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.
I'll start things off with a warning: this is probably the longest review I've ever written.  I tried to keep my comments brief, but you know me.  I considered splitting everything into two smaller posts, but figured that might be irritating for those of you who are not interested in the Project Mc2 line.  So, grab a good snack and brace yourselves for a marathon of fashion and science!

I'll look at the dolls in reverse chronological order, starting with Ember from the newest release:

review
Ember's Fairy Wings, $24.99.
The box design was simplified for this wave and the one that came right before it.  There are no longer cardboard edges on the boxes--just a cardboard backdrop with a plastic front:


Here's Ember's box next to Devon's box so that you can see the differences:

Old box style (left) and new box style (right).

The title text on the front of the box has been simplified, too:


Ember comes with a fairy wings experiment that seems to involve making a pair of earrings from a butterfly mold:

That looks fun!
The back of the box is packed with information, including a more detailed description of the fairy wing project and an overview of why Ember is dressed for a masquerade:

review

The experiment description is pretty interesting at the beginning:


I especially like that they mention polymers.  Polymers are large, often chained molecules that are made up of similar small "building block" molecules.  

Here's an example of a building block molecule--it's called vinyl acetate:

CH₃CO₂CHCH₂ or vinyl acetate.
If you string a bunch of these molecules together, you get polyvinyl acetate--or white glue!

Unfortunately, there's an error in the writing.  Can you spot it?

Spot the bad sentence!
I think they meant to say either, "bad at sticking to smooth surfaces like glass," or "bad at sticking smooth surfaces together."  They ended up trying to say both.  Oops.

I'll try the glue experiment in a little bit!

The text in the green rectangle explains that the Project Mc2 gang is dressed up so that they can go undercover at a masquerade prom.  That sounds intriguing!


The blurb also says that Ember's newly-pink hair matches her wings...which is true in the box picture, but not as noticeable in reality.  As we'll see in a second, the wings are actually translucent with only a very slight pink or purplish tinge.

The bottom of the box has a small photograph of all the dolls in this wave.  The only one I haven't seen on shelves yet is Bryden:


This is actually ok with me because while Bryden is my hands-down favorite character in this line, I'm not on board with her outfit in this particular collection.  That's a really cheesy mermaid dress.  Her hair looks like it might be cool, though.

Anyway, Ember was typically frustrating to de-box.  She was held in place with an abundance of plastic ties.  Here's the evidence:


Worse yet, her dress was riddled with tiny plastic ties, too:


These ties are hard to find, and they leave little holes in the fabric:


A section of Ember's hair was even stitched onto the dress with pink thread!  The piece of hair pulled free easily, but the thread was harder to remove:


I had to carefully snip and pull that thread out of the tulle.  Would it be so terrible if the dress or hair got a little messy in the box?  The packaging is completely out of control.

Here's Ember, finally free from all (or most) of her plastic ties:

review

She comes with wings, a wing mold, and some extra accessories in a cardboard display.

The cardboard display was holding a comb, a mask, and two earring bases for the art project:


I chose this particular doll because of her hair and her antlered headdress:


Not only is the hair an unusual color (I'd call it mauve) but it's looped around the top of Ember's head in an intricate weave:

It reminds me of a friendship bracelet.
I've never seen a hairstyle like this on a doll before--or on a person, for that matter!  It's quite beautiful to look at, although my doll's hair is a little messier than what's shown in the promotional pictures.

The hair is very long, too, with a bit of wave towards the bottom:


The mauve hair on the top of Ember's head conceals a section of bright pink underneath, which is a fun detail.

Sadly, the texture of the hair is coarse (especially at the ends) and it comes out of the box looking very tangled and matted:


When I first got Ember out of the box, I wanted to focus on her pretty face and outfit, but I kept getting distracted by the scruffy hair:


That's really bad hair.
When I went to brush Ember's troublesome hair, I noticed that she has a triangular hole in her back:


This is where the wings attach:


The wings are very pretty.  They're made out of bendable vinyl and are filled with fine, shimmering glitter.  They have a faint pinkish-purple tinge but are mostly translucent.  They stay in place very nicely, and were actually a little hard to pull out!  They're well designed for play.

Here's Ember from the front, with her wings attached:


The wings do a good job of keeping that matted hair away from her face:

Toy Box Philosopher

I ran a brush through the hair a few times, and it transformed into a frizzy poof:

Ugh.
Even after a thorough brushing, the matted areas return very quickly.

review

I wish the texture of this hair was as nice as the gorgeous color.

I was afraid that removing Ember's headdress would mess up the intricate braid in her hair, so I left it in place.  Here are a few close-up pictures:


It has three detailed flowers, two are painted and one is the color of the underlying (pink) vinyl:

I wish the leaves were painted green!
The headband itself is made out of brown vinyl and has deer-like antlers on each side.  The antlers are shaded at the tips and have lots of molded texture:



With the headdress still sewn in place, I pulled Ember's hair back away from her face:

review

Her eyes are a little wonky, just like my other Ember doll's eyes.  I wonder if this is just bad luck, or if there's something about the Ember face mold that makes it predisposed to wonky eyes?  Hm.

I also don't like the heavy application of glitter on her lips.  It obscures the lined detail.

Ember's eyes are a beautiful turquoise blue with both light and dark brown iris marks.  She has painted eyelashes on the bottom of her eyes and both painted and applied lashes on top:


This doll has especially elaborate eye makeup.  She has two bands of color on the outside edge of each eye and another band of glittery green on the inside edge of each eye.  Beneath the eyes is a white looping pattern that's reminiscent of a flower's petals:



Ember has a freckled face with freckles that continue up onto her forehead.  If you look closely, you'll see that each freckle is composed of several smaller dots:


This is not how my older Ember doll's freckles are done.  Here's a close look at that doll's face:

Ember's Garden freckles.
I think the solid freckles look better.  Perhaps MGA was trying to lighten the overall appearance of the freckles for some reason?  If so, it definitely worked.  Here are the two Ember dolls side-by-side:

Ember's Fairy Wings (left) and Ember's Garden (right).

Ember's fairy dress is beautiful.  It has so many frothy, ethereal little details.

  
The bodice is made out of satin, with a chiffon bandeau at the neckline.  The bodice accents and straps are made out of gold-edged green ribbon, and there's a delicate pink ribbon flower at the waist:


The bodice is fully lined and intricately sewn:


The most prominent feature of the skirt is a cascade of tulle and chiffon curls that hang from the waistline:


Underneath this embellishment, the skirt has a fairly simple shape that's much shorter in front than it is in back:


The skirt has two layers: a lavender tulle overskirt and a pale pink satin underskirt:


The only unfortunate thing about the skirt is that the midline seam in back is highly visible under the tulle layer:



Here's a peek at the seam with the tulle lifted away:


Ember's body is similar to other Project Mc2 bodies I've looked at, with white painted underwear and eleven points of articulation:


This doll stands very nicely in her shoes, too.

Under the shoes, Ember has fashion feet with adorable green netted socks:

I love these socks!
Her shoes are cream vinyl heels with pink flower accents:


I appreciate that the tiny leaves on these shoes are painted green!


Thanks to a few anonymous tips in the comments section, now I always check the bottoms of Project Mc2 shoes.  Ember's shoes have an eccentric tread pattern and a little Mc2 mark:


Once I removed Ember's shoes, I posed her body a little bit, just to remind myself about the articulation.  Unfortunately, the first pose I tried caused this to happen:


My other Project Mc2 dolls have been able to rotate at the knee (albeit a bit stiffly), but this Ember can not.  If I try to twist her lower legs, they fall off.  The design of the joint looks the same, but I guess this doll has unusually unstable knees.

Here's a look at the joint:


On closer inspection, I wonder if the legs are meant to rotate at all?  The little square of vinyl that's right below the attachment peg fits into a square-shaped hole in the thigh:


Rotation occurs only because the square is forced to change its orientation.  Every time the square is twisted around, its edges get blunted...making the leg more apt to fall out.  This is either a poor design for rotation, or not meant to accommodate rotation at all.

