Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vi and Va Dolls by MGA Entertainment

Lately I have been scanning the shelves of the local stores, eagerly looking for any sign of the 2015 Bratz dolls by MGA Entertainment.  While I've yet to see anything new from Bratz, MGA did debut a completely different doll line back in January.  Several of you have been noticing these dolls in the stores and asking if I would write a review.  I am extremely happy to do this review because the newcomers look quite different from most other dolls on the shelves right now--and I am always excited to see something truly new.

The doll brand is called "Vi and Va," which is short for "Viviana and Valentina." The brand name also sounds like the word viva, which means "live" or "long live" in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.  Viviana and Valentina are a pair of teenaged sisters who are also close friends.  The other dolls in the line are the sisters' two cousins, Roxxi and Felicia--who are also friends.  MGA's website does not have a huge amount of backstory about these characters, but I get the sense that the girls are Latina and that the line is meant to center around close families.

The dolls are only available at Target right now, where they have been relatively easy to find for the past few months.  All four of the characters were in stock (and on sale) when I went shopping.  There were also a few fashion packs and a Birthday Celebration set with both Vi and Va.  I chose the redheaded Vi doll and also her green-eyed, blonde-haired cousin, Felicia.  I thought these two offered a nice contrast and would be fun to review together:

Viviana (left) and Felicia (right) by MGA Entertainment, $16.99 each.
I will do an in-depth review of Vi first, and then take a shorter look at Felicia a little later.  Before I get started, though, I want to mention something a little confusing about the names of these dolls.  Valentina, Felicia and Roxxi are all names of Bratz dolls...but the Bratz characters look nothing like their counterparts in Vi and Va's world.  At first I thought maybe Via and Va were meant to relate directly to the Bratz line, but now I wonder if someone at MGA just likes these names?  Roxxi is particularly interesting since I've never seen that double-x spelling anywhere else.  I'd love to hear what some of you more Bratz-savvy collectors think about this!

Anyway, the Vi and Va dolls come in mostly plastic packages with a roughly rectangular shape and one rounded, decorated edge:

Here's a close-up of the text on the side of the box:

The back of the box is cardboard, and has a bright orange-based color scheme.  There's a short description of Vi's character and a large cartoon picture of her:

The cartoon Vi is wearing the same outfit as the doll.  I really like this style of box art.  Truth be told, I actually prefer the cartoon Vi to the actual doll:


This style of art reminds me a little of the Moxie Girlz pictures I've seen online--especially the swirly sections of hair with different shades of the same color.  I really like the patterns that have been added into the hair in these cartoons:

Viviana is described as being a spontaneous, easy-going singer.  She plays the guitar and enjoys entertaining her family with her talents.

The Viviana doll actually comes with her blue guitar and some sheet music:

I have to say that I never look forward to opening a doll box made by MGA.  Past experience has taught me to expect lots of unnecessary attachments and hassles.  I removed the tape and released the cardboard tabs along the straight edge of the box, and then tried to pull the inner backdrop out...

...but it wasn't quite that simple.  I actually had to release the side and top of the box before I could remove the doll.  This wasn't actually hard, though--just mildly inconvenient for my impatient self.  

Here's the backdrop:

Vi herself was attached to the box with a few clear rubber bands, a plastic casing around her feet, and plastic ties in her head.  

The guitar was tied to a plastic mount with a stretchy, easy-to-cut rubber band.  The sheet music was enclosed within a plastic case:

De-boxing this doll was not especially trying, but there was one really irritating part.  The backs of the plastic ties in Vi's head were actually sealed within plastic (wax?) so that they could not be cut from the back:

A new level of overkill.
Apparently four plastic ties through the head is not enough to secure a doll anymore.  If this level of structure is required to keep the plastic ties from pulling through the cardboard...maybe the answer is to stop using plastic ties altogether?  Please??

The gob of plastic or wax (or whatever it was) made it so that I had to either yank the doll out with brute force, or cut the ties from the front.  I decided to cut the ties, but they were super-tight, so this was not easy.

Four of 'em.
I tried to be really careful, but managed to snip a little bit of Vi's hair anyway:

Here's everything that was in the box--with the music sheets still inside their plastic packaging:

Vi's guitar is made out of plastic and has molded (and painted) strings:

The molding and coloring on this guitar is nice, but it's hollow in the back, which was a disappointment.  

It looks pretty cheap from the back side:

The scuffs and smudges along the edges don't help:

This guitar mold must have been reused from another doll line or something, because it has slots for a guitar strap...but doesn't actually come with a strap.  It would have been really nice if it had come with a strap because, as we'll see later, Vi can't actually hold this guitar without the help of rubber bands or tape.

Here's the sheet music, nicely arranged in its own plastic casing:

There are four sheets (actually made out of cardboard); one of them is blank staff paper and the other three have identical music written on them:

Here's what two of the three sheets of music have on them:

The third music sheet has the same notes, but also has one line scribbled out and a few dark slur lines drawn in:

I'll come back to the music in a minute, but for right now let's look at Vi:

She's ok at balancing on her own, and stands best when her right foot is placed slightly behind her left.

Vi's hair was the first thing that drew my attention.  Her hair is an unusual dark burgundy color that I think is really pretty, but the texture didn't look very promising right out of the box.  In fact, it reminded me a little too much of another MGA Entertainment character...that first wave Bratzillaz Meygana.  Not a great association where hair is concerned:

The hair comes styled into a single side ponytail.  The top part of the ponytail looked ok (except for the part I cut...), but the bottom was matted and uneven and looked like it would be hard to brush:

That's really bad hair.
The other thing that I noticed pretty early on was that Vi's suspenders were plastic-tied to her shirt...and were still trying really hard to fall down:

I wasn't sure right away if these tiny ties were supposed to be cut, because it didn't seem like the suspenders had any hope of staying up without them:

This strikes me as a bad design decision (slippery suspenders paired with narrow, sloping shoulders...) followed by a quick, cheap "fix."  Maybe it won't be too long before doll clothes are held together with these infernal ties?  I was only joking the last time I said that, but now I'm not so sure.  

