Friday, January 16, 2015

Monster Exchange "Lorna McNessie" and Haunted "Vandala Doubloons"

Before I start this review, I just want to say a quick word about my email inbox.  I really love to get emails about the blog and recommendations for interesting dolls that I should look at.  However, I have recently become overwhelmed by messages and can't find the time to give everyone the response they deserve.  So, if you are waiting for a reply from me--I am so, so sorry for the long delay.  I will do my best to get caught up soon, but there never seem to be enough hours in the day!

One reason for my email ineptitude is that I spend way too much time photographing dolls.  This review, for example, was meant to be just of Lorna McNessie--one of the new Monster High "Monster Exchange" dolls.  However, when I was shopping for Lorna, the other new Monster High line, "Haunted," also caught my eye.  I've had several requests to look at both of these new groups of dolls, so I figured I would try to do one of each in the same post.  So...yeah.  It's another long review.

I'll start by taking a close look at Miss Lorna, whose red hair and Scottish ("Rottish") heritage was too much for me to resist--even for $23.  I'll end the review by taking a slightly less in-depth look at Vandala Doubloons, the fancy, ethereal daughter of a pirate ghost.

Monster Exchange "Lorna McNessie," $22.99.
When I saw the promotional pictures of Lorna McNessie, I knew I would be interested in her--for a bunch of different reasons.  First of all, Scotland is one of my favorite places in the world.  Second, I like redheaded dolls.  Just a little bit.  Last, Lorna McNessie is the daughter of the Loch Ness Monster, and I am pretty sure I saw the real Nessie when I was a kid.  It was a windy day and we were just driving past the loch, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

When I first saw the Lorna McNessie doll in the store, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.  She doesn't have traditional red hair, but more of a peachy pink frizz.  Also, the new Monster High boxes have a lot more plastic than the traditional binder-shaped ones:

Not as charming as the old box style.

The box has a cardboard back with decorative cutout sections that wrap around to the front.  The entire front of the box is a plastic bubble.


The lower corner of the box has a cartoon of Lorna holding her passport.  She looks very wide-eyed and enthusiastic.  Her face is also significantly paler than the doll's face:

And her hair is redder.
In the upper corner, there are some passport stamps with locations like "Madread" (Madrid), "Monster Picchu" (Machu Picchu) and "Rotland" (Scotland).  I am no passport expert, but I thought there were only stamps for countries--not cities (and not Inca ruins).


The back of the box has an enormous picture of Lorna's head that frightens me a little bit.  It's way too clown-like.

She's going to eat my head!!
There's also an excerpt from Lorna's bio at the bottom:


The bio mentions that Lorna's style includes plaid, and also wool skirts and scarves to keep her warm in the cold Scottish climate.  The doll, however, is wearing a very summery outfit with no wool or scarves in sight.  It is actually warm in Scotland sometimes--just like it is in Maine.  Really.

The bio also mentions that Lorna would like to have a Highland cow as a pet.  That's awesome.  I wanted one of those when I was a kid, too.

I think of plastic doll boxes as being more difficult to open than cardboard boxes, but Lorna's packaging was actually pretty easy to manage.  The plastic front of the box was attached to the cardboard with little tabs.  The tabs slid out of the cardboard easily.


Lorna's cardboard backdrop has an orange and black color scheme.  Unlike older Monster High backdrops, Lorna's packaging has a lot of three dimensional features.  


One side of the box has a compartment that opens to reveal the stand and brush--a lot like the Ever After High packaging:


The backdrop also has two flaps that fold in to create the foreground decorations:


The outer flap displays the name of the doll, and this folds down to reveal more of the detail in Lorna's graphic. Behind the inner flap, the backdrop is mostly black:

With the outer (left) and inner (right) flaps folded down.

Lorna's diary is peeking out from a small slit in the bottom corner of the backdrop:


The diary can be removed by separating the two sides of the backdrop.  There's no tape or anything holding it in place.


Behind the doll, the backdrop has a picture of some Monster High lockers with Celtic knots on them.   Presumably these are from Lorna's school in Rotland.   One of the lockers is open with a row of books and a set of bagpipes inside:


Here's everything that came with Lorna: the doll, a handbag, a passport, a diary, a stand and a plastic brush.

No bagpipes.
I think Lorna's handbag is meant to be shaped like a sporran--the type of pouch traditionally worn with a kilt.  The little passport that came in Lorna's hand is just a one-sided cardboard decoration, though.


The sporran bag is all one bright pink color.  It is decorated with molded Celtic knots.  The knot featured at the front of the bag is in the vague shape of the Loch Ness Monster (her neck is a little longer than that, though, as I recall).


The back of the bag is relatively plain:


I was delighted to see that this bag opens and has a tiny amount of storage space inside:


Lorna's diary is blue with pink lettering and a very simple Skullette design:


This is surely just me overreacting, but I have to say that while some of the Monster High country names (like "Scaris" and "Hexico") are fun and clever, "Rotland" seems more like the kind of name play that's used to tease people in elementary school.  I'm not crazy about it, but I can't really think of anything better.

The inside cover of the diary looks like the inner flap of a passport:


The back of the diary has Lorna's full bio.  Apparently, Lorna likes photo bombing.  That's a pretty unique hobby.  She also likes haggis (slightly predictable), and any color if it comes in plaid (very predictable).  

I notice that Lorna's best friends are Gil Webber and Marisol Coxi.  Marisol is another one of the Monster Exchange dolls that I found very tempting when I was at Toys R Us.  She has a completely new (furry!) hand and leg shape that's pretty great.  It's amazing how Mattel keeps coming up with these new body molds.  I didn't care for Marisol's facial features or her purple vinyl color, though.


