Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Surprise: Na! Na! Na! Surprise Dolls by MGA Entertainment!

Surprise!  I'm back to write some more reviews.  As it turned out, after my life settled down, I started to miss this place a lot.  So here I am, reporting to you from my new home in New Jersey, where I already have a big queue of dolls that I want to review!  There have been some great releases over the last few years that I really want to talk about.  Things will be pretty much the same around here, except for a few little changes that we can discuss later.

Right now I want to talk about the Na! Na! Na! Surprise dolls. Everybody else on the planet probably knows about these dolls, but I knew nothing about them until I saw a few at my local Target store about a week ago.  The printed fabric faces looked really interesting to me, and of course the surprise theme is right up my alley.  I figured this would be a fun way to resurrect the old Sunday Surprise series.

The Na! Na! Na! Surprise dolls were originally released at the end of 2019, and there have already been (I think) 8 waves.  That's a lot of dolls in a short period of time!  Let's take a closer look at a few of these cuties and see what surprises they have in store.

Na! Na! Na! Surprise Teens doll, Alaska Frost (2021).

First of all, a little comment about MGA and surprise-themed toys.  Back in the early days of my Sunday Surprise posts, it was tricky to find interesting new surprise dolls.  But now?  Now it seems like everything is a surprise-themed doll.  MGA has taken over about 30% of the doll aisle space at Target.  As a fan of diversity in the doll market, and as a person who doesn't care for MGA's approach to packaging, I found this a little shocking:

Not like any doll aisle I remember.
It's a L.O.L.apalooza!
The other side of the aisle was mostly MGA, too:

Speaking of MGA, what do we have here??

Bratz 20 year anniversary dolls! Whoa!

That was a real surprise for me--not just because it's hard to believe that the Bratz brand is already 20 years old, but because I thought they were permanently discontinued.  Like I said, I've missed a lot.  I can't talk about all of it today, though. I have to pace myself or I'll suffer some kind of re-entry shock.

Back to the Na! Na! Na! Surprise dolls, which I'm going to call Na Na Na from now on, because typing all of the exclamation points is a pain.

When I first saw these dolls, I had no idea haw to pronounce Na Na Na.  I spied on a few kids at Target and they seemed to be saying "nanana" as all one word.  Like the name Anna, but with an "n" at the start and an extra "na" at the end.  I'd been thinking it was more of a "nanny nanny boo boo" type teasing sound, but that would be unappealing, wouldn't it?  I'll trust the kids because they're listening to commercials.

I said earlier that there have been at least 8 waves of dolls.  How do I know this?  I don't, and it's not an easy thing to find online (at least not for me).  But I pieced together the following information:

Series 1 (sheep, tiger, unicorn-!, bear, pink bunny, fox):

Series 2 (blue bunny, pink cat, dog, ...sloth??, black cat, mouse):

Series 3 (cow, pastel rabbit, Dalmatian, poodle, cheetah, colorful cat):

Series 4 (pastel cat, panda, white tiger, purple bunny, some cow-like ungulate, yellow bunny):

The Glam series (lots of shiny dogs, cats, and bears-?)

And then the groups I talk about in this review: two waves of Teens and one Sparkle Series.

Let me know if I missed anything!

Okay, but let's get to the actual doll I'm reviewing, shall we?  She's in Series 2 of the Teens group, and is one of the most recent releases.  She's a larger size than the original Na Na Na dolls and costs about $30:

Both the box and the price are hefty.
I get Hey Jude running through my head whenever I see these boxes:

Hey, hey, hey, goodbye.
I really like the box art--more so than the actual doll when they're put side-by-side like this.


The back of the box does not have a whole lot of information about Alaska Frost's character.  Nor does it mention how many surprises are inside or anything like that.


I like the little wolf detail on Alaska's sock!  I hope that's on the real doll:


The best part of the box is this little picture of the other dolls in this series:

Raccoon girl is my favorite.
This picture was very helpful to me as I attempted to piece together all of the different dolls that are available.

Alaska's box is an abomination of plastic.  Plastic actually can't be recycled.  I mean, you can put it out at the curb in a recycling bin (if you're lucky), and it might get turned into something else (a fleece sweater, decking for a playground, a reusable shopping bag), but it can't be made back into plastic the way glass or metal can be melted back into their original forms.  And the secondary products are not as desirable as actual plastic.  So all of this packaging is on a one-way path to the landfill...perhaps with a detour reincarnation as a sweater for a few years.

Everyone knows I hate MGA packaging, I think.  So I'll leave it at that for now.

There was a little sticker showing me how to open the box, though, which I appreciate.  I often hurt myself on these boxes:


It says "push here to open:"

Will it spring open like a Pillsbury cinnamon roll tube?? I kinda hope so.
I pushed, and then pushed harder, but my thumb just punched a jagged hole in the plastic:

Surprise! Time to get a Band-Aid.
I ripped and tore and cut at the plastic and finally got the box open:


I was a little dismayed at the lack of surprises at this point, but I thought I knew what was going on.  

The box was really heavy (heavier than it should be with just a doll and her hat), so I assumed that the surprises were stored under the doll, in the deep bottom half of the box.

So I pulled out the pink cardboard backdrop...

And found nothing underneath.  Huh.
I flipped the backdrop over to see where the surprises might be tucked away:

The areas that stick up look promising.  Secret compartments, perhaps?
I like how there's a huge compartment behind Alaska's bottom.  I bet she appreciates that!

Does this box make my butt look big?
But there was nothing hidden anywhere in the plastic.

Surprise! No surprises.
Here's Alaska with her empty backdrop carton:

An empty shell.
This was the first Na Na Na Surprise doll I opened, so I was at a loss for why the brand had the word "surprise" in the name at all.  What a bummer.

