Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz in Manhattan

I am back from a short trip to Manhattan and I'd love to share a few pictures with you while I get unpacked and organized for the next review.  My mom lives in New York City and so we visit every now and then--although nowhere near as often as I wish we did.  When my kids were little, trips to FAO Schwarz and the massive Toys R Us in Times Square were nice rest stops in between more educational outings.  Now that they are older, my boys are more interested in the Apple Store and the jazz scene, but I am still drawn to these two behemoths of toy retail.

I think Times Square is impressive no matter how many times you've seen it or how old you are.  Between the massive screens and billboards, the throngs of fascinating people, and the sidewalk sideshow-like attractions, there's always something unexpected.  On this visit, the scene that had me stopped in my tracks was this:


Well, okay, the Naked Cowboy also stopped me in my tracks...

...but what I really want to show you is Merida, larger than life, adorning the Toys R Us store front.  I can't wait for June 22nd!

I didn't take that many pictures, but for those of you who have never been to this massive store, it is pretty incredible.  Just inside the door, there's a huge ferris wheel.  You can buy rides on this wheel and get a preview of the multi-leveled toy wonderland:  

The ferris wheel sets the tone for the rest of the store, where every display is as massive as it is impressive.  For example, there's a life-size animated Tyrannosaurus rex that eyes you hungrily and roars as you browse the Lego section:

There are Lego sculptures that tower ten feet above you:

I especially liked the Calico Critters display with its huge flocked rabbit family and lighted diorama:

And, of course, they have every single Calico Critters set.
Capturing the attention of most of the little girls (and many of the older girls) in the store was this pink Barbie house:

The house is packed with every imaginable Barbie product.  You can even climb up the stairs and look out over the rest of the store from the upper level windows.

You might notice the Monster High display to the right of this picture:

While there were lots of Monster High dolls, there was not a huge variety.  It was mostly Sweet 1600 Frankie Stein, Sweet 1600 Clawdeen Wolf, A few of the classroom dolls (the ones with lockers) and some of the Skull Shores dolls.  In the aisle there, you can see Clawdeen's bedroom playset, which seems pricey at $40.99.  They also had Lagoona's Hydration Station and many of the cloth dolls.

In the end, the selection in this store was not that different from my humble local Toys R Us.  There was consistently more of everything, of course, and there were certainly some brands with a better variety of product on the shelves, but for the most part there was nothing I hadn't seen before.  One exception was in the Barbie house, where this little gem was displayed:

The William and Catherine wedding set.
Having spent part of my youth living in the United Kingdom, I have a soft spot for the British royal family.  I thought these two dolls looked very well made, and even though (as my mom pointed out) William is a bit caricatured, the overall effect is lovely.  I left the store with these two under my arm, so you'll be seeing more of them.

My last visit to FAO Schwarz was disappointing.  A few years ago when we stopped by, there were huge crowds, no Tonner dolls and practically no Lego.  We almost decided not to make the trip this time, but I am so glad we did.  This was a much more special shopping experience than Toys R Us.  There were Tonner dolls, Madame Alexander dolls, Monster High dolls, Barbies, Lee Middleton babies and more.  It was amazing.  

In this case, there were dolls that I have not seen before, and that I simply can't get in Maine.  For example, they had about ten of the Meowlody and Purrsephone Monster High sets.  They also have a whole area called the Doll Factory where you can customize your own 18" or 10" Madame Alexander play doll.  These looked like pretty nice dolls, especially the smaller dolls (which unfortunately aren't on the website).  They also have a Lee Middleton nursery, where baby dolls are displayed in bassinets and the staff are dressed as nurses.  This seems like it would be a wonderful doll buying experience for a small child.  The impressive Lego stock and cool displays were back, too:

Lego Jack Sparrow
The best part for me was seeing the Tonner dolls.  There were not very many on display, maybe twenty in all, but any time I get to see an expensive doll like this in real life, it is a huge treat.  I tried to take pictures of all of the dolls, but I didn't want to mortify my kids or attract the security brigade.

