Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sunday Surprise: Secret Central Dolls by Hasbro!

This week I'm going to look at an older surprise-themed line of dolls that Yumi recommended a few weeks ago (Thank you, Yumi!).  The brand is called Secret Central and includes a collection of 3.5 inch dolls depicting high school students.  As the name suggests, each doll has a secret!  All of the dolls come with a secret note (revealing something about the relationships within their high school class) but some of the sets have a concealed character (a whole extra doll!)--who also has a secret note.  I could not resist this concept.  Here's one of the girls to start things off:

Secret Central doll Rachel Ruff (Hasbro, 2003).
These dolls were produced by Hasbro in the early 2000s, and so they've been discontinued for over a decade.  It's still fairly easy to find the dolls on eBay (both used and in boxes) for reasonable prices.  The rarest and most expensive Secret Central dolls are also the dolls that I found the most tempting--the ones with an extra mystery doll in the package.

I was able to find two of these sets, one from 2003 and the other from 2004 (which I believe were the only two years these dolls were in production).  Both sets cost under $20 ($9 and $16).

Since I knew almost nothing about these dolls when I made my purchases, I decided to just open them up in chronological order.  Here's the set from 2003:

The visible doll's name is Natalie and she comes in a plastic container with rounded edges--like a horizontally elongated tube.

Natalie's appearance didn't immediately charm me.  She's like a combination of Polly Pocket (she's about that size) and a Bratz doll.

Her bangs are from outer space.
The packaging does a good job of building excitement, though, by advertising the mystery character inside!

He's stuffed in my locker. Heh.
I think maybe the mystery character is Natalie's boyfriend or crush?

The secret note is also visible through the plastic packaging, and apparently it's a note from Natalie to Lucy:

The back of the package has a lot of text on it, but the yellowed and dirty plastic (and old tape) made it hard to read:

Fortunately, the outer tube-like part of the package was easily removable, and inside there was a cardboard insert surrounding a plastic shell:


All of the colors on the cardboard are more vibrant without the outer plastic, and Natalie is much easier to see:

The back of the box also became easier to photograph and read:

There's a very brief bio in the middle of the box that states Natalie's full name and birthday, and her assertion that cheerleading is a real sport.  I agree.  I mean, I'm no expert by any means, but I've seen Bring it On, and while that might not be very realistic, the athleticism blew my mind.

The text at the top of the box makes it less clear whether the mystery character will be a friend or a crush:

Actually, the more I read that blurb, the less sure I am about what it's trying to say.  I mean, she's cheering with all of the other cheerleaders and the audience, right?  How else would she be cheering with someone?  How is that profound?

The blurb about whose class sweater Natalie has is a bit more clear.  This makes it seem likely (in a very old-fashioned way) that they're talking about a boy who Natalie is dating:

Or Natalie stole the sweater.
Whatever their gender, the mystery character is a junior at Secret Central High:

I'm hoping it's a boy because in the two sets I bought, both visible dolls are girls.  A boy would add nice variety.

On the left side of the back of the box, there's a huge cartoon of Natalie.  It's terrifying:

I don't know if it's the pose, the wall eyes, the ridiculous hair, the curved teeth, or what, but this picture makes the actual doll look great by comparison.

To get Natalie and her accessories out of the package, I opened the back part of the cardboard...

...which allowed me to pull out the molded plastic shell that was holding Natalie, her note, and one of her accessories:

The rest of the accessories came attached the the back part of the cardboard:

They're all displayed neatly behind yet another piece of plastic:

But wait, I wonder if this graphic gives away who the mystery character is?

That would be good because it means there's a boy in this box, but it's bad because now it's not a surprise any more!

On the other hand, I have no idea what the doll version of that character looks like, so there's still a pretty nice surprise waiting.  Or, maybe the graphic has nothing whatsoever to do with who's in the box?  We'll see!

The first things I took out of the packaging were Natalie, her note, her bleachers, and the little yearbook pamphlet that comes with the set.  Natalie's head popped off the moment I tried to get her out:

I was very curious about the yearbook.  I was hoping it would give me some clues about the line as a whole.  

The cover says Secret Central yearbook, class of '04:

I have heard, actually.
There's some helpful information just inside the front cover:

So, the premise of the line is that each character has a secret, and if you collect all of the dolls, you'll be able to know all of the secrets...and perhaps piece together some larger story?  I guess I'll have to see what the individual secrets are like.

The rest of the sheet has small pictures of each character in the senior class of Secret Central:

Secret Central '04 yearbook.
This, too, is arranged like a yearbook, with little sayings about each student.  Here's a closer look at the first group:

Ashley Adams stands out to me because it says she's the "most likely to be the first female president." If she was a senior (~18 years old) in '04, that would mean that she'd be eligible to run for president seventeen years later, in 2021.  Let's keep an eye on that!