Here's what did come in the box:

Alaska, her wolf hat, and a plastic brush.
The wolf hat is really cute!


The hat is very tight, so it's a bit hard to get on, but at least it stays in place.

The brush has little ears, but is otherwise pretty ordinary:



Alaska's hair definitely needed some brushing:


The hair came out of the box looking a bit stringy and feeling just slightly greasy.

There was also quite a bit of blue scalp peeking out at the back:


Oh, hello.  What's this?


She has big Nightmare Before Christmas-like stitching all along the back of her scalp!

Yeesh.
Sally's stitches are neater, actually.
Fortunately, the stitches are only visible through that small section of hair at the back--and only if the hair is parted.

The hair is very long, and it's a lovely blue and white color...but look at that ginormous tag!

Tag of Unusual Size.
The tag is stitched into the back seam of Alaska's head.  It's like she has a huge magazine or newspaper coming out of her neck or something.

I assume I'm meant to cut that off.
The hair brushes out nicely into a cloud of blue froth that covers the stitches and the tag:


Here's another look at Alaska with her hair freshly brushed:


The hair is fun to play with and doesn't shed very much at all.


Alaska has practically no profile, with a blip of a nose and only a slight indentation around each eye:

 
There's something alien or bug-like about her large dark eyes.  A lot of dolls have extremely large heads and eyes these days, but Alaska's eyes go just a bit beyond what I find appealing.

The facial screening is nicely done, though, without any obvious blemishes.
It might be because her pupils are so huge.  They give the eyes a blankness that I find a bit creepy.

Also, because the eyes are printed onto fabric, they wrap around the sides of her head a little bit, which is weird:


Contrast this to a hard plastic doll with huge eyes like Pullip or Loli where the rigidity of the eyes keeps the gaze facing forward:


Loli's large eyes work much better for me.

Alaska's itty, bitty fingers barely poke out of the sleeves of her big puffy coat:

Surprise! No hands.
I removed the coat so I could get a better look at it, and so I could try to find Alaska's hands.

Here's the jacket by itself:


The coat is the best part of the outfit.  It actually has some puff to it, and several nice little details throughout.  I especially like the (decorative) draw strings.  They give the illusion of running all of the way through the back of the coat to cinch in the waist:


Two of the pockets are real pockets! 


And the zipper, while it isn't functional, looks great.


Underneath her jacket, Alaska is wearing a long-sleeved tee shirt and a dress:


The dress has decorative plastic buckles on each strap and lots of stitched detail.  The stitching is sloppy in some places:


The dress opens and closes in the back with velcro:


It's quite easy to get on and off.


Underneath the dress, Alaska is wearing a long-sleeved tee that says "howl at the moon."


The shirt is made out of shiny, athletic stretch fabric and the decals are crisp and clear:

I still can't see her hands, though!
Under the shirt, Alaska is wearing a sports bra and leggings that are printed onto her fabric skin. She also has hands!


Alaska comes with little vinyl snow boots that allow her to stand nicely on her own:

The dents in Alaska's legs are from the plastic ties in her packaging.
I love that the boots even have fur details:


Under the boots, Alaska has socks that make her look like she plays for the Yankees:


And she has the little wolf head on her socks, too! Yay!

Maybe she plays for UConn?
One of the small changes that I've had to make with the blog is that I can no longer offer the extensive comparison shots that I used to do.  I sold or gave away most of my doll collection when we moved.

Never fear, though!  I've enlisted the help of Tia, one of my Made to Move Barbies, and she will act as a scale comparison for all dolls in this approximate size class.


As you can see, Alaska is about the same height as Tia, but her proportions are very different.  Alaska is also much heavier than Tia.  Her body has considerable weight.  Her arms and legs feel like they're made out of dense rubbery vinyl.

Alaska has five primary points of articulation (neck, shoulders, hips).

Her shoulder joints allow her arms to rotate around in a circle.  Her big head keeps them from rotating too far, though!

Look at the size of that thing.
She also has wire in her arms that allows them to bend towards or away from her body.  This means she can move her hands away from her big head:


Or bring them to her face:


I like the additional flexibility that the arm wire allows.  I'd say that overall Alaska has seven points of articulation.


She still doesn't have many posing options, though.


Her hips only have basic rotational movement, and there is no wire in her legs.


The angle of the hip joint is strange, too.  It only allows the leg to spin around the joint.  Articulation like this makes it hard to sit down in a chair.

Alaska will demonstrate:


Here she is, getting ready to sit down...with me holding her hair for support (sorry, Alaska!):

I've got this.
She bends at the hips a little bit and things seem to be going okay...

Easy, peasy.
...but then she rotates her hips a bit more and starts to slide off the chair!

Um...
Trying to fix the situation by continuing to rotate her hips only makes matters worse:

What's happening!?
And pretty soon her toes are pointed backwards and she's fallen off the chair:

Ow! Ow! Ow!
On the up-side, if she keeps rotating her hips, eventually her feet circle back around again and she can begin to recover:

On second thought, I'll just stand.
So, she can't sit in a chair.

And this is how well she sits on the floor:

Splat.
At this point in my experience I was not really loving the Na Na Na Surprise dolls.  Not only were there no surprises associated with Alaska, but she can't sit down.  Most dolls can sit down.  I think of it as one of the basic needs of any doll.  How can you have a tea party or ride a horse if you can't sit?  In her defense, Alaska's rubbery legs would probably allow her to ride a horse reasonably well.  So there's that.

However, the cute jacket, nice hair, and interesting construction of this doll convinced me to not give up on the line quite yet.

