Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pullip Dolls by Cheonsang Cheonha for Groove, Inc.

"Pullip" is the name of the main character in a line of large-headed 12" fashion dolls created by Korean artist Cheonsang Cheonha.  I think the name Pullip means "young leaf."  The history of these dolls is a little confusing for someone like myself who became interested in the dolls only recently.  Pullip dolls were first made in 2003 by the Japanese company Jun Planning.  In 2009, Jun Planning of Japan filed for bankruptcy, but left their American branch, Jun Planning USA, open and operational through 2010.  Jun Planning USA shifted the handling of their Pullip doll releases to Korean-based Groove, Inc and now the Jun Planning USA website seems out of date and all of the new Pullip dolls have "Groove, Inc" on their boxes.  Despite this switch, you will still occasionally see Pullips referred to as "Jun Planning dolls."

The details of the Pullip dolls themselves are also somewhat confusing to a newcomer.  The Pullip character has a personality profile (she goes to a private school in Italy and enjoys scuba diving...) and she has a boyfriend (Taeyang), and any doll released with her face is called "Pullip."  However, each individual Pullip doll also has its own unique name and personality, making it seem like a completely different character.  For instance, the doll I will de-box in this review is named "Elisabeth" and she's a vampire dressed in medieval clothes.  I don't think she spends much time scuba diving.  So, I prefer to think of "Pullip" as just a face sculpt, and then each of the different dolls with this face is a personality all her own.

In this post, I will discuss some of the general features of Pullip dolls while de-boxing and doing an in-depth review of Elisabeth the vampire from 2010.  I will talk about Pullip's companions (Dal, Byul, Taeyang and Isul) another time.  Here's Elisabeth:

She's creepy-awesome.
Elisabeth is a strange choice for my first Pullip doll post.  Because she's a vampire, her face is not really a classic Pullip face.  Here's Shinku Rozen Maiden, who has a more stereotypical Pullip look:

She's like Elisabeth before the bite.
Pullip dolls cost about $100.  I like to purchase mine from Pullip Style, a Chicago shop that specializes in Pullips but also sells J-dolls and Ai dolls (also by Groove, Inc).  Pullip Style has very fast service, the prices are good and the availability of dolls seems better than many places.

There are new Pullip releases every month.  This is good for people like me who always like to see something new. The variety of characters and costumes is truly remarkable.  There's everything from baroque nobility and Lolita-style Angelic Pretty dolls to goth girls with mismatched eyes and body piercings.  I highly recommend browsing the Pullip Style website and just looking at the huge selection of dolls and ideas.  I also love looking at the big pictures at Fashion Dolls Down Under.  That's a great site.

The dolls come beautifully displayed in cardboard window boxes.  The boxes are decorated differently for each doll and tend to have detailed designs and colors that match the theme of the doll:

One of the warnings on the box is to "keep doll away from fire."
Duh.  Everyone knows vampires hate fire.
Here she is removed from the outside box, with none of the glare from the plastic:

I love how Pullips look in their boxes.  Elisabeth is arranged so beautifully in there, with everything placed perfectly.  I am often reluctant to take these dolls out of their boxes because they are displayed so nicely.  However, all of the loveliness means that it is going to be a big project to get her out of there.  I have to reserve twenty minutes of time and a bucket full of patience before I start de-boxing a Pullip.

Twist ties that are twisted tightly and taped down.  Sigh.
They get your from all sides, too. I think every surface
of the box has something you need to cut or untie.
Even after I wrestle Elisabeth out of her plastic shell, there's still plenty of work to be done:

Here is everything out of the box.  She comes with a stand, a collector's card, a hair ornament and veil, shoes, a beaded necklace and little plastic fangs that can be adhered to her mouth.  Cool.

