Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pose Skeleton by Re-Ment

A few months ago I got an anonymous comment suggesting that Pose Skeleton, Re-Ment's tiny posable skeletons, would make a fun Halloween review.  I could not have agreed more!  I immediately went to Amazon and ordered several of these highly affordable little figures from Japan.

Then, a few days before Halloween, Maine got hit by a post-tropical depression (a huge storm) and we lost power for most of the week.  That happens quite a lot around here.  Anyway, living without power wasn't too bad for us--no trees came through the roof this time, anyway.  We played a lot of games and read a lot of books, but nothing got done on the blog for a whole week.  I've been playing catch-up ever since.

Now it's closer to Thanksgiving than it is to Halloween, but I'll still share what was supposed to have been my cover shot for October 31st:

Pose Skeleton #3 by Re-Ment, $8.49.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Li'l Secrets by Mattel!

I don't know why, but that last review--the Forces of Destiny dolls--took forever.  I would sit down to work on it first thing every morning, but I'd usually get distracted within minutes.  I think it was partly because the review has so many pictures.  It's also probably because the weather here feels like summer (still) and I want to be outside.  Another distraction is that my youngest son is applying to colleges (how did that happen so fast?) and so we're wrapped up in a turmoil of decisions, deadlines and details.

I thought that perhaps a good counterbalance to the last review would be a quick Sunday Surprise post--better yet, a vintage Sunday Surprise post.  I get a huge thrill from discovering new vintage surprise toys, and it's pure fun to share these discoveries with you guys!

I don't even need to write much of an introduction to this post, because the star of today's review, a Li'l Surprise doll from 1994, describes her mysterious nature better than I ever could.  Quite simply, the girl has secrets in her hair:

Mattel's Li'l Secrets doll (1994).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Forces of Destiny Rey and Leia by Hasbro

Star Wars is everywhere these days.  The Force Awakens still feels relatively new to me, and yet there's another movie coming out this year (The Last Jedi) and there's still a 2016 movie that I haven't seen yet (Rogue One).  When I was a kid, I had to wait three years between each of the original movies.  Now, granted, three years felt like too long to wait, but this recent deluge of media is overwhelming.  And it's not just the movies, either.  There are trailers, video games (Battlefront 2), and even short YouTube cartoons (Forces of Destiny) to fill the time between films.  While the onslaught of Star Wars media might be too much for me to keep up with, I suspect most fans of the franchise are thrilled...I know members of my family are.

Star Wars merchandise is everywhere, too.  Hot Toys releases new ultra-realistic sixth scale figures regularly, Hasbro has a variety of The Last Jedi action figures out already, and of course there's always a great assortment of Lego sets.  The toys I'm most interested in these days are Hasbro's highly-articulated 10.5-inch dolls from the Forces of Destiny cartoon series.

In this review I'll look at two of these dolls; Rey and BB-8 from The Force Awakens and Leia and Wicket from Return of the Jedi:

Forces of Destiny "Endor Adventure" Leia, $34.99.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Savannah and Chad Mini Pals by Maru and Friends

We did it!  We met my hurricane relief fundraising goal!  If you look at the banner in the right hand margin, you'll see that (thanks to Jason, Sarah, AliCarmen, and six new anonymous donors) we've now exceeded the $1,000 Bottom Line goal!  This is so amazing.  It's also great that the larger project is over three quarters of the way to its $5,000,000 goal after only 13 days.  I hope that the money will get to where it's needed quickly.  I'll leave the fundraising page and banner up for a while longer, but I won't bug you about it anymore.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, for all of your support--everything from words of encouragement to money donations.  You guys are the best.

In celebration of this wonderful news, I want to start the week off by sharing two dolls from one of my favorite lines of all time: Maru and Friends' Mini Pals.  I did a thorough review of mini Maru and mini Tanya when I was in Puerto Rico last year, so today I'll just share a picture-heavy overview of another pair of Pals--Chad (the only boy in the collection) and Savannah (the adorable redhead!).  Here's one of my favorite shots of Chad, climbing on the rocky shore of Maine:

Maru and Friends Mini Pal, Chad ($89).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Another Project Mc2 Update!

I'm so grateful and excited to see the donations that have been added to our GlobalGiving page so far!   Wow!!  Big hugs to April, Kelly, Nonna, Katrina, Stephanie, Abigail, Yvette, Elaine, Tischa, and the lovely people who chose to remain anonymous.  Thank you also to everyone who's read my post and encouraged this effort in any way.  I know many of you have already given as much as you can in other ways or to other needy causes.  As promised, while this fundraiser is running I've been working extra-hard on new reviews.  Lately I've been splitting my time between a look at the new Maru and Friends Mini Pals and today's post: an update on the ever-tempting Project Mc2 line.

