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" $24.99.|
Before I review Lark, let me show you some of the other dolls that are available in stores right now.
Also at my store were the dolls' instruments, sold separately for $12.99. The instrument sets also include a microphone and a doll stand--everything that was missing from the first wave dolls.
Here's Chantal's red keyboard:
Here's another view of the rooting on the back of the head:
The rotating waist grip certainly makes Lark less secure on her stand, but it might be fun for some unconventional posing. I'll have to check that out a little later. In any case, it's a good thing that the newer releases of these dolls come with stands. It's quite an essential accessory given the weight and size of the heads.
Larks' shoulders and elbows both have rotating hinge joints:
|From left to right: London Brayden, London Lark and first wave Chantal.|
At my Toys R Us, both the new London collection and the first wave dolls are in stock. The first wave dolls have been reduced to $9.99 and the newest dolls cost $19.99.
The picture below shows the new Lark doll on the left and the older Brayden doll on the right. The new dolls have bigger boxes to accommodate the instruments and stands:
|Thank goodness "Girls" isn't spelled with a "z" in this brand!|
Since the new dolls don't have much of an online presence yet, I'll show you a few quick pictures of them. Here's the new Ainsley (having some hair management problems):
The new, very purple Brayden (also with extremely big hair):
|I think of Brayden as a boy's name...|
|The purple lips are not my favorite.|
|Love her dress!|
|Great lip color, but she has creepy red rims around her irises!|
And here's the newer version of the character I am going to review, Lark:
Notice that this version's hair is curly and she has bangs:
Also at my store were the dolls' instruments, sold separately for $12.99. The instrument sets also include a microphone and a doll stand--everything that was missing from the first wave dolls.
Here's Chantal's red keyboard:
|The piano keys are all one big sticker.|
Ainsley's pink drum kit:
|I prefer the more detailed silver version shown in the early webisodes.|
And there was also a set with Lark's bass guitar, but this is the same as the bass that came with my doll, so I'll show that to you later.
My Lark doll is the same as the first wave Lark doll, but she comes with her bass guitar and a doll stand--so it would be like buying the first wave Lark and her instrument pack.
The Beatrix Girls come in mostly plastic packaging shaped like a partial tube:
I like all of these things except for baked beans. Those remind me of another simple poem.
The transparent sides of the tube are decorated with several decals. One advertises the doll as a Justice store exclusive and another is in the shape of a speech bubble and has a little poem about Lark's personality:
I play bass
I get in your face
I'm in every race and
I come in first place.
When I imagine role models for young girls, I don't picture them getting all up in people's faces, but maybe I'm just old fashioned.
There was something about the simplistic rhyming and disconnected subject matter in this poem that made me morbidly curious about what the other girls' poems might say. So, I did some field research.
Here's Ainsley's poem:
I'm warm like mid-summer
I shine like the sun,
But my drumming's like thunder!
I like what they did with the sun and thunder contrast, but I am not crazy about the "warm like mid-summer" analogy. I know what they're getting at, with Ainsley's warm personality, but I can only think of the sweaty kind of warm. I guess this is better than "lazy like mid-summer," though.
They lost a little steam with Brayden's poem:
Hey! I'm Brayden
I write the songs,
You sing along!
It feels a little bit like Brayden couldn't think of what to say next, so she just shouted "SUPERSTAR!" and then started ordering people around.
They gave up completely with poor Chantal's poem:
Do I play keyboard?
Am I French Canadian?
Apparently, Chantal is French Canadian. This is cool, but Chantal's high-pitched fake French accent in the Beatrix Girls webisodes is not so cool. It would have been neat to have an actual French Canadian girl play that role, but I understand that the budget was probably limited.
I was moved to write my own little poem for you:
Do I like Chantal's poem?
Do I like her fake French accent?
Anyway, there are a lot of tangents here, and I am getting a little snippy--sorry. I need to focus.
