Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Blueberry Muffin Retrospective--Part 2!

It's spring break here in Maine and there is visible (kinda green?) grass, a scattering of brave flowers, and a fair amount of sunshine.  It's pretty great.  Also, I am walking in normal shoes again for the first time since January, which is pretty amazing, too.  The walking came in handy this past week because my family spent the break looking at colleges for my eldest son...which is an exhilarating and terrifying experience, let me tell you.  Now we are back at home and I have finally found some time to finish the second part of my Blueberry Muffin marathon review.

In the first installment of this post, I looked at the debut Blueberry Muffin doll by Kenner, and also the Toy Head Quarters (THQ) and Bandai versions of the character.  Today I will review the Playmates, Hasbro and Bridge Direct dolls.  Hasbro has controlled the Strawberry Shortcake license for as long as I have been a blogger, so I've grown very accustomed to seeing those dolls in the store.  For this half of the review, I was eager to discover whether or not I like the newest Bridge Direct version of Blueberry Muffin as much as I like the familiar Hasbro doll.

I have also been looking forward to seeing the original Kenner Blueberry alongside her modern counterpart, which we can do right now to start things off:

Blueberry Muffin dolls from Kenner (left) and The Bridge Direct (right).
Here are the dolls in this review and a reminder of their place in the Strawberry Shortcake timeline:

Playmates: held the license from 2006-2009 and produced many waves of "World of Friends" dolls.
Hasbro: held the license from 2009-2014 and released several groups of dolls, including the "Garden Party" group.  This relaunch included a new computer-animated cartoon series.
The Bridge Direct: currently holds the license and (like Hasbro) is producing both 6" and 11" dolls.

From left: Playmates' "Candy Pops" doll, Hasbro's "Garden Party" doll and TBD's "Berry Best Friend" doll.
Here's a reminder of where we left off in the first part of this review:

From left: Kenner's first edition doll, THQ's "Berry Neat Eats" doll and Bandai's "Berry Best Friends" doll.
The Playmates doll is very different in appearance from the brown-haired Bandai doll that preceded her:

Playmates Blueberry Muffin doll

I wasn't thrilled to see the "blueberry and lollipop" scent advertised on the front of this box.  These dolls tend too easily towards over-sweet smells, and the addition of lollipop can only make that worse.


This doll comes with a small sheet of stickers and "fun pop-up hair."  I had no idea what pop-up hair was, but I was very curious to find out!


The back of the box is mostly lime-green in color with a photograph of the doll and some descriptive text:


The text describes how Blueberry's stickers and hair feature work:


Maybe it's just me, but saying things like, "Blueberry Muffin just loves her new look!" and, "the fruity fusion of fashion and flavors is sure to be a hit!" come across as a little insecure.  Almost like saying "you like this doll! You do!"

Still, it's pretty neat that the stickers actually go on the dress, and I was starting to get an idea about how the hair feature would work.


The bottom of the box has a small illustration of exactly how the hair mechanism works:



There's also a 2006 copyright...to help me keep my dates straight:


On the back of the box, down at the bottom, there are small photos of some of the other dolls in the Candy Pops group.  They all look really cute to me--especially Strawberry with her deep red hair:


Playmates produced more dolls during their short licensing period than I originally thought.  They had the Candy Pops dolls, but also at least six other waves, including the Beach Sweeties, Dancin' Cuties, Winter Berry Twist, Country Fun, Rockaberry Roll, Flavor Swirl and even some 15-inch play dolls and babies.

This company also made dolls from characters that are not typically seen, like Tea Blossom, Seaberry Delight, Banana Candy, Tangerina Torta, Apricot Berry and Frosty Puff (who looks just like Blueberry Muffin).

I might have to search out the Winter Berry Twist version of Strawberry Shortcake, because she is one of the very few dolls from this company that does not have thick bangs.  More about that in a minute--I'm getting ahead of myself.

The doll was displayed behind a plastic bubble attached to a cardboard backdrop with a raised base.  Here's the cardboard with the plastic and the doll removed:


The doll is wired to a plastic shell that also holds her accessories:


Here's a close-up of the stickers:


Unfortunately, these are permanently attached to their backing at this point.  Too much time in the box, I suppose.  Oh, well.  I was hoping to see if they would actually stick to the dress.

Blueberry also comes with a small brush.  Here she is out of the packaging:


The brush is a bit of a joke.  It's made out of slightly bendable vinyl, so it's pretty much useless for straightening the hair.  It doesn't even have a strawberry on it, just some generic swirls:

Meh.

Blueberry herself is very cute, though, and much taller than the other dolls I have looked at so far.  She is 7 inches tall:


She has thick, long, two-toned blue hair:


As I mentioned, this doll has dense bangs that curl out over her forehead:


The hair right behind the bangs is pulled into two banded ponytails with decorative plastic buttons sewn in at the top:


The bangs make it hard to see this doll's profile, but she has flat eyes, a small nose and some molded detail in her mouth and chin:


I tried to brush the bangs off to the side so that I could get a clear view of Blueberry's face.  The bangs are rooted into the head behind the primary hairline, so they stick out through the longer strands of hair.  You can see that a little here:


There's still a shadow over her face, though:


I love this doll's smiling eyes.


The concave curve at the bottom edge of the eye gives her such a happy look.  

The eyes are blue, but they appear very dark because of oversized pupils.  The super-small eyebrows look raised but sit fairly close to the eye:


The molded part of the mouth is a simple curved smile, but there's an oval area of painted (slightly sparkly) lips that give the mouth more definition.


The simplified lines of the mouth hint at the rag doll ancestry of this character, but few of her other features do.

I pulled the back of Blueberry's hair into a ponytail so that I could get a closer look at her face, and also so that I could try out the "pop-up" hair mechanism.