I've reviewed Project Mc2 dolls several times already (here and here)--not because they're my favorite doll line or anything, but I guess because I wish they were.  The dolls have so many appealing elements: inset eyes, lots of joints, sweet faces, fun project ideas, and a S.T.E.A.M.-based theme to boot.  They should be the perfect play dolls for me.  In addition, MGA Entertainment is doing a great job of releasing new dolls at regular intervals, so I feel like every time I check in on the collection, there's something fun and unexpected for me to look at.

In fact, I've been buying one or two dolls from each new wave, stashing them away for future use.  At this point I've accumulated five dolls, which feels like more than enough for a crazy-long review.  The five dolls I chose are Ember and McKeyla from the most recent masquerade collection, McKeyla and Bryden from the previous fancy dress group, and--by request--the very first Devon D'Marco doll.  They are a good-looking quintet:

Project Mc2 dolls (from left): McKeyla's Glue Tattoos, Bryden's Light-Up Earrings, Devon's Puffy Paint, McKeyla's Lava Lip Gloss, and Ember's Fairy Wings.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trouble in Paradise

Here in rural Maine we lose power a lot.  I don't know what the national average for power loss is, or anything like that, but when I used to live in New York, we'd lose power for ten minutes every few years.  It was almost fun when it happened--like an unexpected adventure.  In the part of Maine where I live now, the power goes out five to ten times every year.  That's not so terrible on its own, but when a power outage drags on for days...well, that can get pretty bad.  In the winter, we worry about all of our animals getting too cold (especially the birds!).  In the summer we worry about keeping all of the food (and insulin) cold.  At any time of the year, we get crabby when we can't take a shower.  After a week with no power, even the calmest person in our household can start to feel a little desperate.

Maybe you already see where I'm going with this.  I've been thinking a lot about Puerto Rico and the Caribbean lately.  The people there are not only without power, but without their homes, their belongings, their family members, their pets...and, I suspect, increasingly without a feeling of safety or hope.

As I sit here in the comfort of my home, I feel the need to do something to help.  Many of you have urged me to start a Patreon (or similar) site, where you can donate a little money to support the blog.  This is so incredibly generous and kind (it brings tears to my eyes sometimes!) but I've never felt comfortable asking for money.  However, I do feel comfortable with this request: please join my modest fundraising effort to help the residents of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.  The fundraiser will only last a few days, and any amount you can give will be amazing.  About five thousand people visit this site every day, so if each of you pitches just a little, we've done something great.  Please read on if you'd like to know more!

Maru and Friends Mini Pal, Savannah (on the coast of Maine, 2017).

Thursday, September 21, 2017

American Girl Create Your Own Clothing

As many of you know, I'm waiting for the arrival of my redheaded Create Your Own American Girl doll, Eliza.  I expect her to ship sometime in mid-November.  When I ordered Eliza back in late August, I also ordered a few custom outfits for her, just to see what the quality is like.  These items all arrived at the beginning of this week and I thought I would quickly show you what they look like in person.

Since Eliza herself can't model these clothes yet, I've asked Keira and Melody to step in and help out:

Design Your Own clothing by American Girl.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Blind Bag Spirit Riding Free Horses!

Before I dive into today's review, I thought I'd mention that my Create Your Own American Girl clothing is on its way (it shipped--as promised--just shy of a month from when I ordered it) and should arrive sometime next week.  I'm excited to see how the outfits look in person!  I still don't expect Eliza herself to arrive until mid November.

In the meantime, I thought this Sunday would be a great time to write a companion piece to my Spirit Riding Free review from last week.  In this post, I'll contrast the blind bag surprise horses that are being offered by Breyer and Just Play.  I also have a few non-mystery Spirit toys that I want to share, including two unexpected Just Play horses that I found at Toys R Us today, and a small horse and rider set from Breyer.

To start things off, here's a sneak peek at one of the Breyer blind bag horses--this is Spirit himself!

Breyer Spirit Riding Free blind bag Stablemate, Spirit.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Spirit Riding Free Toys by Breyer and Just Play

The original Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie by DreamWorks came out in 2002--the year my kids were two and four years old.  My four-year-old, in particular, was obsessed with this movie, in part because of the impressive steam engine featured in one of the climactic scenes.  At that time we were all listening to a series of tapes (yes, cassette tapes...) with songs about the construction of the transcontinental railroad, so both boys liked everything that had to do with trains.  Anyway, I loved the movie because of all the horses--and because the horses weren't given silly human voices.  Matt Damon adds a voice to some of Spirit's thoughts, but this is a rare occurrence, used only to forward the plot or explain a complicated scene.  The human protagonist in this movie is a kind-hearted Lakota teenager named Little Creek who yearns to ride Spirit, but knows when to stop trying.  It's a wonderful movie that will always have a special place in my heart.

In May of this year, DreamWorks premiered a new animated series on Netflix called Spirit Riding Free.  Season two of the series was released last week.  Fans of the original movie looked forward to this series with great anticipation, many of us hoping to rekindle the excitement we felt fifteen years ago when we were first introduced to Spirit's Wild West.