I ventured out and found another Na Na Na doll.  This one is from the Teens Series 1 collection.  She cost around $19, so $10 less than Alaska.  Her name is Samantha Smartie and she comes in a box that looks like it might hide some secrets:

Na! Na! Na! Surprise Teens doll Samantha Smartie (2020).
In fact, this box even says "unbox surprises!"

That's what I want to see!
I chose Samantha's character because she has red hair and looks vaguely Scottish with her tartan dress.  I have a huge affection for Scotland.

Samantha's slogan is "I'm smart. Get over it."  That's pretty rude, but at least she isn't trying to hide her intellect.


Once again, the back of the box offers a peek at the other characters in this wave:

Shark boy is my favorite!
And once again, I'm supposed to open the box by pushing on this magic location:

I'm not sure I want to do that again.
It worked a bit better this time!  One whole end of the box actually popped open:


I pulled on the opened edges, and boom!  Samantha jumped right out of the box at me:

In her underwear, no less.
Now that was a legitimate surprise!

It wasn't an intentional surprise, though.  All of the plastic ties that should have held Samantha safely in her plastic shell had come loose:

Pretty rainbow, though.
Opposite to where Samantha should have been anchored in her box I found six beautiful, golden, surprises:

Now we're getting somewhere!
Let the Sunday Surprise begin!

I hope one of these bags has some clothes.
I cheated a bit by feeling what was inside each of these bags, and I purposefully chose what I thought were the shoes first.  I knew these would allow Samantha to stand up:


The bags are easy to rip open...


And I see shoes!  They look like cat shoes:


Oh--they're actually owl shoes.  That makes sense.

Are owls smarter than cats, though? I'd debate that.
The shoes have high heels and a nice molded buckle design:


And now Samantha can stand:

Clothes, please, Emily!
She can't stand super-well, though.  I had to use her hair to shift her weight towards the front of her body, otherwise she'd topple over backwards.  These high heeled sandals are not as sturdy as Alaska's boots.

She's sporting an enormous neck tag and some very interesting underwear.  I love that her bra doesn't match her panties:


She's wearing a plaid bra and what look like boys' underpants (I say that not because of the shape or color, but because of the little fly seam on one side).

The printed detail is really good.  The bra has painted sparkles on the clasp in back, and the underpants have periodic table lettering:  

That neck tag is in-sane.
The Cu stands for Copper (the shiny metal) and the Te is for Tellurium (a brittle and slightly toxic metalloid):


Those elements might sum up how I feel about the underwear: cute, shiny, and slightly toxic.  I have no issue with teens wearing fancy underwear (I did), but I suspect the audience for these dolls is more like 6-year-olds.  That gives me pause.  Now I find myself curious about the range of underwear designs on the rest of these dolls.

Samantha is also wearing some printed bracelets:

An owl charm and an A+ charm.
Wearing your GPA on your wrist is a tad overkill, don't you think?  But good for her.

The printing on these bracelets is not as clear as it is on the face (there are some lines of missing color).

An owl bracelet.
Samantha has fabulous comic-book-red hair, styled into two long braids with bangs:


Her face has rosy red lips, lots of freckles, and even a shine spot on her little nose:


I think the shine spot is intentional:


It was clear to me at this point that the surprises were going to be elements of Samantha's wardrobe.  But how much of a surprise is that, when the packaging has multiple pictures of the doll and her outfit?


It looks like we'll get an owl hat, a plaid dress, a cardigan, and a blouse.  The shoes are the only real mystery, and we've already seen those:


Let's quickly check out the bags:

A shiny brush.



Ooh, this looks like the hat!  I really like animal hats.



The suspense is prolonged here because the hat is wrapped inside out!


Very nice:


It doesn't really compliment her underwear, but hey:

Clothes! Clothes! Clothes!
Because of the tight fit of this hat, I found it hard to get on and off without messing up Samantha's braids and bangs.

Here's the plaid dress:


This has the same basic shape as Alaska's dress.  And the stitching is similarly messy--especially around the tiny front pocket:


Next I opened the blouse:


The gathered sleeves on this blouse are cute, but the bow tie is unraveling before my very eyes:


I opened the cardigan last:



It didn't look very impressive at first:


With all of the "surprises" unwrapped, I could finally get some clothes on Samantha.

I put her blouse on first.  It doesn't do a great job of hiding her bra:


The dress covers everything up, though:

Finally.
The outfit has some rag-tag areas, but overall it's good:


The cardigan, which was really unimpressive right out of the bag, is actually my favorite part of the outfit.  It's so soft and cozy-looking:


And the knitted details are really nice:


The yarn is soft, too, so it doesn't impede Samantha's arm movement at all.

Samantha's outfit is very similar to Alaska's--as are her hair, articulation, and accessories.  In fact, I like Samantha better overall.  I'm not sure why there's a $10 price difference between them?  That's a mystery.

Here's Samantha Smartie-Pants all dressed up:


The outfit is almost exactly like the graphic of Samantha on the collector's sheet.  This is great, except that it literally ruins any kind of surprise with this doll.

In this case, I like the doll better than the box art.

I'm feeling a little upset about the liberal use of the word "surprise" in these toys.  I mean, it's not actually a surprise if you can look on the front of the box and see exactly what you're going to get.

I love dolls with a surprise element.  Apparently lots of other people do, too.  Still, I can't help but feel like the experience is being cheapened somehow.  Perhaps by overuse, but also perhaps by a lazy interpretation of what an actual surprise is.

Do you want to hear about something really surprising?  I was getting Alaska and Samantha ready for some group shots, and the whole thing went off in a direction that I did not anticipate.  

I was cutting Alaska's tag to make her look better in the photos,

Much better!
And I found myself looking at those creepy head stitches again:

They were calling out to me.
To put this in context, and for those who don't know, I've spent the last few years of my life taking apart My Twinn dolls so that I can restore them.  Because of this (and my curiosity) there was a part of me that had to snip those stitches to see what would happen:

Oh, Emily. 
Nothing happened to the scalp right away, but when I started to pull on the fabric...


