Saturday, May 3, 2014

Monster High Ghouls Alive Dolls--A Joint Review!

I have been wanting to review a Ghouls Alive Monster High doll for quite a long time.  When the first wave of these dolls came out, I would look at them in the store and consider buying one (Clawdeen was my favorite), but it seemed like there was always a problem with the dolls in stock--dirty outfit, funny hair, banged up box, malfunctioning electronic features, things like that.  Also, I found the original near-$30 price tag off-putting, and good reason to select a simpler doll.

Several months ago, a reader named Eoin wrote to ask if I would be interested in a Ghouls Alive guest review, and I was very excited to have a way to finally learn more about this group of dolls.  After I read what Eoin wrote about Ghouls Alive Frankie Stein, however, three things happened: I got even more curious about these dolls, the older characters went on clearance at Target, and two new Ghouls Alive characters were released!  This prompted me to finally purchase a few of the dolls myself.

So...Eoin and I will show you several of the Ghouls Alive Monster High crew.  Eoin will review Frankie, and I will take a look at Toralei and Deuce.  I'll also throw in a quick look at Clawdeen, since she was my early favorite.  To begin, I want to turn things over to Eoin--a wonderful doll enthusiast from Great Britain, and perhaps the most patient person on the planet.  Thank you Eoin, for your help and inspiration with this post!  It would never have happened without you.

Ghouls Alive Monster High
Ghouls Alive Deuce Gorgon, Clawdeen Wolf, Toralei Stripe and Frankie Stein.
Hey there, Eoin here.  :)  Ghouls Alive Frankie seemed like she would be a great addition to anyone's collection or toy box.  I chose Frankie to review because:
1. Clawdeen's face scares me :)
2. Spectra's arms and legs don't bend

Basically, Frankie was the only Ghouls Alive doll who doesn't freak me out. :)

When you first get this doll she has an odd side bang/comb-over.  I just removed the 'clear' rubber band:

Frankie comes in her first edition attire, with messy hair and a saddle stand:

Frankie's dress is cheaply made and can stand on its own better than she can:

Frankie's belt is very gothic and well made. It has 2 painted on chains some shiny silver studs and a lightning bolt clasp:

Frankie has a very, very shiny complexion compared to other Frankie dolls.  Her face is solid plastic and as you can see she has an off-colour seam on her hair line:

(Ghouls Alive Frankie is on the right)
Frankie's hair is very nicely rooted like any other Monster High doll.  Her hair is thick despite her speaker being placed at the back of her head:

Frankie's torso is far from attractive!  She has ribs carved into her torso and the LED lights are visible through the gaps.  She has a very large belly button (pardon the pun)--you press her belly for her head and torso to light up.

Frankie's gimmick is far from impressive!  Her head, bolts and torso light up in a blinding flash of strobe lighting:

One of my favourite things about Monster High dolls is their articulation.  Ghouls Alive Frankie can not even do the splits!  Her arms have the same articulation as usual but I am really disappointed with her legs.
How low can you go?  Not very low.
Frankie's hair is nice and silky despite some styling goop.  Her hair goes just past her bottom.  Her hair is kind-of thin near the back and you can see the shadow from the underlying speaker.  Her black high-lights are poorly cut on the left side of her head:

This picture reminds me of Samara from The Ring. :)
Frankie has permanent, dangling, blue Skullette earrings:

After having my Ghouls Alive Frankie for a few months, her condition deteriorated.  Her belt got very thin and the silver paint chipped.  Her costume's right sleeve and her bow tie fell off and her hair got fairly frizzy.  I recently obtained basic Frankie from eBay and I thought I would do a few comparisons.

Basic Frankie's hair (left) is longer and much nicer quality:

Basic Frankie's earrings are more thick and more detailed (they also come out of her ears):

Basic Frankie's shoes are the same mold as Ghouls Alive Frankie's, but basic Frankie's shoes (right) are better painted:

Basic Frankie's belt (front) is thicker and painted much better:

Ghouls Alive Frankie's dress is shinier up close and it is longer. The material seems nice and basic Frankie's netting under her skirt is detachable and Ghouls Alive Frankie's netting is just a sewn on strip of the same material:

I know that basic Frankie is getting harder to find but I would recommend her to anyone, any day.  As you can see the basic ghouls don't approve of Ghouls Alive Frankie, and they wouldn't recommend her.