To get the bangs out of the way, I enlisted the help of the THQ Blueberry's checkered headband:



This gives a better view of Blueberry's head shape--especially her profile:



Now, let's test out this hair-pop feature:


Each of the banded ponytails has a pink ribbon coming out of the middle:


I gripped the ribbon and scrunched the ponytails up, like this:


Here's a close-up from one side:


The ribbons look a little funny hanging down out of these scrunched ponytails, but they can be used to tie the ponytails back...



...which I think looks nice:


Here's a little animation I made of the mechanism:


This isn't an especially fancy or complicated feature, but it is pretty clever.  I had to keep re-positioning the rubber bands on the ponytails, and I think the hair might get messy over time and have to be let down, but meanwhile it'll be fun to have this option.

The hair fiber itself feels smooth with a hint of synthetic stickiness.  It is densely rooted and thick throughout:


The hair smells like candy...but not in a good way.  It is, as predicted, overly sweet and not at all like blueberry.  It reminds me of cheap hard candy.  It is not my least favorite Blueberry Muffin smell, but I don't enjoy this scent and try not to get my face too close to the doll.  She makes me sniffle and want to sneeze.

Blueberry is wearing a 70s-inspired mini dress that reminds me of the Swirly Brites Cutie Pops dolls.


The dress has white painted lines on the front (where the stickers should have gone?) and a single permanent lollipop decoration:


It's a pretty small (short) dress, but the construction is decent and it is easy to get on and off.  I really like the style, but it's so grown-up compared to the outfits of the earlier Strawberry Shortcake dolls.


Blueberry is wearing short blue vinyl boots with this dress:


The boots have a very simple design, but they really help the doll balance.  Without her boots, Blueberry has a hard time standing up on her own.  A lot of this balancing difficulty is due to the weight of her hair pulling her backwards.

In an attempt to overcome the standing problem, I pulled Blueberry's hair straight up over her head, to shift her center of balance:

Not very pretty, but it works.
This doll has a plastic torso and hard vinyl limbs.  There's not much bend in her arms and legs, but they do flex a little.  She has five simple points of articulation...and white painted underpants:



She has a very straight profile (no tummy) and a large seam along her side:


Her back is marked with the Playmates and TCFC copyrights and has a 2006 date:


Blueberry's arms spin all of the way around with only slight interference from her head:


Her hips also have simple rotational movement, allowing her to sit on the ground with her feet straight ahead...


...and also to do partial front-to-back splits.  Her legs can't move as far backwards as they can forwards, so she is unable to do full splits or balance in this pose:


This doll's hands are very slender and delicate.  She has long, attached fingers with a realistic shape:


If she has molded fingernails, they're too faint for me to see.

Her feet have even more detail than her hands.  The toes are very realistic and even have little molded toenails:



Here's the Playmates Blueberry next to the earlier dolls:

From left: Kenner, THQ, Bandai and Playmates Blueberry Muffin dolls.
The Playmates Blueberry is significantly taller than any of her predecessors.  Her body is most reminiscent of the Bandai doll, with its rectangular torso shape and slender, realistic limbs.  To me, there is very little of the rag doll look left in the Candy Pops Blueberry.  It also seems like the Blueberry Muffin character is growing up--from the baby-like appearance of the Kenner doll to the tall, slender-limbed look of the Playmates doll.

This doll is large enough that she is starting to approach the size range of dolls like Lottie:

Lottie doll (left) and Playmates Blueberry Muffin (right).
Blueberry can wear Lottie's shirts and shoes, but the pants and skirts are loose around the waist:

Playmates Blueberry Muffin in Lottie doll clothing.
Just for reference, here is Blueberry next to a Madame Alexander Travel Friends doll and an American Girl BeForever mini:

From left: Madame Alexander Travel Friends Ireland doll, Playmates Blueberry Muffin, American Girl BeForever Kit.
Here are a few more pictures of Blueberry back in her full outfit:


I like this doll's face a lot.  I also think her two-toned hair is attractive and fun to play with, and I love her 70s style outfit.  I just wish that she didn't have bangs, she didn't smell (or she smelled nice), and that she was able to stand up better on her own.




The next doll I will look at is the Hasbro Blueberry Muffin--from the last wave of dolls that were on the shelves before The Bridge Direct took over the license.  

This is probably the most familiar version of the character to me.  Even though I remember the Kenner dolls from my childhood, I have spent much more time in toy stores in the last four year than I did when I was a kid (overcompensating?), and these are the dolls that I grew accustomed to seeing:


The Garden Pretty line came in yellow cardboard window boxes.


The box advertises a DVD, Blooming Garden Party, that came out in 2012:


The movie has the newer CGI style of animation which I think is from the same studio (20th Century Fox) as the Berryfest Princess movie that I watched while writing this review.  Well...I watched part of it, anyway.  I am not as fond of this newer television series as I am of the older Lionsgate cartoons.  The characters aren't as visually appealing to me and all of the bugs and fruits with faces are very strange...and a little trippy.

I do like the style of the art on the box, though.  There's a nice portrait of Blueberry:


There's also a photograph of the dolls in the Garden Pretty series.  I love the Orange Blossom in this group, and wish I had grabbed her while she was still $9.99.  Now (at least on Amazon) she's much pricier.  The Strawberry in this lineup doesn't look great in her picture.  I have seen the actual doll, though, and she looks a lot better.

There's a short description of Blueberry's book-loving personality on the back of the box, too:

That book sounds pretty lame.
Instead, she should have a book about how Rayleigh scattering makes the sky blue.

The doll is attached to a cardboard backdrop that slides right out of the main box.  The backdrop is decorated with a pop-out flower and bee that look really good:


The doll's torso is attached to the box with twine--making it look like she'll be really easy to get out:


She actually was pretty easy to get out, although it was a bit more complicated than releasing one piece of twine.  There were also a few clear rubber bands to cut, and her hair had to be pulled out of the plastic that it was stitched into.

