Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Musical Magic Elsa" Doll by Mattel

Well, I am making some progress through my crazy-busy week (seven more lanterns done!) and wanted to post a short review of a Frozen honor of yesterday's much-anticipated DVD release.  Many of us were hoping for an enduring re-stock of Disney Store Frozen dolls to accompany the DVD debut, but this hasn't happened yet.  Most of the dolls seem to have come back into stock a few days ago (I don't know exactly when..I missed it), but they quickly sold out again.  As I'm writing this, only the mini doll set is still available.

I reviewed the Disney Store's 16" Singing Elsa doll a few months ago, and so today I want to give you a quick overview of one of Mattel's musical dolls, Musical Magic Elsa.  There is also a Musical Magic Anna, and these dolls have a retail price of around $26 each.  Musical Elsa, like every other Elsa doll on the planet these days, has become quite scarce, and so her current asking price is more like $50-$60.

"Musical Magic Elsa," by Mattel.  Not worth $50.
This doll's musical feature is activated by touching two metal discs on the palms of her hands.  The box has holes in the plastic window so that you can sample the music before you buy her.  This test gives a very short snippet of music, rather than activating the full song.

Apparently the Anna and Elsa dolls are designed to be able to sing together when they join hands:

That's a very cute idea.
The plastic front of Elsa's box is perforated, so it can be ripped off without any scissors if necessary.  The cardboard backdrop has the Arendelle scene that is on most of the other Frozen dolls' boxes.

Elsa's ice dress looks really frumpy in the box.  This is partly because of the clumsy yoke neckline, and partly because one of the plastic strings that holds the doll in place is wrapped around the train, making the outfit look like a loose-fitting, dropped-waist pinafore...or maybe a flapper dress:

Pilgrim ice couture.
It's nice that the train has a sparkling snowflake pattern, though.  This is one of the features that I love about the Disney Store's 12" Elsa.

Here's Musical Elsa removed from her box.  The dress looks a little better with the train released from the packaging, but it's still not a very attractive dress:

Elsa has a sweet, slightly blank face with features that are very similar (identical?) to the Mattel Anna doll:

She has very large blue eyes set at an exaggerated downward angle:

Elsa's hair is styled into a messy, lopsided, thick ponytail with one stray curl of bangs in the middle of her forehead.  This might be the worst I have ever seen play doll hair look right out of the box:

Elsa is wearing a large, glittery blue plastic tiara.  The tiara is held on with a clear head strap, but is also stapled to her head with plastic ties:

Elsa is wearing a tunic-style cape and a blue skirt with an elastic waistband.  I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that the pretty snowflake decorations on the cape do not continue in back.  Ironically, it's the back of the dress that really needs some decoration--to hide the obvious singing apparatus.

Only the side panels have snowflakes.
The bodice of the dress is part of Elsa's hard plastic body:  

The fabric of this outfit is extremely cheap and very few of the edges are finished.  The neck piece is sewn all around both edges, but it's not sewn particularly well:

The polyester skirt is simple and unadorned, but it's very easy to slide on and off and would be perfect for younger children just getting started with changing the clothes on their dolls.

A few holes and wrinkles from the packaging.
The design of the cape makes this piece of clothing slightly difficult to put on and take off.  The garment opens in the back, but only at the top.  In front, the collar prevents the cape from sliding on over Elsa's shoulders.  You have to have Elsa step into the cape, pull it up, wrestle her arms into the arm holes, and then fasten it in back.

The shoes on this doll are a vast improvement over the Disney Store Elsa's blue slippers:

I think these shoes are the only thing about Mattel's Elsa that is superior to the 12"Disney Store Elsa dolls.  

Disney's 12" Elsa (J.C. Penney version), Mattel's Musical Magic Elsa.
I only have the J.C. Penney version of the Disney Store's Elsa doll out of her box at this point, but even with her simplified dress and unarticulated elbows, I find her to be a nicer doll than Musical Magic Elsa.  I also find the J.C. Penney doll much more reminiscent of the character in the movie.  Sure, she doesn't sing or light up, but she also only costs $12 (when she's in stock).

