Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Review of the Lalaloopsy Marina Anchors Doll by MGA Entertainment

I feel like I have been talking about MGA Entertainment a lot lately.  This is the company that produces BFC Ink dolls, Bratz, Moxie Teenz and Lalaloopsy.  I have spent a fair amount of time over the last year pacing the toy aisle in front of the Lalaloopsy display, eyeing these adorable candy-colored dolls and their enticingly decorated boxes and trying to figure out why they are so popular.  Until recently, the $26.99 price tag was enough to scare me off an actual purchase, but a recent sale gave me an opportunity to get my hands on one.

Lalaloopsy dolls were introduced in 2010 under a different name.  They were originally (and briefly) called Bitty Buttons dolls.  I like the name Lalaloopsy much more--it is memorable, and a bit like a tongue twister.  When I first saw these dolls at Toys R Us, I assumed that they were plastic versions of cloth characters from a hit TV show--a show that featured animated rag dolls with cool toy background scenes (in my head, it was sort-of like The Wombles).  I made this assumption because I didn't understand why else there would be a rag doll made out of plastic.  I have since learned that, in reality, Lalaloopsy characters are stand-alone dolls, and aren't based on a TV show at all.

The concept behind the Lalaloopsy dolls is that they are animated cloth dolls who take on a personality determined by the type of fabric they are made out of.  Oh, and they magically come to life when the last stitch is put in.  I guess I have a fundamental problem with a character whose entire personality is based on cloth, and who is brought to life with thread, but who is actually made completely out of plastic.  I'm guessing that the younger, more open-minded members of the population might be able to look past this glaring inconsistency and appreciate the cuteness of the Lalaloopsy dolls...because they are pretty cute:

Marina Anchors Lalaloopsy.
I chose Marina for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I like her name.  Marina was a name we actually considered for our real children.  Also, I live in Maine and enjoy the ocean.  Marina's nautical theme is very appealing to me, especially her whale companion.  Last, I have always been a sucker for a cute little kid in a sailor dress.


The picture on the back of the box is really fun--it's exactly the kind of look I imagined for the non-existant TV show (except Marina would be cloth, of course).  There should totally be a TV show with toy scenery like this:

You can read a little bit about Marina on the back of the box:

She can't swim.
The cloth that gives Marina her personality is an old sailor's uniform.  The uniform makes Marina tidy, because sailors are tidy, I guess.  I'd have liked a slightly more creative fabric-personality association, but that's just me.  Maybe having the old sailor's uniform give Marina a knack for cursing would have been wrong, but how about something like an old sailor's uniform that makes her crave orange juice?  You know, to avoid scurvy?  Ok, I take it back.  The tidy personality is good.

Ship shape!
I find the idea of fabric imparting a personality on a doll really inspiring.  It makes me yearn for a nicely weighted, beautifully sewn cloth doll that actually is made out of an old sailor's uniform.  That would be very cool.  Of course I am imagining something more like an R. John Wright doll, which is so expensive they won't even tell me how much it costs.  Probably best to stick with reality.

If you look at the box, and especially if you have ever seen one of these boxes in real life, you know already that I am not going to like the packaging.  It's a ton of plastic, and there's no clear way to start extracting the doll.  I ripped into the cardboard base of the box first, because it looked like a weak spot:

I discovered a golden scroll hidden in the hollow back of the box!
Next, I yanked and ripped the whole plastic front off the box, and this was not easy.  There were a few minor finger injuries involved.   It's not as bad as the BFC Ink packaging, that's for sure, but MGA definitely needs some lessons on how to reduce waste and hassle in their boxes.  It's ridiculous.

Here's Marina and her elaborate three dimensional cardboard backdrop:

She comes with a "stuffed" whale.
To get her detached from the cardboard, you have to go into the back of the box, which is this hollow cardboard space lined with tape, and cut a string (that is covered in tape):

The other fundamental problem I have right from the start is that, according to an interview with the MGA CEO, this doll is supposed to "promote the idea that old things can become new again, [and that] everything can be repurposed and nothing should ever go to waste" (from Wikipedia).  

