Friday, February 22, 2013

The Merida Talking Doll from The Disney Store

I have already reviewed the original 12" Merida doll from the Disney store (love her) and took an in-box look at the first 17" collector's edition Merida doll, but I couldn't resist ordering a third Merida--the 17" talking play doll version ($29.50).  Having never owned a singing Disney doll before, I wondered if these princesses might offer a nice middle ground between the small inexpensive play dolls and the larger limited editions.

Even before I got her out of the box, I could tell that this doll has struck another important balance.  She is not quite as serious as the limited edition doll, and not quite as goofy as the play doll.  She has her own look:

Merida talking doll from the Disney Store.
Because the singing dolls were on sale right before Christmas, I also ordered Ariel and (of course) Cinderella.  When my box of dolls arrived in the mail, Ariel was singing.  Not just when I picked up the box or bumped it or something, but singing all of the time.  She'd belt out, I WANT TO BE WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE, I WANT TO SEE... and then she'd stop.  Two minutes later, she'd start up again--the same partial verse, over and over again.  I can't imagine what the poor UPS worker had to endure, but I'm glad I didn't have to look him in the eye that day.  The girl was relentless.  I thought it was hysterically funny at first, but as the afternoon wore on, and Ariel kept bursting into song at random times, I got a little jumpy.  My weary brain was desperately trying to finish the verse for her.  Towards the end of the day, Ariel fell quiet and I assumed her batteries were dead.  I stored her carefully away and have not taken another peek at her until now.

In this review, I will focus on the talking Merida, but I will also show you Cinderella and the irrepressible Ariel.

Merida comes in a plastic display box with a cardboard back.  There is a hole in the front of the box so that you can touch the activation point on Merida's right hand. There are a series of holes in the back of the box to allow the sound of her voice to be heard clearly.  Unlike Ariel, Merida was quiet until I touched her hand.  Her Scottish accent is wonderful.  You can hear it at the end of the review.

Inside the box is a sky blue cardboard backdrop with Merida firmly attached:

She comes with a plastic bow and one arrow:

Her red hair looks vibrant against the blue cardboard:

Merida is secured to the cardboard in several locations. From the back, it looks like she is held in place primarily with two wire ties and some red thread for her hair:

The wire ties come undone in no time, and once the thread is cut, the hair can be freed pretty easily...with a bit of tugging.

The hardest part of getting her out of the box was releasing all of the tiny threads and plastic ties that hold her clothes in place.  The cape and dress were tacked down in at least six locations, and these all really needed to be identified and snipped to avoid holes and rips in the fabric.  The black thread that held the cape in place was particularly hard to find:

Here she is, free from her box:

She has a wonderful face.  As I mentioned before, I think this version of Merida offers a nice composite of the dramatic and the goofy sides of this character's personality.  She has teal blue side-glancing eyes, a sparse spray of freckles and the hint of a smile in her lips.  I love freckles, but these seem a bit dark.  I don't think Merida even has freckles, does she?

Her eyes are slightly wonky, but she'll look at the camera pretty convincingly:

She has a huge, poofy mass of red curls.  All of her curls are approximately the same size, and while I'd love to see a mix of different curl sizes (like in the movie), the overall effect is sufficiently dramatic:

The rooting is thick enough that it takes some work to see a large chunk of scalp.  The scalp is painted orange to make it even less noticeable:

This hair feels nice and is fun to play with.  It bounces and springs around exactly like I hoped it would.

To get a good look at Merida's features, I had to pull her substantial mane away from her face.  She looks a little funny like this:

My doll has a few facial flaws.  She has a small green spot on her nose and two shiny spots--probably drops of hair styling product.  The shiny spots washed away, but the green dot on her nose is there for good.  

Even though she is smiling, I think this doll's upper lip is a bit skinny in comparison to her very full lower lip.  In the movie, Merida's upper and lower lip are similar in fullness.

Merida has sandy brown painted eyebrows and lashes, and just a hint of coral pink eyeshadow.  Her eyes are two shades of blue with a yellow accent in the center.  Her blue irises have very faint red lines radiating out from the pupil.  While her eyes are wide and full of character, they aren't quite as round or pale as the animated Merida's eyes.  

