Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday Surprise: Boxy Girls Willa by Jay at Play!

I knew back in May that I wasn't going to post as much as I used to, but I didn't think it'd actually be a whole month between posts!  Yikes.  My slow speed is partially due to eBay sales, but also because I've simply been enjoying a lovely (hot!) summer with both of my kids before the youngest goes off to start college.

The other reason for the delay is that I've been sitting around waiting for Mattel's new Harry Potter Wizarding World dolls, figuring they'd be the next thing I'd review.  They're definitely the newcomers that I'm most excited about right now.  I preordered the set of four kids from Walmart back in June and they were supposed to arrive the first week of August.  However, Walmart canceled each doll from that order (one at a time, with a few excruciating days in between each cancellation) claiming that the dolls were "not in stock and we don't know when they'll be back in stock."  Ironically, each doll would show up (in healthy numbers) on the shelves of my local Walmart store at about the same time that their "out of stock" cancellation email arrived.  So, at least I knew when to go out and look for the dolls!  I finally have the whole set of kids and have started to photograph Hermione.

While I work on the Hermione review, I figured I could get back into the swing of things by doing a quick Sunday Surprise!  I discovered the intriguing line of Boxy Girls dolls at Walmart during my most recent Harry Potter mission.  The dolls themselves are highly stylized, but they look well-articulated and they each come with four mystery boxes filled with fashion accessories!  For me, the element of surprise and the visible articulation were enough to warrant the $15 price tag.

Boxy Girls Willa by Jay@Play ($14.98).
I'm not sure how doll name copyright works, but this doll is named Willa, just like the American Girl WellieWisher.

The Boxy Girls are made by Jay at Play, a company that seems to appreciate the joy of a good surprise.  The last Jay at Play product I reviewed was their FlipaZoo Flip Box Surprise--which was for another Sunday Surprise post.

The basic idea with the Boxy Girls is that each of the four characters has a different fashion style, and each doll comes with sealed shipping boxes that contain her most recent online shopping purchases.  It's a little shallow, theme-wise, I know...but there are mystery boxes!  The line effectively combines blind box intrigue with an 8-inch fashion doll. 

The dolls have boxy heads and blocky eyes that almost look pixelated.  I'm not entirely sure what the intent behind this design choice is.  Maybe it's a way to emphasize the Boxy Girls brand name?  The girls like boxes and also look like boxes??  But only their heads are boxy.

The whole "boxy" moniker worked well for Volvo, but I'm not sure it's as successful as a doll brand.  It feels to me like a bad spoof on Moxie Girlz.

Anyway, the dolls come in colorful window boxes that do a good job of describing the concept of the line:


Here's the visible wrist articulation that cemented my decision to review this brand:

Nice hand shape, too!
The four Boxy Girls characters are shown in cartoon format on the front of the box.  Their names are (from left to right), Brooklyn, Nomi, Willa, and Riley:

Their pictures remind me of the Middle School Moguls (a.k.a. iBesties).

Riley seems to be the most popular of the four Boxy Girls (if Amazon's relative price inflation is a good indicator), but my two favorites are Willa and Brooklyn.  Nomi's skin tone looks too orange in person.

The mystery boxes are clearly visible along the right side of the window:

It says that there are a total of "12+ fashion surprises," so I guess there will be more than one treat in each box!  Yay!

The sides of the box are well-decorated, too:

The back of the box has a large cartoon of Willa and some hints at what type of fashion items might be in those boxes:

It would be cool if there was a mini smart phone!
The cartoon rendition of Willa is nice.  I like it better than the actual doll (the eyes are less harsh and the smile is more genuine):

Here's Willa's brief fashion profile:

The heat and humidity make it easy to think about beach fashion these days!  I read in the newspaper that Maine is having its most humid summer in 70 years.  It's a jungle out there.

Here's a closer look at Willa's fashion purchases:

I like the blue shoes and the beach bag.