The rest of Lorna's diary has regular entries describing her life.  She writes using words like "tae" instead of "to" and "ma" instead of "my."  These words hint at an accent, but it isn't maintained very thoroughly.  There is actually a legitimate Scottish dialect that includes writing "tae" instead of "to," but it has a lot of other different spellings and pronunciations, too.  For instance, the first sentence in Lorna's bio:

Being a ghoul from the Highlands, I'd be doing a disservice tae ma clan if I didna wear ma plaid.


Bein' a ghool frae th' Highlands, eh'd be daein' a disservice tae mah clan if Ah didne wear mah plaid. (also, in this context, plaid should probably be "tartan").

If it was completely authentic, the diary would be pretty hard to read for those of us unfamiliar with the dialect, though!  

Now, let's look at the doll herself:


Lorna's character is 14 years old, and so she has the shorter Monster High body--like Howleen and Twyla.  She doesn't stand on her own as well as most of my other Monster High dolls, which is probably because of the shape or texture on the bottoms of her shoes. 

Lorna has sparkling light blue vinyl and several different colors in her hair.  The back of her hair is peachy-pink, and the front of her hair (which is gathered up into a curly ponytail) has more true red in it, with streaks of peachy-pink.  


She is wearing a small plaid tam on the left side of her head, but that's all the plaid that she has in her outfit:


The back of Lorna's hair came out of the box pretty flat, with some areas of blue scalp peeking out.




The red curls on the top of Lorna's head have a ton of volume, though:


I should also note that this doll has a hard, glue-filled head and was made in Indonesia.  I guess this problem isn't going to be fixed after all.  I'd heard rumors that it was.

Lorna's features don't really look anything like the graphics on the box.  Not only is her face a different color, but her expression conveys a very different personality.  The Lorna on the box looks very lively and outgoing, while the doll seems subdued--almost shy.

I like the doll a lot better than the art.

Lorna has bright blue eyes with elaborate eyeshadow.  Her eyebrows are a pale pink-ish orange color that matches the back of her hair.  I wish the eyebrows were a bit darker--they stand out to me in a way that detracts from her nicely-painted eyes.  Maybe if the eyebrows matched the darkest color in her hair I would like them better.

Monster High

Lorna has three different colors of blue in her irises.  She also has four very finely-done reflective dots in each eye that make the eyes look hand-painted and sparkly.  There are no fewer than four layers of eyeshadow around the eyes: brownish green surrounding each eye, then a thin layer of brown under the eyes, and bands of both lilac and silver above:


Lorna has pink lips with upward-pointing fangs.  The real Loch Ness Monster doesn't have lower jaw fangs--or she didn't when I saw her, anyway.

In her right ear, Lorna is wearing a black earring with a knot design that matches her bag:


The design of this knot is very subtle, but it does remind me of a serpent--with the neck and head curling over the top of Lorna's ear:



Without the earring, you can see the reptilian shape of Lorna's ear:



Lorna's left ear is pierced, but does not come with an earring.

One of the first things I did with Lorna was brush her hair.  Brushing made the curly hair quite frizzy, but this added some much-needed volume to the hair at the back of Lorna's head, and did a good job of hiding some of the bald spots:

Before (left) and after (right) brushing.

Given Lorna's bio description, it would have been neat to see this doll bundled up in scarves and woolen-looking winter clothes.  Instead, she's dressed in a lightweight blouse and mini skirt:


The outfit consists of a skirt, a blouse and a vinyl belt:


The pieces of the outfit sound simple, but they have details that make the ensemble look quite complex.  For instance, the skirt has a pleated fold in the front that sticks out away from the rest of the skirt, giving it an unusual (vaguely kilt-like) profile:



Also, Lorna's belt has two shoulder straps that loop over her left shoulder:


And another Celtic design on the belt itself:


The belt closes in the back with a peg and hole, and is difficult to get back on the doll once it is removed.


Without the belt, it's easier to see the shape of Lorna's blouse and skirt:


The blouse has a black netted bib and gathered cap sleeves:


The red part of the blouse is made out of a synthetic knit with a bit of stretch.  The bottom hem has a tendency to flip up.



The skirt has a banded waistline and a very cool wrap-around shape:


The print of the skirt has two serpent-like shapes coming out of very choppy water.  These figures are framed within a plaid-like checkerboard of studded red stripes:


Is the print supposed to be two Loch Ness Monsters--an adult and a baby (or teenager)?  It's hard to tell, but the shapes are definitely familiar:


The skirt has two separate velcro closures in the back with a hole in between to accommodate Lorna's tail:


Lorna is wearing black vinyl shoes with brick-pattered wedge heels:


The brick detail in the heels is great, with a few uneven bricks sticking out here and there:



The bottoms of these shoes even have a brick pattern that reminds me of the old brick roads in Edinburgh:


The surface area on the bottom of these shoes is small, though, and this might be one reason why Lorna can't balance very well on her own.

Without her shoes, Lorna can't stand up at all, so I unpacked her stand and tried to pose her with that.


Lorna's tail actually makes it a little tricky to use this stand--if she's standing straight, her tail bumps right into the back of the stand:


Incidentally, the thick belt in Lorna's outfit also makes it a little hard to use the stand.  So...I decided to pose Lorna with her shoes so that she could balance without the stand.