Getting the box ready for the recycling bin is a nightmare.  Look at all of that taped plastic I have to remove:

Grr.  I have to keep reminding myself how wonderful she looked in her box.  Anyway, let's take a look at everything.  Here are the shoes:

Cute.  A little boring, but cute.
The ornate metal headdress (attached to a small barrette):

The microscopic plastic fangs--they come in red and white:

Before and after lunch!
A nice black glass bead necklace:

A stand that coordinates with her color palette:

And finally, here's Elisabeth herself:

The sash of the dress is removable.  The dress is made of a textured burgundy fabric in alternating stripes with a lighter pink floral fabric overlain with black lace.  It is really nice:

I love the look of the lighter pink fabric peeking
through the lace.  It is very mysterious.
There's an intricate little cameo decoration on her bodice:

Underneath the dress is a stiff black net petticoat and a pair of black cotton knickers:

Here she is with her shoes on:

Hmm.  Are you seeing what I'm seeing?

Whose shoes are these?
I promise I didn't dig around in my closet for another doll's shoes.  These are the exact shoes that Elisabeth came with.  The very ones.  They don't fit.  They so don't fit, it is a bit comical.  She looks like a tiny kid wearing her mother's shoes.  Believe it or not, Elisabeth the vampire scuffling around the house in her mother's high heels is not exactly the persona I'd pictured for this doll.

Lemonade from lemons though, the shoes happen to fit Liv dolls almost perfectly:

Liv "Brites" Alexis

They even fit the older Liv flat feet 
Here's a shot of Elisabeth and Alexis so that you can see the size comparison:

Orange hair looks yummy...
Pullip can share many clothes with Liv dolls.  She can also wear a lot of Barbie clothes.  I like dressing some of my Pullips in the Barbie basics little black dresses.  Those fit perfectly.

Elisabeth has an incredible mane of long, thick strawberry blonde hair:

It is Rapunzel hair.
There's so much hair, it makes her tip over backwards sometimes.

The quality of Pullip hair is highly variable.  Some of the dolls have stiff, coarse, easily-tangled hair.  This doll has silky, shiny very manageable hair.  Thank goodness!

It looks and feels like real hair.

The hair has a thin braid that is wrapped around the head twice.  Behind the braid is a stuffed bouffant, which is held in place by a simple ponytail:

It's a great hairstyle, but the bouffant is getting messy already.

One of the fun things about Pullip dolls is that they have a mechanism on the back of their heads that controls the movement of the eyes.  Pullips can look from side to side, they can blink both eyes, and they can wink.

The lever in the middle slides the eyes from side to side.
The two buttons on either side of the lever close the eyelids.  
Elisabeth has red cat eyes.  

Pullips made after 2008 all have eyelids that can stay closed.  The earlier dolls could wink, but the eyelids could not be locked in the closed position.  Elisabeth is from 2010 so her eyes can stay closed:

The eyelids don't quite close all of the way.
She might be napping, but don't think you can sneak past her...
It's hard to clip that headdress into her hair without messing up her hairstyle, but I think it is worth a few stray hairs to be able to get the full effect of her elaborate outfit!

Argh!  She's constantly tipping backwards in that stand!

I really wanted to try out the little plastic fangs.  It's a cool idea to make them removable.  They come with a square sheet of adhesive--you know, one of those sticky sheets that has a paper lining on each side to protect the stickiness:

The best I can figure is that you have to cut a tiny little triangle of adhesive paper and then try to peel off the protective layer from one side and then somehow stick the tooth on and then peel off the other paper (going blind because it is so small) and then maneuver the tooth near the doll's mouth with fingers that suddenly seem like chop sticks.  Sheesh.  I lost two of the teeth into the void where impossibly tiny things go.  They fell and I looked for them, but they are gone.  I managed to salvage two red teeth and some of my sanity and get this picture:

Enjoy the teeth Lizzy, I am never doing that again.
Time to get Elisabeth's dress off and take a look at the Pullip body:

With all of that dark fabric, I feared that this is what I would find under there:

Those aren't tattoos.
She is really badly stained on her upper arms and on the side of her torso:

Many Pullip collectors are very invested in customizing their dolls.  You can start to get a sense for the possibilities by looking on Flickr.  The eye mechanism can be changed, the wigs can be changed and even the bodies can be swapped out for one of the more flexible and durable Obitsu bodies.  That would be helpful for a highly-stained doll like Elisabeth.  I don't know much about Obitsu and body-swapping, but I am looking into it.  Stay tuned.  