Both Just Play and Breyer have released a whole collection of Spirit Riding Free toys, and I will look at several of these in today's review.  I want to start the review by showing you something I bought right after I watched Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, though.  This is Breyer's 2002 model of Spirit himself:

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron Breyer horse model, 2002.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Disney's Rapunzel from Tangled: The Series

Over the years, I've chronicled my increasing frustration with the Disney Store and its Classic Princess dolls.  My problem with the company centers primarily around their inability to design functional and durable knee joints.  That was not a huge deal back when the dolls cost $13, but now that the prices have crept up and the limbs have gotten more fragile...I think it's a big deal.  In fact, I was so exasperated with this trend that I decided to stop reviewing Disney Store dolls altogether.  But--as many of you know--I made an exception to that rule when the live action Belle doll was released last spring.  My love for the Belle character inspired me to try and take a fresh-eyed look at the doll.  Sadly, even when I ignored Belle's predictably bad knees, she still disappointed me in other ways.  I figured that review would surely mark my last Disney Store purchase.  Wrong again!

Back in May, during my Bratz Secret Date review, Sév and Dmitry encouraged me to consider the Disney Store's 10.5-inch Tangled:The Series version of Rapunzel.  They told me that this doll has a completely new body, with--wait for it--a new knee joint design.  I've literally been waiting five years to write those words.  Not only that, but it's a Rapunzel doll, and I love Rapunzel even more than I love Belle.  So, I broke my promise to myself one more time and bought another Disney Store doll:

review
The Disney Store's Rapunzel from Tangled: The Series, $19.95.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Waiting for Eliza

As many of you have probably heard, American Girl debuted their Create Your Own doll feature early this month.  This is an online program that allows kids (of any age...) to design their own dolls and clothing from a wide range of options.  It's similar to My Twinn's old BFF customization tool, but it offers more variety.  I think the addition of this option to the American Girl lineup is a brilliant move by Mattel.  Not only is the website super-fun and easy to use (I spent the better part of a day playing around with it) but it allows kids (and doll reviewers) to have pretty much exactly the doll they want.  This is great because it will eliminate the inevitable disappointment that accompanies each year's new doll releases.  This year, if you don't see the doll you want, you can design him or her yourself!

I designed a custom doll who I've named Eliza.  Eliza has a few backordered features, and so she won't arrive until mid November.  I figured that while I'm waiting for Eliza to arrive, I could walk you through some of my experiences with the Create Your Own program.  That way, we can all wait together to see if the final product lives up to our expectations.

I didn't want to publish a post filled with nothing but screenshots, though, so I decided that I'd also use this opportunity to share an American Girl doll that I purchased back in April; the new 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison:

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BeForever Melody Ellison by American Girl, $115.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Enchantimals by Mattel

Today I'm going to review Mattel's newest sensation, the six-inch tall, animal-like Enchantimals.  I came across these little dolls almost by accident a few weeks ago while I was researching the new Monster High Family line (which also includes several six-inch animal-like characters).

Instead of leaping right in and introducing the Enchantimals, I though maybe I'd change things up and try to describe what it's like here in my house as I type up these reviews.  First of all, there are animals everywhere.  I usually have my chronically flatulent mini poodle, Zelda, curled up on my right side and my mutt, Pants, cuddled as close as Zelda will let him get.  A parakeet cage sits immediately to my left, and this houses our two male birds: Bundy and Griffin.  Griffin is always very interested in what I'm doing.  His favorite activity is to "help" me type (in other words, to sit on the keyboard and pull up on the computer's keys with his beak...pooping on my track pad as he works) but when I don't let him do this, he sits in his cage and looks over my shoulder, offering helpful chirps (or squawks) when he feels they're necessary.

While all of this is going on, my youngest son (now 17) is practicing the piano about ten feet away from me.  I say this like it's always happening...because it is.  In fact, a few of you might have noticed him in the background sound of my WuvLuv videos.  I enjoy listening to the piano while I work, I do, but the problem is that my ancient dog, Padawan, imagines himself an excellent jazz singer.  So, he's often accompanying my son's practice with his geriatric howl.  Better still, all three of the parakeets tend to sing (or squawk, depending on whether or not they like the song...) to the music as well.

So, basically, everything I do is set against a background of piano music, animal noises, and pet interference companionship.  This can be distracting some days, sure, but today--as I review an animal-themed doll line--it feels totally natural.  Speaking of nature, I'll start things off by showing you one of my Enchantimals (Felicity Fox) outside enjoying the brilliant colors of summer:

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Enchantimals Felicity Fox by Mattel, $7.99.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Surprise: WuvLuvs by Trendmasters!

In the comments section of my recent Hatchimal Colleggtibles review, Caroline mentioned a beloved surprise-themed toy from her childhood.  The toy was called a WuvLuv.  Caroline described this vintage toy as having "eggs and surprises," which was more than enough to get my attention.  I love vintage toys...especially ones with surprises.  I read Caroline's comment and went immediately to eBay, where I found a mint-in-box yellow WuvLuv for under $50.  That's a hefty price, but it's more reasonable than many of the surprise-themed vintage toys I've encountered--especially considering that this WuvLuv's box had never even been opened.  Needless to say, I bought it instantly.