Since I've spoken at length about the Project Mc2 bodies and articulation before, I'll just run through a quick list of the flaws that I'll be watching out for with each doll in this review:

1. The heads on these dolls tend to be floppy.  They can't hold a pose well and frequently loll backwards under the weight of the hair.  Ember has this problem.
2. The arms fall out a lot at the elbow.  You might have noticed that Ember's arms are trying to fall out in most of my pictures.
3. The wrists do not bend very well, and I notice this especially in the newer dolls (Ember's wrists don't bend much at all).
4. The legs fall off a lot at the knee...and not just when I'm trying outlandish poses.  Some dolls have legs that fall off whenever I'm removing the shoes.
5. The dolls tend to buckle at the knees, too.  They often fall backwards when I'm trying to balance them.

Here's Ember, fully-dressed and trying out her butterfly mask!


It was difficult to get this mask on over the headdress.  The rubber bands that hold the mask securely to the doll's face are too tight to easily stretch over the long antlers.  This problem is mostly my fault, though, since I was unwilling to cut the headband out of the hair.


The mask is a very fun, attractive accessory for this doll, though.  I think Ember looks great wearing it, and I can imagine all sorts of fun doll games that involve mysteries and masquerades.


I wrestled the mask over the antlers (and then re-brushed the hair...) so that I could get one more picture of Ember with her lovely eyes showing:


Now, let's take a look at Ember's fairy wing project.

Here's everything that came in the box for this activity:

Not much.
In addition to those things, the following "household items" were necessary:


I had Modge Podge, but no school glue.  I also didn't have any glitter, food coloring, or "small craft items."  

I purchased the missing ingredients and assembled everything outside on my deck:


The items I had to purchase are the food coloring ($3.67), the Elmer's glue ($3.79), the two tins of glitter ($3.99 each), and the strange Glitter Shaker Embellishments ($4.99).  The total cost for this project was $20.43.  I didn't need two tins of glitter, so $16.44 would have done the trick.

Why did I buy Glitter Shaker Embellishments, you might ask?  Well, because this was the only "small craft item" that Target had to offer, and I didn't want to go to another store.


Each cardboard shape has small beads or glitter inside:


It seems like a totally random assortment of shapes, though.  I mean what do a heart, an ice cream cone, a pineapple, and a cactus all have in common?  Things that must be eaten carefully??

Although I cannot fathom why these embellishments are for sale, I do like the little green beads that are inside the cactus:


Anyway, the directions say to fill the butterfly mold half way up with glue, mix in some food coloring if you want, and then sprinkle glitter and small craft items over the whole thing:


I filled the mold with glue...


The four pegs that stick out in the middle of the mold will create the holes that are necessary to make the earrings.

Next, I added a dot of red food coloring to the center:


I used a toothpick to make some vein-like swirls of color in the white glue:


And then I sprinkled glitter and green cactus beads everywhere:


It kinda looks like something I should be able to eat:


This took me less than five minutes.


The next step was to wait 24-48 hours, but I was NOT supposed to wait any longer than 48 hours!  The directions were very clear on that.  Yikes:


This project includes five minutes of fun and then two days of waiting, which (if I remember kids correctly) is not a good formula for happiness.  Parents won't love the shopping, set-up, and clean up that's involved for such a short diversion, either.

My recommendation to parents is that while the glue and glitter is out, have your kids do a few glitter pictures.  I loved doing the these when I was younger!  And I still love doing them, apparently.

How do you do a glitter picture?  Well, you just draw something with glue...

I used index cards because regular paper is too thin.
dump glitter all over the glue...

Yay!  This is the fun part!
...and then shake the excess glitter away.  Ta da!

Magic.
I sat outside and did about five of these.



Ok...maybe I did about ten of those.  They're really fun.

Now, I'll fast forward 48 hours (and no later!).  

At this stage I was instructed to carefully bend the edges of the butterfly mold and peel out the dried glue.  Then, I was supposed to cut the wings off the butterfly (ouch!) and loop them onto the earring bases that came with the set:


Here's my butterfly mold after 48 hours:


Sadly, the red food coloring streaks diffused into the glue before it could dry.  The red still looks pretty neat, though:

Still looks yummy to me.
Despite my patient waiting, the glue at the edges of my mold was not dry.  There's still a lot of white:



I waited another six hours or so and then lost patience and pulled the whole thing out:

The glue still isn't completely dry.
The concentration of red food coloring in the center seems to have diluted the glue, making this area very fragile and misshapen:


The glue wings are the same shape as the wings that Ember is supposed to wear.  I think it would have been fun to mold different replacement wings for the doll, rather than oversized, fragile earrings.


I followed the directions, though, and made one earring from the top of the wing:


And another earring from the bottom of the wing:


Even though the center of my mold didn't turn out very well, there was still enough of a hole to fit the wing onto the earring:


Here's Ember showing off one of the earrings!

Ember with a completed fairy earring.
That was a pretty fun project, for the most part, but I can't see kids wearing the earrings for any length of time.  I can see kids coming up with many other creative uses for that silicone butterfly mold, though (Christmas ornaments?  Light catchers for the window?  Decorations for a greeting card?  Part of a mobile?).

To summarize, here are what I think Ember's strengths and weaknesses are:

Face: Ember has a lovely face with elaborate, attractive makeup.  Her freckles are plentiful, but they're lighter in color than with previous releases.  My Ember's eyes are not set exactly right, and I don't like the clumps of glitter on her lips.

Hair: the color and style of Ember's long lavender-pink hair are great.  I love the intricate braided accent over her forehead and the flash of pink in the hair at the back of her head.  The texture of the hair is bad, though.  It's very coarse and tangled at the ends and looks too scraggly and bushy when it's brushed.

Outfit: the outfit is wonderful.  Ember's fairy gown is beautifully made with lots of excellent detail.  All of my dolls want to steal this dress.  My only criticism of the dress is that the back seam of the skirt is too thick and visible.  Ember's shoes are fun (with tiny little painted leaves and flowers!) and she's wearing awesome lime green fishnet socks.

Accessories: Ember comes with a fancy butterfly mask, a pair of wings, and a headband that's decorated with flowers and antlers.  I like all of these accessories and think they add significantly to Ember's overall look.  I have one small complaint: I wish that the headband was as carefully-painted as the shoes.

Body and articulation: the Project Mc2 body is a disappointment.  In general, the articulation performs poorly, to the point where I prefer the basic, under-articulated dolls in this line.  Specifically, my Ember has a loose neck that flops around, legs that fall out frequently, stiff hips that resist movement, and wrists that do not bend much at all.

Project: the fairy wing project requires several household items that you may or may not have on hand.  If, like me, you need to purchase most of the items, it can add significantly to the cost of the doll.  The fairy wing activity itself is fun, but involves very little creating and a lot of waiting.  I did manage to make a working set of earrings, though, and the butterfly mold can be used over and over again with all of the extra supplies.  The saving grace of this project is that it might inspire a range of glitter and glue activities that are inexpensive and will keep kids entertained.

Toy Box Philosopher

Moving on!  

The next doll that I'm going to look at is McKeyla's Glue Tattoo.  She's from the same wave of masquerade dolls as Ember's Fairy Wings.

McKeyla's Glue Tattoo, $24.99.
I was tempted to review this doll on her own because then the title of the post could have been McKeyla's Glue Tattoo Review.  I like saying that.

I'm not a huge fan of McKeyla's character, but this doll comes with rainbow hair and a unicorn headband, so I could not resist her!


McKeyla's experiment also features white school glue:

And food coloring and glitter, too!
This is disappointing in the sense that it doesn't feel very original after doing Ember's project, but it's nice because I already have the glue, food coloring, and glitter on hand!