The back of the box is made out of transparent plastic that reveals an underlying cardboard backdrop. The cardboard has some more details about Lark and the Beatrix Girls:
Irish ancestry would explain Lark's bright red hair, and also her food preferences and apparent fondness for Boston:
|Girl after my own heart.|
There's a descriptive paragraph about Lark on the back of the box. She explains in her own words why she enjoys the bass (because it "shakes the ground") and also introduces her passion for extreme sports.
Lark's fashion preferences include ripped jeans, combat boots and wearing "sneakers with everything." Incidentally, this doll isn't wearing ripped jeans, combat boots, or sneakers. And I don't see how she can wear sneakers "with everything" if she also enjoys combat boots from time-to-time. Hm. Also, she claims to steer away from pink, but pink is the only accent color in her mostly-black outfit.
There's a small cartoon of Lark under this description. I think the doll looks way better than the box art:
There's a picture at the bottom of the box that shows all of the dolls in the series.
For contrast, here's the group picture from the newer London collection:
|The dolls in the store all had hair that was much curlier than this.|
Lark's box has a purple satiny ribbon on the top. This was meant to be a handle for the box, but mine arrived untied:
There are a few pieces of tape that had to be cut at the top of the box, but then it was possible to remove the lid and slide the doll and the backdrop right out.
Lark and her bass guitar are attached to a molded plastic support. Most of the attachments are stretchy clear rubber bands that are easy to cut, but Lark also has a clear plastic strip tightened around her forehead. The majority of Lark's long red hair actually goes through the plastic support and hangs down between the plastic and where the cardboard used to be. This method kept the hair very tidy in back:
The bass fits into an indentation in the plastic, and is also secured with tape:
In addition to her guitar, Lark comes with a "VIP pass" that allows free membership to something. I haven't been able to find a club or any other exclusive online content on the Beatrix Girls website. This is probably a discontinued feature, since it appears that all of the videos and music are available free-of-charge on the website.
I didn't spend a ton of time on the Beatrix Girls website, but I did listen to a few of the songs and watched most of the webisodes. The webisodes have a home movie-type style, where the dolls themselves are interacting with real people in live-action adventures. When the dolls move, it isn't stop action animation, but visible hands moving the characters around. This style takes some getting used to, but it would be easy and low-tech to replicate, which might provide nice inspiration for kids who want to make their own movies.
The earlier webisodes seem to be featuring prototype dolls. There are some notable difference between these dolls and the dolls that ended up on store shelves. I will touch on a few of these differences throughout the review. Also, Ainsley's character starts out with a regular voice and then adopts a Southern accent in the more recent episodes.
I am not good at gauging someone's age from their voice, but the girls in the webisodes sound like tweens or teens (especially Brayden) while the singing voices seem older to me.
Back to Lark! My doll came with a plastic stand that is secured into the bottom of the packaging:
Usually when I display everything that comes in a doll box, I am able to get the doll to stand alone--even if it's just for a few seconds. Lark absolutely cannot stand on her own, though. Even with her shoes on and a lot of careful balancing. Her head is simply too heavy:
So, I had to figure out how to use the stand right away. It's a fairly simple stand with a hard plastic waist grip. The waist grip is not adjustable, but it does spin around:
The stand fits snugly around Lark's waist, but it interferes with the positioning of her belt:
I was especially eager to get a close look at Lark's face. In particular, I wanted to cover up those severe eyebrows to see if that might make a difference in her expression.
Not only are Lark's eyebrows unusually angled, but her eyes are really enormous. She has very bright leaf-green eyes with large black pupils. The absence of detail in her irises gives her an especially intense stare. She has heavy eyeliner on her upper eyelids, and individually-drawn lashes on the lower lids:
Lark also has a lot of very small freckles that are scattered across both of her cheeks and between her eyes. Her smiling mouth has simple lines and a wide band of visible teeth:
Lark's triangular, upturned nose is absurdly small in comparison to her eyes. The combination of this pointy nose and the huge forehead make for a very atypical profile:
Lark's ears are also visible in the picture, above. Her ears are small and have a very simplistic shape that reminds me of a teddy bear's ears:
Here's Lark's face with her hair out of the way:
I removed Lark's eyebrows from one of the pictures, below, to see how it would alter her appearance:
To me, this is a dramatic transformation. I think that without her eyebrows, she looks friendly and even a little sweet. Her green eyes are still a bit too big and bright for my taste, but I find them much less startling without those eyebrows.