Even without considering the myriad body swapping options, Pullip bodies can be a bit confusing, especially to new collectors.  The dolls have gone through 3 body transitions since their debut in 2003, and I find it hard to keep track of the pros and cons of each body.  I'll share what I know, but I only own two of the four body types, so I can't actually show you all of the comparisons.  Mir (2009) and Eternia (2006) will model the Type 4 and the Type 3 bodies:

 Mir with body 4 on the left, Eternia with body 3 on the right
Pullips can have many different skin tones, but that has nothing to do with the body type.  The Type 3 body (on the right) has much more flexibility in the waist and chest, but less flexibility in the wrists.  The Type 3 wrists are hinged, and have limited movement.  The Type 4 body is missing the waist joint, but the hands have peg articulation (like Monster High dolls) with high mobility.  The Type 4 hands fall out easily.
Type 4, Type 3.  Notice the torso and wrist differences.
The knee joints are very different.  Type 4 has more visually attractive knees that also have more bend to them.  Neither knee is as good as the older Liv doll knee joints.  Both dolls can kneel.

Type 3 swivel waist.
Type 4 with no swivel waist.
 Both body types have peg-jointed lower legs that are prone to falling off.

The type 4 body can kick forwards and backwards, the Type 3 can only kick forwards.  Type 4 also has better side-to-side flexibility in the leg:

Type 4 does better splits in both directions.
Type 3 has limited hip flexibility.
Here's a breakdown:

I also found this resource useful when I was first looking into Pullip dolls.
Mir is lovely, BTW.
I guess I slightly prefer the Type 4 body.  I like the waist movement in the Type 3, but I use the wrist motions much more in regular posing, and so I prefer the newer pegged wrist joint, even if the hands are always falling off.  Elisabeth has the Type 4 body:

Phew!  There's a lot to discuss with Pullip dolls, and I think I just scratched the surface.  

Bottom line?  One of the things I love about these dolls is that they have so many creative details.  The diversity of Pullip characters that is available is incredible.  Every month brings a new surprise.  Taking a new Pullip out of her box is like going on a treasure hunt.  I'm always wondering, what could be taped to the side of the box in there?  What color will her eyeshadow be? What are all of the different outfit pieces?  All of the little details take the pressure off any one detail being perfect.  For instance, the fangs on Elisabeth were a bust for me, but she has so many other interesting features that I don't really care about the teeth.  

It is a bit like a roller coaster ride with Pullip dolls.  There are amazing details that make the dolls seem special and well-crafted, and then there are some major disappointments that make them seem cheap.  It goes kind-of like this with Elisabeth: 
Oooh! I love the red, feline eyes and the bright pink eyeshadow!  She has fangs!  Man, those fangs are a pain.  All dressed with that beautiful headpiece she looks absolutely amazing!  Ooops.  The headpiece is messing up her hair.  That is some glorious hair, though!  Dang it, she fell off the stand again because her hair is too heavy.  Maybe the shoes will help her stand up?  Oh, the shoes don't fit at all.  Well, the dress is stunning!  Look at the amazing little cameo detail!  The fabrics!  Gads, her body is really badly stained from that dress. Oh, well...I like her anyway.    

In the end, your reaction to this particular Pullip will depend a lot on how you intend to enjoy her.  Because I will leave Elisabeth in her original outfit, and because I have other Pullip shoes I can use for her, my overall impression of this doll is very good.  If you wanted to play around with her and change her clothes, though, the body staining might be a real problem.  If you are constantly taking her on and off the stand, you might be driven slowly crazy by how hard it is to get her to stand up.  It's the little details that will tip the balance for each collector and make the dolls worth their hefty price, or not.

