Monday, April 13, 2015

A Retrospective Review of Strawberry Shortcake's "Blueberry Muffin" Character

First of all, the Cinderella movie doll poll closed the other day and (much to my surprise) the Frozen Fever dolls won!  It was a close call with the Fairy Godmother for a while, but the Frozen princesses ended up winning 107 to 95.  The funny thing is, the doll I intended to review (ball gown Cinderella) came in last of all.  I am so glad I ran the poll!  Thank you very much to everyone who voted.

This week's review is a little different from what I normally write.  I am going to look at a series of Strawberry Shortcake dolls, focusing on how the dolls have changed over the years as the brand license moved from company to company.  What inspired me to write this retrospective review?  Well, first of all, the Strawberry Shortcake license very recently changed hands for the fifth time.  Hasbro, which had been manufacturing the dolls and toys since 2009, passed the torch to The Bridge Direct in 2014.  I have been looking at the new Bridge Direct dolls in the stores for a few months now, trying to decide if I like them and wondering if a comparison to Hasbro would be fun.  The thing is, I don't actually know much about Strawberry Shortcake, and so I kept postponing my review, thinking that I couldn't really do the subject any justice.

How can I be a child of the 80s and not know anything about Strawberry Shortcake, you might ask?  Well, that gets at my second motivation for writing this review--and certainly the most powerful.  I still vividly remember a day during my childhood when I was shopping at a department store with my family.  On that day I saw a small display of Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and badly, badly wanted the Blueberry Muffin doll.  I loved her blue hair and couldn't believe that she might actually smell like blueberries (at this time in my life, scratch-and-sniff stickers and those smelly Mr. Sketch markers were the best things ever, so a fragrant doll was like perfection).  I wasn't allowed to have the Blueberry Muffin doll that day, and so there's been a small, obstinate, foot-stomping piece of me that's wanted it ever since.

So...for this review I bought all of the Blueberry Muffin dolls!  Well, not actually all of them, but a representative sample from each of the big companies that has held the license.  Because there have been six different incarnations of Blueberry Muffin since her debut, there's a lot to cover.  For that reason, I will post in two parts--starting with the 1979 first edition doll made by Kenner and working my way forward through time until I get to The Bridge Direct doll that came out last year:

Blueberry Muffin dolls by The Bridge Direct, 2015 (left) and Kenner, 1979 (right).
As a sidebar, I discovered while I was fact-checking this review that Beastsbelle over at Never Grow Up has already done this post, but with Strawberry Shortcake herself.  I had no intention of copying (I actually thought I was being terribly clever and original...) but I seem to have fallen prey to the same exact desire to investigate this doll's history.  I highly recommend the Never Grow Up post and hope that this one will serve as a fun companion piece.

As an overview for both halves of this review (and to give any Strawberry Shortcake experts time to correct me if I am wrong...) here's a short timeline of the specific dolls I'm going to cover in this review.  Most of this information comes from Wikipedia and eBay auctions.

Part One:
Kenner (held the license from 1977-1991): first edition "Welcome to the World of Strawberry Shortcake" Blueberry Muffin doll, 1979.
THQ (held the license from 1991-2002): "Berry Neat Eats" Blueberry Muffin, 1991.  
Bandai (held the license from 2002-2006): "Berry Best Friends" Blueberry Muffin, 2004.

From left to right in back: THQ's "Berry Neat Eats" doll, Bandai's "Berry Best Friends" doll.
Front: Kenner's first edition doll.
Part Two:
Playmates (held the license from 2006-2009): "Candy Pops" Blueberry Muffin, 2006.
Hasbro (held the license from 2009-2014): "Garden Party" Blueberry Muffin, 2012.
The Bridge Direct (currently holds the license): "Berry Best Friend" Blueberry Muffin, 2015.

Left to right: Playmates' "Candy Pops" doll, Hasbro's "Garden Party" doll, The Bridge Direct's "Berry Best Friend" doll.
I was able to find all of these dolls still in their boxes for reasonable prices, with the exception of the first edition Kenner doll.  She can still be found in her box on eBay, but tends to sell for over $45.  I was content to get a very well-cared-for version without a box for under $20.

The Strawberry Shortcake concept first started as greeting card art drawn by Muriel Fahrion in 1977 for the American Greetings company.  Ms. Fahrion illustrated the initial series of 32 rag doll friends and also designed the first Strawberry Shortcake doll (which was made out of cloth). There are lots of pictures of original Strawberry Shortcake card art posted (and re-posted) online, but few of them are credited.  I hope it is ok to share this one without knowing its original source:
  

The first wave of 5-inch Strawberry Shortcake vinyl dolls came in 1979 from Kenner and included only nine characters.  These first edition dolls tend to have flat hands.  Late in the first issue, the hands were changed to be curved--so that the dolls could hold accessories.  I wanted to be sure that I got the very first Blueberry Muffin, so I bought a flat-handed doll:

Used first edition Blueberry Muffin, $19.99 (eBay).
To be fair, this isn't the very first version of blueberry muffin.  This is probably closer:

Original blueberry muffin (c.1700s), $1.29.
I might as well throw the original muffin into the comparison, too.

The Blueberry Muffin doll originally came in a cardboard window box with a plastic comb accessory.  Only in the second edition did Blueberry come with her pet mouse, Cheesecake.

The Kenner Blueberry Muffin dolls have molded hats made out of bendable vinyl:


This hat has a purple ribbon tie that strings through two holes at the top:


It also has a small embroidered blueberry cluster that is sewn into the hat, not glued:


Here are the stitches that hold the blueberries in place:


These stitches must have been a little fragile since many of the dolls I saw on eBay were missing this decoration.

Here's Blueberry without her hat:


She still has her comb accessory and her full outfit, including the little purple ribbons that hold her pigtails in place.