Here she is--she does not come with any accessories:


This doll has blue hair, but it's a different shade of blue than the previous dolls.  Rather than a pastel blue, her hair is kind-of close to the color of actual blueberries:

Wild blueberries near Sydney

She has a braided section of hair on the right side of her head, and a small section underneath that which is tied back with a red rubber band.  The rest of her hair is loose and blunt-cut:


The hair smells a little bit like real blueberries, too.  I like the smell.  It might not be quite as nice as the Kenner doll's scent (which has a vaguely vanilla mellowness to it...) but it's very pleasant and does not make me sneeze.


The hair fiber has a wonderful feel.  It is silky smooth, shiny and thickly rooted.  Of all the Blueberry Muffin dolls I have seen so far, she has by far the best-feeling hair.  Also, the bang-free, loose style is very conducive to styling and play.


The braid is secured with a red rubber band that is also tied to the doll's right arm:


Unfortunately, the rubber band has stained the arm:


I think this girl has an adorable face.  She has the oval-topped eyes that were introduced with the THQ dolls, and the simple curved smile that is typical of most of the non-Kenner Strawberry Shortcake dolls:


Her eyes are glancing upward--which is another feature typical of all the different versions of this character:


Blueberry's eyebrows are very faint brown and appear slightly raised.  Her eyelashes and pupils are also brown (not black) which is one thing about her face that I do not like.


The brown color choice here just makes the eyes look faded.  Even if only the pupils were black, it would be a great improvement.


While the molded mouth on this doll is a simple curve, she has some fullness painted into her lips--in a style similar to the Playmates doll:


As with all of the Strawberry Shortcake dolls, this Blueberry has a profile with minimal contours.  In fact, she has less molded detail in her mouth region than the Playmates doll:


Here's her face again with the hair pulled back--and then a comparison to the other dolls I have looked at so far:




Some trends through time that I notice here are that the eyes keep getting bigger, the cheeks seem to be narrowing, and the mouths are getting increasingly realistic.  The freckles are gone for good.  Overall, the newer dolls seem older than the first few dolls.

Blueberry is wearing a little sundress with a tiered skirt:


She has painted purple leggings under her dress, and little vinyl sandals on her feet:


The dress has a few blueberry references: a plastic blueberry button on the neckline and a polka dotted layer in the skirt.  Now that I think of it, all of the Blueberry Muffin dolls I own since Kenner and THQ have had polka dots somewhere in their outfits.  It's a neat connection.


The dress has pink ribbon straps and a matching belt.  It closes in back with velcro:


The sandals have molded treads on the bottom and the right shoe has a strawberry:


The shoes also have molded bows on the top that look like butterflies:


This doll has better balance than the Playmates doll, but I still needed to pile her hair on top of her head in order for her to stand on her own:


Her painted leggings transition into purple molded underwear.  It's a little odd that the print of the underpants is visible--since underpants are meant to go underneath leggings--but I suppose this same mold was used for dolls that did not have painted legs.  I'd actually love to find one of those dolls since I am not a huge fan of painted clothing.

This doll has a rectangular hard vinyl torso and slightly bendable vinyl limbs.  She has five points of articulation, but unlike the previous dolls, this Blueberry has rotating hinge shoulders.  Hurrah!


Her back has the Hasbro copyright and a bunch of numbers--no date:


I think the addition of hinges at the shoulder makes a big difference.  Not only can this doll spin her arms around, but she can stretch them out and lift them up and down.



She has a very angled hip joint (with no hinge):


Like the Playmates doll (and like most people...) she can't kick as far backwards as she can forwards:


She can sit on the ground with her feet straight out...


...and to do full front-to-back splits.  She has trouble balancing in this position, but it's not because of her hip flexibility (like it was with the Playmates doll), it's because of her large feet and short arms:


This Blueberry has holes in the bottoms of her feet--just like the earliest dolls.  This girl also has a strawberry mark on her right foot.


Blueberry's hands and feet are more simplified than what we saw on the Playmates doll.  Also, the shape of this Blueberry's body is more like the Kenner and THQ dolls', with thick legs, large feet and short-fingered hands.



Here is the Hasbro doll side-by-side with the Playmates doll so you can see what I mean:

It's like she got older...and now she's getting younger again.
And here are all five of the dolls I've looked at so far:


And, as usual, the Bandai doll is causing all kinds of balancing headaches.

Thud.
The biggest trend I notice here is that while Bandai and Playmates seemed to be trying to move away from the rag doll look, Hasbro shifted their design a little bit back in that direction.  Also, at six inches tall, the Hasbro Blueberry is back to being a more similar height to the earlier dolls.

The Hasbro Blueberry's height and body shape are in a similar range to dolls like Barbie's Chelsea and the Moxie Girlz Friends mini doll:


There's a fair amount of clothes-sharing possible among these dolls, although the fit isn't perfect or reliable:

Moxie Girlz mini wearing Blueberry Muffin's dress
and Blueberry wearing Barbie Chelsea's dress
Here are a few more pictures of this sweetie:


This doll has wonderful hair, an endearing face, and an easy-to-use, attractive outfit.  She balances well and I love her hinged shoulders.  She smells better than most of the Blueberry Muffin dolls, too. I actually enjoy sniffing her hair.  The only things I don't love about this doll are her facial screening (her pupils are too light) and her painted leggings.  I am glad, though, that the paint on her legs doesn't extend to her feet.  I don't mind that she is without an accessory.  I have plenty of plastic brushes.


Here, at last, is the newest version of Blueberry Muffin, made by The Bridge Direct:


She comes in a relatively small blister pack with primarily red and green decorations. 

As an aside, The Bridge Direct might sound familiar because they are the company that brought us the unique and too-quickly-discontinued Pinkie Cooper:


I guess a lot of people think Pinkie and her friends are too strange, but I still think they're fantastic.