The detail in Lorna's body is wonderful.  She has tiny molded scales all over her limbs and back, but she also has a knot design across the front of her torso, arranged to look like a leotard or a camisole:



Lorna has spiked fins that run along the backs of her forearms and down the sides of her legs.  The fins on Lorna's legs came with clear rubber bands holding them in place.  I decided to leave these bands on for now, since I have lost several Lagoona fins over the years....



Lorna also has webbed fingers--just like Lagoona.  The color of Lorna's forearms and hands is slightly paler than the rest of her body and takes on a greener tinge:


Lorna also has five fins that line up (in decreasing size) along the back of her curvy tail:


Lorna has 12 points of articulation--including a tail that spins around and helps her balance:




Lorna's flexibility is very similar to most other Monster High dolls.  One fun difference is that while Lorna can recline on the ground with her tail up like this...


She can also use her tail as a makeshift chair!


Since Lorna is an exchange student, I tried to find her a good host.  Lagoona was my first thought, since she's also aquatic, but then it occurred to me that my Lagoona is a salt water creature and Lorna's loch is fresh.  This brought back painful reminders of the time my friend and I thought we could "gradually transition" hermit crabs from the ocean into our fish tank.  You can imagine how that went.  

As it happens, there are some "euryhaline" fish that can live in both fresh and salt water (salmon, for example).  Usually, though, a drastic change in salt concentration spells bad things for aquatic creatures and their cells.  For example, if you put a cell from a fresh water environment into the ocean, that cell will shrivel and die.  Osmosis is a bitch.

Are you trying to kill me??
Still, it was neat to compare Lorna's fins and hands to Lagoona's.  I like Lorna's large spiky fins a lot more, but the transparent webbing on Lagoona's fingers is fantastic:


If only I had the freshwater Lagoona from the 13 Wishes line.  She and Lorna would be really cute and blue together...and they live in compatible habitats.  Oh, well.

Anyway, Lorna decided to stay with Clawdeen's family, just to be safe.  You can see that (without her hair) Lorna is about an inch shorter than Clawdeen, who has the traditional Monster High body size:


I don't have Clawdeen's younger sister, Howleen, anymore, so unfortunately I can't show you that comparison.  In my mind, though, Lorna and Howleen go on to become great friends.


Here are a few more pictures of Lorna with her original hairstyle and outfit:






I really didn't like the pink-orange of Lorna's loose hair, so I decided to take her hair down and see if I could cover some of that peach frizz with the darker hair on the top.  First, I had to cut the tam out of Lorna's hair.  It was held in place with three small plastic ties:


The tam is nicely made--it's not just a circular cutout.  The gathered inside edge of the hat is elasticized and looks carefully sewn:


With the hat gone, all I had left to remove was a single clear rubber band that was holding the ponytail in place:


This is what Lorna's hair looked like when I first let it down:



And after I brushed it:




This hair was very hard to tame once I brushed it.  

It did make a pretty nice ponytail, though, and the darker red at the top of Lorna's head covered a lot of the pink:


Unfortunately, the tam is way too small to actually fit over Lorna's head, so it can only be perched in place.  Too bad it doesn't have a clear chin strap or something to help it stay put.


To tame the frizzy hair, I gave Lorna a quick boil rinse, and then brushed her hair flat while it dried.  
Here's how the hair looked when it was still a bit damp:


I like the color balance of the hair much better now--with a lot of that peach-colored hair hidden under the darker red.  


Monster High


Monster High

Here's one more picture of Lorna with her hair fully dry.  The hair still has a lot of volume, but it's much easier to manage and feels very soft to the touch.


***

My Toys R Us store had all of the new "Haunted" Monster High dolls in stock and I looked closely at all of them.  These dolls are all from an upcoming Monster High movie, Haunted, that is set to release in March.

A first, I thought I would be tempted by the boy character, Porter Geiss.  In person, though, I didn't find him very interesting.  He looked washed out to me (which I suppose is the whole point of the Haunted line...).  He also didn't have any eye-grabbing features or extras, and his hair was a mess.  I thought I might also like Kiyomi (I almost ordered her online...) but again, in reality she seems too plain and her "faceless" appearance didn't work for me.  The dolls I was most drawn to in this line were actually the more basic characters--Twyla and Draculaura.  They are both hauntingly beautiful with their mask-like eye makeup and monochromatic palettes.  Unfortunately, all of the Twyla and Draculaura dolls in my store had face paint defects that I didn't want to pay for.

I ended up purchasing Vandala Doubloons ($22.99) because I liked the overall look of her, and she is one of the more elaborate dolls in this series.  Like Lorna McNessie, this doll came in a box with an all-plastic front:


The back of the box has an excerpt from Vandala's diary, and also a synopsis of the Haunted movie:


In the movie, Monster High is being haunted by some of Spectra's old friends, who are suffering ill treatment at the hands of the evil principal of their school.  Among other things, he's clapping them in detention chains!  Fun idea for a ghost story.


The detention chain idea got me wondering why ghosts are often shown in chains.  Some quick research revealed that while Marley's ghost from A Christmas Carol carried chains as punishment, the connection between ghosts and chains actually dates back to Ancient Roman times when it was believed that chains could keep a ghost from wandering.

I thought Lorna Mc Nessie's box art was far less appealing than the doll herself, but in this case I might like the box art slightly better than the doll.  Vandala looks pretty fierce here with her pink chains and flowing hair!

What does "the new boos at school" mean, though?  I don't get it.
This doll's diary is sandwiched in between the two halves of the cardboard backdrop--just like Lorna's diary.  Vandala's stand, however, is displayed right next to the doll:


There's also a little pop-out circle advertising the fact that Vandala's pegleg "pops off." 

