Monday, December 20, 2021

Patron Post! Small Wonder Sweet and Happy Babies by Madame Alexander

One of the things that's happening over on Patreon is that my generous Bear Hug Patrons get to select a doll for me to review!  They also get first refusal to purchase the discounted doll in the shop.  This is a great arrangement from my perspective because it encourages me to look at dolls that I might not notice otherwise.  I have two of these special reviews in the works so far, and this one seemed appropriate right now since we've just been talking about baby dolls.  Once I complete the review requests for my current Bear Hug Patrons, I'll open up that tier to new members.

I have 28 Patrons at the moment, which is just amazing.  I honestly wasn't sure if this experiment would work.  The somewhat random goal that I have in the back of my head right now is to reach 30 Patrons by the end of 2021, so if you're a regular visitor here and have a few bucks per month to spare, please stop by and join the fun! 

For today's Patron Post I'll be taking a look at two play babies from Madame Alexander's Sweet and Happy Baby collection.  This review is made possible by all of my wonderful Patrons, and was requested by Arin Ritchey.

Sweet and Happy Baby by Madame Alexander, $31.99.

These babies can be purchased at Target.com, but I've never seen them in the actual stores.  They cost just over $30, which seems fair for a large doll like this.

The babies come in attractive cardboard window boxes decorated in Madame Alexander's signature light blue colors.  The first baby is referred to on the Target site as "Beauty Time--Gray Vest," but I'll call her Anika (which means "sweet-faced"):

There's no information about these babies on the Madame Alexander website.  From searching online, I gather that the Sweet and Happy Baby collection has been around for a while, but Anika is part of a new pair of dolls.  

The other doll in this duo is shown with Anika on the side of the box: 


These two are called Beauty Time and are different from the other Sweet and Happy Baby dolls because they have rooted hair.


The opposite side of the box has a paragraph about the Madame Alexander philosophy:


Here's a closer look:


The back of the box shows three of the regular Sweet and Happy Baby dolls.  At $29.99, these cost just slightly less than the Beauty Time girls.


The back of the box also describes the intent of the line, which is to have the dolls look and feel like real newborns:


If you're shopping for one of these dolls online, be careful because there's a smaller series of dolls that looks almost identical in their pictures (they have the same face and limb design) but cost $17.99 and are only 14 inches long.

You can see both sizes of doll in this promotional photo:

14-inch and 18-inch Sweet and Happy Baby dolls.
Another thing to look for is that the dolls that come with blankets are larger, and the dolls that come with pacifiers are smaller.

Anika's box has a pink cardboard insert that pulls out of the main box:


She has a really appealing face:


Anika was attached to the pink backdrop with a few clear rubber bands that were easy to find and cut.  

A blue plastic comb and brush were also included, but I didn't even bother to get these out of the box:


Anika's third accessory is an adoption certificate:


This certificate comes tightly-rolled and tied with a pink ribbon.  The problem here is that I couldn't get the paper to lay flat once I'd removed the ribbon!


A few seconds underneath a hot iron flattened it right out, although I'm not sure you're supposed to iron paper!  I kept the heat very low.

Here's the certificate.  It's written in both English and Spanish:


Anika does not sit up easily on her own.  I used her left arm as a prop to keep her from tipping over backwards:


I think she has the sweetest and most beautiful face.  Her eyebrows are set slightly high to give her a vulnerable, questioning expression, and her full lips are pulled into a pout.  To me it looks like she's expecting something...and might be sad if she doesn't get it:


The lip paint is a rich, deep, rose pink.  It suits her complexion nicely, but looks a bit like lipstick--especially up close.


I like how Anika's cheeks and mouth look in profile, too:


She has dark brown inset acrylic eyes with realistic iris detail.  Her eyebrows are very simple--just a row of black lines--and she has painted eyelashes, only on the top:


The scleras of the eyes don't look perfectly uniform at the inside corners.  This is hard to capture in a photograph, and pretty hard to see in real life, too.  I can't tell exactly what's causing this.  It doesn't look like a crack, but maybe a stress point.  You can see it a little better here:


Anika has wonderful curly dark hair with a rooted center part that goes all of the way down the back of her head:


The hair looks like it has hints of red in some of my photos, but it's regular dark brown in person.