Anyway, back to Blueberry's packaging: the front of the box has a cardboard display that shows the CGI Strawberry, looking nice:


The back of the package has photographs of the four dolls in this series--Blueberry, Lemon, Strawberry and Cherry:

Looking a little spacey, I think.
And another picture of Strawberry that is identical to the one on the front:


These four dolls each come with pet dogs that match the pets in the 20th Century Fox cartoon--different pets from the ones in the Lionsgate cartoons.  Pupcake's name is the same as it was in the older television show, but his coloration is completely different. The other characters have new pets.



Actually, Cherry Jam is a new character for 2009, so it's not accurate to say that she has a new pet.  She's always had CinnaPup.

Blueberry comes with her husky puppy, Scouty, and a plastic comb:



The doll and her accessories pop right out of their molded plastic holder, and would easily win a best packaging contest...except for the fact that Blueberry's hair is sewn into one of those dreaded plastic strips.  And the hair doesn't just pull right out like it did with the Hasbro doll.


The comb is gimmicky and not very useful--although it's better than the Playmates doll's bendable brush.  It's in a vaguely strawberry shape:


Scouty the dog is really sweet.  He is made out of hard vinyl and has painted features:




Scouty's collar tag isn't painted very well, though, so it's a little hard to tell that it's meant to be a blueberry with a single green leaf:


This little dog actually has one point of articulation--his head can swivel around:


The screening of the eyes is lopsided, though, so it's hard to get this guy to look at the camera:


Blueberry stands very well on her own.  This was a nice surprise given how many of these dolls tip over too easily.  Her electric blue hair isn't great, though.  First of all, it comes out of the package with a huge kink in the back because of the plastic strip:


The hair is also unevenly cut with bits falling out.  This is especially noticeable in the back.

The doll has shorter sections of hair around her face that are plastered into rock-like hardness with an overabundance of styling product.


The hair is decorated with a blue plastic headband:


The headband has a blueberry decoration with a modern design:


Here's the hair again without the headband:


The hair is riddled with kinks and the fiber doesn't feel great--especially after handling the Hasbro doll's silky tresses.  This hair has a synthetic feel and the fibers don't bend well, if that makes sense.  The hair is stiff and doesn't have natural movement like the Hasbro doll's hair.  

The hair doesn't smell very good, either.  It's not as bad as the Candy Pops doll's over-sweet scent, but it has a strong fruity odor with a chemical after-smell that I find very off-putting. 

The hair is rooted pretty well, but the hair plugs are not as dense or evenly-placed as they are on the Playmates and Hasbro dolls.


Blueberry's hair parts on the left side, and this provides a little gap through which one eye and eyebrow can be seen clearly:


The eyes are extremely large, but they are nicely screened.  The pupils are a deep, true black and the iris has a cool pixelated gradient of light and dark blue.  I especially like that this doll's eyebrows are blue--appropriate for a girl with blue hair!


The nose is typically tiny and the smile is a simple curve with painted fullness to the lips. These painted lips have a more realistic shape than the Playmates or Hasbro dolls' lips:


Here are all of the Blueberry faces together:



The eye-enlarging trend continues with the Bridge Direct doll.  Her eyes are enormous--and spaced really far apart.  The face-narrowing trend seems to have reversed, though, as the newest doll has wide cheeks and a face shape more similar to the Bandai Blueberry than the Hasbro doll.  The newer dolls still seem older than the original Kenner doll, but the Playmates character might be the height of maturity.  The Bridge Direct Blueberry has features that could be perceived as younger than her immediate predecessors.

While the basic mouth shape of the Bridge Direct doll is similar to the others, the molded contours around her mouth have changed to give her an upper lip that sticks out rather than tucking in.  I think this gives her smile a different quality.  This feature is probably easiest to see in profile.  Here's Blueberry with her hair pulled back:


And here's the Hasbro doll for a contrast:


Blueberry is wearing a one-piece dress that looks like it is a skirt, shirt and cardigan.  The dress is all one piece of fabric in the back, though:


The cardigan has a small blueberry decal on one side:



I like that the polka dot theme continues with this doll, peeking through on the inner shirt area:




This doll has green and white stockings like the very first Blueberry Muffin doll, but these stockings are painted right onto the legs:


She is wearing little slipper-like shoes with blueberry decorations that kind-of match the headband:



Blueberry has a hard vinyl body with five points of articulation (and she stands well, even without her shoes):


The painted tights look pretty funny in the foot region:


I like that this doll has solid green paint in the underpants region of her torso, though.  This looks less strange than the purple underpants/leggings of the Hasbro doll:


The paint in this area is sloppy, though:


The doll is marked on the back of her neck with The Bridge Direct and TCFC copyrights.  The TCFC copyright (which is "Those Characters From Cleveland"--the American Greetings toy division) will likely not appear in future releases, because American Greetings sold the brand to Iconix this year.


Happily, this Blueberry also has hinged rotation in her shoulder joints:

Yay!

This doll has very elaborately-sculpted hands, especially when compared to other Strawberry Shortcake dolls.  The left hand is slightly cupped with one separated finger:


The fingers on the right had are even more bent--as though the doll could hold something in that hand:


This doll's hip joints act very similarly to the Hasbro doll's hips.  In fact, at first I thought that these dolls must share a body.  As you can see, though, the shapes are subtly different:


The Bridge Direct carried over a lot of good things from the Hasbro design, though.


Blueberry can sit on the ground with her feet straight out:


She also has a strawberry mark on her right foot:


And she can even balance nicely in full front-to-back splits:


Here are all of the Blueberry Muffin dolls together:


The Hasbro and Bridge Direct dolls are very similar in size and proportion.  The biggest differences in these most recent dolls are their facial screening, head shape, and hand shape.