Musical Elsa's body has only five points of articulation (her knees don't bend).  Her hips have ball-jointed movement, but her shoulders can only spin around.  Her head can look up and down a little bit.

In order to facilitate activation of the music and lights, this doll's arms are slightly bent at the elbows, and angled away from her body.  This position is great for triggering the song (and joining hands with Anna, as we'll see...) but it's not so great for playing or posing.

Elsa has a very glittery, translucent torso with a molded snowflake pattern  This area lights up when the music is playing.

Her neck is adorned with lace-like bumps painted pastel blue:

The back of the doll reveals all of the features necessary for the song mechanism.  There's a small speaker, a battery compartment and a plastic tab that prevents the whole song from playing in the stores.

Unfortunately, this doll is made in Indonesia (and she has a very hard, probably glue-filled head).

Elsa can achieve a few stiff-looking poses:

At this point, I was anxious to activate the musical part of the doll.  In order to play the song while I was filming, I attached a wire to one of Elsa's hands and then touched the other end of the wire to her other hand once I got the camera ready:

As you can hear, there are no words to the song, but it is a fairly pleasant (maybe slightly shrill) version of Let it Go.  It's hard for me not to love this song in any form.  The nice thing is, Elsa stops singing once the connection between her hands is broken, so she can't be left crooning on for ages like the Disney Store dolls.  I do wonder how easy it is for younger kids to maintain this connection throughout the whole song, though. 

As much as I enjoy the a cappella Let it Go sung by the Disney Store's Singing Elsa doll, this instrumental version really invites a child (or adult...) to sing along.

I detached Elsa's tiara from her head so that I could get a better look at her hair.

This doll's hair looks much nicer once it's taken down.  It is very thick and reasonably soft.  While it brushes out well, I had a hard time re-braiding it in a way that looks tidy.  I think part of the problem is that the hair isn't long enough for a solid braid, and also that the ends are quite rough and tend to frizz out.

The hair around Elsa's face is pulled into a ponytail at the back of her head:

This leaves some visible roots on either side of her head:

Of course I had to see what Anna and Elsa sound like when they're singing together.  I was very curious about how this would work.

Rather than playing an instrumental version of For the First Time in Forever (as I had hoped) Anna just plays back-up to Elsa's song:

The mechanism for making the dolls sing together is actually quite clever: the metal contact points on the dolls' hands stick to each other with magnets, so it's very easy to activate the songs and keep the dolls connected until the music is finished.  The problem is, the dolls will keep singing until you pull them apart.

When Anna and Elsa are first connected, they play their songs in synch...but painfully out of tune:

The bigger problem is that if they are left connected, they will continue to sing...but will get increasingly out of synch.  It becomes downright unbearable after a while:

The dolls look adorable when they're singing together, though:

Bottom line?  I am ridiculously excited to have the Frozen DVD in my house.  I cannot wait until this weekend, when I plan to make some serious popcorn and watch this amazing movie again...and then maybe again.  Unfortunately, I am not as enthusiastic about the Musical Magic Elsa doll.  I certainly don't think she's worth the inflated prices on eBay and Amazon.  She is minimally articulated, with awkward, half-bent arms that stick out from her body.  Her clothing is very cheaply made and is nowhere near as attractive or movie-accurate as the Disney Store outfits.  The combination of a molded bodice and an elastic-waisted skirt is a great idea for making the doll easy to handle for younger children, but the awkward tunic-like cape negates this by being unnecessarily difficult to use.  This Elsa's face is not bad--she's happy and bright, but her features are missing all of the movie character's wonderful spunk and personality.  

This doll's electronic features will probably delight younger Frozen fans, provided that the activating mechanism isn't too difficult for small hands.  Elsa's blue illuminating torso is quite pretty.  In fact, the glowing plastic bodice of the dress is the best part of the whole outfit.  The instrumental version of Let it Go might be missing Idina Menzel's voice, but it will invite children to sing the words themselves, karaoke style.  Singing along to the music (as I've discovered from personal experience) is really fun (although maybe a little off key...).  Whatever you do, though, don't let the two sisters sing their duet.  It's a train wreck.  