So today, thanks to Caroline, we get to hatch a secret egg and see a mystery baby that's been hidden for almost 18 years!

A WuvLuv (1999) by Trendmaster.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Shibajuku Girls Mini Dolls: Shiba-Cuties!

Today I'm going to review several 6-inch Shiba-Cuties, the newest offering from Hunter Products' Shibajuku Girls collection.  I could declare that this review was part of the mini doll mini series I was talking about back in May, although I'll confess that I didn't even know about these particular minis when I had the idea to start that series.  And speaking of that series, I haven't forgotten about all of the other mini dolls that I want to review, but these Shibajuku newcomers stole the spotlight when they came into the house, probably because I've had this style of doll on my mind lately with the release of Gwen Stefani's Kuu Kuu Harajuku line.

I've been stalled in my mini doll reviews mostly because it's been too brutally hot and humid to take decent outdoor pictures.  In fact, it was brutally hot and humid the day I took the Shiba-Cuties outside for their photo shoot, but I managed to capture a few quick shots before I was attacked by mosquitoes of unusual size.  More on that later.  For now, I'll start things off by showing you one of the better pictures from that session.  It seems so calm and pleasant:

Shiba-Cuties doll, Namika ($9.90).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

L.O.L. Surprise Series 2: Let's Be Friends Lil Sisters!

As promised, I'm back with another surprise post...and it's not even Sunday!  Today I'm going to look at the Lil Sisters balls from the new series of Lil Outrageous Littles (L.O.L.).

I reviewed a first wave L.O.L. Surprise doll back in December....actually, I opened two dolls during that review, but they ended up being duplicates of the same character, Hoops MVP.  Since that time, I've opened a few more balls on my own and they've all been different, which is great.  I have to say though, that I'm growing tired of opening this particular surprise toy.  Once the multi-layered packaging loses its novelty, the balls just become tedious to deal with.  I got to the point where I was ripping open the balls; completely ignoring the stickers and picture phrases, leaving bottle accessories unopened, and immediately pitching the plastic balls into the trash.  I only wanted to see the doll.  That's way too much waste for a $10 toy.

However, just as I lost enthusiasm for purchasing more of these dolls, the new series--Let's Be Friends--hit the shelves.  Series 2 includes regular-sized L.O.L. dolls, but also a whole collection of Lil Sisters.  Lil Sisters are smaller (and cheaper!) balls that contain surprise baby dolls.  The Lil Sister babies coordinate with the larger L.O.L. dolls from both Series 1 and Series 2, so it's possible to get matching big and little dolls.  Fun!  Of course I had to buy a few:

Series 1 L.O.L. Surprise doll, "Center Stage" ($9.99), and a Series 2 Li'l Sisters ball ($6.99).

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Hatchimal Colleggtibles by Spin Master!

July has been a bit hectic so far.  My youngest son is off in another state doing a summer program, and so last week and next week will be mostly consumed by transporting him to and fro and visiting family along the way.  I always bring a few dolls along on these trips, in the hopes that there will be an outdoor photo opportunity, but the frequent (and exciting!) summery thunderstorm downpours have kept the dolls under cover.

I decided to tackle a smaller review in between all of this traveling and raining, but couldn't decide between the super-popular Hatchimal Colleggtible miniatures and the new L.O.L. Li'l Sisters surprise balls.  So, I've been working on both posts at the same time.  The Hatchimal review ended up being a little faster to photograph, so I'll share that today as this week's official Sunday Surprise.  However, the L.O.L. sisters will probably make an appearance well before next Sunday.

A hatching Hatchimal Colleggtible figure ($9.88 for 5).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Kuu Kuu Harajuku Dolls by Mattel

At the end of May I was looking at the new wave of Project Mc2 dolls on Amazon (apparently I can't stay away from those science girls!) when a recommendation popped up on my screen: Mattel's Kuu Kuu Harajuku dolls.  I had never heard of these dolls, but they looked really cute in the pictures.  At the time when I was shopping, there were three ten-inch fashion dolls and five four-inch mini dolls available.

The fashion dolls are a bit like a mash-up of Ever After High girls and Little Charmers (with big oval heads, round eyes and good-looking articulation), but they also have Japanese Harajuku-themed accessories...similar to the Shibajuku Girl dolls I reviewed back in December.

The dolls are based on an animated television show inspired by Gwen Stefani's 2004 Harajuku Girls song.  The show's five main characters, G, Angel, Music, Love, and Baby are based on Gwen Stefani and her four (controversial) Japanese backup singers from the Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album.  Dolls were made from each of the five main characters.  I chose to purchase large and mini versions of "G," the lead singer and alter ego of Ms. Stefani herself:

Kuu Kuu Harajuku "G" fashion doll ($19.99) and mini doll ($5.99).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Black Label Barbie Wonder Woman Dolls

The suspense is over!  Here's my update to the Wonder Woman comparison review from earlier in the week.