As I posed The Bridge Direct doll, I found that her hands often looked out-of-place...even claw-like in some cases.  The hands are realistic, but I don't think that look really suits the style of Strawberry Shortcake.  I think Hasbro got it right here.


The Hasbro and Bridge Direct dolls can share clothes nicely....


...including shoes, although The Bridge Direct shoes are tight on the Hasbro doll and the Hasbro shoes are a little big on The Bridge Direct doll:


After I got most of the pictures I needed, I decided to try and get the hard styling product out of Blueberry's hair.  I wanted to avoid a boil wash, so I used one of the combs from the earliest dolls to try and comb the stuff out.  

This was not easy, and resulted in some transitional stages with a ton of doll dandruff:



These little flakes got everywhere.


I finally managed to comb the worst of it out:


With the bangs softened, I was able to use the headband to push all of the hair away from Blueberry's face:

I love her eyebrows.
This gives a much better view of her face and profile.



Sadly, when I removed the headband...the hair stayed where it was!

That windswept look.
Here are a few more picture of Blueberry and Scouty:


The upward-glancing eyes on these Blueberry Muffin dolls are a little frustrating.  To get the dolls to look at the camera, I had to shoot from the top looking down:

Hello, camera!
A straight shot of this pose would look like this:

Hello, clouds!
I imagine that this eye placement is for a good reason.  Perhaps it allows for a better connection between the doll and a child who is playing with her?  If the dolls are on the ground and the child is leaning over to play, the dolls will appear to be looking up at the kids, maybe?  I don't know.  


I have to say, The Bridge Direct doll is a bit disappointing to me.  I think her face is too exaggerated (or maybe I'm just not used to it yet?), her hair is scraggly and over-styled, and her painted tights looks weird.  I really like the modern style of her outfit, but the shortcut design is underwhelming...though easy to use.  The screening on her face is great, and she has some of the best eyes in the group (if only they were smaller).

When I first saw the new dolls in the Strawberry Shortcake section of my Toys R Us, I felt a jolt of alarm.  With so many similarities to the familiar Hasbro crew, the new large eyes, brighter colors and more angular faces seemed almost frighteningly wrong.  My reaction to the Blueberry doll in person is much better--but I still prefer the look and feel of the Hasbro doll.  *Update: a comment on Facebook got me thinking more about this.  I bet every time the Strawberry Shortcake license has changed hands, the new dolls got a bad first reaction from a lot of people.  Fans get attached to the characters as they are and it's hard to see them change!  I'll have to come back and review a Bridge Direct doll in a year or so.

Anyway, here's a shot of Blueberry with her cousin, Pinkie Cooper:


To me, Pinkie Cooper is a much more interesting doll.

Now that I have looked at a representative sample from each company that's tackled the Blueberry Muffin character over the last 35 years, I'll try and make some closing conclusions.  I'll do this by presenting awards, because who doesn't love an award ceremony?  Here are the categories:

Best/worst accessory        
Best/worst hair color         
Best/worst hair (overall)       
Best/worst scent                
Best/worst face                  
Best/worst outfit                
Best/worst articulation       
Best/worst body design      
Most unique (in overall design)
          
...and finally, my personal favorite and least favorite. 

Please jump in and tell us your choices!  Some of these decisions were tough and I'd love to hear what you think.


I'll get some easy things out of the way first:

Best/worst accessory: the best accessory award goes the The Bridge Direct for their little dog figure.  No contest.  Worst accessory should really be Hasbro (since there was no accessory) but I'll have to go with Playmates, for their flimsy pink brush.

Best accessory: The Bridge Direct.  Scouty the wonky-eyed husky.
Worst accessory: Playmates.  Flimsy, the useless brush.

(No accessory): Hasbro

Adorable Scouty...and a bunch o' brushes.
Best/worst hair color: I also think that this award is easy--although there's good cause to argue with me here.  I like the Hasbro doll's hair color best.  She has a very unique, blueberry-like shade of blue.  However, I'd understand anyone who preferred the lighter blues that are more true to the original art.  My least favorite color is the electric blue of the Bridge Direct doll.  I don't dislike it, but it's neither true to the original nor is it like a blueberry.

Best hair color: Hasbro.  Almost like a real blueberry.
Worst hair color: The Bridge Direct.  Makes my eyes hurt.

Hair colors: THQ, Playmates, Hasbro, The Bridge Direct.
Best/worst hair (overall): the best and worst hair category took into consideration the hair fiber and the hairstyle--not the hair's color or smell.  Choosing a winner here was easy for me.  The Hasbro doll's hair feels the best and has a lovely shine.  The Hasbro doll's hairstyle is also the most versatile.  This hair invites play and is fun to play with.  


Picking a worst here was harder.  The Bandai doll has a tangled mess of coarse hair.  However, the curly brown hair looks nice in many pictures, making me like it more than I should.  The Kenner and THQ dolls have such sparsely-rooted hair, they also have to be in the running for worst.  I really like their hairstyles, though--so cute and youthful.  The Bridge Direct doll has way too much styling gel, a bad haircut, and hair fiber that doesn't feel great to me.  Even the Playmates doll didn't escape being considered for worst hair (albeit briefly) because of her huge bangs.  I narrowed this down to The Bridge Direct vs. Bandai, and had to go with the Bandai in the end.  There's just no good way to play with that doll's hair, and it looks really bad from the back.

Best hair overall: Hasbro.  Silky and simple.
Worst hair overall: Bandai.  Rat's nest of unusual size.

The contenders for worst hair.
Best/worst scent: the contenders for best scent were the Hasbro doll and the Kenner doll.  I don't really enjoy smelling any of the others.  After a lot of sniffing back and forth, I decided to give the win to Kenner.  Nothing beats the subtle, vanilla-tinged fragrance of that doll.  I might like her best because the smell has been mellowing for a few decades, but there you have it.