I decided to wait and see if it would be possible to get the outfit off while leaving the silly ties in place.

In the meantime, I took a closer look at Vi's face:

Vi has a round face with huge eyes, a small nose and full, bright pink lips.  Her rounded facial features make me think of a child quite a bit younger than sixteen.  She has some characteristics that remind me of other MGA dolls (most notably the Bratzillaz) but for the most part she has a look all her own.

She has a caramel brown skin tone highlighted by two rosy areas at the very tops of her cheeks.

When I first saw the Vi and Va dolls at Target, I really did not like their eyes.  In fact, I walked away from purchasing these dolls on several occasions simply because of the eyes.  

The eyes are really big and have split irises with two different colors on the top and bottom.  In addition, the black iris pattern is shaped like a gear, with seven large capsule-shaped spokes radiating from the central pupil:

To me, this looks like Vi has a gear-shaped pupil.  Some animals (like cephalopods) have oddly-shaped pupils, and this works for them:

I am a bizarre-yet-lovable cuttlefish!
Call me old-fashioned, but I like it when humans have nice, round pupils.

Vi's eyes are also accented with large, opaque, bubble-like reflective dots, painted eyelashes, and a few shades of eyeshadow.  The bright yellow and orange eyeshadow matches the theme of the doll and her packaging, but does not help tame the craziness of the eyes.  Overall, the eye design has a bit of a spaced-out, psychedelic vibe that reminds me a lot of the early Cutie Pops eyes...which I found slightly alienating.  

I think the box art eyes are so much better:

In defense of the eyes, I can say that they are certainly original.  I have never seen an eye design quite like this before.  In addition, the two-toned irises--with their half-moons of green and brown--do a pretty good job of conveying an overall hazel color.  Last, I will say that the design of the eyes is not quite as jarring in real life as it looks in my super-up-close pictures.

Vi's mouth is molded to be slightly open, and she has a thin line of white painted teeth:

I found Vi's rat's nest ponytail distracting as I tried to look at her face and head.  I decided to take the hair down and see if I could brush it out and improve its appearance:

It's really, really frizzy and thick and is hard to smooth down.  It has coarse ends--much like Bratzillaz Meagana's hair, but perhaps not quite as bad.

There was some styling product around Vi's face, but not much in the rest of the hair.  This is one of those rare cases where I'll say that maybe the hair could have used just a bit more styling gel.

Tame that frizz!
I knew I would have to wash and cut this hair at some point, but I pulled it back into a temporary large (clumpy) braid so that I could get a good look at the outfit.

It's a little easier to appreciate the shape of Vi's face and head when her hair is all pulled straight back like this:

Here's a look at her full profile:

She has gigantic eyes.
And her half-profile:

Vi comes wearing two blue plastic hoop earrings that are removable:

The earrings have a weak point at the top--you can see the white stress lines where the plastic is already bent almost to its breaking point.  These earrings will not last long.

Before I show you the details of Vi's outfit, let's take another look at the box art version of her clothes:

The actual outfit has the same basic colors and patterns as the picture, but a different shape.  For instance, the cartoon pants are high-waisted and form-fitting, but the doll's pants have a looser fit--more like overalls (or clown pants).  Also, the cartoon shirt has little cap sleeves that are missing in the actual outfit.  I mention these mostly because larger sleeves on the doll's outfit might have helped those suspender straps stay up without plastic ties!

The shirt is made out of a multicolored knit and has tiny little hemmed edges:

The shirt opens all of the way down in back with a velcro seam:

I had a little trouble getting the outfit off without cutting the plastic ties in the suspenders, but it was possible.  I still decided to remove these ties because they looked like they might tear holes in the suspenders (or shirt) over time.

Here's the shirt on its own:

This shirt is nicely finished, but some of the edges roll inside out because of the stretch in the knit fabric:

The pants are made out of a stiff, thick, red denim and have an oversized baby blue ribbon belt:

Reminds me of a birthday present.

The belt loops are made out of actual loops of red ribbon.  The belt is sewn to the back of the pants right next to the velcro seam.  The rest of the belt is free, except for where the two belt loops hold it in place.

The other details of the pants are stitched into the denim with black thread.

The front of the pants (but not the back) has a white geometric pattern applied to the fabric.  This adds to the overall stiffness of the pants.

Vi is wearing blue vinyl shoes with some molded detail.  The shoes match her belt and her guitar:

The backs of the shoes have very small slits, but they're still really easy to get on and off.

A few painted details would really sharpen the look of these shoes--especially if the woodgrain heels were painted a light brown color (like they are on the box art):

There's no nice way to say this next part.  Underneath her shoes, Vi has...well, she has elephant feet:

Pachyderm trotters.
These are, perhaps, the strangest doll feet I have ever seen.  They go beyond just being nubbins.  There's no toe detail whatsoever, save for the five half-circle elephant toenails.  There's also not much to define the top of the foot, except for a small indentation at the pseudo-ankle.

In profile, the feet have slightly more definition.  There's actually a small arch to the bottom of the foot, and a heel region:

I'll give some originality points to MGA again here.  These feet are certainly unique.  And they make the shoes super-easy to get on and off.  I don't even think the shoes have any left or right distinction.  The feet are actually kinda cute from the side, but if I had been on the design team, I might have re-considered that decidedly Proboscidean front view.

The legs are constructed with an obvious side seam that is coming apart a little at the bottom of my Vi's left leg:

Vi's body is made mostly out of hard plastic, but her arms and head are hard vinyl.  Her arms do not bend much at all.  In fact, when I first held this doll, I assumed that she was made entirely out of hard plastic.  

She has five points of articulation: 

Vi has a distinctive body shape with thick lower legs, very small shoulders, a short torso, and wide hips:

Even though her features are caricatured, she's exaggerated differently than many popular play dolls.  This is another way to tackle the challenge of having a variety of body types represented in the doll world, I suppose--and a very different approach than the mathematical calculations behind the Lammily doll that I featured in an earlier post.

The back of this doll is littered with marks.  She bears the MGA copyright, MGA's U.K. address (in pink) and a bunch of numbers.

