Friday, January 6, 2012

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:

This style of box is very attractive.  The front has an enhanced photo of the doll, and then you can lift the cardboard flap to inspect the actual doll you are getting.  This is a good idea, by the way, since Liv dolls suffer from the occasional wonky eye.

Katie is really nicely displayed with all of her stuff.  There's a lot of stuff in there, including a cute-looking hat, a sweatshirt, a skateboard (with only two wheels...dangerous!) and some skateboard gear.  There are also codes for an internet site...never been there, so I can't comment on its quality. 

It seems Katie is the athletic one in the gang.  The back of the box has more pictures of Katie and some descriptions about what she likes to do.  Apparently Katie is also a bit of a klutz.

The plastic insert comes out of the cardboard really quickly, but that's where the easy part ends.  Someone at the factory got super-happy with the device that attaches those little plastic tag holder things. They are everywhere and they are tiny.  I highly recommend going at these with a nice small, pointy pair of scissors, like maybe finger nail scissors or something.  I tried with Fiskars and cut part of the sweatshirt off by mistake.

You have to get in there and find every last one of those plastic things and snip it, or you run the risk of snagging the clothes when you try to pull them out.  Everything that isn't nailed down with plastic holders is held tight with plastic rubber bands.  Those are easier to cut because you can stretch them a bit.  Anyway, I gave up at this point: 

I don't need another brush and it wasn't worth my time to free the skateboard pads.  Sorry, Katie.
Garbage pile--some recycling:

Here's Katie--isn't she cute? 

The braids seem a bit big and ridiculous to me, but no worries.  Remember, Liv dolls can change their hair.  She doesn't look quite as fresh out of the box from the back:

But at least you can see how the boots work--a big slit in the plastic allows them to slide easily on and off:

Here's her face up close--slightly wonky eyes, but nice overall, I think.  She has a sweet, non-bratty look about her.  

Ok, get ready, because here's the best feature of a Liv doll..she can kneel

I don't know of any other play doll that has a double-jointed knee and it is so much fun!  It seems like such a simple detail, really, but it increases the range of movement dramatically.  For instance, she can ride a horse, and her legs don't stick out like twigs in front of her!  I mean, her foot can actually go into the stirrup:

Here she is bare-kneed and you can see that the joint isn't even that unsightly when she is standing.  She's just got a knee-cap:

Less impressive but still noteworthy is her waist joint, which allows her to do some stretching and yoga:

Here's the joint up close and you can also see that she has some tasteful painted-on panties:

I have seen some stop-action movies on YouTube with Liv dolls, and this seems like a really cool and creative way for older kids to play with these dolls.  I think the joints are part of what make this so appealing.  

Ok, on to the accessories.  In general, the Liv clothes are well-made, stylish and age-appropriate.  The color combinations are often fantastic and bold.  I love Katie's yellow halter top and the striped leggings.  These are very well-made and look great.  The shorts are real denim. The hat she comes with is not as great as it looked in the picture on the front of the box:

But it looks ok on:

The sweatshirt is a little ratty on the inside:

But this is a $20 play doll we're talking about, and it looks nice when she's wearing it--lots of cute details like the fake zipper and the little drawstrings:

Slightly off topic, but look at this--this is super-awesome.  You can get a little mini of Katie in this same outfit at Mc Donald's in a Happy Meal (or you could get them at Mc Donald's, now you can get them on eBay...).  I love minis.

So, the other great thing about Liv dolls is that you can change their hair.  Furthermore, underneath the hair is a very cute painted-on pixie cut, so she doesn't even need a wig all of the time:

The wig stays on because there is a hole in the back of each doll's head like this:

And a peg coming out of the inside of the wig like this:

If you push the peg forward with your finger, turning the wig partially inside-out, then you can line up the peg with the hole...

Insert the peg securely...

...and then flatten the wig around the head.  It couldn't be any easier!

It's like getting a whole new doll:

 Katie in another awesome Liv outfit:

I love the colors in this dress.  It has an orange underskirt and purple tulle!