I think perhaps the intent with these eyebrows was to make Lark look a little edgy--a girl with some attitude. That's fine, but there's not a consistently edgy feel to this doll, so the eyebrows seem out-of-place. Also, you don't actually have to be edgy to play a mean bass guitar.
I did a quick digital eyebrow replacement to see how Lark might look if I ever muster up the courage to re-paint her:
|I'll need to work on that.|
While looking at Lark's face, I was constantly sidetracked by her long hair. I didn't think much about this doll's hair when I bought her--other than the fact that it's a beautiful bright red color, of course. When the doll's in my hands, however, it's hard to think of anything but her hair.
Lark has great hair. Not only is the two-toned color very pretty, but the hair fiber feels really good and the cut is unique and flattering:
The hair is long and silky--hanging all of the way down to Lark's ankles. It is cut into a variety of jagged layers that give the style a rugged-but-feminine quality:
I especially like the shorter layers around Lark's face because they tend to hang over her eyes and give her a charmingly disheveled look:
Unfortunately, the shorter layers of hair around Lark's face can also shift around in such a way that the rooted scalp is visible:
There was a mild amount of crispy hair product in the upper layers of Lark's hair, but this was easy to brush out. Here's the hair right after I finished brushing it:
The hair is rooted into a nice center part on the top of Lark's head (this is a good place to see the two-toned color of her hair, too...):
But the sparse rooting on the back of the head makes it unrewarding to style Lark's hair into smaller ponytails:
The hair feels pleasantly thick and heavy, though, and can be styled with small clips and barrettes:
The hair can also handle a high, tight ponytail in back:
The shorter layers are hard to contain in this style of ponytail, though, and will fall out and hang around Lark's face after a while (which looks pretty cute):
Overall, I really like this hair. I especially enjoy the silky feel of the hair fiber and the long, textured layers. I am not tempted by any of the new Beatrix Girls because none of them have straight, smooth hair like this doll. The curly hair might be equally well-done, but I tend to prefer the easy maintenance of straight hair on this grade of play doll.
Lark is wearing a black belted dress over ripped leggings:
In the early webisodes, the Lark doll is wearing ripped jeans, a sporty green shirt and what look like Converse-style sneakers. Here are some screen shots from the "Late, Great Beatrix" webisode:
I think this casual style fits Lark's personality better than a lacy black dress with pink accents. If I ignore my perception of Lark's personality, though, I like the dress for what it is.
The belt has a silver metal chain accent against a mostly-pink background:
The skirt has a full top layer made out of black lace with a hint of glitter in it. Under the lace, there's a tighter-fitting plain black underskirt:
The black knit leggings peek out from under the skirt and have pink satin ribbon trim on the cuffs:
The leggings have several intentional rips in them. The knitting near these holes is beginning to unravel in some areas. The holes also make the leggings difficult to get onto the doll--her feet want to poke through the ripped holes rather than the pant legs.
The belt is completely separate from the dress and opens in back with a small square of velcro:
This is a very cool belt. I love how the chain is actually made out of metal.
The stitching looks chunky on the inside of the belt, but that's just to accommodate the thick links of the chain:
The black dress opens all of the way down in the back with velcro, so it's very easy to get on and off.
I love how this dress is all black, but has several contrasting textures that make it interesting. I especially like the scrolling corded trim on the bodice and sleeves:
The leggings have a fairly tight, but slightly flexible waistband. The ribbon-trimmed cuffs are also a little tight and have to be pushed over Lark's calves.
Lark's outfit also includes black plastic boots:
The design of the boots is simple, but they compliment the style of the outfit, are easy to get on and off, and stay on well.
|I wonder if the area at the top is meant to be black socks?|
I have to point out again, though, that these are neither sneakers nor combat boots. Maybe they're meant to be high-heeled shoes inspired by combat boots...?
