Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Savannah and Chad Mini Pals by Maru and Friends

We did it!  We met my hurricane relief fundraising goal!  If you look at the banner in the right hand margin, you'll see that (thanks to Jason, Sarah, AliCarmen, and six new anonymous donors) we've now exceeded the $1,000 Bottom Line goal!  This is so amazing.  It's also great that the larger project is over three quarters of the way to its $5,000,000 goal after only 13 days.  I hope that the money will get to where it's needed quickly.  I'll leave the fundraising page and banner up for a while longer, but I won't bug you about it anymore.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you, for all of your support--everything from words of encouragement to money donations.  You guys are the best.

In celebration of this wonderful news, I want to start the week off by sharing two dolls from one of my favorite lines of all time: Maru and Friends' Mini Pals.  I did a thorough review of mini Maru and mini Tanya when I was in Puerto Rico last year, so today I'll just share a picture-heavy overview of another pair of Pals--Chad (the only boy in the collection) and Savannah (the adorable redhead!).  Here's one of my favorite shots of Chad, climbing on the rocky shore of Maine:

Maru and Friends Mini Pal, Chad ($89).
The very first Maru and Friends doll that I bought was the full-sized version of redheaded Savannah.  You can see her review here.  The only thing I don't love about large Savannah is her outfit--and that's an easy thing to change.  Everything else about her is wonderful.  In fact, she's probably my favorite 18-inch play doll.  

Because of my enthusiasm for Savannah (and my enthusiasm for miniatures in general) I was especially excited for the release of the Mini Pal version of this character.  Mini Savannah is the spitting image of the larger doll, but she's only 13-inches tall...and she comes in a different (and totally adorable!) outfit:

Maru and Friends Mini Pal, Savannah ($89).
Savannah comes in a pink seersucker sundress with navy blue ribbon accents.  She's also wearing espadrille sandals and a matching sun hat:

The brim of the hat has three rows of stitching and is decorated with a cute embroidered ladybug (the mascot for Maru and Friends):

The interior of the hat is fully lined:

It's easier to get a clear view of Savannah's face and hair when the hat is off:


She has a medium-length bright red wig with bangs.  The fiber on this wig is silky smooth and the bangs look fairly natural--this from a person who doesn't tend to like dolls with bangs:

Savannah has gorgeous blue inset eyes with a faint haze of brown around the pupil.  Her eyebrows and lower lashes are painted, her upper lashes are applied.  She has a thin line of freckles across the bridge of her nose and at the top of her cheeks:

Notice the style of her eyebrow paint, though.  Savannah and Maru share this simple lined style while Tanya and Chad have a cross-hatch pattern in their eyebrows.  It's interesting to me that there would be a difference.

Mini Savannah is a pretty good replica of the larger doll.  Here are head shots of the two side-by-side:

I actually like the Mini Pal version of Savannah more than the original.  She's just perfect.

I tried to get a few pictures of these girls with their heads together, but their height difference made it a bit of a challenge:

Maru and Friends' large Savannah and Mini Pal Savannah.
In these shots, the bigger Savannah is wearing a Maru and Friends outfit that I purchased separately.  It's called Sailor Girl ($27.99) and I think it's a great match for this doll.  It also compliments mini Savannah's dress really well.

Maru and Friends' large Savannah and Mini Pal Savannah.
I finally found a good way to photograph these beautiful faces together!

Maru and Friends' large Savannah and Mini Pal Savannah.
Now, let's take a closer look at Savannah's outfit:

The sundress looks quite simple at first, but it's very well-constructed and has some wonderful little details.  

For example, the sleeves are made out of fabric-covered elastic.  The scrunchy effect of this technique looks cool, feels durable, and makes dressing and undressing a breeze:

The dress also has four decorative white buttons on the front, and delicate ruffles of fabric that run down either side of the bib.

It's a little easier to appreciate the three-dimensional effect of the ruffles from the side:

The waistline of the dress is gathered and hangs in natural, well-scaled folds.  The navy blue ribbon sash is permanently attached.

There's not much risk of staining with this pale garment, but the entire bodice is still fully and carefully lined:

The espadrille sandals are amazing in their attention to detail.  They're also easy to get on and off, thanks to a velcro closure in the strap:

Notice the fine weave in the soles and the stitched piping all around the toe and the top of the shoe:

There's a small yellow stain on the strap of this sandal, but the shoe did not come this way.  I actually had the dolls at the beach before I took them into the studio, and this little stain is from that adventure.

