Monday, January 30, 2012

"Summer Lila" and "Summer Lucas" by Salvador Berenguer for JC Toys

Based on the focus of this blog so far, you might be surprised to learn that I got my start as a doll enthusiast by collecting baby dolls.  Actually, to be perfectly accurate, I got my start as a doll enthusiast the moment I received Madame Alexander's baby "Victoria" as a gift from my grandmother.  Victoria and I were inseparable for the better part of my youth:

My mom made us matching outfits!
As an adult, baby dolls started to appeal to me again around the time I got a yearning for real babies.  Even after I had my two boys, baby dolls served as reminders of the most precious stages and expressions of my little guys.  As my kids got older, I moved into collecting Himstedt child dolls, but that stage couldn't last too long because Himsetdts are big and expensive.  These days, for whatever reasons, I am much more interested in fashion dolls.  It might have something to do with shelf space.

Despite not acquiring a lot of new baby dolls at this point in my life, I still retain many and strong opinions about these dolls.  Recently, someone asked my opinion on what would be a good realistic baby doll for an older child.  I had a great time thinking through the options.  For this special girl, I ended up recommending Zapf Vivian or Lilian, by master sculptor Cathariena Teunissen. The process got me pondering what the best realistic baby doll choices are for each price range and age group and I thought I'd start sharing my thoughts about this topic here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Monster High Review: Nefera De Nile and Operetta

It's hard to keep up with the Monster High releases!  I heard the news on the "Prego" doll board yesterday that Purrsephone and Meowlody are up for pre-order at Toys R Us (well, they were.  It lasted about 5 seconds), so that's pretty exciting, and also three new dolls have hit the shelves recently: Nefera de Nile, Operetta and Cupid.  I haven't seen Cupid yet, but the other two materialized at Walmart the other afternoon and I snatched them up.

I was especially interested in Nefera de Nile because she has a different body than the others.  She is the older (and taller) sister of Cleo de Nile, and so is another daughter of The Mummy.  The other new release, Operetta, is the daughter of The Phantom of the Opera.  That's a mouthful to say, but she is very interesting--particularly if you like the 1986 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

I don't think I want to take Operetta out of the box just yet (don't ask me why--that's a whole other story) but I will de-box Nefera to get a close look at that new body.  Here she is in her box:

Monster High Nefera De Nile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Liv Dolls' Horse, Nutmeg, vs. the Moxie Girlz Horse, Cricket

I am a big fan of horses.  When I was younger, I had a massive collection of Breyer model horses that was the focus of my entire imaginary world.  In the early 80s, you could get these highly detailed plastic Breyer models for about $6.00 at Woolworth (in nice cardboard boxes...), but now they run in the $40 range and are typically found only at high-end toy stores (although Toys R Us does carry a play line of Breyer horses).  

When Spin Master premiered their Liv horse in 2010, I could not wait for it to hit the shelves.  I saw some small pictures online suggesting that it was a highly articulated horse which I thought was very appropriate considering the impressive articulation of the Liv dolls themselves (no, no, don't worry--I am not going to gripe about that again).  There aren't really a ton of articulated play horses on the market right now.  Our Generation has a 20" horse that looks semi-articulated and pretty handsome (available at Target).  There's still an articulated horse for the Fisher Price Loving Family.  I think that's about it.  Let me know if you have intel on any others.

I was really hoping that the Liv horse would be kind-of like Smoke, a 1970s Lone Ranger articulated horse I had when I was a kid.  I loved posing that horse and I don't know what happened to it.  Smoke had about 14 points of articulation and could strike some very realistic poses.  That was the coolest toy. 

Anyway, I have been meaning to write a review of Nutmeg, the palomino Liv horse that I've had for about a year now.  While I procrastinated with that review, however, I caught wind of the new Moxie Girlz Cricket, who is a palomino horse that is articulated and apparently walks and whinnies.  Well!  I thought it might be fun to de-box Cricket and have a nose-to-nose showdown between the steeds of two very popular play doll lines.  Here's Cricket:

Moxie Girlz horse, Cricket

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Couture Swallow Sybarite by Superdoll

Artists Desmond Lingard and Charles Fegen have been making haute couture for many different doll lines since the start of their fashion design company, Superfrock, Ltd, in 1999.  In 2005, Lingard and Fegen expanded their business to include Superdoll Collectibles, a doll-making operation that introduced the world to a new line of 17" resin ball jointed fashion dolls called the Sybarites.