Not approved by the Navy SEALS.
Lark is also wearing a hard plastic bracelet with a silver-painted stud pattern. This bracelet has a tiny plastic peg-and-hole clasp:
So, given Lark's completely black outfit and its mix of materials, I assumed that her body would be pretty badly stained in some areas. I was particularly worried about the dark (tight-fitting) knit leggings. However, miraculously, she is almost entirely stain-free. I have no idea how the Popstar Club manufacturers pulled this off, but it's remarkable.
The absence of stains was not my only surprise when I inspected Lark's body. She was also hiding nine points of articulation under that dress:
Lark's body is made mostly out of hard plastic, but her arms and lower legs are flexible vinyl. Her bendable legs and tiny feet make it hard for her to stand upright--even in her stand or while being held. For that reason, you'll see her shoes crop up again in several of these pictures to help with balance.
Lark is articulated at the neck, shoulders, elbows, waist, hips and knees:
|Notice her unusual-looking hip joints!|
She is not articulated at the wrists, which wouldn't be such a big deal except for the fact that the dolls in the early webisodes are shown with awesome wrist articulation. I took a few (low-quality) screen shots of this for you:
You can even see the metal pin construction of the wrist joint in this last picture:
Articulation at the wrist seems like an especially good idea for musician dolls, and I wish the company hadn't cut this feature. I double-checked the newest dolls and they don't have wrist articulation, either.
Lark has an exaggerated hourglass figure that looks appropriate for a mature adult. This is slightly odd because the voices of the Beatrix Girls on the website sound like kids to me--or maybe young teenagers. The singing voices are more adult, though, so there's a moderate amount of contradiction here.
Lark's back is marked with a 2012 Popstar Club copyright:
I used Lark's stand for several of these body shots, and in doing so noticed that it has a little head rest at the back--to support Lark's oversized head:
This is a clever little feature that really helps Lark stand upright. However, when I turn Lark's head to the side (her head can spin around but doesn't look up or down) it disengages the head brace...
...and the rotating waist grip causes Lark to levitate sideways:
|It's a cartwheel stand!|
Larks' shoulders and elbows both have rotating hinge joints:
Right out of the box, Lark's elbows (and to a lesser extent her shoulders) were hard to move. It takes a few gentle manipulations to get these joints up to speed.
The shoulders and elbows are both fairly stiff joints, even after they have been moved around for a while. The shoulders have a good range of motion, but the elbow joints are pretty limited--they can only flex to about 140 degrees. The elbow flexibility is noticeably reduced from what is depicted in the earlier webisodes (the commercials and the later webisodes are accurate, though).
Lark can't touch her face, nor can she reach up and touch the side of her head. The best she can do is touch the loose strands of hair that are falling near her face.
The only place on Lark's body that has any staining is the back of her arms. This area doesn't come into contact with any of the dark clothes--just the colored cardboard backdrop:
|Looks kinda like mildew.|
Lark's waist is a simple pivoting joint:
The cut of this joint is angled, so that when Lark twists to face backwards, her chest tips up:
The hip area is the most unique region of this doll's anatomy. The hip sockets are very high-cut and have an oval shape:
This unusual shape gives the legs a great deal of forward and sideways flexibility, but not much movement past the buttocks in the back:
Lark can do very high leg kicks to the front:
And she can also lean forward really well when she's seated on the floor. She can't touch her toes or anything like that, but this is a great reach for a doll whose knees are positioned so close together:
She can also sit up nice and straight in this position...with a little support from her arms:
To show off a little, she can even lift one knee while she's seated on the ground like this:
Lark's large hip hinges allow her to do very nice side-to-side splits:
But she struggles a little with the front-to-back splits because of her heavy head and her reduced backwards leg movement:
Lark's knee joints are also rotating hinges:
Her lower legs are made out of flexible vinyl, which gives them some additional movement. The legs are not as rubbery as Bratzillaz or Bratz doll legs, though.