I realized I could take the fabric off of the head even though the hair was rooted through both the fabric and the underlying vinyl.

I mean, somebody else out there must also be curious about what's underneath the fabric of these dolls.  Right?

There was no turning back after this point.

That's a serious scalp laceration.
After I cut away some of the main connections between fabric and vinyl, I was able to just pull the face back over the hair:

Because that's a normal thing to do.
Here at TBP, we just casually peel away dolls' faces.
Here's Alaska with her face gone:

Boo.
And here's her disembodied face:

New low, Emily.  New low.
But, it's pretty cool to see the construction of these dolls.  The face itself is not entirely fabric.  It's backed with thin flexible vinyl: 


And of course once I got started with this project, I had to see it through.  

The fabric was hard to remove from the rest of the body because it was tucked in nicely around the joints, but I got this far:

I should have saved this review for Halloween.
The legs and arms are rubbery vinyl (like a Disney Store doll's legs), and the torso has a slightly different feel.  I think the torso is thin plastic.  It compresses when you poke it with a finger, but it's not rubbery or sticky: it doesn't attract any lint.

While trying to remove the fabric, I uncovered some structural weaknesses.  For example, the rubbery arms can pull away from the plastic joint that anchors them:


As can the rubbery legs:


Mind you, I was tugging and pulling on these areas a lot to get the fabric off.  I'm not sure that these are relevant structural weaknesses for dolls who are only exposed to normal play.  Probably not.  But the thing is, if these areas did fall apart over time, there would be no easy way to fix them without stripping away the fabric skin.

It was neat to see how Alaska's vinyl body has some underlying sculpture.  The stubby toes are really cute, but they don't show through the fabric at all:

That's nice attention to detail.
The definition between the tiny little fingers was actually stitched into the underlying hand mold:

Alaska Stringyhands
I wonder how they accomplished those stitches in a factory setting?  It's pretty impressive.

Anyway, I feel a little sad that I ruined Alaska, but I'm happy to know more about how these dolls are constructed.

You're welcome.
One of the things that attracted me to this line when I first saw it is that I assumed the dolls were made out of fabric.  That would have been quite unique in this market.  It's a little depressing that they are basically plastic dolls with a fabric veneer.

As a bit of an aside, there was an interesting fabric doll at Target that was sitting right next to the Na Na Na boxes.  She's a Dream Seeker and I will review her in the future:

Dream Seeker Hope doll.

But let's get back to the subject at hand.  This review is already getting very long!  I forgot how easily that can happen.

Here are Samantha and Alaska together...not quite the picture I'd originally planned.

I'm gonna get her clothes, aren't I?
With Alaska out of commission, I decided to give her clothes to Sam:

Score!
The puffy jacket--as cute as it is-- really limits arm movement.  I moved Sam's left arm back to get it into the sleeve, and then I couldn't move the arm back into a normal position:

Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!
One downside of the printed clothing is that it doesn't necessarily match other outfits:

Clashing socks.
In my normal life I'm not super matchy-matchy with my clothing.  With dolls, though, I like to be able to create a cohesive look if the mood hits.

Given the experimentation I did earlier, it's also now possible for Samantha to try on Alaska's face:

Does this face match my hair?
Okay, okay. Here's Sam's normal face again:

The faces are not that different.
I think as a science-loving girl, Samantha supports my experimentation in general, but she was still a little creeped out by those last few shots. Sorry, Sam.

Here she is back in her original outfit.  

I prefer my safe, cozy cardigan, thank you very much.
This review probably should have ended right here.  And that was the original plan--promise.  But I wasn't quite ready to quit.  I want a good surprise, darn it!  I decided to try one more of these dolls.  And this time I chose a normal-sized one that was not from either of the Teens waves.

This intriguing box is from the Sparkle Series 1 collection:

Na! Na! Na! Surprise Glitter Series doll (2020).
This one cost about $11.  It's a smaller box and presumably a smaller doll than the other two.

There's potential here for all of the surprises to be revealed on the front of the box, though.  I mean, look at this:


Looks like I'm going to get a pink-haired mermaid doll inside a sequined fish, then I'll get her glasses and tankini as "surprises." Yawn.

But the mechanics of the reveal seem interesting.  It's like a party--with confetti!


And honestly, surprise or not, I feel like having a party.  I'm excited to be reviewing dolls again, and I want to celebrate!  So let's go.

Am I going fall for this "push here" tab again?


Yeah, I fell for it.  And it didn't work.  But who cares?!  Let's get to the confetti.

The packaging comes with a shiny mylar bag, a paper straw, and instructions:


The instructions say to use the straw to inflate the bag, remove a perforated strip at the top of the bag, and then pop open the balloon:

That sounds very fun!
I like how the balloon bag has ears.  That's a cute detail:


The instructions are written again at the top of the balloon, just in case you weren't paying attention the first time--or, say, threw away the instructions in your excitement to open the bag.

Inflating the bag worked really well!


There's a small compartment at the top of the bag that holds a handful of confetti.  This compartment pops up and releases the confetti when the balloon is squeezed:

Surprise! A big mess to clean up.
It's actually very clever!  I enjoyed myself with this, despite feeling a bit guilty about all of the extra packaging.

The confetti shapes and colors are fun, too:


Inside the bag, I could see that I got a black sequined purse:

Wait, where's the pink fish?
This is not what I expected!  It's a penguin!

A real surprise!
The penguin is accompanied by two mystery bags.  Here's the first one:


I honestly did not know what I would find inside this bag.