Sybarite is such a cool and unique name for a doll line.  The online free dictionary tells me that a sybarite is, "a person devoted to pleasure and luxury, a voluptuary."  That first part is very helpful, but a voluptuary?  I have to say, I like that word, but I have never heard it before.  Merriam Webster says that a voluptuary is a person interested in luxury and, "the gratification of sensual appetites." Alrighty then.   That sounds like a good fit for these dolls.

I have the extremely good fortune of owning two Sybarite dolls.  One of them, "Raja," I got on clearance from the now-extinct Haute Doll magazine shop.  When I bought her, Raja was not very popular and was being let go for about $450.  My other Sybarite, who you will meet here, is also a Haute Doll magazine exclusive.  She was limited to 250 (a big edition for these dolls) and retailed for $725.  That's a hefty price for a 17" doll, but some collectors are willing to pay a lot more than that for these haughty fashion divas.

The best way to buy a Sybarite is to join the Superdoll mailing list and be really fast when the new dolls get posted.  Like 5 minutes fast.  If your fingers are fast enough, you'll be one of the lucky 50 or so people who get a new doll for around $500-600.  If you blink and miss the release, you can find Sybarites on eBay most days for around $1,000.  Superdoll actually has a basic doll named Talc still on sale on the website for about $530.

Are they worth the competitive stress and the big price tag?  You tell me.  Meet "Couture Swallow:"

Sybarite Couture Swallow by Superdoll.
WARNING: Before you take the jump, please be warned that this doll is much edgier than the other dolls I have discussed, both with and without her clothing.  Although I try to keep things tasteful and artistic, the photos are likely not work-appropriate and may not be to everyone's taste.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moxie Teenz by MGA Entertainment

MGA Entertainment is responsible for producing a lot of today's hot dolls like Bratz, Moxie Girlz, BFC Ink and Lalaloopsy.  I am feeling the pull towards purchasing a Lalaloopsy doll, and if I do I'll let you know, but for now, the only MGA dolls in the house are Moxie Teenz.  Moxie Teenz are 14" articulated play dolls with inset eyes and changeable wigs.  Sound familiar?

First things first: "MGA" stands for Micro-Games America.  I did not know that.  I guess in my head I had MGA confused with MGM, which is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is a Hollywood movie-making studio.  MGA is a toy manufacturer.  Now that we have that straight, MGA released the Moxie Teenz line in the summer of 2010.  This was after the Liv release and at the same time as the Monster High debut.  In retrospect, MGA might have chosen different timing.

In any case, I was drawn to this line mostly because I was so smitten with Liv dolls.  Moxie Teenz, with their inset eyes and changeable wigs, seemed to me like fairly blatant Liv mimics.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Back in 2010, I had not yet fallen prey to Monster High dolls, and so there was plenty of room on my shelves for a teenage big sister to the Liv crew.  Also, FYI, I live in Maine, so I am legally required to have an inherent affinity for all things Moxie.

I am going to show you those original 2010 Moxie Teenz dolls in this post, but I'll also fast forward to the present and de-box the newest Moxie Teenz "Tristen" for you so that we can see what's up with the Moxie Teenz these days.

Got her on an awesome sale!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Review of Lorifina (Discontinued) by Hasbro

Lorifina is a 20" articulated plastic and vinyl fashion doll line that was made by Hasbro a few years ago and is now discontinued.  These dolls have inset acrylic eyes and long changeable wigs.  When it was first introduced, the Lorifina line was special because you could design the appearance of your doll online and then she'd be shipped to your house from the factory.  There were at least two skin tones, three eye colors and many wigs to choose from.  The dolls came in two-piece sleepwear, but you could select additional outfits from three city-themed collections: London, New York and Tokyo.