Despite her atypical proportions, Vi's profile reminds me a lot of a Monster High doll, with that arched back and small chest:

The curves in the front half of the torso, in particular, are reminiscent of a Monster High doll:

My Vi doll has a few small vinyl molding defects.  She has some scraps of vinyl lining the joint in her right shoulder, but these do not interfere with the movement in that area:

The picture, above, also shows the slight color difference between the plastic body of this doll and her vinyl arms.

The other defect is in the neck joint, and I think this actually does limit the movement of Vi's head a little bit:

I think of dolls as having either a full range of head movement or having only rotational movement--with very few options in the middle.  Vi is unusual in this respect: she has good backwards head movement, but cannot tip her head forwards:

In the picture on the right, above, where she seems like she's looking down, it's actually that her whole torso is tipped forwards.

She can, however, rotate her head all of the way around:

And she can tilt her head a little from side to side:

This articulation culminates to allow some nice upwards-and-to-the-side head poses, but nothing that involves the head looking down.  I wondered if this limitation was due to my Vi's neck defect and was anxious to look at Felicia to double-check.

*Update: Felicia can look down a little bit (not much!), so Vi's neck defect does influence her flexibility.

Vi has rotating hinge shoulder joints with a nice range of motion:

Her arms do not articulate below the shoulder, but they are shaped differently--with the left arm more bent at the elbow than the right:

Vi has nicely-sculpted hands.  Unlike her feet, they have a realistic shape with distinct fingers and detailed nails:

Because Vi has such nice neck and shoulder articulation, I had high hopes for her legs.  Unfortunately, her hips can only rotate around and do not have any hinged movement.  This means that she can't really do side-to-side splits--or she can't do them past the fixed angle that her legs bend into when she sits on the ground:

This means that sitting in a chair is not something Vi can do very naturally:

She can do full front-to-back splits, though:

I like the shape of this doll's legs in profile--they're not overly skinny and they look really graceful:

Before I re-dressed Vi, I gave her hair a quick boil rinse and cut off the scraggly ends.  This type of fix tends to be temporary with dolls who have hair with this texture (the newly-cut ends will get coarser over time) but it made a nice difference in the short term:

Isn't the hair a beautiful color?

In my remaining pictures you'll probably notice that the suspender straps are always falling down.  This is because without those plastic ties, it's very tricky to get these straps to stay up long enough to snap a picture:

Vi's shorter hair is easier to brush and manage, but it's still hard to get all of the strands to lay smoothly.

I think the hair looks best when it's styled back into a single ponytail:

Because Vi's blue guitar does not have a strap (it'd be pretty easy to make one out of ribbon...maybe I could repurpose that belt??) she can't hold this instrument on her own.  However, a single clear rubber band can help her grip the neck:

Looks like I made her left-handed.
I should mention that when I was posing Vi for the picture, above, I noticed that it's a little hard to get her to sit on the ground in those red pants.  If they were any more form-fitting (like the graphic on the box...) she would not be able to sit at all.  I understand the baggy fit of the outfit a lot better from this perspective.

The last thing I wanted to do before I opened the Felicia doll was find out if the sheet music that comes with Vi is an actual song--or just random notes.  I am fascinated by this sort of thing.  It's kind-of like the doll comes with a little mystery surprise.  

What song could it be??

Those of you who are musically inclined will have already noticed that this isn't guitar music.  It has simultaneous notes in both the bass and the treble clef, so it has to be played by a piano--or by multiple instruments.  Fortunately, my son plays some jazz piano and agreed to sit down and reveal what the secret song is:

There's a funny repeated line in there somewhere--that's actually in the written music.

And this is how my son thinks the song should go:

Sorry about the camera wobbling.  I had to groove.

Here are some of my initial thoughts: Vi has a sturdy-feeling body that is large enough to be easy to handle.  She only has a few joints (making her simple to pose), but most of her joints have a good range of motion.  Vi's clothes and shoes are easy to manage, too.  Only her suspenders caused me any real trouble.  This doll also has a very wholesome image.  There's nothing glamorous or sexy about her outfit, and her passion for music is expressed through playing the guitar--not being a rock star or a teen pop sensation.  All of these features make Vi seem well-suited to younger kids (5-10, maybe?)...provided Vi's eyes don't freak them out.  Within the MGA empire, Vi seems to sit comfortably in between the whimsical Lalaloopsy line and the more mature Bratz crew.  I'd say that the only thing making Vi ill-suited to younger kids is her hair.  It's a nightmare of tangles waiting to happen.

Now I'd like to take a quick look at Felicia, just to see what kind of variety is in this line and also to see if the quality is consistent with my Vi doll.

Felicia's packaging is basically the same as Vi's:

But of course the box is decorated with pictures and descriptions of Felicia's character:

Felicia is a year older than her cousin Vi, and she is an artist.

An explosive artist, at that.
Felicia's box art is a lot like Vi's--with textured patterns in the hair and pretty (but huge) eyes:

The cartoon Felicia's eyes seem especially nice in contrast to the actual doll's eyes.  The reflective dots in the drawing make the eyes appear to have depth and shine.  Also, while the doll and the drawing have the same iris pattern, the pattern in the drawing is pale green--not dark.  This makes it look more like a flower and less like a gear (or a squid):

My de-boxing experience was about the same with Felicia as it was with Vi.  The only big difference was that Felicia's hair was sewn into a plastic strip, not secured in a ponytail.

I took the advice I have gotten from you guys about opening these irritating plastic strips.  I just pulled the two sides apart instead of trying to cut all of the threads or yank the strip out of the hair.  This worked pretty well, and I see what you mean about the pleasing zzzip noise!  Cool.

Felicia comes with her paint pallet, brush and art box.  As with Vi's music sheets, Felicia's pallet is packaged in its own little plastic shell.

Here's everything that was in the box:

The pallet is made out of cardboard and is a little warped:

A bit of a throwaway.
The paintbrush is made out of soft vinyl.  It does not have a lot of detail, but the bristle area is painted black:

The art box is bright pink and is made out of plastic.

It opens along the midline seam on top, but the hinges on each side are just thin areas of plastic that can bend.  This style of hinge does not allow the box to open very wide.

