Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Classic Merida Doll from the Disney Store

You might remember how excited I've been to see the Pixar movie, Brave.  My excitement stemmed mostly from my enthusiasm for Disney's last masterpiece, Tangled.  I haven't enjoyed a Disney movie that much since I was a kid.  I had high hopes for Brave, and for the the Disney Store doll line that would inevitably accompany it.  The Brave dolls have actually been out for way longer than the movie, which just opened last week.  Not only are the Disney Store shelves packed with Brave dolls right now (including the limited edition 18" Merida), but brand new versions of all of the other princess are available for $14.50 (or 2 for $22 with the current sale).  These new dolls are worth a look because they have different articulation and, it looks like at least Rapunzel has a new face mold.  I'll have to check that out.

I saw Brave on the day it was released.  I'm no movie expert, but I really enjoyed this movie.  It's not Tangled caliber in my eyes, but it's very, very good.  The Scottish accents and music are wonderful, there are numerous laugh-out-loud moments, and I almost cried a few times.  The animation of Merida's hair is incredible, as is the fur animation on all of the creatures.  Merida's horse Angus is amazing and realistic, though he doesn't have a personality like the Tangled steed, Maximus.  My kids and I agree that the plot could have been developed for another 15 minutes or so.  Also, I found myself wishing the movie would slow its frantic pace and let me look at the beautifully rendered characters and scenery a bit more.  I wish Disney movies weren't so frenetic--it's as though they assume kids have no attention span and the visual frame rate of a hawk.   In any case, I liked the movie well enough to be delighted that I have the doll.  She's a charmer:

Classic 12" Brave Merida from the Disney Store.
Merida costs $16.50, which is a bit pricier than the other princesses.  I wish she was $14.50.  She comes in a very simple rectangular window box with a cardboard backdrop:

If you cut the tape circles around three sides of the box, you can open it up with minimal damage to the box.  The baby blue cardboard back is double-layered to conceal the tape and metal ties that hold the doll in place.

The back of the box has a picture of Merida from the movie.  With the two Meridas side by side, it's easy to see the resemblance:

The doll is not a perfect likeness, but I actually think that the picture on the box isn't the best representation of Merida.    

Whether or not it looks like the movie character, this doll's face is great and full of character.  Her face reminds me of the Tonner Toys LittleMissMatched doll I reviewed:

It's a bit of a pain to get Merida off that cardboard backdrop.  There are some rubber bands, some plastic holders, and three tight plastic ties anchoring her head.  Be careful about the tiny little plastic tags that are securing her dress--those can easily make big holes in the dress or even rip it.   After she's free from the box, there's still some work to do getting her detached from her accessories.

She has tissue paper under her dress to protect her legs.
The quiver is tied to the bow and to the plastic strip that held Merida in the box.  Merida's hands are tied to the quiver and to the arrow.  Everything is tied down.

There's no way she's going to stand on her own, and she doesn't come with a stand, but most 12" doll stands work perfectly on her.  Here she is with a Pullip stand:

She is wearing a black hooded cloak with a replica of the bear clasp from the movie.  

The hood actually closes in front with a tiny piece of velcro:

The cape is nothing like wool, but it is a fairly heavy, textured material.  It has a real hood, but it doesn't fit that well around her mane of hair:

Under the cloak, Merida is wearing the teal dress that she wears throughout most of the movie.  It is a very nice replica:

It's missing the vents under her arms, but it does have mesh material at the elbows:

The ruffle at the neck is a bit big, but looks fine:

The dress color looks nice with her eyes.
Merida wears an archer's sleeve on her left arm.  It is made out of a textured lightweight fake leather and has a small brown ribbon that encircles her thumb:

The dress fabric is a deep teal fake satin and has a nice flow and shine to it.  The fabric is more reminiscent of the blue dress Merida wore to the archery contest in the movie.  Here's one of the little holes left by the plastic ties--and this isn't because I tugged on the dress or anything.  I was really careful.  Promise.