And here's the second group  (Natalie's picture is the same strange one that was used on the package decorations):

The pictures look faded because each doll comes with little stickers that are meant to be placed over the faint picture, to keep track of which dolls you've collected and which ones you still need.

The boy that we saw on the package with Natalie is one of three boys in the senior class. His name is Brandon:

But he can't be the one Natalie is cheering for because he's a senior, and the box clearly states that her secret crush/friend is a junior.  The plot thickens!

The mystery character really is a mystery.

The accessory that came packaged next to Natalie was this blue plastic section of bleacher:

It's all one piece but looks like it's been made out of sections of PVC pipe:

The last thing in this part of the package was Natalie's note.  

I love how the note came folded up in a triangle!  My friends and I used to fold our notes this way when I was younger:

I found it difficult to get a clear photograph of the opened note:

It says:

You have to sing at the prom!  I know you can do it!
Cathy is so ga-ga for that junior that she can't focus on the band.  She's all about Jeff and her art.
By the way, don't tell anyone about Jeff and Cathy.  It's a secret and they don't know that I saw them together after the game on Saturday.  I think she want to keep it quiet because he's a junior.  We have to talk to her to see what she's thinking?!
Have you heard that Dean is taking dance classes?  I wonder what he's up to?!
Gotta go practice my pyramids!
Love ya,

So, Cathy Carson (who's in the yearbook) has a crush on Jeff (who's not in the yearbook because he's a junior).  That's the first big secret!

Now that we know her secret, let's take a closer look at Natalie:

Her head popped easily back onto her neck:


She has a very large head with long hair that's perched on a thin body with rubbery legs.  That's a recipe for poor balance.  Her Frankenstein shoes are probably the only reason she can stand up on her own at all.

Her head fell off a lot as I was trying to pose her, too.  

The problem is that the socket part of the ball-and-socket joint of her neck isn't very deep, so whenever her head is moved in any direction, it lifts up and away from the neck:

The other problem with this doll is her enormous bangs.  They spring out way in front of her forehead.  I mean, if this were a real person, those bangs would stick out a good foot away from her eyes:

Seems like a decent bug shield, though.
If I push the bangs down flat, they come all of the way down to Natalie's mouth!  They also block me from getting a clear look at her face.

I used a clear rubber band to pull the bangs away from her face:

There's a lot of detail in Natalie's face paint, especially considering that her face is not much larger than a quarter.

She has sea-green eyes with reflective dots in two different colors.  Her eyes are decorated with two shades of eyeshadow and she even has lipliner around her mouth!

Here's an even closer look at one eye:

There are no noticeable paint flaws on the face, either.

This doll has serious balance and posing issues, though.  This is what she usually looked like as I was trying to photograph her--tipped to one side with her head about to fall off!

I'm a little teapot...

Here's one of the better shots I was able to get of her full outfit:

She has a painted red tank top over a fabric skirt:

Her purple pom-poms are made out of strips of fabric that match her skirt:

The pom-poms attach to Natalie's wrists with purple loops of elastic.

The skirt is stitched together with thread and has a pleated front with a purple fold.  It's pretty elaborate for such a tiny garment!

The fabric is already fraying quite a bit around the edges, though, especially at the waistline:

The skirt can be removed if Natalie's shoes are off.  Here it is on its own:

It's about the same size as a PollyPocket skirt:

Polly Pocket skirt (left) and Secret Central skirt (right).
Polly can't wear Natalie's skirt because the waistband is too narrow and there's no stretch in the fabric:

Natalie can wear some of Polly Pocket's clothing, though, but I didn't take any pictures of that.  I'm getting lazy.

Natalie's pink-treaded white sneakers are oversized and can pop off of Natalie's legs:

Unlike the head, the shoes stay on pretty well and only come off when I want them to.

Here's a closer look at one of the shoes:

The paint job is good, and I like that the laces are painted pink!

Underneath her fabric skirt, Natalie is wearing painted white shorts:

The molded clothing has a few nice details, like the trim around the tank top and some subtle wrinkles in the fabric.

Natalie has three points of articulation (neck, ankles), plus an additional waist joint that I was happily surprised to find!

Her arms and legs are soft vinyl and can bend easily even without joints.