The paintbrush fits inside the box, but the cardboard pallet does not...unless you want to fold it:

Felicia has long, wavy blonde hair and bright green eyes.  She is wearing a smock-type shirt over colorful leggings.  Her outfit has a lot of contrasting neon color accents:

The texture of Felicia's hair is very similar to Vi's--maybe slightly less coarse.

Still pretty bad, though.
The first brush-through of Felicia's hair actually made it look nice.  It's frizzy and has a ton of volume, but I didn't feel like I had to boil or trim it right away:

Here's a look at the rooting:

Felicia's long hair tends to get caught on her earrings, so I took the earrings out for the rest of the review.  

The earrings are chartreuse green and have a star pattern at the bottom of what looks like a chain of beads or pearls:

It also kinda looks like peas.
Felicia has the same head mold as Vi.  She has rounded features and a partially open mouth:

Felicia's eyes are divided into a dark green half and a sage green half.  She has the same gear-shaped iris pattern as Vi, but her iris markings are a little lighter--not pitch black like the pupils:

Felicia also has thinner, paler eyebrows than her cousin, a different shade of eyeshadow, smaller irises, and darker, slightly thinner lips.  Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two girls:

Felicia has the same rosy areas near the tops of her cheeks, but this paint is farther away from her eyes than it is on Vi.

I like Vi's darker eyes and thicker eyebrows.  The sage green half of Felicia's eyes seems too bright.  However, I prefer Felicia's rose-pink lip color and blue eyeshadow.

As with many doll lines, the more time I spend with these dolls, the more I get used to their unusual features.  When I look at these faces now, I see some sweetness there that I didn't appreciate at first.  I've also grown to like the two-toned style of the iris painting and want to run out to Target to examine the other characters' eyes more closely.

Felicia's outfit is a little easier to manage than Vi's outfit.  It has two simple pieces--a long denim top and stretch leggings.  None of the pieces need to be plastic-tied together.

The top reminds me of a painter's smock, which is probably intentional given Felicia's personality.  The blue denim shirt has shiny, swirly green sleeves and (shiny) neon pink cuffs.  The shirt's collar matches the pink cuffs, but the bottom hem is finished with (shiny) neon green knit.  

There's a lot going on with this shirt.
I am not crazy about the shirt.  I think it's mostly the fault of the dark blue denim.  I just don't care for the look of denim with those windbreaker-like sleeves and neon accents.  A regular denim jacket would look cute with a neon pink tee, maybe, but this?  Meh.  Maybe it just brings back flashes of the tacky clothes I wore as a kid in the 80s.  The denim fabric is thick and feels durable, though, I'll give it that.

The shirt has three ribbon accents, one running down the whole front of the shirt (meant to be like a zipper?) and the other two on the sides to simulate pockets:

The shirt has a full velcro seam down the back:

This piece seems well-made.  Here's a look at the inside finishing:

Felicia's leggings have an elastic waist and a nice fit:

The leggings are decorated with letters, but they're all upside-down.  Some of the letters spell "love," but there are other letters that don't seem to be directly related to any word.

I guess the letters would be upside-right from Felicia's perspective....
Felicia's hard plastic legs make these stretchy leggings very easy to get on and off.  Overall, the leggings are a cute and versatile piece of clothing.

Felicia is wearing bright pink high-heeled shoes with a molded lace-up pattern in the front:

Again, without any painted details, these shoes seem a little drab.

Vi and Felicia have the same body, but Felicia's skin tone is lighter:

I couldn't think of any other dolls I own who have the same body proportions as these new Vi and Va dolls.  Here's a lineup with some of my other MGA Entertainment dolls, though--just to see if there's any family resemblance:

Bratzillaz "Meygana," Bratz "Nadine," Vi, Moxie Girlz "Kellan."
There are some vague similarities here.  For example, all of the dolls have thick lips and big eyes.  Also, the Bratz and Bratzillaz dolls have the same shortened torso as Vi.  I think Bratzillaz Meygana looks the most like Vi in the face, but the resemblance is not very strong.

The doll who looks the least like Vi in the face is the one who actually has the most similar body: Moxie Girlz Kellan:

Kellan is wider in the shoulders and thinner in the hips, but she can almost wear Vi's outfit.  The pants fit pretty well but the top is too small and will not close in back:

Likewise, Vi can almost wear Kellan's clothes.  The pants are a decent fit, but the top is too big.

I knew Vi would never be able to share clothes with the Monster High dolls, but I wanted to see the two side-by-side out of curiosity:

Vi makes Clawdeen look sooo skinny.

I searched around for other unusual dolls that I could compare to Vi and found the Beatrix Girlz doll, Lark:

These two have very little in common.  And Lark still looks angry to me (but her hair is SO much nicer than Vi's...).

And here's Vi with my Cutie Pops Crown Cutie doll, Crystalina.  This is one of the later Cutie Pops dolls so her eyes aren't as extreme as some, but you can still see that both of these brands have very large, unrealistic eyes:

Crystalina almost has the reverse proportions of Vi, with wide shoulders and very narrow hips.  Her legs also look really spidery next to Vi.

For fun, here's Vi next to my Lammily doll, Mia.  Both dolls have body types that are not typical in the fashion doll world, but they could not be more different from each other:

Vi's round head and short torso also remind me a lot of my Pinkie Cooper dolls.  Here's Vi with Pepper:

The torso proportions and the leg shape on these dolls is similar, but they'd never be able to share clothes.

I also compared Vi to several of my smaller dolls--like this Madame Alexander Travel Friends girl from India (Aadhya):

These two can almost share clothes, but Aadhya's dress is too short on Vi and Vi's pants are way too long for Aadhya.

The most similar doll body that I could find in my house was the smaller Ever After High body.  This is Maddie Hatter's body, but it still has the Princess Malucia head attached to it:

Both dolls have narrow shoulders, small chests and wider-than-usual hips (for dolls, anyway!).  However, Vi's hips are even a little wider than Malucia/Maddie's:

I didn't find many great options for clothes sharing--which is a shame since I'm not wild about the Vi and Va outfits that I bought.  There might be pieces here and there from Ever After High, Moxie Girlz and other lines that will fit Vi, but I couldn't find any consistent matches.

