Saturday, July 11, 2015

Disney Descendants "Signature Mal" Doll by Hasbro

The Disney Channel is releasing a movie at the end of the month called Descendants.  This show is set in a modern-day imaginary kingdom and focuses on the offspring of famous Disney characters.  Re-imagining fairy tales has been an extremely popular theme these past few years--both in the movie/television world (Maleficent, Cinderella, Snow White and the Huntsman, Once Upon a Time, etc.) and in the doll world (Ever After High, Once Upon a Zombie, Fairy Tale High, Tonner's Re-Imagination line...and probably a few that I'm forgetting).  It's especially noteworthy how similar the Descendants premise is to the the inspiration behind Ever After High.

The Descendants movie plot centers around Ben, who is the son of Belle and the Beast.  The teenaged prince decides to invite several of the villain's kids (who have grown up banished on the Isle of the Lost) to attend his fancy prep school...and then--if I am judging from the trailer correctly--promptly falls in love with one of them.  The villain kids feel torn between the wishes of their evil parents and a growing fondness for Ben and his royal friends.  Several things about this whole set-up are confusing to me (do all of the fairy tale characters live in the same kingdom?  Are they all the same age?  Why does Ben get to be the leader?  Didn't most of the villains die before they got to reproduce?) but I'm willing to wait and see if everything is explained in the actual movie.

I thought that the 11-inch Descendants fashion dolls were being released just before the movie (on July 20th), so I pre-ordered a few of them and was eagerly anticipating their arrival.  However, last weekend I was visiting a Toys R Us store up north and found four of the dolls already in stock!  This was a nice surprise, so I jumped on the chance to do a review of one of the characters I didn't pre-order--who actually seems like she might be the star of the whole movie: Mal, the daughter of Maleficent.

Doll review
Disney Descendants "Signature Mal" doll, $19.99.
So, let me stop for a minute to chat about the names of the main Descendants characters.  They are:

Mal (daughter of Maleficent)
Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen)
Carlos (son of Cruella de Vil)
Jay (son of Jafar) who seems to be the only main character not made into a doll (yet, I hope).
Ben (son of Belle)
Lonnie (daughter of Mulan)
Audrey (daughter of Aurora--Sleeping Beauty)
Jane (daughter of the Fairy Godmother)

And I think that's it.  First of all, there's a big problem with this cast list.  Anyone want to guess what my grievance might be??  There's no daughter of Cinderella.  Grumpy face.  She could have been called Cindy and fit right in!

But back to the names.  First of all, there's a lot of alliteration going on in that list.  Most of the names are just variants of the original character's name--or they at least scam the first few letters from that name.  I actually think "Mal" is a great name for the daughter of Maleficent, but as a group the names seem contrived.

Inventing a daughter for the Fairy Godmother is not original (Ever After High did this first with Gemma Faerie) but naming that daughter Jane under this naming scheme is interesting.  The Fairy Godmother's name has been a huge mystery since 1950, but now, through reverse reasoning, I think we can safely say that her name is Janice.

Anyway--sorry.  Name tangents are the worst for me.  Without further delay, I'll show you the dolls that I found at Toys R Us last weekend.

There were two versions of Evie:

Doll review
Signature Evie ($19.99) and Coronation Evie ($25.99).
And two versions of Mal:

Doll review
Signature Mal ($19.99) and Coronation Mal ($25.99).
 Here's a close-up of Coronation Mal (who I did not buy):

This Mal comes with a wand, a ball gown, a ring (for you to wear!) and another accessory over by the shoes that I think is a small gemstone purse.

The back of the box has a photograph of Dove Cameron (the actress who plays Mal in the movie):  

I wish my name was Dove.
Here's the Evie Coronation doll:

She has accessories similar to Mal's, and also comes with a photograph of the actress (Sofia Carson) who plays this character in the movie:

I have to say, this photograph is not doing any favors to the stunningly gorgeous Carson.

I really like the Evie doll's face mold.  She has a smirky grin that shows just the right amount of teeth:

Here's the Signature Evie doll:

I like her mirror accessory!
I really like this outfit (especially the skirt), and the photograph on the back of the box is more flattering:

Evie was actually the first doll I chose to pre-order, but I opted for the set that has her and Carlos (the son of Cruella) so that I could review a boy doll, too.

The only doll that didn't stand out to me online at all was Mal herself.  I pre-ordered several of the other characters, but not the actual star of the show.  Mal looks a lot more interesting in person than she looks in her promotional pictures, and so it was very fortunate for me that she was one of only two characters available at Toys R Us when I visited.  I like Coronation Mal a lot, too (in fact, I like all of the Coronation dolls better than their Signature versions...) but I purchased Signature Mal mostly because I had already spent too much money on Descendants pre-orders.