Is that a good thing?
The backdrop is decorated with a blue and black picture of a very spooky-looking library with chains (detention chains?) hanging all around:

This eerie picture makes me want to see the movie.
 Here's everything that came in the box: the doll (with hat), a purse, a stand, a brush and a diary.


One of the first things I noticed was the stand.  It is not a typical Monster High stand.  Not only is it shaped to look like a twisting chain, but the grip for this stand sits very high up and is meant to support the doll under her arms--not around her waist.




Here you can see how the stand's grip rests just below Vandala's arms--not around her waist.  I like this style of stand because (unlike Lorna's stand) the grip doesn't interfere with belts and other waistline decorations.


Vandala's diary has a black cover decorated with what look like pink neuron synapses:

Awesome.
Vandala's diary is set up like a ship's log book.  It describes how she discovered the "solid" school (presumably Monster High) while she was out exploring.  Honestly, I couldn't read a lot of Vandala's diary.  The text is a jumble of capital and lower case letters that were giving me a headache.  I guess it must be hard to come up with a unique handwriting font for every new character.

The back of the dairy has Vandala's full bio:


Ok, Vandala's pet is a cuttlefish with an eye patch.  Named "Aye." A cuttlefish!  Named Aye!!  I want that pet so badly.  I mean, how many dolls have cuttlefish accessories??  Why, oh why does Mattel so rarely make the dolls' pets anymore?  Sigh.

Here's Vandala with her purse still attached to her wrist.  Her balance is even worse than Lorna's, mostly due to her mismatched pegleg:


Vandala's purse is very detailed.  It's a ship's anchor and chain, dripping with seaweed and topped with a patch-eyed Skullette:



Both sides of the purse are decorated, and they each have the same design:


The purse has a tiny little slit at one side, but it can't open and close or hold anything inside of it (anything you want to get back out again, anyway).


Vandala's outfit took me a while to sort out.  There is a lot going on:


She's wearing a layered, asymmetrical dress with pink vinyl chains belted around her waist.


I have to say right off the bat that the colors and textures on this doll are confusing to me.  Vandala's body color is ghostly, and her pegleg looks like transparent wood...which is fitting for a ghost.  Her hat is the same transparent pink as the leg, as though it isn't quite real.  Some of the fabrics in her dress are also sheer and ethereal.  However, other elements of the outfit, like the pink vinyl chains and the bright blue decoration on the hat, look very solid and un-ghostly.  I wish all of her clothing looked transparent--or none of it.  As it is, this doll's image seems pieced together.

Monster High

Looking past these inconsistencies, the hat is definitely the most striking piece in Vandala's outfit:


The hat came plastic-tied to Vandala's head in two places.


The base of the hat is made out of flexible translucent peach vinyl and the ship-themed decoration is made out of opaque blue hard plastic.

I love the maniacally grinning starfish on this decoration.
 The brim of the hat is folded up and held in place with a peg on the back of the blue decoration.


Underneath her hat, Vandala's hair doesn't look great.  She has long bangs that are swept to either side of her face and plastered in place with styling product.  There's shiny residue from the styling product on her face--mostly on her forehead.  She also has a hard, glue-filled head. 


The bangs are actually cut from hair that is meant to fall along the top of the midline part.  Since this hair is pulled forward to frame the face, it leaves behind some areas of thinner hair and exposed scalp:


Even if this hair hadn't been matted down by the hat or strangely styled, it's not great hair.  It's very long and straggly and looks like it would tangle in a heartbeat:



Here's the hair after I brushed it:


The hair looks better after it's brushed, but I still don't really like the frizzy texture.  Much like Lorna's hair, this hair will probably improve--at least temporarily--with a quick boil wash.

Vandala has a sweet face, but it has nowhere near the sass of the box art version:


Vandala's eyes are two shades of pink with purple pupils.  The light colors were probably chosen to look ghostly, but they also seem a little vacant to me.  Or like she has cataracts.  I think it would have been ok to give a ghost character big, dark hole-like pupils--this actually seems more ghostly to me than pastel eyes.  

The eyes are rimmed with unremarkable purple and blue eyeshadow.


Vandala's eyebrows are a faint grey color and her lips are a light peach shade that matches her hat.   


This face painting is fine, but it doesn't have the same sparkle that Lorna's face has.  Part of the contrast is that Lorna's face paint is done in more vibrant colors, but it's also the little details in the eyes that make a difference.  Here's a side-by-side comparison:


Vandala is wearing grey earrings in both ears.  The earrings are hook-shaped, but I think maybe they're meant to be tentacles--cuttlefish tentacles, perhaps?

I'd wear those if my ears were pierced. 

Now, let's take a closer look at Vandala's complicated outfit:


The pink belted ornament that Vandala is wearing is really the focal point of her dress.  It hooks over her shoulders and then loops around her waist and closes in back with a peg-and-hole attachment. 


Clear rubber bands hold this decoration in place in the box, but once those are removed, the shoulder pads slip off the doll very easily.  I had a hard time keeping this piece in position on the doll.

  

Also, this decorative belt thing is very fancy from the front, but looks a bit apron-like from the sides:

You can also see how the shoulder pads ride up without the rubber bands holding them down.
The pink soft vinyl has a lot of detail in it, from the fringed edges of the shoulder pads to the little charms hanging off the chains:

These chains look way too fun to be detention chains....
I love how the chains are attached to the bodice with octopus (cuttlefish?) legs:


There are three little decorations on the chains: a Skullette lock, an anchor and a key.


These little decorations reminds me of a charm bracelet.