The worst smell, again, was harder to pick.  I dislike the different smells for varied reasons.  For example, the Playmates doll's smell is too strong, but it's not unpleasant.  It also makes me sneeze--as does the Bandai doll.  The THQ doll, on the other hand, smells truly bad.  It's almost gag-worthy.  The Bridge Direct doll smells ok...until a chemical scent creeps into the mix, and then it's pure bad.  I decided to go with the smell that isn't good for even a second: THQ.

Best scent: Kenner.  Can't beat the original!
Worst scent: THQ.  Chemical yuckiness.

Best smell: Kenner.  Worst smell: THQ
Best/worst face: this was tough.  I like all of these dolls' faces at some level, so I hate to even use the word "worst."  So...let's say we're looking for the cutest face and the sixth cutest face.  

Strong contenders for cutest were Kenner and Hasbro.  Probably this is because I have a nostalgic connection to the rag doll, babyish face of the original, and because the Hasbro face has become so familiar to me over the last four years.  I love both of these dolls and their faces.

Cute face, for sure.
The thing is, I also love the Playmates doll's face--especially her happy eyes.  She makes me smile every time I look at her.  She may not look like the original American Greetings art, or like any of the cartoons...and it's hard to see her face under those imposing bangs...but I think she (surprisingly) has my favorite face.


For the "sixth cutest face," it was between the THQ doll and The Bridge Direct.  The THQ doll just doesn't have a solid look of her own.  As I mentioned before, she's a bit like a repainted Kenner doll without as much charm.  The Bridge Direct doll's face doesn't sit well with me for similar reasons: this doll's body is a lot like the familiar Hasbro character, making her oversized eyes, wide cheeks and pushed-out mouth area seem startlingly wrong in some scenarios.  I think her profile is especially odd.  Still, The Bridge Direct has done a nice job of likening their doll to the cartoon character, so they get points for that.  They also get points for high-quality facial screening.

Best face: Playmates.  She smizes.
Sixth best face: THQ.  Just another cute face.

Runners up for best (left) and worst (right) face.
Best/worst outfit: choosing a best outfit is hard, too, because the outfits are so different.  There's also a lot of personal taste involved here.  I like the Kenner doll's simple, pinafore-like outfit with her thick striped knit tights.  I also like the Hasbro doll's easy-to-use summery dress (although I don't love the painted leggings).  I admire the Bandai doll's detailed pants outfit, with its little socks, shoes and large hat.  I'd probably wear the Playmates doll's 70s mini dress.  I am not as crazy about the THQ doll's outfits (the tights barely fit on...), nor the shortcut design of the Bridge Direct dress.  Tough call, but I'll go with:

Best outfit: Hasbro.  Pretty....and so easy to play with.
Worst outfit(s): THQ.  Frumpy...and so hard to play with.


Best/worst articulation: best in this category goes to either the Hasbro doll or The Bridge Direct's doll...because of the hinged shoulders.  The Bridge Direct wins because the doll has better balance and can even balance in her front-to-back splits.  Worst articulation goes to Bandai.  The joints are similar in design to many of the other dolls, but the overly flexible limbs make her harder to pose, balance and dress.

Best articulation: The Bridge Direct.  Shoulder articulation and balance!
Worst articulation: Bandai.  Thud.


Best/worst body design: for body design, I looked at not only the shape of the body, but also at how the different parts fit together into a cohesive image.  I also considered balance, even though this was on my mind when I was thinking about articulation, too.  I really like the original body design, but mostly because it does such a nice job of conveying the idea of a rag doll without being too literal.  The more recent dolls aren't necessarily trying to achieve this rag doll look--many of them were modeled after cartoon characters.  I tried to take these different objectives into consideration.  My favorite bodies are the originals (Kenner and THQ) and the latest ones (Hasbro and The Bridge Direct).  I like the more recent bodies slightly better and think Hasbro--with their hand and head shape--did a better job than Bridge Direct of creating a cohesive design.  My least favorite body is the Bandai body.  I don't like the flimsy limbs and top-heavy proportions.

Best body design: Hasbro.  Everything works.
Worst body design: Bandai.  Thud.


Most unique (in overall design): several of these companies clearly looked at past versions of Blueberry Muffin and re-used ideas.  THQ used the same body as Kenner, and even re-imagined the first edition doll's outfit.  Similarly, The Bridge Direct seems to have kept major parts of the body design similar to what Hasbro introduced.  This continuity is nice.  Companies like Bandai and Playmates, however, did their own thing a bit more, and I feel like that's worthy of recognition.  Bandai dramatically changed the body on their dolls, gave Blueberry Muffin brown, curly hair...and put her in pants.  She remains the only version of this character to have brown hair and pants.  Almost everything about the Playmates doll is unique, too.  Her smiling eyes, body shape, height, two-toned pop-up hair and groovy outfit are unlike any of the other Blueberry Muffin dolls.  These two are marching to their own beat.

Most unique: Bandai 


But which doll is my personal favorite...and which one is yours?  

Well, I suppose it won't come as much surprise that my two favorites are the Kenner doll and the Hasbro doll.


These two are both so endearing to me, and together they capture the marked evolution of Blueberry Muffin throughout most of my life.


The full evolution of the character, however, is only seen by looking at the Kenner Blueberry next to The Bridge Direct doll...and this is fascinating, too:


At one level, the two dolls could not be more different, but they have subtle similarities linking them together--things I might never have noticed if I hadn't taken the time to explore the lineage of this enduring character.


I might wistfully wish that the Strawberry Shortcake license had stuck with Hasbro (and I'll certainly be searching out a few more dolls from that company...and from Playmates, too) but I am also excited to see how this doll will transform in the future--and how The Bridge Direct's new design might shape some of that change.  I hope the next 35 years will bring us six more versions of Blueberry Muffin to enjoy.