Oooh...it's something black:


It's a little bundle of black clothes:


Whoa!  It's three different items of clothing!


It's a little black track suit and a shirt that says "cool boy."  I think I'm getting a boy!

Cool.

I knew the next bag was the shoes, but I was still excited.  What will they look like?

Suspense...
Looks like a space boot:


It's a pair of tall sneakers...or ski boots.  Not sure.


They have a lot of molded and painted detail that looks good:


Alright, let's meet this "cool boy," shall we?

That is an adorable penguin purse.
The purse comes with a plastic hook so that it can be attached to a backpack or belt.  I think the shape of the hook is meant to represent something, but I'm not sure what:


There was a plastic shell inside of the purse, and this was really hard to pull out!


I felt like the purse was giving birth to a plastic carton:

Push!
Finally the plastic thing came out:


Aaaand it looks like the penguin gave birth to a fast food hamburger:

A bouncing baby Big Mac!
In turn, the plastic shell gave birth to...


A cute little boy!


He made a dramatic face-plant entrance into the world:

Ta-da!
He has a nice, serene face, with eyes that are not as shockingly big as the Teens' eyes are:


And look at his adorable underwear!


Oh--I get it!  He's a "cool boy" because he lives in the Antarctic!  With penguins.  That's good...and I'm slow.

The stitching along the back side of his legs is quite obvious, but I don't see any way they could have avoided that:


He has little striped penguin socks:

Also plays for the Yankees.
The bow in this fellow's legs makes it look like he might actually be a fabric doll with stuffing, but he has the same kind of body construction as the larger Teens, with rubbery vinyl in his limbs and compressible plastic in his head and torso.

He has five points of articulation, but no wire in his arms or legs.


Unlike the larger dolls, he can almost sit up on the floor:


And in a chair:

Not winning any awards for elegance, but still.
As cute as those underpants are, I decided to put on some of the clothing.  

The big boots do a great job of helping this boy stand on his own!


His hair is attached to his hat, which is attached to his head.  So there's no getting rid of that huge hang tag without cutting it off.

Permanent hat.
The hat is really well-made, with a fluffy pom-pom on the top and everything.  But it's a little disappointing that it can't be removed.  I think the girl dolls with hats might have the same problem, and this would be even more of a disappointment, I suspect.  All of that long hair that can't really be played with!

Here he is in his full track suit:


The jacket has a hood with a hole in the middle:


This style of hood is often used in doll clothing because a doll has really long hair.  In order for the hood to be pulled up over the doll's head, the hair has to stick out through the hole in the hood.

But I'm not sure why this short-haired little guy needs a hole in his hood?

The two sides of the hood also velcro together:


But even with the hole and the velcro, the hood does not fit over the head.  Not even close:

What was the plan with this hood?
The hood can double as a scarf, I guess:


The boy is only about 7.5 inches tall--slightly more than half as tall as Samantha:


I think all of the original series dolls were small and only the Teens dolls are as large as Samantha and Alaska.

But what is this little boy's name?  I can't keep calling him "the boy."

Here are all of the dolls in the sparkle series:


My little boy is named Andre Avalanche.  That's a great name!

Incidentally, I figured out only way after I'd taken all of these pictures that each doll's hang tag also has their name and some information about them.  I could have learned Andre's name much sooner:


Or that Alaska's slogan is "howl about a snow day?"


Or that Samantha was born on November 8th:


Like I said, I'm slow sometimes.

Anyway, I like this girl, Sailor Blu, also:


I was thinking that it would be a huge pain (and a huge expense) to keep buying these dolls in the hopes of getting a certain character, but then I found out that you can tell which character you're getting by looking at the front of the box.

On the collector's sheet, you can see that each character has a little symbol by their name.  Sailor has an anchor, and Andre has a little penguin silhouette.

If you look at Andre's box again, you can see the same penguin symbol right next to the mermaid's head:


I didn't know this when I bought Andre, which is nice because I got to have a real surprise.  That said, for anyone who knows the trick to identifying the doll...what is the actual surprise??  There isn't one.

This has always been the downside of surprise-themed dolls, I suppose.  It's really fun to get a blind box toy, as long as you're not wishing for one particular toy, and as long as you don't get any repeats.  So basically you have to get one doll and be happy with whichever one you got.  

I think consumers can handle a few disappointments and repeats for a toy that costs, say, $2.99.  But for a $10 or $20 doll, repeats are not acceptable.  So the only real option is to have some hint at which toy you're getting.  But again--this means it's not a surprise.

If these dolls weren't marketed as surprise dolls, they'd still be cute, and they could come in much simpler packaging.  Maybe MGA is moving away from the surprise theme on their own--evidenced by the fact that Alaska, the newest release in the group I've shown here, doesn't have any surprises in her packaging at all.  Time will tell.


Bottom line?  The Na Na Na dolls themselves are not really anything special.  They masquerade as cloth dolls, but are in fact made of mostly plastic and vinyl.  They have facial features that are printed onto the fabric quite nicely--with vibrant colors and clear details--but I don't find the features too appealing.  The Teens, in particular, have overly-large eyes that aren't as endearing to me as other (of the many!) dolls with this style of head.  Andre, the little boy, is an exception to this.  I think his facial features are pretty cute.  Another big issue for me is that the Na Na Na dolls can't sit.  And again, this is more apparent with the larger Teens.  A doll who is able to sit can join a child on so many more adventures than a doll who cannot.  Beyond that, the articulation on these dolls is minimal.  The wire in the Teens' arms improves that situation slightly, but posing options are still very limited.  I like the hair on the Teens.  It's soft and long and doesn't seem to shed much (even with all of the experimentation I did on Alaska!).  Andre (like many of the other smaller dolls) has hair that is attached to his hat, and his hat can't be removed. This limits the play potential, especially for long-haired characters.