The top of the box has a strange design.  There's a perforated strip that runs down the middle with "tear here" instructions:

The perforated strip works, but the box also just opens with a conventional flap:

I guess it's meant to simulate opening a package--like those cardboard Priority envelopes?  Most of the packages I get in the mail open with flaps.

Willa and her shipping boxes are mounted in a molded plastic shell and displayed against this awesome flamingo backdrop!

I also read recently that the unusually warm weather has been great for baby flamingos!

Baby Flamingo (7532380514)

Each character has a different backdrop that fits with their fashion theme.  For example, Brooklyn (who I also bought but am not going to review) loves fruit prints and lots of color.  Her watermelon dress wonderfully captures those preferences, as does her pineapple backdrop:

I love that dress!
I enjoy thoughtful little details like this.

Willa was attached to her plastic mount with a few ties.  The boxes were held in place by the snug-fitting plastic shell:

Willa was pretty easy to get out--only one tight plastic tie at the back of her head gave me any trouble:

Willa can stand on her own, although it takes some work to get her balance just right:

Willa's expression is a bit blank.  I have a hard time connecting to her square-pupiled eyes and fruit slice smile:

Here's a closer look at her head:


Not only are the eyes a funny shape, but they have a lot of elements.  There are three reflective dots (two squares and one star) and a three-layered design at the bottom of the eye that delineates the pupil and the iris.

The rectangular shape of the eyes makes it look like Willa is wearing glasses.  In fact, I like her better when I think of her eyes this way.  

Up close, the blue color of the eyes seems a bit faded and is not as vibrant as I would expect considering all of the other bright colors in this line.

The mouth is simple, with neon pink lips and a slightly forced-looking toothy smile:

Willa's boxy head gives her an odd facial profile, especially in the cheek area:

Even the shape of her ears is angular, which I think makes her look elfin!

That's cool.
Her head reminds me a little of Mattel's My Mini MixisQs:

Boxy all over.
I find the boxy head and eyes much more appealing in this tiny scale.

Willa also makes me think of the Kuu Kuu Harajuku girls.  I no longer have my G doll (she went to the Goodwill), but here's an old picture as a reminder:

Kuu Kuu Harajuku G wearing Pinkie Cooper.
I'm vaguely reminded of Little Charmers Posie, too:

Little Charmers Posie.
Both G and Posie have large heads with unrealistic features, but their faces and expressions are so much more appealing to me than the Boxy Girls heads.  I've found myself pondering head transplants quite a few times since I opened Willa.

Willa comes wearing a vinyl feathered headband that is plastic-tied to her head:


Her long blonde hair comes tied back into a simple ponytail:

I pulled the headband off (unintentionally leaving the plastic ties in Willa's head):

The headband is nicely painted in gold and blue.

The front sections of Willa's hair are pulled back and tied underneath the rest of her hair (you can see one of those pesky little plastic ties sticking out in this shot!):

I took the ponytail down, but left the pulled-back sections of hair untouched:


Willa has nice hair.  It's smooth and easy to brush.  The layered style makes the hair look good even when it hasn't been brushed recently.

The rooting is dense along the entire hairline and also along the part.  Other sections of (bright yellow!) scalp are easily visible through sparse hair plugs:

The hair feels like it has a sufficient thickness, though, and the scalp isn't visible when the hair is hanging straight.

Willa is wearing a simple blue ombré dress with a printed looping pattern along the bottom of the skirt:

The dress' hem is unfinished and the bodice closes in the back with velcro:

To compliment the dress, Willa is wearing vinyl shoes that look like fringed leather sandals:

The shoes do not have any painted details.  A bit of blue in the geometric design at the heel would have made a big difference!

The shoes open at the top in back for easy use:

Willa has cute feet.  They're nicely-shaped with well-delineated toes.  However, she has a raised arch so she can't stand on her own without her shoes:

Willa's body proportions are wacky.  Her body looks very small compared to her head, and she has super-long legs that get larger towards the bottom, not smaller!

Her torso and legs are very hard (plastic or vinyl?), while her arms have a tiny bit of bend in them.  The body feels solid in my hands.