Here's how the dress looks by itself:

It's missing the gold ruffle on the left sleeve.  That's to accomodate her archer's gear, I guess, but it does look a bit odd and isn't true to the movie:

Merida's bow is made of light brown plastic with black accents and a black grip.  It has a real string.  There is only one arrow (that's gonna get lost), and this has a black head and white fletching:

It would be nice to have a few more arrows.

The bow has some faint molded detailing on the face:

The quiver is brown flexible plastic with nice painted and molded details. 

The only problem is that the hook doesn't stay connected very well.

Merida is wearing very simple brown plastic shoes with big slits in the back for easy removal:

Merida has a very distinctive face.  She has wide, bright eyes, lots of freckles and an endearing half-smile.  My doll has an obvious paint defect on her lower lip.  I know the Disney Store would have made this right for me with no hassles (they have an awesomely friendly customer service department...) but I decided just to keep the doll as she is.

It looks like a piece of glitter (probably from that last round of princesses) got stuck under the paint in her lip:
If my house is any indication, there'll be glitter all over the Disney factory for the next decade.
Her eyes are beautifully painted with two different shades of blue and a touch of yellow

Under her mass of hair are two jug handle ears:

Perhaps even more important than her face mold is this doll's hair.  In the movie, the movement and sheer volume of Merida's marvelous red hair is central to her character.  It is her most striking feature by far.  The hair on this doll is good--it is full of body and curl, and it is very soft with just the right amount of gel in it:

It's not amazing hair, though, which I think it should have been.  Look at the back:

They dropped the ball on that long shank in the middle
--it has practically no curl.
From the sides it looks fine, but there could have been more of those flyaway tight curls like she has on the left side right around her face:

In the movie, she has these tight little crimped curls that just take off and spring every which way.  They're so fun to watch!  You can tease the doll's hair around a bit and get it to be slightly more wild, but in the end it's a bit too tame to be perfect Merida hair.  I have to remind myself that this is a $15 play doll, though.  It'll be interesting to see what the hair on the $100 limited edition doll looks like.  For me, that would be an obvious place to invest some extra time and materials.

The color is fantastic.
Underneath all of that hair, and all of her clothing, Merida shows off what I assume is the new Disney doll body:

She has matching teal underpants.
The new body is just like the older version down to the hips.  There's articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows and wrists.   Here's Merida next to the last version of Rapunzel (the glittery one):

Below the hips, the legs are plastic (not that rubbery material) and they have regular hinged joints at the knees and ankles.  

Rapunzel still has glitter stuck to her rubbery legs...
This new body is almost as good as the original Liv body.  The only thing she is missing is the double jointed knee, which actually makes a big difference.  I think Merida has a slightly more attractive body than Liv, though, so that evens things up a bit.  It is a wonderful body:

Here she is next to Liv Katie, who still holds the title of Best Kneeler:

The body is nice looking and highly articulated.  What more could anyone ask?  I suspect these dolls will become popular body donors...especially when they go on their crazy $4.99 clearance sales.  You just can't beat that.

She does have a few teal smudges on her body from those dark underpants.  Do they stick these dolls in their boxes before the paint has dried or something?

Flat feet suit this doll perfectly.
I hope this is the new body for all of the dolls.  I can't wait to get my hands on the new Rapunzel to see if she has these same feet.  Maybe there is a fashion foot version for dolls like Cinderella?   Anyway, the 13 points of articulation made my day.

Disney has really packed a lot of character into these newer faces.  I find them adorable and uplifting. 

Merida looks a bit vacant in this picture, but I don't find her that way in person.
Some of the best scenes in the movie center around Merida wielding her bow.  I know tons of kids are going to want to re-create those moments in their games, so let's see what the bow can do.

First of all, Merida can wear her bow around her chest exactly like she does in Brave:

Her single arrow looks a bit silly all alone in that quiver.
That's not a straight arrow.
She can also hold the bow pretty well, thanks to a handle on the grip:

One shot to kill them all...bwahahaaaa!

Pulling the string back is a bit of a challenge.  Merida's hands have the standard flat shape, so she can't really grip the string in a secure way.  A gripping hand mold would have been amazing.  You can wedge the string in next to her thumb with her wrist bent slightly so that she can pull back a tiny bit...