I am really looking forward to the new Deuce and Torelai Ghouls Alive dolls because they seem much better!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this doll, Eoin!  I was surprised to learn that Frankie's articulation is not the same as the other Monster High dolls.  I suppose it makes sense that her head is less flexible (it only looks from side-to-side), but I don't see why her legs should be any different.

Eoin's review intrigued me enough that I grabbed myself a Frankie doll on clearance.  Eoin mentioned that her earrings are permanently attached, and I agree that this is a noteworthy, strange feature.  The earrings are actually attached into the side seams of the doll's head--not into her ears:

I also made this quick (poor-quality) video of Frankie's light-up feature:

I agree with most of what Eoin said about this doll.  She has thin, stringy hair and a cheap-looking outfit.  The limited leg articulation is a bummer...and doesn't seem justified by her electronic action.  Her face is shiny--but is actually one of the better Ghouls Alive faces:

Ghouls Alive Frankie

I actually find her skeleton/electricity feature to be pretty neat-looking and fun.  

Ghouls Alive Frankie

If you look closely, you can see that she even has little teeth in her illuminated skull:

Ghouls Alive Frankie
The bolts in her neck are clear, and so they light up, too.
I'd like to spend most of my portion of this review on the newer Ghouls Alive dolls, but I do want to quickly show you Clawdeen Wolf, especially since her special feature is very different from Frankie's.

Like Frankie, Clawdeen is dressed in a version of the first wave attire:

Ghouls Alive Clawdeen

The basic style of these outfits is similar, but there are many small differences.  First, Ghouls Alive Clawdeen is wearing a one-pice dress while first wave Clawdeen's outfit has a separate shirt and skirt.  Ghouls Alive Clawdeen has a gold shimmery bodice on her dress, while the original Clawdeen's top is a peach-colored knit.  The skirts are also quite different, with the Ghouls Alive version being longer, with fewer gathers and lots of shimmer.  First wave Clawdeen is wearing netted leggings under her boots that the Ghouls Alive doll doesn't have.

Ghouls Alive Clawdeen is wearing a cropped vest jacket:

The vest has many of the same fabrics as the first wave jacket, but is missing the sleeves and has an extra hole in the back for the lever that activates Clawdeen's special effect.

The most important difference is that first wave Clawdeen can show off her outfit much more effectively than her Ghouls Alive cousin:

Ghouls Alive Clawdeen has a choker and a pendant necklace, just like the first wave doll (I have lost both of my first wave Clawdeen's necklaces, so I can't compare them).

The two dolls have similar boots, the only difference I notice is that the first wave boots have more vibrant gold paint on the buckles.

Ghouls Alive on the left, first wave on the right.
This Ghouls Alive doll has a very blank face.  None of Clawdeen's glamour or sass has been translated.  This vacant expression is made worse by the fact that the doll can't turn her head at all (which is understandable given that her electronic feature involves the head tipping back).

The construction of the head gives this doll a high hairline and a visible seam between the two halves of her head:

Ghouls Alive Clawdeen
She looks bored.
The color choices in her face are nice--with deep burgundy lips and yellow eyes with three shades of eyeshadow:

The eyeshadow application is sloppy on my doll, though.
Like Ghouls Alive Frankie, this doll has a speaker at the back of her head, limiting the amount of space left for hair rooting.  As a result, the hair feels thin.  The dark color and slight wave in Clawdeen's hair makes it seem slightly thicker than Frankie's smooth locks.

Clawdeen's wolf-shaped ears are pierced, but the earrings are part of the head mold:

This doll's special feature is that she leans her head back, lifts her arms, closes her eyes and howls when you push the lever on her back:

Ghouls Alive Clawdeen

It's neat that she has fully-painted eyelids.  Is this the only Monster High doll with eyelids?