She has a small, hourglass-shaped torso with molded and painted underpants:

Why does such a curvy torso have such a boxy head??  This still makes no sense to me.

Overall, Willa has nine points of articulation, which is really good for a $15 play doll!

Her head can only spin around (not look up and down) but her shoulders and wrists are all rotating hinges:

Her shoulders and wrists also have great range of motion.

Her hips are rotating hinges, too, so she can do near-full side-to-side splits:

And equally impressive front-to-back splits:

She can kneel on both knees with a bit of balancing effort:

And she sits really nicely in a chair...

...where her rotating knees allow her to turn her cute feet in or out:

She can also sit upright on the ground with her feet turned in or out:

Look at those feet!

As I get rid of more and more dolls, I don't have a huge diversity to offer for comparison pictures.  I'll always keep several Made to Move Barbie dolls on hand, though!

Made to Move Barbie with Boxy Girls Willa.
At 8.5 inches tall, Willa is quite a bit smaller than Barbie.

I'm also never going to part with my Pinkie Cooper dolls, which is fortunate because they're very similar in size and proportion to the Boxy Girls.  Here's Willa with Pepper:

Pinkie Cooper Pepper with Boxy Girls Willa.
These two can even share clothes--almost perfectly!

Pinkie Cooper and Boxy Girls clothes-swapping!
Pepper's head is even stranger than Willa's, but I find it so much more creative and interesting.  I feel real affection for Pepper.  Willa has a better body design, though, I'll give her that!  They both have cute, simple dresses although I like the detail in Pepper's dress (which is actually borrowed from Pinkie) more.

But now, let's get to the surprise part of the review...those boxes!


All of the boxes look the same, so Willa picked one at random and sat down to start opening!

The boxes are made of cardboard and have different printed designs on each side:

This is the most interesting side, with the shipping addresses, weight, and item number:

The weight and item number don't mean anything--they're the same on all of the boxes.  The addresses are more interesting.  Those reveal that Willa lives in Venice Beach and does her shopping on 5th Avenue!  Swanky.

The boxes are sealed at the top with a strip of clear tape:

I was able to peel the tape off and leave the box unharmed... that Willa could peek inside!

Toy Box Philosopher

The inside of the box has a printed pattern, too:

What luxurious things could be inside?

Toy Box Philosopher

On the very top, it looks like there's a sticker:

The epitome of luxury. 

Actually, there were two stickers: a patterned heart and a blank gift tag:

Maybe the gift tag means that Willa bought this item as a gift for a friend?  That would be nice.

Look what's underneath the stickers, though!

Colored paper confetti!

Toy Box Philosopher
 Underneath all of the confetti, there was a little purse:

It doesn't open, but it's in the shape of a pineapple.

Willa tried out the purse...

...but I'm pretty sure she bought it for her friend Brooklyn (the one who likes fruit prints).

Purses are not my favorite doll accessory.  Maybe it's because I'm not crazy about carrying a purse myself?  I like doll purses that can open, because any miniature item that functions like the full-sized version is fascinating to me, but solid purses are dull. Still, the pineapple design is very cute.

Also, if I'm correct that Willa bought the pineapple purse for Brooklyn, that makes me happy.  In a line focused so much on internet shopping, it's nice to include the idea of shopping for someone other than yourself.  It's also a clever way to get kids to covet the other characters!

Moving on!

Box #2.
What could be inside this box?

At the top, I see another sticker:

This box actually had only one sticker (a shoe) and a cardboard sign that says, "Thank you for your purchase!  You're beautiful!"

The correct use of "your" and "you're" warms my heart.
It's nice to be told that you're beautiful, but I hope this doesn't count as one of the 12 surprises!

Spoiler: it does.
More confetti!

And under the confetti...'s another purse:

Here's the front:

This purse matches Willa's dress--both in color (kind-of) and in the looping molded design and fringe:

Toy Box Philosopher

I was eager to find something other than a purse, so I moved quickly to the next box!

