Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday Surprise: Sweet e.Baby From Playmates!

I've been having an incredible amount of fun hunting around for surprise dolls.  The really good ones are rare, but exhilarating to find.  I think the most intriguing examples I've found so far have been vintage items, many from the mid to late 1990s.  Today's doll, the Sweet e.Baby from Playmates Toys, is no exception to that rule.  This baby is from 1999 and features a computer CD containing...wait for it...the baby's secret gender and name!  Oh, yay!

I have no idea how I got lucky enough to find this gem.  I was browsing eBay for a Magic Nursery doll (coming soon!) and I stumbled on the auction for this little one.  I'd never seen this type of doll  before and I haven't been able to find another one for sale anywhere.  I paid $45, which seemed like a fair deal given the doll's scarcity.  I couldn't find any substantive information about this brand online.  There are two pictures of dolls in their boxes--but that's it.  It's almost like they never existed.

So, to put yourself in the mood for this review, think back (those of you who are old enough...) to 1999 and try to remember what the computer world was like back then.  That was the iBook "Clamshell" era for Apple laptops--when portable computers weighed 7 pounds.  It was before Stardoll, before Webkins, before Facebook.  1999 was also the heyday of Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin and Eminem.  It was the year The Matrix came out--along with Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace and The Sixth Sense.  It was before reality television, and in an age when kids were still excited about vinyl Pokemon figures.  With all of that in mind, let's travel back in time and uncover this mysterious baby's seventeen-year-old secrets:

Sweet e.Baby doll and CD from 1999.
To me everything about this doll is a treasure--including the box.  The box is covered in text.  It probably took me twenty minutes to read everything.  The text makes it clear that in 1999, there was no frame of reference for a computer-related baby doll.  Playmates couldn't just say, "baby has its own website!" with a link slapped somewhere on the box.  Dolls with websites are so ubiquitous now, it's easy to forget that they haven't always been the norm.

The question on the front of the box is just as compelling now as it was back in 1999, though: is it a boy or a girl??

And another burning question: Mac or PC?
I noticed right away that the pictures on the box show a baby with hair (a lot of hair!) while my baby looks bald.  Maybe there's a hair surprise hiding under that hat, too?

No doll batteries needed!
As a testament to my naive (optimistic?) nature, I bought this doll without worrying about the computer system requirements.  I saw "Mac OS 8.0 or later" and just smiled happily and clicked Buy it Now.  Of course I'm using something later than OS 8.0!  Duh.

No problem!
The baby's surprise CD is visible right at the front of the box, and it promises a unique name, birth certificate and activities: 

The birth surprise is in the CD!
The company was clearly proud of their hip use of the letter "e," which I assume implies "electronic."  It's in the Sweet e.Baby title, of course...


...but the baby can also have doctor e.ppointmnets:


Or go on e.ventures:


Or keep a babe.e album:

That one's pushing it.
I even bought the doll on e.Bay!  Very appropriate.

Apparently, our guide to the exciting computer world will be Ms. Storkling--a stork wearing a straw hat and pearls:

She reminds me of Mary Poppins.
But forget the stork--look at the picture of the CD going into that computer!  That's an original G3 iMac:

Oh, the memories.
The actual baby feels secondary to the excitement over the CD, but it's a cute little doll.  It even has green inset eyes:

Maybe it's a green-eyed redhead?
The eyebrows do look a little reddish in color...


The bottom of the box has its fair share of text, too:


With a reassuring message to parents about the CD's content and ease of use:


There's also a picture of the box contents:


The box tells me that there used to be a whole world of Sweet e.Baby dolls out there!  I don't know what happened to all of them:

I've looked and looked.
The back of the box has a ton of information crammed onto it.  There's a lot of text, snapshots from the CD, and photographs of girls playing with their dolls:


I was getting a little worried at one point that the CD would just provide me with a blank birth certificate and I would have to choose my baby's "surprise" name, but this little blurb was reassuring:


The CD is going to reveal the baby's gender, name, weight, hair color (and hairstyle). Yippee!!

Here's a closer look at the middle panel on the back of the box:

review

The left side of the panel talks about the surprises (again).  There's also going to be some printing fun and a Mom e.school where I can learn how to take care of my baby:


The top section shows a sample picture of the birth certificate:


Look at what the baby's name is on this sample certificate:


Baby Emily!  It feels like fate.  Baby Emily was born on September 20, 1999, though, so she's already seventeen.

The middle panel has a large picture of a girl holding a baby that looks just like mine:


It looks like I'll also get to fill out a family tree (shouldn't that be family e.tree?) for my baby and add pictures to a babe e. album.

The right side of the panel talks about the doctors e.ppointments, personalized e.ventures (with coloring pages!), and the lull e.bies that I can sing for my baby:


The baby shown in the e.ventures, lull e.bies and mom e.school photos has darker skin and hair than my baby.  It's also wearing a green onesie.  It might be a boy.  He's really cute.  Here's the closest picture I can get of him:


I would really love to know what all of the different combinations of traits were on these dolls!

The sides of the box are not super-interesting.  They just have the same picture of the blonde girl with her baby that was on the front of the box:


The doll and its accessories are mounted on a cardboard base that pulls easily out of the main box:


Here's a clearer shot of the baby's face:


I decided to leave the baby completely in its box until after I'd watched the CD.  I didn't want any little detail to give away the gender ahead of time!