To recap: Mattel offers two different Black Label Wonder Woman dolls at the moment, one from the 2016 Batman v Superman movie and another from the more recent Wonder Woman movie.  I assumed that--other than a few accessory and packaging differences--these two dolls were the same.  Acting on this assumption, I included the Batman v Superman doll in my comparison review so that I could leave the newer doll on display in her box.

But then, Rett informed me that the two dolls are not the same.  Not only is the newer doll more muscular, but she she has different arm articulation.  So, of course I had to de-box the newer doll for a quick showdown.  Here's the lovely (and strong!) Black Label Wonder Woman 2.0:

Black Label Barbie Wonder Woman from the Wonder Woman movie.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Comparison Review of Three Mattel Wonder Woman Dolls

After watching the Wonder Woman preview fifteen times, I finally got a chance to go and see the real film.  It's amazing...or it has many moments of being amazing.  For example, I got choked up during all of the battle scenes--and now I see that I was not alone in having this reaction.  I mean, the battle scenes, for goodness sake!  Those are usually my least favorite part of a movie.  I actually found the love scenes in Wonder Woman tiresome and unnecessary, which is totally backwards for me.  As much as I enjoyed this movie, it didn't completely live up to all of my expectations.  In fact, my son and I critiqued the movie for the whole drive home--while cheerfully agreeing that we both loved it.  I kind-of knew something like this would happen, though, because when I'm obsessively eager to see a certain movie, my expectations get unrealistic and there's an inevitable (often temporary) let-down.  The same thing happened with Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast--except of course with those movies I enjoyed the fight scenes least and cried during all of the romantic scenes.

As a long-time fan of the Wonder Woman character, I've been thrilled to see all of the new dolls and action figures that have debuted during the past year or so.  There were a few Wonder Woman dolls released with the 2016 Batman v Superman movie (in which Wonder Woman has a cameo), and those offerings have probably tripled with the opening of the new film.

In this comparison review, I will look at a mix of dolls from Wonder Woman and Batman v Superman.  Strangely, all of these dolls are made by Mattel:

Black Label Batman v Superman Wonder Woman, Multiverse Wonder Woman, Battle Ready Wonder Woman.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sunday Monday Surprise: Bratz Secret Date!

There were only about two minutes between the time I read an anonymous comment about Bratz Secret Date dolls and the moment I clicked "Buy it Now" on eBay.  This is exactly the kind of toy that appeals to me (a vintage doll with a hidden surprise!) and I never even knew the line existed until I read that comment.  So--although I can't thank you by name--many thanks to Anonymous for the outstanding suggestion!

The Bratz Secret Date series was introduced in 2004.  The collection included five of the Bratz girls (Meygan, Jade, Yasmin, Cloe, and Nevra), each packaged with a hidden blind date doll--one of five Bratz Boyz characters.  Cool idea, right?  The Secret Date collection ignited some controversy, though, because the title of the line and the suggestive commercial implied that the Bratz girls were going out in secret (without permission from their parents) with a boy they'd never met.  In 2004, a time when concerns were brewing over kids meeting strangers online, the backlash to this series of dolls was understandable.  I truly believe that the intention behind the theme was innocent--but that ad certainly makes me uncomfortable.  What do you guys think?

In response to the criticism, MGA Entertainment quickly renamed the series Blind Date and updated all of the packaging.  Today I will show you Yasmin (and her blind date!) from the original Secret Date collection:

Bratz Secret Date Yasmin, 2004 ($29.99).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Life As Mini Dolls from Walmart

I was looking around my studio the other day, trying to decide what to review next, and I realized that I have a lot of mini versions of 18-inch play dolls sitting around--some brand new, some that have been here for several months.  The exact same day that I had this realization, I went to Walmart to buy grass seed (our yard is a lifeless mud pit), swung through the toy section...and spotted two of the new My Life As mini dolls.  That's when it hit me that I should do a sequence of shorter reviews showcasing some of these newer minis--a mini series about mini dolls, if you will.

This mini series will include the newest Maru Mini Pals (on their way to me as I type!), a Kidz 'n' Cats mini doll, some of the newer Our Generation minis (and Lori dolls), maybe my mini (and full-sized!) American Girl Melody dolls...and of course the My Life As minis I just discovered.  In fact, I'll start things off with the My Life As minis because they feel really new and exciting to me right now.  Here's my favorite of the bunch:

My Life As a Baker mini doll ($9.88).

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Family Corners by Mattel!

Some of my favorite Sunday Surprise dolls have been vintage items that are older than my kids.  The Jolly Dolly babies from Easter are a good example, as is one of my all-time favorite baby dolls: the Sweet e.Baby from 1999.  I like these older dolls because they offer secrets that have been hidden for decades, but also because they give a fascinating glimpse into the history of dolls in our society.