...and then balance the arrow on her fingers:

This arrow might go three inches if I'm lucky.
She can also hold the bow like this, with the string wrapped around her thumb, but it looks a bit...wimpy:

Don't break a nail, Merida.
Here are some of my favorite shots of this spunky doll:




Bottom line?  If I try hard, I can think of a few things I'd change.  Mostly, I'd have loved a doll with crazier hair.  Maybe this would be too much of a manufacturing hassle for such an inexpensive doll, but I'm thinking that just a few more of those tighter curls sticking out all over the place would look great.  Also, another arrow or two for her quiver would be ideal.  In a perfect world, she'd have a gripping hand and be able to pose really well with a loaded bow.  That's it.

When I go through my check list of basic things I like to see in a play doll, Merida has them all.  She has 13 points of articulation and moves well.  I really like the new body.  Her head is thickly rooted with soft, attractive hair that can be played with.  Her face is full of personality and is well painted (if we ignore the flaw in my particular doll).  Her clothes are made nicely and are easy to get on and off.  Her outfit has several extras, including a convincing bow and arrow and a nice cloak.  I like to see creativity and originality in my dolls, and in Merida's case, not only is her appearance unique, but the movie gives us a rich backdrop for her character.  Brave is the forward-thinking tale of a feisty princess who can shoot arrows like Robin Hood and doesn't need a prince for her happy ending.  The cherry on top is that this doll costs under $20.  Pick your Merida doll  in person if you can, just to avoid the occasional paint defect, but definitely pick one up.

Age Level
3 and up on the box, 5 and up is probably more realistic.
A good buy at $16.50.
A great doll, especially for the price.  Highly recommended.
Good quality.  Hair is soft and thick, clothing is sturdy and looks good, face paint is detailed.  Several nice accessories.  Watch for individual flaws.  
Decent packaging.  Lots of plastic and the doll is a bit of a pain to get out, but it's a small, simple box.    Be careful to remove the small plastic ties in the dress.
This is a play doll and isn’t a limited edition, but as the first run version of a Disney character, she is special.
This doll has a character face, but she is no more stylized than some other doll lines.  The doll is highly posable and can share clothes with all Disney princesses and a number of other 12” dolls.
Recommended.  A wonderful treat for fans of the movie and an interesting doll in her own right.



  1. She is adorable! I'd love to see someone 'troll' her with bright red 'mohair'!!

    1. Ooh, yeah! That would be perfect!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I was think the same: a red mohair wig would look great on her.

  2. Here is the link to the posting about Merida doll I bought at the end of May. I bought her at Target. She was a 15.00 purchase. This one was 19.99 at Target. Wish I had waited and spent the extra 5.00. LOL

    1. That's a great comparison, Frannie! I have looked at the Mattel dolls again and again, and while they're cute, I think the Disney Store got the resemblance a bit better--and of course I adore the articulation. My Target doesn't carry the Disney Store dolls, darn it--I wish they did!

      Thanks for the link! :)

  3. I've had this doll on my wish list since she came out, just waiting to see the movie to make me feel really ready to get her! I definitely like her better than the mattel versions, and personally I think she looks more fun than the disney collector version but I'm sure that doll is amazing too.

    1. It's strange that they release the dolls so far in advance of the movie, isn't it? I was thinking I should wait and be sure the movie was good, but I have no self control. :)

      I am thinking that the longer you wait, the better her price might get. The Disney Store seems to have some great sales. All of the old dolls were on sale for $4.99 a week or so ago! Gah! Wish I'd waited on a few of them.

      I have the big version of Merida arriving today--she doesn't look as happy, but maybe her hair is better? I'll post some pics of her over on facebook.

  4. I was hoping you would review this doll! Yay! :) I'm a sucker for red hair, and I'm a sucker for curly hair. The two together, and connected to a Pixar character doll? I'm hooked! I also saw the movie opening weekend and was totally charmed, and knew I had to get this doll. She isn't a perfect likeness of the character, and her hair could be better, but she really makes up for it with her quirkiness. I love her dress, too. It's cut just right to bend in the right spots and accentuate her poses, it's a great color, the shine isn't overpowering, and details like the mesh elbows are perfect. (I hope that doesn't seem obsessive - I just really love this dress! Lol) Now I need to get my butt in gear and order the limited edition doll!