As I mentioned before, Natalie is about the same size as a Polly Pocket doll.  Her head is much larger, though, and she isn't quite as tall:

Secret Central Natalie and Polly Pocket.
For another point of reference, here's how Natalie compares to a L.O.L. surprise doll:

Secret Central Natalie and L.O.L. Surprise doll.
I decided to take Natalie's long hair down to inspect the rooting pattern.  It's not good:

The hair is only rooted around the very edge of the hairline.  Most of the scalp is painted vinyl.

When I re-styled the hair, I tried to do a better job of pulling Natalie's super-long bangs back into the main part of her ponytail so that she doesn't look completely ridiculous:

Now let's take a quick look at the rest of Natalie's accessories.  She came with a lot of little things!

She has a card with some school pictures on it and a locker combination at the top.  The pictures are not perforated (they'd have to be cut apart).  The locker combination was supposed to unlock additional secrets at, but that site doesn't exist anymore.

Natalie also comes with three small vinyl accessories.  A water bottle, a football and a pennant:

She has two groups of cardboard tickets:

And a tiny knit jersey!

The jersey is remarkable for its size.  The edges are finished and there are printed designs on the front and along each sleeve:

It's hard to put the jersey on Natalie, though.  First of all, her head fell off...

...and then I had a hard time getting the sleeves over her sticky vinyl arms and hands:

The hem of the left sleeve kept turning inside-out:

Here she is with the jersey mostly on:

I like it much better than the frayed fabric skirt!

I'd like to point out that I still don't know whose jersey this is.  It's not Jeff's, unless Natalie is planning to steal Jeff from Cathy (?).  Maybe it's Brandon's, since he's the one pictured with Natalie on the box?  Brandon is a musician, but I don't know if he's an athlete, too. 

Maybe it's her own jersey?  She is on the cheerleading team, after all.

Natalie can hold all of her accessories, so I got a picture of her with each item:

Ok, I get that "SCH" stands for Secret Central High, but it just looks like someone was trying to write "school" and ran out of room:

And L.O.L. Surprise dolls have conditioned me to the point that Natalie's water bottle looks like a baby bottle.  Not her fault.

The bleachers are not an obvious accessory for this doll, because while she can stand on them:

Her unarticulated hips make it hard for her to sit:

Shouldn't she be on the field leading the cheerleading squad, anyway?

Ok, now it's finally time for the main surprise!  Who has been hiding in that cardboard locker for the last 15 years?

The bottom of the locker opened up...

I see a number 14...

..and here he is!

I have no idea who this is, though.  He's pretty cute!

Maybe the note will tell us who he is?

Here's the secret note:

Nice cowboy, Jeff.
Here's a transcription, since the photo is so dark:

Hey Cathy,
So, what's the latest on the band?  You really don't have to quit to be able to go to the prom with me.  But, I would be honored to take you!
RoRo told me she already found a replacement for you for the band and that you totally shouldn't worry!  I guess our secret is out!  But I'm dying to know what she's planning and she won't tell me!!!
Gotta go practice, I can't wait to see you tonight.
Love, Jeff.

Ok, so the doll is Jeff (maybe?) and he's not Natalie's boyfriend, he's Cathy's boyfriend!  Whoa!  I was completely wrong.

I don't know who RoRo is, but she's involved in this plot somehow, too.

Let's take a look at Jeff:


He's dressed in his football uniform and does not have any fabric clothing.  That's fine with me.

The outfit is nicely painted and has a lot of detail.

Here's a slightly closer look at the outfit.  Notice that there are little molded thigh and knee pads!

Jeff's hair is really great.  I've never seen doll hair like this before.  From a distance, it looks like it's shaved in back and spiky on top, but the back part of the hair is actually long strands that have been pulled upwards:

The spiky hair on top is all individually rooted, so it's nice and thick.  Hidden within that hair, there's the cut end of the ponytail that was formed by pulling the hair in the back upwards:

The cut ends are hard to see.  Here's a zoomed and cropped copy of the picture, above:

The hair is a little longer in the front, and manages to fall off to one side in a very natural-looking, charming way:

Jeff has a cheesy, white-toothed grin and one quirked eyebrow over his grey-blue eyes:

I like this face much better than Natalie's face.  Jeff has loads of personality!  He actually reminds me of somebody I know.  He'd be a perfect caricature of that kid.

Jeff's head is seated lower on his neck, so he can move his head around without it falling off.

Looking at Jeff and Natalie together, I can see why Jeff's neck joint is more functional.  The ball sits higher up in the head:

Here are Jeff and Natalie together:

Just friends.
So I'm still confused about whether Natalie was cheering for Jeff or with Jeff.  With Cathy, maybe?

Well, I have to say that I think these little dolls are pretty fun!  I like the idea of piecing together parts of a bigger story by gathering individual notes, and I really like that the mystery doll was so different from Natalie!  I think part of the fun for me is that I've seen so few of these dolls in person or even in photographs, I don't even have much sense of the variety that's available.