I tried on this Barbie outfit, just to see if the two dolls can share clothes: 

It's a bit short, but fits in the arms and torso:

As you can see, there are a ton of options for how to style this doll.  There are dozens of cool wigs to choose from at this point, including many bright colors and funky styles.   It almost doesn't matter which doll you get, because each is very capable of so many different looks.  A few basic physical differences to consider when selecting a character, though:

Katie, of course, has light skin and bright green eyes:

"It's My Nature" Katie in her own wig
Best Katie face so far (in my opinion...): "School's Out" --tough call, though.

Sophie has light skin and blue eyes:

"Twist and Dance" Sophie (see below) in a blonde wig (sold separately)
The first wave Sophie has much brighter eyes than the later Sophies:

Debut Sophie in a Moxie Teenz jean jacket and a separate Liv wig

Best Sophie face so far (in my opinion...): Wave 2 (the dolls that come with dogs)

Alexis has darker skin and hazel eyes:

Target exclusive "Moonlight Dance" Alexis in Liv coat and hat (sold separately) and second wave Katie's wig
Best Alexis face so far (in my opinion...): Target exclusive "Liv in Wonderland" queen of hearts.  She has darker skin than the one above and is gorgeous.

Daniela has slightly darker skin and brown eyes:

"Making Waves" Daniela in a Monique wig.  
Best Daniela face so far (in my opinion...): "Making Waves."  

Hayden has light skin and hazel eyes:

"It's My Nature" Hayden in red ponytail wig (sold separately)
 Best Hayden face so far (in my opinion...): "Making Waves" or maybe "Liv in Wonderland"

"Twist and Dance" Liv 

This is already a long review, but I want to quickly show you the one wave of Liv doll that I do not recommend at all, the "Twist and Dance" line.  Here is Sophie from that line:

The packaging is bad--just a plastic shell with some cardboard on one side.  She is wedged in with a huge plastic device that is there just so you can demo her "dancing" action in the store.  The dance action consists of her bending side to side at the waist when you move her legs up and down.  Very limited in its usefulness.  

In addition, she's sewn into another plastic thing that holds her hair in place:

Still, you get her out and she looks cute, right?  

Well...lose the headband and then she looks cute, right?

But, this is how well she sits in a chair:

She has zero flexibility at the waist and zero flexibility in the legs.  Well, ok, she can do the splits, kind-of:

And she can do this...?

Ugh.  So, Spin Master took the best thing about Liv dolls and decided to completely delete it from this wave.  Bad idea.  She's got such a nice face, too, that seems wasted on this body:

The wig sheds a lot.  I have not had this problem with the other Liv wigs, so it makes me worry a bit about a potential decline in quality.  Oh--that reminds me, you're supposed to be able to spin the wig around for a completely new look!  Like this:

That's definitely a look.  Now I understand the headband better...

Ok, I know, I am sure I could have dampened the wig and figured this out, but it didn't work magically right out of the box.  

So, about that inflexible body--the good news is, you can pull Sophie's head off and attach it to a regular Liv body if you love her face.  You could also just share around her cool clothes and wig if you have other Liv dolls at home.  I got this doll on clearance at Walmart, and so for the sale price, it's not a bad deal for the nice clothes and groovy pink wig.  

Speaking of pulling off doll heads, there are a lot of neat customization options with Liv dolls beyond changing their wigs and clothes.  Some people change their eyes and re-paint their faces to make really beautiful and unique dolls.  I tried my hand at changing the eyes and re-painting the face once, but it is not simple:

I thought I would at least mention it for those of you out there who have skills in this department.

Bottom line?  Incredibly versatile doll.  So many different looks are possible, I suspect a child could make these dolls be almost any kind of personality they imagined.  The quality and design at this price are really great.  My only concern is that the newer "Twist and Dance" Liv dolls are a huge disappointment, and I hope it doesn't herald a decline in creativity and quality in this outstanding line of dolls.