The comb is very basic, with a molded strawberry on the handle.  This comb actually works well to tidy the doll's hair.


My doll appears to have her original hairstyle intact...if a little disheveled:


This doll still has a faint smell.  I have to jam my nose right up against her hair to smell it, but it's there.  It's not an unpleasant smell at all--not the slightest bit chemical or harsh.  I imagine that she smelled pretty great when she was new, or my younger self would have thought so, anyway.  

She smells quite a bit like an actual blueberry muffin, if you can believe it.


In fact, I have to jam my nose pretty close to this muffin before I can smell it, too.  The original muffin has a slightly better smell than the doll, but it's a closer contest than I would have expected.  I like smelling both of them.  Mmmm.  Now I'm hungry.

The thing is, when I sniff the original muffin, it's hard not to nibble at the top.  I don't feel tempted to nibble on the doll at all.  She does have an incredibly sweet little face, though--it's almost exactly as I remember it from my childhood shopping trip:


I found her lopsided hair a little distracting, though:


When I took the ponytails out, the hair didn't move very much.  I guess that's what being in the same hairstyle for 36 years does.

I can relate.

Closer inspection of the part at the back of the doll's head makes me think that maybe this hair has been taken down before, though. The hairs on either side of the part are unevenly distributed:

Telltale sign.
The rooting underneath the ponytails is really disappointing:

What rooting?
It would be really hard to play with this hair or put it into any style other than the two pigtails it came with.

I temporarily pulled all of the hair back into a single messy ponytail so that I could get a better look at the shape of the doll's head:


She has a head shape that reminds me of a squash...or an upside-down muffin.  It's very wide through the cheeks and then gets narrow at the top.

In half profile, it's possible to see the shape of her head a little better:


In full profile, her little nose is almost completely concealed by her full cheeks:


Looking from the top down on the head, you can see how everything narrows from the forehead upwards:


Blueberry has very little detail molded into the front of her face--just that tiny button nose and the protuberance of her lower face.  


Her eyes and mouth are decals with a very simple design.  Her eyes are mostly black, but have a purple offset circle highlighting them.  Her rose-red mouth is bent into a right-angle smile with straight cheek lines.  The mouth looks like it was meant to represent two thread stitches--without actually showing stitch lines like the Lalaloopsy dolls tend to do.  

She has three very symmetrical red freckles above her nose that kind-of mirror the shape of her mouth.


Blueberry comes wearing a blue dress with tights and shoes:


The dress has checkered long sleeves with gathers along the top seam that give the shoulders some shape.  The small collar matches the sleeves.  The body of the a-line dress is all the same light blue color.  I think this plain blue part of the dress is meant to be the pinafore apron that the greeting card version of Blueberry wears.


Here's this picture again so you can see what I mean:


The dress closes only at the very top in back--with a metal snap (don't see that much anymore):


The dress feels soft and is surprisingly good-looking for its age.  All of the tiny seams and finished edges are still holding strong.



Here's a close-up of the gathers along the top of the sleeve:

There's some faint staining along the sleeve.
Here's a look at the inside seams--again, they still look solid with minimal raveling at the very edges.


Under her dress, Blueberry is wearing green and white striped tights and bright blue shoes:


The shoes are made out of flexible vinyl and have a sandal pattern on the top that is unique to this character:



The tights have full toes and an elasticized waist.  They are also made very well and pretty easy to get on and off:



Blueberry has a hard torso with bendable vinyl limbs.  For some reason the seams in her body (especially along the sides of her limbs) make it look like she's made out of cheap hollow plastic.  The molding is a little rough in some areas. 

Blueberry has five points of simple rotational articulation:


She has a distinctive body shape, with a very small torso, long arms that angle away from her body, and legs that widen into large feet.  Despite having big feet, this doll does not have perfect balance.  I can get her to stand on her own without too much effort, but she tips over backwards easily.  Her left leg is a little longer than her right, too, which doesn't help.


She has a little bit of a belly, which is very cute:


The torso is marked on the back, "made in Hong Kong," back when Hong Kong was not part of China.


The back of the neck is marked with the American Greetings copyright and the date.  American Greetings owned the Strawberry Shortcake brand from when Ms. Fahrion first published her drawings in 1977 right up until last year, when the Iconix Brand Group purchased the franchise for $105 million.  That's a lot of muffin dough.


Blueberry has cute little rounded toes without much detail:


She also has holes in the bottoms of her feet--maybe a molding artifact?  Hm.

It almost looks like she could be mounted on a doll stand with these holes.
Her hands have broad palms and short, straight fingers.  There is no fingernail detail and so both sides of the hand look similar:


Blueberry's arms spin all of the way around at the shoulder.  Her large head blocks the arms when they are raised up, but the bend in her vinyl arms allows her to move them around and past her head with no trouble.


Her legs also spin around, and she can sit on the ground with her feet apart.


She can do front-to-back splits while her long arms help her balance in this position:


I washed and tidied up Blueberry's hair before I put her back into her original outfit: 


I just dipped the hair into boiling water to get the old kinks out, and then re-did the ponytails while the hair was still damp.  Now she's good until 2045.

The hair fiber is still shiny and smooth in most areas.  The fiber feels soft and sleek (especially at the top of the head), but not quite as silky-smooth as some other straight-haired play dolls like American Girl or Licca-Chan.

Kenner Blueberry Muffin doll

The blueberry smell persisted even after I washed the hair.  It's interesting how the smell has lasted this long.

I am very happy to have this little cutie in my collection, especially after waiting for her for thirty years.

Kenner Blueberry Muffin doll

I have to say, I like this doll even more than the actual blueberry muffin--the doll smells almost as good as the muffin, and she has better articulation.  She's also endured the test of time extremely well.  Aside form a few stains and a bit of messy hair, she looks as good as new.  I doubt the original muffin would look (or smell) this good after thirty-some years.