The CD has a sticker on the front with my baby's e.Birth number:


That number is going to unlock the baby's secret traits!

There's also a website where I can go if I have any problems with the CD...but I'm guessing this won't be of any use anymore.  The Playmates website seems to be all about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles these days.

For reference, I think the only other Playmates dolls I've reviewed on the blog are the Hearts 4 Hearts girls (who appear to be discontinued--or changing license?) and the Blueberry Muffin Candy Pops doll.

This baby comes with an extensive sheet of directions, mostly involving the computer requirements necessary to run the CD:

Whoa.
I'm a Mac girl, so this is the part that really interested me:


I ignored these longer instructions because I figured the CD would be self-explanatory once I popped it in:


This is about the time when my husband and son intervened to point out that I would not be able to run the CD on my current MacBook Pro.  My computer is old by technology standards (late 2011), but it's not old enough for this CD, apparently.  It does have a CD drive, though, which I thought was all it needed.

As it was explained to me, the biggest problem is that my MacBook has an Intel processor while iMacs from the late 90s still had the PowerPC G3 processor.  Also, my laptop is currently running OS 10.10.5 (Yosemite), which is a far cry from OS 8, I guess.  Yikes.  Well, never fear!  For better or for worse, I rarely throw anything away, so I still have my G3 iMac from the late 90s!  

And...of course...it's the Flower Power version:

Old friend.
I hauled this puppy up from the basement (it weighs about 40 pounds) and plugged it in.


I don't remember the exact negotiations through which my husband agreed to get this particular color option, but I love it.

I searched for baby names for my own kids on this computer.  I wrote a novel on this computer.  I re-discovered the world of dolls on this computer...all with dial-up internet service.


My kids actually used this computer long after we had a newer model in the house--probably up until about eight years ago.  That memory sparked some concern from my tech-savvy team that the iMac's software might have been updated to the point where it wouldn't play the Sweet e.Baby CD anymore.

Uh, oh.

You can do it!
The only way to find out was to try, so I set up the computer and pushed the power button...


...and it came on!  That was a good start.

Bonnng!
The little wheel thing spun for a really long time, though.  

Dum de dum...
It spun and spun as the computer worked really loudly on something...

It's thinking.
And then the screen went grey and unresponsive.  That's never good.

Noooooo!!!!
But then--BAM!  It sprung to life with a brilliant blue screen:

Flower Power!
However, it was loading OS 10, so it clearly had been updated a lot.  OS 10 is UNIX-based, so it's very different from OS 8 and 9.  We all watched nervously.

Then I got this message, which didn't make me feel any better:


But here it is--the beautiful desktop--appearing to be fully-functional, and displaying a range of games that my kids must have liked back in about 2006:


I slid the CD into the drive and an icon popped up:


Very promising!


The application has a bunch of folders, including an 8-bit option for running the graphics:

That's old school.
Opening the Sweet e.Baby file caused my computer to boot up its "Classic" OS 9 operating system...which was a relief:


And then...the CD began to play!  We all cheered!


It's awesome.  It's so chipper and sweet, with the balloon and airplane floating happily in the background.  I love it.  

The thing is, I was expecting to go back in time as I listened to this CD, but assumed I'd be going back to 1999.  With that music I felt more like I was going back to the 1950s.

So, the stork flaps through the clouds and the animation ends with a title screen.  At this point, my computer stalled out again and looked for QuickTime 4...


Which I guess it found!  Yay!

Then, the stork (Ms. Storkling) continued her journey...


*the funny swirls on these pictures are because I was photographing the curved screen of my iMac with a camera.  This can create some strange artifacts.

Ms. Storkling flew all of the way to the hospital:


Oh my goodness--that music!  It's a well-known song (Sur le Pont D'Avignon) but the style is also really familiar.  It sounds like something I've heard before--like maybe a Disney movie from the 50s or 60s?  I feel like I should be able to identify the exact movie soundtrack that's being imitated.  I spent ages trying to figure this out, but came up with nothing.  It's similar to things like Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella and Mary Poppins, but I know there's something out there that's a closer match.

Anyway, the stork eventually lands at the E. Street Hospital:

I've heard there's a good band nearby.
At this point, the action switches to inside the hospital:


Here, Ms. Storkling (who has one of those refined, British-sounding Grace Kelly accents--again, from the 50s) chats about the baby:



She asked me to enter my name, and the special e.Birth code from the CD cover.


After I do all of that...the baby arrives!  And the secrets are revealed!!

Before I show you that special moment, though, I have to skip ahead for a sec to stall the surprise explain something about these movies.

Taking photographs of a computer screen is not ideal, but it works.  Filming movies directly from a computer screen is a bad idea.  The video ends up covered with scrolling black lines that could give you seizures.  Seriously.  It's probably a flash rate of 5-30 cycles per second.  

If you really want to know what this kind of movie looks like, here's a short, excruciating example:



Nobody wants to watch that for any length of time.

So, my clever spouse extracted the movies directly from the CD's data file.  I normally wouldn't publish a movie that I didn't take--for copyright reasons--but I'm making an exception here in the name of posterity.  This is a cool piece of doll history that doesn't appear to be preserved anywhere else.

