Friday, March 20, 2015

"Through the Woods" Ashlynn Ella--A Guest Review!

I am so thrilled to have my friend Muzzy as a guest reviewer this week. You might know Muzzy from her lovely comments here on the blog.  I am especially grateful to Muzzy because not only did she choose to review a character that I am very fond of (Ashlynn Ella!), but the timing of her contribution is perfect.  I could not be more grateful to have a helping hand this week (a helping foot would be awesome, too...) but also, this is the first week of the Cinderella movie (I haven't seen it yet...the agony!) and so a review of Cinderella's daughter seems highly appropriate.

I will let Muzzy tell you all about this new version of Ashlynn Ella, and then I will hop in at the end to share a few pictures and thoughts about my own new Ever After High doll, Duchess Swan.  Please welcome Muzzy to the blog with her beautiful Ashlynn!

Ever After High's "Through the Woods" Ashlynn Ella.
Hi there! My name’s Muzzy, and I am SUPER excited to be writing a review for The Toy Box Philosopher! I love all kinds of dolls, but my favorites are Ever After High, like the one I will be reviewing in this post. :) So without further ado, here’s Ashlynn Ella, Through the Woods!

Ashlynn in her box.
I picked up Ashlynn at Wal-Mart for $19.97.  She is part of the new "Through the Woods" series, and has the new style of box that is meant to look like stacked books. I don’t have much a preference between this box and the original box shape. 

The top of the box has little ridges to represent the pages of a book:

The back of the box shows a map, and has directions leading Ashlynn through the woods ending with “you are now lost."  The bottom corner has the customary 3 pictures of other dolls, this time being the other three in the Through the Woods series, Poppy O’Hair, Blondie Lockes, and C.A. Cupid. Also, in the artwork of Ashlynn it appears that she has some bangs peeking out of her hood. 

The back doesn’t really explain what this line of dolls is about, although it does appear as though the girls were holding a party and got lost in the woods because they forgot to invite Faybelle Thorne (speaking of which, who IS Faybelle Thorne the daughter of? Tinkerbell? The Thornbushes that poked Rapunzel’s Prince’s eyes?).

Ashlynn, still in the box but with the plastic removed.
Here's the keyhole showing Ashlynn’s stand is now on the inside of the box, on the edge of the book:

Her stand and brush are the same as usual. Gold with a clear back and a gold brush (still no saddle stands…sigh.)

As I was removing her from the box I noticed that her hair was held down with a rubber band instead of being sewn. I really liked this change, because it keeps her hair tidy but you can easily just pull her out! 

Here's the box, sans Ashlynn:

I like the tree background, but unfortunately it makes it so that I can only read a word or two of the text behind her, so no translations this time, Emily. :( 

Finally, Miss Ashlynn herself! 

Through the Woods Ashlynn Ella

Through the Woods Ashlynn Ella

Her hood is a very bright pink with pink and blue flowers printed on the bottom half, and a teal ribbon tying it closed. There were two plastic tabs holding the edges to her skirt (Tabs of Doom count: 2).

The back of her head was attached to the cardboard with not one, not two, but 4 plastic tabs, and there were two more attaching the hood to her head. (Plastic Tabs of Doom count: 8). There was a thin piece of plastic between her hood and hair that was pretty beat up from all the tabs. I didn’t take a picture of it, but I believe at one point it was a square of plastic similar to the bag that held her stand. Also her hair was pretty smushed from the box.

In her hands Ashlynn's holding a map and a lantern. The map is made out of a khaki colored plastic and has a loop on the back for Ashlynn to hold. It’s fairly well detailed with little trees, a compass rose and trails and rivers (I realized after I took the photo that it was upside down :P).

Maybe that's why she's lost?
The lantern is made out of a translucent blue plastic and gold plastic, the same as her shoes and bracelet. It has a fake beaded handle, a small bird on the top, a clock on either side and a small gold candle inside. It doesn’t open or do anything. I do really like the bird though, I feel like it goes well with the original Ashlynn’s ring.