Strawberry Shortcake was a huge deal in the 1980s.  I think a lot of kids wanted the dolls (and other merchandise) as badly as I wanted that Blueberry Muffin I saw in the store.  The craze ended some time during the mid-eighties, though.  After Kenner made the second wave of dolls in around 1982, I don't think there were any more Blueberry Muffin releases until the license changed hands (there were some "Party Pleasers" versions of the characters made in 1983, but there was no Blueberry Muffin in this group).

THQ or "Toy Head Quarters" (now owned by Ubisoft) acquired the license in 1991 and tried to revive the popularity of Strawberry and her friends.  This doesn't seem to have gone extremely well, since the dolls were only made for one year.  Despite this brief reign, it wasn't very difficult to find a boxed example of a THQ Blueberry Muffin:

THQ Blueberry Muffin doll, $28.00 (eBay).
This group of dolls has six of the Strawberry Shortcake characters, each with a title including the word "berry."  The Blueberry Muffin doll is called "Berry Neat Eats."


The frosted, permed hair on the model girl cracks me up.  Oh, how I remember those days!  I probably wanted that hair pretty badly at some point, too.

"She smells just like her name!" We'll see about that.
This doll comes with two complete outfits and a stage accessory.  I think the combination of hairstyle and packaging make this doll look a little rectangular at first:


The back of the card has a ton of pictures that I found very fun to look at.  The entire lineup of 5-inch THQ dolls is shown here:


The theme of this series is explained in the paragraph at the top--it's basically about the crossover between Strawberryland and the real world.  Strawberry and her friends are supposed to share their world with you, and then you show them something about your life in return. The stage accessory is meant to facilitate this by spinning back and forth between a Strawberryland backdrop and a "real world" backdrop.  I wasn't enthralled by this theme, but tried to keep an open mind.



I was much more interested in seeing all of the other dolls in the series--I wish I could photograph them a little more clearly for you:


Some things I noticed in this picture: most of the dolls have curly or frizzy hair.  Blueberry and a few of the Strawberry dolls are the exception.  Also, the Orange Blossom doll is very dark-skinned...or appears that way in the photograph.  I thought this might make her valuable (since the more recent dolls are lighter-skinned) and so I did some hunting around.  I found an excellent online resource that has pictures of many of the dolls.  It seems that the box photo is misleading: THQ's Orange Blossom is not much darker than her more recent Hasbro or Bridge Direct counterparts.

Here's a close-up of one of the four Strawberry Shortcake dolls, "Berry Best Party:"

That hair!
In addition to the 5" dolls, apparently THQ also made some accessories and a baby doll:

I remember the commercials for those kissing baby dolls!
I actually think the smelly kiss dolls were first made by Kenner back in the 1980s, otherwise I wouldn't remember the commercials from my childhood.  THQ must have re-vamped these dolls, too.


Blueberry and her accessories were very easy to remove from the blister packaging:


The rotating stage has a plastic base and a thick cardboard backdrop.  The extra outfit is mounted on a cardboard cutout of the doll:


Blueberry's Strawberryland backdrop has a picture of Lemon and Strawberry at a quaint cafe.  Strawberry has chosen an ice cream cone that is five scoops high and Lemon is flinging a fresh pizza crust:


The backdrop spins around...

It's a little warped after 24 years...

...to reveal the "real world" scene, which is also a cartoon.  In this picture, a red-headed girl is sitting at a fast food restaurant eating a cookie, while a blonde girl is serving fries.

Would you like fries with that?
What's the message here?  In Strawberryland, you can be a gourmet pizza chef but in the real world you work at a fast food joint?  Or, in Strawberryland you can have a mega-huge ice cream cone, but in the real world you only get a cookie?  Welcome to the real world.

Also, Blueberry Muffin doesn't appear in these scenes.  I would explain this by saying that there are no pictures of Blueberry because there's an actual doll to play her role.  However, the Strawberry Shortcake dolls' backdrops have Strawberry Shortcake in them.  So.

I set the cardboard accessory aside so that I could get a good look at the doll and her outfit.


This comb is just like the Kenner comb, but it's blue:



Blueberry herself still looked a little rectangular after she was out of her packaging, but I could see a lot more potential at this point:


The 1990s seem to have had their fair share of plastic ties, though, judging by this doll's elaborate ponytail-securing mechanism:


Plastic ties secure the ponytails to the side of the head, and also hold a headband in place:



I cut all of the ties and tried to finger-comb the hair a little to loosen it up:


With the hair brushed away from her face, this doll has more in common with the Kenner Blueberry than I originally thought:

I detect a similar shape to the face.
I don't much like the checkered headband, though--especially since it has a few areas of discoloration on it, the origins of which I didn't immediately understand.


I brushed the hair with a real brush at this point, and tried to fluff up the bangs:

Lookin' better all the time.
This doll has a lot more detail in her facial features (including eyebrows!) than the Kenner doll. However, like the Kenner doll, very few of these features are molded into the vinyl--they're all painted.

Blueberry's eyes have a matte finish and look like they're painted right onto the face.  They might be decals, but if so, they're very well done.  She has huge black pupils and thin periwinkle blue irises.  The cluster of three freckles on the Kenner doll has multiplied...now there are freckles on both cheeks, too.  This doll's smile is not angular, but maintains the essence of the Kenner doll's mouth by keeping the same relative size, and by having a small opening at the bottom where the angle of the older doll's mouth was.



I used the headband to pull the thick bangs away from Blueberry's face so that I could get a better look at her.


I believe she has exactly the same head mold as the Kenner doll.  Her cheek area is very wide and she has a tapered forehead.  


Here's the top-down view:


Her nose is also teeny-tiny and can barely been seen in full profile:


This doll's hair was in pretty good shape right out of the box, but it has a slight curl to it and I was having a hard time getting it to lay in a nice way.  Also, I wanted to check the rooting pattern...so I took the ponytails down.