The only problem with this approach is that the video is not specific to my baby.  Each individual version of the baby must have gotten layered on top of this generic movie.  

So...all of that explains why, in this non-seizure-inducing movie, there's no baby.  Here you go:


And here's a photo of what it actually looked like at the end of the movie when my baby arrived:

review

The baby has green eyes (like my doll) and blonde hair...which was slightly disappointing.

It's a very happy baby.
That made me wonder...are real babies ever born with blonde hair?  It must be rare.  I feel like all of the little blonde kids I know were born with dark hair that fell out.  Hm.

Anyway, I'm stalling again because most of the surprises were not revealed in that clip!  I mean, at this point I still had no idea about the gender or the name of this happy kid.

Everything was revealed on the birth certificate, which appeared on the screen immediately after the movie.  Here it is! 


It's a baby girl!  And her name is Amanda, which I absolutely love.  To me, the doll even looks like an Amanda.   Notice her date of birth, though.  Yikes.  I knew there was something going on with that old music!  Amanda (apparently) was born as a 47-year-old.  She's older than I am.  I guess my computer's date really was set to something before 2001.  Something way before 2001.  I should probably fix that.

I have to say, I wish that occasionally these surprise babies were boys.  I should start keeping a tally of how many are boys and how many are girls.  So far Howie the Cabbage Patch Kid is the only surprise boy I've gotten--and Cabbage Patch is known for being really good about representing little boys.  It should be close to a 50% chance for each gender--just like real life.  And actually, there are slightly more boys born than girls every year.  I understand that a lot of little girls probably want a girl doll, but still.  As a kid, I wouldn't have cared about the gender.  I've always cared more about the surprise actually being a surprise!

Anyway, right after Amanda was born, the CD crashed my computer.  Everything froze and the CD drive started to make a terrifying noise.  I ejected the CD and was not able to get it to start up again.  The CD drive is fried.  I felt pretty fortunate that I'd at least been able to see my baby's gender and name!  Phew!

But then, my heroic tech team stepped in and copied the CD onto a thumb drive so that it would play again!  And, as if that wasn't enough, my husband hacked into the e.Matrix and made it so that I could re-set the data and start the program over from scratch any time I wanted!!  So now I can get a new baby name surprise whenever the mood strikes!

The only down side here is that I always get a green-eyed, blonde baby girl.  Those things are determined by my doll's e.Birth number.  So, of course the first thing I did was try different e.Birth numbers.  I wanted to see some of the other traits (and maybe get a boy!).  

However, despite trying about 120 different combinations (some random and some following a pattern)...


I couldn't find any other six-digit numbers that worked.  My husband and son also tried to hack this part of the CD's program, but we don't have the software necessary to read all of the code.  Sad.


Still, I had a huge amount of fun re-booting the game over and over (and over!), getting different names for Amanda.  And--no joke--this is the very first alternate name I got for her:


Which is funny if you remember the birth certificate that was on the back of the box:


It has the exact same names--but opposite!

The length and weight of the baby never change--it's always 6lbs 12oz and 21 inches. I'm guessing that this is fixed for all of the dolls.  Also, notice that (since I corrected my computer's date) Sarah's birth date is reasonable.

I re-lived the surprise of the baby's birth more times than is probably normal or healthy.







I actually did this until I started to see the names repeating.  After I got three Rachels (Friends was really popular back in 1999...), I turned my attention to other parts of the CD.

If my computer hadn't crashed, this is what would have happened right after Amanda's birth:


Our hostess Ms. Storkling (who is also--if you look at the birth certificates--the doctor who delivered Amanda) drove us home.  Apparently when she's not delivering babies, she drives a taxi.  You know, to help make ends meet.

Again, the video of this event excludes the picture of Amanda:


Don't let Ms. Storkling's sweet voice fool you--she's running a business here.  Notice how the meter is on.  Also, notice how she says she's going to drive extra-carefully and then never once looks at the road.  Crazy bird.

Actually, for a bird, that probably is the right way to look at the road.  Never mind.

Ms. Storkling drops us off in this colorful room...and then hangs around.


Amanda's image is animated in most scenes, but it's a simple back-and-forth movement that I was able to recreate for you with a GIF:


She goes back and forth between those two faces throughout the entire CD.

All of the different areas in this room represent activities that I can do with Amanda.  Over on the left is the Mom E. School:


By the way, all of the black circles and marks on these pictures were added by me, to help show what I'm talking about.

Clicking that image took me to a new screen:


There are a bunch of different lessons on this page, including How to Bottle Feed and Burp Your Baby, Keeping Baby Clean and Happy, How to Change Your Baby's Diaper, How to Keep Your Baby Warm, and How to Hold Your Baby.

I didn't want to delve into the implications of the bottle feeding emphasis here, so I went with the more lighthearted choice: How to Change Your Baby's Diaper.


Storkling skips right over removal of the offending dirty diaper and starts with making sure the baby's bottom is clean.  That's fine with me.

But the cleaning itself looks a little odd:


In that picture, it's hard to tell if the baby is peeing all over the table or if that white thing is a pointy little wipe.