Here's a little snippet of Clawdeen smacking herself in the face demonstrating her action:

Clawdeen has fully posable arms, and so if you move her hands out of a clawing position, she doesn't look quite as cool when she's howling:

First wave Clawdeen is probably my favorite Monster High doll ever, so that makes the comparison between her and Ghouls Alive Clawdeen even more harsh.  I enjoy the howling feature, but it doesn't come close to making up for the difference in appearance between these two dolls.  I find Ghouls Alive Clawdeen to be a cheap-looking, spaced-out version of the original.

Ghouls Alive Clawdeen

Now I am excited to show you the newer Ghouls Alive dolls, Toralei and Deuce.  I think Eoin was right to predict that this second wave of electronic dolls would be an improvement over the first group.  

First, let's look at the ever-popular Toralei.  I have not seen her in the stores here in Maine yet, but she is available on Amazon for just over $30.  She comes in typical cardboard Monster High packaging with an added hole in the back of the box that allows you to operate her electronic feature:

The box art is nice, and uses a darker color palette than what decorates the actual doll:

The box advertises Toralei's special feature as being a twitching tail and a "meowww" sound:

She also moves one of her arms.
The back of the box has a short interview with Toralei that reveals her unpredictable nature:

The inner cardboard support is very simply decorated with black and variegated orange stripes:

Eoin mentioned this already, but one of the highlights of the Ghouls Alive series is that the dolls all come with saddle stands.  I love these stands, and they're not easy to find.

Toralei stands on her own, but she's not very secure like this, so the stand will come in very handy:

She's packaged with a plastic support surrounding the arm that moves, presumably to keep that arm in a clawing position:

Ghouls Alive Toralei

Here's Toralei de-boxed and on her stand:

She comes in a very simple skirt and tank top outfit with two accessories: a vinyl belt and an orange scarf:

One of the first things I noticed about this doll is that (unlike Clawdeen) she can move her head back and forth a little bit:

She has short two-toned orange hair that is slicked down and very crispy.  I don't generally like this degree of hair product on my dolls, but it works on Toralei for three reasons: first, it covers the head seam and the speaker nicely.  Second, it keeps the painted stripes together.  Also, I have learned from experience that this bobbed style of hair doesn't look as good if it is not smoothed down.

Toralei has a lot of detail in her face.  Her eyes have two different shades of green and oblong cat-eye pupils.  She has pink and green eyeshadow, and her full lips are painted with a sparkling dusky rose color:

Ghouls Alive Toralei

Toralei's earrings are molded to her head, but the design of these earrings is more interesting than Clawdeen's simple hoops.  She has a hoop and a stud in her left ear:

And a single stud in her right ear:

When Toralei's electronic feature is activated, her eyes light up.  Here's a close-up of her eye before and after the lever is pulled:

The lever on Toralei's back is easily accessible above the neckline of her tank top:

Here's a clip showing what happens when the lever is pushed.  I have to say, the "meow" is slightly more provocative than I expected...and she kinda hisses at me before she meows:

Ghouls Alive Toralei
 At first, I thought Toralei was wearing a dress, but it's actually two separate pieces:

The best part of the outfit is the vinyl belt.  It has a Skullette design on the buckle:

The skirt and top are simply constructed out of stretchy synthetic knits. 

The black skirt has a red spiked pattern that looks like lightning clouds or angry speech bubbles:

The tank top is striped with red, black and white.  Most of the edges are unfinished.

Toralei's shoes are studded red sandals.  They're a little hard to get on and off:

Toralei's body looks a lot like a regular Monster High body, with 12 points of articulation (including the tail):

The lever on her back and the battery compartment on her left leg give away that she is not a typical Monster High girl:

Like Frankie and Clawdeen, this doll moves differently than a conventional Monster High doll.  Her arm articulation is excellent, but her right shoulder joint is stiff and clicks when it is moved up and down.  Her tail is permanently attached, and it also clicks when it is moved.

There's a noticeable color difference between her torso and her arms:

Toralei's leg articulation the same as a normal Monster High doll below the thigh, but her hip articulation is different.

Her forward and backward splits are limited and she can't do side-to-side splits at all.

She can only bend forward a tiny bit:

She can't sit in a chair with these hips.
She does retain rotation in her knees, though, and can kneel nicely.

Toralei's hands are removable, and her right hand is molded differently to accommodate the clawing action.