Savannah comes with simple white underwear.  Her body is the same as mini Maru's body, it's just a tiny bit paler:

I couldn't find poor Maru's underpants.  Sorry!

Here's a closer look at the difference in the skin tones:

As a reminder, these bodies are made out of soft, compressible vinyl and the five joints are strung with elastic.  The dolls balance very well and feel nice to the touch.  Mini Maru's neck is a little looser than it was when I first bought her, but the rest of the dolls and joints are fine.

I read that the newest Mini Pal addition, Halle, will have a hard body like the larger dolls--perhaps more like the Dianna Effner Little Darlings.  I like the softer mini dolls, but I suspect that the hard vinyl will be less prone to staining...and perhaps more resilient.  I'll buy these cuties either way.

Speaking of the Little Darlings, here's Savannah with my Rowan: 

Mini Pal Savannah and Little Darling Rowan.
Mini Pal Savannah (left) and Little Darling Rowan (right).
Rowan is wearing a Mini Pal outfit (Icicles in the Snow $29.99).  It should be worn with fuzzy white boots, but it's way too hot for that here today!

I'm saving up to buy the gorgeous new Mini Pal "Bunny Fun" dress that I think will be perfect on Rowan.

Mini Pal Savannah and Little Darling Rowan.
Now let's take a quick look at Chad.  He comes wearing a gingham button-down shirt, jeans, and laced sneakers.

Mini Pal Chad by Maru and Friends ($89).
I don't really like his name for some reason, but that's the only thing about him that I don't like.

Chad has a well-styled short auburn wig and bright blue eyes:


From what I can tell, each of the Mini Pals has their own unique face mold.  One of the things that I really like about Chad's face is that he has a bit more of a smile than the others:

Here are all four of my Mini Pal faces together so that you can study the subtle differences between all of them:

I love all of these faces, but I have to say that Savannah and Chad are probably my favorites.  I like Chad's smile and how the curve of Savannah's upper lip overhangs her lower lip.  I also prefer the more natural lip colors of the two newer dolls.

Chad and Savannah have the exact same eye color.  In my imagination they are siblings:

Notice the cross-hatches in Chad's eyebrows.  This is what I was talking about earlier: half of the dolls have these, half do not.  I can't zoom in on Halle's promotional pictures enough to see what style of eyebrow she has.  She'll be the tie-breaker, I guess.

Chad's black and red gingham shirt is outstanding.  It has little decorative buttons down the front, but actually opens with velcro:


The shirt sleeves come rolled up and buttoned into place...

...and they actually unroll!

All of the construction details are perfect--right down to the little pleat at the back of the shirt:

Under the shirt, Chad is wearing blue jeans:

His underwear peeks out a bit, but I guess that's trendy these days.

There's a lot of stitched detail in these jeans.  Only the back pockets actually open, though.  The front pockets are just decorative:

The fly has stitched detail, too, but actually opens with velcro:

Like every other Maru and Friends garment, these jeans are beautifully finished.  The waistband and cuffs are even lined in white:

The sneakers are no less impressive:

These are made out of two shades of brown canvas and have real working laces:

The bottom edges of the shoes are lined in white rubber--with a section of tread at the front.  The bottoms of the shoes have a matching tread pattern:

Chad is wearing boxer briefs that come up to his belly button.  His skin tone is quite a bit darker than Savannah's:

He has the same skin tone (and almost the same hair color) as Tanya:

Maybe these two are the siblings?
Here are Chad and Savannah with their outfits back on (Savannah is missing her hat, though):

Mini Pals Chad and Savannah.
They are a wonderful pair!

Toy Box Philosopher

Whenever I have new dolls that are this special, I like to take them to an interesting location for their final photo shoot.  In this case, I decided to take Chad and Savannah to my favorite rocky beach: Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth.  

As I was driving to the shore, I realized that this was the first time I had taken any dolls to the beach all summer.  It's been a little busy, I guess.  It was also a very hot summer, and baking on the rocks never ended up very high on my priority list.  Strangely enough, even in late September, it was still nearly 90 degrees on the beach last week when I arrived with Chad and Savannah.  So...I baked on the rocks after all.  It was worth it.