I had an unpleasant surprise:


The rubber bands that tied her hair were discolored and disintegrating.  They looked like they had melted into her hair--causing brown discoloration in several areas of the hair, and also on the headband.  Eew.  

I tried brushing the hair to get the bits of rubber band out.  This hair has quite a lot of volume:


The hair fiber feels fine--again, it's smooth, but not silky smooth.  In fact, this hair has a bit of a "crunch" when I squeeze it between my fingers.  I'll guess that it's the same hair fiber that is on the Kenner doll, but the added curl in this doll's hair gives it a slightly coarser texture.


The rooting pattern certainly isn't any better than it is on the Kenner doll.


This doll's hair has a bit of smell left in it, which is unfortunate.  It's a pretty unpleasant, chemical odor.  The smell doesn't remind me of blueberries at all.  In fact, it made me half-gag one time.  Blech.

I tied the hair back into a single ponytail so that I could contain the smell and continue the review.  I think she looks pretty cute like this--almost like she has pixie-cut short, curly hair:


Blueberry comes wearing an outfit that looks like it was attempting a modern re-interpretation of the original dress.  It is a synthetic, slightly shiny blue dress with a checkered apron and a huge white collar and matching cuffs:



I am not overwhelmed by fondness for this dress.  It might have seemed modern in the early nineties--granted--but to me it looks frumpy and overburdened by the huge white accents.  I much prefer the original Blueberry's outfit.


This doll is wearing short yellow and white striped socks instead of green and white striped tights.  I like the new interpretation in this part of the outfit, but the socks are pretty hard to pull on over the large vinyl feet.  The socks also have a little bit of blue staining from the shoes.


The shoes are very similar to the Kenner Blueberry's shoes, but they have pink ribbon bows glued to them:



The pink bows look silly because there are molded bows partially hidden underneath:


This doll has a very similar body shape to the Kenner doll, with a hard (vinyl?) torso and limbs made out of bendable, shiny vinyl.  To me, the THQ body has a more high-quality look and feel.  Her joints seem to fit together better and the color match between her body and head is better than it is with the Kenner doll.  The THQ doll also has slightly better balance than the Kenner doll.


This Blueberry has large feet and long arms, but her legs are not quite as thick as the first edition doll's legs.  I think this is the same body mold as the Kenner doll (with the exception of the new hands) but it's been manufactured with more precision.

Here's a close-up:



She is marked on the back with just the word "China."


The back of her neck has a TCFC copyright and the date (1991). The "TFTC" copyright stands for Those Characters From Cleveland, which is the old name for the American Greetings toy licensing division. 


Like the later Kenner dolls, this Blueberry has closed fingers that could hold on to accessories.  


The feet have rounded little toes that look like grapes.  These toes are more grape-like than the Kenner toes, again, probably because the molding is more precise with this doll.


This doll also has five points of simple articulation and moves exactly like the Kenner doll.


She can do front-to-back splits...


...and can sit on the ground with her arms as supports.


This doll also has holes in the bottoms of her feet, and these holes have a hexagonal shape.  They really look to me like they're meant for attaching the doll to some accessory.


Here are the two dolls side-by-side.


I found myself liking the THQ doll more and more as time went on.  The only things I really don't like about her are the outfit and the odor.  I boil washed her hair to try and remove some of the smell, and also to see if the rubber band stains would come out (they did not).  The smell is a little better after washing, though.

I was also anxious to try this doll's alternate outfit--really hoping that it would look better on her than the checkered apron dress.


The second outfit came attached to a cardboard doll that is drawn in the style of the original cartoon.  I like that this cardboard doll can stand up on her own if she's wearing shoes.  She'd be pretty fun to play with all on her own...although she might look better without the hanger hook coming out of her head:


Trying the second outfit on Blueberry didn't start off very well.  The yellow and white striped tights are really hard to get on.  There's a ton of friction between the tights and the vinyl legs...and the tights are super tight!  I almost gave up.


I did finally get the tights pulled on, but it was a huge pain.  No small child would ever want to do this.


The shoes have the exact same shape as the Kenner doll's shoes, but they're made out of a shinier, harder vinyl.  They got pretty warped by being in the package for two decades.


The dress has the same shape as the Kenner doll's dress, although it is a little shorter in length and the checkered print on the sleeves is very faint.  Also, this dress closes in back with velcro--not a metal snap.  The hat is the same basic shape as the Kenner doll's vinyl hat, but this hat is made out of sueded fabric:

Muffin-wrapper hat.
The hat doesn't keep its shape very well and tends to collapse at the top.  It has an embroidered patch of berries that look more like grapes than blueberries to me:


Here are the two dolls together in their matching outfits:



..and a close-up of just the outfits:


The Kenner outfit is much nicer.  It has better overall shape and color, and the tights are thicker and significantly easier to use.  The Kenner doll's smell is also much less offensive to me.  

Other comparisons between the two dolls are not as clear cut, mostly because THQ has re-used almost everything from the Kenner doll.  I like the Kenner Blueberry's hairstyle slightly better, but both dolls have equivalent hair fiber and rooting.  I adore the Kenner Blueberry's simple face for nostalgic reasons, but the THQ doll also has a nice face--I just don't think she has as much character.  The two bodies are almost identical, but the THQ doll's vinyl seems higher quality to me with slightly better construction and balance.

Once again, the real blueberry muffin wins the smell contest, but this time it's a runaway win.  Not even close.  Blueberry's tacky first outfit makes me want to also award my clothing preference to the muffin (I respect the color and simple elegance of the brown paper) but the doll's second outfit clinches the win for her in this category.  The doll also has better articulation, better hair, and a cuter face than he muffin.  