It's a pointy little wipe.  I know this because it moves back and forth across the baby's bottom in a cleaning motion.  Not a very effective cleaning motion, if you ask me, but probably better than nothing.

The rest of the instructions are basic, but I can imagine a little kid having fun following along with the actual doll and her diaper.


Put the baby on the diaper:


Flip the diaper up and over the baby's tummy:


Attach the sides...


And you're done! Now go wash your hands.


Or...clean your baby's nose with the same pointy wipe you just used:


Sorry.  Just kidding--that picture is from a different lesson.

Back in Amanda's room, the next activity was to make a Famil.e tree!


This is not a conventional family tree, though.  It has four spots for documenting family members, and then some extra spaces for friends and pets:


This layout was a clever way for the developers to circumvent the absence of a father.

The next station I explored was the Dr.'s E.Pointment:


This activity has a series of questions that a doctor might ask at various ages:


I skipped to the "1 Year & Up" questions.  I wonder if the "& up" part goes all of the way up to 47?  Probably not.

The giraffe gets taller as the baby's age increases:


There's a short introduction before the doctor (Dr. Storkling) gets started with her questions:


The first question has nothing to do with Amanda.  It's probing for clues about my emotional health:


I have to say, this question caught me off-guard and put me on the defensive.  I decided to be a trouble-maker and clicked "no."


Dr. Storkling brushed off my despair and made some chirpy suggestions of things I should do with Amanda.  

Her second question was, "Can your baby tell you apart from other mommies?" Really?  She's asking me this at the one year checkup?  I think babies can identify their mothers by smell from the moment they're born.

But of course I took the bait:

Oops, I did it again.
Ms. Storkling's solution to this was for me to spend some more time with my baby.  That's making the assumption that I haven't already been spending lots of time with her--to no avail.  But given my answer to the first question, Dr. Storkling was probably on the right track here.

The last question was about how well my baby plays with others.  I'd already failed the test at this point, so I went three for three:

Hit me, baby.  One more time.
I don't think Dr. Storkling was listening to me.  Those other babies?  They don't want to play with Amanda.  She's a biter.  No fun will be had.

The program does a nice job of concluding even the most tragic appointment with an optimistic summary.  Ms. Storkling's sweet voice makes everything sound rosy: You're feeling miserable?  Great!  Your baby has no idea who you are?  No worries!  Your baby hates other kids?  Just get out more!  You're wonderful!  Your baby is definitely not a psychopath.


After this, I was happy to go back to the main room and choose another activity. 

I missed this at first, but the window in the room is actually the entry point for the E.Ventures page:


This page offers four little stories that Ms. Storkling reads aloud.  There's also text on each page so that kids can follow along.  The pictures change slightly as the story progresses, too, which is a fun detail.

The stories are all pretty bland--baby and I go on an outing, a few ordinary things happen, then we go home.  Here's an example of one of the stories (the birthday e.venture) for anyone who's really curious:



Pretty bland, right?  But I noticed a subtle pattern just underneath the surface of these stories.  In each tale, things seem great at first, but then something really weird happens.  Ms. Storkling ignores this weird stuff, of course, but it's there.

Here's an example: when Amanda and I went on our birthday e.venture, we had a great time at first.  Everything Ms. Storkling said is true; there were balloons and candy everywhere, presents and popcorn...


But then this horrifying clown showed up and ruined everything:

Waaaah!
I mean, Amanda and I were up all night with nightmares.  Eeesh.

Then, on our trip to the park, the weather was beautiful--not a cloud in the sky--and we set up a great picnic...


...until the flying bicycles went past and freaked Amanda out completely!

I'll save you, E.T.!
Amanda was twitchy and paranoid for the rest of the afternoon.

Then, we went to the beach and sat in the sun and enjoyed the waves and the sandcastles until...


...a total beach ball eclipse blacked out the sun and we had to pack up and go home.

It's dark!
But the strangest of all stories is this last one.  Unlike the previous, sunny-day tales, this one is set outside on a dark, gloomy, rainy day.  

Ms. Storkling says that it's just "lightly drizzling," but she's lying.  There's thunder and heavy rain in the background the whole time.  It's ominous.  I'll give it to Amanda, though.  Despite our history of traumatic e.ventures, she seems to meet each new outing with fresh optimism:


Everything's ok until this car goes rushing past and sprays us with water...


...but that's not even the worst part.  Look at what appears across the street from us:

What in the world...
These spooky, faceless figures emerged out of nowhere and started stomping up and down!

I see creepy people.
They look angry.  That one guy is looking at me all gangster.  I made an animation for you...so you can share in the intensity of the moment:

Yo, yo!  Stay off of our 8 Mile Road!
Amanda and I ran back to the safety of her room.

I thought a soothing song would be the perfect remedy to our harrowing e.ventures, so I selected the Lull E.Bies activity:


This page has four song options to choose from.  I picked Goodnight Little One.  That sounds relaxing, doesn't it?


This is a reasonably cute little song (sung by--you guessed it--Ms. Storkling) and it has a simple animation opposite the text:

That all looks very nice.
But if you watch the animation on its own...


Ahhhh!  Freaky zombie baby!!

That's definitely a biter.
Maybe lull e.bies weren't such a great idea after all.