Chad was not at all perturbed by the heat, of course.  He set off in search of a tall rock where he might be able to find a good view of the ocean:

Toy Box Philosopher

I asked him to stop for a second so that I could get a quick picture of his hair and eyes in the bright sunlight:

The red highlights in his hair are accentuated by the natural light, and his eyes seem to come alive! 

The soft vinyl of Chad's face attracted a fair amount of lint from my car, though.  Maybe that's another good reason for switching to hard vinyl!

Chad made his way along the rocks until he found a particularly interesting cliff with a multitude of jutting layers that could act as hand and footholds for a sturdy climb: 

Toy Box Philosopher

He set off towards the top of the cliff, with me following nervously behind him:

Toy Box Philosopher

On the top of the rock, Chad was rewarded by a panoramic view of perfect blue skies... 

...and a turbulent, vast ocean:


Savannah started her adventures on a much lower, flatter area of rock:

And she dutifully agreed to wear her hat...at least at the beginning:

Toy Box Philosopher

I love this hat's dramatic brim, and the ladybug is a great finishing touch.

As adorable and well-made as this hat is, Savannah lost patience with it before too long.  In her defense, the wind could get a little strong right near the water, and neither of us wanted the hat to be blown out to sea.

Savannah sat on her rock for a while longer, soaking in the sun...and letting me capture a few pictures of her in the meantime!

Her hair is a glorious natural red color that positively glows in the sunlight:

I think her right eye might be slightly askew, but I still love the subtle changes of color in the irises, and how the eyes sparkle in the daylight:

Toy Box Philosopher

Even though Savannah's body is made out of soft vinyl, I was not able to pose her with interlaced fingers for very long.  Her hands kept popping apart.  I don't remember having this problem with mini Maru or Tanya.  Maybe the day was so hot that it made the vinyl softer than usual?  

Here's one of the rare moments when Savannah's fingers stayed intertwined:

I love that innocent pose!

I think one of the reasons why Savannah's hands wouldn't stay still is that none of her body could stay still!  She was impatient to start her explorations of the beach.

She was dizzied by all of the imposing rocky overhangs:

And eager to investigate every tidal pool:

Toy Box Philosopher

At one point, as she was taking in the landscape, Savannah noticed Chad, perched up on his high rock:

Toy Box Philosopher

She set out to try and reach him.

In the end, Savannah didn't quite make it up to Chad's elevation (probably because she had to stop and look at every single snail shell...) but she did find her own windy perch nearby:

When I felt we were all beginning to get too much sun, we headed back up the path towards our car.  Savannah trailed behind, reluctant to leave the beautiful scenery.

Big Savannah wasn't in the mood for a full-blown beach outing, but she met us halfway back to the car.  I tried to get one picture of the two redheads together...unfortunately the shadows got the best of me:

Mini Pal Savannah and large Savannah by Maru and Friends.
Chad conceded to one more picture with Savannah, too...and this time we found a convenient patch of sunlight:

Mini Pals Savannah and Chad.
Bottom line?  I guess it's probably crystal clear that I wholeheartedly adore the Mini Pals.  Everything I said about them in my last review holds true: they're the perfect size, they have gorgeous inset eyes, their wigs are lovely and soft, their clothes are incredible, their soft bodies feel nice and are well-balanced, their faces are immensely appealing, and their price is more than fair.  There might be an occasional (barely noticeable) wonky eye, but the quality is very high overall, and there are no clothing-related stains on these newer dolls at all.  The one small hesitation I should add is that my mini Maru's head is getting a tad loose.  Overstretched elastic is a risk with any strung doll (and it can be fixed), but it's something to keep in mind if you're deciding whether or not to invest in a Mini Pal.

These Mini Pals have a more profound presence than the majority of my dolls.  There's something special about them.  They're not like real children, certainly, but I will catch myself treating them as though they were alive: talking to them when they're nearby, protecting them from a tumble, smiling back at their innocent faces.  I can only imagine how captivated I would have been by these little ones when I was a child.

It's not an easy job picking favorites between any of the Mini Pals, and I suppose I avoid the conflict by owning all of them (I have no self control!).  But if I were forced to pick a favorite, I know who it would be.  For me, red hair and freckles win pretty much every time.  And while Chad might not be my favorite of the Mini Pals (by a very small margin) he's easily the best boy doll I own.