I love rotating knee joints, because they allow for a lot of fine-tuning in how a doll stands or sits.
Lark's flexible legs make it so she can kneel and balance on her own:
Lark has a bit of a hard time sitting in a chair, though--or at least in this slippery plastic chair. If she grabs the back of the chair with her knees bent (left, below) the chair tips over backwards almost instantly. I was fortunate to capture that shot just as she started to fall. If she sticks her legs out and grabs the back of the chair (right, below), she can sit without falling over :
She can also lean forward to keep her balance in a chair, but this looks less relaxing:
Notice how messy Lark's hair was getting in the photo, above. This is because it was truly a wrestling match to get her to pose in that chair. She must have fallen over fifteen times in five minutes.
A little late in the game, I realized that with her hair down, Lark has much better balance. That heavy ponytail was not helping her:
|See, Emily? I was born to sit in this chair.|
The dolls I was most interested in comparing to Lark were my large-headed collector's dolls like Pullip, Tangkou and Blythe:
|Tangkou "Loli," Beatrix Girls "Lark," Pullip "Shinku Rozen Maiden."|
My Tangkou doll, Loli, is broader and taller than Lark, but the Pullip doll, Shinku Rozen Maiden, looks fairly similar in proportion. Pullip's body is a bit too big for Lark's dress, but I wonder if Dal-sized Groove dolls would be compatible? I no longer have a Dal in the house, so I can't confirm this.
Here's Lark next to my (skeptical) Blythe doll, Phoebe:
|Beatrix Girls "Lark," Blythe "Phoebe Maybe."|
Phoebe is a little wider in the chest and hips than Lark, and so while Blythe clothes fit loosely on Lark, Lark's dress is too tight for Blythe dolls (it doesn't close all of the way in back).
I think Lark's face looks especially angular and harsh next to the eyebrow-free Phoebe.
I also wanted to compare Lark to another inexpensive large-headed play doll, my Cutie Pops Crown Cuties Crystalina:
I really love the Cutie Pops concept and am sad to see them gone from my local stores. I also prefer the Cutie Pop faces to Lark's harsh expression. However, I'll readily admit that Lark's articulation is far superior.
Beatrix Girls and Cutie Pops have similar enough proportions that they can share some clothes. The Cutie Pop dress doesn't do much for Lark's style...
...but I really like Crystalina in Lark's more sophisticated dress. Looking at this combination makes me wonder: if Jada Toys had aimed the Cutie Pops at an older audience, would they have been more successful?
While the La Dee Da dolls also have small bodies and oversized heads, Dee and Lark are very different in size and cannot share clothes:
Lark reminded me a bit of Disney's Ariel doll, too...until I saw these two side-by-side:
|Not too much in common here.|
Going out on a limb, I also wanted to compare Lark to Monster High and Ever After High dolls. I was surprised to see that while Monster High Clawdeen looks very skinny next to Lark, Ever After High Apple is in the same body size range:
And, in fact, Lark can share some clothes with the Ever After High gang:
|Lark wearing E.A.H. Cupid's dress.|
I love Apple in Lark's dress, even though it is a little loose through the shoulders:
The only thing I haven't shown you yet is Lark's bass guitar:
It's blue, black and silver with molded (unmoving) strings and a ribbon strap:
|I like the shape and all of the painted details.|
The back side of the bass is very plain with no detail (but that's pretty accurate for a bass):
The blue strap is designed to detach at the bottom of the bass with a small vinyl tab. This connection looks neat, but does not stay in place very well:
The strap is great for getting Lark to hold the bass in a realistic way, although it would look better if she had more arm and hand flexibility.