When her hair is pulled back, Merida's large ears become quite noticeable.  Her ears have a simple shape, but add a lot of character to her face:

Merida has an exaggerated profile--the most distinctive feature being the prominent bridge of her otherwise tiny (and very low-set) nose.

Here's an ear up close:

I like photographing Merida with a little bit of her ear showing:

Here is my limited edition Merida so you can see her face in comparison:

Her irises are small and pale and she has lightly painted eyelashes and eyebrows.  One of her eyebrows is slightly raised, and she doesn't have quite as much of a smile in her lips.  

I assumed that the two dolls would share a face, but side-by-side, the differences are striking:

I am all but positive that they have the same head mold, but the differences in painting have a huge impact.  I like the limited edition doll's lips, faint freckles, and skeptical expression, but I like the talking doll's wide eyes and mischievous smile:

I no longer have my 12" Merida (she lives with my niece) but I simply adore her quirky, happy expression.  This is probably my favorite Merida face of all, but I think the talking doll does a nice job of bringing some of this spunk into the 17" doll's more serious visage.

Merida is wearing her traditional teal dress and a black cape.  The dress is covered in glitter, and some combination of the fabric types and all of that glitter cause the cape to stick to the dress like velcro.  At first, I assumed I must have forgotten to snip a few of the threads that held the cape in place, but it's just that the cape plasters itself to the dress with some crazy-powerful static.  It's hard to show this in pictures, but wherever the cape goes, the dress will follow.

As you can see, even when the cape is pulled (ripped!) away from the gown, a lot of the glitter stays firmly stuck to the cape:

The cape is a medium weight synthetic fabric that resembles a textured cotton.  It would drape nicely if it weren't for the insane static.  The cape fastens in front with a small square of velcro and is ornamented with a large bear button:

The dress has a nice sheen to it--more like the pale blue dress from the movie.  It closes down the back with two separate pieces of black velcro.

The dress has gold-trimmed tulle accents at the neck, elbows and wrists:

The shape and stitching of the dress look lovely, but my dress has a small hole starting on one side that makes me uneasy about the long-term durability of this garment:

Update 2/27/13: I discovered another (larger) hole in the dress:

This doll is missing the archer's glove that accompanied both the 12" Merida and the limited edition doll.  Merida's bow is the exact same bow that comes with the limited edition doll.  It is made out of plastic and white string.  

As my eldest son discovered, it actually works:

*No small dogs were harmed in the making of this blog.
There are some painted details in the arrow's fletching and on the limbs of the bow.

There's a hand grip so that Merida can hold the bow, but I had to enlist the help of some transparent rubber bands in order to get anything even close to a realistic archery pose:

Underneath her green gown, Merida is wearing brown shoes...and tissue paper:

Merida's Secret?
Her shoes are very plain brown slippers with slits down the back for easy removal:

The shoes have a molded canvas texture and a very simple design:

This doll does not share a body with the 17" limited edition dolls.  Although I have never de-boxed any of my limited editions, I can tell that they have articulated wrists and ankles.  This doll has only 9 points of articulation (neck, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees):

I find the lack of wrist articulation particularly disappointing.  The smaller dolls are so nicely articulated, it's puzzling that Disney would drop the ball on this.  I guess maybe it's hard to have arm articulation when the voice activation point is on the hand?  If so, why not move the voice activation somewhere else?

The knees have somewhat clunky-looking hinged articulation.  There is no rotational movement in these joints.

Merida can strike quite a few interesting poses, but to me, her stiff wrists make every pose look slightly awkward.  What makes the problem worse is that there's no rotational movement in Merida's elbows, so she simply can't move her hands into certain positions.  At all.  

She sits pretty well--better than her 12" relatives with hinged knees, anyway.

The doll has a small speaker on her back, decorated with a swirly heart pattern.  Underneath the speaker, there's a battery compartment that holds 3 tiny AG13/LR44 button cell batteries.