With the pink decoration removed, it's easier to see the shape of the actual dress:


The main part of the dress is made out of a turquoise and black nautical print (which is not at all sheer):


This skirt has a straight, thigh-length party dress shape on one side, and a plunging asymmetrical hem on the other:


Ships being capsized by an octopus?
The dress is belted with sheer striped synthetic knit and the sleeves are made out of black patterned tulle:


Underneath the turquoise part of the dress, there's an uneven layer of tulle fabric that matches the sleeves.  The tulle has a lacy metallic pattern:




To get the dress off, it's best to remove Vandala's hands and her single grey bracelet:


When I purchased Vandala, I assumed that she (and all of the other Haunted dolls...) glowed in the dark.  I was a bit bummed out to realize that they do not.  Both the color of Vandala's plastic and the paleness of her eye paint make her look like she should glow:

Not a glowing ghost.
This doll has the taller, more traditional Monster High body.  She has 11 points of articulation.

One of Vandala's legs is molded to look like it's made out of decorated wood.  The semi-transparent color of the vinyl is probably meant to make the wood look ghostly:


This pegleg is ornately decorated to look like it's draped with pearls:


The leg does, indeed, pop out fairly easily. To me, this felt like more of a shortcoming than a cool bonus feature.  Perhaps there will be a funny part of the Haunted movie that explains why this character has a leg that falls off all of the time?  That would certainly make the doll's leg much more interesting.


The pegleg has a molded shoe with a very narrow base:


Vandala's normal leg has a regular shoe that's pretty amazing:


It's a translucent blue vinyl pump with chain details and a treasure chest heel:

How creative is that??
I love Monster High shoes.


Ideally, the strings of pearls would be painted some color other than gold, but I shouldn't complain.  It's a great shoe.


Vandala's articulation is like most other Monster High dolls.  The only difference with her (other than the removable leg) is that she has a hard time balancing on her two mismatched legs.  The pegleg is slightly longer than the regular leg, and so it takes a lot of maneuvering to get her to stand without help.  It can be done, though:


Here are a few more pictures of Vandala back in her complete outfit:




Monster High

This doll's hair is super-long and looks really messy most of the time.  This might be intentional--as part of her disheveled pirate theme, but I'm not crazy about it.  I tried pulling the hair back into a simple ponytail...which I think is a nice change:


In fact, taming the hair like this makes the hat seem even more dramatic:


Here's one picture I got of Vandala with her hair looking good without a ponytail:


I also experimented a little with putting Vandala's hair up, which I think looks pretty good, and shows off the detail in her outfit:


Monster High

Here are Lorna McNessie and Vandala Doubloons together:


When I look at these two dolls together, I am struck by how similar their coloration is.  Sure, Lorna is brighter and more vibrant, but there's a lot of blue between these two. Vandala's purse even looks like it's the same color as Lorna's skin (although the two are subtly different). I sort-of wish Lorna had been made dark green--you know, like the real Loch Ness Monster.

I had a similar feeling of sameness when I looked at the full Haunted and Monster Exchange lines side-by-side in the store.  At first, I thought all of the dolls were part of the same release.  It was only when I looked closer and started reading that I realized there were two different themes here.  Frankly, this sameness is the main problem I have been having with Monster High dolls for the past year or so.


Bottom line?  Lorna McNessie and the Monster Exchange dolls have a theme that really appeals to me.  I like the idea of having dolls from other schools and countries come into the Monster High mix.  This was a great move on Mattel's part, and introduces a bounty of new story and character potential.  
Lorna, in particular, was incredibly appealing to me because of my ties to Scotland and affinity for red hair.  Furthermore, Lorna has a highly detailed, reptilian-scaled body that stands out from the crowd.  Her Celtic knot torso and scaly limbs are among my favorite Monster High body features of all time.  I also think Lorna's blue eyes are unusually well painted.  She has evenly-placed pupils, three delicate rings of color in her irises, and very fine reflective dots that make her eyes sparkle.  Her outfit doesn't stand out to me as a whole, but I really like her Loch Ness Monster skirt with it's lively front flap and cute print.

I really like Lorna and will definitely keep her in my collection, but I am surprised that my enthusiasm for her isn't stronger.  I feel a little lukewarm.  Her hair is more pink than red, her head is filled with glue, and she doesn't stand up very well.  I don't think it's those little things that shaped my reaction, though.  It's more just that she doesn't leap out to me as an exciting new character.  I don't actually think of the Loch Ness Monster when I look at her.  I feel like I've seen this doll before, and that makes it hard to get really excited.


I had many of these same reactions to Vandala Doubloons, but overall I like her less than Lorna.  She doesn't stand up very well, her pegleg pops out a bit too much, and her hair is hard to control and doesn't look very good.  Vandala's best feature is her hat.  This is an unusual accessory for a Monster High doll, and it really adds to the drama of this character.  Vandala's pale body and light facial features also give her great potential to be unique, but I feel like Mattel didn't really follow through completely with this vision.  I wish the entire doll--from head to toe--had been given a specter-like, barely there appearance.  As it is, too many features (like the bright blue hat decoration, the opaque pink chains, and even the doll's bright blue hair streaks) take away from her ethereal qualities.  With her jumble of bold colors and pale or translucent features, this doll can't achieve a powerful, cohesive theme.

Despite all of my little complaints here, one thing that continues to greatly impress me about the Monster High franchise is the constant flow of new characters, molds, body shapes, and themes.  It's crazy.  I can't think of any other mass-produced doll line that has come up with this range of creative diversity.  Maybe some releases are feeling a little repetitive and underwhelming to me at this point, but that might have something to do with the high expectations I've developed over the years.  I've tried to lose interest in Monster High dolls several times, but they always manage to tempt me back with something completely unexpected and original.  These two dolls are fine, but they're not  unexpected.  My eyes are on the horizon, waiting for that next showstopper.  

