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
It was quite a hunt to find this horse, actually.  Toys R Us came through for me, but only after I had checked 2 Walmart stores and a Target.  I think these horses must have been fairly popular at Christmas time, but they weren't on my radar back then, so I don't have any information from the field.  Cricket retails for $27.99, which is comparable to the Liv horse.

Is it me, or does the horse on the back of the box look green? It's not just the camera, either.  There's something off about the box color.

Cricket is part of the "Horse Riding Club" release that looks like it includes some nice riding outfits and a stable.  There is also a dark chestnut horse named Bingo in this group.  

With a few snips of tape, a cardboard backdrop slides right out of the plastic box:

Ugh.  I don't want to have to read directions...
I turned the box around and saw these black contraptions and panicked:

But, actually, these are really amazing. The wire is zig-zagged around those black plastic pegs, so you simply unwind it.  No cutting!  No insane wrestling with tightly twisted pokey wires!  

GREAT invention.
I think I could even put the wires back on just like they were without much trouble at all.  I'll test that out later because I have a feeling this horse will not be staying with me.

There's some plastic in the back that is pretty easy to separate from the cardboard.

The only thing left to tackle is the plastic sewn into his mane.  I just snipped that in a few places and pulled it right out.

Look at the funny thing on the saddle--I assume it is for holding the doll on while the horse walks and makes sounds.   
How fast is this horse gonna go?
 Here's Cricket, completely free of packaging and ready to be put through his paces!  This is his good side:

I think it is neat how the eyes of this horse look like Moxie Girlz eyes.  You can tell whose horse he is!  I don't know of any real horses with green eyes, but that's ok.

He has a chunky, wide-legged solid shape to him.  This is probably to help keep him steady during movement:

This is Cricket's bad side:

There's a lot of hardware showing on the horse's right side.  Maybe there's no way around that, but it's pretty distracting...especially the screw right in the middle of his face.

Here's a peek at the front legs.  They're not really designed for posing or even looking very realistic.  They're clearly engineered to carry out the moving action that we'll see in a sec.

Big seam on that back leg!
I only have one Moxie Girlz doll.  I bought her on clearance about a year ago because I was curious about this line.   I had to dig her out of a bin so that she could ride Cricket, so please excuse the unruly hair:

See what I mean about the eye similarity?
This isn't a review of a Moxie Girlz doll, but let's see how gracefully she can mount Cricket:

Uh...where's the stirrup?
Ok, fine.  I'll just haul myself up here...
Ta-da!  My feet only fell off twice!
She's not very graceful getting up there, but she sits pretty well atop the horse, even without the plastic stand attachment. 

Here she is with the clear plastic stand/holder.  I don't think she needs it unless the horse is on the move.

The tack is a bit boring, but it is made out of a soft flexible vinyl so it can be taken off very easily:

Cricket without his tack:

That is a really long mane.
Funny bump on the rump.
What is that plastic oval on his shoulder?
The ears are a different color because they are soft vinyl and can bend a little bit.  This helps with getting the bridle on and off.  His face reminds me of a cow.  I mean, I like cows a lot, but....

Think of the screw as a beauty mark.
So far, I am not hugely impressed.  There's not a ton to do with this horse without batteries.  He doesn't have a lot of overall detail and his head and neck are rigid...and bovine.  His legs don't move freely because they are mechanized.  He has a cute face (especially on the left side) but I get irritated when a horse has a mane that long.  I think the visible screws on the right side of the body are a bit of an eyesore.  

Here's the moment of truth...let's see what this motion and sound is all about:

My dogs hated it when I did that.  Still, he definitely moved across the wooden floor, which is a good accomplishment.  I tested him on a medium pile carpet and he tumbled over almost immediately.  I also have some rubber flooring in my house and the horse fell over on this surface, too (after about 2 steps).  If you have wood floors, or some other smooth surface, I can see how this movement would be fun for a little while.  I have to admit I was excited to try it out (I like robots). In the end, though, it is pretty loud and jerky and I was quite disappointed that it didn't work at all on a carpeted floor.  

