Saturday, April 12, 2014

18-Inch Savannah by Maru and Friends

Maru and Friends offers a small collection of 20 inch, high-quality, all-vinyl play dolls.  The dolls were created by Maritza Gutierrez with the idea of putting beautiful, realistic, culturally diverse dolls into the hands of children.  The central character, Maru, is described as a Latina girl who moved to America in search of a better life.  Maru has found some wonderful new friends to give her support and help ease the transition into her new situation.  These friends (Jamie, Savanna, Raven and Tanya) make up the rest of the doll collection.  Maru and Friends dolls can be purchased for $115 at the company's online store or at the Aventura Mall in Miami.  These dolls can also be found online for £109 at the lovely My Doll Best Friend shop in the United Kingdom.

I purchased my Maru and Friends doll almost a year ago and she has been waiting all of this time for her review.  I was tempted by all of the Maru and Friends characters, especially Maru herself, but I ended up (predictably) choosing the redheaded, blue-eyed Savannah:

Maru and Friends Savannah, $115.
On the Maru and Friends website, there's an article that describes the doll boxes as "boxes of sunshine."  This is an apt description because the cardboard boxes are a bright, cheery orange color.  Two opposite corners of the box's plastic window are decorated with large orange flowers:

The Maru and Friends logo includes an adorable little ladybug:

The back of the box is also bright orange and is decorated with a mix of flowers and ladybugs:

It's just a happy box.
The text on the back of the box is slightly confusing, but I get the message:

I have not seen any matching apparel for young girls on the website.  Maybe at the mall store?
Maru and Friends dolls are sculpted by the famous doll artist Dianna Effner.  Ms. Effner is known for her heart-tuggingly realistic vinyl and porcelain child dolls.  Effner dolls have the most beautiful, three dimensional painted eyes I have ever seen; they look like glass eyes.  I am a huge fan of Ms. Effner's work, and am currently waiting for one of her custom 13" studio vinyl dolls.  These dolls are in such high demand that it can take up to a year for orders to be fulfilled.  I know it will be worth the wait.

My Savannah had a bunch of goodies packed into the bottom of her box.  Many of these things come with every doll, but I also ordered an extra sweater set that was packed with my doll.  

The Maru doll is unique in that she comes with a hardcover book called The Forever Friends that describes the young girl's adventures in America.  Savannah does not come with a book.

Stored on one side of the box were a two-sided postcard and a small business card thanking me for my purchase:

The postcard has a photograph of all of the Maru characters dressed in ballet outfits.  These outfits are available for separate purchase ($39-$47):

The flip side of the postcard has smaller portraits of each doll wearing her meet outfit:

On the other side of the box, I found a certificate of authenticity and my sweater set package:

The sweater came wrapped up like a cheeseburger:

Now I'm hungry.
I love the colors in this set.  When I purchased Savannah, I figured that I would be reviewing her in the fall and these colors would be perfect.  The mix of yellow, orange and green is not quite as appropriate for this time of the year, but it's still gorgeous:

This limited edition, hand-knit, mohair sweater set cost me $23.99 last August.  Right now, a few of the sweater sets are still available, but they come with leggings and boots and cost $39.99.

The mix of yarn texture and color is wonderful.  The yarn at the bottom of the sweater has tiny little pom-poms attached to it:

It can't be easy to knit with these!

The sweater has a slit over one shoulder that closes with a single button.  This makes it easier to get the sweater on over the doll's head:

Savannah will model this sweater set later, but for now let's look at her as she came:

Savannah's outfit consists of a shirt and shorts set with gingham accents.  It reminds me a little of My Salon Doll Sydni's outfit.  She also comes with a brown over-the-shoulder bag and has matching brown shoes.  

In the box, Savannah's face and hair were covered with a fine hairnet.  Her wide-brimmed safari hat was tied on over the hairnet, keeping everything nicely in place:

I removed the hat and the hairnet:

The hat is made out of a medium weight light khaki canvas:

The hat has wonderful details, like the matching hat band and the stitched rows around the brim:

The inside of the hat has a satiny beige lining: 

Savannah has a beautiful red wig.  Her shoulder length hair has feathery, layered ends.  Her bangs are nicely done--thick and full, but without a harsh blunt-cut edge:

The hair fiber feels amazing and is very easy to manage.  It is silky and smooth with texture just like 18" My Twinn Annie, American Girl Keira, and all of my Karito Kids.