41 comments:

  1. My reaction is the same as yours. I did get Lorna but left Vandala on the shelf. I was not impressed with her. I also fixed Lorna's hair which was horrible in it's original style. Love the reviews still :O)

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    1. Yeah, Lorna's original hairstyle was bizarre. The peach color just does nothing for me, but I really like the darker red with the highlights. I'm SO glad there was a way to make that darker red the more obvious color! Neat to hear that you did the same thing. :) I probably should have left Vandala on the shelf, too, especially for the high-seeming $23 price. Lorna is a cutie though, and I am very glad to have her!

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  2. I love Monster High shoes, sometimes I feel like the shoes and accessories are better designed than the dolls. I have been debating on adding Lorna to my collection, and probably will just because of the intricate body design.
    Thanks again for another wonderful review.

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    1. Hi Starr! I agree that the shoes can be just amazing. I often find myself smiling as I inspect them for the first time. Vandala's shoe is no exception--I just wish there were two of them so that the other girls could share!! ;) Lorna's body is really wonderful. I love it when the bodies have such interesting designs (and tails--those are always fun, too). It's like a little mystery surprise to find out what the bodies of these dolls look like, and Lorna's Celtic knots were a great surprise!

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  3. I hadn't realized how detailed the scaling was on Lorna's body - and the knotwork on her torso is a creative twist as well. I find the contrast of her skin and hair colours to be really appealing as well, although from having only seen her in the box, I hadn't realized that her hair was more pink than red. The more I see of her (that tail!) the more I like her, I think!

    I want to like Vandala more than I do, I just feel like the concept was more interesting on paper than on the doll herself (I'd expected the Haunted dolls to glow in the dark as well - that seems like a real missed opportunity there). I did buy her, but only because I collect prosthesis-wearing dolls and figures - without that, I'd have left her on the shelf.

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    1. Oh, I agree about the glowing! That would have been so fun to see across the whole line. I assumed that Vandala would glow with such certainty that I "charged up" her body next to a light, turned the lights off, aimed my camera...and then saw nothing in the view finder! Boo! Vandala is not awful, but she really does seem like a missed opportunity in many ways. A ghost pirate doll could have been so incredible!

      Lorna's body is great and her tail is a lot of fun. I think she's worth having--especially if you like the color contrast between her hair and her body. That's one feature that I didn't love right away...but I'll admit that I appreciate the contrast more now that her hair is down and I am getting used to her. ;)

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  4. As for the glue issue, Mattel has started using a new kind of glue that is not supposed to leak into the hair. So far I haven't heard of anyone having trouble with the new glue aside it making the hair harder to remove for reroots. Just so you know.

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    1. Ah ha! Thank you so much for clarifying this! I guess I misunderstood the fix that was going to be made. I'd prefer a softer head, but non-leaking glue definitely seems like a move in the right direction! Thank you for posting this--I will go back and change my comment in the review. :)

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    2. Is THAT what's happening to my Apple White? I knew she had the glue filled head but I didn't think that was such an issue, until about 8 months after I got her, the roots got kinda sticky and gross feeling. That would make so much sense. Ugh, now I wish I could've gotten a better one. But I'm so obsessed with her cute first or second release sassy face!!! :( *sigh* I guess I just have to love her the way she is.

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  5. Vandala's shoes are so cool. I want some! I also really like Lorna and her new hair style. :)

    Lulu

    P.S. Did you see that the Ever After High Duchess Swan and Kitty Cheshire dolls have started popping up? I got Kitty - she's adorable!

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    1. I love Kitty too! It's a shame that she didn't come with arm warmers though. I have Duchess also - she's gorgeous. She might just be my favorite EAH doll.

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    2. Oh, I know!! Isn't Kitty cute? I have not seen her in this neck of the woods yet. You are very lucky to have found her, Lulu! :D I also really (really!) like the look of Swan, but want to see her in person before I buy. Claire--you saying that Swan might be your favorite is very encouraging to me, because I am a little obsessed with her promo pictures and have been crossing my fingers that she's just as lovely in person! This is wonderful to hear. :)

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    3. I took a picture of Duchess just as soon as I got her out of the box, she's so pretty. Here it is in case you're curious: http://i.imgur.com/Y08PoXM.jpg
      (Just let me know if it doesn't work, I'll try and upload it to another site then)
      She's on the taller body, like Cerise, and she's a lot taller than Kitty (who is on the shorter body that all the Wonderland characters seem to have).

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  6. Osmosis is a bitch, lol...that and the "Are you trying to kill me..." so good, haha Great reviews, Emily! I had Vandoola on my list, but took her of after this review so thank you for saving me money, ;). I love the idea of her, but you're right...something is just a bit off with her for me. Lorna is a gem on the other hand :). I totally believe you that you saw the real Loch Ness when you were little!

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    1. Thank you for believing in me, Farrah!! It was a magical moment in my childhood when I saw that majestic creature arch her head out of the water, and I get such grief about it here in my house! So misunderstood. ;D

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  7. I knew you were going to review Lorna eventually, I know how much you love red hair (Fellow redhead lover!). I have both dolls and while I love them both, I do agree that they've got their flaws. My Lorna's hair looks okay, but it's not the best, especially compared to Kiyomi Haunterly's (Seriously, she's got great hair. Smooth, soft and silky. Why can't Mattel give every doll such awesome hair?). Also, Mattel says she was made to have a longer neck, being the daughter of the Loch Ness monster and all, but it's barely noticeable. And Vandala...Yeah, I haven't even touched the hair on mine, in fear that I'll irreparably mess it up. Also I've read that some dolls are very thinly rooted underneath the hats to the point that they look like they're balding...I haven't personally checked mine.