Box #3.
This one had a sticker on top (getting predictable):

And another "thank you for your purchase" card:

Ho hum.
I also don't like this sticker very much.  "Shop, unbox, repeat??"  Really?  What kind of message is that?  How about "Shop, unbox, enjoy!"  That seems healthier, not to mention less expensive.  Maybe I'm just grouchy because I know I order way too many things (dolls) online.  Or I used to.  Now I'm reforming.

Oh, but look at this!  Under the sticker and the card, there's tissue paper, not confetti:

Something different!
 This is fun!  It's probably not a purse:

I peeked into the pink paper...

...and found earrings and a necklace!

These also match Willa's outfit:

The necklace has a painted blue flower (with some small paint splatters):

And the earrings have a molded looping pattern and feathers:

I really wish the feathers had been painted blue.  Also, if the jewelry had been made out of gold vinyl, it would have matched the headband!  Missed opportunities.

Here's Willa wearing her new jewelry:

The earrings are huge!

Ok, I'd like to point out that nothing else in this line seems to be boxy other than the actual boxes and the doll's heads.  Boxy is not a pervasive theme.  The earrings are circular, the patterns and purses are rounded...but for some reason the dolls have box-shaped heads.  So weird.

Ok, there's one more box left to open.  Let's hope this is a really good one!

Box #4.
There's a sticker on top:

And there's another card.  This one says, "Enjoy these new fashion finds!  You're fabulous!"

Why, thank you!
This sticker is much better than the previous one.

But I was more interested in what was still inside the box...

Oooh!!  Two circular pink things...


A pair of shoes!

I think these are even nicer than the ones in Willa's original outfit.  They have two different colors and some good molded details.

They don't match Willa's blue dress, but perhaps they match a different doll's dress?  Are they meant to be for Brooklyn again?  Willa is no nice.

There are some Boxy Girls fashion packs that can be purchased separately for about $10.  These have mystery boxes, too, and I suspect some of them come with dresses or other clothing pieces inside.  It's possible that these pink shoes coordinate with one of those items.

Also, things don't always have to match.

Well, that was fun!  It was over too quickly, but that's always the case with surprise toys.

I'll wrap things up by giving a few general impressions about this line.  Because blind box toys are so popular (and overpriced), I feel like I need to think of this toy in two ways.  First, is Willa a good doll on her own?  And second, how fun and enduring is the surprise element?  I'll keep this mindset when I'm thinking about the price, too, by evaluating Willa as a $10 doll who comes with a $5 blind box toy.  (Why $5 for the boxes?  That estimate is based on the extra fashion packs which have 5 small boxes, one double-sized box, and cost $10).

One problem with this method of evaluation is that if surprises have little or no value to you or your child, it only works to evaluate Willa as a straight-up $15 doll.  The extra accessories, without their cute packaging and mystery, add practically nothing to the value of the doll.  Viewed this way, I feel that Willa falls short.  Just think of the new Made to Move Barbies.  They're beautiful, stunningly articulated, and only cost $1 more than the Boxy Girls.

But for now, let's assume that everyone loves a good surprise and go back to thinking of Willa as a $10 doll with a $5 blind box toy .

Two toys in one?
The Doll: a good doll body with a bad head--or at least bad eyes.

To break that down a bit, I think Willa has a well-designed body with an impressive amount of articulation for a $10 doll.  Her proportions are weird, but her body parts are detailed and nicely-shaped, especially her hands and feet.  Her balance is fine and her clothing is simple, cute, and easy to use.  I also think she has surprisingly pretty hair, with no crispiness and a natural-looking style.  

I just can't relate to Willa's face.  I almost didn't buy her because I didn't understand the face.  It was those surprise boxes that made me come back for a second look.  I'm getting used to the face at this point, but I still find myself wishing that she had a smaller head with different eyes.  Also, the body doesn't match the head.  The curvy torso makes no sense with that angular head.  It's like a normal person is wearing one of those huge, box-based Halloween masks:

Boxy Boy.
Is there some sinister warning here?  Like, if you spend too much time shopping online, your eyes will go pixelated and your head will turn into a box?  I'd be in trouble.