The clothing in this line is a mixed bag.  A few of the pieces, like Alaska's jacket, Samantha's cardigan, and all three of the hats, look really great.  There are some minor flaws in these items, like the fact that the hats are a bit hard to get on and the puffy jacket limits arm movement, but I unconditionally love the cardigan.  I like Andre's outfit, too, but the hood on his jacket makes no sense.  It almost seems like it was designed for a different doll.  The shoes are all fine, and they have a nice level of painted and molded detail, although some are better at helping the dolls balance than others.  A few of the items of clothing are sloppy in their construction.  Samantha's bow tie is falling apart, and both Teens have dresses with careless stitching.  The dolls can share clothing within their size group, but any printed socks or accessories might clash with new outfits.

The most glaring thing to me about these Na Na Na Surprise dolls is that they're not surprise dolls.  Alaska had no surprise elements in her packaging, and the other two dolls have surprises that are revealed either by the picture on the front of the box (Samantha) or by a sticker showing what doll is inside the box (Andre).  So what are they?  I'd call these dolls "box opening entertainment" dolls.  They're designed to make de-boxing the doll an event.  I think that de-boxing a doll is always exciting, even if it means opening up a simple cardboard box and pulling away some tissue paper.  But there's a bit of a risk when you take a doll out of her shiny box--where her hair is perfectly coiffed and all of her accessories are temptingly arranged around her--that some of the magic and possibility of that doll will be lost.  As an example, I still have one of the original Liv playsets in its original packaging.  The large box is like a diorama, with all of the dolls posed around a campfire.  I just love looking at the box and might never disrupt that idyllic setting for fear that my enjoyment of those dolls might be lost or diminished.  Dolls like Na Na Na (and the multitude of L.O.L. iterations) are taking the risk of this de-boxing disappointment to a new level.  I can imagine kids who covet these dolls just because they like the box opening experience--not because they have any interest in playing with the actual doll.  And for the kids who really do love to play with these dolls, I'd argue that the entertainment element of the packaging is unnecessary and creates an extreme amount of plastic waste.

For any kids who are interested in surgery and face transplants, I suppose the line has unique potential.

I like little Andre, but I can't say that I'm a big fan of this brand overall, even though I had several moments of fun as I got to know these three dolls.  Despite my lukewarm reaction, I suspect that the Na Na Na characters will always hold a special place in my memory as the first dolls I reviewed as I started up this blogging adventure again.  It's good to be back, and I'm excited for all of the things I have planned.  Thank you so much for tuning in.

37 comments:

  1. Boy, am I glad to see you blogging again! Your blog has served as a valuable resource for my own doll blog over the years.

    I reviewed Foxy Roxy from the first wave and gave her my stamp of approval for kids because they're sturdy and easy to hold. I daresay her clothes weren't as sloppy either, though she had fewer pieces. Her Hair is actually fairly easy to style; she can wear braids like Samantha's, or pigtails or a ponytail. But an updo? Forget it! And no, there aren't many surprises here...sad face.

    Welcome back!

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  2. I read somewhere that these dolls where plastic covered by fabric and ever since I was curious how that would look like. I guess the lesson here is be careful what you wish for because that was creepy as frick lol. What I did find interesting is the similarity of designs between these dolls and other lines by MGA. Alaska's blue dress and specifically her white shirt with black designs look exactly as Skyler Bradshaw's second outfit from Rainbow High series 1 doll. And Alaska herself is evidently similar to Gabriella Icely from series 3 from RH. And Rainbow High, wich I suspect you'll cover soon is itself based of the "Poopsy" line... wich I'll forever guess they created heavily high on cannabis. Anyway, Andre is the cutest little thing. Glad to see you again in here!

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  3. Welcome back! I am so happy you are reviewing again--although it is quite dangerous for my pocketbook...

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  4. Oh my god! Thank you so much for ripping Alaska's face off! My daughter has one of these and I always want to rip it's skin off to see what's inside!
    I'm not actually a serial killer, I swear! 😀
    Good to see you back

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  5. I’m actually tempted by Sailor Blu! Happy to see you back again. I had a good laugh as always!!

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  6. Welcome back, Emily! This blog was a huge part of my childhood so I am so excited to see that you’re posting again.

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  7. Welcome back! I hadn't even seen these dolls. Interesting.

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  8. I legitimately did a little happy dance when I saw you were back doing reviews.
    Welcome back! You were my inspiration and i'm delighted to have your reviews to read again.

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  9. Whoa, this was a nice surprise! welcome back!

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    1. It's so good to see you back Emily! I enjoy your reviews for many reasons, not least of which is your sense of humour. I have missed you here. I like the red haired Samantha, and her outfit. Of course you tore the face off one of these, because that's typical Emily. Nobody else does stuff like that. I have been known to do reviews without even removing shoes, often because you had laready said how hard they were to get back on! Welcome back.

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  10. Welcome back! I'm happy to see a new Toybox Philosopher review!

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  11. Welcome back! It's so good to know that you are well. I really love this site and your work and I'm excited to see what you share in the future.

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  12. Hooray for a new post!
    (And theoretically, could Samantha wear Alaska's "leggings" to match better now that she is deconstructed?)

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  13. Welcome back, I'm so happy to see a review again - and one written about dolls I personally was interested in, to boot!