Don't mess with the hand.
This doll's movable neck makes her articulation a slight improvement over Clawdeen, but her flexibility is still a little disappointing for anyone expecting standard Monster High movement.

Here are a few more pictures of this feisty character:

Ghouls Alive Toralei

Ghouls Alive Toralei

Ghouls Alive Toralei

I wasn't very excited about Ghouls Alive Deuce Gorgon from just looking at his promotional pictures, but I was curious about how the electronic male body would differ from the standard Monster High male body, and so I found a Deuce that I could review as well.  

I won't do a full de-boxing (Deuce's packaging is just like Toralei's) but I do want to show you the box art:

Based on this clip from a webisode, it seems like Deuce is much more muscular in his non-doll form:

Deuce also comes with a saddle stand, which has the exact same design as the girls' stands, but is slightly taller.   Of all the Ghouls Alive dolls, Deuce needs his stand the least: he has excellent balance.

Ghouls Alive Deuce

Deuce's most distinct feature is his hair. He has green molded snake skin hair with nine snakes sticking out of the middle of his head:

Monster High Deuce

The snakes are grouped into three sections, and these sections move in opposite directions when Deuce's special function is activated.

Deuce also has a lever on his back, and when this is pushed, he lifts his hand to raise his glasses:

As he lifts the glasses, his green eyes flash and there's a strange noise:

Here are his eyes up close--before and after pushing the lever:

The noise this doll makes is hard to describe, so here is another short video to demonstrate:

As with Clawdeen, if Deuce's arm is moved into a position where his hand doesn't reach his glasses, the motion is not as interesting:

As you can see in these videos, the moving arm doesn't stay in an uplifted position.  The articulation in this arm is spring-loaded, and so the shoulder joint snaps back into a down-facing position when the lever isn't depressed.  Here is Deuce holding his glasses up with his left hand, making it easier to get a good picture:

Monster High Deuce

Deuce is wearing a layered top, boot-cut jeans, and a vinyl cassette tape belt.  It looks like he is wearing a tee shirt with a vest jacket on top, but it's actually all one shirt, with half of a tank top sewn to the back of the jacket:

The tank has a skull and a tape cassette graphic on the front:

Unlike the Ghouls Alive girls, Deuce has his noise speaker on his chest:

Without the shirt, it's easier to see Deuce's cassette belt:

The pants are made out of a lightweight denim-style fabric and have a silver diamond print:

Completing the outfit is a pair of checkered loafers:

Deuce has twelve points of articulation (his neck does not move).  His activation lever and battery compartment are on his back.

The articulation in his right arm is very limited.  The arm does not lift at the shoulder and the wrist does not bend at all.  The left arm has normal articulation.

The mechanized right arm has a ratcheted hinge elbow:

Deuce's leg articulation is the same as his regular Monster High counterparts.  He can do front-to-back splits:

And limited side-to-side splits.

It wasn't until this point in my photo session that I realized Deuce's sunglasses are removable.

The glasses have two short pegs that insert into the sides of the doll's head:

It's much easier to get clear pictures of Deuce's face and eyes with the glasses off:

He has dark green eyes and thick, stern eyebrows:

Here's another close-up of the eyes with and without the light:

After investigating Deuce's exposed face, I took a few more pictures of his posing abilities.  He can sit in a chair pretty well, but his gangly legs stick out:

He has great balance in many different positions:

Ok, he can't quite balance on his own in this position.
The Ghouls Alive body is very similar to the regular male Monster High body.  The biggest differences are in the neck and the right arm.

The faces of these two versions of Deuce are quite different, too.  Ghouls Alive Deuce has a shorter, thicker neck, darker eyes and a broader face.

Regular Deuce looks more snake-like.
The combination of Ghouls Alive Deuce's upward-glancing eyes and unmovable neck make him much harder to photograph and pose than the regular Deuce doll.

The two dolls have different snakes in their hair:

Here is Deuce back in his clothes, trying to strike some interesting poses:

I think Toralei is impressed with this version of Deuce...or maybe she just wants to scratch his eyes out.

Bottom line? I am glad to have finally gotten a closer look at these dolls, and very grateful to Eoin for inspiring this review and helping me get it done.