The back of the box is similar to Ember's box in that it has a few pictures of the doll, an overview of the experiment, and an explanation for the masquerade theme:

review

The glue tattoo experiment description is a little lame.  There's really no science here at all:


Basically, it's saying that food coloring stains stuff but is safe to use.  Mix it with glue for more fun. Yippee.

There's really no excuse to bail on the science lesson here.  There's science in everything.  Ok, they already talked about polymers with Ember's experiment, but there's plenty left to discuss.  How about the atomic properties of color-reflecting molecules?  The magic of diffusion?  The fact that natural red food coloring is made out of bugs?  There's lots of good stuff to learn!

Dactylopius coccus (Barlovento) 04 ies
Dactylopius coccus, the bug from which natural red food coloring is made.
Science or no science, I'll try my hand at McKeyla's glue tattoo project a little later.

McKeyla is packaged in a similar way to Ember, with perhaps slightly fewer tiny plastic ties in her clothing.

She does have a strip of plastic sewn into the front of her skirt, though, which I find odd:


I suppose it's there to uphold the skirt's shape, but the fabric is so stiff and thick anyway, I'm not sure the plastic was necessary.

Here's everything that was in the box:

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Most of the items (a brush, a bucket, and a half dozen stencils) are for the glue tattoo project.  

McKeyla also has two accessories to use herself, though.  The first is a unicorn headband.  It comes rubber-banded to her right hand:


The headband is mostly white (with little ears!) but it also has a golden, glitter-laden horn:

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Here's McKeyla wearing her unicorn headband:


It looks good, although the ears seem more like sheep ears than horse ears to me.


McKeyla also comes with an ornate black mask:


Here she is wearing the mask and the horn:


This mask is easier to manage than Ember's because the horned headband is removable.


I have to admit that the unicorn headband is a little less amazing than I imagined it would be.  It just feels light and hastily-made.  The mask is great, though. 

Another thing that's great about McKeyla is her rainbow-tinted hair:


The rainbow effect is subtle from the front (and when the doll is in her box), but the streaks of pastel color are bright and impressive along the part:


This hair also came out of the box looking ragged and tangled, but--unlike Ember's hair-- the fiber is smooth and straight and it brushes out very nicely:

Before being brushed (left) and after (right).

The rainbow streaks are a little less distinct after the hair's been brushed, but it's not a huge difference.

The rooting on this doll isn't ideal, though.  The hair along the part is very dense and pretty, but the hair plugs at the back of the head are widely-spaced and thick:


I tied McKeyla's hair back so that I could get a good look at her face, and was surprised by how pretty the back of her hair looked!  Those rainbow streaks make even the simplest hairstyle fun:


Here's a close-up of her face:

face

McKeyla has thick, dark eyebrows that are in keeping with her normal brunette hair color.  However, something about the heavy (low-set?) brows and dark eye makeup make this doll look a little grumpy or upset.

She has lovely green eyes, though:


McKeyla's makeup is not as elaborate as Ember's, but she does have three-toned eyeshadow with a spray of golden glitter on the inside edge of each eye:


There are even purple and gold accents underneath each eye.

Incidentally, I think it's interesting that McKeyla's individual freckles are not made up of little dots.  Each one is just a single, solid dot.

McKeyla is also wearing a gown that's significantly shorter in the front than it is in the back.  In fact, all of the dolls in this wave but one (Bryden) are wearing gowns with this basic shape.  I guess this is the style nowadays?  



I don't like this asymmetric effect quite as much as I did on Ember's dress.  I think it's because McKeyla's gown is made out of stiff, layered fabric and has much simpler, straighter lines.  I wish that the skirt was short all of the way around.  However, that style would hide the best feature of the dress: its mix of color.


I love the metallic purple mesh in front with that iridescent blue shimmer underneath.  It looks amazing.  I just wish the dress had a more original way of showing off this pairing of colors and textures.

Maybe if the back of the dress was just slightly longer than the front?  That would look cool with the sneakers.  I can even picture that kind of shape paired with a long tail-like train with a mix of blacks and metallic strands....

Back to reality: the top of the dress has a simple bodice with a sleeveless mesh neckline:


The skirt's top layer is an unfinished purple mesh that's tacked onto the layer underneath:


Under the purple mesh is a lace-trimmed blue fabric with a silver metallic sheen:


This material catches the light in some fabulous ways:


Under the blue skirt, there's a layer of sheer opalescent weave:


This style of this dress might not be my favorite, but it has some awesome elements (and stellar construction) for a play doll outfit.

Of course when I tried to take McKeyla's shoes and gown off, her leg and arm fell off, too:  


McKeyla has many of the same body problems that Ember has: a floppy head, wrists that don't bend well (although these are a little better than Ember's wrists)...and limbs that fall off way too easily.

Here's a better look at the interior of the gown:


McKeyla is wearing black fishnet socks and two-toned watercolor boots:


Each boot is purple on the outside and blue on the inside--much like the dress:


The boots have black soles and painted black laces:



Sadly, there's nothing on the bottoms of these shoes:


Here are a few more pictures of McKeyla with her lovely hair and unicorn horn:


Toy Box Philosopher

Now, let's see what the glue tattoo project is like!  

Included in this set are a lot of flexible purple stencils, a doll-sized bucket, and a human-sized paintbrush:


The list of items that are not included is refreshingly modest:


Thanks to Ember's project, I already had most of the things on this list.  The only ingredient I had to buy was corn starch ($1.24).

However, if I handn't just done Ember's project, I would have had to purchase glue, glitter and food coloring as well.  That would make the total cost for this project $15.44, $11.45 with only one glitter tin.


The instructions asked me to combine the corn starch, glue and food coloring in the bucket, and then basically paint the mixture onto my skin, using the stencils as templates:


I measured the corn starch carefully (you also need measuring spoons for this activity...):


And then I just squirted the glue into the bucket until it was almost full (I didn't want glue in my measuring spoons):


For this experiment, I chose blue food coloring:


Which I mixed with a toothpick (also not on the list):


Then, I taped the unicorn stencil to my arm:


And painted on the gloppy glue mixture!


Next, I removed the stencil...

Hey!  That actually looks like a unicorn!
And added glitter:

Everything's better with glitter.
I gently shook off the excess glitter--not touching my arm at all:


Then--once again--I had to wait for a specific amount of time.  For this project, I was instructed to wait for 15 minutes:


I checked the clock--10:07.


At 10:30, the glue still smeared when I touched it:

There goes one hoof...
At 10:42...


...I got tired of waiting and my arm started to itch.


So, I "peeled" (scraped) the unicorn off:

It was hard to get off!
There wasn't much color left behind--just a lot of glitter residue and a mild rash.  

I didn't have much fun with this project, and the mess was a pain to clean out of the brush and the bucket.  I'll wager that most people's project items end up in the trash after one use.  What a waste.

Here's my summary of McKeyla and her glue tattoo experiment:

Face: McKeyla's face mold is not my favorite, but her face is decorated well.  Her eyes are straight, she has natural (glitter-free) lips, and her small spattering of freckles is cute.  McKeyla's eyebrows seem harsh next to her white hair, and while this is normal for a someone who's a natural brunette, the effect of the brows gives McKeyla a bit of a grumpy, irritated countenance.

Hair: the hair fiber has a nice, smooth texture that doesn't feel coarse or tangle easily.  The hair color is wonderful, with streaks of a pastel rainbow all along the densely-rooted part.  The rooting at the back of the head is sparse, though, making the hair plugs quite visible.  Overall, it's great hair--worlds better than Ember's matted mess.

Outfit: The style of McKeyla's dress feels clunky to me, but I love the multi-layered effect of the light-catching fabrics.  The two-toned sneakers match the dress and are a good fit for McKeyla's personality, but they seem out-of-place with the overall design of the outfit.

Accessories: McKeyla comes with a unicorn headband and a black mask.  The plastic bucket from the art project is also the right size for her, and could be considered an extra accessory.  The mask is great and I love the idea of the unicorn headband, but in reality the headband feels a little flimsy and plain, especially compared to Ember's lovely antlers.