There's a small on/off switch on the doll's left side.  This discovery made my photo session a lot quieter.

The plastic body has a few defects.  There are some faint teal stains in several locations, most of them on the doll's back.  One arm has a deformed joint that is difficult to move:

The right hand has a small metal voice activation site, which is normal, but further up on the wrist, there's a small slit in the vinyl and part of a wire showing through:

Too creepy for a caption.
Merida is significantly larger than the classic 12" Disney Store play dolls:

Merida is also quite a bit taller than a Moxie Teenz doll.  She's similar in scale to a 16" Tonner doll:

Tonner's "Holiday Spark" Stella, Merida, Moxie Teenz Melrose
Here's Merida with Stella and one of my Cami dolls (Cami uses the slimmer "Antoinette" body):

Merida's dress fits the standard Tonner Tyler body pretty well.  Stella has no trouble getting into this gown, and it looks surprisingly nice on her:

The closure in back is a bit tight in the chest, but the close fit is barely noticeable:

I couldn't even get Cami into the dress because her hands are too wide.  Her splayed fingers were threatening to put a hole in the elbow of Merida's dress, so I gave up half way.  The dress was looking loose in the bodice anyway.

This is the new style.  Really.
Here's Merida next to Tonner's City Girl, Astor:

Astor has a much more slender frame, and so it's no surprise that the two dolls can't share clothes.  Merida's dress is loose on Astor and way too long in the arms, Astor's clothes are very tight on Merida and extremely short in the arms.

Not ideal for galloping through the woods.
I'll quickly show you my other two singing princesses.  They all share the same body and have similar overall construction quality.  Merida is the only doll who comes with an accessory and a two-piece outfit.

I love the different face styles that Disney offers.  Cinderella is from the 1950s, back when Disney animation was very realistic.  Ariel displays the more exaggerated animation style of the late 80s and Merida is a Pixar creation with a style all her own:


Ariel has a wedge-shaped face, huge eyes and flame red hair.  She has pierced ears and shell-shaped earrings.

Singing Cinderella has the same face as the limited edition Cinderella, but she's much more modestly made up.  Frankly, she makes the limited edition doll look a bit ridiculous.  Like Snooki-rella:

Singing Cinderella has an elaborate up-do hairstyle that I'm dying to take down.  I am so curious about how it would look.  It probably won't look very good down, though, and I don't want to ruin her.  I don't have the best luck with doll hair.

So, after all of this chat about these singing and talking dolls, it's about time I address the actual singing and talking, don't you think?  Cinderella and Ariel each sing a song from their movie--Cinderella sings A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes (in three separate--looooong-- sections).  Ariel sings Part of Your World...I think.  She sang that first verse like a champ when she first arrived, but when I got her out of the box, she would only stutter and say "I want to be..."  I'm guessing she sings her song in three sections, too, batteries permitting.  Merida, on the other hand, has a repertoire of seven different quotes from the movie, all in Kelly Macdonald's delightful Scottish brogue.  

Cinderella: Your hair is so swell, Merida.
Ariel: Yeah, totally bitchin'
You really need to hear these chatty dolls for yourselves.  I interviewed them for you:

Here are a few more shots of Merida in her favorite poses:

Botom line?  I love the Merida character, and I am a big fan of Disney Store dolls.  I was looking for this particular doll to be a compromise between the inexpensive 12" play dolls and the larger, pricier limited edition dolls. Basically, I was hoping for a play version of my limited edition Merida doll.  I am disappointed by a few things about this doll, but other features are better than I had hoped.  Here's the breakdown:


Articulation.  Articulation is always high on my priority list.  This doll is missing wrist articulation, and her elbow joints don't rotate to compensate.  That's a double whammy in my book.  Also, I got a doll with a defective elbow joint.  I don't really like the articulation in this doll.

Clothes:  The outfit is very attractive with nice details, but the construction is a bit flimsy.  My Merida's dress already has two holes.   Also, the static connection between the cape and the dress is bizarre and distracting.  The clothing quality is probably comparable to that of the 12" outfits, but perhaps when scaled to this larger size, the shortcuts are more obvious.