Summary (Elisabeth):
Age Level
Box says 15 and up, I'd say 12 and up
Good value overall
Highly variable.  Hair, eyes, outfit and concept are excellent.  Body has great articulation, but feels cheap and stains easily.  Shoes don’t fit.  Stand is very hard to use.
Beautiful to look at, a pain to deal with.
Yes.  Most Pullips are "open editions," but they will eventually be discontinued.
This particular doll is not as versatile as most Pullips.  She has cat eyes and very pale vampire skin.  The Pullip dolls in general are highly customizable and versatile.  They can share wardrobes with Liv and Barbie.
Recommended.  I think Elisabeth’s assets significantly outweigh her flaws.



  1. What I find most attractive about these dolls (and the Obitsus, Dal, Hujoo etc.) is the totally elfin faces with big eyes and the super detail in the clothing. Elisabeth is so cool!

    1. I agree, Barb. It is all about the faces and the clothes. I think people respond positively to large heads and wide eyes because babies have large heads and wide eyes. I learned that in a psych. class once. :) I certainly find Pullip faces endearing! I don't know anything about Hujoo dolls, though! I have some reading to do...

    2. Yup, large heads and wide eyes just make people coo -- those babies are smart to figure that out, LOL! The Hujoos are little dolls about 5", faces not as pointed at the chins as the Pullips, Latis and such, but the bodies are very articulated and they are pretty darn cute.

    3. Ack! Barb! I have been looking at the Hujoo site and have fallen in LOVE with something...and it's not human! Those little dogs are insanely cute. I'd love to have the basic cojoo, too (if I had any painting skills). I might be in trouble. :)

    4. The painting probably wouldn't be as difficult as you may fear. For the dogs anyway, you could decide what pattern you want on them and then use blue painter's tape to block off the areas you don't want painted. Looks like they use acrylics to paint, and acrylics are not hard to paint with -- blend easily for creating colors, and dry quickly. Also removable, but might stain on resin ... a concern that could be minimized by painting a neutral base coat.

  2. I have just bought this doll second-hand from Japan. She was a real mystery to me until I found your blog. Thank you so much.

    1. I hope you enjoy her! She's really fun. These dolls were a mystery to me, too, for a long time. I am glad you found the blog helpful. :)

  3. I have Nosferatu and i highly agree with the pain of the fangs, i chose the white fangs because i knew i would never use them agian. but i prefer the boys over the grils that while they are pretty just not my style i guess. and i love how detialed the dolls re but at times the clothes break easily. Like rights armbands bands keep breaking and such.

  4. LOVE your [detailed] blog! My first Pullip was Elisabeth. She is still in her box as I am looking for a new display case. Have been most encouraged by your comments though to "play" as soon as possible!

    With regards to her stand have you tried a little bit of reusable putty such as Blu Tack (http://www.blutack.com/) under the stand to keep it in place? I love this type of stuff and have used it for larger dolls such as "Crissy" to keep in place. I even use it to keep paintings straight on the wall (a bit behind the bottom right or left corner) but then am a touch OCD - LOL! :o)

    1. Thank you! I have not tried Blu Tack with the stand but I know what it is--what a great idea! I used to use that stuff to HANG pictures and posters when I was younger...using it to keep paintings straight makes a lot more sense. ;)

  5. thanks you wrote it!
    i've just bought my first Pullip - Alice du Jardin doll ; )

    im following

    1. OMG she has almost the same name as me. I want her as my first pullip ;).

  6. Make a Dal review!!!

  7. I know there are things out there like Cutie Pop dolls, which I guess are like 4+ Pullips, but can't someone make a tween appropriate Pullips?!

    1. That is technically simply just a Pullip doll. Pullips seem to be appropriate for most ages as long as the owner is responsible enough to keep it in good condition.
      Also, I would not call Cutie Pops 4+ Pullips. They are play dolls with their own gimmick with the charms and not nearly as attractive as an actual Pullip.

  8. A vampire Pullip doll is a great idea.

  9. another beautifully made review!

  10. Have you ever look at the AI dolls? They were made by the same company as the Pullip dolls. I have found several at Tuesday Mornings.

  11. Yo acabo de aterrizar en este mundo y te agradezco esta descripción tan detallada que has hecho de la pullip.
    Quisiera preguntar por el precio de estas muñecas que lo encuentro desorbitado.

  12. I'd LOVE a dress like that!!!!