28 comments:

  1. My favorite? Oy, that's tough, hmm... well I have to say, and this might come as a shock, but I really love the Bridge Direct doll. I just really love her huge eyes (my motto for dolls is, the bigger the eyes, the better), but the Kenner doll is definitely second. I just wish I could find the Bridge Direct dolls, but the last time I saw one was at a Toys R Us that has since closed down. Oh well you win some you lose some. Great review though, Emily! But now I'm craving blueberry muffins...

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    1. I am glad The Bridge Direct won your vote! I was feeling bad that I didn't like her as much as I'd hoped. I certainly wish the best for that company--they won me over with Pinkie Cooper. The large eye phenomenon actually has a scientific reason, as perhaps you know. We like big-eyed things because they remind us of babies. :D I think that's why I am so drawn to Boston terriers.

      Toys R Us is definitely the place to find these cuties, although the stock (at least around here) is varied...there's usually no Blueberry or Lemon. I went with Amazon, although I do understand why online ordering might be unappealing. It's so nice to see the dolls before you buy!

      Thank you for sharing your favorite!

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  2. I like the Bridge Direct. Because they Have the Cutest of them All

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    1. Another vote for The Bridge! Maybe I just need to get used to the new face? I am glad you like them. They do resemble the cartoon characters very well. :D

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  3. "Worst hair overall: Bandai. Rat's nest of unusual size." I see what you did there. ("I don't believe they exist!")
    Personally, I think Playmates has the cutest face. The eyes are soft and endearing, whereas the Bridge Direct looks a bit otherworldly and hyperactive. (HI. PLEASE PLAY WITH ME. LOOK INTO MY EYEBALLS. LOOK!) I really like the Bandai choice of hair color, I just wish it were a more soft fiber that you could play with. I still would love to see what happens if you boil washed and conditioned it. (Although I understand wanting to keep a slightly more vintage doll in good condition.)
    Out of all the Strawberry Shortcake dolls you would think Blueberry would be my favorite, with blue being my favorite color (well, actually I prefer turquoise, but blue is nice too.), but I still have such strong ties to the Orange Blossom doll from McDonalds.
    Anyways, back to the topic at hand, this was a great review, Emily! I loved seeing the changed throughout the years and hearing your opinions. Now you have a tiny army of blueberries!

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    1. The rat comment was obscure...but I figured someone would get it. ;D

      The Playmates Blueberry really was a great surprise! After reading about how unpopular those dolls were, I expected my doll to be underwhelming. The lollipop smell didn't raise my expectations. She's so cute, though, and has such a lovely, warm smile! I also love her hair (except for the bangs) and her outfit. And I agree that TBD doll looks otherworldly next to her.

      I hear what you're saying abut Orange Blossom, too. After looking at all of these dolls, the three I would most like to find are:
      1. The original Strawberry
      2. The Playmates Strawberry with no bangs
      3. The Hasbro Orange Blossom

      (I need to look up the Orange Blossom from McDonalds...)

      I do have an army of Blueberries! How fun! :D I bet I can find a way to work my herd into future reviews....

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    2. Here's an ebay listing for the Orange Blossom and a Strawberry Shortcake. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Strawberry-Shortcake-Orange-Blossom-Doll-2007-McDonalds-3-Girls-TCFC-/121299725286?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c3e06ebe6
      The hat would drive me nuts now, but my little 9 year old self didn't mind too much. :P

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  4. My two favorites are definitely Kenner and The Bridge Direct. The first just seems so classic and sweet, and despite the bad hair I really like The bridge Directs face and outfit better that most the others. I also like the color... Maybe I just like neon hair. Anyway, great review as always Emily! I'd love to see this exact thing with a different character! I always loved Lemon and Orange :)
    ~Pabu

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    1. It's almost impossible not to love the Kenner doll, isn't it? She is so adorable. I feel like I am missing something with The Bridge Direct dolls, but I'm glad that they have a good reception. Neon hair IS fun. ;)

      I feel drawn into the Strawberry Shortcake world, wanting to do more reviews, too! I also like Lemon and Orange...and even Strawberry herself with her freckles and red hair. I have a lot of catching up to do with this franchise. For now, though, I need a little break...at least my nose does! :D

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  5. This was fun to read on a Sunday morning. Nice to hear you are able to walk around with normal shoes too !!
    My heart goes with Kenner - still have Angel Cake from my childhood. I haven't been to a Toys R Us in ages so I haven't seen recent dolls in a long time. I'm glad that they are still around honestly.
    What made me smile though was reading about your not getting Blueberry at a younger age so now that you are a adult you "bought them all." I think alot of us can relate to that !!
    A treat as always,
    Tina

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    1. Thank you, Tina! Yeah, overcompensating is a dangerous thing, isn't it? :) It's like how I couldn't have a real horse as a kid...so I had 250 plastic models. Sigh.

      The Kenner dolls have such a youthful sweetness to them--they're almost like little babies that need love and affection. The newer dolls seem more grown-up and sassy...which is nice in it's own way, but hard to compare to the innocence of the first dolls.

      That's so neat that you still have your Angel Cake! I'd love to see what she smells like. Angel food cake is another one of my passions...perhaps stemming from the fact that I had very few sweet foods as a kid? But that's another story.... ;)

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  6. Thanks Emily for another wonderful and thorough review. My personal favorites are the original Kenner and The Bridge Direct. I have the Berry Best Friends Strawberry Shortcake because I had to have Cupcake the pup. Love those green ears. Scouty came in a close second though because it reminded me of the blue dog George Rodrigue, the artist, used in his paintings.

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  7. The Bridge Direct, Kenner, and Bandai are my favorites. In that particular order. I just find the Bridge Direct one to be the most adorable overall (I'm a sucker for big eyes). I love the Kenner one for her originality (for the time...) and her now "vintage" look. I like the Bandai one purely because I used to watch the cartoon a lot as a kid. The DVD cases were pink, I had to watch them!