Here's Signature Mal in her box:

Doll review

There were two Signature Mal dolls to chose from at Toys R Us, and they were very similar.  I like it when this is the case--unlike the situation with Monster High dolls (especially lately) where it's necessary to be super-careful about avoiding paint smudges and wonky eyes.

My doll (right) and the other option (left).

The Descendants logo is written across the bottom of the box.  This includes an apple with a dragon tail vine winding around it.  Mal's name is accompanied by "Isle of the Lost" because this is where she was raised with her villain mother.  I wonder who her father is.  Will we find out in the movie, perhaps?

The Descendants boxes have an angled edge on the left side.  I love the dragon heart design that decorates this area of Mal's box:

I wonder if Mal, like her mother, is able to turn into a dragon?  There is a dragon in one of the Descendants movie trailers, but it could be Maleficent herself.  Or just a random dragon.

The dolls all come with their shoes removed and displayed at knee level. This is clever--so you can see what you're buying--but it eliminates the fun element of surprise that comes with dolls like Monster High.  Monster High shoes are always a good surprise. 

Mal also comes with a plastic journal bearing a golden dragon emblem:

Dove Cameron's Mal graces the back of this box, too, along with a short multi-lingual blurb about her character:

The description of Mal on the back of the box simply says, "daughter of Maleficent, choosing good above all else."  Which probably gives away the end of the movie.  Way to go, Hasbro.

Not that there was any real doubt.
Here's a close-up of the photograph of Mal, so that you can see the details of her outfit (the doll's outfit is based on this costume):

Next to Mal on the back of the box is a small cartoon picture of a town and a castle.  I am guessing this is Auradon (Ben's kingdom).  The name Auradon reminds me of Arendelle from Frozen...a confusion that is made worse by the fact that there's an Arundel, Maine near me.  Too many As.

Here's a close-up of the castle part of the graphic:

Auradon castle?
It has an interesting mix of traditional castle shapes and modern-looking features.  Makes me curious about the movie sets.

Mal is attached to a cardboard backdrop that slides easily out of the main box:

She is attached to the backdrop mostly by loops of plastic and clear rubber bands...and yes, a single plastic tie to the head.

The shoes look neat (they have dragon tail heels!) and are displayed against a colorful version of the two-dragon emblem that is on the side of the box:

The journal is secured with a rubber band...and made to look like Mal is holding it:

It's difficult to get Mal to stand on her own--even with her shoes.  It would have been nice if she'd come with a saddle stand...or any stand.

I discovered that if I bend one of her knees back a little, she stands better than if both of her feet are flat on the ground:

Doll review
Spoiler alert: she has articulated knees!
Her journal accessory is made out of plastic and has a stiff plastic bookmark hanging down from the bottom:

The bookmark looks like a dragon tongue.
The front of the book is decorated with a golden dragon silhouette:

The back of the book has a plain leather-like pattern:

The book is sticking its tongue out at someone....
The book actually opens with a small plastic latch on one side:

I was delighted to see a small heart-shaped dragon sticker tumble out of the book when I first opened it!  I love it when things like this have little surprises inside:

No one likes an empty (or rude) book.
Actually, I'm not sure that the heart is a sticker...or a temporary tattoo (which I considered for a minute--and which would have been awesome).  It might be a paper cut-out.  Or at least if it is a sticker, I can't get the backing off.  Oh, well.  It's still neat-looking:

Mal's outfit includes a detachable vinyl shoulder piece/collar.  In the movie, this part of the outfit is made out of leather and is attached to the rest of the jacket.

The collar is rubber-banded to Mal's chest, and the same rubber bands hold down the side pieces of her hair.  In addition, Mal has a rubber band around her waist, holding her left hand firmly in place.

The imitation leather fabric of the jacket, rubber bands, and stiff vinyl collar all combine to make Mal very hard to move right out of the box.  You wouldn't know that she's articulated.  Her straight right arm, in particular, was surprisingly inflexible.

The hair probably wouldn't have moved much even without the rubber bands, though.  It is cut long in front with a short bob in back, and is caked into submission with tons of hair styling product. 

Doll review

There's also a small section on the right side of Mal's head that is tied back with purple thread.

Sure enough, even after I cut all of the rubber bands, the hair didn't budge:

The vinyl collar of the outfit makes it difficult to see the shape of the hair--or move the doll's head--so I took the collar off to get a closer look at it, first:

This accessory looks pretty neat on its own.  Very reptilian.  It attaches to Mal's shirt with four limb-like grabbing points that curve down near her armpits.