Ashlynn’s shoes are knee-high boots made out of a soft, pliable translucent blue plastic. They have molded roses and vines all over them and molded laces in the front. I think these are the best part of Ashlynn’s outfit, although if these were made out of real glass and were for a person I don’t think they would be very easy to walk in!

The shoes don’t have a heel, so Ashlynn can’t stand in them. They have a slit in the back for removal. I like the peep-toe detail, however the roses do seem a bit Briar Beauty to me.

Here’s Ashlynn without her hood. 

Her dress has pink sheer sleeves and a gold belt around her waist. The dress was attached to the box with 2 more plastic tabs (Plastic Tabs of Doom count: 10).  I also brushed her hair out so you can see that she does actually have the bangs like the illustration!

The belt has a leaf pattern and opens and closes in the back with a peg and hole.

Here's the dress without the belt:

I really like the princess V seam in the front. The print of the dress is a teal forest with random pink splatters (leaves? Flowers?). It reminds me of Hunter’s shirt. I really like it.

When removed from the doll you can see that the skirt is actually a square with the bodice sewn into the middle. The edges aren’t finished, but the material doesn’t seem inclined to fray (and if it does I can always stitch a quick hem on it). 

The dress off of the doll:

Ashlynn’s bracelet is made of stiff gold plastic molded to look like a stacked beaded bracelet with a clock face in the middle. It’s hard to tell if the time is supposed to be just before midnight, like Ashlynn’s accessories typically are. It also has molded loops and strands of beads that hang down over her hand. It’s hard to position these to look natural on her wrist.

You can also see in this picture the small black mark on Ashlynn’s arm. This did not come off with water, but I did make it less noticeable by scratching at it with my thumbnail.

Ashlynn has the same body as the rest of the Ever After High girls, with removable hands. Mine had some extra plastic bits between her legs that I was able to pull off. Also the dress left some lint in her bellybutton, which amused me greatly. :P

Her hair is a lovely shade of strawberry blonde that hangs past her bum. It’s not very thickly rooted, and tends to look a bit frizzy at the ends, but feels very smooth and is easy to brush. My Ashlynn does sadly have a glue-filled head, and judging by her slightly sticky scalp (say that 5 times fast...) I don’t think there has been a change to the glue (her hair is still damp in this picture from my brushing it, it's not greasy):

Ashlynn has very smoothly painted eyebrows, unlike the criss-cross pattern of the original Ashlynn. She has bright green eyes with bands of blue and green eyeshadow and a pink shadow on the very top of her eye. Her upper lashes are black and thick, and her lower lashes are a copper-brown with only four painted on each side. Her lips are a shimmery shade of pink without the customary 3 dots. However I like how the lips are painted to look less pouty than the original Ashlynn.

I got her dressed again and pulled back the sides of her hair to show off her cute bangs. I really like the way they look! 

Here is Ashlynn with my other two Ever After High dolls, Cedar Wood (left) and Apple White (Right):

I enjoy the diversity of these dolls, from Cedar’s warm brown tone, to Apple’s porcelain color.  

Ashlynn and Apple were very happy to be re-united! 

Overall thoughts: Plastic Tabs of Doom Total: 10. Not bad, but the head really bothered me.
I think Ashlynn is a very beautiful doll, and a great addition to my collection. I love her outfit and face paint, and her bangs really make me giggle. I am disappointed that her only jewelry is her bracelet, because Ever After High jewelry is so often like a miniature treasure hunt with all of the tiny details. Ashlynn’s ears aren’t pierced, because she has no earrings, so she can’t share with Apple and Cedar. It seems odd to me that for her slightly lower price than the original single dolls you lose the earrings, necklace, ring, and bookmark story. I wish that she would’ve had a ring and her earrings instead of the map. It seems pretty pointless to me, especially since the back of the box doesn’t give much information about this line of dolls to spark imagination.