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures of Vi:

And a couple of Felicia:

Bottom line?  There are three main things that make me less than enthusiastic about the Vi and Va dolls: their eye design, their outfit design and their hair texture.

I knew I didn't care for the eye design the moment I saw these dolls in the store.  I tend to relate to my dolls through their eyes, and so when eyes come across as vacant or strange, I have a difficult time connecting to the doll as a whole.  After spending some time with these dolls, I feel like I have a better sense for why the eyes don't work for me--and also an appreciation for some of the good qualities of the eyes.  The eyes of the cartoon versions of Vi and Felicia are really neat.  They seem to sparkle and have a faint flower-like iris pattern that looks pretty.  The translation of this idea into the actual dolls' eyes doesn't work for me.  The dolls' eyes have dark iris lines that look (unintentionally) like extensions of the pupil itself.  The shape of an animal's pupil can be a very defining characteristic, and I prefer my human dolls to have circular pupils.  The other unusual feature of the Vi and Va dolls' eyes is that they are divided in half horizontally and are painted with contrasting colors.  I actually grew to appreciate this technique the more time I spent with the dolls.  Not only is it a unique way of adding more color to the irises, but it suggests a shadowing effect over the top part of the eyes--which would be a realistic result of having thick eyelashes.  I think the color choices are more successful on Vi than on Felicia, and Felicia's eyes would be improved by a slightly darker bottom half.

I wasn't crazy about the style of Vi and Felicia's clothes when I first saw them in the store, and I'm still not completely sold.  There are some cute outfits in this line, though (in the fashion packs and on the other dolls) so there's hope.  I think Vi's blue ribbon belt is overpowering, her pants can look clown-like from some angles, and it's frustrating that her suspenders won't stay up.  Felicia's shirt looks dated and has way too much going on.  I also think the neon colors and swirly patterns only enhance the strangeness of her eyes.  The shoes look plain next to the colorful, patterned clothing, and would benefit from a few painted details.  However, after handling the clothes, I can say that they are made out of durable fabrics and are constructed well (for play doll clothes).  The outfits (and shoes) are easy to get on and off and seem well-suited to younger kids.  I've also come to realize that I enjoy the energetic, youthful spirit of these outfits more than I expected.  The colors and patterns bring a lively, fun-loving personality to the dolls that fits with their celebration-themed advertising.  There's actually more personality in the outfits than there is in the eyes.  Maybe I could sew Vi's suspenders in place, remove her big belt and learn to appreciate that outfit?  I don't think there's any way I'm going to change my mind about Felicia's shirt, though.

Both Vi and Felicia have wavy hair that's shiny and nice at the top, but very coarse and hard to manage at the ends.  Vi's hair looks and feels a little better after her boil wash, but the newly-cut ends are still rough and it's hard to make the hair look smooth.  Felicia's hair was slightly better than Vi's right out of the box, but it still feels very dry and tangle-prone.  In my experience, hair fiber like this does not hold up well over time.  It's such a shame that the quality of the hair isn't better on these dolls.  I particularly like the color of Vi's burgundy red hair, and wish it was more fun to play with.

So, I guess I appreciate a few more things about the eyes, clothes and hair of these dolls than I expected, but those details are certainly not what I like best about the line.  When I try to summarize my feelings about Vi and Va dolls, the first thing that comes to mind is how unique they are.  So many things about this collection are different from the rest of the dolls on the shelves: the eye design, the body shape, the fashion sense--even the range of skin tones.  I may not like all of the artistic choices that were made with these dolls, but I certainly appreciate and value their originality.  The other thing I enjoy about Vi and Va dolls is their family-based theme.  The initial group of characters includes only family members: two sisters and their cousins.  And it seems that the line will focus on the celebrations and fun times shared by these close relatives.  Has any other doll line done this?  I can't think of one.  Of all the unique things about the Vi and Va dolls, this is my favorite.  My own family is busy and spread thin all over the country, but oh, how I cherish the times when we are together.  To have a new doll line that celebrates and promotes these precious family connections, well, that can't be matter how strange the dolls' eyes and feet might be.


  1. I kind of like them, but on the other side I don't like them. They are cute and everything and I do like clothes (especially on Felicia), but they look cheaply made to me.

    1. I have a very similar reaction to these dolls! It's the half like, half dislike syndrome! ;)

    2. They are just screaming for articulation, IMO. They have such cute, plump bodies, but stiff like a stick...

    3. For what they are, the price is too high. If they were around $8, I might consider getting them for my daughter. We aren't wild enough to pay more.

  2. The music looks like it's supposed to be Mary Had A Little Lamb?

    1. Good call!! :D That's exactly what it is, although it has a strange extra line thrown in.

  3. Thanks for doing this review!! I've been so curious about these dolls.

  4. I've been over the giant heads and huge eyes (and short torsos) for some time now, but those stumpy elephant peg feet are just awful. I love the box art, though. It's so exuberant and fun.

    Thanks for the review. I saw them at Target and passed them by. It's good to know I didn't miss out on anything I'd have liked to have.

    1. Isn't the box art great? I totally agree--I truly like it more than the dolls. I'd love to see a real doll with a similar kind of mixed pattern/texture effect in her hair. That'd be so neat!

  5. Wow, those eyes. All glory to the Hypnotoad!

    1. Oh gosh, that was literally my first thought!

    2. LOL!!! That's gonna have me giggling all day.... XD

  6. I love these dolls, and own Valentina and Felicia, and I totally understand about the eyes, I downright hated the eyes when I first saw them, but because I stroll down the doll isle twice a week, (wink wink), I started to get used to them, and after buying them, I immediately fell in love. And as a side note, I wanted to ask you about Pullip Shinku, when was she released? and when did you get her? I have bee trying to buy her, but she sells for over three hundred bucks, about three times what an average pullip costs.