    When these dolls first came out, I liked how they looked like - but at the same time, I also thought they aren't something I'd collect. They looked really cute, but at the same time not exactly my taste (does this even make sense?). I was still thinking of getting one or two - until I learned that they are considerably bigger than I thought (I initially thought they'd be Barbie-Chelsea-sized, but Stacie-sized at max.), then I basically lost interest in actually purchasing one. I still find the concept cute - but not the surprise element. I was never a fan of surprise dolls not only because of the excess packaging or the risk of buying something I do not want, but because this way I can't spot any error in the product before purchasing it. As far as I know, the initial series of the line were all like Andre (hence the "Surprise" word in the name), but - as far as I know - luckily some labelling was already available back then for those who wanted to make sure they get a box that contains the doll they want. To me this is a nice compromise - adult collectors (or adults who have kids who want a specific doll) can save the extra money or a potential disappointment and can just go for the doll they (or their kids) want, but those who do appreciate the surprise element can still arrange a purchase in a way that the content isn't revealed.
    It was nice to see a detailed review of these dolls through eyes (and beyond! Seeing the interesting and unusual "skeleton" under the fabric was a real and unexpected surprise - having never handled - or seen - these dolls IRL, I too have thought they are stuffed under the fabric). While I'm a sucker for blue-haired dolls, I seem to like Samantha over Alaska from the two girls - and I struggled to know why, as their faces seemed so similar! Your face-swapping experiment further into the review came very handy - before that I've been scrolling back and forth in the review to check pictures of them, and didn't see that much of a difference. Now I know it must be in the little things like the shape of the lips and the eyebrows, both of which I prefer in Samantha.

    I actually think the lines of missing colour on Sam's owl wristwatch are painted-on sparkles, similarly to the ones on the back of her bra - they DO look like missing paint though, a nice example of an added feature turning into a bug.

    It's a shame how they rendered the bow on Samanths's blouse... I know, I know, cost cuts, but would it really have hurt to just use double the size of the ribbon (which would still mean under an inch, if I judge the bow's size correctly) to make a proper bow, or fraycheck the ends if they have to be cut like this? Little details like this really bug me, especially from MGA, whom I'm familiar with based on old Bratz and Moxie Teenz, both of which had incredible detail in their clothes - which was especially incredible with Bratz due to their much smaller size. Also, do cost cuts involve idea cuts too? Because MGA already had a doll who had this very same catchphrase (I'm smart. Get over it!) earlier: McKeyla from the Project MC2 line. I know accessory reusing has already been a thing, but I don't think I've ever seen a catchphrase reused. A little lame, if you ask me (with accessories it's at least something you can use, and if you are an accessory collector, it's twice the chance to get something you like and are on the hunt for). Now I actually wonder if Andre's jacket is also a reused design, since the size of his hood seems to make so little sense.
    Dream Seeker girl looks like the child of a Na! Na! Na! and a Rainbow High! I'm interested to learn more about her and see how she compares to these two lines.

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  14. So, I used to follow you on this blog, was heartbroken when you left, found you on the MyTwinn Project blog and just saw the post there where you mentioned reviving Toybox Philosopher - I kinda lost my crap. I loved this blog so much and MyTwinn Project has been awesome but I think I've read every post on this blog and I now own Lottie dolls and a Kruseling because of your reviews! -Among some other dolls I've picked up because I recognized them from your blog!

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  15. So glad you are back! I love the detail in your reviews and the look inside the anatomy of these dolls was a nice surprise. I have a couple of them because I love all the boys. This line at least has choices there. I feel like they could keep the surprise element by varying the accessorie that come with each one. Maybe alternate shoes or T-shirts.

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  16. Welcome back, Emily! It’s wonderful to read your reviews once again!

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  17. This doll line is extremely cute but has a horrible name in my opinion. When the first wave of the original smaller Na Na Na Surprise Dolls first came out, my daughter was still a little bit into dolls. I gave her the bunny one for Christmas that year. She liked it and I thought it was adorable! - even though the hat wasn’t removable and the doll couldn’t sit that well. I got her another for the next Christmas and she was not thrilled! She was like, “mom why did you get me a doll?!?” I still think they are extremely cute and have since acquired a few more for myself. :-). I don’t like the teen Na Na Na dolls though. They don’t seem as cute to me. Maybe it’s the taller size and large alien eyes?!? I thoroughly enjoyed the review - including the weird tangent :-) and I’m so happy you are reviewing dolls on here again!

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  18. Oh my gosh haha! I used to read your reviews as a little kid and I was randomly back on just to read some old ones for fun, it's so nice to see you reviewing again :)

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  19. Was so excited to see an email notification pop up with a new review. Have really missed reading them! Glad to see you’re back.

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  20. I'm so glad you're dusting this blog off again! Will you be doing both blogs, or will the Twinn one go on pause after your Cinderella dolls?

    I think the Na Na Na dolls are really interesting, though considering how poorly they pose, they might has well have been stuffed instead of plastic inside! I do think the "unboxing experience" trend is getting a little out of hand. Some of the bigger LOL sets have this ridiculously complex way of opening them, with like 100 doors to open. The box becoming a playset is cool, but all the doors make it like swiss cheese afterward. I dunno if I would have liked that as a kid!

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  21. Love to see you back and the little hooks are shaped like the animal and it took me three to notice

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  22. OMG you're back you're back you're baaaaack! I have missed you so much.

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  23. So happy to see you back here again! This blog is what got me into doll collecting, so it's really amazing to see its return.

    I agree with you about the overabundance of surprise dolls these days. They've really exploded and the amount of waste and overconsumption they generate is quite upsetting. Luckily, they might be on their way out as, compared to a couple of years ago, I haven't seen them nearly as much at the Target near me.

    I'm not fully sure what kids are into these days as far as toys since I used to use my little sister as reference but she recently stopped playing with dolls. However, I'd like to see a return of dolls that come with more well-defined personalities and stories like Monster High and Ever After High. A lot of dolls these days have only a single sentence about them, and I find that quite boring. Providing a bit more detail about the dolls might help kids in creating scenarios for them, much more than just "this doll is smart" and "this doll likes fashion." You know?