I’m sad that the new line of dolls still has the glue-filled heads, unless mine is a fluke. 
Something else that I find interesting is the amount of bend in the dolls joints. Apple’s joints are very stiff to move, and removing her hands is incredibly hard. I’m always scared that they’ll snap. Cedar, on the other hand, has the loosest joints I’ve ever seen. If you hold her by her lower legs she’ll bend at the knee just from her own weight. Ashlynn is in the middle, with her joints being easy to move, but not as easily as Cedar. They can all stand, given the right shoes, but it is interesting to see these differences.

If you are interested in Ashlynn but not Hunter, I think this is a good doll for you. Just be wary of the glue heads and know that she won’t have the exciting jewelry of her predecessors. 

Thank you for having me on your blog, Emily!


Thank you so much, Muzzy!  I have been coveting this new version of Ashlynn myself, and your pictures and review make her even more tempting.  I love those green eyes!

I thought I would sneak in here at the end and share a few pictures of my new Ever After High doll, Duchess Swan.  I am very impressed with her and I figured this was a perfect opportunity to make sure she gets at least a little chance to show off on the blog.

Duchess Swan came in one of the newly-designed boxes...with only three "Plastic Ties of Doom" (all holding her head in place):

I have to admit that I wasn't completely sure which fairy tale character Swan was supposed to be at first.  I know there is a Disney-like movie called The Swan Princess (never seen it) but I guess the roots for this character are more directly linked to Swan Lake--the Tchaikovsky ballet.  

Based on my reaction, she's right about her story needing more attention!
Duchess Swan comes with a bookmark story, a stand and a purse.  Her bookmark story actually confirms that the character is based on the Swan Lake ballet, and summarizes the plot very well: a princess named Odette is transformed into a swan (the Swan Queen) by an evil sorcerer.  She meets a prince who falls in love with her and vows to break the spell.  However, the prince is tricked into marrying Odette's lookalike, Odile (the Black Swan), instead, so the tale has a sad ending.  In some versions of the ballet, Odette and Odile are played by the same ballerina...almost like good and evil versions of the same person.

The black/white dichotomy of the story is reflected in Duchess Swan's personality, and also in her outfit and hair.

With some purple thrown in.
Ever After High Duchess Swan

Swan's purse does not open.  It is solid vinyl and has a molded swan decoration on the front flap:

Unlike Through the Woods Ashlynn, Swan is wearing several pieces of jewelry.  On her right hand she has a silver plastic ring:

It is adorned by another tiny molded swan, with what looks like a crown on its head:

On her left arm she is wearing a bracelet:

It's hard to tell what the bracelet has on it from this view:

I think the charm is meant to hang down over Swan's hand, more like this:

Then it's easier to see another tiny molded swan decoration:

Swan's hair is pulled into a single side ponytail, leaving a tendril of hair hanging down the right side of her face.  She is wearing a fancy headband in her hair.  On the left, a long silver dangling earring is exposed:

The earring is in the shape of a feather:

Swan has a matching earring on the right side.  I don't think these earrings are super-creative (nothing like Holly and Poppy O'Hair's earrings, that's for sure).  Ballet slippers would have been cute.

The hair is mostly black, but it has thick white streaks and thinner lavender highlights:

Swan's headband is black and purple, and the purple part reminds me of a pineapple:

Chiquita banana....
I am not sure exactly what the purple decoration is supposed to be, but it has some dramatic tall feathers, an area in front that looks like a gem, and then a puff-ball thing in the back.  I think if the different items were painted, it would help me sort them out better.

Here's a better view of the top of the purple decoration:

I really like the black parts of this ornament.  The main body of the headband is a feather, and then there's a string of black beads that hangs down over Swan's forehead:

The headband is tied on with a few rubber bands, but once those are cut, it slides off of Swan's head pretty easily.  One side of the headband is tucked into Swan's ponytail, though, so it makes that side of the hair a little messy.

Swan has brown eyes and pinkish-purple eye makeup.  Her lips are bright pink and they do have (very faint) dots on them:

Swan's outfit has two vinyl decorations: a black necklace and a black corset.