In fact, based on the two big sets that were available on eBay when I was shopping, I assumed that all of the dolls had the same face mold.  The other character I bought, Rachel, looks like a redheaded version of Natalie:

Rachel's packaging is a lot like Natalie's but the decorations and accessories are based on a different premise: Rachel is a chef, and a mystery person is helping her with her latest recipe.

This could definitely be a boy or a girl.

Another thing I noticed right away is that Rachel's box says Class of '05, not Class of '04:

This makes sense because I don't recognize Rachel from the Class of '04 yearbook that came with Natalie.

To show off the packaging a bit better, I immediately removed the aging outer cover.  Here's the front of the box without that layer:

And here's the back of the box:

The box advertises several fun things.  First of all, it says we'll get a new yearbook with this doll and will get to meet a new class of students.  Jeff should be in this group because he was a junior in '04.  Maybe we'll learn more about him?  It would be good to confirm that he looks a bit like the doll that came with Natalie.

The box also says that the dolls can share "snap-on styles," which sounds fun:

The back of the box offers more clues about Rachel's mystery friend.  He's a boy, he's Rachel's co-worker, and he doesn't even go to Secret Central!

From the other side of the tracks!
There's also some biographical information about Rachel at the top of the box:

Oooh!  Rachel has two people who like her!  That definitely complicates things.

The cartoon of Rachel that takes up most of the back of the box is a lot more appealing to me than the picture of Natalie:

This doesn't look much like the doll, though, at least in terms of her hair color.

I was pretty disappointed to open the box and find the exact same '04 yearbook that came with Natalie:

All of the pictures and characters are the same as the yearbook I already showed you.  The only difference is that this one is also written in French.

What happened to the '05 yearbook?

As with Natalie, Rachel and some of her accessories were mounted in a plastic shell while others came stuck to the cardboard backdrop.  The mystery character is hidden inside a cardboard refrigerator this time:


Here's everything that was in the box:

The yearbook pictures of Rachel look even less like her than the box art does.  Now she's a blond with braids and blue eyes!?

And a crazy-eyed dog cat?
Did the wrong pictures get into this box somehow?

Rachel also comes with a plastic cafe table and two chairs:

Two vinyl ice cream sundaes:

And a vinyl pizza:

I was eager to read Rachel's secret note, to see if it relates somehow to Jeff and Cathy's story, or to learn which two people like Rachel!  

I was slowed down a bit because the whole thing is written in French:

Here's my translation:

The group is really HOT.  I can imagine you doing your own music video one day, you have what it takes.
Did you know that Sarah knows someone who has a big crush on Brandon?  I wonder who it can be? I have to talk to Sara.  Well, I have to study for the history exam tomorrow.
You're my best,

P.S. I can't go to the mall (?) tonight.  I have to bring Tori to Spanish club and Tess to soccer.  But I'm definitely ready for a good shopping day on Saturday.

So, this note isn't written by Rachel.  That's a twist.  Perhaps it was written to Rachel, whose nickname is RoRo?  RoRo was the one who found the band replacement for Cathy so she could go to prom with Jeff.

I actually think it's more likely that RoRo is Rhonda Rodriguez.  She's in the class of '04 and is the "most likely to become a star."

Why does Rachel even have this note?  If the notes are randomly distributed among the dolls, I'm never going to figure out what's going on.

Anyway, here's Rachel:

Her balance is much better than Natalie's and a little better than Jeff's.

Her red hair comes sewn into a plastic strip:

Here's the hair without the plastic:

This hair is much nicer than Natalie's hair.  First and foremost, the bangs aren't completely out of control.  Also, the hair fiber is smooth, shiny, and the rooting pattern is pretty good:

Even though Rachel's bangs are a little uneven, I didn't feel the need to pull them back away from her face.  Her brown eyes and lined lips are easy to see:

Rachel has the same face mold as Natalie, but I've learned since I bought these two that there's actually quite a lot of face variation in the Secret Central lineup....and I like most of the face molds better than Rachel and Natalie's!

I found two single '04 dolls on eBay for a steal ($5 each) so I bought those, too.  I won't review them now, but you can at least peek into the boxes and see how different their faces are.

Here's Bryoni:

And here's red haired, green-eyed Jenny:

With freckles!
I find myself really wanting to know what those notes say!

But back to Rachel.  You might have noticed that in addition to her Pizza Heaven logo shirt, she comes wearing a very loose-fitting long denim skirt with an apron on top:

Restaurant chic.
In order to get the skirt and apron off, Rachel's torso has to be separated from her legs:

The apron is surprisingly well-made, with a stitched elastic waistband and neatly finished edges.