    Great review!

    -John in Missouri

    1. She's great, isn't she?? I am also a major sucker for red curly hair. Wish I had some of it myself!

      The LE doll literally just arrived at my door, and I owe that to you--you were the one who tipped me off that she could be ordered on the 22nd! Whee! Don't have to tell me twice... ;)

      She looks amazing--the outfit is spectacular--velvet dress with a lined cape. The face is a bit more serious and not quite as good as the basic doll, I don't think, but she's definitely a keeper. I won't de-box her (at least for now) but I'll post a few boxed pics over on facebook and Flickr.

      Oh--and I don't know the scope of your collection, but if you like red-haired quirky character dolls, you might appreciate the two Anne Mitrani girls that Gotz made ages ago. I SO wish I owned them!! You can see them here:
      ...but they're long sold out. :(

    2. Glad to have helped spread the Merida love! :) I'll have to check out your Facebook for the LE pics. I haven't seen those Gotz dolls but my eyes are always open and I love suggestions. Thanks!

      -John in Missouri

  5. She's gorgeous! I have yet to see the movie, and my five year old niece thinks I'm crazy for it!

    Her hair actually looks like it would be tons of fun to play around with. I was actually testing that hair boiling method for straightening and curling doll hair on my Monster High ghouls, and it actually worked quite well. I ended up doing some crazy curls on Frankie, and they turned out wild! Maybe you could try that to get the effect you're looking for? :)

    1. So, I have figured out how to get the hair straight by boiling, but how do you make crazy curls? I am tempted! Merida's hair is really great as it is, but I find myself wanting to try and capture the look of the movie character a bit better.

      Definitely see the movie if you get a chance. It's very fun. Believe it or not, my 14 year son old saw it for the SECOND time today! That says something. ;)

    2. That definitely says something! I'll probably end up seeing it with my niece, since she's dead-set on getting me to go. :)

      Do you have a bunch of bobby pins lying around somewhere? I found curling Frankie's hair surprisingly easy. All I did was twist her hair around the bobby pins, claps them together to hold it in place, and I used little rubber bands to keep them even more secure. Once I had her hair all in place, I dipped her in a mug of hot water and kept her there for about a minute, and then left her on a towel to dry. I took her hair out of the bobby pin "curlers" and she had a mess of pretty curls! I've also heard of using straws and bobby pins together to create curlers, but I haven't yet tried that. With the way I did it, her curls are kind of like "twists" or curly noodles. Haha, but according to my niece she now looks like she's ready for the Ball.

      I tried it on Lagoona also, with braids instead of bobby pins, and it also worked pretty well. The curls didn't stay as well in her hair after I brushed it, though. Now she looks like she came right out of an 80's teen film. :)

    3. Thank you so much for those great directions! I'm definitely going to try this with Merida. I could probably use different sized things like straws and even toothpicks to get different curls? Seems perfect for the look I am going for.

      The 80s hair would go perfectly with the Roller Maze dolls, since they're already screaming 80s to me! ;)

    4. You're very welcome! Yeah, straws, toothpicks, whatever works as long as you can keep the hair nice and tight and it won't come loose when you're dipping their hair into the water. :)

      You are so right, I can imagine Roller Maze Lagoona with big, 80's hair, but would it fit under that helmet? If so, that would look way better than the "Mickey Mouse ears" she came with!

  6. Hello from Spain: Brave Merida has beautiful hair. I also like the clothes she wears. Merida's eyes are beautiful. Also I like her body is articulated. Definitely I'm going to buy this doll for my collection. She is very cute. Keep in touch

    1. She's a great choice, especially if you liked the movie! :)

  7. I just found your blog and I LOVE it!! We have had fun making Merida dolls from some of the dolls in our own collection like Ellowyne and a Madame Alexander Favorite Friends doll, but I will probably cave eventually and get a "real" Merida doll - most likely the more expensive limited edition version from Disney. She is just so pretty!