Here's another picture of Blueberry on her own:


The last doll I will look at today is the Bandai Blueberry Muffin.  Bandai held the Strawberry Shortcake license for several years, so there are at least five different Blueberry Muffin dolls made by this company (I found pictures of most of them on this nice site).  I chose my doll based purely on what was available through eBay at the time.  I ended up with the "Berry Best Friends" version:

Bandai's "Berry Best Friends" Blueberry Muffin, $20 (eBay).
This doll is supposed to come with a free storybook (mentioned in the paw print on the left side of the box) but my doll was missing this accessory.  I would have loved to read the book (it was a horse book!) but the auctions with the book were more expensive.


In 2003, when Bandai started making Strawberry Shortcake merchandise, an animated television series was also introduced.  The box art is in the style of this show:


I watched many of the episodes from Season 2 of this program (free with Amazon Prime...), including the episode where Strawberry's dog, Pupcake (shown above), is first introduced.  I enjoy this TV show--especially now that I have gotten used to it.  The Cinderella episode (#9) is my favorite so far.  I find the voice of the cat, Custard, to be irritating, but I watched way more episodes than I'd planned.  It's no Doc McStuffins, but it has quite a lot of appeal, especially after the introduction of some of the better-acted characters like Blueberry Muffin and Coco Calypso (I wish there was a Coco doll!).

The back of the box has a few pictures of other dolls in the series, including Strawberry, Ginger Snap and Angel Cake:


Sadly, no Huckleberry Pie or Orange Blossom.
There's also a description of the "Filly Tales" book series that was supposed to accompany this doll:


For this review, I was especially interested in all of the bottom-of-the-box text, just to check the manufacturing dates and company information.  This doll's box is in English and French:


The package has a 2004 copyright.
My doll came only with a recipe card and a small brush:


Here's everything out of the box:



The card has an actual recipe for strawberry shortcake that looks pretty easy:

But not in French.  In French, it looks hard.
This doll's brush is made out of red glitter-infused plastic.  It's very small, and I don't find it as useful as the combs that come with the Kenner and THQ dolls.  


Right away, this Blueberry Muffin doll is noticeably different from the previous two.  First of all, she has brown hair--just like the character in the cartoon.  Also, her body shape is clearly different and she is not wearing a dress:

Her eyes look very shiny.
Her outfit is dominated by a very large blue polka-dot hat:


The Strawberry Shortcake characters in the 2003 cartoon all have neat hats--sun hats, sailor hats, even a baseball cap.  Blueberry's hat has been modernized from the bonnet style of the early dolls into what looks like a "poor boy" cap:


The stuffed button on the top of the hat has a little green leaf--so that it looks like a blueberry:


Under the hat, Blueberry was wearing a plastic strip around her head to hold her hair down.  This is what was making her eyes look shiny.



The eyes look great after the plastic has been removed.  The hair is a different story, though:


The hair has a lovely auburn brown color--almost red.  The texture is horrendous, though.  It's a matted rat's nest of curls.


The curls are shapeless and ragged, with no bounce or shine.  They all move together in clumps.  I am afraid to brush this hair, but there's nothing I can do using only my fingers.  I might try a boil wash at some point to see if I can get anywhere with this mess.

It reminds me of a dead animal.
When the curls are parted, a painted orange scalp is visible:


The rows of hair are widely-spaced, but there's a lot more hair on this doll than on the earlier dolls.  I do worry that if I boil the curls out, the hair will lose volume and be so thin that patches of scalp will peek through.  Goodness knows I've ruined enough curly hair in my time.


This hair still has quite a strong, almost fake floral smell.  It doesn't make me think of blueberries.  It's better than the THQ doll's smell, that's for sure, but I don't really enjoy it.  I prefer the subtle, sweet scent of the Kenner doll (and of the actual blueberry muffin).


As I was trying to keep Blueberry away from the real muffin, I noticed something interesting: the Bandai doll's brown hair is actually more muffin-like than the pastel blue hair of the earlier dolls.  Brown hair and blue eyes is actually a brilliant way of conveying the idea of a blueberry muffin.  Huh.  

Despite it's unruly texture, the brown curls also frame this doll's face nicely--although the dark color makes Blueberry's complexion look a bit more sallow than it is in real life.  


She has a huge smile and bright blue eyes...I just wish that she had freckles like the other dolls.  None of the characters in the 2003 television series have freckles, though, so this doll is true to the show.


I pulled her mess of hair back into a ponytail so that I could get a better look at the head.


This doll has more definition in her profile than the earlier versions.  Her nose isn't the only thing that sticks out farther than her cheeks--she has a clear bridge to her nose and a protruding upper lip:



Here are some thumbnails of all three dolls together:


This Blueberry doesn't have the narrow forehead of the earlier dolls, either.  Her head actually widens at the top.  She also has a bit of definition in her chin.


Which you can compare to the other two dolls here:


The color of the Bandai doll's vinyl is paler than the other dolls, although the difference probably wouldn't be as striking if all three were brand-new.  The Kenner doll, in particular, seems to have darkened with age.

Blueberry has very small, raised eyebrows that tip to the sides in an endearing expression.  Her eye decals are shiny (and clearly not painted) unlike the matte eyes of the THQ doll.


Her eyes are outlined with an auburn brown that matches her hair, and also an outer layer of yellow-ish brown that's more similar to her eyebrows.  She has two reflective dots in each eye.


The line of this doll's mouth is molded into her face to create a very cute expression.  The smile has lost all of the angularity of the Kenner doll and is a simple, smooth arc with cheek lines at the edges:


This doll's outfit bears no resemblance to the Kenner or THQ dolls' dresses--except perhaps in the slightly a-line shape of the blouse.  

Blueberry is wearing bright blue trousers and a light blue top with polka dot accents.


The outfit reminds me of hospital scrubs for some reason--I think it's mostly the color and cut of the pants and the round-toed shoes.

