a little later on in my review, but wanted to include them here. This is the old Kit's hair shown from the back:
She has a tan scalp with even rooting rows. At the back of her head, she has some marks:
|Looks like a genetic code...|
Her scalp is marked differently:
|I think that's a type of fighter jet.|
Here you can see the difference in length and color of the two dolls' hair:
|Old Kit (left), new Kit (right).|
Kit's new dress is a vibrant jewel-toned color, but the design is simpler than my older American Girl mini clothes.
The buttons on the front of the dress are embroidered, and the belt is permanently sewn onto the dress.
In fact, the front of my doll's belt is sewn just above the gathered waistline of the dress, so it looks permanently crooked.
The belt is also sewn in place at the sides of the dress:
The teal color is pretty, and I like the cascading floral pattern on the skirt:
The dress has a velcro opening in back and is easy to get on and off.
The older Kit's outfit has much more detail, but the knit cardigan top is hard to get on and off. Still, overall, I much prefer the older Kit's outfit.
Underneath her dress, the new Kit is wearing white underpants:
These are similar to the older Kit's underpants. The older version had a bit more of a ruffle at the legs, but that's the only difference I can see.
|Older underpants, BeForever underpants.|
Compare these to the amazingly detailed sandals of the older doll:
|Shoe from the older Kit (left) and a shoe from BeForever Kit (right).|
The old shoes are made out of leather and even have tiny metal buckles:
I suppose one could argue that the newer shoes are more practical for little kids, but I see carefully replicated leather sandals versus boring, dime-a-dozen vinyl shoes.
Overall, the newer doll clothes are fine. They are easy to use and well-made, but they are nowhere near as interesting or detailed as the older clothes.
Underneath her clothes, sure enough, BeForever Kit has an all-vinyl body with five points of articulation:
The vinyl is flexible, and the torso is hollow, so this doll has a squishable tummy, and her arms can be bent to a certain degree (which makes dressing easier).
Despite the new torso, the two versions of Kit are about the same height:
The vinyl body certainly has a more uniform appearance and cleaner lines. One thing that jumped out to me right away is that while the legs and feet look the same between the two dolls, the arms and hands of the new doll seem much bigger--like they were magnified:
I was perplexed by this, wondering why on earth American Girl would make just the arms and hands bigger:
I think that what I'm seeing in the pictures above is the result of two things: first, the right hand is slightly bigger than the left, and also the dolls' shoulders are set at different heights. In reality, the arms and hands are the same size (using the same mold). This was hard to capture on camera, but here are a few attempts:
|New hand, old hand.|
|New hand, old hand.|
|Old hand, new hand.|
And in this picture, the shoulders are aligned a bit more evenly:
So, the arm mold is the same...but how about the arm movement? The new doll's arms spin around, but cannot hinge towards or away from the body.
The older Kit, with her cloth torso and strung arms, has slightly more movement at the shoulder:
|Betcha can't do this!|
Even though the older Kit can be manipulated into more positions in my hands with her floppy hips, when it comes to balancing alone in a sitting position, the two dolls perform in a very similar way:
However, the newer Kit needs support to sit up in the front-to-back split position...
...while the older doll does not:
They can both balance well in an upright standing position, and also in a walking pose:
Or even in a more exuberant walking pose:
Both dolls have swiveling neck joints. The newer Kit looks slightly upwards as her head spins, and the older doll looks straight backwards, but the difference between the two dolls is not large:
Comparing the two bodies is hard to do in still pictures. The real difference is in the feel of the cloth torso versus the feel of the harder vinyl body. There's something cuddly and special about a doll this small with a cloth torso. However, there's clear practicality in an all-vinyl doll for kids. The new Kit will be easier to clean and less likely to loosen at the joints or fall apart over time. Also, it's nice to have a mini doll without a huge tag sticking out of her body.
The new Kit is ever-so-slightly slimmer through the torso, which is apparent during clothes sharing between these two dolls:
BeForever Kit can wear the older Kit's outfit (the shoes fit perfectly) but the clothes look loose on her.
The skirt droops a little at the waist:
And the cardigan looks thin and hangs off Kit's chest a bit:
The older Kit fills out the cardigan better, and her cloth torso gives the look and feel of an undershirt or slip worn underneath the sweater:
Here are the two dolls wearing the older Kit's outfit:
The older Kit wears the BeForever dress nicely, too:
The torso is tighter on this doll, though, and there are a few more puckers along the sides:
Here are the two dolls wearing the BeForever dress:
Here's a lineup that includes the new cloth-bodied Our Generation mini doll, Sienna. Sienna is slightly taller than both American Girl minis, and Sienna's seams are bulkier--especially her neck seam:
Sienna can also fit into the BeForever dress, but it won't close all of the way in back:
The red shoes are also tight on her--you can see her heel making a bulge in the shoe at the back:
Also, the decorated collar of the dress highlights the thick neck seam on this doll, which isn't very flattering:
BeForever Kit can wear the Our Generation mini clothes with (as expected) a bit of a loose fit:
I actually think that this Our Generation outfit is nicer than BeForever Kit's outfit...and the Our Generation dolls only cost $10.