Age Level
Can be played with by 3 and up, but probably best suited to 5 and up because of the wigs.
Varied, depending on the wave. 
Great quality.  The jointing in the dolls is very well done, wigs and clothes are excellent, face paint and eye placement more hit than miss.
Attractive boxes for some, plastic mess for others.  See review.
Play quality, but with some interesting customization options for doll collectors and doll crafters.
Liv can share clothes with other dolls (Pullip, Barbie) and is a nice size.  Many different looks are possible with all of the clothing and wigs available.  Excellent posing makes her a good YouTube star.
Definitely Recommended...except for the “Twist and Dance” line, which I do not recommend.  


  1. I was doing a post about the new Liv Brites dolls when I Dugg your Digg. (I think that's how it went.) So I stopped mid-post and read your Liv post.

    Thank you Emily for this 5 star review. I especially liked your points about Liv articulation. I love the Liv bodies for my Barbie dolls. (Well, for some of them.) I have removed the Liv heads and topped the poseable bodies with Barbie heads.

    Your photo of the "Making Waves" Daniela almost makes me want to get her and keep her original head attached. Almost ;-D

    If you have a chance, stop by my blog, PhillyCollector, view any posts you fancy, and check some of the cool links to other collectors.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Dana aka D7ana

    1. Thank you so much for the nice comment, Dana! I had never thought about using a Barbie head on a Liv body. Huh. Maybe that is a good reason for me to buy a Barbie! I love experimenting with things like that.

      I did stop in this morning and see that you have Buffy on your front page, so I already like your blog, but I also enjoyed your commentary on differentiating dolls from action figures--you are SO right about the eyes. Very astute observations. I have been thinking about whether or not action figures fit with my blog at all. I have Buffy in the red coat and really like her.

      Reminds me--did you see the Steve Jobs 12" figure? I missed the boat on that one, but would have loved to add it to my collection!!

  2. You're welcome, Emily! I enjoyed reading your Liv posts.

    Yes, Liv bodies do enhance Barbie heads.

    Thanks for stopping by PhillyCollector. I'd been thinking about what makes an action figure an action figure when that answer "hit" me. Many years ago, I had the red leather jacket Buffy, but I sold her because I disliked the molded hair. Sigh. Rather miss her; the rooted hair Buffy has a more desperate look ....

    I checked out the Steve Jobs action figure - wow, he looks impressive - and he would have been an asset to a collection.

  3. now your making me want Liv dolls noo,I already have too many Monster High XD

    1. LOL! Sorry Michiru! They're all on sale now, though, so maybe it's not so bad to want one? ;)

  4. I recently bought my first Liv doll, a 2007 Sophie. I found her mint in box (box was damanged) at a Swap Meet for only $7. I prefer the older Liv dolls because they don't 'stare' as much and their face makeup is prettier. I don't know if I will buy any more dolls (maybe a Hayden)

  5. Hola!!!
    Tengo una Liv Sophie 2009 que encontré en una tienda de juguetes. Es hermosa y me encanta la movilidad. Yo estoy recién comenzando con esto de las muñecas para mi hija de 4 años. Quería saber si los zapatos de Liv son como los de Barbie o le quedan de otras muñecas? Acá en Chile es difícil encontrar variedad de cosas, se vende lo que las tiendas traen y por acá no he visto ni pelucas ni accesorios para Liv.
    Gracias por tu artículo, me gustó mucho
    Saludos, Natalia de Villa Caramelo :)

    1. Hola Natalia, soy de Chile también :) yo tengo una Sophie de la linea After School que encontré en una tienda de juguetes usados prácticamente impecable y como es común de las muñecas que se encuentran en esas tiendas venia sin su calzado, lamentablemente el calzado Barbie es mas pequeño por lo que no le sirve, no he podido encontrar algún calzado compatible ni lugar que traiga accesorios, algunos trajes de Barbie le quedan, tampoco todos pero algunos son compatibles, tengo también una Daniela de la linea It's My Nature que encontré por mercado libre y venia con su traje y calzado pero sin los accesorios y la que por casualidad encontré en un bazar cerca de casa es esta misma Katie que esta aquí de la linea It's My Nature, es la única que tengo completa de embalaje, así que entre ellas le prestan su calzado a veces a Sophie :) que lastima que acá no lleguen mas productos de estas Dolls que en realidad desde mi punto de vista son mucho mejores que Barbie (aunque Barbie mejoro con la linea Fashionistas)y Monster High que están de moda.