Body and articulation: pretty much the same as with Ember.  McKeyla has a loose neck joint and her limbs fall out very easily.  On the plus side, her wrists bend a little better than Ember's and her hips are not stiff.

Project: I did not like this project.  There's no science in the description and very little creativity in the process.  I had to wait for the better part an hour before I could move my arm, and then the "tattoo" was just itchy and irritating.  Scraping the glue off did not leave behind a colored unicorn silhouette.

Toy Box Philosopher

The next doll is another version of McKeyla, but this one's from the fancy dress wave that was released just before the masquerade dolls.  

She's called McKeyla's Lava Lip Gloss:

review
McKeyla's Lava Lip Gloss, $19.99.
This experiment reminds me a bit of McKeyla's lava lamp project from the first wave.  It seems to involve mixing oil and water and there's a light-up feature of some kind:


I didn't choose McKeyla for her project, though.  I chose her for her dress.  Look at it!

Gah!!
She's wearing a gorgeous-looking fully sequined gown.  This is not something you see in the play doll world every day:

Wow.
The back of the box has a photograph of the actress wearing the real-life version of this incredible gown.  It's absolutely stunning.

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Since I don't watch the Netflix show, I have no idea why McKeyla is dressed up like this...all I know is that I love her dress.

Incidentally, the style of this box is the same as the masquerade doll boxes--with plastic sides, not cardboard.

Here's the description of McKeyla's experiment:


Once again, I'm unimpressed with the science lesson here.  Other than spelling out the acronym for LED, the only educational content is that oil and water don't mix.  Everyone knows that.  Why oil and water don't mix is the real question.

I'll tell you why.

First of all, for substances to mix, their molecules have to be attracted to one another.


Water molecules are polar, meaning that because of how their electrons cluster, they have a positive side and a negative side--like a magnet:

Water molecule (left) and magnet (right), both of which have areas of opposite charge.

Water molecules mix with other water molecules because the positive side of one molecule is attracted to the negative side of another molecule (the same way oppositely-charged sides of a magnet attract).  This is my lame diagram of water molecules mixing together:

I hope I got all of the charges paired correctly...
In fact, water molecules mix well with any polar molecule--any molecule that has positive and negative electrical charges.  Sugar (sucrose) is a larger molecule than water, but you can see that it has positive and negative areas throughout:


So, sugar and water mix really well.

So much love.
Oil, however, is mostly not polar.  The oils we eat, called triglycerides, have three long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms (the long black and white sections in the picture, below) with no charge whatsoever.  Those areas are neutral.

It looks like a creepy deep sea creature.
Because of these large uncharged areas (and the overall size and density of oil molecules) water ends up being more attracted to itself than it is to oil.

Which is why oil and water don't mix.

Do I really want to mix with a creepy deep sea creature?
That's the basic idea, anyway.

But--back to McKeyla--the bottom of the box has a photograph of all five dolls in this fancy dress wave:


All of these dolls have amazing dresses--especially Bryden (which is why I bought her, too).  

One thing that stands out to me is that Ember is still shown with McKeyla's face mold in this picture.  When this happened on the very first Ember doll's box, it kind-of made sense to me: MGA just hadn't finalized the real Ember head yet.  But now?  Really?

Here's the picture of Ember on McKeyla's box (left) and the promo picture of the same doll:

Not the same.

This just seems lazy.  Sigh.

Here's everything that came in McKeyla's box:

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Aside form the lip gloss project materials, McKeyla's only accessory is her purse...which comes sewn to her dress.

Man, the dress is fabulous, though.  It's actually covered in tiny sequins all of the way around:



As if the dress wasn't enough on its own, McKeyla is also wearing a silver imitation leather jacket that's really cute:

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I really wish the purse wasn't stitched to this dress, though.  It just seems unnecessary.  

If snipping that thread causes any of the glorious sequins to fall off, I'm going to be upset.


I very carefully cut the purse free and--thank goodness--there were no sequin casualties.

It's a nice plastic purse with a silver vinyl strap in a chain link pattern.  


The purse compartment even opens!


My only complaint about this purse is that it looks cheap when it's in direct contrast with the dress...another reason why it should have been packaged differently!

McKeyla's hair came out of the box looking pretty bad.  She has the coarser hair fiber that tends to look like a matted rat's nest:


And this kind of hair, when brushed, turns into a puffy mass of frizz:

Much like my own hair, as a matter of fact.
I suspect that this is the same kind of hair fiber we saw on Ember.  It feels slightly better, though, perhaps because it's tied back and isn't as wavy.

McKeyla's jacket has a high, stiff collar, so I wanted to take it off before I tried to examine her face.

As I was removing McKeyla's jacket, I uncovered an unfortunate detail on the gown:

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It has strange little cutout sections on either side.  Bummer.  These areas do not look great.

The jacket does look great, especially from the outside.  It has carefully-finished edges and tiny little seams and stitched details that are very well-proportioned:



The inside of the jacket does not look quite as good, mostly because it's not lined and the back side of the silver fabric looks like the inside of a shoe:


McKeyla is wearing mismatched vinyl earrings.  The earring on the right hangs down, but also arches up along the outside edge of that ear:


The opposite earring is a simple dangling pendant.  Both earrings are removable:


Since McKeyla's long hair was already tied back into a ponytail, it was easy to get a look at her face!

face

This doll's eye makeup is simpler than what we saw on the glue tattoo version.  

She has a band of white eyeshadow capped with a thin brown eyelid crease line.  On top of these layers, there's one more band of sheer, shimmery white:


It's a little easier to see the eyeshadow from this angle:


McKeyla has painted upper and lower lashes, but no eye makeup underneath her eyes.


She has a small spray of freckles across her nose:


Here's a comparison of the two McKeyla faces I've looked at today:

Glue Tattoo (left) and Lava Lip Gloss (right).

As much as I prefer the unicorn McKeyla's rainbow hair to Lava Lip Gloss' messy mane, I do like the simpler, more traditional McKeyla face on the lip gloss doll.  She has a brighter expression because of her higher brows and lighter eye makeup.  

Note: there is a very slight difference in the skin tones of these two dolls (the unicorn doll is ever-so-slightly darker and yellower) but most of the difference you see is an artifact caused by their contrasting hair colors.

Now!  Let's take a closer look at the sequined gown:


It's a beautiful midnight blue color, and it even has a small (fully-sequined) train in back:


The dress is made out of two layered fabrics--a dark blue sequin mesh over a jewel-toned purple backing.

The bottom half of the dress is amazing, but because of those silly cut-out areas, the bodice looks tortured:


The cutouts are vaguely diamond-shaped and are filled with a tan pantyhose-like mesh that doesn't match McKeyla's fair skin tone.


The back of the bodice looks ok:


I removed the dress to try and show the bodice construction a little better.  

The neckline is accented with the blue ribbon from the shoulder straps, but the sequined fabric is not finished above the line of this ribbon.  The exposed edges of fabric look messy and rough:


Then, the cutouts on the sides warp the shape of the waistline and make it look lopsided and crooked.  The simple ribbon belt is a nice idea, but it's often stuck on the top of a sequin, which makes it look crooked, too.

The entire inside of the dress is purple (which is awesome!) but oh, man.  Those cutouts look extra bad from this angle:


Here's the top of the dress after I closed the velcro seam in back and tried to make everything neat and symmetric:


The purple interior of the dress looks especially great in the split skirt.  This flash of color is dramatic and compliments the dark blue beautifully:


The seams along the inside of the skirt are a bit unsightly, but I don't see a good way around this.

McKeyla is wearing dark blue and silver shoes with transparent wedge heels:


There's nothing especially fancy about these shoes, but I really like them.



The bottom of the shoes has a thick tread with a geometric molded pattern:


Here's McKeyla back in her gown and shoes:

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I think an elegant up-do hairstyle would have suited this outfit a little better than a bushy ponytail, but perhaps that wouldn't be consistent with the television character's style.