When Hasbro unveiled this line in 2009, I got caught up in the excitement for a little while.  I spent some time on the website, designing various dolls and seeing how they looked in all of the outfits.  I don't know why I never hit the checkout button.  Perhaps it was the $98 price tag, or the fact that together with all of the cool clothes and shoes I had also added to my cart, the price was discouragingly higher than $98.  I can't remember exactly.

Last year, I saw a picture of a Lorifina doll's beautiful face on Flickr and went in search of these girls on the secondary market.  Nothing.  Maybe there was one on Amazon for close to $200, but again, I can't remember the specifics.  What I do remember is seeing another picture of these dolls on Flickr just recently and feeling compelled to start the search again.  This time, I was well-rewarded.  There is a bounty of these dolls on eBay right now, and (with some patience) they can be won for around $50...often with many accessories included.  I figured this was a good time to do a review.  Here's the one I got (this combination of hair and skin color was the most common on eBay during my hunt):

Lorifina: light skin tone, green eyes and a blonde wig.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Harumika Fashion Design Toys by Bandai

Harumika is a line of fashion design toys that use real fabric but do not require any sewing.  Kids drape and arrange fabric swatches over a plastic dress form or a plastic mannequin and their design can be held in place by tucking the loose ends of fabric into slits on the back of the model.  That's Harumika in a nutshell, but to really give you an accurate idea of what this toy offers, I need to tell you more.

I first discovered Harumika during one of my aimless roaming missions in the Target toy department.  I think I was looking at the Moxie Teenz dolls, and Harumika was in that same aisle.  There were only a few sets on the shelves, and they weren't prominently displayed or anything, but the sparkling pink and black packages and unusual name caught my eye.  I read all of the boxes and peered inside them.  I found myself intrigued by the no-sew fashion design concept and also by all of the colorful fabrics that were included in the sets.  I bought a variety of sets for my eldest niece because she is passionate about fashion design and loves to watch Project Runway.

I can't find Harumika at my Target store anymore, but they do carry them at Toys R Us (not necessarily online, but in the stores there's a nice selection).  There's a good selection at Amazon, too, but I never trust those prices.  I have a mannequin to de-box and share with you so that you can get a better idea of what these toys are all about.  This one is "Victoria" and I think I got her for $17.99 at Target a while back:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Monster High Dolls by Mattel

Arguably one of the most popular toy lines of the season--if not the whole past year, is Mattel's Monster High.  These 11" fashion freaks have grabbed and held the attention of kids of all ages.  I know eight-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds who are equally obsessed.  In fact, what amazes me the most is how these dolls now haunt the discussions and displays of so many adult doll collectors.  That's a real feat for a $20 play doll.  Perhaps this kind of inexpensive doll is exactly what people need when money is tight. On the other hand, perhaps an affinity for this kind of doll, with wave after wave of new and tantalizing release, ends up costing the same as an AvantGuard doll or a JAMIEshow model...dare I say even a BJD.  Whatever the case, Monster High dolls are creative, unique, highly collectible, full of personality and definitely worth a look.

Monster High dolls made their debut in 2010, not long after Liv dolls were first released (2009).  I remember being slightly irritated by their arrival on the scene.  Back then I was so excited about Liv dolls and their amazing articulation, and I was hoping they'd have big retail success.  Liv was exactly the type of play line doll that I wanted to see on the shelves.  I didn't like watching a Mattel doll steal Liv's thunder, especially because at first glance, the Monster High girls seemed very strange and vampy to me...pretty much the opposite of Liv in most ways.

After being irritated for a while, I became gradually drawn in to the Monster High mania.  I would circle ever closer to the section of the toy aisle where those dolls were displayed (it is, after all, usually right next to the Liv section...).  I found myself picking up the boxes and examining the dolls up close.  I finally broke down and bought Clawdeen Wolf, using some lame excuse like, well, I don't have any dolls with wolf ears yet.  There are definitely things about these dolls that I don't like, and yet my overwhelming feeling towards them is very positive.  But...I am getting ahead of myself.