The wig is plenty thick, but also has some shorter strands of hair near the cap in order to conceal some of the stitching:

Savannah's satchel-style bag is made out of a rich brown imitation leather:

The body of the bag is circular, and it has a zippered opening with an overlaying velcro tab:

The grid line stitching pattern that is visible on the outside of the bag also makes a nice checkered pattern against the white interior:

The bag is very nicely made and seems sturdy and functional.

Savannah has a beautiful face with a sweet, neutral expression.  Her proportions are realistic and I can see Dianna Effner's style in her features--especially in her expressive, impish mouth: 

I love the combination of her bright red hair, pale freckled face, and soft, realistic blue eyes.  My doll has slightly misaligned eyes, which is more noticeable in some positions than in others.

The eyes themselves are a beautiful color with black-rimmed irises and tiny flecks of brown.  They look like glass paperweight eyes, but they are actually made out of plastic.  The freckles are nowhere near as realistic as my two Paola Reina dolls' freckles, but they are cute and subtle.

The eyes are framed by black applied lashes on top and delicately painted lashes on the bottom.  The eyebrows are light brown and have a nice mix of well-defined brush strokes with some finer details added in:

Savannah's mouth is painted an opaque rosy terra cotta color and has a quirky little half-smile.

The style of Savannah's outfit is not my personal taste (I have never liked gingham--too much of it when I was a kid, perhaps?), but I find these clothes beautiful anyway because of how meticulously they are constructed.  The outfit consists of a short-sleeved camp shirt and belted shorts.

The green gingham sleeves are perfectly micro-gathered and have a nice, uniform puff all around.  The gingham also appears in the collar of the shirt and at the edge of the two breast pockets.  Each pocket also has a central pleat that is lined with green.

The shirt has four buttons, but these are decorative.  There's a long strip of velcro that actually holds the shirt closed:

Underneath the shirt, Savannah is wearing a white cotton jersey tank top:

The shorts have green gingham cuffs and are held up with a pink gingham belt.  I like the contrast that the pink provides.  The front pockets are highly detailed and actually open, but the two back pockets are just for decoration.  My doll's shorts came out of the box scrunched off to one side, and you can see that they suffer from a few creases in front because of this:

The belt has a working buckle and is lined with pink satin.  I'm pretty sure that this is the nicest, most sturdily constructed doll belt I have ever seen.

One of the short pockets is pleated to match the pockets on the shirt, the other is a traditional patch pocket with a gingham lining:

The waistband of the shorts is lined with cream satin:

Under the shorts, Savannah has white cotton panties that match her tank top.  These undergarments are also well made:

Savannah is wearing knee-high knit socks and imitation leather hiking boots.  The socks have pink pom-pom tassels that match the gingham belt:

The hiking boots are sturdy and solid, with thick soles and stiff edges.  These shoes help Savannah stand very nicely on her own.

The boots have a separate tongue and actually lace up in front:

The quilted pattern in the soft cuff of the boots matches the pattern on Savannah's bag:

The lace holes are not reinforced with eyelets, and so one of the holes is starting to tear:

The boots are not lined and have a plain white interior:

The soles are made out of black plastic (vinyl?) and have tread indentations along the sides:

Savannah has an all-vinyl body that is strung with elastic.  My doll is very well-strung and hold poses perfectly.  She also balances well, even in her bare feet.  The vinyl is heavy and smooth and has a beautiful color that my silly camera might not capture very well.  She has five points of articulation:

I love getting a doll with a completely new shape, and Savannah is definitely one of those dolls.  She has long, slender limbs, sloping shoulders and a healthy little belly and hips:

Savannah's neck joint moves really well, and she can hold her head in almost any position, but the rounded end of her neck joint can stick out and look awkward in some positions:

Dianna Effner's signature was sculpted into the doll's back:

Savannah has delicate hands and feet:

I think the shape of her feet is especially realistic:

Here is one of Savannah's feet next to an American Girl foot so that you can see the size and shape difference:

What's interesting is that Savannah balances so well on her own despite these petite feet.