The top is made out of blue fabric with white polka dotted areas painted over the bib and cuffs of the sleeves.  The shirt has dark purple ribbon accents:


It closes in back with a thick strip of velcro:


The construction of this shirt seems good and it's very easy to get on and off.  I only worry slightly about the durability of the neck--the area right in the middle doesn't have much (or any) seam allowance.  Everything else looks great:


The pants have an elastic waist and flare a bit at the bottom to accommodate the doll's large feet.



Underneath her pants, Blueberry is wearing tiny little white socks with her shoes!


The purple shoes have a basic slip-on loafer shape.  They have two shades of purple on the side and are dark blue on the bottom.


They're a little hard to get on and off--especially with the socks.


This Blueberry's body has a completely new mold, with thinner limbs and a more rectangular torso.  Her torso is made out of plastic and her limbs are flexible vinyl.  She has five simple points of articulation.


This doll's balance is terrible.  I could not get her to stand up for more than about thirty seconds at a time.  It became very, very frustrating.  I don't really have any doll stands that fit her, either, so I resorted to balancing her against a mini Blythe stand.


She has white painted underwear on her torso:


The back of this doll's head is unmarked--all of the markings are on her back:


She has both the TCFC copyright and a Bandai stamp for 2002.

Blueberry can achieve all of the same basic movement as the older dolls--including raising her arms above her head...


Doing front-to-back splits...


...and sitting on the ground with her legs in front of her.  This doll's legs are more straight-hinged than the older body design, though, so she can't really do side-to-side splits at all.


Her feet are free of holes--she just has a number on the bottom of her right foot.


The hands are especially delicate on this doll when compared to the older models.  She has straight, non-grasping fingers, but her hands are easily half the size of the Kenner doll's hands, and they have a more realistic shape:


Here are all three of the doll bodies together:


The Bandai doll is taller than the Kenner and THQ dolls.  Her limbs are also much thinner and more bendable.  These things all conspire to make her the absolute worst at balancing (especially without her shoes).  It took me forever to get the picture, above.  I had to tape the Bandai Blueberry's feet to the floor...and that only worked some of the time.  The other two dolls would balance fine until Bandai Girl toppled--then her big hair would create a domino effect and bring everyone else down.


The Kenner and THQ dolls balance better than the Bandai doll...and the real muffin trumps them all.

Never falls down.
Despite the difference in body size and shape, these dolls can share some of their clothing.  The Kenner and THQ dolls can share everything--they essentially have the same body.  The Bandai doll can wear the Kenner and THQ clothing, but the dresses are short and the shoes are way too big.  The Kenner and THQ dolls can wear the Bandai pants (just barely--it's hard to get the waist of the pants over the dolls' feet) but they can't get the sleeves of the top over their large hands.  Maybe some other styles of Bandai top would work better.


Way too big.
The THQ hat fits Bandai Blueberry, but it's a little snug.


The heavy vinyl Kenner hat caused a lot of toppling...


...but can at least be perched on top of the Bandai doll's head.


The Bandai hat looks great on the Kenner doll--her high ponytails keep it from being too loose.



Summary:
Here are all three dolls together with their full outfits:


And without the hats--to show their faces better:


Kenner doll, 1979.
The overall look of the Kenner doll is great.  I think her youthful hairstyle and simple outfit match her sweetly innocent face. Her outfit is also well-made and ties together really nicely.  The purple ribbons match her eyes, the blueberries on the hat coordinate with the shoes, and the striped tights spark a bit of mismatched, whimsical fun.  She definitely has the look of a vinyl rag doll--much like the Lalaloopsy dolls of today.

I like the original straight-fingered hands on this doll--I think this is part of what gives the character a rag doll vibe.  The hands look good with the angled set of the arms and fit well with the understated features on the rest of the doll.  Her hands also make her really great at waving.  She always brings a smile to my face in this pose:


Current followers of the Strawberry Shortcake television series might find this doll's appearance too young.  Her face, dress and hair suggest a three or four-year-old, while the show's characters seem more in the eight to ten-year-old range.  This doll doesn't radiate anything cool or hip--just adorableness.  Another flaw I see with this version of Blueberry is that her hair is so thinly-rooted that it would be very hard to play with.  It's best left in its original style.

Of the three Blueberry Muffin dolls I have looked at so far, the Kenner version is my favorite.


THQ Doll, 1991.
The THQ Blueberry doll shares a face mold with the Kenner doll and they have almost identical bodies.  The THQ doll has the newer curved-finger hand mold.  Also, the quality of the vinyl seems higher in the THQ doll.  The hair fiber, rooting pattern and hair color are also very similar between these two dolls, but the THQ Blueberry has longer hair with thick bangs and a curly texture.

The facial screening is probably the biggest difference between the THQ and the Kenner dolls.  The THQ Blueberry has larger (and more detailed) eyes, more freckles, raised eyebrows, and a curved smile.  I think she has a very cute face when I look at her alone, but when I see her next to the Kenner doll, the Kenner doll steals my attention.  Maybe it's that the style of the THQ doll's face doesn't quite match the simplicity of her body.  She doesn't look as much like a rag doll...but she doesn't look realistic, either.  I don't sense a complete vision when I look at this doll, almost like THQ wasn't exactly sure what to do with her.


I don't particularly care for the THQ Blueberry's first outfit.  The checkered apron and wide collar of the dress don't do anything to improve upon or modernize the doll's original look in my eyes.  The second outfit is much better, although it is essentially just a lower-quality re-make of the Kenner doll's outfit.  The stockings from this outfit were particularly frustrating to me and I will never use them again.

I can kind-of see why the THQ doll didn't enjoy a huge run of retail success.  There's nothing really wrong with her--she's very cute (cuter than I thought she'd be, in fact) and the company seems to have made some effort to upgrade her appearance and construction...but she doesn't distinguish herself from the Kenner doll enough.  Also, her fake blueberry smell is awful, or at least it doesn't age well at all.