Waste?  What waste?
Anyway, I'll get off my packaging soap box for a minute.  The fascinating golden scroll that was hidden in the back of the box is a picture of some other Lalaloopsy dolls you can buy:

It's a fun picture, but they should hide something really cool in that hollow space.
Once Marina is free from her box, the most noticeable thing about her is her weight.  She's pretty heavy, and most of her weight is in her head. Her head flops and moves around and actually mimics a rag doll in an way I didn't expect from just looking at her.

She really can't pose unless she is leaning up against something, and even then, she can only pose sitting down.  She wants to sit like this:

Here I am, just relaxing with my whale.  I could sit upright if I wanted to.
You can pose her while she is laying flat on a surface:

She has a lot of shiny spots around her hairline...
presumably from the glue that holds her hair on.

A Pullip doll stand placed under her arms helps a lot:

Her hair, arms and legs are more flexible than the rest of her body.  You can press the back of her head and it indents quite a bit. Her arms are bendable enough to reach up and touch her face.  Her legs bend a little, but not easily.  She has black molded button eyes, pink plastic cheek patches and a mouth that looks like a line of stitches.  She doesn't have a nose:

A rare few of the Lalaloopsy dolls have blue button eyes. While this sounds like it would be really sweet and much less Coraline than the black button eyes, I don't personally care for the blue-eyed dolls.  I actually find the blue buttons a bit creepier than the black--maybe because the stitching shows up much more against the blue plastic.

The whale is cute.  I'd have adored a stuffed version of him when I was a kid.  He's got a sweet vulnerability.  He is made completely out of hard plastic, and is wearing a little white sailor hat:

He has black fake button eyes and little rosy cheek patches that match Marina's.

He floats in water, but only upside-down...which could be upsetting.  

At first, I thought maybe his hat came off or did something because there's a gap between the hat and the whale, but it turns out to just be an uneven seam.

Marina's outfit is adorable.  The fabric is really shiny, stiff and synthetic (no resemblance to an old sailor's uniform...), but it has bright colors, a nice design and thoughtful little details.  I love that the blue of the dress doesn't exactly match her hair, but that the red ribbons coordinate perfectly with the red in the dress.  It looks great.

The white pantaloons are attached to the dress:

The dress seems very solidly made.  There are a few stray thread ends here and there, but the pleats on the skirt are even, the little buttons are sewn nicely onto the bodice, and the white stripe accent along the hem of the skirt is actually a separate ribbon that has been stitched on.  I can't say for sure how the fabric will wear over time, but it sure looks tough.

The bib in the back of the dress can be detached on one side to reveal a strip of velcro down most of the back of the dress:

It's very easy to change her clothes.
Marina's blue sneakers do match her hair, and this helps pull the whole look together.  The shoes are strange, though, in that they angle downwards in a way that prevents the doll from being able to stand on flat feet.  Her feet look as if she's always dangling a few inches off the ground:

She's a floater.
The white anklet socks are attached to the shoes, and all of the details on the shoe are nicely painted.  The shoes have treads and molded stitching, and are even marked "L" and "R" to help you get them on the correct feet.

I had to see how easily those shoes would come off, and what might be underneath them.  They came off pretty easily, thanks to long slits in the back (similar to Monster High and Liv shoes).  Look at what I found underneath:

She has nubbins for feet.  I have to admit that I found this pretty shocking at first.  I don't know what I expected.  I mean, her hands aren't super detailed, but she does have a thumb.  I guess I expected at least a big toe.  I've grown used to the feet by now, but they were definitely a surprise.  

Underneath the cute dress, Marina has a hard egg-shaped plastic body with white molded diaper-like underpants:

She has a little two-stitch belly button:

I see this and I think Homer Simpson for some reason.
Her birth date, or the date when she came to life with her last stitch, is written on her underpants inside a red heart.  Marina was "born" on June 8th.

MGA Entertainment's address is also on her back.
If lost, return to...
All of her articulation is very loose and floppy, in keeping with the rag doll theme.  Her head rotates a full 360 degrees and can move up and down a bit.  Her arms have hidden ball and socket joints at the shoulders:

With the weight of this doll, I worry that the arms could just snap off.
Her legs are hinged and can only move back and forth.  They move pretty freely when you hold her, swinging back and forth to mimic the motion of a weighted cloth doll.

She can sit a little better without her dress on:

This gives you an idea of the forwards/backwards motion possible in her legs, but of course to strike this pose, I have to hold her right foot:

The articulation in this doll is unique.  She is not designed to strike poses and be displayed.  She is meant to be carried around by a young child, and maybe sit next to someone on the couch.  Even the angle of her feet suggests that she was never meant to stand on her own, but rather dangle from someone's arms.  