Here's a look at the back of Mal's jacket from the movie's teaser trailer:

The back of the doll's collar piece is plain by comparison, but at least it has the green dragon design on it:

The collar also has several molded textures, the predominant one being a snakeskin (dragonskin?) print:

With the collar and the rubber bands gone, I could finally move Mal's head around and get a better look at her hair.  It's scruffy and stiff:

The back of the hair is cute, but the two long sections in front look odd to me.  The hair doesn't angle gradually between its different lengths, but abruptly drops off from the short bob into the longer tendrils at the side of Mal's face.  And furthermore, the tendrils seem too thick to be called tendrils--they're more like clumps.

Overall the cut is sloppy, so it's hard to tell what's supposed to be going on.

I wanted to compare this to the movie character's hair, but it's tricky to find good hair shots from the various trailers that are available.  This is the best I could do:

As an aside, the doll's hair is purple with black streaks, but the movie Mal does not have any black in her hair.

As far as I can tell, if the doll's hair was shorter in front and slightly longer in back, it would be a lot more movie-accurate (and might look more natural, too).

I tied the whole stiff mess back to get it out of the way for the review, fully realizing that some kind of makeover would be necessary later on.

Mal has a broad forehead with a rounded, tapering jawline.  She has side-glancing hazel eyes, purple eyebrows and a close-mouthed smirk:

Her profile emphasizes her broad forehead and large eyes--and reveals two little gold plastic earrings:

The earrings are in the shape of dragons:

And they are removable:

I wanted to get a super-close picture of the intricate little dragons, but found that the closer I zoomed in, the less distinct the dragons became.  I think they're actually better appreciated from a little distance away.

Mal's eyes aren't noticeably wonky to me, and she can look at the camera pretty well:

Her eyebrows are solid with no hair detail and her eyes are surrounded by a haze of peach eyeshadow:

There's also a thin light brown eyelid line just above her upper lashes.  

The eyelashes themselves have an interesting pattern, with five thick black lash lines painted on the outer edge of the eye and two smaller lines on the inner edge:

I like the lopsided smile on Mal's mouth, although the bow in her upper lip is a tad extreme and can make her smile look pinched:

Here's a comparison to the movie character's sassy smirk:

The asymmetrical mouth gives this doll marginally different half-profiles.  I think her right side is her best side since her lips look less pinched from this angle:

Mal is wearing a multicolored imitation leather jacket over printed leggings:

The jacket opens down the back with a velcro seam:

The jacket has a dropped waist with a partial leather skirt and a jaggedly-cut black lace underskirt:

The main part of the jacket is a textured purple color, but there are several printed and applied details.  

The collar of the jacket has an attached pink triangle decorated with glittery gold dots.  This area is meant to represent the studded, unzipped half of the movie jacket's diagonal front panel.  

The sleeves have printed areas of green and pink to represent the jacket's many different fabrics.  The sleeves also have slit cuffs to mirror the unzipped ends of the sleeves on the movie jacket.

Here's a reminder of the movie jacket:

The doll's jacket has a line of gold braid to simulate the diagonal front zipper:

Zippers are such a critical element of Mal's signature outfit in the movie, I can't help but wish that the doll's jacket had a more believable zipper substitute.  The Cynthia Bailey doll's leather jacket leaps to mind as having a very well-done zipper facsimile, but of course that doll costs way more than this one, so it's not necessarily a fair comparison.

The jacket is carefully stitched and appears durable.

The imitation leather also has a substantial feel and isn't flimsy.  This is vastly superior to, say, the cracking fake leather on the Lollipop Girls' boots or on some Barbie jackets, but it does make the garment very stiff and restrictive.

Under the jacket, Mal is wearing stretch leggings with an elasticized waist:

The leggings have a purple and black camouflage print accented with printed sections of lace that match the trim on the jacket:

Mal's boots are a mottled purple and black color and have painted gold chains around the ankles:

The heels of these boots are the best part.  Each heel has a dragon tail that twists around and then snakes out at the back of the shoe:

Dragon tail spurs.
The shoes have moderate slits in the back and are easy to get on and off.

Even though I might watch the Disney Chanel's Descendants movie at some point, I have to admit that the film was not my primary reason for being interested in these dolls.  I'm drawn to fairy tale dolls in general (even if there's no Cinderella character...) but more than that, Hasbro has given these newcomers pretty great-looking articulation.  

Mal has eleven joints:

Her torso is made out of hard plastic--as are her upper legs.  The rest of this doll's body is made out of vinyl.  The vinyl is a little bit soft and bendable, but nowhere near as rubbery as Bratzillaz legs or the legs on the Disney Store dolls with those infernal, internal knee joints.

She has a 2014 Hasbro copyright and is made in China:

Mal's body shape is similar to that of a Disney Store doll, but she has a bit more arch in her back.  I'd say she's like a cross between a Disney Store doll and an Ever After High doll:

Mal's hands are made out of soft, bendable vinyl and have molded and painted black fingerless gloves:

The black paint has a bit of sparkle in it.