Pleasant Surprises:

Talking: I love Merida's voice!  It is so fun to have a doll that speaks so many lines from the movie.  What I thought would be a dismissible gimmick is actually one of the doll's best features.

Face: This doll has a great face.  It might not be my absolute favorite Merida face (I still prefer the quirky 12" face), but I like how the serious limited edition face mold has been re-painted with a different personality.

Hair:  Merida's hair should be great, and this is pretty great hair.  I am a bit on the fence here, because Merida's hair should probably be spectacular, but I am happy with the hair, and I think most kids would find it a delightful, fun feature that bounces and moves like the hair in the movie.

So, I'm very glad I have the talking Merida doll, but I will not be that eager to plunk down $30 for any more of the singing princesses.  Disney does such a wonderful job presenting their beloved characters in the traditional 12" line.  The smaller dolls offer great play quality, a high level of articulation, and a surprisingly affordable price.  I wonder why I was looking for anything else in the first place.


  1. That video was great :) Made me laugh

  2. Oh, my! I like your review, but I love that video! :)

  3. I loved this review complete with video, no less:D. (Poor Ariel, I hope she recovers, it looks like Ursula the Sea Witch kept her voice after all.) These dolls are too big for my tastes but I'm sure they'd make most little girls very happy.

  4. Oh, that Ariel looks fantastic!
    I think I've finally found an Ariel that fits my requirements, thank you alot for sharing her with us!

  5. That video was hilarious, it's so nice to hear them! Have you tried changing the batteries in Ariel (she sounds traumatized!)? They all look like really beautiful dolls though.

    1. Thank you, Molly. I'm sure you're right--some new batteries woud fix Ariel right up as good as new. Those itty bitty batteries are expensive, though, and I never remember to buy them when I'm out. :/

  6. Another great and hilarious review Emily!
    I quite like this Merida doll. I love the color of her hair and the curls look amazing!
    I don't know if she really has freckles, I haven't seen the movie yet but they really suit her.
    I'm sorry about the dissapointments though, especially the holes in her clothing and the elbow.
    Cinderella is a true delight, you can't go wrong with her! I wouldn't take that hairstyle down if I were you, it looks so perfect and impossible to recreate! :O
    The Ariel is so funny, of course it's not really that great that she doesn't function the way she's supposed to but I laughed so hard at her in the video!
    Her problem reminds me of an old Ariel toy I once had, she wouldn't stop making noise and my dad got crazy because of her xD
    The interview was truly great; the way the screen faded when Cinderella began to sing, Merida's awesome accent, Ariel and your response to her: ''It's ok, take your time.''
    This has to be one of the funniest things you've done so far Emily! (And it was so cool to hear your voice for the first time!)
    Overall, a great and useful review with lots of hilarious stuff!

    Just some news:
    My mom sent your package yesterday and I hope it arrives soon!
    I know you're going to like the doll! :D
    Also, I finally have Skelita! Had to go through a mini heart-attack when I saw her, plus had to spend all my birthday money but she was totally worth it! I also saw Scaris Clawdeen there and she's just so beautiful! She has to be one of my favorite Clawdeen's so far. I'm going to save money for her and for the Scaris Cafe even though I haven't seen that yet.
    If you come across the Scaris Cafe I would love for you to review it. I know you already have a ton of things to review but your reviews are the best! :D

    1. Many thanks, you sweet thing. ;) I love hearing your thoughts. You're SO right about taking Cinderella's hair down--I think it would be a huge mistake. I have such a hard time stopping myself from doing foolish things like that, though! XD I am so excited that you got a Skelita! She's very unique among all of the Monster High dolls. That's a wonderful birthday gift! A strange obsession ate all of my birthday money last weekend--I'll have to tell you about it. :) I will keep my eye out for the Scaris Cafe for you. I did my rounds at the stores today, but there was no sign of it yet. I am still hunting for the new Toralei superhero. She's amazing--and nowhere to be found.