I can see a small child cheerfully toting Marina around, enamored by her cheerful smile and her brightly colored hair and clothes.  I can also see parents being happy about this doll because it is sturdy, there is no hair to tangle, and accumulated dirt and grime can be quickly washed off in the sink.  

Some potential problems? The dolls are pretty heavy for little hands, and they aren't at all cuddly or huggable.  They're also pretty big (around 13").  I can see a kid having one or two of these lying around, but many more than that and you'd have a storage problem or a toe-stubbing hazard zone.  Also, a child who wants to sleep with a favorite Lalaloopsy doll might be disappointed to find out it's a pretty uncomfortable bedtime companion.  That's about it--well, except for the fact that this doll would make a formidable weapon in a spat of sibling rivalry.

La la la [whack!] oopsies.
Bottom line?  The short version is that these dolls are overly cute, overpriced and over packaged.  

The long version? Well, to start with, this doll is being marketed as a wholesome toy that promotes the reduction of waste.  I was taught that actions speak louder than words.  You can say a doll promotes the reduction of waste all you want, but if the actual physical doll and her packaging don't demonstrate that in real life, the words are a bit hollow.

I can appreciate that Lalaloopsy dolls are based on two novel, fun ideas.  First, they are rag dolls made of plastic.  When I hold Marina in my hand, her weight, her big lolling head and the floppy articulation in her limbs definitely bring to mind a real rag doll, and this is an interesting achievement.  Even more appealing than the plastic rag doll idea is the notion that Lalaloopsy dolls obtain their personalities through the unique fabrics from which they are made.  As an adult collector, I'd rather see the dolls actually made out of special evocative fabrics, but this is an impractical idea for a child's doll.  Despite a pretty big gap in what I appreciate in a doll and what a small child might be looking for, I can definitely see the appeal of these happy, colorful characters.  

If I had a $30 budget to buy a doll for a small child and was looking for a rag doll, I'd probably gravitate more towards a cloth-bodied and huggable Cabbage Patch Kid or a fully (and I think genuinely wholesome) cloth doll like a North American Bear Company baby or one of the Corolle tots.  That being said, I still find myself pausing to gaze at the tantalizing Lalaloopsy display when I am in my favorite stores, so MGA Entertainment is definitely doing something right.

Age Level
4 and up
Overpriced at $26.99.
The quality is good.  The dolls are made of heavy, durable plastic and vinyl.  The clothing is solidly sewn and nicely detailed. Not sure how the joints stand up to rough play.
The box looks great on the shelf, but the excessive packaging seems in direct contradiction to the message behind the doll.
No.  This is a child’s toy.
Not especially versatile. Face is very stylized.  Very small available wardrobe at the moment.  Limited sitting and posing options without the help of a stand. Could be difficult to play with because of the very heavy head.  Not cuddly.
A somewhat disappointing use of a great idea, but still a cute doll for the right audience.



  1. She is super cute and seems like she might be worth it when on sale, it's too bad they couldn't have just made her body out of something softer. But it's really cool that she moves like a rag doll.

    1. They were on sale for $18.99 at Walmart yesterday and I almost bought another one. :) They have that addictive quality where I can see why people get lots of them. I definitely don't have room for more than one, though!

  2. I've only seen the little tiny Lalaloopsies (think CVS!), didn't realize there was a larger version. She is definitely cute, she'd make a fun "shelf doll" for a child's or teen's room ... or to stand watch over my sewing table!

    1. I think I prefer the smaller ones. They are totally adorable and my Liv dolls like them. :) I think you're right--Marina would make a great shelf doll and a perfect sewing companion....her smile and cheery colors can brighten a room!

  3. A very cute doll to be sure :) They are well thought out, well designed, but I still don't like them- mostly because, something I agree with you on, there's something off and almost underhanded about the fact that they're going with a recycling/reusing angle to promote these dolls. How exactly are you learning to recycle and reuse while buying this.. hunk of plastic? I don't mean to offend, the dolls are certainly a novel idea (some would use the word gimmick), just imo extremely offputting and not really kid friendly or customer friendly. A """cloth""" doll that's made out of solid plastic- that's a symbol of consumerism and this, in my eyes, taints this line forever.