    1. Hi,
      I've seen her going cheaper than that on Mandarake if you don't mind buying from Japan.
      I'd recommend getting the re-release from 2014 though, it's way cheaper and it uses the more easily maintained type 4 body. There's a good review on youtube by 'Scarlett B' if you want to check it out.

    2. ok, thanks! I didn't even know she had been rereleased!!!!

    3. My Shinku is the older version (I think I bought her 2 years ago?), but I agree that the new one looks great and is much more reasonably priced! Mine has her original outfit but horribly messed-up hair (too many modeling gigs for the blog...) but if you're interested in a way-less-than-mint doll, send me an email. I am tragically bad at email right now, but I will try to check! ;)

    4. ok, email ha been sent! I used my other account, if that's ok, this accounts gmail has been acting up lately. :)

  7. I have found and fallen in love with your site over the past week and a half or so! Thanks for sharing so much of your hobby with all of us, sometimes at a good hit to your wallet no less! I really like seeing things like the hair rooting, that I might be really disappointed to find in real life but is not always easily seen in the box or online c:

    Plus I love the pictures! Makes me want to get some dolls to photograph, or go find some of my old ones (though I had the old stand very very required Barbies and such, lol, plus who knows what condition they are in).

    Speaking of, I have a question and I know you said your inbox is pretty full (I get that, I feel like I'm there all the time!) so I figured I'd ask here, then others can help answer too maybe c: I am going on a big trip in December, and I have been thinking (again) about getting a doll to give me something neat to photograph on my journey, especially to add some interest to otherwise touristy or plainer photos. I'd ideally like something with a BJD aesthetic and poseability (probably prefer adult or teen look, child might be ok with slightly less realism) but without the maintenance requirements (restringing-etc terrifies me, and it seems like they wouldn't travel very hardy) or the quite so crazy price tag... under $150 (I feel like that gets you solidly into beginner/non-limited BJD territory, especially if you go ABS or another alt material, and I probably would) would be good, under $100 would be amazing.

    Any suggestions? Can be a nice (or even not so nice, but I doubt that would really hit the points) play doll, or a more introductory collectible range doll.

    I can share some of my favorites I've seen so far if that helps, but I am really more looking for a brand or direction (going to have to shop later, not working atm) than a specific doll/look.

    Thanks to anyone who shares knowledge and wisdom in advance! c:

    1. Edit: That should of course say 'BJD aesthetic and similar posability'. Also I forgot to mention that your humor is awesome. And you let me know that they remade KItty surprise not once but twice! That alone is worth lots of applause, I had no idea. I loved the originals as a kid.

    2. What about Makie dolls? They're technically not stringed, but they do have ball-jointed limbs haha. They're made out of 3d printer plastic and is very durable for traveling (I like to travel with my dolls!) You get to customize your doll on their website :) I believe Emily/toyboxphilsopher have two reviews on Makies!

      Another type of doll is the Hujoo on The mini ones are strung and are really, really cute. They're made of out ABS plastic so the price is low compared to other bjds (I think they're under...$40?)

    3. Oooh...Jenny beat me to it! ;) Makies are perfect for trips! I took my Effie to Edinburgh last year ( and she's the most durable, personable little travel companion you'd ever want to have! Not only are Makes super-posable and not strung, but they can go in the dishwasher! :D They can creep close to $200 with shipping, though. Hm.

      I also think Pullips and J-Dolls are very photogenic and poseable, but they're way more fragile than a Makie. Let me think about this for a little more time and get back to you--maybe cruise my messy doll room and see if anyone jumps to mind? ;)

      Thank you so much for your nice comments about the blog, too--and for understanding about my dismal inbox! It is great to have you here. :)

    4. Makie has a lot of appeal (I've actually looked at them occasionally for a while now) but they do get up there. Perhaps it will work out by then but I really can't say at all for sure right now. They are lovely enough that the additional costs would be offset by having them outside the trip, though I do worry about 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th guessing myself on the customization, lol. Just how I am :D

      Strung or unstrung doesn't really matter to me, I'll admit I don't know the difference/advantages, really (I'd love to though!). I just want a doll that can pose and hold poses remotely well - not a miracle but not snapping back to neutral quickly either c:

      I appreciate the heck out of the suggestions so far (def going to check out the Hujoo(s?). Anything additional is just icing on the cake, from anyone, thank you so so much c:

  8. Hey Emily,

    Goodness, those are some funky eyes, aren't they? Through the post I couldn't help but want to grab a bottle of acetone, wipe the paint off and re-do it myself, and I'm still learning how to get paint to the right consistency for painting dolls! But really, who approved that design? I mean, the flower iris lines are a cool idea, and the shading is fun, but if you're going to do a complex design I'd prefer they take the time to make it look good instead of, well, squidlike. The pachyderm toes are slightly freaky too... Are we sure this doll is 100% human? :P That being said, I do appreciate the innocence factor and family ties.

    When I got to the picture of the music I instantly started sight-reading it, (I sing) and went: "goodness, this is quite basic, isn't it?" Do, ti, do, do do do do, do ti la ti do... Props to your son for jazzing it up, I love his style. (and you didn't have him read the tiny little sheet, did you? ;))

    I wonder if rubbing a small amount of conditioner through the hair would help? I washed my Hearts for Hearts doll Nahji's hair with some conditioner after I'd owned her for a few years and the texture was getting stiff. Of course, each doll's hair is different.

    I can assure you that I have never ever seen a 17 year old wear an outfit like Felicia's... I guess they made her older to give the "ooh, role model!" effect to little girls. But, honestly I think the shirt is atrocious.
    So my thoughts on the matter are, get these girls some conditioner, new outfits and different eye paint, and they'd be okay. :P I guess you can tell that I'm not a big fan of them. I haven't seen them in stores yet. The body shape does remind me of Bratz Kids though, just more developed.

    I hope you are doing well, send my compliments to your son, and great post as always. :)
    Love, Muzzy

    1. Hi Muzzy! Thank you for your excellent suggestions--I could not agree more. Felicia, in particular, needs new eye paint. Do you want to give it a try?? Also, it's reassuring to know that you see the same thing when you look at her shirt. I don't always have the best fashion instincts, but I do not like that shirt.