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I just love the shape and sparkle of this dress!  I really wish the cutout sides weren't there, though.  They must've added a lot to the production time and complexity of this gown, and yet they only detract from its appearance.

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I wear Chapstick all of the time, and like to wear lip gloss on occasion, so I was pretty interested in McKeyla's project.  

The materials provided for this activity are a hard plastic lip gloss tube and a clear pipette:


The lip gloss tube has several parts: a cap, a roller ball application tip, a cylindrical chamber for liquid, and a battery compartment (with batteries included):


In addition to this, I needed two kinds of oil and some food coloring:


I could not find castor oil at the store (and it sounds yucky, anyway) so I ended up with sweet almond oil (yum!) and the recommended safflower oil.  I got to use my new box of food coloring again, too:


The almond oil cost $2.89 and the safflower oil was $6.29 (I've been cooking with it, too!  It's pretty great).  With the food coloring, the total cost of this experiment was $12.85.

The directions for this project basically say to mix the two oils together (1:1), add two drops of food coloring...and then you're done.


The first thing I did was take the lip gloss container apart to inspect all of the different pieces:


Then, I added some almond oil (making a huge mess despite the pipette):


Next, I filled the rest of the tube with safflower oil:


And added my two drops of crushed bugs food coloring:


I had to swirl the oil around to get the food coloring to break into smaller bubbles:


Then, I assembled the rest of the lip gloss tube and turned on the light feature.  It flashes between a few different colors of light:



I used the lip gloss (several times) and it's fine.  It looks good (the red color makes no difference--there's not enough of it) and doesn't taste bad.  It wears off pretty quickly and ended up making my lips feel a little dry.  Chapstick is better, but this was fun.

I left the tube upside-down or on its side for a few days, just to see how much oil would leak out.  There was no massive spill or anything, but the sides of the tube at the top started to feel greasy after a day.


Here's my summary of McKeyla and her lip gloss experiment:

Face: this McKeyla has a sweeter face then the unicorn version.  Her eyes are well-set and she has light, tasteful eye makeup.  She's very pretty.

Hair: McKeyla's hair is a lot like Ember's hair: coarse and poofy at the ends.  This hair feels slightly better than Ember's hair, though, perhaps because it's shorter and contained in a ponytail.  I wish the factory hairstyle was fancier, though.  The messy ponytail does nothing to compliment the sequined gown.

Outfit: the sequined gown is almost perfect.  I love the mix of colors, the scale of the sequins, the flattering, dramatic silhouette.  It's an astonishing play doll outfit.  However, the silly cutouts along the side of the bodice detract significantly from the overall shape and impact of the gown.  Fortunately, McKeyla also comes with a well-made silver jacket that can conceal these pesky cutouts most of the time.  She also comes with simple-but-elegant heeled sandals that look great and don't interfere with her balance.

Accessories: McKeyla comes with a vinyl purse.  The purse has some painted silver details and it opens and closes.  It's nothing remarkable, but it's better than those solid, un-openable doll purses.

Body and articulation: for some reason this doll's body feels notably better than both of the masquerade dolls' bodies.  McKeyla can bend her wrists nicely, and her legs rotate smoothly at the knee without falling off.  In fact, I have a hard time pulling these legs off even when I want to.  Her head also holds its position better than the other dolls' heads.  Luck of the draw, perhaps?

Project: this project does not take much time and has the potential to make a big, oily mess.  However, the lip gloss is actually useful so I rank the experience higher than the glue tattoo debacle.  There's no effort at all to teach any science with this "experiment," though, which I find disappointing.

Toy Box Philosopher

Alright!  We've passed the half way point with this behemoth review!  Three cheers to anyone who's still reading!

The next doll is from the same series as Lava Lip Gloss McKeyla.  This is Bryden's Light-Up Earrings:

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Bryden's Light-Up Earrings, $19.99.
I'm skeptical about the experiment (it reminds me of the panda speakers)...

All I get to do is choose, snap and wear?
...but once again, I didn't buy this doll for her project, I bought her for the dress.  It's a crazy-wonderful mix of sequins, bubble graffiti, and Japanese-style cartoons.  I don't even know what to call the art style, but it reminds me of Tokidoki.

The real-life version of the dress is featured on the back of the box:

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I mean, look at that skirt!!


There's decent effort to explain the science behind Bryden's light-up earrings:


I was interested to know more about capacitive sensing, but the internet gets pretty technical pretty quickly with this subject.  Basically, capacitive sensors can detect objects nearby (like a finger or an earlobe) that have an electrical charge that's different from air.  This is the same technology that allows track pads to work on a laptop computer.  

What I'm unsure about is whether or not this is the same or different from electronic objects that turn on because a human finger (or a fruit or vegetable...) is completing an open circuit.  I think it's different.

In any case, let's take a look at everything that came with Bryden:

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Not counting the items needed for the earring project, Bryden's only accessory is a pair of 8-bit heart sunglasses:


These are great!


Here's Bryden herself:


I like how the skirt is so long in back that it drags on the floor a little bit--very dramatic!


I asked Bryden to crouch down a bit so that you can get a better look at the graphics on the left side of her skirt:

So cool!
It's a really fun, unique piece of doll clothing.

The other nice thing about Bryden is that her hair came out of the box looking pretty good:


I'm glad that this doll has crimped hair instead of the coarse, poofy hair that the panda speaker Bryden has.

The hair looks pretty much the same even after a thorough brushing:


The hair is twisted into two small side buns right at the edge of Bryden's hairline.  This is a fun, youthful style, but it leave some shorter sections of hair sticking out in back:


Fortunately, those sections are easy to smooth down.


Bryden is wearing large smiley face earrings:


These match the style of the life-sized earrings in Bryden's project.


I pulled Bryden's hair back so that I could look at her face:

face

She has almost exactly the same eyes and eye makeup as lip gloss McKeyla:



Bryden's eyes are lighter than McKeyla's, and her eyeshadow is more silver than white.  Here's a side-by-side comparison:


Bryden has pink lips that are a little bright for my taste, but they match the cartoon style of the skirt:


The outfit consists of a silver sequined crop top and the voluminous graphic skirt:


Here's a look at the back--both pieces have velcro closure:


The top is very sheer, made out of only the thin mesh-like sequin fabric:


The edges of this shirt are not hemmed, but simply finished with a single line of stitches.  This technique leaves some frayed areas at the very edges of the fabric.


While the rough edges didn't look great on McKeyla's elegant sequined gown, they seem ok to me in this case--almost like there's an intended grungy effect.

Here's the top on its own:



The skirt is styled like a wrap-around, but it's all sewn together into a solid waistband:


Here's the whole thing spread out on my table:


The patterns do not line up along the seams of the dress, but that's asking a lot.

There's a ton of funky stuff going on in this print.  I especially like the roaring blue creature and the wonky-eyed bat: 


The colors in this skirt are only on the front side of the fabric, so there's little risk of it staining Bryden's body:


Bryden is wearing flat rainbow sandals (she has the flat-footed leg mold):


The sandals are made out of a wonderful glittery, multicolored, translucent vinyl:


They have delicately painted silver buckles and thick black treads:


I like how even the soles of these sandals have some glitter in them!


The black treads are decorated with binary code:


After Bryden put her clothes back on, she wanted to model her sunglasses for you:


They fit nicely on her head and are a great finishing accent for the outfit:

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Toy Box Philosopher

I noticed while I was posing Bryden here that she's one of the unlucky dolls who has wrists that barely move at all.

This is as far as her wrists bend upwards...and then can't bend downwards at all:

Bummer.
I'm starting to feel like these dolls are not worthy of the clothes they come in!


Ok, now let's see what the story is with Bryden's light-up earrings.  Here's everything that was provided for this project:


And...according to the directions, nothing else is necessary!  That's refreshing.


The directions are ridiculously simple: put an emoji onto the earring base, put the earring on your ear.  Done.