Savannah's partially bent arms and highly mobile neck add a lot of expressiveness to her small range of poses:

Because Savannah has a different shape from the other 18" play dolls I own, there were a lot of comparisons I wanted to make.  First, here she is next to an American Girl doll and a Karito Kid:

Karito Kid "Gia," Maru and Friends "Savannah," My American Girl.
Gia, the Karito Kid, is the closest in size and proportion to Savannah.  These two dolls are almost exactly the same height.  Some minor differences are that Savannah has a smaller head, smaller limbs (particularly at the extremities), more angled shoulders, and a narrower curve to her waist.

My American Girl, Keira, has a roughly similar torso size, but Savannah is longer in the waist.  Keira has much chunkier limbs, to the point where her hands won't fit through the sleeves of Savannah's shirt.

Here is Savannah next to a Journey Girl and a Carpatina doll:

Journey Girl "Dana," Maru and Friends "Savannah," Carpatina "Erin."
The Journey Girl, Dana, is the most similar to Savannah is this lineup.  Carpatina Erin's limbs are similar in thickness, but she's more slender in the torso and quite a bit shorter overall.

I realized that despite her height, Savannah has proportions similar to the slim 18" play dolls, so I gathered a few more of those for comparison.  Here is Savannah with my Zwergnase Junior doll and my Girl for All Time doll.  They are both quite a bit more petite than Savannah, although the Zwergnase doll is almost as tall:

Zwergnase Junior doll "Ivanca," Maru and Friends "Savannah," A Girl for All Time "Clementine."
At first I forgot about poor Evie from Kidz 'n' Cats, so here's another picture of her with Savannah and Clementine.  

Kidz 'n' Cats "Evita," Maru and Friends "Savannah," A Girl for All Time "Clementine."
Evie is a bit wider than Clementine, but I still don't think skirts and pants could be shared between these two.  Tops might be interchangeable because of Evie's broad shoulders.

For fun, I also did a lineup with my Extra Special Doll and My Salon Doll:

Extra Special Dolls "Grace," Maru and Friends "Savannah," My Salon Doll "Sydni."
And here is Savannah with two of my Best Friends Club, Ink girls (the older body type on the left and the newer body on the right):

BFC Ink "Kaitlin" (older body, cut hair), Maru and Friends "Savannah," BFC Ink "Kaitlin" (newer body).
I'll admit that I didn't test out every possible combination of clothes among all of these dolls.  There are probably a lot of garments from a wide range of doll lines that would fit Savannah, but not a lot of consistencies.

I'll show you a few things that I found could fit Savannah fairly well.  First (not surprisingly) the Karito Kids clothes fit Savannah fine, although Gia's skirt is pretty loose and slides down a lot.  Also, the boots are way too big and I just added them to complete the outfit:

That exposed belly is because the skirt is slipping...
not because the shirt is too short.
The green mock turtleneck fits well and the color looks great with Savannah's hair:

Many of the bottoms from other doll lines, including these My Salon Doll shorts, are too tight for Savannah:

Some Journey Girl pieces fit, the tops are just slightly short and the bottoms are short and a little tight:

Again, the shoes are way, way too big.
The shirts don't pass the arm lifting test (which my mom often made me do when I was younger...):

This Journey Girl jacket looks good, even with the too-short sleeves:

I was very surprised to see that American Girl clothes fit as well as they do.  I figured the tops would be fine, but assumed that the bottoms would be too loose.  In fact, Savannah's belly keeps Keira's elasticized grey skirt up nicely, and while the AG Sweet Spring dress is a bit short, it also fits pretty well.  American Girl and 18" My Twinn dolls can both wear Savanna's shorts.

The piece of clothing that looks best on Savannah is the gorgeous sweater I purchased with her:

I wanted to get a few pictures of Savannah outside in the natural light, so I put together this outfit for our little adventure:

This is the Karito Kids skirt (with the belt cinched tight...), the Maru and Friends sweater, socks (pom-poms removed because they didn't coordinate) and shoes.

I have to say, it's not such a great time of year for outdoor exploring.  All of the snow is melting in our new-found 68 degree weather, but that means that everything is soggy and muddy.  I enjoyed some of the contrasts near the woods, though--thick patches of snow paired with areas of completely dry (dead) grass. This mix of landscapes seemed oddly appropriate for a doll who has had to wait through three season changes to get her review.

It almost looks like fall right here!

Bottom line?  What a charming doll.  I think my only criticism of this doll is that she came with slightly wonky eyes.  And they're not even that wonky.