This doll's fingers are also posed in a unique way.  Her left hand has extended pointer and middle fingers, but the smaller digits are curled under:

The right hand is more relaxed, with all of the fingers separated and gently curved:

There are some areas on Mal's gloves that look like they're supposed to be holes or cut-outs.  However, these areas are painted bright white, not skin-colored.  This looks awkward on Mal's left hand, where there are tiny black chains that hang down from the glove:

 Mal's head can spin all of the way around and also look up and down.

She can also tip her head from side-to-side a little bit:

She has rotating hinge shoulder joints, so she can lift her arms away from her body and also spin them around:

As we saw with Goldie Blox, the shoulder movement in this doll is sticky because of the soft vinyl in her upper arm.

The stickiness is more obvious in the hinged movement than it is in the rotational movement.

Mal also has hinged rotation in her elbows and wrists, and can bend each of these joints to about 90 degrees:

The excellent arm and head articulation allow Mal to touch her face and her head really well:

She can even cross her arms in front of her:

Mal has ball-and-socket joints at her hips, but their movement is limited.  For example, Mal can only do side-to-side splits this far:

But she can do full front-to-back splits:

This split does not position her legs in a straight line from front to back, though.  I don't know how clear this is in pictures, but the back leg rotates out a little while the front leg sticks straight ahead:

Backwards movement of the leg at the hip also causes a small gap to form at the front of the joint:

Forward movement of the legs at the hip has a more natural look:

Mal has hinged rotation at her knees, too.  This joint can't quite flex to 90 degrees, though, which is slightly disappointing.  The movement is also a little sticky because of another connection between plastic and vinyl.  Still, these knees are worlds better than, say, the current (or previous) Disney Store doll knees.

Mal can sit in a chair:

And she can even cross her feet at the ankles or rotate her feet apart as she sits:

She can't quite kneel, though, because of the limited flexion in her knees.  Unless you want to call this kneeling:

She can't sit in a traditional cross-legged position, either...

...but she can elegantly bend one knee a little while she lounges on the ground:

Hand me a bikini and a fruity drink, please.
Mal's 11-inch height and approximate 1:6 scale put her in an extremely common size bracket.  There were a slew of dolls that I wanted to compare her to, but I started with some of the other fairy tale characters in my house...

Once Upon a Zombie Snow White, Mal, Ever After High Duchess Swan.
 Mal has a shorter torso than Zombie Snow White, which also makes her shorter overall:

Descendants Mal, Once Upon a Zombie Snow White.
However, these two can share clothes reasonably well.  Mal's jacket sleeves are short on Snow and the leggings are a little baggy--but the shoes actually fit!

"Darkness falls across the land...."
Snow's ragged dress doesn't fit quite as well on Mal.  The sleeve is tight and the contours through the bodice are slightly off--but it's not terrible:

Mal's skin tone and articulation are similar to Ever After High's Duchess Swan, but the two dolls' body proportions are quite different...

Descendants Mal, Ever After High Duchess Swan. the extent that there's no way Mal can wear Swan's tiny little dress:

This is so wrong.
Notice how Ever After High shoes (Holly O'Hair's, in this case) kind-of fit, though.  The slope of the foot arch is steeper in Ever After High dolls, so the shoes gape at the side on Mal, but they fit.  I bet some other styles of shoe would fit more elegantly.

Because Mal's body is so much bigger than Swan's, Swan can at least get Mal's outfit on...but she swims in it:

Very clown-like.

Here's Mal next to another teenaged fairy tale character, Fairy Tale High's unsuccessful version of Snow White:

The Fairy Tale High dolls essentially have Winx Club bodies, which are significantly skinnier than Mal.  I don't have very many Winx or Fairy Tale High doll clothes to try on Mal, but just looking at these two makes me skeptical that clothes-sharing would be ideal.

Mal is much closer in size and shape to the Disney Store Princesses, like this hinged-kneed Rapunzel:

Descendants Mal, Disney Store Rapunzel (2012).
In my opinion, the Disney Store could really learn some valuable lessons from Hasbro here.  I mean, both of these dolls have nice body shapes, expressive faces, and great upper body articulation.  However, the Disney Store can't seem to achieve decent knee articulation (or they simply aren't trying).  Hasbro has just shown them how to do it right.

I decided that a better candidate for clothes-sharing would be Mal's own mother, Maleficent:

Mom was not thrilled with this arrangement.
Mal's stiff jacket is very tight on her mother, but the leggings fit well and the shoes fit--but only because Maleficent's feet are a lot smaller than Mal's.  Disney Store shoes do not fit Mal.