Overall, I like Toralei and Deuce better than the earlier Ghouls Alive dolls.  They both have good articulation and relatively charismatic faces.  The dolls are not as expressive or posable as regular Monster High dolls, though, and I still don't feel like the electronic gimmicks are good enough to displace these other traits.  I also feel like the materials and painting on these dolls look cheaper than on the traditional dolls.  Part of this is the feel and sheen of the hard plastic faces, but there's also nowhere near as much care or detail put into the clothes and accessories.

The electronic features in these dolls will probably amuse new owners for a little while--I found myself having quite a bit of fun with them.  However, in my eyes, nothing can beat the staying power of a nicely made, gimmick-free doll with great articulation and a unique personality.  For that reason, I'll be sticking with the traditional Monster High dolls from now on, hoping that Mattel shifts its attention to improving and maintaining quality rather than introducing flashy new features. 

Ghouls Alive Monster High


  1. Hi Emily , Eoin here thanks soo much for the amazing opportunity to be on your blog :) I was very surprised that deuce is much better articulated than the girls , now I am interested to see how robecca turns out :)

    1. Thank YOU Eoin! :D I am very interested to see Robecca, too! I hope she has neck articulation and better hips!

  2. That sound would be Deuce turning someone to stone. Because his glasses are off.
    That's just how it works for some reason.

    1. So, is he turning Heath into stone in that one webisode picture? Yikes! I thought he was a nice guy! Thank you for the information. :D

    2. He is a nice guy. Turning people to stone is not permanent, for some reason. He was kinda saving Heath embarrassment from getting a little carried away. Heath was hitting on Frankie Stein.

    3. Yeah that episode was the worst one for poor Heath.

  3. Nice job, you guys! Personally, I could never bring myself to buy the Ghouls Alive dolls, because they look (to me, at least) shoddily made and cheap. Clawdeen in particular looks bad, to me. Something about her face makes her look gassy or constipated or something. I guess the rationale for making these dolls was that sooner or later, someone would make electronic knock-offs, but the corner cutting that was done to get the dolls close in price to the originals just makes them unattractive to me.

    Considering how far improved the wave two releases are from wave one, maybe Robecca will fare better than her classmates and make a really attractive gimmick doll.

    1. Hi Emily :) I think robecca will be the only one who will pull off that shiny plastic look because she's metal

  4. Amazing and in depth review as always I see. ^u^ Have you heard of the legends of Oz dolls that recently came out? If it's not too much of a bother can you please review one of those dolls?

    1. I did see those at TRU the other day...almost bought one. They have a very nice, sweet look to them. I will definitely consider a review! Thank you for the suggestion. :)

  5. It's too bad "gimmick" dolls don't often seem to stand up in quality as well as the originals. I remember you saying the later model LIV dolls had issues as well. I do like how Frankie looks lit up, at least.

    1. Oh, that's right! Good comparison, Barb! The Sleepover Party Liv dolls were nowhere near as nice as the originals, and they had those shiny plastic faces that looked sweaty. I did not care for those!

  6. Omg the first picture scared me a little! I was like, what's up with Clawdeen's hair? It was pushed so far back than the rest of the girls~~~

    1. I totally agree! The hairline is very unattractive on Clawdeen and it even exposes some of the lines on her head that show where the hair should be rooted. The Zeenie Dollz had similar head construction (with the head divided into two halves) but the rooting on those dolls is SO much better than this.

  7. I never liked the idea of the Ghouls Alive assortment and I don't think I was the only one... Every time I went out Monster High hunting regardless of whatever else was in stock there were tons and tons and tons of this line. -_- From the perspective of a person who loves dolls (particularly fashion dolls) but not so much toys I think it's easy to see the flaws with this line - they don't look as good or as interesting, or pose as well, and the features that replace these don't make up for this in the least. I wonder of this line was intended for younger children or boys more so than the other Monster High dolls? Because otherwise it seems to me that Mattel would have KNOWN this line would flop because it eliminates the characteristics that people who like dolls, look for? OR am I just overthinking it? Anyway it always made me mad when I saw tons of these on the shelves and no other new lines from Monster High, but at least this Toralei and Deuce are a bit better than Frankie, Spectra, and Clawdeen. I thought Deuce was even passably cute, but then you compared him to his regular counterpart, who is a lot more detailed and less... Whoa, Egyptian? What's up with that? Anyway, it was nice to read a review of these dolls since I will probably never own one myself. ThanksEmily and Eoin!