    1. Hi Alrunia! Yes--you articulated the problem with these dolls perfectly. MGA is capitalizing on recycling awareness without being at all aware about recycling. I am really glad you agree because I was starting to think maybe I’d gone a little wacko with my packaging obsession. :)

      It’s the mixed message that is so frustrating. I don’t even think it would be that hard to make it better. They could turn the box into something that could actually be reused (a house or a chair for the doll?). They could simplify the packaging (these are tough dolls, couldn’t they just be out on the shelves by themselves, or in a simple cardboard display?), or, the company could simply stop pretending that the dolls promote recycling!

      I had intended to write an even more critical review, but Marina followed me around the house grinning at me for a few days and gradually won me over with her adorableness. Sigh. I fear that the emotions dolls can evoke make us vulnerable to sly marketing...

      Anyway—thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it!

  4. Hello from Spain: thank you for teaching Lalaloopsy doll in such detail. I have not bought any Lalaloopsy but I see in your photos are very cute. I like the Lalaloopsy seafood. The dress is beautiful and accessories that brings are very original. Keep in touch.

    1. Hi Marta! Thank you for your comment. Lalaloopsy are definitely very cute dolls and the outfits are well made. When I go to the store now, I always look at the outfits more closely. They are very interesting!

  5. I know you recommend a cloth doll over these but I have to relate that cloth bodied or all cloth dolls, while great for rainy day indoor play or cuddling in bed, are not exactly great for outdoor play. I had a Cabbage Patch Kid doll as a kid and I took it everywhere. She got mighty dingy really fast and her body and hair was always a greyish shade and this was after my mom would throw it in the washing machine. I can't see this happening with a Lalaoopsy. Even if the clothes get stained, they sell separate outfits for them as well as there are many people online that make clothes for them. I too prefer the mini ones but I have to say that the big ones are very decorative and I'd probably have more than one if I had the room with all the other things I collect.

    1. That's a good point--I have an old Madame Alexander baby doll with a cloth body, and she's pretty dingy even though I never took her outside. Her vinyl head is pretty scuffed and marked, too, poor thing. There's a part of me that loves this doll more for her worn look, but there's definitely a point at which old, dirty cloth can get gross. :P

      I like my Lalaloopsy doll quite a bit, but I think a parent or collector who is specifically looking for a toy that will help teach about avoiding waste and reusing things should select a different kind of doll. I mostly wanted to call out the company for marketing this doll as something it isn't.

      I never thought to search for hand made clothes online--that's a great idea! I will have to do some research. Thank you for the tip! :) I wonder, do some older collectors customize these dolls? That would be cool. You could do some really neat things with a more antique look...

    2. You know I never noticed any kind of recycle and reuse angle from the marketing since I first heard of them. I saw the idea of the dolls being sewn from different things as more sentimental to me, like the idea that since it was loved it came to life like the Velveteen Rabbit. I don't know if when they were first making them they had a whole environmentally aware angle but if they did then they don't really mention it anymore.

      I have seen customs done to look like Strawberry Shortcake characters. Does that count?

      Have you seen the Lalaloopsy Littles yet? They are a bit smaller and are supposed to be the younger siblings of the large ones. I have been wanting to get one but sadly haven't gotten around to it yet.

    3. I have seen the Littles! I wanted to buy one (for this review, actually) but the combined price was a bit high for me on the day I got Marina. They look even cuter than the big dolls! I wonder if they have the same articulation as the larger dolls? I'm not crazy about the Lalaloopsy dolls with food on their faces, either, and I think that was the only Little in stock last time I saw them at the store. If you get one--let us know what you think!

      That cute little red-headed boy Ace was on sale at Walmart yesterday and I wanted him, too, but stopped myself. I like that there are quite a few boy characters and should have mentioned that in my review.

      I think it is wise for the company to steer away from the environmentally friendly angle.