To distract ourselves, Amanda and I tried out the last activity--a collection of memorabilia:


First there's a birth announcement.  For this activity, I got to pick a design:


And that's it.  There's nothing else to do except print it out.


There's no option for customization.  Clicking "next" just took me to the next design.  This was a disappointment, even though I had no plans to actually print the announcement.

There's also a home movie section where I can re-play the moment when Amanda arrived--and also the cab drive home.


This is a really great idea because (aside from hacking the code) it's the only way to re-live the excitement of those first encounters.

And last, there's a memory album that chooses random moments from your e.ventures to display.  Guess which moment the book happened to pick for me and Amanda (or Rachel as she was called at this point)?

Yeah, you guessed it.


It's the gangster rain men!  And they've multiplied:


I swear there were only two of these guys in the original story.

So, there you have it!  That's a pretty thorough tour of the Sweet e.Baby CD.

The one thing that was advertised on the box that I didn't find on the CD was the printable coloring pages:


I guess that feature didn't make the final edit.

All snarkiness aside, this CD was really fun to explore.  Honestly, after the fabulously 1950s introduction and the mystery name and gender reveal, Sweet e.Baby didn't need to do anything more to impress me.  Some of the activities are dippy, sure, but back in 1999, this program was probably an impressive little introduction to computer-use for kids.  There's no indication that this toy was at all popular, though.  Perhaps it was just introduced a bit before its time.  Another few years of technology advances and this kind of thing could have been a huge hit.

I'm so happy and grateful that I had the tech support necessary to play the Sweet e.Baby software on my trusty old iMac.  I hate to think of how many Sweet e.Baby CDs have been thrown away because they were out-of-date.  I will say this: if anyone comes across an e.Birth number in the future, I would be delighted to run it though my version of the program and find out your baby's name and gender.  I'm still trying to figure out a way to crack that code!

With all of the fun the CD has to offer, it's easy to forget that there's an actual doll attached to this concept.  And she has a secret hairstyle that has yet to be revealed!  So, let's finally meet the real Amanda:


She comes with a plastic bottle and a plastic brush:


The bottle looks like it's all one piece at first glance, but it actually has a removable cap with a little rubber seal and everything!  It's pretty fancy.  The decoration on the side of the bottle is just a sticker, though.


The bottle has a hole in the nipple, too:


Too bad the baby isn't designed to drink and pee.  I wanted one of those dolls really badly when I was a kid for some reason.  Maybe it's because I used to cram baby food and water into my Madame Alexander doll's mouth, but she never swallowed.

Amanda also comes with a cloth diaper.  This has velcro attachments on either side and would be fun to use with the CD.


Here's Amanda herself:


She's made out of hard vinyl and does not weigh much.  She's a small, compact little doll--only about 13 inches long.


With Amanda out of her box, I could feel that she had soft hair tucked up underneath that hat.  I was excited to see what the hair looked like, but also a little disappointed that she's not a redhead.  

I like the way she looks with the hat covering her hair--as though she's bald.


She has a cute little partially-opened rosebud mouth...but it has no place to insert the bottle.

She has hazel green inset eyes with applied eyelashes on her upper eyelids:


Her eyebrows have a slight downward slant to them that gives her expression a bit of harshness.  It's subtle, but I'd still have preferred a softer expression.  

Don't put your fingers near her mouth.
I had a hard time getting a nice, clear picture of the eye detail.  I think the eyelashes were blocking the focus of my camera.  Here are the best shots I could get:


The eyes are very pretty and have a realistic, multi-colored iris pattern:


Amanda's hairline is up really high on her head, so I had to lift the hat way up before I caught a glimpse of the hair...


It's definitely blonde, but maybe a strawberry blonde?


Even with the hat completely off, the hair stayed clumped together in a little bun at the top of Amanda's head:


It looked really strange--like a beanie hat made of hair.


The hair is definitely a darker, strawberry-ish blonde, not a super-pale color.  I'm very happy about this.


There was a small white bow peeking out from the top of the hairstyle, so I think I would have been able to guess that this was a girl if I'd opened the doll before watching the CD:


I started to pull the hair out of its bun with my fingers.  The fibers are pretty dry and were reluctant to relax.

Livin' la Vida Loca.
Amanda had a windswept look for a little while--like she'd just come back from that cab ride with Dr. Storkling:



I finally got the hair semi-tamed in front.  The style is much cuter than what I was expecting.  I think she looks even more like an Amanda now!

I love those wispy bangs!
The back of the hair has some cute little curls in it...although this area took a bit more time before it would lay flat.


The hair doesn't feel very nice, but it looks good.


Amanda's onesie came off easily and revealed a full vinyl body with four simple points of articulation:


She has cute, chubby little legs and feet:


And each leg has its own distinct mold.


Her arms are also molded in different positions, with her right hand looking like it's ready for a good thumb-sucking session...

Although the thumb can't get close to her mouth.
...and her left hand fixed in a grasping position:



Amanda has a little bit of detail molded into her torso, but she's not anatomically correct.


She has a 2000 copyright on her bottom:


The Sweet e.Baby trademark was acquired and first used in 1999, though, so I'm not sure which date I should assign to this doll.  I guess I'll stick with 1999.  Not surprisingly, the trademark has since been abandoned.