The denim skirt is a bit less impressive, but at least the frayed bottom edge is intentional: 

I much prefer the painted outfit that's under Rachel's skirt:

Not only that, look at her hips!  She has articulated hips!

I detached her torso again so that I could get a nice clear picture:

These two extra points of articulation mean that Rachel can do splits:

And sit on the ground...

...or on one of her chairs!

She can also sit in Natalie's bleachers.  This is a great improvement!  All together, Rachel has six points of articulation.

Rachel's pink sneakers have great detail and yet another careful paint job:

It was only at this point in the review that I figured out what was going on with Rachel's yearbook photos.  She looks nothing like her photo because...

She comes with Emma Emerson's photos:

Emma is the animal rights activist, so her crazy-eyed cat suddenly makes more sense.

I wonder what happened here?  With the old yearbook and the wrong photos, I'm suddenly quite curious.  Did I get a defective set, or was Secret Central in trouble at this point and Hasbro never got around to producing new materials for the class of '05 dolls?  I tried searching for pictures of the '05 yearbook online and did not find anything.

All I discovered was this low-quality image from Hasbro with 5 of the '05 characters:

Unfortunately, I didn't buy any single '05 dolls (yet) so I don't have any more evidence at my disposal.  I'll update if I come to any conclusions.  Please share if you know something!

In any case, Rachel is overall a much nicer doll than Natalie.  Hasbro made some great changes between 2003 and 2004. 

Rachel stands up well on her own and can move her head without it falling off.  As I tried to take pictures of the two girls together, Rachel stayed exactly where I put her while Natalie was a bit of a mess:

How do you stand still like that??
Now it's time for the final surprise of the day!  Who is Rachel's co-worker friend?  Is it one of the boys who likes her?

I opened the bottom of the cardboard fridge...

...and saw red shoes and blue pants:

Oh!  He looks really different from Jeff!

Yet another completely different face mold!

And yet another note written entirely in French:

This note also seems to have nothing to do with the mystery character.  He didn't write it or receive it--it was written by two female characters.  Did he steal it?  What is wrong with these teenagers?

Also, because he didn't write or receive the note, I don't have any idea who he is!  This throws into question my assumption that the first mystery character was actually Jeff, too.  Maybe it was some random dude who just happened to have Jeff's note?? Ack!  Are they trying to confuse me??

Let's translate the note and see if we can figure this out:

Is something happening with you and Michael? please tell me once and for all.  
(Frowny face) Madison.

This is just a false rumor and I do not find it funny. Here's the REAL story: Mike and I are FRIENDS, nothing more! You are also my friend and honestly I could never be hypocritical.  This stupid story had to start because Michael and I are working together on the graduation album. Grr!  People who invent these stories should get a life!  And why do you believe this story?  You know about me and Jeff Jackson.  I'm afraid RoRo knows it, too.  I heard she was talking about me.  I want to know what she says to everyone.
(Self portrait?) Cathy

Thank you for being honest with me and for being such a good friend. I felt stupid to ask, but really wanted to know.  I love Michael so much.  I hope he invites me to the ball!
(Smiley face) Madison.

Whoa.  Ok.  So Madison likes Michael.  Maybe the mystery character is Michael?  That means we got redundant information about Cathy and Jeff and still have no idea who likes Rachel.

Here's (maybe) Michael:

Oh, wait!  He has the Pizza Heaven logo on his shirt, too, so he must be one of Rachel's co-workers!

This is getting positively soap operaesque!  Madison likes Michael but Michael likes Rachel? Yikes.

The other option is that the mystery character isn't Michael, he's simply the co-worker who likes Rachel.  This is blowing my mind.

Anyway, I was hoping (let's just call him Michael) would have articulated hips like Rachel, but he does not.  His balance is decent, but he tend to tip to one side.

He has a neat hairstyle.  It's a lot like Jeff's hair in some ways, but the hair on top is longer:

I popped his head off to get a few pictures of the construction of the hairstyle.  As with Jeff, the hair in back is pulled straight up and into a ponytail

The ponytail was chopped off, singed at the ends, and glued in place.  The longer hair, which is all rooted at the front of Michael's head, falls backwards and covers the mess:

It's a clever way to do the hair, and I think it looks good, but if that ponytail ever came down, you'd be left with an unfixable mess.

Michael has my favorite face of all the dolls I bought.  He has a wide, close-mouthed smile and nice green eyes:

Only his lower lip is painted, and in a very neutral color:

Michael's outfit includes a long-sleeved tee shirt and cargo pants:

I like the molded detail on the sides of the pants!