I wrote my last Mini Pal review at the very beginning of this year, and I ended the post by challenging 2017 to produce a doll that was even better than the remarkable mini Maru.  Well, the year isn't over yet, but the challenge has already been met.  There's a new favorite in my house, and her name is Savannah.

Toy Box Philosopher


  1. Savanna and Chad are fantastic. I'm especially taken with Savanna, though. She looks so sweet and startlingly lifelike in your photos!

  2. Your Chad seems to have thicker,darker hair than mine,but on the other hand, mine didn't have his underwear hanging out. I almost think I would prefer the regular vinyl to the squishy stuff.They aren't nearly as soft as I expected though. Is it just me, or does it look like Savannah and Rowan share a face sculpt? It seems like it, and the difference is mainly because of the way the mouths are painted and the inset eyes as opposed to the painted ones. Anyway, nice reviews. I'm totally jealous of your collection!

  3. Thanks for the review:) What a lovely beach-I'm more a fan of exploring than sitting on sand.
    These Mini Pals are beautiful dolls and they're big but not too big. I wonder if they can share clothes with Corolle's Les Chéries dolls-it looks like they should.
    Very glad we reached your goal. I already got an update from the organization on their work, that was so considerate of them.

  4. Wow! I fell in love with these dolls. Very beautiful and well made!!

  5. What a fantastic review! I actually think all of the mini pals have the same sculpt. If I superimpose all of your fantastic headshots of them at 50% opacity on top of one another they fit nicely one on top of the other.

  6. Those dolls are really cute! I like chad the most, I think I'd rename him James or David though. Why do all the best child dolls cost so much?! I have save up some money so I can get him!

  7. Chad is adorable, I love him and I don't usually like this style of doll. the teeny details on the shoes, the clothing, it all makes me go "eeeeee" in delight.
    What lovely little dollies.

  8. Chad is darling. I should get one of these guys. They really are beautiful dolls. By the way, I was at Target and saw the OG has a science lab set with a light up bunsen burner and microscope. I think it was about 25 dollars. I immediately thought of you and your science background. You should look it up when you have a chance.

  9. I like Chad's skin colour and wonder what he would look like with a girly wig?? I reckon I could go for a Chadette. :) I have a M&F Jamie which has a similar face & skin colour as Savannah, so I probably wouldn't purchase her. I do enjoy your reviews though, they are always so thorough.

  10. P.S. Come to think of it, he'd probably look a lot like Tanya, 'cept I like his blue eyes better. :)

  11. I completely agree. He doesn't look like a Chad. Look more like a Robbie to me.

    All are adorable and your shoots with them spectacular! Thank you!

  12. From what I've seen, Chad is by far my favourite but his name is by far my least favourite.

  13. I love those first couple outside pictures of Savannah. She reminds me of Lilly from Pokémon!

    By the way, have you (or anyone else here) seen those giant, gold half-ball L.O.L. sets? I'm kinda curious about them.

  14. These two are adorable!

    I’m curious about these heads with inset eyes I found on AliExpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Wholesales-100-pcs-Excellent-Quality-Doll-Head-with-straight-Hair-DIY-Accessories-For-Barbie-Dolls-head/915965_32698986568.html
    Do you know anything about these? I’m assuming they’ll fit a MTM body, and they look a little like Juku Couture. You’ll find a ton more if you search “fashion doll head” on there. They’re pretty, but AliExpress makes me a little nervous and I can’t tell much about the quality...

  15. I love the way you posed these dolls for their photos!

  16. I'd say Savannah and Rowan look like sisters! Rowan might be slightly younger, but they look so much alike. And Chad can be everyone's brother; he's just so cute! All of their clothes look amazing too. You seriously make me want these dolls. 😊

  17. I've emailed about a Little Darlings doll many ties over the past two years, and have not heard back. I suppose I should give up on a custom of my daughter, and settle for a Savannah.

  18. Does anyone know what other dolls outfits/shoes will fit on the Maru & Friends Mini Pal dolls? I've been searching for some other outfits for Chad and so far I've only found one store on etsy. I've bought some wellie Wisher pj's and they work but aren't a perfect fit. The biggest issue is the pants look baggy because the WW dolls have thicker legs than little Chad (who I've renamed Charlie). Anyone who has a Mar mini pal and a collection of other dolls, I would appreciate it if you would let me know what outfits will fit them.

  19. I love the pictures that you took at Fort Williams. We don't live far from there and I love taking my dolls there for a photo shoot.