      I had the same thought that these dolls were starting to feel like a peculiar human hybrid creature. An elephant-human-cuttlefish. What could we call that?? A cuttlephantaman? A huelephish? There's gotta be a good name...

      I have not seen the Bratz Kids body! Now I will have to seek one out to do a comparison. I always like having a doll quest to go on. :)

      I will pass along your sweet compliments to my kid. Thank you. I was happily surprised to get a few minutes out of his day for those videos. I think he got tired of hearing me try to stumble my way through the song! I am the musical spectator in my house. :)

    2. Are you offering to let me re-paint your doll?! :O Hmm, well if you're that brave, be my guest! (Although I suppose you did remove the vinyl from a Disney store doll's leg before. I still think she looked like a cool superhero with just the frame. :D) If the repaint goes horribly, at least I'll try to sew you some new clothes for the dear (and maybe your Ever after high dolls as well? ;)). Send me an email and let me know if you're serious.

      Hmm... The Two-legged land Cuttlephant? The scientific term for a cuttlefish is Sepiida, so, Sepiidaderm Girl! And her sidekick, Peanut!

      Too bad my bratz kids have gone the way of the dumpster, or else I could've shown you what they looked like. I wish you the best of luck for finding one!
      Best wishes!

  9. I love the concept of this line! I hate to say it but I wish they weren't MGA. Another brand could have executed these cuties a lot better. The focus on an often-ignored culture is great. These girls have lovely skin tones, and those bodies are so refreshing with the wider torsos and hips. I also love the idea behind the eye style but they fell short on execution. I'm reminded of anime girls when I see their big shiny eyes and it makes me happy. I hope the company continues with this line and makes improvement on quality; it would be a shame to see such a refreshing concept go to waste. Thank you for the detailed review and lovely photography!

    1. Thank you for your nice comment! I think you summarized this line perfectly: it's such a refreshing concept, which makes it extra frustrating to see the less-than-perfect execution. And while I try never to pigeonhole a company, I have to agree about MGA. I often feel like there are too many shortcuts in quality...and yet no shortcuts on packaging and presentation. It would be a real shame to have this idea fail because people can't connect with the dolls.

  10. Their eyes remind me of frogs!

    1. Hee are not alone! See Presto's Hypotoad comment, above. :D Still giggling...

  11. I actually love the weird pupils. I usually prefer unique eye designs over designs strictly based on how eyes can occur in nature. Actually, eyes are one of the most important parts of dolls for me, too, but that's actually why I prefer them to be unique if I liked to overall design of bratzillaz more, for example, I'd probably get some, since they're eyes are stunning. I think it's nice to take some liberties with realism sometimes. Also, I was pretty surprised by the comparison of these dolls with moxie girls! I figured that they'd be more similar than that. Moxie girls are very pretty, but I like the Vi and Va doll more. Her face just has more "life". (Obviously she's not really in realistic proportions face wise, but she's more lifelike in the way a cartoon can be lifelike.) The moxie girl has nice details on her face, yes, but she reads very much (at least to me) as a doll, while the vi and va doll seems like a 3d cartoon. Her body proportions are pretty cool, too. They actually remind me of the kind of bodies that are on some art bjds, but on the bjds oftentimes it's exaggerated to the extreme. Also, for the hair courseness, fabric softener can actually help a lot. I hear that it's not good to use it over and over and over for some synthetic hair though, since that might ruin it. I think the hair you can't over do it with is kanekelon? But I don't think that would usually be an issue since I think about just two soaks was necessary for me to soften one of my dolls hair. I hope this method will come in handy for you! Also, did you find any azone dolls that you wanted to get that were a good price?

    1. I like your take on these dolls as 3D cartoons, Lisa! That puts them into a very interesting perspective. I totally see what you mean about how taking liberties with the realism of eyes can have great results, and agree that the Bratzillaz do this very well. I think I must just be wimpier with my tolerance for unusual eyes than some! There's probably a broad spectrum of tastes in this area, which can't be easy for doll designers to navigate. I'm really glad you appreciate the Vi and Va eyes, though. I would love to see the brand succeed, mostly because of what Starfruit said, above: it's such a refreshing concept.

      I haven't forgotten about the Azone dolls! In fact, Snotty Cat is still patiently waiting in my Amazon shopping cart, but the money seems to always go towards something else! I'm glad you reminded me, though, because often the doll I purchase next is whatever one I happen to be thinking about when I get some spending money! ;D

  12. I love the concept behind these dolls, but the outfits had turned me off of looking at them very carefully, so I hadn't realized how unique the bodies are. Looking at these photos, I think I'm even a little charmed by the elephant feet!

    1. What is interesting about the concept behind these dolls? Seems pretty bland and obvious to me.

    2. Primarily the unique body shape. It's not a fashion doll standard, so it stands out.

      And having the dolls be relatives (while not looking like clones of each other) isn't something I've seen done very often.

  13. I have been debating on purchasing one of these dolls since they came out because I loved the box art. I agree that the doll doesn't seem to live up to the artwork. I keep thinking about the foot design and I can see where it would be easier for a child to put shoes on the doll but I can't get over the look of the foot. I loved the sheet music and as soon as I started humming the notes I recognized the tune, kudos to MGA for actual sheet music. Thank you for another wonderful review.

  14. I originally found out about these while trying to find clothes that might fit Makies. (I have one now! Yay!) They're definitely much too small, but they've intrigued me since. I'm definitely with you on the sort of like/dislike feeling. I really want to love them, seeing as they're doing so much that most fashion dolls don't do, but I'm afraid I like them much more in theory than I do the finished product. (Did that make sense? I'm not sure that made sense.) If they were just a bit more like their pictures, they'd be absolutely wonderful.