The shoes are quite big on Kit, and tend to fall off.
Remember how good the older Kit looked in the Collector's Lane Kids blue jacket?
The color and fit of the jacket suit the new Kit really well, too...
...but the fit of the skirt is not as good:
|Her underwear would help hold that up a bit....|
Here are a few more pictures of the BeForever mini Kit:
Bottom line? I outlined the biggest changes and what I thought about them throughout the review, but here's a summary of my initial impressions of this newcomer and how she compares to the older Kit.
What's better about the old Kit?
The book: Neither book contains Kit's complete story, but the older version has a hard cover, a dust jacket, and a stitched spine. It is beautifully-bound, easy to keep open, and closes nicely after it has been read. This elegant, illustrated miniature makes the new book seem like a flimsy gimmick. The new book has a glued spine that bends out of shape after opening the book only once. This book can't close completely after it has been opened. I don't know why I expected a new story with the BeForever doll, but the story is the same as the previous edition--although the two books are edited differently.
The clothes: the original Kit's twin set top is hard to get on and off, but I have always found that it was worth the hassle. The sweater is intricately knit with antique rose thread, and has real working buttons down the front. The skirt is simple but nicely done, and the shoes are tiny leather strap sandals with metal buckles and hard soles. The new doll has a one-piece dress that is easy to get on and off, but doesn't have the attention to detail of the older outfit. The buttons on the new dress are embroidered, and the belt is sloppily sewn into place. I find that the red thread on the white collar looks messy (and a bit clown-like), and the stitched buttons look too fake. I would prefer the dress if it had a plain teal top. The BeForever shoes are simple red vinyl slip-ons with nothing to distinguish them.
The body? Choosing a favorite body is difficult because I see benefits to each design. What I like about the older doll's body is that it's a perfect replica of the 18" American Girl body. I really enjoy authentic miniature replicas, and so this level of detail is important to me. I also like the feel of the cloth body in my hands. The older Kit has a nice softness to her, and feels more special somehow than an all-vinyl doll. I also like the added joint mobility that the soft body allows. The older Kit can move her limbs into a much wider range of positions because of the forgiving flexibility of her torso.
What's better about BeForever Kit?
The face: I really like the changes that were made to Kit's head mold and face paint. The old Kit has a lot of personality in her scrunched features, but the new doll is bright-eyed and youthful, and more closely resembles the equivalent 18" dolls. I think that a few small changes to this face made a big difference. For example, lifting the hairline opens up the face significantly and gives the doll a younger look. Lowering the freckles and changing their distribution makes them seem more natural. I also like the more realistic eyebrows on the new doll. It's harder for me to pick a favorite eye style. I like the level of detail in the older Kit's irises, and the new doll's eyes can look a bit vacant in some pictures. However, with a doll this small, I find that the wider, un-cluttered eyes of the BeForever doll look less squinty and more engaging in real life.
The hair: The hair on BeForever Kit is thinner than the older Kit's hair. The rooted hair plugs are also larger on the new doll, and they're placed in wider rows. Ordinarily, I would see thinner hair as a bad feature, but on a mini doll the sparse hair is a good idea. The new Kit's hair stays in place better and lays more smoothly against the doll's head. This, combined with the pretty two-toned color and shorter bobbed style, make the new hair my favorite.
The body? Again, I can't say with certainty which body style is the best because I see the benefits of each. I like BeForever Kit's all-vinyl body because it has very clean, smooth lines and a pretty neck. I also like that it would be very easy to clean, and doesn't run the risk of falling apart or loosening over time. I assumed that the vinyl body would have better balance than the cloth body, but I actually found that the two dolls were similar in their balancing abilities--if anything, the cloth-bodied doll has better balance. I suppose I slightly prefer the cloth body for its authenticity as a miniature replica of the larger dolls, but I can easily see why the new body might be better for kids, or perhaps for collectors who enjoy making a wide range of clothes for their dolls.
I can't help but feel like there were several decisions made with these new dolls that simplified the manufacturing process significantly. The vinyl bodies are surely easier to make and assemble, the clothes are much less complex, and the new books are a joke compared to the older versions. This would all be fine if the savings was passed along to the consumer. However, these new dolls cost $25, which is a dollar more expensive than the previous minis.
BeForever Kit is very cute, but she cost me $30 with shipping, which is a lot. When I think about the choices I would make if I could spend another $30 on mini dolls, I see myself choosing an older American Girl mini (before they disappear...) or buying three Our Generation minis from a local Target. If the BeForever dolls were in the $15 range, I would be much more enthusiastic about some of the changes. At this price, though, I wish American Girl had simply upgraded the heads on these dolls, while keeping the cloth bodies and the quality of the clothing and accessories unchanged.