There are tons of new and exciting Monster High releases that I want to cover at some point, and so this entry will serve as an overview.  I will, however, de-box a doll so that I can go over packaging and accessories.  I will de-box "Physical Deaducation" Ghoulia Yelps and also her "Comic Book Club" outfit:

Monster High Physical Deaduction Ghoulia Yelps.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Joanne Callander's Resin "Fidget" and her Cloth Cousins

I want to show you one of the treasures in my collection and tell you her story.  I love seeing dolls in person before I buy them, and I especially love finding out something new about the doll world.  I saw this doll during a visit to a nearby doll store.  I had never seen anything like her at this store before, and her imploring face kept pulling me back for one more peek.  I'm not sure I would have taken notice of her had I just seen pictures online.  She is so small (about 9 inches tall) and so pale that her features are incredibly difficult to photograph well.

She is "Fidget," a resin BJD (ball jointed doll) made by Joanne Callander:

Resin doll "Fidget," by Joanne Callander.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AvantGuard Dolls by Jason Wu for Integrity Toys

Jason Wu is an extraordinary young American fashion designer.  He was designing for Integrity Toys when he was the same age as my oldest son (14).  Fans of Project Runway might be interested to know that Mr. Wu is a graduate of the Parson's School of Design in New York.  Fans of First Lady Michelle Obama's style will know that Jason Wu is the talented man who designed her beautiful inauguration gown.  For dolls lovers, Jason Wu is probably best known for his incredibly popular Fashion Royalty line of 12" fashion dolls.  Soon, Jason Wu's fashion influence will be even more far-reaching, as he has just unveiled a line of affordable clothing for Target stores.

I have been a fan of Jason Wu's work from a distance for several years.  I have tried on a few occasions to buy a Fashion Royalty doll, but I am often too slow with the keyboard to pre-order the one I want (they sell out very quickly).  Furthermore, I tend to lean more towards the 16" fashion dolls like Tonner dollsSybarites, and Jamieshow dolls, and have never really gotten into Barbie or any of the other smaller scale dolls.

When Integrity first announced their new line of 16" AvantGuard dolls in 2008, I really wanted to buy one.  They are pricey, though, at around $250, and the first few sold out quickly.  Some of the newer dolls have not been as well-received, and these ended up lingering on shelves and eventually going on clearance for a more reasonable price.  A recent store credit at Angelic Dreamz (and an unbeatable sale price) pushed me to take the plunge and buy my first AvantGuard dolls:

"On Edge" and "Hot Trot"

2012 Liv Dolls...What if You Don't Like the New Body?

I still have Liv dolls on my mind today, and since there are brand new releases to chat about, they get another post.  A commenter got me thinking--if you are like me and really don't care for the new body, are these dolls still worth buying just for the clothes, shoes and wig?  My first thought was that this is really wasteful.  I would feel bad throwing away a whole doll just to have her clothes.  However, as someone pointed out, the doll could go to the thrift store (or be given away on a blog for free...) maybe finding its way to a smaller child who would do better with a less articulated doll.  That could work out pretty well.

The Liv for Color line is priced at $10.99 and the Brites are $19.99, so with this in mind, I am going to de-box Brites Alexis and then we'll compare what you get with her to what came with Liv for Color Katie and see if it's worth the cash.  Sound good?

First things first, time to get Alexis out of the box.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The First New Liv Dolls of 2012

I am a big fan of Liv dolls in general, (you can read my introductory review of them here) even though I really don't care for the gimmicky "Twist and Dance" line.  Late in 2011, after the "Twist and Dance" line, Spin Master put out a "Spa" wave that included Daniela, Sophie and Alexis.  These dolls are advertised as having make up and hair that changes color under the influence of cold water, allowing the dolls to have different looks.  Sounds pretty neat, actually.  I never got around to buying one of these dolls, although I have been curious about how well this color change technology works in real life.  In any case, I think the Spa line came out in the summer and I haven't seen any new dolls from Liv since then...or hadn't until yesterday.