First, from the Harry Potter collection, they had Ron, Harry and Dumbledore on display.  These are the smaller scale dolls--Harry and Ron are 12 inches tall, Dumbledore is 17 inches.  Ron is adorable, although his hair is too thick and long:


Harry was missing his glasses, and I thought he was not as impressive as Ron.  The Ron doll bears a good likeness to Rupert Grint, and he is also just a cute doll.  The Harry doll is not particularly reminiscent of Daniel Radcliff, nor is it an especially striking doll in and of itself.  The clothing and shoes on these two dolls are wonderful, but because the dolls are out in the open for customers to handle, everything was a bit rumpled.


Dumbledore was extremely ratty and his hair, in particular, was a horrendous tangled mess.  Even when I tried to be forgiving about his handled status, he was disappointing for a $200 doll.  After seeing these three, I wouldn't buy Dumbledore or Harry, but I am still tempted by Ron and dearly wish Hermione had been there to inspect.


Sharing a nearby shelf were two slightly creepy dolls that I have honestly never given a single glance.  First, there was Ms. Beetlejuice:

She's like Scarlett Johansson gone goth.
This was my mom's favorite doll.  It took me a while to process her unique appearance, but in the end I think my mom has good instincts.  This is a cool doll.  She has inset eyes that are very nicely done and are quite realistic.  Her hair is incredible--it is this poofy beehive of blonde curls with subtle blue highlights.


She is an excellent mix of beautiful and odd.  Her dark eye make-up, funky striped clothing and crazy hair are outlandish, but her features are pleasant and appealing.  She has the Monica Merrill face sculpt and a 16" curvy body.  I really like this combination and it piqued my interest in the Monica Merrill line of dolls for the first time.  Ms. Beetlejuice was a serious temptation.

Alongside Ms. Beetlejuice was Emily, the Corpse Bride (from the Tim Burton movie):

Her hair is more blue than purple.  The lighting here is misleading.
I walked right past her on the first sweep, tripping over myself to get to the Ellowyne Wilde dolls.  I am really glad I was with my mom, though, because once again she saw the potential in this doll and prompted me to give her a closer inspection.  If you look at her carefully, she's hauntingly charming.  Her eyes are wide and vacant, but they're very well done.  No wonkiness, and the blue actually has some nice detail and depth when you look at her up close.  She also has the Monic Merrill head and curvy body, although she and Beetlejuice look incredibly different.  I almost left the store with this doll, but the $200 price tag was a bit daunting.

I was so happy with my Disney Showcase Rapunzel doll, I almost ordered Tonner's Ariel, despite her less-than-amazing promotional pictures.  I am glad I didn't order her, because she is very similar in real life to those promo pictures...in fact the promo pictures might be better.  She doesn't look anything like the Disney character, and unlike the Rapunzel doll, I don't think she has enough independent charm to be a tempting interpretation of the character.

Ho hum.
 There were two Theatre de la Mode dolls on display.  Noir is lovely--she looks great in her promotional pictures and even better in real life:


Her dress is exquisite and her hair is a rich golden contrast to her black outfit and porcelain-pale skin.  This is a gorgeous doll, but I have just never been tempted by her for personal taste reasons.  She's very statuesque and serene with a ton of beauty and very little character.

That's awesome hair.
Midnight is also beautiful, with even more impressive hair, but a less impressive outfit and a huge feather obscuring her face and hair:

Next to these two ladies in black was the 22" American Model doll Anna Karenina:

I was very excited to see Anna because I have been watching an eBay auction of this doll for ages, almost buying her on several occasions.  She is amazing.  Her dress and jewelry are gorgeous, and her hair is perfect.  The articulated wrists on this body are a wonderful addition (why did that take so long?), and she poses like a dream.  There's something in this doll's face, though, that I don't like.  My reaction to her face is mild--it's not a strong dislike, but it's enough that I doubt I'll be plunking down the $300-$400 necessary to bring this one home.


I'd seen Just Right Cami before, and I still like her face, but I dislike her brown velour outfit:

I had never seen a Tonner Scarlett O'Hara doll in person before, and I was amazed by Heartbroken's likeness to Vivien Leigh--Tonner got this one right:


I am now going to have to exercise some serious restraint if I want to avoid buying the lovely new Scarlett's Wedding Day doll.