It's a little hard to see the pattern on the necklace:

It's pretty generic with a few feathered areas at the top:

The corset has two fake ties in front but actually closes in back with a peg and hole fixture:

The shape of the corset roughly follows the v-shaped waist of the dress.  

Here's a close-up of the corset on its own:

And from the back:

The skirt on this dress has delicate pink tulle peplums covering two layers of fabric.  The top layer of the skirt is made out of fine purple tulle and has opaque printed feathers and stars on it:

Underneath the top layer, there's a plain cross hatched print:

The bodice of the dress is made out of yet another different fabric, and has lovely little ribbon spaghetti straps with tulle accents:

The dress is all one piece and opens down the back with velcro:

Under the dress, Swan is wearing black fishnet stockings and heel-less shoes:

The shoes hint at ballet slippers and look nice, but they make it almost impossible for Swan to stand up on her own (I feel your pain, Muzzy!):

I like the less encumbered look of this doll with a few of her heavy black accessories missing. 

After snapping a few pictures of Swan with her original hairstyle, I wanted to let the ponytail down and get a better look at the highlights.  These are really fun.  There's a pretty thick area of white in the back, and just a few streaks of lavender on the very top of the head:

By maneuvering Swan's hair differently as I gathered up the stands for a ponytail, I was able to either emphasize the light parts of her hair....

...or the dark:

Duchess Swan has almost the same body color as Apple White, but she is a little bit taller:

These two seem to have the same body for the most part, but Swan's lower legs are taller (so they can share clothes):

I think Swan's height makes her body look thinner, but I suspect this is just an illusion.  Another thing I notice when looking at these two together is that the facial screening on the Ever After High dolls seems to have gotten much better recently--there are no wonky eyes or uneven eyebrows on Swan.

Here are a few more picture of Miss Swan:

Bottom line?  This is a very appealing new addition to the Ever After High line.  I don't think this brand is doing anything strikingly new or different so far in 2015, but I like the careful facial screening on this doll, and I think her hair and outfit are attractive and well-coordinated.  I appreciate that she doesn't have quite the dizzying jumble of colors in her ensemble that some of the other dolls feature.  I also like seeing a variety of body heights in this lineup (especially because the dolls can all still share clothes).  I agree with Muzzy that hunting for little jewelry treasures is one of the best things about Ever After High.  Swan has enough pieces of jewelry to keep things fun, but the creativity is not quite what it has been in previous releases.

Because so many of the Ever After High girls look similar to me these days, I challenged myself to find one doll this season that might renew my interest in the brand.  Whether it was her good side or her evil side to blame, Duchess Swan has certainly persuaded me to continue watching this line for what will come next.


  1. Ohh, I just picked up Duchess myself recently! Your review of her is spot-on--unfortunately, mine has a glue-filled head of doom, and one of her earrings was stuck in because of it :/

    I hope that EAH gets more creative this year... it seems like the designers are in a bit of a rut. This new Ashlynn is pretty cute though... tempting... my poor wallet!

  2. Very good guest review, Muzzy! I have this Ashlynn as well, I got her to replace my basic Ashlynn when my dog chewed her up. >.< But I think I actually like the Through the Woods version better! I have all four of the Through the Woods dolls, I think my favorite is Cupid, but they're all great.

    Emily, AAH! I was waiting for you to take a look at Duchess! Isn't she gorgeous? I haven't been brave enough to take mine's hair down, but she looks great that way. She's my favorite EAH doll...Well, she's tied for favorite with the Target exclusive Just Sweet Blondie, but Duchess was my favorite first so she's a bit higher on the list. XD

  3. The only new Ever After High doll that really caught my attention in the new lines was Ginger Breadhouse (despite her very uncreative name!) but I like the Spring Unsprung line as well. Overall though, my interest has waned, sadly.

    And for the record, Faybelle Thorne is the daughter of the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty, or Maleficent if we're using Disney vernacular!