Here's Amanda in her diaper (don't worry, I made sure her bottom was clean first!):


She doesn't have many poses to show off.  She can lay down and sit up, but she can't crawl very well...


...and she certainly can't stand up on her own yet, but don't tell Dr. Storkling that.

The onesie fits back on over the diaper and leaves just a little bit of white peeking out around the edges--which I think looks realistic:


I like the little keyboard tag on her onesie:


I always find it hard to picture the size of a doll from just reading dimensions, so I'll end the review by showing you Amanda with My Twinn Oliver:

Sweet e.Baby (left) and My Twinn baby (right).
And here she is alongside a Berenguer La Newborn baby (he's really small--wearing preemie clothes that are too big for him):

Sweet e.Baby (left) and Berenguer La Newborn (right).
Bottom line?  Because this doll is discontinued and incredibly hard to find, I feel like it's not really necessary to critique her in the way I normally would.  I'll just tell you a few of my lingering thoughts.

Amanda the baby doll is nothing special, but she's become valuable to me for a couple of different reasons--all of which have to do with the experiences I've had because of her.  First of all, she came with some great hidden surprises that were fun to discover: a hidden gender, a hidden name, and a (wild and crazy) hidden hairstyle.  Any doll with those features is a winner in my book.  But what makes Amanda really unique is that her secrets were hidden in a CD--and not just that, but a seventeen-year-old CD that was hard to access.  I had to resurrect my very first computer in order to play the CD, an experience that had its own special meaning and series of surprises.  The most intense mystery in this whole saga was whether or not the CD would actually play...and then if the content could be salvaged after my iMac's CD drive broke.  If Amanda had been brand new, and her information easy to access, I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun as I did.  Her presence sparked a memorable adventure for my entire household.

And that brings me to the other reason why this doll has become important to me.  There's a bit of a love story hidden here, too.  My husband is very skilled with computers while I know a lot about dolls.  We're a funny pair in many respects, with paths that seldom intersect.  Too often, we end up busy in our own worlds.  But little Amanda was--unexpectedly--a welcome source of mutual interest and enthusiasm.  While I was examining her box with the reverence of an archeologist who'd unearthed a time capsule, my husband was delving into the Sweet e.Baby software with the bright-eyed zeal of an international super-spy.  We both giggled and cheered when the iMac sprang to life.  We sighed with nostalgia when we saw OS 9 loading.  We watched in amazement as the CD finally began to play.  When he announced that he'd salvaged the software and tweaked it so that I could re-start the program and get a new baby name any time I wanted, he became my knight in shining armor.  Ok, so that's a pretty geeky love story, but I'll take it.

That's the funny thing about dolls, though, isn't it?  An old doll with an out-of-date CD might be meaningless to most people.  But for the right person, and through a chance mix of timing and circumstance, that same doll can end up meaning the world.

36 comments:

  1. That's certainly an interesting find - the doll and your old computer!
    That's really neat to see, children being taught basic computer mechanics that aren't through Solitaire.
    Sometimes, but not as often, software still stalls on December 31st and straightens out the next day...which makes for pretty random birthdays some years, let me tell you.
    But I laughed really hard at the e.Ventures, especially the faceless children stomping ominously in the background.

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  2. This is super cool. I think I got my first computer in 1999 and I remember having a Barbie that you could connect to the computer through her desk and program her with phrases to talk. Her mouth even moved! This doll reminded me of my Barbie.

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  3. Thanks so much for this review Emily. It was fun to see both how this doll would have been perceived by someone getting her back then and the effort you and your husband put into bringing her into the present. She's definitely a cute doll on her own but I enjoyed seeing the start of companies making use of computers to make playing with dolls more interesting.
    Aww to your love story, I already thought you had a keeper when he posted once on this blog:-).
    My mom who was a pediatric RN told me that most babies who are and will remain blond as they grow past puberty look pretty much bald at birth and until they're toddlers. Also,that nurses can always tell where the redheads are by their bright tuft of hair.:D

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  4. This has to be one of my favorites of your reviews. I was laughing out loud for the entire tour of the CD, and I really enjoyed getting to see an old, forgotten doll being appreciated. Thank you for taking us on a tour of doll history!

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  5. This was hilarious! I'm so happy you had your old computer, not knowing any of that would have eaten me alive! Oh this brought back so many memories of being a child. Horrible animations, laggy computers... Good times. I love how Amanda looks with her hair all fixed. With her hair like that she reminds me of a girl I used to babysit :) Her eyes look so cool! I can't remember any of my baby doll eyes looking that pretty!

    I don't know why but Amanda reminds me of a water baby doll I had as a child. She was an odd doll... You put water in her back and it filled up her body so she jiggled and was heavy (sort of like a real baby). I have no idea why Amanda made me think of her though!

    I'm really enjoying the Surprise Sunday posts and I can't wait for more.

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    1. Waterbabies are still made!

      http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=72892366&cp=&parentPage=search

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    2. Aw man waterbabies were awesome lol. I remember the one I had had large blue eyes (almost anime large) and painted on brown hair. I'm sure she's still around in a box somewhere as I was the worst at getting rid of toys once I was too old :) Thanks for sharing that water baby definitely looks more realistic than the one I had.