The Elsa doll market is difficult to navigate right now.  Prices and availability are highly unpredictable, and while reason and experience tell me that both the Mattel dolls and the Disney Store dolls will come back into stock eventually (at their regular prices), how much help is that for an excited young child who desperately wants a Frozen doll to play with now?  Given the current market, I would say that if you are shopping for a child, and can find this Musical Magic Elsa for $25, go for it.  That's about as good as you'll get right now, and the musical element of the doll is a fun reminder of the movie.  However, if all of the prices remain inflated, I'd much rather pay too much for a Disney Store doll than for a Musical Magic doll.  The Disney Store's 12" Elsa has more articulation, a beautiful outfit, softer hair, a more unique face, and better overall quality.  Even my J.C. Penney version of Elsa, with her simplified dress and unarticulated arms, is a superior doll in my opinion.  

I think that the best option by far is to get a Disney Store Elsa doll at its normal, reasonable price.  That seems a bit like a fairy tale right now, granted, but the dolls will be re-stocked eventually, and they--just like the DVD, will surely be worth the wait. 


  1. Great review as always! I don't think I could listen to her for any length of time though (music sounds waaaay too shrill)

    It's funny , I thought I would like this doll more with her forward gaze (the side glancing eyes bug when posing, lol) but when side by side with the JC Penney one she looks more like a Cinderella than an Elsa!

  2. Another great review, Emily. :) I'm in total Frozen mode right now with the DVD/Blu-ray Release and a blog party to boot. :)

    I completely agree with you, too: the Disney Store dolls are far superior to the Mattel versions and are well worth the wait. Just looking at your last picture is confirmation. There's so much more personality to your JC Penney's Elsa than the Mattel one. I haven't been impressed with any of the Disney Mattel Frozen dolls. They all have limited articulation and painted on clothing.

    We caught the very end of the last brief group of Disney Store Frozen dolls. I got a couple of Annas (one for Middle Gal and one for me to keep in the box), but we missed Elsas for Oldest Gal and Little Gal by mere minutes! :( There are supposed to be more coming in stock, so I'll be haunting the website over the next few weeks. I'm not about to pay eBay prices for her. :}

  3. I managed to get a Disney Store Anna before Christmas, but I've never been able to find an Elsa :( Even if I manage to catch them back in stock on the Disney site, the shipping to Canada is kind of atrocious...But man, I'm getting a bit desperate!

    1. Lol this is so late but they are back in stock at disney store.

  4. este es el mismo mecanismo de las muñecas puffi amy yumi de mattel que tambien pueden cantar juntas o por separado. No sé si soy yo o las muñecas mattel han bajado mucho de calidad.

  5. I've always avoided fashion dolls with molded on clothing. To me the best thing about a fashion doll is getting to dress her up and the molded on clothing completely prevents that. Also the Disney store dolls just have far superior faces, the Mattel dolls barely look like Anna and Elsa in my opinion.

    1. Oh I think your spelling of Arendelle is incorrect by the way.

  6. Molded on clothing is a big no for me but wow she sings. Pity they did not make the dress full and and able to hide her spice bottle back. Lee

  7. Wow, that is one cheap looking doll. Mattel's skimping on backs of dresses is getting ridiculous. Do the shoes at least fit on a Disney doll? Otherwise there's really nothing useful about it. Maybe you can throw in new batteries and resell her for those big prices...

  8. I'm not crazy about the Mattel versions of the Disney princesses. The buttons on Anna and Elsa's hands to make them sing together were also used for Mattel's Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi dolls about 9 years ago. Their arms were also bent at an awkward angle to allow the button on each doll's hand to meet, but it made posing difficult, and impossible for them to "play" their guitars!