Michael is wearing red (pink) loafers with white accents:

Here are the two boys together:

I like Jeff's hairstyle more than Michael's, but overall I prefer Michael.

All of the removable parts of the dolls can be swapped back and forth.  Here are all the bodies I have at this point:

I like Rachel's articulated legs best because they're articulated and I like Jeff's torso best because it allows the best connection between head and neck.

So, I can make Michael more articulated by using Rachel's legs:

Or I can give Rachel a torso with optimum head articulation:

These are my two favorite dolls in the mix.  I love Rachel's hair and legs and Michael's eyes and expression:

Too bad they're not dating!  Or are they..?

I wish Rachel's face had been styled a bit more like Michael's, with smaller eyes and a less prominent mouth, but her legs and hair make up for that.

I had a great time taking a glimpse into the world of Secret Central.  

The dolls themselves have some construction flaws.  They don't stand up very well and a few of the dolls have heads that come off too easily.  The hair is a really mixed bag ranging from Natalie (with her crazy bangs and bald scalp) to the uniquely creative hairstyles of the boy dolls.  As much as I like the boy hairstyles, they would be almost impossible to salvage if those ponytails ever came undone.  I also don't find all of the faces equally appealing.  While Michael has a subtle and engaging expression, Natalie looks overly made-up with unsettlingly large eyes.  All of the dolls have carefully-painted faces and clothing.  The fabric clothing is more varied, with some excellent pieces like the jersey and apron and some less impressive items like both girls' skirts.

If my experience had been limited to just the Natalie doll, with her exaggerated face, missing hair, and unstable head, I would have been almost completely uninterested in the rest of the line.  As it is, I enjoy the variety in the face molds and like the idea of mixing and matching shoes, legs, heads, and torsos.

I really enjoyed getting a mystery doll in each package, too.  Both Jeff and Michael (or whoever they are) are better than I expected, and better than the female dolls they accompanied.

At first, I wasn't too excited about the secret note part of this concept.  It seemed like a throwaway.  However, the limited number of dolls available for sale, the fact that some of the notes were written in French, the absence of solid information on the internet...all of these things combined to make me feel like I was on a real treasure hunt, piecing together information from a larger mystery that I might never solve.  These days, most toy-related secrets can be revealed with a quick internet search, but I've had no short-term gratification with this toy.  I searched internet articles, peered at eBay listings, scoured online photos, and even read some fan fiction, but I'm still not sure if the dolls I got are really Jeff and Michael.  Furthermore, I might never know exactly who likes Rachel, what RoRo planned for the big game, whether Michael will pick Madison or Rachel...or if Michael even works at Pizza Heaven!  A decade ago it might have been possible to go to the sponsored website and see all of the characters, confirm which mystery doll you got, and unlock critical details with that locker combination code, but that is no longer the case. 

I'm over-romaticising things, as usual, but I'm drawn to the notion that perhaps the passage of time has buried the gimmicky pieces of Secret Central gossip to the point that they now feel like real secrets.  And that somehow these funny little dolls, perhaps because of their lukewarm popularity, have become more mysterious and captivating now than they ever could have been in their own day.

Secret Central dolls by Hasbro.


  1. well dang. You're old guard, and it really sucks to see the reviews you do go! You really did provide a valuable resource. I understand though.

    Take care, my friend.


  2. Thank you for another entertaining post! The dolls aren't that great, but I, too, find myself now intensely interested in the drama at Secret Central High.

    As for the blog changes, it's all good. You do what's best for you! We all go through different phases with our hobbies and collections. I used to keep a reading blog, and then a reading journal. I still have books I never wrote about that hang over my head, and I keep telling myself I'll get back to them, but sometimes it's best just to move on.

    Though I've had the opportunity to enjoy many dolls vicariously through your reviews, and have expanded my own collection a bit as a result, when it comes down to it, what I enjoy most about the blog are your curiosity and sense of humor. You are a wonderful person, and don't feel that you owe any obligation to the Internet.

    1. I'm commenting to "like" this since there isn't another way to. And yes, that curiousity and humor are so enjoyable. This is such a nice chance of pace from much of the rest of the internet today.

  3. Good review, as always. This lune will be a pass for me, though. The aesthetics are a bit Child's Play meets Jersey Shore for my taste.

  4. Natalie looks like the old California Raisins.

    This is the best blog on the internet and you've turned me into a doll collector. Whatever you choose will always be the right decision for you, and I'm just happy to read whatever you're willing to share.