    1. Hi Amelia, you're not over-thinking at all--I totally agree. I had a very similar reaction to Deuce, in particular. He seemed fine to me until I compared him to the regular Deuce, then he seemed very plain. I think the electronic features must get in the way of having really good imaginative games with these dolls, and the quality drops to the point that collectors aren't very interested, either. I'm with you--it's hard to see what audience they're trying to attract.

  8. These dolls were an "eeeeeh" to me, I love the extra features they have actually, it's good for head profile, like how Frankie glows and she has a skull, Monster High dolls makeup and fashion has really gone boring these days, it doesn't matter how articulated they are, they are still just boring to me, like some of Tonner Disney dolls, I only buy Spectra, Lagoona and Draculaura the most so these things about Clawdeen and Frankie didn't really bother me, I'll admit, Frankie's outfit has a cuter design than her original one(even if it is cheaply made), having multiple dolls is one thing, especially when they don't have that much difference, was hoping the would make Monster High dolls with the ability to really kneel like Marina Bychkova dolls

    1. Hi Alexander, a play doll that captured some of the elegance, grace and articulation of Marina's dolls would be incredible. What an amazing idea!

    2. I still love Monster High, it's just they're getting boring in my taste, but maybe who knows they will have something that will interest me, yeah, Marina's doll articulation is wonderful :D, thanks again for your detailed and awesome review

  9. Awesome review, Emily and Eoin. I don't think I'll be getting any of these, they seem gimmicky and inferior. On a side note Emily, have you seen the Beatrix Girls? Would it be possible for you to do a review of one of them?

    1. Hi Mimi, I have looked at the Beatrix Girls a few times (especially the redhead). I found their eyebrows mean-looking at first, but they seem less harsh now that I have gotten used to them. I'll definitely keep them on my list of possible reviews. Thank you for the suggestion!

  10. I really enjoined reading this review!:)
    I still remember I wanted to buy a GA doll but I've always found them a little bit too expensive. The dolls they are based on are much cheaper and are better made. Since the girls have harder heads (Deuce has a harder head too, but eh yeah ..) I am wondering if they would have the glue problem.. And if they had it would it cause problems for the special functions?
    I also find it weird that Frankies earrings are attached on a different way than te other dolls' earring, maybe its the same with Spectra?
    I have also noticed that Toralei has a hand an a claw, it's weird, but this has already happened before with the Festevil dolls. Clawdeen had a claw and her other hand with a painted glove was a hand.
    I really enjoyed reading this review, as I already mentioned before. (:

  11. Amazing review! I also prefer the first wave Clawdeen to the GA Clawdeen. The first wave Clawdeen looks more-well- "fierce." I love Toralei, just not the GA version. As for Deuce, he makes that sound because he's turning someone into stone (He is the son of Medusa). He lifts up his glasses to look his target in the eye. I agree with the fact that the first wave Deuce's face looks more "snake-like". Great job, Emily and Eoin! ~Amelia

  12. Thank you for your excellent blog ! I spent HOURS reading your posts...
    I was curious about these GA Monsters HIgh. When I saw them in stores, I thought they looked a little "cheap"...and much too expensive. I still do !
    But I hope that Robecca will make me change my mind...

  13. Im going to wait for Robecca but i think they are going better

    1. Same !! I hope se has petter leg joints than the other ghouls

  14. Hi! I really liked this review! :D
    Will you be posting more Winx Club doll reviews in the future! Can't wait and thank you! ^^

  15. Deuce's noise is kind of like early Star Trek phaser noises or maybe the transporter. LOL
    Thank you for a very informative review.

  16. We just got a Clawdeen ghouls alive doll for my sisters birthday! Thank you so much for that review it helps a bunch!

  17. I wish the toralie dolls had hair like in the cartoon! I would so get her then! (Very short messy tomboy hair slightly longer and semi covering her eye on the left)