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  6. she's really cute actually! amazing timing from the cd drive

    Can't wait for magic nursery though omg. I had one of those as a kid, my mother sat in the aisle and fondled every doll's head to find one with long brown hair like mine ahahah. My mother was all "i ain't got no time for this surprise crap"
    I remember the outfit thing being super cool too.

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    1. I really wanted a blonde one. So my parents looked for one with a little piece of hair peeking out. :)

      Let this get you even more excited for this D :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_J11Pzrxr8

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  7. I love this review! You had me on the edge of my seat the whole time wondering if you'd get the CD to work! Your husband and son make a great team with you. I love toys from this era because it was my childhood, and I enjoyed all the 90's references you made. I missed out on this doll as a kid but I would have gone crazy over that awesome CD! Your sense of humor and love for dolls shines through every time. Thank you again for these posts! Can't wait for your next Sunday Surprise.

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  8. This is a cute doll but the computer quest to see the data on the cd has got to be my favorite part of this review. I don't remember seeing these advertised or in stores, maybe they were an exclusive for higher-end shops? Poor Amanda, she's going to need a lot of therapy after those e.ventures.

    Her sculpt is surprisingly cute. I wonder if she'd make a convincing newborn baby sister for the bigger My Twin dolls?

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  9. I swear this is your best review yet. I couldn't stop laughing at the 90s references, the snarky comments, and squealing with nostalgia at those CD graphics. Plus the doll is insanely cute and it's curly hair is so unique for a baby doll. Shame that these have been all but forgotten, I would've been all over this as a kid! thanks for documenting this old and rare doll and it's outdated technology for the rest of us. :)

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  10. I'm loving this surprise series of posts. The big surprise to me here was that you got the CD to work. As soon as I read 1999 and CD my brain went "Oh! This will be disappointing." So I was pleasantly surprised when I read it worked.
    Just to stick in some nerdy random information - it's not only weird for a newborn to be blonde, it's also weird for them to have green eyes. Green eyes are actually blue eyes with yellow/brown tinted melanin over the top. The melanocytes don't produce melanin at birth, they gradually start producing it over the first couple of years of life, so almost all green eyed people are born with blue eyes.
    And I'm going to have nightmares about those faceless things jumping in puddles.

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  11. Oh man, I remember this doll. I had it back in the late 90s/early 2000s. I was 5 in 1999. It's really weird to look at these old computer graphics for the CD and actually remember playing that. The faceless children in raincoats...hahaha!!

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  12. I'm so excited about the Magic Nursery doll!!! Thank you so much for that. I'm so excited!

    Thank you for making me feel old with that flashback. :D I'm clinging to my youth as a millennial while harboring memories of when picking out a movie at Blockbuster meant looking for the ones with two holes because our player couldn't use the boxes with single holes. (VHS and Betamax)

    I'm also a Mac-girl, and have a G3!! It's the blueberry one though, and it still works! And dial-up. OMG, remember how 56k was super fast, yet still so slow that a website opening one page took so long that it made sense to keep a book by the computer to read while it opened? I'm slightly disappointed you didn't post this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1UY7eDRXrs

    "I didn't want to delve into the implications of the bottle feeding emphasis here"

    I noticed that. Why didn't they just leave it as "feed"? I so recall that a lot of my aunts who were having babies at that time were getting pretty mad at how much emphasis there was starting to be in the late 90's on using formula that they couldn't afford when it wasn't pushed for their older kids. It's always unsettling when baby dolls push bottles too.

    Ah, diapers. I didn't change one for almost three weeks, and even that took my husband being asleep and me deciding to do it. He was upset the next morning that I didn't wake him Since he didn't have much time off, he really wanted to do all the non-feeding care he could. By the time our munchkin was out of (cloth) diapers, he probably changed 50% more diapers than I did.

    The "Friends" part of the e-tree make me laugh really hard. Brava, Emily. Bra-va.

    "That one guy is looking at me all gangster." -- That made me laugh harder!

    "There's no indication that this toy was at all popular, though. Perhaps it was just introduced a bit before its time." -- Computers were expensive. In 1999, we had a computer, but few of our friends did. We only got in the 90's one because I'd been so ill with a deadly-bad chronic illness that it was needed for me to do school. (We did have one in the mid-80's, only because my grandfather was an O-G...eek who built them for fun, and he needed people to force them on when he was done. Remember DOS by any chance? :D ) The target audience for this doll would be those who were lucky enough to have computers AND who had a child of an age to want this doll. Quite a small overlap.

    Your story with your husband is precious. My husband wants to read this review after I'm done with it, and so...yeah. This is the doll that bring people together. :D

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  13. Oh man, this is my favorite review you've ever done! My boyfriend isn't big on dolls, preferring computers and video games, but doesn't mind my collecting. He's seen a few of your posts a bit over the years. This time I couldn't resist showing him all the required specs and having a good laugh as he explained exactly how ridiculous they are compared to our computers.

    But it just got better and better. He convinced me to play the videos, which normally I never do. It was just one hilarious thing after another. When we finally got to the creepy attempted drowning rain story (that pram looks like a deathtrap in a downpour) we completely lost it. He even got up to to and re-enact the stomping of the Ghostly Rain Gang. This proved impossible but was great for even more laughter.