There were several Ellowyne Wilde dolls, and these had clearly been handled more than all of the other dolls.  They were in pretty bad shape.  I am not an Ellowyne expert--I don't own any of these dolls and I don't look at the catalogue very often, but I can still give you my overall impressions.

I'll show you the pictures in inverse order of how much I liked them.  I didn't really like any of the dolls with inset eyes at all.  I especially didn't like A Dark and Stormy Night Amber:

She looks pissed at me.
I prefer Ellowyne's face sculpt, but I still didn't like the inset eyes and heavy eye makeup on Woeful Romance (an FAO exclusive).  I also found her outfit to be overly busy and confusing (maybe just because it was messed up?).

Feeling Fatigue was my favorite of the inset eyed dolls, and I thought her outfit was creative, well made and attractive, especially the jacket:

I liked all of the painted eye dolls, but am not crazy about Going in Circle's bangs:

I liked Check on Me quite a lot (although maybe not her hat...):

But my favorite, and the one I wanted to buy, was Languid.  She has, in my eyes, perfect coloring and an interesting and elegant chiffon outfit.


The last group of dolls on display were the interpretive Wizard of Oz dolls.  These dolls came out in 2010 and I never looked twice at them.  Face-to-face with them, though, they are captivating.  They all have the highly articulated Antoinette body.  First, there was Hear Me Roar (the lion).  She has an Antoinette face and the Honey skin tone.  I thought she was the least impressive of the Wizard dolls, but still quite striking with her rich skin tone, pale eyes and mane of curly blonde hair:

She's very monochromatic.
My husband's and my mother's favorite of the trio was Heart on My Sleeve (the tin man):

She has the beautiful Duchess face with amazing icy grey eyes and bright red-orange hair.

Her lips are red, but they have a silver gloss on them.
 She has the Cameo skin tone.

My favorite, and the biggest surprise of the day, was Beauty and Brains:

I don't know what exactly it is about this doll, but she seemed very special to me.  I don't particularly like her skirt (although I appreciate the fashionable interpretation of the scarecrow's look), but her face is so real.  She reminds me of someone I know:

She has the DeAnna Denton head sculpt (although you could have fooled me) and a Cameo skin tone.  I love her.  I didn't actually buy her, but of all the dolls I saw over the weekend, this is the one I keep thinking about.  I know I've said it before, but this is what I find so exciting about doll shops--there are always surprises.  Sometimes, as in the case of Ariel, Dumbledore, and even Anna Karenina, the surprises end up saving me lots of money.  Other times, obscure dolls that I have completely dismissed turn out to be the stars of the show.


If you ever get a chance to check out the Toys R Us in Times Square, or especially the FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue, go for it.  There's nothing like an over-the-top toy store to plaster a huge smile on your face and make you feel like a kid again.  I highly recommend it.


  1. Wow -- I LOVE "Beauty and Brains". She does look like someone, but I can't think who. Thought at first maybe the young Elizabeth Taylor, but no .... In any case, the doll has a truly distinctive face. I may have to save up for her!

    What a fun Virtual Trip through the stores, Emily, they sound amazing and so much fun to even just go and see, whether or not one is actually shopping.

    1. Thank you, Barb! I am always amazed by how fun it is to window shop in New York. I am not a shoe person or anything, but I even enjoyed peeking in shops to see all of the extravagant, fun shoes! There's just a ton to look at.

      Let me know if you think of who Beauty resembles. It's nagging at me because she is SO familiar! I can see why you thought Elizabeth Taylor--there's definitely something to that, especially the National Velvet age Liz.

  2. What a great trip, can't wait to see what you got!

    1. Well, sadly, I only bought the Barbie set, but the things I saw have definitely re-written my wish list!

  3. Wish I had the courage to brave the big city. I'd love to visit FAO! Thanks for the virtual highlights. :)

    1. There are definitely challenges to enjoying New York, that's for sure! The traffic is spectacular and scary. Very different from Maine... :)

  4. Wow!!!! I would love to go to these stores but I would hate to be there without a ton of money!

    1. It does make a person want to be rich and famous. :) However, I was amazed by how much fun it was to just look at everything. It's almost too much hassle to try and buy anything! ;)

  5. That would be such an awesome trip to make! Ms. Beetlejuice and Emily are definitely charming dolls.

    1. Aren't they neat? I never would have thought they would be so appealing. Now I have been searching Flickr for more pics of them and have found some wonderful shots!