Mal's jacket can't quite close in the back on Maleficent:

In contrast, Maleficent's dramatic dress fits Mal pretty well:

"Wingardium leviosa!"
Maleficent's dress is a bit too dark and dramatic to see how it fits, though, so here's Mal in a simpler Disney Store dress:

Trying to get Mal's soft, separated fingers through this dress' sleeves was not fun.  It was at this point that I realized that her hands can actually pop right off...

Thing 1 and Thing 2.
...a discovery that made all subsequent dressing and un-dressing a lot easier.

For some reason Mal's body shape reminded me of my often-forgotten Bandai Dorothy doll:

These two are not actually as similar as I'd imagined: Dorothy has a thicker waist and ribcage area.  This means that Mal's top is tight on Dorothy...

...and Dorothy's dress is loose on Mal:

And not really her style.

Notice that the shoes swap back and forth, though.

I wanted to compare Mal to a Barbie doll, because there's such an abundance of clothing available for Barbie.  Here's Mal next to a Style doll:

What's weird is that even though Barbie has slightly wider hips than Mal, I couldn't get Barbie's skinny jeans on her:

This is actually just because Mal's feet are so much bigger than Barbie's, and maybe a little because Mal's legs are made out of vinyl (which has more friction than hard plastic).  I bet some other styles of Barbie pants would work on Mal.

Barbie's tops fit Mal nicely, even though they tend to be a little loose in the chest:

This Barbie leather jacket has better zipper detail than Mal's jacket, but the imitation leather fabric is really thin and the fleece collar is flimsy and coming unraveled at the edges.

Here's Mal in a Barbie dress, too, so you can see the fit:

The fit is surprisingly good, even with Mal's arched back.

Mal's leggings fit Barbie, but the jacket is super-tight (although I was able to stretch it enough to get it completely closed in back):

Mal's leg movement reminds me of a Bratzillaz doll, even though her vinyl legs are not as bendy as the Bratzillaz legs.  Here's Mal with Midnight Beach Meygana:

These two are quite different from the waist up, but their legs are similar (although Meygana's thighs are a lot longer than Mal's).  

I didn't really expect Meygana's swimsuit to fit Mal, and it doesn't fit well, but it's not quite as bad as I thought it would be--probably because the swimsuit fabric has a lot of stretch in it:

Mal's leggings are really baggy on Meygana, but the jacket makes a cute dress:

And the boots fit, too:

Mal's body shape also has a lot of similarity to the Chinese Kurhn dolls:

Descendants Mal, Kurhn doll.
These two can share clothes nicely, and Kurhn can wear Mal's shoes.

The last comparison I want to make is with one of my all-time favorites...the Liv doll.

Descendants Mal, Liv Hayden.
These two have similar body types, but I think the Liv dolls have better articulation.  I really love Mal's rotating knees, and find myself trying to rotate Hayden's knees.  Overall, though, the double jointed knees and flexible ankles on Liv dolls make up for their lack of knee rotation.

These two share clothes pretty well, although Liv shirts are loose on Mal.

Mal's boots fit Hayden simply because Hayden's feet are a lot smaller.  Liv shoes do not fit Mal.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many dolls can share clothes with the Descendants line.  I am not crazy about Mal's jacket, so it's fantastic to have so many other things in the house that she can wear.

I should note that after being worn by so many dolls, Mal's leggings started to stretch out and develop white areas along the seams:

And the elastic waistband started to come un-stitched:

Throughout these comparisons, I was itching to get my hands on Mal's stiff, scraggy hair and try to make it better.  The first thing I did was just brush it out a little:

This produced an insane number of small white flakes...most of which rained down onto my clothes, but some of which can still be seen in Mal's hair.  It's the dreaded hair gel dandruff.

Even with the hair brushed and some of the flakes shaken out, though, I was not psyched about Mal's hairstyle:


I boiled Mal's hair a few times to get all of the hair product out.  I had a hard time making sense out of the hairstyle, though, and so I just chopped off the longer sections...doing my best to create a slight angle from front to back.

Here's the new Mal with her hair still a little wet:

Mal with a haircut...and wearing a Barbie top.

With this simple new hairstyle, I was reluctant to put Mal back into her restrictive, overwrought jacket.  Instead, I found this sparkly Barbie top for her:

Wearing another Barbie top.
Barbie shirt

Barbie shirt

I really like how Mal looks and moves with this shorter hairstyle and this stretchy top.  However, I do think that removing her longer strands of hair took away some of her originality and made her look more mature.  I don't mind picturing this doll as an older or more generic character, but for those wanting to re-create the Descendants movie, this transformation would probably be disappointing.

I also don't think Mal's new hairstyle looks as good when she's back in her original outfit:

The shorter hair and missing vinyl collar make this outfit look empty in the neck region.