But more importantly, is Willa worth $10?  I think that's a fair price, yes.  If for no other reason, dolls in the $10 range don't tend to have smooth, multi-jointed articulation like Willa's.


The Surprise Boxes: fun to open and useful afterwards...but how much of a surprise are these, really?

The problem here is that I suspect the boxes are the same for every Willa doll.  How fun will it be for a kid to open a Boxy Girl doll once she knows (from her friends, from TV, from online reviews...) exactly what comes with each character?  But still, this concept is worlds better than dolls who come with empty boxes.  Those are the worst.

Also, the packaging boasts 12+ surprises, and I guess this is technically true (each of the four boxes had about three things in it), but two of those things are a sticker or a cardboard message.  Other surprise-themed toys have paper or sticker content, too ( L.O.L. is a good example), but I still find it disappointing.  Furthermore, the two purses were not very exciting--at least not to me.

I like the earrings, necklace, and shoes, though.  They're useful and of the same quality as the items that Willa was wearing in the box.  I also like the colorful packing material in the boxes.  I didn't expect confetti and was delighted to find it!

But, are the mystery boxes worth their allotted $5?  Well, the surprise plus the items was worth $5 to me, but the items themselves are not worth $5.  All I can say is that the pricing seems in line with other blind box items.  Surprises are fun, but they cost a premium.

Oh--one more neat thing about the boxes is that if you're careful when you open them, it's easy to re-pack and re-tape them.  You could even add new treats.  In this picture, I've re-boxed all of Willa's items to get her ready for the Goodwill:

Bottom line?  If you can look past the overt consumerism in the Boxy Girls theme and the strange, blocky features of the head design (especially the eyes!), this is a reasonably cute, compact, lower-end play doll who poses well and is easy to manage.  She has a good body design and nice hair.  I like the balance of style and simplicity in her dress and shoes.  Her mystery packages add a fun element to the unboxing experience while also adding a small number of cheap fashion accessories to the doll's wardrobe.  Because the surprises can be used with the doll, they (unlike many blind box items) have a chance of being played with for longer than a day.

I had a fun time de-boxing this doll and she surprised me in some good ways.  My problem is that while I can ignore the emphasis on consumerism (I try not to take a doll's theme more seriously than the doll itself), I'm having a hard time getting past the blocky eyes.  I can handle yet another big-headed, massive-eyed doll, but not one with a face that leaves me confused.



  1. I was really hoping you'd review these, I'm really glad you did! As weird as the faces are the mystery box feature is hard to resist.

  2. My earlier review didn't post. WellieWishers didn't invent the name Willa, not is it a unique spelling created by them. So it's fair game. Hasbro invented the name/spelling Jem, and so they own that name. They were going to call her M, but couldn't copyright it. Then Gem came up, but that's also not unique. So they respelled it as Jem, and no one else can use that.

    By the way, Mc2 also uses the name Brooklyn.

    "each doll comes with sealed shipping boxes that contain her most recent online shopping purchases"

    Sometimes I go to AliExpress, order a bunch of inexpensive things with shipping ranges that vary, and then wait, forget about stuff, then surprise! It's my own mystery packages. :D

    The boxy name is for the boxes. It totally works. :D

    But the rest just...meh. My 8-year-old daughter loves blind bags and such, and since she's still awake (nearing end of summer, a few last hurrahs of late nights), I asked her if she'd want this doll if I bought it, making the price to her zilch. She shook her head and said, "No thanks, Mom." So that doesn't bode well for this doll.

    1. I don't know what they've copywritten and I'm running out the door so I can't check, but Jem wasn't invented by hasbro. See:

      I do the Aliexpress thing too. It's way too easy to order a pile of stuff and forget.

  3. Another great review. I had much the same feelings about these dolls. I bought one and then returned her without opening. I love getting new doll line but these faces just don't appeal to me. Are you jumping into the Hairdorables fray? Those I admit are a bit too tempting for I just need to get them some articulation. Oh, and have you picked up the new articulated Harry Potter dolls. Their Hermione actually looks pretty good. As does Ginny.