Still, I am glad to own this version of Blueberry because I think she marks a neat transition from the sweetly simple Kenner dolls to the more modernized, cartoon-based Bandai collection.


Bandai Doll, 2002.
Bandai completely re-designed this character for the new millennium.  Both the Blueberry Muffin dolls and the new animated Blueberry were given realistic brown, curly hair and a more modern, grown-up outfit.  The toddler dress and blue pigtails of the earlier incarnations were removed without a trace.  More than that though, while the Blueberry Muffins of the 80s and 90s look (or try to look) like vinyl versions of rag dolls, the Bandai doll strikes me as a cartoon version of a real girl.  

I especially like Blueberry's new muffin-brown hair...in theory, anyway.  In reality, the hair is a mess.  It actually looks ok from the front, but it's no fun to play with.  It's a matted nest of coarse, hard-to-control curls.  I also don't care much for the smell of the hair.  The scent isn't harsh and chemically like it is on the THQ doll, but its floral sweetness gets all over my hands and makes me want to sneeze. 

Another criticism I have of this doll is that her re-designed body doesn't balance very well--especially without shoes.  It was crazy trying to get her to stand up.  I like the appearance of new body shape, though, with its slimmer limbs and more contoured face.  At just shy of 6 inches, this Blueberry is also taller than the earlier dolls, and comes across as a slightly older child. 


This doll has a great face.  Bandai struck a good balance between keeping the face simple, but also giving it enough definition and character to mirror the television character's personality.  I think the level of detail in her features matches her body and outfit really well.  She looks very friendly, modern, and relatable to me.  

If I could fix her matted hair and maybe wash some of the smell out, this Blueberry Muffin would be a fantastic little doll.


As for the real muffin...well, even though it smells nicer than all three of these dolls and can balance better than they can, it can't compete with the sweet faces, cute outfits and seemingly timeless charm of the Blueberry Muffin dolls.


But it was delicious.

31 comments:

  1. Fantastic review Emily! Could you do a review on Jenny? She is like Licca Chan but is a little different because she is 10 inches tall. I would really appreciate it.

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    1. Le Singing DuckieApril 13, 2015 at 9:51 PM

      Wasn`t Jenny originally Takara Barbie( a.k.a Anime Barbie)? I`d love a review of her, too! Mike Mozart did a video on one, but video reviews aren`t as in-depth as text reviews!

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    2. Agree, fantastic review. love to see part two. A review of Takara Barbie/Jenny would be nice in the future/

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  2. wow i remember the stuff from 2006-2009 wow the evolution of this doll blows me away it does make me feel old even though i am only 13

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  3. by the way emily are you going review recent blueberries that you included in a picture also has only noticed the evolution in my little pony amd littlest pet shop by the way have you seen miworld i have heard they mini american girl dolls

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  4. I used to have some Strawberry Shortcake dolls back in the day, probably a little after 2006, that had hard rubber hats and were very small. The look on the older dolls is really cute, so I may look into finding some of those cuties now c;

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  5. Fun review! I really like the Bandai dolls, but the Kenner dolls have cuter clothes( and better hair!) Have you heard about the new Ember doll? . They`re marketing her as an adventure doll, and I find it pathetic. Regardless of how they market her, Ember is still fashion doll, with her own wardrobe and accesories! I`m sure they`re just trying to make a quick buck after seeing Lammily`s success. Speaking of, there are pictures of new Lammily dolls! Blonde ones, dark ones, and even a redhead!

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    1. What's wrong with an adventure doll? Not every doll has to be the same fru fru fashion maven. It's simply a representation of a person.people are infinitely diverse and no all children (including girls) want a hyper feminine princessy doll. It's good to see more dolls like this, even if you may think they're derivitive.

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  6. Yay! Blueberry Muffin was my favorite Strawberry Shortcake doll. It is pretty neat seeing the original (that I had) next to the later versions.

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  7. I have no words for how much I love the fact that you included an actual muffin in the comparisons here!

    I came across a bin of Kenner Strawberry Shortcakes a few months ago - now I'm wishing I had paid more attention to them!

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  8. I mean like, the Muffin seems like a better deal to me. With 20 dollars you can get a lot more muffins and they don't need conditioning or anything like that! Just...maybe buy extra.

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  9. You should try soaking the Bandai doll's head in a fabric softener solution for a few hours, comb, rinse well and put it away to dry straight from the faucet while it's dripping wet and the curls are held together by water.

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  10. This is a great comparison review of the three Blueberry's (plus muffin!). I think the Kenner doll the looks the nicest, and was the one I was attracted to the most.
    But the Bandai looks just like my older niece, it's really weird :) I may have to hunt one up for her upcoming birthday.

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  11. Wow, now that's what I call a review! Can't for part 2.

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  12. Great review as always, Emily! Thanks for the link, too. And heavens, don't worry about "copying". There have been so many times that I've set out to do a post and have discovered that you've done the same thing. You and I have many similar interests in the doll world, so we're bound to do the same sorts of posts every once in a while. ;)

    I think it's fun when we do reviews on the same product, because we can each bring something unique to the table. ;)

    Like you, I love the Strawberry Shortcake line and find its history fascinating. It's incredible to me how many times the dolls have changed companies, and yet the line is still going strong. Well, strongish. I don't know about you, but I've had a horrible time finding any of the dolls from The Bridge Direct anywhere local. :(

    Can't wait for Part 2! :D

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  13. P.S. Like some of your other readers, I love the fact that an actual blueberry muffin is included in this review. And now I am craving a muffin for myself! ;)

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  14. I have the 70's Lemon Meringue and Apricot. I still prefer them and they still have their scents. A good friend had Blue so I didn't (our clever mums conveniently split up the collection amongst the girls in the neighborhood so there were few doubles and everyone had at least two dolls). I keep looking at the new ones, even when my girls were little, but they're just not the same...thanks for another GREAT review!