    By the time we got to the actual doll I was surprised! I thought the review was finished and completely forgot there was a doll to go along with this bizarre CD. Its a shame the dolls seem to have failed and don't really have any fans. Amanda is absolutely adorable with that hair! I'd love to find one to add to my own collection. Hopefully this review helps spark all those people holding onto their old e.Babies to toss them on good ol' eBay, haha.

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  14. That was a wonderful adventure!

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  15. Dear Emily,
    If I remember correctly, the Sweet E Baby dolls reused molds from an earlier Playmates doll line called Baby So Beautiful. My sister had a Baby So Beautiful doll. From what I remember, the line had both newborn, baby and toddler dolls and lacked the surprise element of the Sweet E Baby dolls. However, Baby So Beautiful seems to be a little easier to find on the internet secondary market. I just thought you might want to pass on this info to any readers who expressed interest in trying to find a Sweet E Baby of their own.

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  16. What a great post! She's adorable. I didn't think I'd like the hair but it works.

    **love** the old 'puter

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  17. Oh my God this review had me cracking up! Funny you should say that about blond babies, because both my sister and I are blondes. She was born with dark, spiky hair that ended up falling out, and I was born bald and didn't really have visible hair until my toddler years. I'm really loving Sunday Surprises so far, and Amanda is such a cutie!

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  18. "Ms. Storkling's sweet voice makes everything sound rosy: You're feeling miserable? Great! Your baby has no idea who you are? No worries! Your baby hates other kids? Just get out more! You're wonderful! Your baby is definitely not a psychopath."

    I'm not gonna lie, this made me crack up and start laughing REALLY hard.

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  19. How fantastic!! I was laughing my head off the entire time! :D <3 <3 The multiplying people in rain coats were my favorites...and I'm just betting that they're gangster aliens, hence the no-face-ness. ;)

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  20. This was great! I loved the saga of your whole family trying to get the CD to play. And your tour of the e-magination center had me laughing so much! From the commentary on the cab ride to facelesss rainbooted specters of despair to the cringey lullaby video (The look on Amanda's face in that video shows she's clearly thinking what I'm thinking: Ms Storkling should definitely not pursue a career as a singer/songwriter), I loved every minute of it! And oh, yeah, the doll is pretty cute too ^_~.
    I loved the nostalgia of this post. I was made in the 80's, and I fondly remember the days of dial-up internet, and logging into Prodigy to use The Baby-Sitters Club media center. Good times!
    I can't wait for the Magic Nursery review! The Magic Nursery Toddlers are much cuter than the babies, imo. I had one in my youth. Not only was it a boy (so there's hope!) but he had an impressive head of hair. Unlike the babies, with their strange tufts of hair sprouting from the tops of their heads.

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  21. Have you heard of the Monster High Zomby Gaga doll coming out soon? She'd go great with your Tonner Zombie Boy, as Gaga is in her Zombie Boy makeup from the Born This Way video.
    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Monster-High-Frankie-Doll/53372756 (URL name is wrong, but it's Gaga.)

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    1. As expected, the listing was taken down. Here's a picture:
      http://67.media.tumblr.com/ed207d0bcfe3757d98c5c0933e48383c/tumblr_oejwxnFqPR1s1dcx1o7_540.jpg

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  22. This was so funny to read, thanks to share with us.
    Your family and you are so lovely!

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  24. I LOVE turn of the millennium gimmick dolls, like the barbie that you could text with -

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSmN2wF-KYg

    this is such an intriguing gimmick and even with the complications I think its held up pretty well.

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  25. This review was hilarious! I nearly peed my pants at the pointy little wipe...

    Amanda's hair is adorable, though long for a newborn. And you're right, those e.ventures are... suspicious.

    Great job, as usual!

    Lissie
    lissiesdollstories.blogspot.com

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  26. Those other babies? They don't want to play with Amanda. She's a biter. No fun will be had.
    This was my favourite line in the review. When this doll came out, I was the right age to begin playing my first games on the family pc, and I felt a lot of nostalgia seeing the pixel art style of the contents on the CD-ROM that came with this doll. Thank you for taking us back in time! It's always a blast, taking these little journeys with you.

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    1. I forgot to mention: Another way in which this review touched my heart, is when you talked about the doll bringing you and your husband together. My husband is also skilled with computers, and whenever his and my skills/hobbies intersect and heighten our individual enjoyments of them, it makes me feel so happy. Knowing there's another nerdy couple out there sharing similar joys made me feel totally fluffy.

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  27. I was actually born blonde, almost white blonde, so yeah babies can have blonde hair at birth.
    This is one of the funniest posts of yours I've ever read (The first one being Cinderella with her crazy legs sitting like a man). I couldn't stop laughing at the CD section.
    Good job on this one, as always.

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  28. This is way too funny! I laughed my head off through the CD features, (especially the rain gangsters.)

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  29. Fun fact: I'm pretty sure OSX 10.5 is the last that includes PowerPC support (maybe 10.6? I don't remember if my 10.6 Macbook only reluctantly supported PPC or told me it was the first kind that totallly didn't).

    I think the 1969 thing is the earliest possible time in Unix...? *shrug*

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