Yesterday, as I was hunting down the Friends LEGO at Target, I saw three new waves of Liv doll on the shelves!  I was very excited.  Let me get this out of the way right at the beginning: the "Sleepover" line of dolls, designed with eyes that close when they lie down (good idea!) and special "pillow fight" action in their arms were...bad.  I couldn't find a single doll in the store that had eyes that would open all of the way, making the dolls look sedated or sick...or worse, sultry.  Their faces are shiny--like they have a fever.  The lips are painted strangely.  I looked at every single doll, trying hard to like one of them, and had no luck.  I also think the pillow fight action is silly, but I could have overlooked that for a pretty face.  It was super-easy for me to dismiss these dolls at $19.99.

From a distance, however, I could already see that the colors on the two other sets are fabulous.  The first to catch my eye were the Liv "Brites," which are a Target exclusive:


Monday, January 9, 2012

Brand New "Friends" LEGO...For Girls.

When I first heard that the LEGO company was coming out with a new line of building sets for girls, I was indignant.  I found myself thinking, Why on Earth do girls need separate LEGO sets? I'm a girl, and I have always just played with regular LEGO sets!  I turned out fine!!  But really, if you think about it, LEGO has changed a lot from when I was a kid.  I used to have this huge bin of bricks and I would just build whatever I wanted--usually houses and house-cars (don't ask...), and then play with whatever I built for hours.  

These days, although you can still just buy a big tub of random blocks, LEGO (especially at the intermediate building skill level) is most often purchased in very specifically-themed building sets.  Many of these themes cater more to boys than to girls.  Now--please don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting for a second that girls don't like Ninjago (that's what my niece wanted for Christmas) or shouldn't like Ninjago (my niece is way cool), but probably more boys like Ninjago than girls.  Similar things could be said of Batman, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Dinosaurs, Super Heroes, Alien Conquest, Hero Factory, get the idea.  *Maybe* girls could use some different LEGO choices.  Maybe.

Keeping an open mind, I headed out to Target to see what these new things look like.  Well...they look like they are for girls.  Here's what one of the $9.99 Friends LEGO sets looks like:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Review of LittleMissMatched Uptown Girl by Tonner Toys

LittleMissMatched is a New York-based company that got its start by producing mismatched socks.  The company and its products are all about fun, creativity and individual style.  There have been LittleMissMatched dolls for a while, but they were $13 cloth dolls (very cute).

I became interested in LittleMissMatched when I heard the announcement that the Tonner Doll Company, who makes my favorite doll, acquired the license to produce LittleMissMatched dolls under the umbrella of their brand new "Tonner Toys" label.

There are four Tonner Toys LMM dolls: Sporty, Uptown, Rock 'n' Roll and Artsy.  It's funny because they sell for $40 on the LittleMissMatched website, but they are $26.99 at Toys 'R' Us and FAO Schwarz.  I haven't seen them for sale anywhere else yet...not even Amazon.

I searched the aisles of Toy 'R' Us for a LMM doll.  I had to come back a few times because the few dolls that were in stock had very visible and disappointing face paint flaws or facial marks.  I finally found an Uptown doll that looked perfect, and was on sale, so I grabbed her:

LittleMissMatched Uptown Girl

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cinderella and Cami by The Tonner Doll Company

The Tonner Doll Company was started in 1991 by fashion designer Robert Tonner.  Today, Tonner makes a huge variety of dolls, from his signature fashion designer character, Tyler Wentworth, to popular fiction characters like Edward Cullen and Harry Potter, to action heroes and fairy tale princesses.  There's no way I could even come close to giving you a worthy overview of Tonner dolls in one post.   I am sure they will crop up on this blog again and again, though.

What I can do, is tell you the story of my absolute favorite Tonner doll...or actually, just my favorite doll.  Period.  In 2006, Tonner debuted his 16" Cinderella collection, consisting of Cinderella herself, the two stepsisters, Euphemia and Hortencia, and the Fairy Godmother. I think I knew instantly when I saw the promo pictures of Cinderella that, financially speaking, this was a doll who was going to spell serious trouble for me over the years.  I was right.  Cinderella is my absolute favorite fairy tale character of all time, and this doll captures what I think she should look like perfectly:

Basic Cinderella by Robert Tonner, $59.99 (2006).