  15. Oh, nice to see a review of these!

    While I can't claim to be a bratz insider I will say that signs point to the line ending sooner rather than later. Ever since the 2010 relaunch they've been a bit wobbly as far as lines & concepts go. Despite a valiant effort in Spring 2013 they fumbled for the fall lines and then moved the brand to abroad only for all of last year with no news at all about this line at toyfair. Reusing Bratz names is a big deal in the way of Roxxi as she's one of their more popular characters (she & twin Phoebe are long fan favorites and were even in their big line together for bratz ) but Felicia (sadly, only 2 dolls which is a shame as hers are my favorite) & Valentina (another twin - or triplet depending on the set you bought - but won who has at the most 2 dolls?) shouldn't raise too many alarms by themselves. Both Bratz & Bratzillaz seem very up in the air as entities (they didn't sell in my area when they were stocked and a full case of 'back to magic' bratzillaz sat untouched in my Toys R Us for an entire calendar year before - barely - moving on clearance) and either need another overhaul or to just call it a day. We'll see what happens!

    I actually had the pleasure of talking briefly to the designer on tumblr back in january and they are definitely spanish & based on her own family/relationship with her sister (most obvious in the party 2 pack that has Viviana throwing a sweet 16 & Valentina throwing a Quinceanera). I personally have issues with a few things - the hair (much like you), those unsightly toes (they should've just been toe-less) - but do love spanish girls being the face of a doll line and if they can course correct things like price (MGAE refuses to get with the times and either come down on pricing for their non articulated dolls or add said articulation well & charge their current rate) and do something about the hair they could have a real hot seller on their hands.

  16. I think they would be good candidates for makeunders, a la Tree Change dolls. I cannot get past those weird eyes. They are also not dolls you would ever want to have barefoot.

  17. I liked your son's jazzed up rendition! It added even more fun to the review!

  18. As usual, you've gone the extra mile and then some, a review and music too :D.Thank-you and your son!
    I could live with the eyes but those feet?Yikes, you know most kids will have barefoot dolls in no time at all and then these ugly stumps will be all anyone sees.Still,at least they have permanent feet unlike those pop off ones on Bratz.Someone at MGA has an anti-foot fetish ; )
    I can't say I've liked any child-aged dolls in quite some time.AG dolls were overpriced, too big to haul around and only interesting because of their backstories.Disney Toddlers weighed a ton and had no extra outfits.
    I ended up buying Corolle Cheries dolls with Groovy Girl furniture for all my godchildren and calling it day.
    These dolls are on the right track with regards to size and backstories but they're poorly executed.

  19. Yay! I wanted to see your take on them (I reviewed Roxxi and Valentina when I found em in January ^_^). I loved the idea of these when they came out, but then after having to deal with that hair (not to mention the hollow limbs DX)... not so much. They are on sale right now (at Target) so they have that going for them. I wonder when MGA will pick up on the fact that ... um, articulation is really cool and makes dolls more playable? *shrugs*

  20. Doll names have to be copyrighted, which is probably why manufacturers like MGA and Mattel recycle names. *Rumor* is Robert Tonner wanted the name Alistair Wonderland for one of his new dolls, but Mattel had already grabbed it for Ever After High, so Tonner went with Charlie Dodgson.

    With shoes on, and in the artwork, the dolls' feet give the impression of how feet do look in super-high heels, but I agree about the elephant look when the shoes are off. I like the family theme too.

  21. Are you planning on reviewing one of the new 18" "Every Girl" Paola Reina dolls? I really like Maia's coloring, but the product picture is awful, so I'm not sure how I feel about her face.

  22. pomimo niedoróbek - fajnie byłoby mieć w swym lalkozbiorze choćby
    jedną przedstawicielkę tej nowej rodzinki :) najchętniej wiśniowowłosą -
    choć mnie podobają się wszystkie trzy ciemnowłose...

  23. Hey, I'm from Hong Kong and get started collect some kind of dolls, most are Western fashion doll brands with many different races, but I wanna you trying introduce a special one from Middle East: Fulla. I bought 'her' was on Ebay, and coast me almost $64.5 USD(originally in 500 HKD by the way) now she turns my favourite one by her different background...

    You can buy on here with most of types: and I suggest you introduce in choose one on your choice:
    -Day of Style Outdoor
    -Fruity Abaya
    -Flower Mania
    -Boutique Set

    Amazon also have Fulla Traditions line, however that's too expensive.

    ps The dolls that I get are:
    Barbie - 2012 President, Malucia(I like you describable her in Magical Girl style!)
    Moxie Girlz - classic jumpsuit Bria
    Kurhn - 8th anniversary deep pink
    Sindy - 2004 Sindy Petite Me
    Licca - unknown year, maybe on 2000's?
    Fulla - 2007 Outdoor Fashion limited edition

    Coming up I'll buy is Ever After High Hat-Tastic Party Cedar Wood, on Taobao since HK still haven't sell EAH.

  24. I'm torn. On one hand I find the bodies and especially the feet to be adorable, the other I hate eyes, hair fiber, and clothing. I mean, seriously? It could be worse, I guess. MGA likes to push boundaries clothing wise after all.

  25. While I agree that the Vi and Va dolls aren't to my taste as I can't get over either the feet or the faces, I think the idea of a line that focuses on family rather than shopping and fashion, has a wide diversity of skin-tones and fairly modest clothing is a really nice change of pace in the playline fashion doll world. It is also fairly rare to see a Latina fashion doll in a mainstream doll line, so that is exciting also. I just wish I actually liked the product as much as I like the "idea" of the product.

  26. I keep looking at these every time I go to Target and I have to say my favorite thing about them is that they are Hispanic, and you can tell just by looking at them. I'm Hispanic and let me tell you, we rarely get represented in the doll world.I like their little short bodies with the big booties (was going to say badonkadonk but I don't think that's how you spell it.)
    The different skin tones are great and even though I agree the outfits you got are not the best, they do sell separate outfts that are a little better and even the ones you have are something little girls will like. The problem some of these dolls with different body types have is they put them in drab clothes when what they should be doing is showing little girls that all body types can have fun clothes. I think VI and Va accomplish this. I saw what I assume was a quinceanera set that I'm sure would look very fancy to a 6 year old.

  27. Like the chunkier body type. I might could live with the eye design, but Vi desperately needs a makeover! Can't stand the green eyeshadow and pink lips. Agreed, the box art is way cuter.

  28. Great review!!!! I have been looking at these dolls..