A few weeks ago I was talking about how Mattel has been making some modernizing changes to many of their doll lines.  Today I will go back in time and show you how this company was doing things in the early 90s.  The Family Corners dolls came out in 1994 and featured separately-sold male and female characters.  Kids could match up their favorite couple, stage a wedding, and then reveal a hidden baby doll.  I bought these dolls because of the secret baby (a fitting topic for Mother's Day...happy Mother's Day!) but what I actually find more interesting is how the presentation of this concept manages to be both socially restrictive...and also inspiringly open-minded.

Family Corners "Nicholas" and "Trista" dolls (1994).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Endless Hair Kingdom Barbie by Mattel

I've been going to Toys R Us every week for the past month, trying to find something new and exciting to review.  This is often a slow time of year (after the holidays but before summer) for new doll releases.  In fact, I've been noticing absences from the shelves more than additions: Bratz dolls have been discontinued and are gradually disappearing, the Journey Girls have been replaced by American Girl, Winx Club dolls--and their Make it Pop imitators--are gone, and although Cabbage Patch Kids are still around, they look really different under the Wicked Cool Toys label.

Amidst all of these changes, evidence suggests that Mattel might be doing well--recovering from their multi-year financial slump.  I don't have a lot of data to support this, but the Toys R Us doll section in South Portland is certainly dominated by Mattel these days: there's Barbie, Ever After High, Monster High, My Mini MixieQ, DC Super Hero Girls, Loving Family...and of course the whole American Girl mini-store.  The only chink in Mattel's armor seems to be the fact that Hasbro scored the Disney Princess license.

Mattel's dominance doesn't bother me the way it used to.  I think this company is starting to make a lot of great changes.  While I've all but lost interest in Monster High and Ever After High, I'm very excited about some of American Girl's new releases: the WellieWishers, Melody, Gabriella, Logan, Z and Nanea.  The Barbie aisle is more exciting to me now than it's ever been, too, with the brilliantly-articulated Made to Move characters and the diversity of body types and skin tones in the Fashionista line.  In fact, the most interesting doll I found at Toys R Us last week is a Barbie doll.  This doll is from Mattel's Endless Hair Kingdom collection.  She caught my eye because of her size (about 17 inches), her great articulation, and her very long hair:

Endless Hair Kingdom Barbie, $24.99.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Dolls from Hasbro and the Disney Store: The Beast

This is my second comparison review of dolls from the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie.  You can find my review of the Hasbro and Disney Store Belle dolls here.

I was much more excited about the Beast dolls from these two companies than I was about the Belle dolls--in part because of the underwhelming promotional pictures of the Disney Store's Belle, but also because the Beast is simply a more unique, intriguing figure.

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy reviewing the Beast--especially the Disney Store's version--but this fascinating character also somehow managed to make the unfortunate Disney Store Belle doll more appealing to me.  The two dolls compliment each other quite well, and bring out something...well, something that I didn't see before:

Toy Box Philosopher review
The Beast and Belle from the Disney Store, $34.95 each.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Happy Easter!

For more than a decade, Easter has started (bright and early!) in my house with an egg hunt and an epic treasure hunt.  I used to spend all Saturday making clues for the hunt...clues that my dynamic treasure hunting duo would solve in under an hour (baskets of candy are powerful motivators, I guess).  This year, with one kid off at college and the other with a new-found love for sleeping in on Sunday mornings...well, Easter is off to a quieter start.

I overcompensated for this change by trying to pack way too many things into today's Sunday Surprise.  I have an odd mix of surprise-themed things to share with you: some Li'l Woodzeez blind bag bobblehead figures, a Matryoshka nesting doll (with a mystery number of smaller dolls inside!) and some vintage Holly Jolly baby-filled eggs by Zapf Creation.

Matryoshka doll by Yankelus.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Dolls by Hasbro and the Disney Store: Belle

Last year, when I was re-thinking this blog and figuring out how to keep it in my life, I made a few resolutions.  One of them was that I would never feel obligated to buy another Disney Store doll.  Why? Well, when I first started collecting these dolls (back in 2012), I was blown-away by the high-quality product that Disney could offer for under $13. Over the years, though, the dolls have suffered a lapse in quality and an increase in price…to the point where I started feeling bad every time I made a Disney Store purchase.

So why am I reviewing a Disney Store doll now?  Well, frankly, it’s because I’m a total sucker for Disney movies, and I get a little obsessed when a new one comes out. When the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie was announced, I eagerly waited for the release of the associated dolls…and then bought all of them. I can’t say that this was a wise decision, but at least I’ll get to share what I learned with all of you.  In a short series of (not necessarily sequential) posts, I'll look at both the Disney Store and Hasbro’s versions of Beauty and the Beast's main characters.  I’ll start things off today with each company’s yellow-gowned Belle doll:

Beauty and the Beast's Belle from the Disney Store, $34.95.
(Shown on a Barbie Made to Move body)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Figuring Out Phicen (Part 3): The 6th Generation Females

Well, we've arrived at the third (and final) installment of my Figuring Out Phicen series.  I published this review in small segments partly because I had too many pictures for a single post, but also because I've been crazy-preoccupied by our high school's spring drama show.  Every year this fun event eats huge amounts of my time, and this year is no exception.  So, if you feel like I've been distracted lately...you're absolutely right.  Oh, and also: we're getting 21 inches of snow today in Maine.  Same old, same old.  So, basically, this review might not be my best work, but if I get it published before our power goes out, I'm gonna be psyched.