I think I can handle that.  I like all of the emojis except for the weird one with white bars coming out of its eyes.  Is that like a lovelorn emoji or something?


I picked faces that I understand: angry and happy.  

I didn't learn much about capacitive sensing here, though, because one of the earrings spontaneously came on and stayed on, and the other one wouldn't turn on even when I put my finger on the sensor:

Now I know why he's mad.
Here's a little video clip of the light action--or lack thereof:



After a while, I got both of the earrings to turn on...and then neither of them would turn off!


The earrings sat unattended for several hours while I did the last project.  At the end of the afternoon, one of them had finally turned off...but the other was still going:


What did all of this teach me about circuitry?  Nothing.  Which is too bad.  I actually don't have a great handle on these concepts, and doing some experiments with reliable equipment might have helped.

This is not a very inspiring project.  Needless to say, the earring are way too big and awkward to be worn, even for a full-grown adult.  They don't pinch my ears painfully, though, which was quite surprising.

Here's my summary of Bryden and her project:

Face: Bryden has a great face mold and this doll is painted nicely with well-aligned eyes.  I don't like her lip color quite as much as some of the other Bryden dolls I own, but it coordinates well with the skirt.

Hair:  I love Bryden's long crimped hair.  It's easy to brush, feels nice, and rarely looks messy.  The little buns on the top of Bryden's head cause some shorter strands of hair to stick out in back, but these are fairly easy to tame.

Outfit:  This is my favorite Project Mc2 outfit to date.  The sequined crop top is a little ragged around the edges, but this creates a grungy-chic looks that's believable.  The technicolor graffiti skirt is epic.  It's made out of a light, airy fabric that drapes and flows beautifully.  The graphics are bold, vibrant, and very unique for a play doll outfit.  I also like Bryden's flat feet and glittery, practical sandals.  The shoes are well-painted and even have little lines of binary code on the treads!

Accessories: Bryden comes with 8-bit heart-shaped sunglasses and oversized emoji earrings.  I like the sunglasses much more than the earrings, but both pieces do a nice job of pulling the colorful ensemble together.

Body and articulation: Bryden's body has the wobbliest head of all the dolls I've looked at today.  It's very hard to keep her head upright.  She also has wrists that do not bend much at all.  Her lower body articulation is fine--her legs do not fall off and are able to rotate at the knee.

Project: this is neither a project nor an experiment, it's just a toy.  The earrings are too big to wear, and they turn on and off in a seemingly random way.  It's such a shame that my favorite doll comes with the worst experiment.

Toy Box Philosopher

So, at long last, we've gotten to the fifth and final doll in this review!  This is Devon D'Marco from the second wave of Project Mc2 dolls:

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Devon's Puffy Paint (price varies now).
Devon did not appear in the first wave of dolls, so this is the debut release of the character.

The packaging was a little more elaborate with these early dolls.  Devon has the original cardboard-sided box.

The brand logo at the bottom of the box is a little fancier, too:


The back of Devon's box has a photograph of the doll, a description of the experiment, and a little blurb abut the science:

box

After looking at Bryden's earrings, I was excited to see that this project actually involves some mixing and pouring!

Here's a closer look at the description of Devon's S.T.E.A.M. project:


That's a very straight-forward description: the flour makes the paint thick, the salt makes it sparkly, the drink mix makes it colored (why not use food coloring, I wonder?), and evaporation will dry the paint while leaving a puffy texture.

There's a nice set of illustrated instructions, too:


There's no science here, though, except perhaps for the use of the word "evaporation."  I think Devon is an artist, though, so perhaps this is meant to be an art project, not a science experiment.  That would be fine if most of the other experiments hadn't been art projects, too!

At the very bottom of the box, there's a group shot with all of the second wave dolls.  It's fun to go back and looks at these girls!  I reviewed Bryden and Ember from this collection....and McKeyla's pug shirt has always tempted me!


After all of the packaging had been removed and recycled, this is what was left (well, this and the silly little comb that I always throw away):

Two empty tubes for the project, Devon, and a backpack.
Devon's accessory is a vinyl backpack:


The backpack opens, but the flap is stiff.  

The straps also detach from the base of the pack, which allows the pack to be placed on Devon's back without having to stretch both straps over the arms.


Here's Devon wearing the backpack:


Devon was not a character in the television show back when I watched, so I'm not really sure what her personality is supposed to be.  Her outfit suggests that she's sporty but artsy:



She's wearing a varsity-style jacket...with netting in the arms.  Her tank top has a sporty-looking letter (number?), but it's filled with paisley swirls:


Like so many of these Project Mc2 dolls, Devon came out of her box with messy hair:


The three plastic ties sticking out of the back of her head didn't help.

I gave the ponytail a quick brush and it looked a lot better:


The hairstyle is simple, but it has a few neat details.  First, there's a swirl of hair wrapped around the rubber band that's holding the ponytail in place.  Also, there's a section of hair on the right side of Devon's face that's been twisted and tied at the back of her neck:


These little details are fun and they show off the blue highlights in Devon's hair nicely.  However, I suspect it will be hard to keep the hairstyle looking neat--my doll already has several strands of hair trying to break free.

The hair is well clear of Devon's face, though, so it's easy to get a good look at her features.  

She has a thin face and large, almond-shaped eyes.  Her mouth has a very faint smile, with slightly parted lips.  Her mouth is framed by a steeply-sloping jawline and narrow chin:

face

It's a little easier to appreciate Devon's parted lips when she's in profile:


Devon's face is very similar to Ember's, but they are not identical:


It's actually easier to see the differences in the mouth with my glitter-free Ember doll:


Devon's face is even thinner than Ember's and she seems to have eyes that widen at the outer edge.

One of the most striking things about Devon is her pale periwinkle blue eyes:


She has dark purple lines on the outer edge of her irises and some pink detail around her pupil, but the pink areas are very pale and hard to see.  This color combination makes the whole eye look lighter and less detailed than other Project Mc2 eyes.

eyes

Devon's eye makeup is very simple, with just one narrow band of eyeshadow and a brown eyelid crease.  Her painted eyelashes look lighter brown than what we've seen on the other dolls.

Devon's lips are painted a slightly shimmery natural pink color:


Devon's earrings are just simple un-metallic silver studs...


...but they are removable:


After seeing all of the fancy gowns on the previous Project Mc2 dolls, Devon's outfit seems a little plain.  It does have several separate pieces, though:


The jacket has imitation leather around the body, but the sleeves are an athletic mesh:


The sides of the jacket do not close in front, nor is the interior of the jacket lined:


The construction is really great though.  I especially love how the ribbed trim is white around the neck and along the bottom of the jacket...but black at the ends of the white sleeves:


The ribbing is very well-proportioned to the jacket, too.

Underneath the jacket, Devon is wearing a tank top with a huge "O" on the front.

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What does the "O" stand for, I wonder?

Devon D'Marc-O?
Then again, maybe it's the number zero.  Who would pick zero for their number, though?  Maybe it's a sassy way of stating that she doesn't play sports.  It reminds me of those 26.2 mileage stickers that people put on their cars after they've run a big marathon, and how some folks put stickers with 0.0 on their car just for fun.  That always makes me laugh.

Again, the shirt is well-constructed with a neatly-sewn white collar around the neckline and a carefully-finished hem and arm holes:


Devon is wearing lightweight printed pants with elastic ruching in the legs:


The elastic detail is really great.  Do they make life-sized pants like this, I wonder?  I'd buy them.


The print on the pants is a little baffling though.  It looks like tiny hyperactive gingerbread men with stubby pencils:


I mean, that's what I see.  Am I missing something?


Is it a guy in glasses running around and trying to avoid the trajectory of a kamikaze pencil?  It could be that, too, I suppose.

Devon's boots are a lot easier to understand.  In fact, they might be the best part of the entire outfit:


They're like fashionable combat boots, with splatters of paint on the toes:


What's really cool is that the paint splatters are different on each shoe!