    2. Sorry for this late reply Emily, I was busy with school all week!
      I think I can guess where you spent your birthday money on xD
      Thanks for keeping your eye out!
      I know, right? I love the new superhero line, Toralei is amazing but I also love Spectra soooo much! (Well, you know I'm a Spectra fan)

  7. I was really pleased to see another review for lovely Merida. The combination of that red hair with the teal dress is just gorgeous. I like her face very much but to me it looks more mature than it is in the movie. She looks like a girl in her late teens or early twenties. Does she have a wedding band on ;) Rumour has it that my mother in law is getting me the 12'' Merida for my birthday :) I was actually in the Disney store today. I didn't see the singing princesses but I did see the adorable toddler versions of them. So cute!!

    I love the Brave movie. Such a moving portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship. I was in floods of tears!! I have been impressed with Disney's recent princesses because they have so much more personality and spirit than the older gals (apologies to Cinderella).

    In other news, I have bought my first monster high dolls - CA Cupid and Scaris Ghoulia Yelps. I will never be able to resist buying more. Ghoulia's glasses look great on Liv Sophie with her pixie cut. When my 4 year old son saw them he said "Mummy! You have have GOT to stop buying all of these dolls. He makes a lot of sense that boy....

    Brilliant review and I loved the video.

    1. Your son's comment had me snickering out loud. :) I'm pretty sure I have heard similar words spoken in my house! Cupid is wonderful, but I can't remember if I've seen the Scaris Ghoulia yet... That's awesome that her glasses fit Sophie. I have some Ghoulia glasses that I need to try on my Sophie now! Thanks for the tip. Monster High dolls are a bit of an addiction, aren't they?

      I love the "Brave" movie, too, and I totally agree about the personalities of the newer princesses. I adore Cinderella, but her character in the Disney movie is nowhere near as three dimensional or spunky as Merida's or Rapunzel's. I prefer Drew Barrymore's interpretation of Cinderella in "Ever After."

      Ok. Now I need to watch "Brave" again. :)

  8. Didn't realize she was available...and on sale this weekend at the Disney site at 40% off...woo hoo!

    1. You're right! I should have mentioned that!! Good call.

    2. I love your review emily..I am from to collect dolls but its hard to get them..anyways all the best

  9. That video was HILARIOUS! XD and once again, you made an awesome review! ;)

  10. That interview video was hilarious. Poor Ariel. It's not great that she's not working properly, but the glitchiness made for such a humorous video. XD

  11. Hello from Spain: I like your analysis. You always do a great job. Nice pictures. I have the same Merida of Disney. The video did not know it. Very creative. We keep in touch.

  12. wow what a coincident, I recently thought I wish I could have one of your great reviews on Merida talking doll since she's currently high on my doll list and I was jumping with joy when I saw it great review I haven't seen the video but from what I saw in comments it sounds funny

  13. Merida wins my heart every time! I have the 12" Merida and I totally love her, Especially her hair lol. I'm happy that you mentioned Kelly Macdonald, Because I remember when I seen Brave I kept telling myself I knew her voice from somewhere. long story short, I figured it out! She plays Margaret on HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Where she is always talking in her beautiful Scottish voice.

    Anyway, You take amazing photos! I'm so jealous, I can never get good photos like that. What is your secret?

    1. Ok, now I need to check out Boardwalk Empire! Never heard of it and I LOVE Scottish accents. I used to have one myself, if you can believe it.

      Thank you for the compliment on my photos--I have a small Canon point-and-shoot camera that used to belong to my mom. It works pretty well, but I have a constant battle with lighting. Incandescent lights are too yellow and fluorescent lights are too blue! My secret (if I have one) is this: take a thousand pictures and then delete three quarters of them. :)

  14. I love Merida's face! If you were going to rebody her for more articulation what body would you choose?

    1. That's a good question! Of the bodies I have, the Tonner Cami body would be best in terms of scale and body type (and I adore that body) but the vinyl colors don't match at all. I wonder if I could find a Tonner teen body that would work...I'll have to investigate this a little bit more! It's a great idea.