    1. Oh, thank you so much Char! I love your blog, too! I like your American Girl Merida--that dress is perfect, and the doll's teeth seem right for Merida's character, too. I definitely recommend the larger Merida from the Disney Store. Her expression is so unique! I am glad that the Disney Store attempts to copy all of the quirky details of a character's face in their dolls...instead of just making a generic pretty-faced doll with Merida's clothes.

  8. Thanks for this rich and full review of this lovely doll. I love your action/posing shots. She's on my list now. I especially appreciate that you mention this doll is available at Target so that I don't goof up and get the Walmart one instead.

    1. Well, I've never personally seen the Disney Store dolls at Target--better ask Frannie! I know that Toys R Us and Walmart only carry different versions (Mattel's interpretation and maybe another kind?) that aren't quite as true to the movie. I order directly from the Disney Store, which is a pain with shipping costs, but I do love the dolls. We used to have a Disney Store at our mall--I wish it hadn't left!

  9. Hi Toy Box Philosopher! I am a doll collector and I have been reading your blog recently! I collect mostly Barbie and Disney Store dolls. I came across your blog when searching for a doll review on the Classic Merida Doll from the Disney Store. Your awesome review convinced me to buy the doll! I am now a follower of your blog.

  10. I got this doll when I was in New York. She's great!! :)
    I also got a Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen Barbie for $50. She has articulation at the head (she can look up, down, and side-to-side) shoulders, elbows, wrists, thighs, and knees. The shoes come off but they're very hard to get off.
    I'd love to see a review of her!

  11. She is so unique! Iam such a sucker for curly red head dolls, I definetly will buy her! I was so happy when I found out they made a Merida doll like this, because I only really saw the ones at target, and they don't really match her personality in my opinion.

  12. I just want to warn anyone who's going to buy her... I don't think those teal smudges he mentioned are from her underpants. I have this doll, and after a few days of play, I noticed her nose was green. ??? Then, today, I discovered her hands, face, and neck were almost entirely green/blue! I read some reviews at disneystore and found out many people have had the same thing happen. Apparently, the dress and cloak are leaking dye all over her. So, I will wash the clothes, but I've tried and tried to get the dye out and I can't. If you get her, WASH HER CLOTHES before you play with her! In all other respects, (except one of her feet came damaged) I pretty much agree with everything The Toy Box Philosopher says. She is a great doll, and I have had a lot of fun with her.

  13. i would take the hair out and replace with red natural mohair that is exactly what the merida characters hair looked like,

  14. I just got the Classic Merida from the Disney Store (online, UK) and she doesn't come with the black cloak, the arrow has a large, thick head instead of the thin, realistic one yours has, her shoes are bright blue instead of brown, and she doesn't have the archer's thing on her arm. Do I have some sort of revised, cheaper version, or is it just because I'm in the UK and it's different (assuming you're in the US)? Love the blog dearly. :)

  15. Aack, this exact doll is on sale for $3.99 at
    Had no interest in buying before I saw this...

  16. I'm getting this doll of merida soon, I'm super excited, she looks great :3

  17. Can she wear Liv clothes or Barbie fashionistas?

  18. I have this one and is totally beautiful, despite her legs, those are a big problem. I wanted to get another for a friend and when I visited Disney's store page I noticed she had changed! Her dress has sparkles and is not carrying the bow and the arrows, also the cloak is missing :( Do you think the same will happen to Frozen ones?

    1. she hadn't changed. thats just the 2013 merida.(the clearly inferior doll, i hate sparkly dresses) this is the classic merida. you can still order the classic merida online on amazon or ebay.

  19. how well does this merida sit? im thinking about getting her and i just want to know

  20. also how is the hair rooting?

  21. i recently got this merida off amazon at a very good price.($16.20!) i love her so much. though she sits like a hill billy its hard to tell under her dress. There were some strands that were cut that came out with i was finger brushing her hair. but overall a great doll

  22. I should have bought this doll when she had been released. The current version has no cape or accessories.