The Maru and Friends doll line isn't breaking any new ground.  The dolls are equivalent in size to many other play dolls, they are made in China, their price is competitive, and they don't have a special theme or stylized features that make them really stand out from the crowd.  What makes these dolls special, I think, is that they quietly do everything really well. The hair is gorgeous and easy to manage, the eyes are bright and realistic, the facial expressions are endearing and versatile, the clothes are incredibly well made, the doll is balanced and sturdy, the vinyl body is nicely shaped and perfectly strung, and the vinyl itself is a beautiful, natural color.  In addition, for a doll line with only five characters, the ethnic diversity is admirable and appealing.

Perhaps what I appreciate most about Savannah is the effort to make her look like a real child.  She does not have an oversized head or huge eyes, and her body has refreshingly realistic bumps and curves.  From head to toe, I think she is the most beautiful doll that I own in this scale.

This is a short summary (especially for me!) but sometimes it is that simple.  This is a gorgeous, high-quality play doll being sold at just the right price.  I wish that I had met Savannah when I was much younger, because she seems like an ideal play companion.  Even to my adult self, though, this doll has a rare appeal.  Amidst a burgeoning collection with lots of wonderful dolls, this particular redhead has quickly become a favorite.


  1. She's beautiful! I can't say I'm too fond of the body shape, but her hair and eyes are so pretty.

    1. Thank you, Juliet! She has a funny little body, doesn't she? I find it very endearing for some reason!

  2. I love your blog and want it nominate you for the Liebster Award but don't know how. Can you explain it to me?

    1. Hm. I can't say I know anything about that! It is very kind of you to think of me for an award, though! Wow. The best reward is just getting lovely feedback like this, though. Thank you!!

  3. Do you prefer the Maru and Friends dolls or Karito Kids after reviewing Savannah?

    1. That is an excellent question. I wrote a section about this in the review and then deleted it because I was feeling unsure. When I scroll through the body comparison pictures, the Karito Kid Gia and Savannah stand out to me as the two most impressive dolls. Also Gracie from Extra Special--but for a different collection of reasons. Anyway, I was asking myself which was my very favorite overall. This is always a hard question! Both are beautiful and amazing. If I had to choose right now, though, it'd be Savannah. She is heavy and solid and feels really nice in my hands. She is also very well constructed and holds poses much better than Gia...and her face is just perfect to me. :)

  4. Just beautiful! :) I've been interested in this line for a while but have not had a chance to review one (limited budget and all). ;)

    BTW, unless I'm grossly mistaken, your BFC Ink Kaitlin with the cut hair actually has the older body style. According to what I've observed and reviewed, the more articulated bodies didn't come until later on in the line. With your attention to detail I thought you might want to know. :)

    1. Oh, you are right, beastsbelle! I bought the strung doll more recently and assumed that the body style was newer. I much prefer the hinge-jointed dolls and was wondering why MGA made such a bad change, but if the strung dolls are older, that explains everything. :) Thank you so much for the correction!! I see that you even have a wonderful comparison review of the two styles that could have explained everything! My bad!

    2. Glad to help! I almost didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to come across as condescending or anything. :} I much prefer the hinge-jointed style myself and am very glad they made the change. :) I wish these dolls were still in production, but I've managed to find a few in good shape at thrift stores. :)

      Have a great day!

  5. She is simply gorgeous! She has such an expressive face and beautiful eyes. I really like her gingham outfit, too, and of course, that sweater set looks lovely on her. I still prefer the articulation of the Girl for All Time dolls, but Savannah does have a stunning face.

    1. Thank you so much! It's funny how I have relaxed in my criticism of 18" play doll articulation. So few of these dolls have extra articulation, I have stopped wishing for it! :) Most of the time I am just happy to find a doll this scale with good head mobility--it makes such a difference!

  6. Savannah is just gorgeous. I have Maru and the faces that Dianna Effner have created are just stunning! If I get another Maru & Friends doll it will probably be Savannah - although Tanya is pretty cool as well. Great review as always!

    1. Thank you, Char! It's neat that you're eyeing Savannah, because I have been looking at your pictures and admiring Maru! :D I think she would be my next doll if I could have another. Dianna Effner is amazingly talented. Some of her studio dolls are just incredible--those faces melt me!!