Regardless of distractions, I do read every comment on the blog, and I have to say: you guys are hysterical.  The banter about Paul and his "bits and pieces" from the last review made my entire week.  Aria, your thread made me laugh out loud more than once.  I'll admit to having the same fixation on finally seeing the Phicen secret parts.  And Alina_Mau: my apologies to you and our other day-glow pale sisters for all of the skin tone shaming.  In my defense, I don't even know what a tan is.  There's pale and then there's burned...right?

I'm afraid there will be even more skin tone discrimination in this review, though, because--spoilers--a Phicen suntan body found its way into my house and totally stole the show:

Phicen 6th Generation S17B Super Flexible body (suntan) with Kimi's Amanda Seyfried head.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Figuring Out Phicen (Part 2): The Phicen M33 Male Body

Welcome to the second of three posts about the fabulous Super Flexible Phicen bodies!  I started this series with the intention of simply finding a head for a pale female Phicen body.  However, my choice of body (the S01A--which you can read about in Part 1) was far too similar to the only other Phicen body I own (the S01--which you can read about here).

So, in an effort to learn something new about Phicen, I went a little overboard and purchased a male body and two of the newest female bodies.  Today I'll take a quick look at the male body I chose, the M33:

Phicen M33 male body with an Eleven head (left), Phicen S01A female body with a Dreamer head (right).

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Figuring Out Phicen (Part 1): Finding a Head for
a Phicen S01A Pale Body

I had my first experience with a Phicen Super-Flexible Seamless body back in the winter of 2015.  Ever since my review of that doll (Leila, a stainless steel S01 figure) I've been considering another Phicen purchase.  In fact, I bought another doll while I was reviewing Leila, but I sent her back immediately because I did not like the body shading or the head sculpt.  I always assumed I'd give the brand another try, but there have been some obstacles along the way.

The first obstacle was that my older Phicen body is not holding up very well.  I was never able to get the pencil stains off her leg, and her soft body has continued to separate along the side seams.  Another hurdle is that the newer Phicen bodies do not come with heads...and Phicen doesn't sell heads separately.  In theory, I was happy to purchase a head from a different company, but it's not so easy to tell which heads will go with which bodies, and the Phicen pale bodies seem particularly difficult to match.

My mission for this review was to order a new stainless steel pale body and then find it a head.  Sounds simple, right?   However, I'm not very good at keeping track of all the different types of Phicen body (or all of the different brands of heads, for that matter).  My inexperience led to a few blunders that took me off on some unexpected tangents.  By the time I figured out what was going on, I had way too many photographs for one post.  I decided to split my discoveries into several short parts: Part 1 will be my quest for a decent head for an S01A body.  Part 2 will feature a Phicen male body (and the selection of his head), and then Part 3 will look at two of Phicen's 6th generation female bodies...and a few more heads.  It's going to be a full-blown Phicen overload.

Phicen S01A body with middle-sized breast...and no head ($74.99).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Zomby Gaga by Monster High and the
Born This Way Foundation

Whoa.  What a wintry week we're having here in Maine!  Thursday was the second snow day in a row for the local kids, and we're looking at another two feet of snow for tonight.  I'm hoping to get this review posted before that storm hits!  So far we've been fortunate enough to keep power (and avoid any more branches through the roof) so it's been an excellent time for me to work on my next several reviews.  I'm really excited about all of the dolls that I have planned for the upcoming month...I just hope I can work as fast as my mind is racing!

This particular review has been a long time coming.  I pre-ordered Monster High's Zomby Gaga back in October (after Dmitry's excellent suggestion).  Zomby Gaga is a special edition doll meant to depict Lady Gaga from her Born This Way music video.  Zomby Gaga arrived in early January, but I've had a hard time tracking down the other doll I needed for this review--Robert Tonner's Zombie Boy.  Zombie Boy is the screen name of Rick Genest, the tattooed model who appears alongside Lady Gaga in her video.  I finally found the Zombie Boy doll safely tucked away on a back shelf.  He's fragile, and so I don't keep him on display.

The timing actually worked out really well, though, because the real Lady Gaga performed at the epic Super Bowl game last weekend, and so I've had her songs going through my head all week.

"Zomby Gaga" by Monster High, $23.99.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Twozies and Sonny Angel!

Whew.  I was so emotionally bogged down by that Global Girl review (I dislike writing negative reviews...), I needed to do something fun immediately!  So--I have a quick (Super Bowl) Sunday Surprise post for you!