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    1. My mom also does this... but fortunatelly not in case of dolls, so I still have my Kenner's Strawbery Shortcake!

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  15. Wonderful review, thank you! I have the Bandai mermaid Blueberry Muffin and Strawberry Shortcake dolls somewhere, but I love the simple features of the earlier dolls!

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  16. I had all of the bandi mini dolls, about 2.5 inches in height!!! they didn't to my knowledge make blueberry in that size though. That's too bad because the bandi blueberry looks just like me hair and all! You should consider a review of the smaller dolls!

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  17. What a fun review! I can't wait to see the next part.
    The packaging on the Bandai doll is the same as what's on a shoebox that I still have from a pair of shoes I bought when I was probably about four or five years old. :) I never was super big on Strawberry shortcake dolls (My dad probably didn't want me to have them because of their scent...), but I did have an Orange Blossom from McDonalds that was just the most darling doll I had ever seen. I wish I could get her back... (although her articulation was pathetic with just her shoulders and hips having rotation, and she had a permanent hat on.) I still remember playing with her soft, curly, orange-scented hair. :) you can find her pretty easily on Ebay.
    Also, you made me want blueberry muffins, dangit! However one thing you didn't mention was the trouble of undressing them with the brown paper... they usually get stuck and sometimes break. D:
    I do wish you would still do a fairy godmother review, even if it's very brief at the end of the Frozen Fever one! :D I think the blue dress came in last because a lot of other blogs and youtube videos have compared the two. :)
    Great review, as always!

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  18. oh neat! and LOL - you are so bad for my wallet because that THQ version of Orange Blossom has been on my searches off and on and now I'm starting to want her again. of the 6 I see, I definitely have differences in favorites when it comes to dolls and characterizations. To me, the playmates cartoon & doll incarnations did a really nice job of balancing styles with personalities and giving each girl a niche but I find myself drawn to the THQ faces a bit more.

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  20. Hey I just wanted to let you know I enjoy the reviews and I learned a trick for dealing with difficult doll hair. You just need to soak it in a mix of cold water and Woolite, or any fabric softener, then rinse. It not only improves the hair but it keeps in waves and curls.

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  21. I hate frozen,it's the most useless film that already existed

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  22. Strawberry Shortcake was a huge part of my early childhood. I still have all my toys from the Kenner line, including most of the dolls in a strawberry-shaped carrying case. And my stuffed Custard The Cat I received at age 3 remains in my room to this day. :)

    I believe you're right about the holes in the feet having a purpose. I don't recall ever using them on the larger dolls (they wore tights and shoes after all). However there was a line of 2-3 inch static plastic figures that used pegs to hold them on place on the various playsets. My guess is the hole & peg design was popular during that time period then.

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  23. I would be wary of doing anything with the Bandai doll's hair. I had two of the Bandai Strawberrys, an Angel Cake and an Apple Dumpling. About a year ago I noticed that both Strawberrys had lost all their hair and Apple Dumpling had lost about half of hers, it had never been brushed or washed or anything!

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  24. Oh this was a nostalgia trip for me, especially the Kenner Blueberry. Now this is gonna sound odd, but I'm 16 and have many fond memories of the oldest Strawberry Shortcake dolls. My mom, who was a child when they came out, collected all but like, 4, of the characters (one of each) and she gave it to me and my two younger siblings when we were tiny. I do believe my first Strawberry Shortcake doll was one of the Bandai ones though so that section was also quite familiar (especially the bits about the TV show since I watched it back then). I dug out my own Kenner doll and followed along, looking over it along with the comments you made.

    I think I found the reasoning behind many of the Blueberry's hats you saw missing their blueberry decal thing! In the second wave (with the pets) the decal is glued on! I found glue residue and no decal on both of the vinal hats I found (Blueberry's and Huckleberry Pie's). I think your stitched one should hold up fine.

    I do agree on your points on the hair for both the Kenner and Bandai dolls. The rooting is horrible for the Kenner ones, even as a kid I noticed it. My Blueberry's hair is taken out of its pigtails currently (no clue when that happened since my sister always played with her (we each had specified dolls when we were little, not a lot of sharing)) and I have to agree on its inability to have much else done with it. In my personal opinion, the Kenner dolls shoes come off far too easily. And, I thought it'd be interesting to know, but not all the Kenner dolls have an angular mouth! My Strawberry doesn't at least, her's is rounded.

    I never had a Blueberry Bandai doll, but the Angel Cake I could find definitely has coarse hair.

    Now, I can share a horror story about the Bandai hair. My first of those dolls was a set with both Strawberry and Apple Dumpling. Sadly (and this didn't take long) all of Strawberry's hair fell out! Now when I was little, there was a bit of cringing that was soon shaken off and Strawberry was promptly turned into a boy, given the status of being my Kenner doll Strawberry's brother, handed off to my own brother, and renamed Strawberry Pie (don't ask me why that name was chosen, I've got no clue). Looking back now, I'm only glad little me had a brother who would play dolls with her and that neither of us minded all that much, because that is a horrible design. Oh! And they did make a Huckleberry Pie Bandai doll! I remember having one ages ago, it got lost though.

    So sorry for the wall of text, but these posts make me so excited and happy! Besides Mattel Winx dolls, Star Wars action figures, and the occasional Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake dolls took up a fair amount of my childhood playtime, so this has been a very (or should I say berry ;)?) nice experience for me! Thank you so much for doing this!

    (Sorry if this got published twice)

    -Vetus

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    1. All of MY Bandai Strawberry's hair fell out, too!! It's really quite horrifying... I think I got rid of her, but she might be in my basement... I kept finding gross little clumps of hair in with my old toys! Yuck!

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