  7. Her face is adorable. She looks like a real little girl, with a real personality and seems to be staring straight at the camera. I'm more into dolls with at least 11 points of articulation, but out of all the 18"-ish play dolls you have reviewed this is one I would love to buy and I'd be so tempted to carry her around with me like a looney old lady. I knit for my dolls too, and that pom pom yarn isn't so difficult, but changing the yarn for all the different stripes would have been very fiddly. She reminds me of dolls I had when I was little. Beautiful.

    1. Oh, I know what you mean, Moondolly! I am tempted to carry her around like a loony old lady, too! LOL! In fact, I was carrying her around at the park the other day and it was interesting to see all of the joggers and dog walkers quickly turn and zip off in the opposite direction! ;D She feels incredible to hold, by the way, very heavy and solid.

      I also agree with you about the articulation in general, but I seem to be getting more forgiving with this scale of doll, especially if there is great movement in the joints that they have.

  8. I fell in love with her a year ago!

    1. Do you have her, too, Line? She's lovely, isn't she! :)

  9. I'm not into this kind of dolls (AG-like dolls), but I must say, that I like her face. I only wished, that she had a bit more smile on her face. (She looks a bit annoyed now, but she's cute anyway) I love her eyes though! They have really nice details. Another thing I loved about Maru and Friends are outfits - they have so many great outfits on their site!

  10. Savannah is newly available to us in the UK as a toy rather than a collector's doll (European toy tests passed end of 2013) and I've been amazed at how quickly she has been taken into everyone's hearts. She isn't as articulated as the Gotz Happy Kidz or Kidz n Cats that are so popular here but her facial features (eyes especially) captivate and with the articulation to the head she can hold a charming pose. I also found that her size relates best to the American Girl dolls when I tried a few different brands of clothing on her. My lol moment in your review was when the shirt didn't not pass the arm lifting test. Your photos always look exceptional in the studio- then you take the doll outside and breathe life into her. Great read.

  11. Lovely face. I'm a big fan of this artist! The only thing that's kept me from getting a Maru and Friends doll is that for some reason, the arms and legs look too long for the young-looking head sculpt (or the head looks too young/small for the body ... Maybe if the head sculpt looked a couple of years older, I wouldn't be thinking this). It seems to me the dolls should have been shorter. Anyway, the head sculpts are amazingly beautiful, though.

    1. I completely agree with you, Anonymous! Her body looks like it belongs to a slightly older child to me--as-is, it throws me off a little.

  12. I work at Aventura Mall and I have never seen this store! I need to go explore

  13. Awwww.... She's too adorable! Savannah, to me, looks like fall itself~~~ (Love your blogs!)

  14. Wonderful review again especially the comparison pictures to the other dolls. She is such a beautiful doll!! I love the face and pretty eyes. You take exquisite photos!! Thanks :)

  15. I have been eyeing these dolls for a year and when I settled on Maru herself, her meet outfit changed on me. Being an obsessed lover of bright red hair and freckles, Savannah would be my first choice. I think she is the only play doll/ collector doll in this price range to have separated fingers! YAY! I do think her arms and legs are a little long, but truly, gangly and realistic. Her body is the finest sculpt I have seen for all vinyl. And those eyes! That's art - pure and simple. Her coloring is amazing wih the sweater and I have always wanted a companion for Wan Ling. Maybe Savannah is just who I have been searching for. Another fabulous review!

  16. Gorgeous doll and garments!

    This is a more general question, but I'm curious: Do you keep a selection of dolls nude to do your size/articulation comparisons, or do you have to dress/undress each of them for every single review? If it's the latter case, that must be a lot of prep work!

    1. I've wondered this, too, especially for the 1/6 and smaller dolls. Getting some of those redressed can be a real pain.

  17. Excited to see this review! I only learned of this doll line's existence two days ago and love with their faces.
    Knowing now what kind of quality they have makes resisting them even more difficult.
    I wish they were shorter. I would love to add Maru as a younger sister of one of my AG dolls.

  18. I'm one of those collectors who has been admiring Maru and her friends from afar for several years, and wishing someone would do a good detailed review of one. Thank you!

    Savannah is so pretty....*sigh*

  19. I was wondering if BCF shoes would fit Savannah. I have ordered a Savannah and was wanting to buy shoes. Being in Australia we have to buy all these products online. Can anyone help?

  20. That pom pom yarn would be terrible to knit with, LOL. It's hard enough to crochet.

  21. do the Maru and friends dolls hold their value