  6. Hello from Spain: what envy! Manhattan should be wonderful. There the jugueteríasson very great. Although I was never to move York. It is a destination that I have yet to meet. Barbie house is wonderful. I think I go crazy with so many dolls and so beautiful. I have to start saving for travel to America. Thank you for showing these pictures so wonderful. Also I love the British royal family and especially to and Catherine. She is a very nice girl. Years ago I was a fan of Diana of Wales. Keep in touch

    1. I was a big fan of Diana, too! I remember that wedding so clearly. I hope you get a chance to see New York some day...it is always a fun time. :)

  7. *sigh* I've always wanted to go to FAO, but the one time I've been to NYC there just wasn't time in my schedule. Looks like they have a great selection of dolls! I want aproximately 100% of those Tonner beauties, and I'm still looking for the Meowlody and Purrsephone set.

    I'm glad you mentioned Brave and Merida because I've been looking for an excuse to ask you if you've seen the limited edition Merida doll. She's made "in-house" by Disney, stands 17" tall, and is numbered and limited to 7000 dolls. There are several different playline dolls coming out and they all look great, but this one is truly stunning! You can take a look on the Disney Store's Facebook page (which I would link but can't on my iPhone). Just wanted to point her out since I know you like a lot of the Disney princess dolls. :)

    As always keep up the great work!
    -John in Missouri

    1. Oh, John--I wish I had known you were looking for that Meowlody/Purrsephone set! I was trying to decide if I should grab one for somebody.

      I just Googled the Merida doll because of your comment--I had no idea the limited edition pics were on facebook! Eeeee! She looks wonderful. I just got my small Disney Merida the other day and she has a face defect, so I might have to trade her in for the big one. ;) I have the Ever After Rapunzel limited edition and am very impressed by her quality. They do a nice job, although the eyelashes on those girls are crazy-long.

      Thanks for the tip--now I have TWO things to look forward to on the 22nd...

  8. I have to get over to FAO. I haven't been in a couple of months. I love to see the displays of dolls and everything else.

    TRU is one of my favorite places. I used to run there at least 3 times a week when I worked a couple of blocks from there. I have been there at least 3 times this year.

    It sounds like a fun trip. I'm still on the fence about Prince William & Katherine set. I like him some what and don't like her at all :O/. I can't wait for your review

    1. Isn't TRU awesome? Even the small one here is like therapy for me. I often go there on Fridays after a long day at work just to walk around and decompress. I imagine that being able to do that at the Manhattan store every week would be about ten times as therapeutic! :)

  9. Forgot to mention I got the 12 inch Ron from a favorite seller on eBay. I have two Marleys and want to get at least one of them a new articulated body, too. I got Ron Nude (that's all I could manage, but that's plenty) and he's presently wearing pajamas donated by Ken. :)

    1. Cool--the fact that Ron can share clothes with Ken makes him even more desirable! I just love his face.
      So, Marley heads swap on to those new 12" bodies? It's funny because Ron's head seemed smaller to me, but I am definitely not a good judge of these things unless I have the two dolls side by side. I would love to put one of my Alice heads on a more articulated body! That would be amazing.

  10. OMG I never thought about Tonner dolls but they're so beautiful! And here I thought I was done buying dolls. [sparkle]

  11. I love this blog post, now I really want to go to FAO and TRU!
    Especially TRU, because all the TRU stores here were closed.
    I really love Languid, she looks very sweet and her hair is gorgeous!
    I didn't know anything about collectible dolls untill I started reading your blog, I'm glad I got to know more about Tonner dolls, although I'll never have enough money to buy one, I really love watching the pictures you take of them.

  12. Wow. You would weep if you had to buy dolls here on the west coast of Canada. Not only does Canada get dolls way later then the US release dates (or not at all) but the west coast is just forgotten when it comes to getting any stock. That's why I love your blog, sometimes it's the closest to the doll I'll ever get :(