This post happened out of the blue because of a lucky coincidence.  I've been eyeing the Twozies surprise packs in the store for a while now, even purchasing one on a few different occasions with the idea that I'd add them to a Sunday Surprise post one day.  Then, last week, as I was checking Amazon for the availability of L.O.L Surprise dolls (they're still so hard to find around here!), a new kind of doll popped into my suggestions list: Sonny Angel figures by Dreams Inc.  I'd never seen these little cuties before...and they remind me a lot of the Twozies.

Both Twozies and Sonny Angel dolls are baby-like figures that come wearing animal (or plant) hats...and not much else.  Twozies and Sonny Angel dolls are also both packaged in a blind box so you never know exactly which doll you're going to get.  I thought it would be fun to de-box a few of these little ones and see how similar they actually are:

Sonny Angel (left) and Twozies (right) blind box figures.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Vivienne by Global Girl

I've been doing a lot of organizing and cleaning in preparation for the upcoming repair of my studio ceiling.  All of this work has unearthed several dolls that I honestly forgot I owned.  For example, I purchased the doll I'm reviewing today--Vivienne by Global Girl--back in the fall of 2014.  At that time I was exploring many different kinds of 18-21 inch play dolls, and the Global Girl company was suggested to me as an interesting new addition to the market.  The company's mission is to use dolls and books to expose kids to different cultures and countries around the world.  This is definitely the kind of mission I appreciate.  I also like to support new doll companies, and so I happily purchased Vivienne, Global Girl's character from France.

So why didn't I review this doll when I first got her?  Well, first of all, I didn't have a great ordering experience with the company.  I'll assume they've improved their customer service over the last few years and leave it at that.  But, more importantly, when Vivienne arrived, I immediately took her out of the box to inspect her face...and discovered that she had terrible staining all around her neck from her dark scarf.  So, I popped her back into her box and pondered what to do next.  As a general rule, I don't like to review dolls that I know I'll dislike, especially when I'm dealing with a small start-up company.  So, I tucked Vivienne away in a corner and procrastinated over the review...for two and a half years.

When I discovered Vivienne in her corner the other day, I figured it was time for her to come out of hiding and earn her keep.  Another thing that prompted me to finally write this review is the fact that (from what I can tell) very few people have reviewed the Global Girls over the past few years, and most of those reviews come from sites that were given a doll for free.  You know how I feel about that.  So, for better or for worse, here's Miss Vivienne:

"Vivienne" by Global Girl, $89.99.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Saskia Project Conclusion

As you might imagine, life has been a little disorganized around here lately.  The same storm that put a branch through our roof actually left two more holes in the house, so we've had to replace the roof and do a few other maintenance things.  Next week the hole in my studio ceiling will be patched up, so I should be able to get back to normal soon after that.  The nice thing is that both our insurance company and our contractor are awesome, so things are about as good as they could possibly be given the circumstances.

With the roof construction underway, studio time has been scarce.  This offered me the perfect chance to finish up the Saskia Project, though, because I'd already assembled Saskia and taken a few pictures of her before the storm hit.  All I had left to do was snap a few photos outside in the sun--no studio necessary.  This should have been an easy thing to do, but there was one small problem: as much as I love this doll and as cute as she is in real life, she's not at all photogenic...especially outside.  I suspect this is mostly because I made her way too shiny with all of those layers of sealant.  I'm also not accustomed to photographing baby dolls.  They don't stand up on their own!

Anyway, in today's post I'll show you how I assembled Saskia and then share a collection of pictures that I took of her after she was finished.  To put these pictures in some perspective, I took over 500 snapshots of this doll...and only about 50 of them turned out.  Here's one of those 50:

"Saskia" reborn kit doll by Bonnie Brown (completed).

Friday, January 6, 2017

Maru and Tanya Mini Pals by Maru and Friends

Happy New Year!  I hope 2017 has gotten off to a promising start for all of you.  It's been a mixed bag around here...but I'll get to that in a sec.  Thank you so much for all of the wonderful comments on the Christmas post!  I was thrilled that many of you enjoyed hearing about Santa Mouse and his magic.  That's a pretty special memory for me.

I want to start this year off right by reviewing two new dolls from one of my very favorite companies: Maru and Friends.  As you might recall, the redheaded Savannah character from Maru's 18-inch line is one of my most treasured, beautiful play dolls.

Maru and Friends recently introduced a collection of mini dolls (the Mini Pals) who are 13-inch versions of the larger characters.  So far Maru, Tanya, Savannah and a little boy (Chad) have been added to the website.  I'm embarrassed to say that I've been pre-ordering these adorable Mini Pals as fast as Maru and Friends announces them.  As advertised, the first two dolls in the series--Maru and Tanya--arrived at my house just in time for Christmas.  Mini Maru arrived outfitted perfectly for the holiday, too, in a beautiful miniature of the Dazzling Holidays red taffeta dress:

Maru Mini Pal from Maru and Friends ($89).