She could almost be on Star Trek with this jacket and hair cut...or in a circus.

It's also tricky to get the vinyl collar to work nicely with this hairstyle.  The hair either hangs down and covers the collar:

Or has to be tucked up on top of the collar, which looks funny:

I might need to cut the hair a little bit shorter, but I'm reluctant to do anything more drastic than what I've already done.  I like this doll.

Alternatively, Mal could just run really fast all of the time to make her hair fan out above the collar:

Bottom line?  There are a few things that I don't like about this particular doll.  First of all, her hair arrived plastered into a lopsided style, with way too much flaky, sticky styling product.  This made her hard to move and play with.  Even after a thorough brushing, the hair has a strange, sloppy, hard-to-manage cut that I was unable to make look nice.  My solution was to wash the hair and cut off the longer strands.  I'm happy with the resulting appearance and texture...although my changes might not be as appealing to loyal fans of the movie.  I also don't think this doll's interpretation of Mal's movie outfit is a complete success.  The leggings are fine and the boots are great, but the jacket is not my favorite.  It doesn't have anywhere near the same grungy-cool vibe of the movie outfit.  Furthermore, the jacket is very stiff and restricts the doll's arm movement.  The detachable vinyl collar further inhibits movement.  While I like the way the collar looks on its own, I find that the neck region of the jacket looks too cluttered with the collar in place...but too plain without it.  I also have some really minor articulation criticisms (like the sticky shoulder joints and the reduced flexion in the knees).  However, even though this doll doesn't move quite as well as I expected her to, the articulation is excellent overall.

That brings me to the things I really like about this doll and this new line.  Mal's articulation might not be perfect, but it's so much better than a lot of the other Disney dolls on the market.  For example, many of Mattel's dolls (like the new Cinderella line or the Frozen Princesses) have practically no articulation at all, and their bodies are made out of lightweight hollow plastic.  Also, even though the Disney Store dolls have great upper body articulation, none of the versions have acceptable knee joints.  Another thing that strikes me is that most of the current, well-articulated play dolls in this scale have exaggerated or unnatural body features (Monster High, Ever After High and Winx Club dolls leap to mind...).  Hasbro has produced a naturally-shaped, highly-articulated doll that makes an excellent, versatile play companion.

There are a few outfits--particularly on the Signature wave--that I am not crazy about, but another thing I appreciate about these Descendants dolls is that they can share clothes with so many other lines (including Barbie), that liking or disliking any individual outfit is not an issue.

One last thing that I love about this new collection of dolls is that the characters all appear to have different face molds.  So many companies re-use the same head again and again, it's refreshing to see this approach.  As I've said before, I'm convinced that Spin Master's decision to give all of their Liv characters the same face mold is part of what ended that line.  Not only do the Descendants dolls all have different faces, but the faces are dynamic--with several of the characters sporting open-mouthed smiles and expressive eyebrows.  There's also a decent ethnic mix and subsequent skin tone variation in this line.  Although both of the currently-released dolls look pretty white, Lonnie and Jay are Asian, Audrey is African American, and Carlos is of mixed race (I think).  By making these choices, Disney and Hasbro have convinced me that I'd like to see all of the characters up close so that I can fully appreciate their differences.

The new Disney Descendants movie may or may not be a hit, but for me, it couldn't matter less.  Hasbro's fun range of quirky, versatile, highly-articulated, ethnically-diverse characters is more than enough to get my attention.  This unexpected early look at Signature Mal could easily have made me feel like my pre-orders from this line were redundant...but on the contrary, I'm looking forward to those releases now more than ever.


  1. Thanks for this review! I'm not particularly excited about this movie after seeing the preview...especially since the guy who plays Belle and "Beast's" son (why is he still called Beast since he's human again?) didn't seem to have the best acting skills. Plus, to be honest, it really just feels like Disney is flagrantly copying Ever After High. :( However, when Mattel stops making Disney dolls in 2016, Hasbro will be taking over. Seeing the level of detail and articulation on the Descendants dolls makes me hopeful for what Hasbro will do with the regular Disney line. :)

    1. I agree! though Mal is really cute (I'm considering on buying her and the others :) my sis and I think they're definitely copying ever after high.

    2. That's true, Mal is like Raven Queen and Ben, in the two pack with Mal especially, looks like Dexter in my opinion.

  2. Great review! I am so gonna get Evie and Mal signatures. I am excited about the movie since one of my favourite Disney princesses are in it.

  3. Emily, I LOVE the haircut! I wouldn't change a thing about it if I were you. It does look weird with the collar, but let's face it - ANY hair would look weird with that collar. I love her in the Barbie tops, though. Honestly, I was kinda "meh" about the doll entirely until you re-did her hair. Then I found her simply adorable!