    1. My daughter is a fan as well since this blog is the reason I buy so many dolls I wouldn't otherwise, and of course my daughter is the beneficiary. :D

  5. Hi Emily,
    I just wanted to say that I've always looked forward to your reviews and that reading (and rereading!) them has been a huge source of comfort and relaxation for me over the past several years. I hope you are able to find a way to continue blogging so that it is still enjoyable for you, because your humorous and thoughtful perspective is such a treat. Even if you it's simply writing your thoughts about things going on in the doll world, I will remain an avid reader!

  6. Class of 05 had 20 new dolls. The locker codes unlocked a special character video for each doll, a tour of the kids and a matching game. To promote class of 05 their was a direct to dvd movie called secret central have you heard.


    I found brandon!


    That looks cool.

  9. Lurkins the Longtime LurkerMay 7, 2018 at 5:36 AM

    Jeff is my favorite. His face is so cute and derpy!

    While I'm sad the long-format reviews are going away, I've honestly been DYING to see your full doll collection for ages. Every time you mention a doll you've never reviewed, I want to see it... so this new idea should be pretty gratifying. XD

    And hopefully your curiosity will ensure there's still an occasional Sunday Surprise, since that's quickly become my favorite feature of the blog. And the old, out-of-print toys (like this one, or the Sweet E Baby... man that one sent me back) are my favorite favorite. :) Who doesn't love a throwback? Too bad the Internet Wayback Machine doesn't work on Flash-based websites... I really want to know what the website that went with these dolls was like.

  10. A shame to see you go, your reviews have always been greatly useful. But I get it. The temptation to buy things JUST to review means you end up with sooo much stuff laying around you only kinda like. it's a pain. What i've done is just buy stuff I wanted anyway, and people who complain that i'm reviewing "the wrong thing" can bite me hahaha. (seriously I had people moaning about that, it was like, dude? I do this for me, not you random stranger). Anyway, I look forward to seeing what you do in the future.

  11. Your blog has always been one of my favorites and certainly triggered the collector and me to start collecting dolls. I completely understand your decision, though as it's no fun anymore when things start to get too overwhelming and you can't really enjoyed the dolls that you already have. So, I'm really looking forward to your "cleaning out the collection "posts and I hope that you're able to enjoy your own dolls that you decide to keep. :-)

  12. I understand your decision and I'm going to really miss your thorough reviews(though I'm still reading your old ones lol). I hope to hear from you from time to time about an occasional Sunday Surprise or a new doll you liked <3

  13. While it is sad to hear your longer form reviews will be going away, I've been so interested to see what dolls are in your collection and will happily read a documentation of that.

    Also have to agree with the summation; the information we cannot get about these dolls makes them more interesting.

  14. It's sad to hear for me that you're ending this, I've always loved your wonderful reviews and even started collecting Ever After High dolls thanks to your thorough posts. I think you're the best doll blogger out there. Can't wait to see your collection, though, and please don't close down the site, whatever happens! I noticed that very many doll bloggers I find on the Internet have stopped blogging already, and I think it's very sad. The closedown of Toys R Us is, in my opinion, a bad sign for most doll companies. Hope you'll come back from time to time with some short post, at least. Have a nice day:)
    P.S. And maybe you could renew your "guest review" function? Pleeease! It would probably be a bit less work for you, and I'd love to join if you did:D
    Thank you for a great time.

  15. Actually I Do think of your blog like "an online doll museum", or an online doll/toy encyclopedia, and for that I thank you Very Much! If I'm searching for a doll or toy, if I see a review by you I invariably check it out. Thanks to intrepid toy reviewers like you and Toohunkytoys (YouTube), I've been able to give toy gifts that are appropriate and really appreciated by young friends and relatives. Just last week I gave "Surprizamal Puchi Gumi" to young relatives on the other side of the country (at a Christening), and since the youngsters (unbeknownst to me) had already been collecting Enchantimals ( oooooh - thanks to you I know what those are), the youngsters were DELIGHTED! I chose the Puchi Gumi because I saw in your review that all the features are embroidered on, so there are no small eyes to pull off and swallow accidentally. (And they ARE incredibly soft and adorable! I have my very own Akira the lamb next to me at my computer. BTW thanks for the tip about looking into the holes in the egg to discern the inhabitant. Word for the wise.) Had it not been for your review, I would not have known about these desired and appropriate toy/gifts.
    You have a great way with words - your reviews are interesting to read - and you have the ability to review a toy and make it come alive. In addition to that, and really most important to me, you have a good spirit. You can find the best in every doll or toy. That's huge to me, because I don't want to waste my time on negativity. Life is hard enough as it is.
    Because life is so hard, I'm all in favor of your decision to change how you do your thing. You are a jewel, and I look forward to seeing how you shine in the future.
    Thank you Emily! <3

  16. I'm going to miss the reviews, but if it's good for you I'm fine. Thanks for everything and I hope you'll do an ocassional review again.