    Anyway, hope you're doing well! I've really enjoyed keeping up with this blog and the MyTwinn blog over the years :)

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  24. Hooray!!! So glad to see you back over here some too! It's always a little intimidating to dive into a doll collection. I know SO. MUCH about American Girl/Pleasant Company items and the first few waves of Monster High, it's ridiculous-but venturing outside of those is a little scary.

    I haven't handled any of these, but I did purchase a rainbow high girl off Amazon-and didn't like her. I wanted to, I really did! Loved the clothes and accessories. But in the end the googly eyes didn't do it for me like the stock photos had.

    Anyway, welcome back! I reread your reviews sometimes, happy for new ones. -Micah

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  25. Hello!!! Oh my gosh, I was rereading one of your old reviews just last week for old time's sake-- I didn't expect to see a new post from you! I'm so glad to see you back! (Of course, I was keeping up with your other blog, but seeing you back here is really cool!!)
    I really enjoyed seeing your thoughts on these and your thorough inspection of the line (especially of poor Alaska). I definitely agree that this line has some.. really strange leg articulation! I've never seen anything quite like that! These dolls don't really bend at the hip so much as their legs simply... spin?

    I had been wondering what you would think of these dolls ever since they first came out, and I'm so excited to read anything else you want to write! But please make sure to take your time and just enjoy yourself with anything you decide to do on this blog. Enjoying yourself is the most important part!

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  26. I kind of can't get over (and am super confused about) the super-70s font they've used all over the packaging, most notably for the word "Surprise". And yeah, man, surprise toys are all the rage - even American Girl now has blind-bag accessories. So I suspect MGA is capitalizing on the "surprise" thing.

    It's funny because I thought Alaska and Smartie had totally different faces until you showed them on the same doll. I liked Alaska's face much better, and I think it's because her makeup is more muted. Her hair is lovely (once you brushed it out...); maybe you can use that blank plastic doll to practice your painting on? Give her a whole new face and see what she'd look like with normal-sized eyes, for instance. With all her skin stripped off, she's got a Monster High, Once Upon a Zombie, undead kind of thing going on. :D *strongly advocates your giving her a new face* After all, otherwise she'll end up in the landfill, too, right? (and my lord, there's a crapload of wasted packaging here... I'm especially appalled at the individually-wrapped clothing items of Smartie's....)

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  27. Great to see this blog returning!

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  28. Welcome back Emily ❤️ I already told you, but I really really missed this blog and I‘m so happy you decided to continue❤️

    And wow, those photos from the toy store. It lookd so different from what we have here. But I had to save the photo to make some investogations on a doll I spotted there :)

    For the Nanana dolls…I never heard of them (here it‘s all about Rainbow High at the moment)….and I was hoping for the mermaid, but the boy is cute, too :)

    And oh my, when you showed us thr stitches on the head I thought the surprise stuff is inside her head, haha ❤️

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  29. I am SO excited to see you returning! ❤

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  30. I'm so glad you're back, Emily! I came back to reread all about the my twinn adventures, and was super shocked to see a new review.

    I think Samantha and Andre are much cuter than Alaska. There's just something creepy about how large Alaska's forehead was. Samantha has cute bangs to hide hers, and Andre is cuter in such a small size.

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  31. I'm so glad to see you return to this blog! I came to check on an old review and found new content on the home page - now THIS is a surprise! With the Blogger changes I somehow didn't realize that I wouldn't be receiving email subscriptions any more, which means I missed all MyTwinn posts since the move, too... and all other blogspot blogs I was following by email.

    Anyway, it's so good to see you settled in your current home and back in the reviewing game. I'm excited to see which of the recent dolls caught your attention. And I like the idea of putting the reviewed dolls for sale here on the same website. The Nanana dolls weren't my cup of tea when I first saw them and thought they were cloth dolls, and even less so now that I know they are regular plastic dolls in a fabric wrapper. I'm so confused by this concept. Is the fabric texture really preferable to smooth plastic? I thought the whole point of bearing with a fabric face was because it was the only way to make a humanoid doll that felt soft and huggable like a plushie. And if they were going for a rag doll aesthetic, Lalaloopsie did it way better and the use of plastic was not disguised. I actually prefer Alaska's plastic form. She has a nice sculpt and her colour matches the hair. I would probably patch her up and make a creepy OOAK. It was quite a hefty price for such experiments though. I hope your next reviews bring you more pleasant surprises.

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  32. OMG YOU’RE BACK!!!!!! HELL YES!!!!!!!

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  33. THIS HAS MADE MY DAY! I have been following you since way before I had my daughter and have been missing your reviews even more since she was born! So happy to see that you are back at it!

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  34. I love your blog so much, so glad to see that you are back and that I did not remove it from my feed rader Feedly!

    I just saw these dolls at my local super market here in Sweden and thought they were cute from a distance but glad I read your review before looking into getting one. :-)

    Take care and keep blogging!

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  35. The doll line may have "Surprise" in the name but the real surprise was your return, welcome back Emily!! Your wonderfully entertaining and informative reviews accompanied my university years and inspired me to keep working on my blog (though I haven't written about dolls, yet) seeing you again made my day :D "For any kids who are interested in surgery and face transplants, I suppose the line has unique potential." I'm pretty cure the doll customizing community will be happy to hear that hahaha

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  36. Hi Emily!
    I'm so happy to see you are reviewing dolls again!! Your wonderful posing, great sense of humor and thorough reviews are just amazing. I was never a fan of these particular dolls, but they seem to be very "addictive" to some of the other adult toy collectors I follow on Youtube. Maybe it's just the fun of trying to get each charactor?

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