  9. heya, i've been reading, and enjoying, your doll reviews for quite some time now!
    i read you really like Cinderella based dolls and i just recently learned that there are 2 pullip Cinderellas and i thought you might be interested in checking them out (though i have to say the princess version is rather pricey...)

    anyways, great review! and i agree, elsa merchandise right now is so pricey, it's crazy!

  10. Oh my goodness, the second video of their "duet" is hilarious! I think it could qualify as torture.

  11. Recession affects all up to mattel has had to cut costs

  12. And I officially feel bad for Anna despite the fact her real-world incarnations are all plastic--I haven't seen an Elsa in person since the movie first came out but there are truckloads of Anna dolls swelling the Disney aisles in most of the stores down here. I really hope Disney gets it together and reships fast, because all the other Elsas look SO goony...and I'm almost positive the one you reviewed has the exact same face mold, which is giving her a serious racoon face.

  13. Hello Emily,
    It's me, Meiyin. I really enjoyed reading and watching your review.
    I think it's a little bit stupid that Elsa and Anna share almost the same face, especially because these dolls are so expensive. Pic also dislike the see trough torso part, it's a cool idea, but they could have used fabric to cover up their chest.. Like thin fabric.. Eg: like Frankie Stein Ghouls Alive..
    Also, this Elsa isn't really .. Elsa..

    I am also very sorry for not commenting on you videos for such a long time, I am having a busy time at school. D:
    Kind regards,

  14. Oh you are so lucky to have your DVD already. It is released on 31st March here in the UK. I have pre-ordered it and I plan to watch it at least once a day for about a week and a half ;) I love this movie so much and, like so many others, really really want a Disney Elsa doll. I saw these musical ones during a shopping trip to London a few weeks ago. I was mildly tempted but having read your review I am so glad that I didn't bother getting one. I find those glittery moulded on bodices a turn off and I would prefer it to be the actual song and not just the music. Her dress is very disappointing too. I went into a couple of Disney stores and of course they had no Frozen dolls apart from poor unwanted Christoph and lots of stuffed Olafs, which we may get in time. The thing that disappointed me most was that they had none of those nice Merida dolls that you reviewed a while back. The only ones they had were cheap looking and unappealing. They did have some of the collectors dolls from the new Tinkerbell Pirate movie and they were amazing. I will be interested to see the collectors Elsa and Anna when they come out. Thanks for the review. I don't get around to commenting so much these days, but I am reading them. I thought that I was done with my one Bratzillaz dolls but your recent review has made me think again. I have added Angelic Sounds to my wishlist. She is just so cute!! Good luck with the lantern making. You are amazing to do all of that and keep up with the blog.

  15. the head mold is perfect for repainting though, it holds so much potential with it, check Lulemee work if you can Emily, their amazing :), Mattel head molds resembles the characters more than Disney ones when she does the repaint

  16. the head mold is perfect for repainting though, it holds so much potential with it, check Lulemee work if you can Emily, their amazing :), Mattel head molds resembles the characters more than Disney ones when she does the repaint

  17. I still haven't seen the movie (I'm going to see it at a friend's house soon though!) so my opinion about the movie will not influence my opinion about this doll. With that in mind, I wouldn't buy this doll. You've summed up all the bad things about this Elsa and I think this doll can only be really appreciated by a true fan of the movie, which I'm not (yet). The Disney store dolls are much more appealing to me. Even without having to see the movie, I think lot's of people would love to have a Disney store Frozen doll, including me. The mattel dolls though, not so much. Especially not the musical magic dolls. Like you said, I'd much rather spend more money on a Disney store doll than a Mattel doll in this case ;)

  18. Aw, it kind of disappoints me that they took away Elsa's personality from her face, and especially her hair! I really don't like the quality of the dress for the singing one, it's horrendous. The Disney doll is infinitely much better!

  19. I LOVE Frozen, but I really don't like the WalMart dolls. Elsa does not have a sweet chubby face! She has slanted eyes and a "don't mess with me" expression! The half smiles are fine, but I believe they dodged a bullet.

  20. Anywhere I can purchase just the shoes for the Elsa doll. My daughter lost one of them and it is driving her nuts. Thanks