  4. What I noticed right away is that Evie the doll has a widow's peak but the actress who plays Evie doesn't have that! Will keep reading the rest of the review!!

    1. I don't like the jacket either. It lacks important details to make it look grunge. And the purple is too light! The colour scheme on Maleficent's outfit would work better on Mal's jacket.

      The original hairstyle is a mess. Her new hair cut here makes her look like a rocker chick. Maybe with a darker and a more detailed jacket, her new look would be tons better.

  5. Another thorough review, although this particular doll is really not that interesting to me. With all the creativity coming out out with Monster High and Ever After High dolls, it's kind of hard to get excited about yet another 11" fashion doll. I think the bar has been set really high by MH and EAH!

  6. I, like everybody else, am super excited about these dolls now too. Their faces are great, their articulation is great, and their physical proportions aren't ridiculously unrealistic.

    From the pictures I googled of the other characters, I think my favorites are going to be Lonnie and Jane, but I look forward to seeing them all in person.

  7. Fun review! I pretty much hated the idea of this movie from the start, because it sounds exactly like what Ever After High has already done, and though I adore Disney and Ever After High, I can deal with Hunter Huntsman. I cannot deal with Mal, Lonnie, Evie, or Jay. Also a lot of the Disney Channel movies have been simply horrific as of late. In fact, I think it's more accurate to say that I love Disney, I hate Disney Channel. :P
    That being said when I saw the picture of Mal you posted on facebook I said: Ooh! because of her cute pose and hair. I think she looked amazing at the end of the review in the black shirt with short hair! :)
    I don't forsee myself purchasing one of these dolls (unless maybe Audrey is really cute?), especially with the comments you made on her over-gelled hair, and her... interesting outfit. (So many colors. So little time.)
    And yes, Disney, FIX YOUR KNEES. Just make a slightly larger version of your elbow joint! Boom! *sigh*
    I enjoyed this review greatly, Emily! <3

  8. chętnie zapoznam się z serialem - z córką :)
    jeszcze chętniej nabędę kilka lal - sobie :)

    dziewczyna dużo zyskała w lżejszej fryzurce :)

  9. She looks like GoGo after the haircut

  10. I loved your review truth was very curious to see the joints of the wrist and the fact that Hasbro is doing more surprised me , have you seen the new barbie with flat feet ?

  11. LOVELY! I've been excited about this line since the first pics premiered in January and have been very invested in this movie/potential franchise (I highly recommend the book prequel for the movie by Melissa De La Cruz and the author is already working on book 2), especially since (word on the street) is that it originally was going to be a venture done with Mattel but there was a falling out and that's why Ever After High resists (as well as why Mattel is no longer making playline disney dolls).

    I think one things that's hard to truly capture is the body scale/proportions of the DDs in comparison to EAH or MH - it's a lot more realistic and really just very solid (I wonder if someone will color match a Skipper to one of the girls) and the quality is simply tops. I'm excited for this movie as well and hope it prospers because everyone thrives on competition and, truth be told, EAH needs a kick in the pants so what better way than this?

    re: Jay - there is word that he's getting a disney store exclusive doll but so far anything about it officially has yet to surface so I guess we just have to keep our eyes pealed ;3

  12. Is it bad that after i read this i ran out today and got her? I adore her hair in the movie pictures but i really love the way you cut it on the doll. I wasnt extremely excited for this movie but now after seeing this cute doll i actually cant wait

  13. there's chad charming, son of cinderella, i hope there're more male dolls coming, since i don't like ben & carlos(unless he's in his prom suit).

  14. As much as I love long hair, I have to agree your haircut is a lot more flattering. I wouldn't cut it more just to accommodate the collar, it looks very good in this style and if she's not going to wear the collar all the time, it would be a shame to risk ruining the hair.

    I was surprised that you didn't try Pullip/J-doll clothes on Mal. As soon as the body comparisons started, I expected J-dolls to make an appearance. Looking at Mal next to Barbie, I bet she would fit nicely into most Pullip/J-doll clothes. I guess this is what happens when you have too many types of dolls to compare :) Thanks for the review!

  15. Emily, Could you please try GoGos clothes on her?

  16. Great review! I hadn't noticed that this line (or even the movie) existed, so this was the perfect introduction to both of them. And I find myself really liking the hair colours on her...

  17. There's a book out that's a prequel to the movie. It gives a pretty good background, if you're interested. Also, I'm pretty sure that some of the movie was filmed at the BC legislature, using the building as one of the castles.

  18. Do you think that perhaps her hair was styled that way to mirror the dragon tail theme that is going on with her shoes and the box decorations?