    1. Aha! That makes a lot more sense! Thanks!

  4. I too found Duchess very appealing, much to my surprise. I can't help but wish she looked more like the version of herself from the cartoon (found here) though. white stockings, a painted headdress, and the more elaborate hairstyle would have been so amazing. For what I got however, I do enjoy her.

  5. Duchess is one of my favorite characters (second only to Briar) and once you get over how different she looks from her webisode, I really love her. I need another one because I've modified my original one to look more like her webisode self by painting and stockings and jewelry.

    The lipstick on yours looks redder than mine, but I do think there are super subtle variations in her faceup,especially the print of the eyes. Some of them look so wideeyed and creepy and others like yours and mine look a little more toned down.

  6. Eek! Thank you so much for letting me do this, Emily! You are the sweetest person ever! Your Duchess is just gorgeous! I'll have to see if she shows up in a store near me... :)
    Here's a jewelry story- the other day I just finally noticed that Apple's Bracelet has a little bow molded into it along with the beads. And I've had her for a year! It was such a fun surprise. :) Thanks again!

  7. Duchess Swan may be the prettiest EAH doll yet. For the record, The Swan Princess is also based on Swan Lake.

  8. Awesome reviews on both dolls! Are the glue-filled heads typically the ones made in Indonesia or China, do you know? I also picked up this Ashlynn last weekend-it was a toss between her or Mirror Beach, but I just think she's so cute. I haven't de-boxed mine yet, so I really enjoyed your review!
    I love that you always take the originaly hairstyles down, Em as I am always so anal about keeping them "undisturbed" lol. It's fun to see what you come up with as alternative styles. I think she looks great with her hair down!

    1. I believe it's typically Indonesia that has the glue-filled heads, but the Ashlynn I bought was made in China. I think it's pretty much just a luck of the draw at this point. :/

  9. Muzzy and Emily...thanks ladies for the great reviews. I think both dolls are just lovely.

  10. These were a fun pair of dolls to see in detail. Thanks to both of you for sharing them!

    Personally, I've never felt particularly drawn to Ever After High, but the more I see of their recent releases, the more they've grown on me. It's nice to know that the line is continuing to evolve!

  11. These are both lovely dolls! I have Maddie and am considering expanding my collection of EAHs to include some more Wonderland characters, though I really like both of these ladies. I suppose it doesn't hurt that Duchess Swan looks a bit like Once Upon A Time's Regina Mills...

  12. Faybelle Thorn is the daughter of the bad fairy from Sleeping Beauty.

  13. Ashlynn Ella is my favorite! loving her body color!

  14. Ooooo! I received both dolls for my birthday, and I am LOVING them!

  15. These dolls are great! I don't have any Ever After High dolls as of yet (although I adore Cerise), but from what I understand it's pretty much a toss-up as to whether an individual doll will have a glue-filled head. Maybe it's just the Swan Lake connection leading me down a rabbit hole (or into a swan pond), but at certain angles Duchess reminds me of Mila Kunis as Lily in Black Swan!

  16. I love the new Ashlynn. She is so sweet and cute. And yes, I hear you on Tabs of Doom! I hate them!

    I plan on painting my headpiece on Duchess. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it looked like a pIneapple. I could not figure out what it was and pineapple was the only thing that came to mind :)

  17. I was so disappointed that Duchess has mostly black hair. It's mostly white in the cartoon, and that's what I want for the doll. Black hair makes her look much like Raven. Since the EAH dolls have such similar heads/faces, the hair and makeup really have to do the heavy lifting to make them distinct!

    I hope they come out with a Duchess variant later with mostly white hair, the way the second Cedar doll had much more purple in her hair than the original.

    Overall the EAH line is a letdown for me this year. Through the Woods and especially Enchanted Picnic are so lackluster in design compared to the basics, and the more elaborate dolls like Spring Unsprung seem like a mishmash of patterns, rather than the thoughtful motifs and matching combos of last year's dolls.

  18. Did anyone noticed that the box says Ashylnn?

  19. i have a question to you guys doll collectors, how is it you buy the same doll over and over changing only the clothing? specially with mattel's human labor?