  15. I found it quite weird how all Merida's dolls doesn't look like her at all...I mean look at the back the box it is completely two different characters. Merida's dolls remind more of Coraline doll in fact.

    1. I see what you're saying. The doll and the picture on the back of the box do look very different. On the other hand, though, I look at the doll and I am positive who she is supposed to be. I think the picture on the back of the box is not the best picture of Merida. There's something funny about her mouth from that angle.

  16. Great review! I've been trying to decide between the 16 inch and 12 inch Merida dolls. Love these taller girls! It's really helpful to know 16 inch Merida doesn't have articulated wrists and ankles 'cause you can't see that when she's in the box. The two taller girls are lovely but I definately love the 12 inch Meridas face most! Her expression is just irresistable! :D

    1. Thank you, Becky! It's hard to beat that charming little 12" Merida! I am tempted by the new one in the light blue dress. :)

  17. ...forgot to mention that your video made me giggle so much! :D

  18. omg check out the cutie pops facebook page. looks like a new doll in their swirly brights line. Excitement! (I no i no... Soooooo off topic.)

    1. Eeeee! Blue hair? Black pleather coat? Awesome! Looks like there's a big announcement tomorrow. Thank you for that wonderful tip! I have been hiding from facebook lately, so I would have missed it. ;)

  19. Emily,
    have you seen the new create a witch sets from bratzillaz. I have no interest in buying these sets but I would love a review by you!

    -Chloe @

    1. I have they kind of seem like a total monsterhigh wannabe. it's a bit sad they couldnt come up with their own idea

    2. Whoa! Very interesting! It does look almost indistinguishable from the Create-a-Monster sets, at least from a distance. I might have to get my hands on one of those and do a comparison...
      Thank you for the tip, Chloe! I will keep an eye out.

  20. I just gave this to my wife for her birthday and she loves it! She got one for her niece for Christmas so we already knew that but it's still pretty fun. Unfortunately, I bought this at our local Disney Store at the after Christmas sale (good thing, too, the store closed 2/28) and now the batteries are dying. "I am Merida, first born of clan Dun Brauch a..." This is why we're at this review, to see if they can be changed without completely removing her from the box. Alas...

    Great review! Very complete and informative. Thank you!

  21. Merida totally has freckles, though they are rather light. Here's some up close shots I was able to find on the net:

    Though I have to admit that if you don't squint you can easily miss them.

    Thanks for the great review!

  22. A great review! The video was so funny I watched it three times in a row. :] Keep up the great work!

  23. Another fab review!

    I got this doll yesterday (Ebay). I _love_ her face but I try to ignore her body. I have the exact same issue shown in the review, with her non-wired elbow. I can only assume that the folks at Disney have taken care of it in subsequent 17'' dolls; it's really bad!

    I wish the joints would feel the same as Monster High: Smooth and fairly tight - especially the knees. A doll that buckles at the knees is just sad.

    Anyway, the face is quirky and adorable and the mold is actually very asymmetric which impresses me. I think she'll stay with me for a while! I look forward to making her a new outfit. Maybe something like this:

  24. I LOVE Merida. being scottish makes me biased though, but it's so nice to hear a real scottish accent in mainstream media.

  25. is this your favorite? i could tell from your other reviews you like red hair, side glancing eyes, and freckles, and she has all of those!

  26. Just saw this. Love the review! I actually think this doll might just be a great doll in this size. This is my preferred size. I have more vintage dolls in this size as it seems out of vogue these days. But I am not such a fan of the movie that I can't just see this as a lovely doll in a great size!

  27. OK, I've just been inside a Disney shop for the first time ever, and it's all your fault, Emily - I just wanted to see some of the dolls I've been reading about in the plastic. They had the 12" Rapunzel and Merida, and over the sound system they were playing the things that Talking Merida says (though they didn't have a Talking Merida for sale, as far as I could see). I was enjoying hearing Kelly Macdonald's voice when all of a sudden...she said a word that should have been 'mischievous' but she pronounced it 'misCHEEvious'. Gone right off her now.