If I could step on my soap box for a sec, I actually don't think it is necessary for a toy horse to move on its own.  Kids have imaginations that can animate their toys more effectively than batteries.

Moving's Nutmeg:

Right off the bat, I love all of the bright colors and the painted details.

Nutmeg has faint dapples on his back.  The saddle has nicely painted details, like the silver girth buckle and the darker saddle seat.  There are ribbons hanging from the back of the saddle (to tie on backpacks and supplies?).  The saddle pad is checkered with bright colors.  There are stirrups!

Again, I think it is great how the horse has Liv eyes.  They're not super-realistic for a horse, but it is neat to see a parallel with the dolls.  Nutmeg's eyes are a deep brown.  Notice how the bridle also has some nicely painted details:

If I turn Nutmeg around, you can see that the other side looks as good as the first.  No screws showing.  I actually like this side of the horse better because the huge mane isn't getting in the way of the horsiness.

That's a long, curly forelock, though...
Here's Hayden to demonstrate how beautifully she can mount a horse:

That's Katie's skateboard helmet she's borrowing.

If she could grab the reins correctly and
drop her heels a bit, she'd have excellent form!
Now I'll take off the tack and show you the range of motion in Nutmeg's body:

Saddle and pad are separate.
First, here is the neck all the way up...

...and the neck all of the way down:

The front legs have a fairly good range of motion:

There's a painted horseshoe!

There's something a bit strange going on with the front legs.  They're not exactly the same, but I can't figure out why:

Look near the hooves.  They're different!
The back legs:

The whole horse from various angles:

Love the pink muzzle!

I tried out a bunch of different poses, some of them are more realistic than others, but I wanted to get a sense of the options:

Rearing (I am holding him up)
Galloping--supported by the wall.
Mid-gallop (held up by me)
When the neck is in the middle position, all of the molded muscles line up nicely:

Playing (held up by me)
Galloping the other way (supported by the wall)
There are limits to Nutmeg's motion.  This is not Shadow.  Also, many of his best poses cannot be held without external support of some kind.  I find it tricky to pose him (especially with Hayden on board) in a way that looks fun and isn't precarious.  Still, he does have some nice points of articulation.  I especially like the range of movement in the neck and in the fetlocks.

There have been two exclusive Liv horses that came in boxed sets with a doll.  These cost around $40.  The sets are exclusive to Toys R Us, and I have had much better luck finding them in actual stores rather than online.

Here's Hayden with Clover:

Clover has a dappled grey coat and lovely black mane and tail.  His eyes are light grey and very pretty:

The saddle is missing the painted details.
The back of the box, if you are interested
That is not a realistic pose.  It's not even possible to do that with the actual horse.
Here's Katie with Walnut:

Walnut is a beautiful dark bay with light brown eyes.

The saddle is darker than Clover and Nutmeg's saddles,
and is also missing the painted details.
Here are Cricket and Nutmeg side by side:

Bottom line?  For my $30, I'd much rather have Nutmeg (the Liv horse).  I could be biased towards this horse because I like Liv dolls so much, but I don't think so.  Nutmeg is a nice toy in his own right.  There are lots of posing and playing possibilities...and of course he does coordinate really well with the highly articulated Liv dolls.

I like how each horse resembles its doll counterpart.  

The coloring and detail work on Nutmeg is better than it is on Cricket.  Cricket's overall appearance is much chunkier and more blunted than Nutmeg's slimmer, more contoured frame.  Nutmeg has some dapples in his coat and a detailed face.  He even has silver horseshoes on the bottoms of his hooves.  Cricket has a very plain paint job with unrealistic hooves and a simple face.  Nutmeg's tack is realistic and well-painted.  Cricket's saddle is very basic, although the soft vinyl tack is a good idea and makes the bridle, in particular, easier to manage.