The boots have nice solid treads, but no interesting decorative designs:


The sturdy boots help Devon balance in a variety of poses, too:



The loose strands of hair in Devon's ponytail were bugging me, so I decided to take the hair down:


All of the blue streaks are rooted around the hairline, so from the back, the hair looks completely black:


The rooting density is fine on this doll, but--as we saw with unicorn McKeyla--the hair along the part is much denser than the hair at the back of the head:


I pulled Devon's hair back into a plain (smooth!) ponytail for her final photo shoot:




In case you can't tell, I was a bit eager to wrap up my review of Devon and get started on her puffy paint art project!

There's not much included for this activity, just two empty tubes and a sheet of instructions:


In addition to these things, there's a basic list of ingredients--most of which I already had in my house:


The only thing I had to buy at the store was powered drink mix.  I was looking for this at Target, and it left me wondering if anyone uses powered drink mix anymore? I almost didn't find any of it, but then I discovered a small section (on the bottom shelf at the end of an aisle) that had a few packs of sugar-free Kool-Aid and some Country Time lemonade.  I chose the lemonade (I can't drink sugar-free things) and I got two flavors because I wasn't sure if I'd need several colors:


Those two big tubs of colored sugar cost me $5.00 ($2.50 each).  Not bad.

I had to follow these instruction pretty carefully.  It was almost like baking a cake--I had to mix certain ingredients separately before I combined everything in the same container:


Here's my dry mix waiting to be combined with my flavored water:


The powered lemonade (I chose the strawberry version) didn't look very colorful on its own, so I added a bit of red food coloring:


That's better!


Next, I mixed in the flour and salt:


That color doesn't look so great, but I had to use whole wheat flour here because it was the only thing I had.  That might be part of the problem.

This next step was hard: I had to decide if the mixture was exactly the right consistency:

What?
It looked fine to me, and I didn't want to stray from the recipe, so I forged ahead and poured the gloppy stuff through a plastic bag funnel and into the tube:


There is a lot of puffy paint mix left over.  That's a big waste.

I used some of the index cards that were left over from Ember's project and tried out the puffy paint:


The color is weak, but the sparkly salt crystals look pretty good:


I made a few of these name cards, and added some glitter and beads to one of them, just for fun:


Sadly, the glitter and beads did not stick to the puff paint as it dried.

Here's one of the plain name cards after four days of drying in the 80 degree Maine weather:


The salt crystals are still visible:


But overall, the card doesn't feel like it ever dried.  There are still wet-looking marks all around the letters:


I have no idea what's going on here (although it might be a fun science question to explore!) but after four days or waiting, I was tired of the clutter and decided to throw everything away.  Kids might have fun with this project short-term, but the results will not be everlasting.

Here's my summary of Devon:

Face: Devon has the narrowest face in the Project Mc2 group.  The shape of her face makes her eyes look especially large, and the pale color of her eyes makes them stand out even more.  I like the shape of Devon's mouth and the natural color of her lips.

Hair: the texture of Devon's hair is like unicorn McKeyla's hair.  It's sleek and smooth and feels nice.  I wish the factory hairstyle had looked good for longer since this style showed off the blue streaks to their best advantage.

Outfit: all of the pieces in Devon's outfit are made well.  Despite the dark colors in the shirt and jacket, there is no staining on the doll.  I really like the jacket and boots in this outfit.  Both are a fun mix of aesthetics.

Accessories: Devon's backpack is fine (and it matches her hair!).  It's nice that the flap opens and the straps can be unsnapped for easy use.

Body and articulation: Devon has one of the better bodies that I've encountered.  Her head is stable, her wrists bend, her knees rotate without falling off, and her hips move smoothly.  As a bonus, her large boots make her very good at balancing.

Project: the recipe for puffy paint makes a lot more paint than will fit in the bottles--and way more than I could use in one sitting.  I'd suggest splitting the recipe in half and making two different colors.  It's easy to draw and write with the bottles that come with this set, so kids will probably enjoy creating pictures with this new substance.  The paint on my pictures never seemed to dry, though, and left an unattractive residue around all of the letters.  I'd rather draw with glue and glitter: it's just as fun, easier to set up, and the pictures will last.

Toy Box Philosopher

That's it!  You've finally made it to the end of this marathon review.  Since I've been summarizing each doll as I go, the only thing left to do is give you the bottom line.

Bottom line?  Looking at these five dolls didn't change my opinion about Project Mc2 very much.  I still think that overall the dolls have great faces, disappointing bodies, wonderful clothing, and hair that can be either good (unicorn McKeyla, Bryden and Devon) or bad (Ember, lip gloss McKeyla).  While the quality of the articulation varies considerably from doll to doll, I have the sense that the odds of getting a good doll are decreasing with each new wave.

The one thing that did change a little bit is my opinion of the experiments.  In this group of five dolls, only one of the projects offered real entertainment: Ember's Fairy Wings.  Drawing with glue and glitter is always a treat, and the butterfly mold added a fun dimension to this.  Sadly, none of the projects offered much in the way of S.T.E.M. instruction or opened up any kind of opportunity for experimentation.  Four of the activities were basic art projects, one was a simple toy.

The outfits on these dolls have always been good, but a few of the newer releases have taken things to a whole new level.  Bryden's colorful graffiti skirt is one of my favorite play doll outfits of all time...


...and McKeyla's midnight blue sequined gown takes a close second.  If only those silly cutouts weren't on the sides, it would be spectacular.


I'd buy Bryden or McKeyla just for their outfits, but I'd also feel a little guilty about the waste associated with that choice.

Despite her bad hair, I think the best purchase in this group is Ember:


She has a lovely, well-made fairy outfit, a fun antlered headband, a great mask, detachable wings, and an art project that--if embellished--could entertain kids for a while.  And even her hair, with its terrible texture, is a beautiful color and has an intricate, unique braid at the top that feels special.

Yet again, I'm left thinking that this will surely be my last foray into the world of Project Mc2.  But the gravitational pull is strong with these girls.  The incredible gowns on the recent releases make me pretty sure that a new outfit--or some other detail--will emerge before too long, and I'll get sucked right back in.

27 comments:

  1. Isnt' Castor oil really bad for your stomach? Not something I think i'd want my kids playing with or smearing on their lips.

    Those pants Devon has, they look like the prints by Keith Harring. Crazy dancing gingerbread men is a good descriptor haha. But yeah, definitely inspired by his artwork.



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    1. It can cause diarrhea and sometimes miscarriages, but only in large quantities.

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  2. These dolls are always really tempting, especially the winter/fall clothing ones. Bryden's skirt is really gorgeous! But the quality keeps making me hesitate on purchasing them.

    Did you see that Star Ace made a 1/6 scale Marilyn Monroe figure wearing the pink gown from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? I remember you having a Tonner doll of this so it reminded me of you.

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  3. Ooh, nice, I've been waiting on this. MC2 are my favorite current play dolls on the market, (although unfortunately that's partially related to the decline of Monster and Ever After High.) The doll bodies are a little disappointing, but the outfits have drawn me in since the beginning- maybe it's because they're based from a live action series, but I'm glad they look relatively real world and fashionable at the same time.

    I've got only three so far, although none of them are any of the ones you've reviewed. I've so far chosen the first Bryden (I loved her whole look, but my favorite detail is her winged shoes, I'm a sucker for winged shoes.) the pug shirt McKayla (...Yeah, I couldn't resist the pug shirt. The owl backpack is great too.) and the most recent princess Adrienne (The combo of the regal flowy skirt and the bolder powder pink jacket was breathtaking to me... plus her blonde hair with the pink ombre reminds me of one of my favorite characters (also a princess incidentally!))

    I'm glad the line has seemed to do well, they're not perfect, but they're stuffed with interesting details, and I'm still always glad to see the latest wave.

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  4. I love the colourful review. Ember has got to be my favourite too, her outfit is fabulous and I adore the unusual colour of her hair - on my laptop screen it is kind of like an intense old rose.