    Now off topic: Are you still interested in Ever After High? I ask because there's a bunch of new dolls out (Spring Unsprung, Through the Woods and basic Kitty Cheshire and Duchess Swan) and it'd be interesting to see a review of one of the newer ones (there's a bunch to pick from XD), but I know you're busy and if you wouldn't want to then I won't be sad. <3

    Another great review, I'm always checking to see when the new one will be up. I've been finding myself going back and re-reading older ones too, I love them so much. You're so thorough and you've made me see several dolls in a new light. :)

    ~Claire

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    1. Oh, darn it! Maybe I should have chosen Kiyomi instead? She was tempting to me. It's frustrating how some Monster High dolls have great hair and others have hair that is markedly inferior. I agree with you 100% that the quality should be consistent.

      Lorna is supposed to have a longer neck? Color me clueless, but I had not heard this, and I certainly didn't notice it on my doll! If the neck had been super-long, maybe that would have reminded me more of my friend the Loch Ness Monster?? It's actually a neat idea to have a doll with a ridiculously long neck. That version of Lorna might have been the showstopper I'm looking for!

      I have my eye on the new Ever After High dolls, but they haven't shown up in stores around here yet, and I really like to see these characters in person before I buy. From the promos, I LOVE Swan and think Kitty is really cute. Some of the other new dolls seem too similar to their original releases...but I'll give them all a fair chance when I see them in person.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog, Claire. It's been a bit of a struggle to balance everything this past month, and it means a lot to me that you appreciate the reviews and keep tuning in and sharing your thoughful opinions. :D

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    2. I love Kiyomi. I like the "no-face" thing she's got going on and her hair is a pretty color and it feels great. I just want to sit and play with it. XD I hope that every Kiyomi doll has hair as good as mine, it might as well be a fluke or something (I don't want anyone mad at me for making them think her hair is great if theirs isn't! D:), but I hope not.

      I remember seeing comparison pictures with a Lagoona doll that showed Lorna's neck is just a teensy bit longer, but it wasn't by much and I've long forgotten where I even saw them. I really think it should have been longer. I love my Lorna and think she's adorable but c'mon Mattel, if you're gonna give her a long neck, go all out with it! ;D

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  8. Yay! I was hoping you would review these girls, especially Vandala!

    I also hope it's worth saying that while they still use glue, it's a different type. The previous formula was more like a waxy resin that, usually, hadn't cured completely and seeped through the scalp. The new stuff is a hard plastic glue, kind of like the stuff used in a hot glue gun! So it's still hard but it doesn't seep through at all!

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    1. Thank you so much for this information, Connor! For some reason I had a different notion about what the glue improvement would be, and it's great to hear that Mattel has taken some good steps in the right direction! Nobody wants leaking glue.....eew. I will go back and change this in the review. :)

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  9. So glad you reviewed these, you really are my personal shopper.
    I will be passing on these two and part of it for me is the coloring. I am not a fan of Abbey or Lagoona either.
    Light colors just don't please my eye.
    The new boxes are a mess too, you can not help but crush them while grabbing them. I have seen many destroyed on shelves recently.

    A treat as always, Tina

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  10. she is so pretty and i love her hair!

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  11. Yay! I requested this review, and I'm soooo glad you did it. I like Lorna, but not enough to buy her right now..
    Could you review either ever after high doll book playset ? Or maybe the new dolls? Kitty and duchess. I know you can get them at toots toys.
    Also, please spring unsprung doll review or just a new ever after high doll review?
    Also, I think I found your show stopper doll:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-TtplKhGjM44/VKUmYF1JPHI/AAAAAAAAIek/Oikhv2uWlfc/s1600/freak-du-chic-goolipe-jellington.png

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  12. I really like Lorna! Especially since she has a different head from Lagoona, who I love in theory, but haven't yet found a doll that I truly like. Lagoona has a fish face, with bulging eyes. At first I thought the dolls I saw just had wonky paint, but then I realized it was the mold itself, which was really disappointing. I think it's a great concept, but in person I end up displeased. I /did/ like the Lagoona/Jinafire fushion doll, and I guess the draconic looking eyes help sell it for me, which I wouldn't have expected, since I like the more natural green color of Lagoona's eyes in general. And of course she had a cute tail, which is a feature that Lorna shares. The scales and the celtic knotwork are just awesome, and being a little smaller is also really cute. Someday, I definitely need to get Lorna. :)

    I saw some of the Haunted line in person too and was just as disappointed. I'm glad you did this review. It seals the idea that I'm not really interested. I really thought I'd like Vandala and Porter, but the way they did the faces ruins the effect somehow. It made them bland, when it should have made them ghostly.

    I think if I get any of the guys, it's definitely going to be Neighthan. I don't really like zombies that much, but it's not every day that you see a unicorn doll! Especially not a male one. Plus the "rot" effects are kind of cool, and it really does add to the monster concept. He'll be great friends with my brand new Pinkie Pie and Avea Trotter dolls. :D

    P.S. Originally I didn't think the pink color of Lorna's hair bothered me, but it being such a stark contrast between her ponytail did. After seeing the photos with it down and covering the rest of her hair, I think I prefer Lorna that way too. I might wait to see if she makes a comeback in a later line, since I'm not quite as impressed with her outfit.