    4. Yeah,I was gonna mention the littles as well.I too perfer the mini's,and think the littles are a more managable size and cuter than the regular ones.Also not a fan of the food on their faces.perhaps the food could be acetoned off?
      Anyway,I would like to point out to you is there ARE cloth plushes of these dolls!They are newer and less widespread,but they're out there.I know this because while walking through the toy aisles I accidently saw ones face through some other generic plushes and freaked me out.She was huge!Later in the correct section saw some much smaller plushes connected to little cardboard backs hanging from hooks.
      The smaller ones:
      The huge monster that freaked me out:

      I'm also going to point out that the smaller plushes come with their plushified pets.Your wanting of Marina's whale may not be too far off.(Sadly there is no plush of her currently.)

    5. Those soft dolls have not hit the shelves here in Maine yet--or maybe I am just not lurking in the right aisles. They're with the plush animals? Good find!

      The little ones are really cute. AND they're $14.99! It's like MGA was reading my mind...except they made these before I had any of my own opinions about Lalaloopsy. :) I'm still chuckling over "the huge monster that freaked me out." I'd have to see her in real life...that picture is not doing her any favors.

      I'm going to keep a lookout for the plush version of Marina. When I find her, I'll buy her for sure, and then I can do a review. I can also have that adorable whale! Yay! I hope he looks just exactly like the plastic version, but plush. That would SO cute.

      Thanks for the heads up on these. I like them!

  6. Hi Emily,
    I love your beautiful photos, and I think it's really neat to include packaging as part of your reviews. The chew toys I buy for my dog have a similar construction to this girl , but they're just hanging on a hook in the store. Why does a tough, play quality doll need a twisty-tied plastic nightmare box? Having to wait to get home is hard enough, but having to wait for mom to get out the box cutter, scissors, and wire cutters must be torture for a little one. Oh well, clearly I'm not the target audience for this doll.

    1. Thank you so much for your nice comment. I would love to see these dolls hanging on simple hooks in the toy store, and I bet little kids would like to get their hands on them right away, too, but having seen Toys R Us after a busy weekend, I am wondering how much damage the dolls would suffer if they were sitting out unprotected. On the other hand, if they still looked good after being displayed that way, it'd be an excellent selling point for the parents! :)

    2. The thing that sucks about excessive packaging is unfortunately it is often necessary for toys that are sold in stores. People seem to be more dishonest than ever before. If small pieces aren't tied down people lift them. However at the same time as deterring thievery the packaging also has to be attractive. If they had the Lalaloopsy dolls on open cardboard backings I imagine all their pets would be gone. I'm sure companies would like to spend less on packaging since that would mean more profits. Of course on things that can only be bought online they don't have to worry about thievery or being attractive so they can go with nondescript cardboard boxes and a bit of bubble wrap.

  7. Hey this is Derrik. Was passing by and notices your blog. My younger sister collects these. She has 10 Lalaloopsy altogether. They are pretty sturdy. They wipe clean easily enough. The arms dont bend as easily as you think. It is a hassle to get one open yes but she enjoys them. :)
    We enjoy your dollreviews alot thanks.

    Hint: buy lalaloopsy at Walmart. Cheaper at sometimes $20. That is the secret to my sisters collection.

    1. Wow I didn't know they were only $20 at Walmart! Thanks!

  8. I searched the R. John Wright doll, I couldn't find the price, but there was an Alice in Wonderland doll that was similar, she costed $1,475! I mean, she wasn't even THAT cute!

  9. She's lovely!!!I would love to have them all,they're sooooo cute!loving the button-eyes and rosy cheeks!clothes looks nice on them too :) they're not popular over here,and there is no chance to get a fabric version :( anyway- great review!

  10. Now that I've read this review, they seem so cool! But I can't find them at my stores anymore D: (I'm only looking in stores such as Wal-Mart or Target) Are they discontinued now?

  11. My daughter wants a Lalaloopsy doll as an xmas gift, on amazon a lot of the reviews say they have a bad odour that they cant get rid of like onions, does anyone have any of these dolls and do they actually smell bad?

    1. The notorious odor you're refering to does not pertain to Lalaloopsy dolls. It's actually a problem associated with their sister line, the Lala-Oopsies dolls. If I recall correctly, I think it has something to do with their nerf-like heads. But all in all, Lalaloopsy dolls not have any odor. I should know, we have over 40+ of the core dolls and all of the Littles.

  12. I have 24 in my house and its so fun to have them around. But if you drop them, they get these big marks of all diffrent colors.

  13. I found a Lalaloopsy coloring book at the dollar store. Great graphics, perfect for embroidering the dolls on children's clothing, quilts, etc.