    One observation about the makeup (since I've reading so many makeup blogs lately, haha) - technically, the dolls also have eyeliner on the top and bottom lids.

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  5. I picked up the Masquerade Dragon one, and her face and outfit are lovely...but the bodies for these girls are shambles. She didn't come with a stand to preserve that pretty outfit, so it was more "That was a fun use of 20$, I guess?"

    It's nice to see some other girls (& I don't mind a long review! I read these when I'm eating breakfast...), because the details are always interesting.

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  6. Lovely review!
    That blue dress is impressive, but those awful mesh bits almost look like the dress has some coincidentally nearly symmetrical rips in it! I think the emoji with the white bars is supposed to be something along the lines of "I'm reacting to something that I love so much it is making me cry because it's just so beautiful". The tokidoki-esque skirt is incredible, it's so fun, I should make something like that for my dolls!
    I find these dolls really disappointing, the only truly good things about them are their clothes and their potential, plus the "experiments" all seem like gimmicky afterthoughts (and poor ones at that). Such a shame, S.T.E.M. based dolls could be wonderful if only done right.
    Speaking of S.T.E.M. based dolls, have you seen the American Girl GOTY 2018 leaks? She appears to be a doll of colour (latina?) who's story is based on space camp. One of the leaks has her pictured with a robot dog!

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    1. The mesh bits are supposed to be cut-outs, and I'm bothered that there is a trend toward cut-outs in children's and young teens' clothing. Cut-outs were started as a sexy element in adult evening clothing. Sexy and children/young teens should not be mixed.

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  7. Wow thank you so much for reviewing devon! (Im the one who requested her.) I love Bryden's dress the best though. Actually Devon's orignal hairstyle reminded me of star trek for some reason. Thank you for the great review!

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    1. Actaully on the barbie website there is star trek inspired dolls right now with the made to move barbie body! You should take a look at them. They are awsome!

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    2. are you telling me that there is a made to move uhura

      oh my god amazing

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  8. I think the pattern on Devon's leggings is a reference to the painter Keith Harring as she's supposed to be an arty type

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  9. I think the "hyperactive gingerbread men" (I love this description) on Devon's trousers are a
    nod to Keith Haring's style. Very nice!

    I've never bought these dolls but I recall feeling in love with the accessories when I first saw them online... I especially like the shoes! I wonder if they could fit my Blythe dolls' feet...

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  10. Fun fact: on the Netflix show, Season 5 revealed that Ember has 2 moms!! My sappy little lesbian heart melted.

    I love these girls, but I almost wish they had been made by Spin Master using recycled Liv molds. Alas.

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  11. Thank you so much for all your hard work!!!♥
    I'm really curious about this doll line. I have Robot Camryn on a Made to Move body (I have to agree that articuation is disappointing, and my Camryn also had molded gloves), and I want an Ember doll because I'm a biologist myself. I think I'd like to have this fairy Ember in my collection (though I'll probably need another MtM body lol). Bryden's skirt is amazing! I also loved Devon and her outfit, I'd like to look at the doll in person.
    P.S. Camryn's robot base became a great toy for my cat xD

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    1. Great idea switching bodies, Alexandra. Do the clothes still fit?

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  12. Thanks for another great review, Emily. I always enjoy reading your blogs, even if they're on dolls that I'm not particularly interested in. I always learn something. It's such a shame that the experiments with these dolls have less science than before, since the science was what made them stand out from other doll lines. The dolls' faces are so beautiful, so I'm always drawn to them in the store. They remind me of the Liv dolls. Some of their outfits are pretty sharp too. But the bodies really seem not worth the trouble, especially now that the science seems to be degenerating into "what to do when you're bored on a rainy day and you have a lot of glitter and glue on hand". Alexandra said she switched to a made to move body - seems like a great solution.

    I ran into some Basher Science mini figures today - so cute! I was thinking about getting one of the science sets and trying it out. Have you tried those?

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  13. Thanks for the thorough review Emily. I like these dolls' faces and some of their clothing but that's about it.
    Considering that these dolls are supposed to be encouraging an interest in STEM, however vaguely,and since parents have to buy extra products anyways, I'm pretty disappointed that the experiments are so lame. Even if they lacked space to explain the science on the boxes don't dollmakers link to their site these days. There would be plenty of space for them to explain and even feature interviews with scientists. What a missed opportunity.

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  14. najbardziej podobają mi się
    buty dziewczyn - choć idea
    baśniowych jak z balu postaci
    też jest wielce pociągająca!

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  15. Thanks for allowing me to enjoy the MC2 dolls vicariously! Their flaws are enough to keep me from purchasing them but I love looking at pictures.

    Also, I am really impressed that you didn't end up ruining Ember's hair by accident!

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  16. I think it's a pity the STEM content is mostly based on making yourself look pretty, as if the only reason a girl might be interested in science is if it's going to make her look good (and the world is already full enough of emphasis on beauty for girls). Although there aren't any specific projects/activities, I think Our Generation's STEM dolls and accessories are better.

    If I bought one of these dolls I probably would have expected everything you needed to be included, too. They could have included powdered food colouring, which would be better from a non-diluting perspective (I can buy it cheaply from the Indian supermarket here in the UK, Chinese supermarkets often have it too). Gel food colouring (like Wilton's) might work better than the liquid kind but it's more expensive.

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    1. I love the our generation stem accessories, especially the small woodwork set and organ torso

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  17. The pattern on Devon's pants is meant to be a reference to the artist Keith Haring :)

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  18. "(I can't drink sugar-free things)" B-but...water? D:

    Ok no. Jokes aside, very nice reviews. I was more interested for the experiments than on the dolls, to be honest. I would try and buy one of those, but only one, and see how it is, because they're crazy expensive where I live.
    But seeing how you have troubles with their bodies....I don't know if it's worth their price.

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  19. I rebodied my mc2 dolls on made to move bodies and it aMAZing. their faces look better somehow, like they are more filled out. Downside is of course not all of their clothes still fit, but there are SO many barbie clothes.

    https://flic.kr/p/RBZRnH

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  20. I always look at these dolls when I'm in the store, they're always so pretty especially Ember, I love her red hair and the masquerade version of her is so tempting! And I also really like Adrienne, I think she looks somcute when she has her glasses on. But while they're pretty to look at, I always think of the disappointment I gather for myself whenever I read one of your reviews on this line. I appreciate you doing another review on this line and giving me/us readers another look into this doll line.

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  21. My 7-year-old is incredibly bored of Mc2. The supposed "brilliant" girls are an insult to her intelligence, and she knows it. This is unfortunately since she wanted to like this series, and I wanted her to like it... Actually, I wanted it to be likable in the first place. If these were pegged as typical girls who find themselves in silly adventures, it would be fine. But to try to sell them as the smartest girls of their generation, and then they go off and make incredibly stupid decisions like sharing their location, when going into hiding with a prince, on social media...just no.

    I think the complete lack of science and experimentation with these crafts emphasize how this series is trying to bandwagon on STEM, but doesn't really care to go all the way.

    And, to be completely honest, the STEM-push has become overkill. I'm a Girl Scout leaders as well, and the number of badges that are STEM compared to everything else combined is just astounding. These girls are getting the STEM-push at school, in their toys, their games, their activities, then they go to Girl Scouts and it's more STEM. In reality, a lot of girls are starting to push away from STEM because it's just too much. When I was a little girl, I was told, to my face that science and math were for boys. That was the response to those topics being my favorites. These days, girls are only allowed those topics, and anything else is seen as a waste. It's really not good. Out household is science- and tech-heavy, and we adults love it, but our daughter has reached a point where she gets upset over having to do even more of it because it dominates her life with little variety.

    Also I, as a parent, am sick and tired of the removable limbs. They get lost easily, and then I get to deal with an upset child who wants a replacement. These types of toys are hard to pass along to other kids since they're rarely completely bodied, and I suspect that is really the point. I will admit that these dolls themselves, though, their faces, are extremely pretty.

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