The entire left side of Cricket's body is riddled with visible screws.  These are not apparent when the horse is in its box.  There is also a large and prominent speaker area on Cricket's neck.  There's an odd-looking patch on the shoulder that must be concealing another hardware element.  There's a lump on Cricket's back to support the clear plastic stand that is needed for anchoring the doll during the horse's jerky mechanized movement.

Nutmeg's mane is too long.  Cricket's mane is way too long.

While Cricket's battery-powered movement and sound is certainly exciting at first, the horse tips over on carpets and on rubber flooring.  I think Nutmeg's articulation and personality offer much more in in the way of long-term play potential.

Summary (Cricket, the Moxie Teenz horse):
Age Level
Box says 3 and up.  Might be best for slightly older kids (4-5)
$27.99 price is comparable to other mechanized toys of this size (Furreal Friends, etc).  I think the price is too high for the quality of the toy.
Fair quality.  Design is sloppy in that so many of the screws are visible.  Horse has a very simple shape.  Painting is not very detailed.  Walking motion does not work on all surfaces...but works pretty well on wood.
Interesting new apparatus to anchor the wire ties.  Made removal from the box really easy.  Still a lot of plastic, though. 
The mechanized motion makes the horse less versatile for general play.  There is very little movement in the limbs independent of the battery-powered walking motion. 
This is not a bad toy, but given the choice between this horse and the Liv horse, I’d pick the Liv horse every time.  Don't buy if all of your floors are carpeted.



  1. I love cricket's face the best but nutmeg has so much more detail and I don't think I like the whole screws and stuff in the side of it's face and neck. Poor thing! I don't think a horse should be made to move either it's so much better to move it on your own.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, April. It is a very sweet face on Cricket. I think maybe the eyes are less piercing than Nutmeg's eyes--more innocent, maybe?
      I could not agree with you more about the independent movement. I speak as a person with many hours of horseplay under her belt. Horses are awesome enough without any extra gimmicks. :)

  2. great review thanks so much:D
    just one quick question does Walnut and clover have the same range of motion as Nutmeg?

    1. Well...I am embarrassed to say that I still have Walnut and Clover in their boxes, so I can't tell you for absolutely sure, but on close inspection all of the joints look exactly the same as Nutmeg' my guess is that they move exactly the same way. Sorry I can be more helpful!

  3. I'm not a horse fan, but I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for the details and horse riding tips.

  4. You accidentally called Nutmeg Clover a few times oops! Awesome post! I love Nutmeg!

  5. I'm the designer of Nutmeg, and I'm so pleased to read your nice review. I worked really hard to make her as realistic as possible, although I'm not a horse expert, I love horses. I did a lot of research!
    I'll tell you the secret of why her front legs are different: originally Nutmeg was not going to be articulated. After the sculpture was pretty much complete, it was decided to make her articulate. I'm so glad we did! But the pose of the horse was not static- in other words, the legs were different. One leg was slightly forward for realism. It made it harder to articulate, but our engineers worked their magic, and everything turned out beautifully.
    The other horses, packed with the dolls, use the identical molds, so they should pose and work exactly the same.

  6. I would love to have, a liv doll horse!. Would fit well, with my animal loving liv girl.
    I love the colors, the artikulation and the details <3

  7. I have been looking every where online for a liv doll horse and i am in love with Katie and Walnut. I wish i could have one

  8. You called Nutmeg Cricket in the beginning. But great review!

    1. Good catch! Thank you so much for the correction! :D

  9. It's a shame that the screws are there... I wonder what they were thinking?

    1. When they put them there, I mean. How is one expected to play with a horse with screws in it?

  10. I never knew there were other Liv doll horses than Nutmeg (I should've realized!) and now I don't think I'll ever be able to find Clover and Walnut, seeing as they're discontinued. It would've been so awesome to have all the Liv horses.