  17. While I don't like the design of the dolls, this is a really neat concept, where each doll is almost like their own episode of some teen drama sopa opera show or something like that. I can appreciate that! I hope someone picks the idea up again with a more attractive design, maybe more akin to LOL dolls or Polly Pockets.

    I'll be missing the reviews, Emily. I always appreciated your opinion as an adult toy collector who isn't overly precious and cutesy with the dolls so much. But I wish you the best of luck for the future, whatever it may hold.

  18. Well, pushing away anything truly emotional, these dolls were my childhood. I think I have all of them?

    1. Do you have their secrets?

    2. Well, not really. The only ones I remember were Jeff having two girlfriends and Brandon and Sarah crushing on each other. Seven year old me didn't care about secrets much, sorry!

    3. So Jeff's a player?! Greeeeeaaaaat, not I'm going to spend the rest of this trip in France obsessing about a doll that's a two-timer and wondering what's going on. :D

  19. I too will miss the reviews - it was nice to have something so in depth from a fellow collector but I get needing to shift how you collect as well - we all do and I was doing so myself earlier this year. Thank you for putting in time and I'm sure we'll all still be here to check up on what collecting adventures you do end up finding yourself on in the future!

    I LOVE the make-up on these and I say that with no irony. It's more than likely you got an international set for the pizza place hence all the french & the lack of info. I never gave the secret central dolls a real glance when they were out but you've made me very intrigued by them.

  20. You have to do what is best for you. Whatever happens, I will always visit your fantastic blog. I still have a lot of older reviews to read! lol

    And it is always a pleasure to visit your blog!

  21. I have made additions to my collection due to your detailed reviews. It's always nice to read every review.

  22. Echoing everyone else to say how much I have enjoyed reading your work, and I will happily read whatever you share in future. This should be be fun for you as it is for us, and I support your decision to do what you needed to keep it that way.

  23. It was very generous of you to buy toys all these years just for reviewing them. I think buying just the ones you want from now one will rekindle your passion for doll reviews. You have been an inspiration for me. I focused on DIY rather than reviews but occasionally I did those too and, without trying to copy you, I tried to approach your clean and thorough style that many will agree, has become the gold standard in doll reviews. I hope you keep your impressive archive online, move it to a different platform if you have to. Meanwhile, I'd love to see short posts with just a couple of photos and maybe get a glimpse of your whole collection! I often wondered where you keep everything. I have about 100 and I put a cap on my collection (not just due to size, but that's irrelevant).

    Oh, about today's review... I won't be able to sleep at night thinking who the dude in the fridge might be! I had basically no social life in highschool and the whole premise of these dolls sounds so intriguing for 30-year old me!

  24. Guess what! That will take you to the website. :D

    I thought the idea of secret notes sounded stupid. But WHOA! These notes aren't the little "Guess who I saw buying lipstick without her mom's permission!" type of notes. I hate to admit that I'm very curious about what's going on. Perhaps you'll allow is loyal readers to pitch in and help acquire the entire lineup? :D

  25. The box said that Rachel's coworker doesn't even go to SCH, so it's probably not Michael. I think you just got a defective set with the incorrect yearbook, yearbook photos, and notes.

  26. I was a senior in 2004 and the notes Take Me Back. We used to spend more time finding elaborate ways to fold them for each other than what we even wrote in them. I still have a ton of these little packages from my friends that are folded like elaborate origami envelopes only to have the inside say 'omg i hate this class and i still have such a crush on shane, g2g!' These are hilariously accurate to what my life was like in highschool in 2004!

  27. Is it just me or that Michael looks like Hunter Huntsman from ever after high?

  28. Hello Emily, I really adore your reviews of your dolls. You know the dolls popovy sisters.

  29. Hi! this is a fun review! I like seeing what you have whether current or discontinued. I don't remember ever seeing these dolls in our area and they are quite interesting. The notes in French are wonderful! I took french in school and would love these as a way to refresh my memory. I'd like to see the girls with more modest makeup; the lip liner is icky.

    I read the What Happened? Please know that at whatever rate you post you still have way more detail than many. I love your reviews and have come here looking for information when I've found dolls at yard sales. You've helped me clothe quite a few mini dolls. :-) Thank you for all your heard work. You are truly appreciated and I love to see your "name" pop up in my inbox.

  30. I was the one who requested this! Didn't see this until recently, but this was a nice look back at one of my favorite childhood doll lines. And I didn't know there was a Secret Central movie either...