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Short Review of Squishables

Squishables are: "Giant, round, fuzzy stuffed animals.  Hug them. TM" (from the website).   That's a pretty perfect description.  The thing is, it is almost impossible to walk past one and not hug it, as we've discovered at my house.  Let me tell you how I found out about these adorable toys.

It is a Christmas tradition in my house to have one large, unwrapped stuffed animal under the tree on Christmas morning.  Santa has always done this, and it adds to the excitement and magic of the morning...and it gives the kids something to look at while my husband and I sleep a bit longer.  The thing is, my eldest son is 14 years old now and has, suddenly, entered the realm of "young adult."  In other words, he no longer gets super-excited about stuffed animals.

My younger son, however, is a big fan of sticking with tradition, and also a fan of video games, so his "stuffed animal" this year was easy to choose: the Portal 2 Plush Turret with Sound, found at our favorite store, Think Geek.  I am a stickler for being fair and equal, though, and so I was really struggling with what to do for my older child.  Then, two days before Christmas, I walked into a local toy store and saw this:

Liv Dolls by Spin Master

Spin Master makes a lot of cool, trendy toys like Bakugan, Tech Deck and Zoobles.  My kids were really into Bakugan a few years ago, and I have to admit, I think they are pretty neat little engineering wonders.  However, I think that Spin Master's greatest accomplishment in the last few years has been the production of the Liv doll.

Liv dolls are ~12-inch tall, highly articulated plastic dolls with changeable wigs and inset eyes.  Several other doll companies have made mass-market play dolls with changeable wigs at this point, but as far as I know, Liv was the first girl on the block to have one.  You can find Liv dolls at all of the big department stores for $15- $20.  They are often on sale for less.  Target, Walmart and Toys 'R' Us have had exclusive editions.  FAO Schwarz carries them now, too.

There are 6 Liv characters; Sophie, Daniela, Alexis and Katie (the original four), Hayden (who joined in 2010) and Jake (the only guy so far).  They all have different physical features, but I will talk about that later.  Here is Katie from the "It's My Nature" wave:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Review of the Muppet Show Swedish Kitchen Play Set by Palisades

Speaking of diorama play sets, I have to show you this exceptional one.  I feel a little bad mentioning it because it is very hard to find these days.  You could pick it up on eBay for $100-$250, but it originally retailed for $34.99 and at that price, it had people in awe.

I think it was released in around 2003 because my kids were tiny.  I got it for them, along with the less-amazing "Pigs in Space" set (which, incidentally, you can get easily and for its original retail or less).  Now, having survived being played with, moved around, and stashed in the garage for the last nearly decade, the kitchen is a display piece in our living room.

This set has so much detail, it is incredible.  I cleared out all of the accessories so that you can see the bare kitchen:

Palisades Swedish Kitchen Playset

Li'l Woodzeez Honeysuckle Hollow General Store and Tickle Your Taste Buds Bakery

First things first, what are Li'l Woodzeez?  They are similar to the Calico Critters in that they are flocked and dressed families of upright-walking animals.  From just looking at them in the store, I can tell you that Woodzeez are slightly bigger than Calico Critters and less expensive ($9.99 vs. $19.99).  You can get Li'l Woodzeez at Target and also on Amazon, but beware of the often way-inflated prices for these sets on Amazon.

I can't really recommend the Li'l Woodzeez themselves at this point.  I glanced at them briefly and thought the turtle family was cute, but overall there wasn't much variety to grab my attention with these little guys.  I am tempted to purchase a Calico Critter and review those cuties, though.

What did cause me to pause my toy aisle lurking was this:

Honeysuckle Hollow General Store, $19.99.

Littlest Pet Shop Blythe Dolls by Hasbro

Ok, so it's hard to pick a first toy to chat about.  I decided to go with the LPS ("Littlest Pet Shop") Blythe dolls, also known as the "Pet Sitters" or "Blythe Loves Littlest Pet Shop."  I chose these tiny cuties because they intersect with many of my other doll and toy interests.

You can get these dolls at all of the big stores--Walmart, Target, Kmart, Toys 'R' Us and also directly from Hasbro.  They tend to come in a small box with or without a LPS pet.  Here is one of Target's exclusive Blythe dolls still in her box: