Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sunday Surprise: Mini Fashion and Real Littles!

I was disappointed that I couldn't quite get last week's review done in time for a Sunday Surprise, so I decided to try really hard to get a quick surprise-themed review done for you today!  

My progress was slowed down a little bit this weekend because I finally hit a breaking point with my work space.  I've been writing reviews almost non-stop since October, and I forgot that if I don't take a day or two every now and then to stop and clean up my mess...well, things can get very out-of-control!  On Friday, when fetching the doll for my next review felt like an obstacle course, a death trap, and a game of hide and seek all wrapped into one, I realized that it was time to pause and clean up.  But now my room is beautiful and clean again and it's such an amazing feeling!

As I was tidying and sorting through my stash, I realized that I'd accumulated two different surprise-themed toys that involve purses or bags of some kind: Mini Fashion by Zuru and Real Littles by Moose Toys.  I thought that these two brands might be fun to compare and contrast.  Lena was excited about this idea because she's been pestering me for months to de-box the Mini Fashion sets.  She knows that they contain high-end purses that might be just her size!

Barbie Lena with a Surprise Mini Fashion ball (Zuru, $9.99).

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Mischa's Toy Jewels (now with answers!)

I'm traveling a bit this weekend, so today's review will be pretty short, and very different from what I normally write.  Anyone who's read any of my Sunday Surprise posts, especially recent ones, will know that I often comment on how the expense of surprise-themed dolls, particularly those that cost over $10, is risky because of the chance of getting a repeat.  And what happens to all of those duplicate dolls?  Some end up on eBay or at Goodwill, I'm sure, but many probably land in the garbage.  As if the packaging waste from this type of toy wasn't bad enough.

Knowing how I feel about all of this, my friend Ariel messaged me the other day and showed me a cool Instagram page called Mischa's Toy Jewels.  Mischa gathers up unwanted mini toys and turns them into children's jewelry!  How cool is that?  What's even better is that she donates half of the profits from her sales to a local food bank.  I wanted to showcase this neat project, so I purchased several bracelets and necklaces to share with you.

I had so much fun looking through Mischa's selection, not just because the jewelry is colorful and attractive, but because of the variety of mini toys on display.  I could identify some of the brands right away, but not all of them.  The unidentified mini toys were irresistible little mysteries to me, and I had a great time trying to figure out what all of them are.  And I'll confess--Mischa had to come to my rescue a few times!  I thought some of you might be similarly amused by identifying these small toys, and so today's post will have two goals: one is to simply showcase Mischa's fun jewelry, but the other is to play a little guessing game!  I'll show you what I bought, with no labels, and then in a day or two I'll post the answers and a little follow-up review.  Be warned, though, that there's one mini toy in the mix that neither Mischa nor I could identify.  Bonus points to anyone who knows what it is!

A necklace from Mischa's Toy Jewels, $10.00.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Hairmazing Hairdorables by Just Play

I decided to take a little break from mermaids for a week or two, just in case some of you aren't interested in the underwater side of doll collecting.  But I'll return to the subject later so that I can explore a few of Mattel's best mermaid options.  In the meantime, I wanted to get back to the review that I was working on when the Mermaze Mermaidz stole my attention.  The dolls I'm going to look at today are from the Hairdorables Hairmazing collection.  Word play on the adjective "amazing" is popular in the doll world these days, isn't it?  "Hairmazing" doesn't work quite as well as "Mermaze," if you ask me, but--again--at least they didn't go with Hairmazeballs.  That makes me thinking of hacking cats.

Anyway, I reviewed the smaller, huge-headed, surprise-themed Hairdorables back in 2018, and found them a bit goofy--with a lot of plastic waste.  The newer Hairmazing dolls are basically the Hairdorables characters when they're all grown up and in high school.  The dolls still have caricatured faces and brightly colored hair, but as they matured, they appear to have grown into their heads and also acquired an impressive number of new joints!  The larger size and better articulation on these dolls made them something I didn't want to miss.

There are three waves of Hairmazing dolls available: the first release dolls, a Prom Perfect themed collection, and a brightly-colored Kaleidoscope trio.  The first two groups are really easy to find (and often on sale) but the Kaleidoscope girls are more elusive.  I gather Just Play had some distribution problems in 2021 that made these dolls rare in the United States.  There are still plenty of great options available, though, and I had a tough time deciding which of the dolls I should feature in this review.  Fortunately, my Patrons stepped in and, through a series of polls, they chose the dolls I'll look at today.  Thank you for the help, guys!  Sorry it took me so long to write the actual review.

Hairdorables Hairmazing Noah by Just Play, $19.99.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Mermaid High by Spin Master

I'm back with the second post in the mermaid series!  I learned so much from your comments on the Mermaze Mermaidz review.  As I've said before, the comments are always a hugely valuable (and humorous...) part of this blog.  Thank you so much for all of your contributions.  I'll single out a few mermaid-related things that were mentioned: first of all, Lurkins noted that I never tested Jordie's color change feature, which is embarrassingly true.  I went back and did that and added in some pictures of the results.  It's pretty cool!  Séverine's tip that one of the dolls (Riviera) has bad hair is very helpful, too, especially since I was so pleased with the hair on Orra and Jordie.  Last of all, I had no idea about the alleged backstory of the Mermaidz or which body parts were taken from other MGA lines.  I should have at least recognized the Project Mc2 eyes!  Thank you to Alé for those tidbits.

But today is all about Spin Master's Mermaid High dolls.  The first wave of these fishy friends has been out since late 2021, and the second wave of dolls hit the market this spring.  I've been waffling back and forth about whether to write about this brand for several months now, mostly waiting to see if the high original price (around $27) would come down at all.  The dolls never struck me as being worth quite that much.  I guess I waited a good amount of time, because the first wave characters recently went on sale at Target.  They were around $5 for a while, which was insane, but are now $19.99, which is a reasonable price for this brand.  I purchased first wave Finly at full price a few weeks ago, and then added Searra during the $5 sale.  This review got too long to include Searra, though, so I'll put those photos over on Patreon.

I'm going to feature Finly today because when I was looking at all of the characters in the store, she's the one who impressed me the most.  I love her rainbow-themed outfit and her cute green-eyed, freckle-filled face.  In this review, I'll contrast first wave Finly to the newer version of the same character:

Mermaid High Finly by Spin Master, $26.99.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Mermaze Mermaidz by MGA Entertainment

Whew!  My husband and I are finally finished with our whirlwind graduation tour of the East coast.  We had some absolutely incredible moments with our kids, but now I'm glad to be back in something that resembles a routine.  As usual, I have a billion things on my mind and in my review queue, and my slow self can't work fast enough to keep up.  The other problem is that I often get distracted by new and shiny things; today's review is a good example of that.

I was happily at work on a review that features a doll from a few years ago (there are a lot of those that I need to get caught up with!), but then a mundane trip to Target threw me completely off course.  I was doing a quick sweep of the doll aisles on my way to get some hand lotion, and was stopped in my tracks by a doll with hypnotic inset eyes.  She's one of the new Mermaze Mermaidz dolls from MGA Entertainment, and her name is Orra:

Mermaze Mermaidz Orra doll by MGA Entertainment, $44.99.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Patron Post: Is This Blythe?

It is so easy to fall down rabbit holes in the doll world, isn't it?  Well, I've fallen down another one.  A really, really big one.  Bigger, even, than I suspected the first time I wrote this review (more on that in a sec)!  It all started with my wonderful Patron Katrina's suggestion that I look more in-depth at the Blythe universe.  I haven't purchased a Blythe doll in about ten years, and I've never written a formal review of the brand, so this was an excellent suggestion!  Today's review will not address authentic Blythe dolls, though, but rather a few of the enticing imitations that exist on the market.

As some of you might recall, the first version of this review featured an imitation Blythe doll that I purchased from the shop that sniped Gina Garan's old website and is named after her iconic book, This is Blythe.  The doll was lovely, but she was significantly more expensive than similar dolls that I found as I was doing research for the review.  I stated this fact in my post, including my best explanation for the price difference, but this was apparently not okay with the shop--nor was my talking about their competitors in any way.  They asked me to edit the review to remove all mention of certain other retailers.  In hindsight, their request was ludicrous...and suspicious.  But I'm never looking to upset anyone, so I offered to try and help.  I stayed up until 3:00am one night (they're in a dramatically different time zone), emailing back and forth and changing the review to make them happy.  However, when I (finally) put my foot down and refused to edit and lock the comments section, they abruptly threatened to sue me--using private information that they'd obtained from my purchases.  That's not nice.  A quick Trustpilot search revealed that they have a history of threatening similar nonsense to other customers (including two fellow bloggers).  I dislike bullies, so I didn't want to imply endorsement of this shop by featuring their products. I would advise avoiding this shop at all costs.  After considering my options, I decided to delete the old review and write a new version using equivalent items that I bought from other retailers.  And it's a happy ending, because I had so much more fun this time around!

I didn't want to delete the old review without replacing it, because looking at imitation Blythe dolls is an important part of a bigger series of articles that I'm planning.  This is quite an exciting (and nerve-wracking!) time for the authentic Blythe brand because Hasbro recently severed its long-term connection with Takara/TOMY (the manufacturers of Blythe dolls) and has entered a new relationship with Good Smile Company.  Good Smile has a wonderful reputation in the figurine world (they make Nendoroids), but they do not have an extensive resumé in doll making.  So everyone's been waiting anxiously to see if the new Blythe dolls will be as good as the old.

Today's review will include an in-depth look at a girl I bought from Blythe Homes (an AliExpress vendor), and a more cursory look at a few similarly-priced dolls that I found at various other places.  I'll also throw in some terminology, market observations, and thoughts about what it means to be Blythe.  At a later date, I'll follow up with a review of an authentic Takara-made Blythe doll, and then compare her to a new Good Smile Company doll.  Are you ready for a review re-do?  I hope so!  Here we go again:

Imitation DBS Blythe doll from Blythe Homes, $35.20 (outfit not included).

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf

Monster High dolls were among the very first things that I reviewed ten years ago when this blog was brand-new, so they will always have a special place in my heart.  I delighted in their strange body proportions, excellent articulation, outstanding design, intricate accessories (those shoes!), and refreshing originality.  I've reviewed a lot of characters from this line over the years, both on my own and with the help of some wonderful guest reviewers.  When the brand was retired in 2017, I had mixed feelings.  In the year or two leading up to the cancellation, I had begun to grow weary of the overabundance of dolls on the toy store shelves.  The sheer number of characters made each individual doll feel less special.  And the dolls themselves were literally less special; the quality and attention to detail had begun to decline.  For the most part, the later dolls have simpler outfits, fewer accessories, more basic painted features, and lots of trouble with gluey heads and arms (or tails!) that fall off too easily.

After the dolls were gone, though, I missed them more than I thought I would.  Specifically, I missed the anticipation and excitement that surrounded the release of new characters.  There was always the chance that one of the new dolls would stand out from the pack.  Because the thing is, even as the overall quality and originality of the brand was declining, there were little bursts of brilliance.  Avea Trotter, for example, is still one of my favorite dolls of all time.  I also thought the Inner Monster series was a huge amount of fun.  There was a limited edition Draculaura released in 2015 who is beautiful (I owned her briefly), and the 2017 special edition of Zomby Gaga is incredible, too.  She's one of the rare dolls that I'll never sell.  So even though I coveted fewer and fewer Monster High dolls towards the end of their original run, the brand still had the ability to create some absolute treasures.

Over the last few years, mostly while I wasn't paying attention, hints started to swirl around that Monster High might reboot.  For example, in 2020, Mattel released a small series of movie-themed dolls (Pennywise and the Grady twins...covet!).  There was some buzz about a new animated television show and a new movie, too.  Then, finally, the official announcement came: new dolls would be released in 2022.  Despite the mixed feelings I'd had in previous years, I got very excited about this news; it was a chance to find some new treasures!  And the reboot wave looked like it might have some gems among it.  This group includes three collector's edition dolls; Draculaura, Frankie Stein, and Clawdeen Wolf.  Clawdeen has always been one of my favorite characters, so she's the one I chose:

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf, $75.