  4. I like her body so much, I’m trying to think what head would work.... Super adorable feet. Only those shoes would fit, I bet. They’re cute shoes though. I’ve been looking for a good doll in the 8-10 inch range, and I haven’t found one that’s quite right yet.

  5. It's really a shame that her head and eyes were the only features made to be "boxy" when that's the theme of the dolls. It would feel more original and unique if they went all the way (probably wouldn't hurt to shrink the head though). I'm especially disappointed that her body, even in a box theme, just had to be that unrealistic curvy figure. I'm usually not one to complain about these sort of things, but it really annoys me that the developers didn't take the opportunity of the box theme to produce a doll without the generically small waistline. It just seems like a waste and recycles concepts that have been done a million times before-- giant head and tiny waist.

  6. The face really does put me off, part of it is that the pupil is not black but a darker shade of the iris colour, same reason I don't like hairdorables. The shape doesn't help either, I don't like shopkins dolls that much because the head wider then it is tall.

  7. I am wondering if she would make a good body donor for skipper or one of her friends.

  8. Have you picked up any Hairdorables yet, maybe for a Sunday surprise? I'm wondering about them as a possible head transplant onto this neat bodies.

  9. My blonde, blue eyed, blind bag loving daughter's name is Willa. Tempting...! Thanks for the review, I really enjoy them!

  10. I agree with you. What doll heads can replace this one?

  11. One of my friends on tumblr swapped the Boxy head with a Hairdorables head. She says she really liked the hybrid results, even though the colors didn't match. (She had Brit Braids and Brooklyn, for reference.)

  12. I got Riley. Nice concept. I think the Boxy Girl clothes cab fit both fit Kuu Kuu Harajuku and Pinkie Cooper dolls. I picked up Ginny Weasley and she's adorable.

  13. I also wish Willa's torso was boxy as well but at least she can clothes swap a lot better with the cinched in waist, plus it gives her the illusion of having hips. It's good to know Pinkie Cooper/Pepper Parson/Ginger Jones can wear some of their clothes. I like the spaniel design idea better too, it's very unique and cute, but you're right. Boxy Girls have a much more distinctive art direction on the body! If they had elbow articulation I'd be much less on the fence about them! I love the tapered look on the arms, her hands have some endearing range of motion, and I like her bigger, more defined feet and calves. Only thing I don't like are the skinny thighs and artificial gap... It makes me think of a little kid, which is gross since she's supposed to be old enough to order stuff online. They could've had a subtler taper by making the thighs thicker and hopefully it wouldn't get in the way of the hip movement. :p

  14. Fun review! She's too strange looking for me to be interested in (I really wonder if kids are buying these at all as my two daughters - ages 6 and 9 - have shown zero's all about the LOL dolls!) My only thought is that the boxy-ness sort of ties in with the Roblox craze (my kids DO like those little figures) so maybe it actually is doing well!

  15. "Sooo, if these fit Pinkie Cooper and Pinkie Cooper fits ME.....ohhhh LAAAADDDY!!!"

    (Ah joy, another range of clothing options for the World's Tiniest Zombie XD )

    "Also the World's Cutest Zombie, don't forget that!"

  16. The same thing happened to me with my preordered Hermione doll. I ended finding a really great doll in store (I haven’t opened her yet, I think I’m going to save her for Christmas). I’m glad I was able to pick her out in person. I’ve been wondering why people’s preorders are being cancelled, but the store has lots of the Harry Potter dolls in stock.

  17. I like the body on this little girl, and the actual sculpt of the face isn't bad. It's just the eye paint that bothers me. I think if I found one at Goodwill, I'd try repainting it and see how it looked.

  18. The body seems about maybe a good size for a Hairdorables head, especially if the neck offers more opportunity for neck length and head movement than an Ever After High body does.

    But holy cow is that face unappealing. I would argue it’s stranger than Pinkie Cooper simply because dog heads are full of natural shapes and Minecraft faces are not.