  19. I have a surprise for you! Cinderella (who is my favorite too!) and Prince Charming don't have a daughter, but they do have a son, Chad Charming! There is a little info about him here, but not much: disney.wikia (.) com /wiki/Chad_Charming

  20. There is also Doug son of Dopey and an unknown mother, hmmm who could that be??? He is in the marching band and takes a liking to Evie!!! I think this is the last main character!

  21. I like Jane's character, because I can relate to the mother's banning magic thing. I don't have magic, but my mom just doesn't care for it and I have a limited magic range. This might sound weird, but I didn't see Sleeping Beauty till I was 15. Yeah If it weren't for my dad I might have never even read Narnia. I love my mom we just disagree. Oh, but I don't like Jane's signature outfit to much puff in the sleeves. Anyway I love all the dragon hints in Mal's outfit :{) -GEM

  22. As always, you made the doll look much better than when she came out of the box. That new haircut is amazing. I think that I might have been a bit more excited about this concept if it hadn't been done so much better by other toy companies. I do love the rounder, more cartoony, look that Disney dolls have but this line doesn't work for me so far. I think that you chose the best of the bunch though.

  23. I'm so purchasing these dolls. I like the bodies better than MH & EAH.

    1. Me too their backs are to disproportional to be a good model. ;{) -GEM

  24. I love her face, and the body is pretty nice, too. I love the articulation. I know there will be a lot of comparisons to Ever After High, but I honestly can't stand the EAH dolls. I think they're ugly and could have been so much more attractive.

  25. I nearly had kittens when I read the second paragraph of this post. For some reason I misread a sentence and thought that the character who Ben falls in love with was actually a boy. Sadly no such luck yet for the Disney company. Maybe next year?

  26. Great review! I just got Mal and Evie today and I like them both so much.
    The review was spot on for Mal and I love the haircut you gave her.

  27. I bought Audrey the other day after reading this, and while I like this doll's articulated body and her sweet painted features, her hair was extremely dry and the product in it was just like you said. I cut it shorter to make it less frizzy and poofy and put it back in a ponytail. I want Evie, but am not sure about her since she also has a lot of hair which could potentially be another poofy, dry mess.

  28. Omg, she looks so much better after your "make-over"! Thanks for such a thorough review of these (as always!) because I was/am tempted.

    Such a silly thing to note and correct, but Gemma Faerie is actually a fan-creation, not a Mattel one. Ever After High's "official" daughter-of-the-fairy-godmother would be Farrah Goodfairy, who is coming out in doll form soon!

    Thanks for yet another wonderful review (and I like the name "Emily" far more than "Dove", but I understand all about liking a name better than your own ^_~)!

  29. I love her new hair cut!!

  30. Can you please tell from what Barbie doll is that sparkly black top? :)

    1. It's from the Raquelle Style doll, The first wave of the Barbie Style dolls.

  31. Yay! so excited that you did a review of these dolls, I've been looking at them on Flickr from people that I follow and I've been really enjoying looking at them. My fav Descendants character is Mal, I'd love to get her Coronation version or the Mal and Ben two pack. I'm not a huge fan of her "signature" version, Mostly because I don't like the dolls jacket version, the colors are too light and not at all movie accurate. I also have to say that the one thing I don't like about Mal is her hair style, In the movie her hair style is so adorable and the sides are the perfect "longer on the sides and shorter in the back" style. But the doll itself, Her longer sides are really bad! From someone who has had the type of hair style Mal has the sides should have been a shorter than what they are. The length of the dolls side hair compared to the movies style or even an actual real style cut like that is just horrible. They should have made her sides shorter, With that being said. The cut you did to the doll Emily, Is beyond adorable! and is a almost perfect cut to that of the movie Mal's hair. I think you did a great job on the cut and I don't think she looks too mature at all, I really do like the cut!

    So, Do you think you'll check out the new re-released Bratz dolls? They were all released recently to stores and I've been seeing them all over on Flickr. As a Bratz fan from back in the days, I'm really excited about the new released dolls, they're super cute! They look more young and youthful rather than..stuck up? if that's that right way to put it. Maybe it's something you could look into, their new clothes and accessories are adorable! Plus their clothes are always good to have for the MH and EAH girls.

  32. I'm not wild about the story for Descendants (I've never liked the evil turns good cliche) but I do love the haircut you gave her! In that top, she looks like she could be any normal teenager. When I first saw her, I couldn't help but think "Linda Belcher", lol.

  33. Why did you cut the hair???������

  34. Descendants is the first franchise in which the protagonist has ever been my favorite character, so points to Disney there. While Mal's design is low on my list of favorites in the line, I'm still tempted to get her to see what I can do with her hair. Seeing her animated version makes the intention of the hair (an angled bob that goes very long in the front) clearer, and I sorta want to get her just to try to fix up her hair. I think a boil straightening and some trimming can get it in the right shape.