    Thank you for doing such in-depth reviews btw. <3

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  13. I was excited when I first heard there was going to be a pirate ghost girl for Monster High. I love the undead, and I love pirates (I play Granblue in Cardfight Vanguard because that's their shtick), so I thought for sure she'd be the thing to get me back into the line. Then, I passed her several times in the toy aisle and didn't even realize she was supposed to be a pirate until I actually read her box.

    I was kind of disappointed when I saw her. Her art looks fabulous! She seems to have a lot of spunk, but her doll is just kind of... meh.

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  14. Thank you for another very interesting review. I used to breeze right by these dolls until I started seeing your reviews. Now I check them out every time I go to the store. Still haven't bought one yet, but that has more to do with seeing the Freaky Fusion movie and seeing their characters and hearing their voices. Just didn't match my vision. The other day i saw a "new" scary screams whose box wasn't nearly as nauseating as the one you showed, but it was nice dark purple swirls.

    I really like how you restyle the hair. It looks so much better when you are done.

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  15. Great review Emily! Just like always :) I was glad to see a more indepth look at these two new lines. I like the idea of Lorna but wish she was more Scottish themed,and her hair!? Ugh I do not like her hair color! Peachy pink? No thanks!

    I love love! That you did vandala from the haunted line! I want her so badly, I just love her pirate theme and her face is so appealing to me. I haven't seen the haunted line in my stores and I keep looking every chance I get!

    Maybe if you decide to remove vandala from you collection you could send her my way? ;)

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  16. Great review! I'd been interested in Lorna, but I might hold off until I see a sale. I personally adore Marisol, but her color scheme is not for everyone.

    Have you seen River Styxx of the Haunted line yet? I don't think you mentioned her, so I was curious. River is AMAZING, particularly once out of the box. She's been my favorite so far of this line.

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  17. I think that you should really check ou Marisol Coxi and River Styxx you will fall in love with them!

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  18. I have both Lorna and Vandala, and while they are not perfect, I really enjoy them. Vandala's stand is designed so you can pose her in a floating pose, something I wish they would have done for Spectra and hope that Mattel will consider for her in the future- but that may be why standing on her own isn't something they put much effort into. I think only the fusion characters like Avea and Bonita and Sirena make the claim to 'stand on their own!' in any event. I am hoping that the removable peg-leg means that we will get future Vandalas with legs we can swap around between the dolls- or even better, fashion packs with different legs.

    Both the Haunted and Monster Exchange lines are pretty fun (the Madread Lagoona in particular is stunning), though I am really looking forward to the Freak du Chic line that is upcoming. That line will feature the 17 inch Gooliope Jellington, which may be up your alley as something rather unusual!

    In any case, I always enjoy your reviews. I came for the Monster High, but have learned so much about other sorts of dolls from your blog.

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  19. Emily, do you have any of the Create a Monster sets handy? I've heard that Vandala's peg leg can be swapped out for a leg from those sets. Might be worth a try to see if a leg swap and some different shoes would help her stand better.

    I really was put off by Lorna's hair in person. It's so... pinkish. Wow, it really looks better in your pics where you took it down and brushed it out, though!

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  20. Thank you so much for your complete and thoughtful reviews! Your blog has helped me make decisions on several purchases since I started reading.

    There is in fact a passport stamp for Machu Picchu. If I recall correctly, it's not optional. :)

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  21. Love your review (as always)!
    The "new boos at school" is, (I'm assuming), supposed to be "newbies" at school. :)

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  22. Great review!
    I know you don't like her as much, but I'm weirdly attracted to Vandala! And usually I don't go for Monster high girls! I guess I'll just have to see her in the stores. I actually quite like her vacant eyes and the brighter spots don't bother me. I know I'd be disappointed with the hair, but perhaps the whole "Well she's a dead pirate, what do you expect?" thing would have me accept it. ;) I have quite an odd collection of dolls right now, so adding a monster wouldn't be too out of the ordinary! :P Although with the rumor of Duchess Swan and the promo pictures I've found I may have a hard decision! Still waiting for Hopper though...

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  23. I was hoping you might comment on what looks to me like ankle and foot bones inside Vandala's pegleg. Must be my imagination after all.

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  24. Thank you for another great review! I really like the knot design on Lorna's body, but I find her outfit rather uninspired.
    I have Vandala. Right out of the box I found her hair rather horrible. After washing and brushing it's now quite nice, but very prone to static (especially when you remove the hat after a few days). I like the pirate theme and that she has a prothesis. I agree with you: Mattel should have made her more ethereal.
    In the end I'm aware of her flaws and I still like her.
    Your reviews are always a joy to read, informative and entertaining. I really appreciate the many great photos you take for every review.

    Gamer-kun

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  25. Great review! I think Vandala is pretty awesome, I really like her. Especially because she has that beautiful pegleg. :)

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  26. I just got Lorna, and the hair disparity annoyed me, too. I found that untying her ponytail and combing out some of the rows of red into the rest helped to blend the colors without changing her hairstyle.
    Also, the bag on her tail is a super cute idea, and that's how I display her now.

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  27. The 'popping out easily leg' doesn't happen with my Vandala. In fact, I have to use some force to get her leg out, so I guess it depends on the doll.
    The only think I don't like about Vandala is her pink...thing all over her body. That vinil/plastic thingie just breaks the rest of the composition.
    I'm thinking of making braids with her hair, pirate themed. I don't know.
    Out of all my ghost Monster High dolls my favourites are Porter Geiss (he's amazing) and River Styxx (one of the most complicated Monster High dolls I've ever seen).

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