Here's where the stand's rotating waist grip got pretty fun. It allows Lark to strike some interesting poses with her bass:
Posing her like this was really fun--and not something that most stands will allow. The stand is pretty flimsy, though, and couldn't support Lark's weight in a lot of the positions I wanted to try.
|I actually had to tape the stand to the ground to get this one to work....|
It's much easier (but less exciting) to pose Lark in sitting and kneeling positions:
The bass guitar is a fun accessory, and I am really glad that this version of Lark (and all of the new dolls) come with their instruments. I also appreciate that the price of the first wave dolls has been reduced so that you can purchase those dolls and their matching instrument packs for around the same price as the new dolls. That was a really good move. The fact that the instrument packs cost more than the basic dolls is a little unbalanced, though.
Here are a few more shots of Lark:
Bottom line? Considering my very negative initial reaction to this doll's face, I am surprised by how many things I found to like about Lark.
Lark's super-long red hair is her best feature. The hair fiber is silky and smooth, the two-toned color is beautiful, and the shaggy-cut layers are a great style for this doll's pop star personality. The rooting on the back of Lark's head is too sparse for some hairstyles, but overall the hair feels great and is really fun to play with. The satisfying weight and texture of the hair almost justifies the huge head needed to accommodate it. I am curious about the Beatrix Girls with curly hair, though, since this texture tends to be harder for me to manage than straight hair...and all of the newest dolls have curly hair.
Lark's articulation is better than I expected. She has nine joints and most of them have a good range of movement. Her arm joints are stiff and her elbows are not quite as flexible as I would like, but she has great hip and waist movement. It's frustrating to watch the early Beatrix Girls webisodes and see (prototype?) dolls with articulation that is better than what the dolls on the shelves were given. Lark's absence of wrist articulation is particularly disappointing, especially since that kind of movement would have been great for dolls like this who interact with a variety of musical instruments. Another frustration for me was that despite Lark's nice articulation, the extremely top-heavy design of her body makes it very hard for her to hold most poses. This is a doll who really needs a stand, and who would have been better served by a stand much sturdier than the one she has.
Lark's outfit is nice, too. The combination of her fancy black dress and tattered leggings is modern and youthful, but the dress also looks great on its own--and even flatters a variety of other doll brands. The metal chain link belt is a cool accessory that can be used to change the overall vibe of the black dress. The dress and belt are well-made and have tasteful details. The dress' full velcro seam also makes dressing and undressing a breeze. The tight-fitting leggings are harder to use, since the doll's feet tend to stick through the decorative holes. These holes also look like they might unravel more over time, which could exacerbate the dressing problem. I find it very impressive that none of the pieces in this all-black outfit left a stain on Lark's body.
Lark's face is what turned me off from this line initially. I find her huge, wide-staring eyes and angry eyebrows unappealing. I have grown a bit more accustomed to this face over time, and don't find it as off-putting as I did at first, but I still think softer eyebrows and more detail in the bright green eyes (or smaller eyes) would improve Lark's appearance.
The Beatrix Girls' multi-media concept is very popular these days. Many doll lines are accompanied by webisodes, backstories, songs, or online interactive features. I don't tend to talk much about these extra elements, but they can certainly add depth to a doll's character. In this case, there are small inconsistencies between Lark and her supporting media that distracted me from fully appreciating her personality. She's described as steering clear of the color pink, and yet pink is the only accent color in her outfit. Her style seems focused on practical footwear--combat boots and sneakers--and yet she's wearing heels. She is also described as being a sporty, ripped-jeans kind of gal, but her prototype outfit in the webisodes reflects this much better than the lacy, feminine dress she actually comes with. Her body shape is very mature, and yet her fashion style, freckled face and speaking voice make her seem more like a tween. None of these things on its own is a big deal, but the disparities combine to produce an un-polished presentation of Lark's personality.
Popstar Club is a relatively new, small company whose first product release is The Beatrix Girls. Given this, they're bound to be experiencing a steep learning curve. The company's quick solution to the conspicuously absent instruments and stands in the first wave of dolls makes me optimistic about their continued responsiveness with this line. For me, the concept here is very appealing, but the execution needs some fine-tuning. Despite her flaws, I think Lark's hair, articulation, outfit and guitar make her worth the $20 price tag...and I had a lot more fun with this doll than I ever would have predicted.