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  8. My favorite was the Bandai. I know she wasn't a great doll quality wise, but she's the same type I used to have when I was growing up, and she looks the cartoon I grew up with. I used to have Strawberry and Gingersnap (and possibly a few others) when I was a kid and I loved them!

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  9. My favourite is the pretty Playmates face. I was never into Strawberry Shortcake, but I like the Playmates dolls. The slightly elephantine legs of the Hasbro and Bridge Direct dolls remind me of Bratz Kidz.

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  10. I had some of the original Strawberry Shortcake dolls (and a few of the collectable items), and I'm really taken with the faces on the Bridge Direct versions. I even bought one of them awhile back, and while I have to agree that the hair isn't the best, I think the faces on them are really endearing and look more appealing than the tiny, almost beady-eyed faces on the earlier dolls. While the 'rag doll' look of the characters in the early artwork (greeting cards, etc.) was cute, I didn't think it translated all that well to the vinyl dolls.

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  11. Have you been pulling the plastic out of the hair or reverse? The way to take them out is to rip the plastic strips apart to break the stitching. Fun too, unless you haven't mastered it yet. :D

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    1. I was going to make the same comment! The stitched together plastic bands are probably my favorite doll hair holding device used in boxed dolls - because it's so easy to remove and does so much less damage than rubber bands or sticky tape. And... Yeah, it's fun. I love the zzzt! sound it makes when you yank. It's like bubble wrap for me XD Emily - Just grab each of the open ends and yank them apart :D

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  12. My favorite is, of course, the Kenner doll. You just can't beat the original toys of just about any 80s line. It was such a great era for toys. I also like the look of the THQ dolls for sticking so close to the original. I did buy one of the THQ dolls when they first came out, because I thought they were a decent effort at bringing back an iconic toy (unlike the 90s efforts to bring back Care Bears and My Little Pony - ew). The Bandai one can jump off a cliff, because that's just wrong to mess with a cherished character that much. Boooooo. The others are... Well, I consider them all "Modern Strawberry Shortcake" and can't really compare them to the original dolls, because they'd all lose. I feel like, at this point, they're running on their own steam and no longer count as an 80s nostalgia brand - which is good for the company and today's kids, but not so great for 80s toy enthusiasts (like me). However, I must say I find the Bridge Direct dolls intriguing and appealing in their own right - and I'm even a little tempted to add one to my collection. Would love to see a review of one of the 11" dolls, as those are probably the ones I would consider adding. The Styling Doll seems to even have jointed elbows - although if they're worth it or not is another matter altogether.

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  13. What a wonderful review. I'd have to go with the kenner (the one I grew up with) and the Hasbro as well. I'm tempted to find the Kenner in ebay just to take a wiff of her!

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  14. I know what you said about the eyes getting larger....but Ive been looking at the strawberry shortcake dolls on ebay since this review and I think I see a "sleeper" in my future.... :) least favorite thq with bridge direct the runner up.

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  15. Well, my daughter desperately wants the current doll. I suppose I shall be making a trip to Toys R Us tomorrow. :) I actually do like the eyes.

    When they rebooted the show, I was pretty upset. It wasn't the original I grew up with! But it's cute.

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  16. Wow that review brought back so much nostalgia for me.

    Have you heard of the horse being brought out by Asmus Toys? It is 1/6 scale and has 15 points of articulation! I'm looking forward to it. :)

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  17. I didn't realize the dolls have changed so much. I remember Strawberry Shortcake from the 80s but I never really kept up with the franchise. I didn't mind the revamp from the early 2000s as much as the latest revamp. All the girls just look so generically pretty now, and I think they are the least charming or interesting. That said, out of the doll versions I like the Bandai and the Playmates versions the most because their face's have the most character. 3rd would be the Bridge Direct version for her cartoonish appearance. When it comes to character design, I have to give it to the original.

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  18. I love the THQ doll, probably because that's the incarnation of the Strawberry Shortcake gang I actually remember (I was born about the time the first wave of Strawberry-love died down). Her face looks more like the cartoons, as I recall. Plus, soft hat beats vinyl hat every time. The only thing that could make her better is if she had the Kenner doll's clothes and scent!

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  19. I love the kenner doll for it's position of original but can't stand the pigtails....(personal preference there).
    I think my favorite is the Playmates, , just like the overall look of the doll. I have the candy pops version of Blueberry.
    I have 22 strawberry shortcake dolls and love them all. Mostly got them from thrift stores and cleaned them up.
    I did purchase the Strawberry Shortcake from The Bridge Direct at a WAl-Mart before they disappeared from the shelves! I have a picture of my collection at pleasentpossibilities.wordpress.com

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  20. The only doll I have today of this line is a Bridge Direct (Bandai here in Spain) Cherry Jam, and I have to say that she's not that bad (in fact, i picked her over Lemon, because Lemon's scent made me cry right in the store). Yes, I had to wash her a bit because of the hair, but once washed, her hair stays in its original stye quite nicely, and the smell is not as strong as it was before. In fact, a year later, her scent is still there.

    I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only one who has problems with scented toys, and I also have a small allergy to the hair product they put in most of the dolls (forcing me to wash them or lock them away), so yeah, I had to be careful with this doll.

    I also have another one, which is a doll that turns into a cupcake, and since I wanted to see how they work (they're displayed as the cupcake form in the box) I had to pick a smell that wouldn't bother me too much. I picked chocolate, the weakest smell out of all of them. Guess what: it bothers me. I hope that with time the smell will go away a bit.

    Welp, amazing review as always, I wish I could have one of the original 70's dolls. they're so cute.

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I value and welcome all opinions, but comments with abusive or offensive language will be deleted.