    2. P.D: no lo he probado, lo que he visto en algunas fotografías en internet que les han colocado calzado de Monster High a las Liv y al parecer son compatibles

      Saludos :)

  6. I know this is like a year after you posted this and it's not actually about the dolls, but I have to know.

    The horse. In the picture. Where did you get it?

    I have wanted a horse with articulated legs ever since I was absolutely tiny and I've never been able to find one where the articulation wasn't part of some move-y gimmick.

    So yeah. How do I get one of those articulated horses?

    1. She did a seperate review on that very horse, search for 'liv horse' in this site's searchbox and I think you'll find it.

  7. Hello there!
    I've been reading your reviews for a while now, but I've found this one very useful. I was looking for a quality posable play doll that was within my range, and without this review I probably would have gotten a Momoko, which costs so much more and is not nearly as posable.

    I ended up getting the Daniela from the It's My Nature aka Outdoor Fashion wave, she finally arrived today. (I had to wait for almost four weeks, which is fair enough seeing as I am in New Zealand, which is in the Pacific, and Liv is from America, which is on the other side of the globe!)

    And she is just great. Very good posing, nice eyes and clothes- and I really like that plastic guitar she has. I might get her another wig too...

    anyways, thank you for this review, that was helpful information :)

  8. When I first saw the Liv dolls, they reminded me of Obitsus in posability. You should check those out sometime :)

  9. dont tell me your threw those accessories out? if you didnt reply to me, i just found out about liv dolls 2 weeks ago, i got a katie waves doll. i love her but so disappointed that it got discontinued, u have any clothing that you would sell to me? my email is thanks

  10. It drives me mad how most of the eyes are wonky :( I wish they would line them up a bit better as sometimes she can look really bizarre. You mention about the hair - the hair that sheds is Kanekalon, not as nice in feel or style as the saran wigs, I guess they must be cheaper to produce?

    The bodies are great, good for swapping around with other dolls and making hybrids :D

  11. I remember reading that u did not like the Twist & Dance dolls. But when I was buying them in 2013 there was not much choice and 2 of the 5 in our shops were Twist tpes- I bought one for her clothes and wig. Thanks for your great Liv reviews.

  12. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog! (And I realize I’m posting on an old post, I wanted to post on a Liv review.... Hehe.)

    Anyway, I really love this post, and I find the detail in your post to be amazing! You’ve introduced me to many different dolls, and actually inspired me to start my own toy blog! (Remaining private for now while I work some of the bugs out. That’s why I’m posting anonymously.)
    I just wanna say, before I end this comment, that I really love your blog and can’t wait to check out all your posts! And I also want to say, thanks for inspiring me!

  13. hello! after hours and hours of endless scrolling through your blog, i was motivated to find my old moonlight dance daniela doll. i found her stuffed in a box in my basement!

    however, she was covered in a black and green themed outfit, which ended up staining a large amount of her body, which is visible mostly on her hands and feet (due to leggings and gloves) as well as up and down the legs, on the underwear, and on her nose and chin. i tried scrubbing her hands with soap and alcohol (separately) and neither worked. is it possible to get stains out of this type of material? apparently it isn't a common problem on these dolls, since many other owners of this specific daniela doll have not experienced staining from the doll. it's such a shame, since liv dolls are no longer in production and i can't snatch another daniela.

    here's a reference image of daniela and the points on her that i found were stained:


    There is a Liv Dolls wiki that is looking for contributors of facts about the dolls and webisodes. Please consider contributing or adding an image/picture.

  15. They were in a Pretty Little Liar's episode.

  16. I always wondered what their names were and who was who---now I know. Thanks! Your photos are great too!

  17. I actually own this Liv doll, Kate. I found her in a second hand market, bought her for 3 euros (around 4-5 dollars), with all her clothes but no shoes or wig. Lucky me, I had a Liv wig around my house, a light-dark blue one, which costed me around 7 euros (8-9 dollars).
    I really love these dolls, I wish I liked them before they went out of stock. I found one in amazon, and I'm thinking of getting it.
    Thanks for the review. As always, very, very good.