Speaking of coloring, Anika's skin color isn't quite accurate under my bright lights, either.  I set her on my studio carpet and took a picture of her from about five feet away.  This is a better representation of her skin tone:


The closer the camera is to her face, the lighter and yellower she appears:


And then my studio lights make her look even lighter and yellower (and a bit green):


I tried photographing Anika in my living room, in softer light against a purple couch:



I don't feel like this captures her coloring perfectly, either, but at least the couch gives her the support to sit up straight and look around:


Or just lounge:


Anyway, as much as I think I'm learning about photography, I still often come across a doll whose coloring I can't capture with my set-up.  Sorry about that.

I used a doll stand to hold Anika up so that we can get a better look at her outfit:


She's wearing a three-piece ensemble that includes a long-sleeved shirt, ruffled leggings, and a fuzzy grey vest:


The vest is lined with shiny white fabric and is nicely finished:


Underneath the vest, Anika is wearing a flower print mock turtleneck shirt with long sleeves:


The fabric of the shirt is lightweight, but the piece is well-made with no messy seams:


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


The pink leggings have an elastic waist for easy dressing and are decorated with a double-ruffle at the hips:


The edges of the ruffle are neatly serged:


Anika does not come with a diaper, and I wish she did.  It seems like a small detail, but I really loved changing the diapers on my baby dolls when I was little.  As an adult, I like the way the diaper bulge looks underneath clothing.  It's such a quintessential baby feature.

Anika has a stuffed fabric body with partial vinyl limbs.  The color match between her fabric torso and her vinyl parts is not perfect, but an effort was clearly made:


There's a small amount of bean bag filling along Anika's back, so she has some heft.  She's not a heavy doll by any means, though.  She'd be easy for a child to carry around, and she's very soft and cuddly.

All of Anika's cloth-to-vinyl seams are secured with cable ties, and the ends of the ties are visible:


The cable tie at the neck should allow Anika's head to spin around, but the connection is too tight and so the head is stationary.

Anika's shoulders are sewn flat so that there's no communication between the upper arm stuffing and the torso stuffing:


Anika's limbs are beautifully molded with newborn features.  Her right hand has an extended thumb for sucking, although of course Anika's closed mouth does not allow for that.


I love the subtly shaded creases along her arm and at her wrist:


The left hand is closed into a very realistic fist:



The detail in Anika's vinyl legs is also great.  The legs have a bowed shape--just like a newborn--and are molded with little rolls of baby fat along the thighs and cute dimples on the knees:


The feet are adorable, although both sides seem to be the same--or mirror images of one another:


Look at the creases on the bottom of the foot!


The detailed sculpting of this doll's mold is beautiful.  She has very newborn characteristics.  The whole Sweet and Happy Baby line is meant to imitate newborns, and this goal is well-achieved, with everything from the size of the dolls to their little molded details.  

But Anika's full head of rooted hair does not fit this theme at all.  I've never heard of any baby in the world who was born with enough hair to make two full ponytails.

I looked around on the internet to see if there have been any extraordinarily hairy babies born recently.  I found this beautiful Japanese baby who was born with a medical condition that caused a full head of hair at birth, but even she didn't have anywhere near enough hair for ponytails:


Despite how unrealistic it is for a newborn, I love Anika's hair!  Let's take a closer look at it.

The ponytails are accented with a fabric headband that matches the shirt:


The headband pulls off easily and is not cable-tied to the head or anything like that:


The ponytails were held in place with strong, clear rubber bands that I was able to remove without cutting:


I didn't want to ruin Anika's hair by brushing it, so I tried to smooth and rearrange it with my fingers.  The fibers want to stay in the rough shape of a ponytail, but over time I think the hair would relax.  It's possible to hide the back part reasonably well:


The rooting pattern is dense around the hairline and at the center part, and then gets more sparse in the middle of the head.  This section is the widest:


Here's another view where you can see how the rows of hair get narrower towards the front:


The texture of the hair covers the scalp nicely.

Anika's hair is just barely long enough to be pulled back into a single ponytail:


This looks pretty cute, and makes it easier to see Anika's facial profile (and big ears!):


This doll has a slight defect in the rooting along her hairline.  The line of hair on the right side of her face is not straight, but bulges out ever-so-slightly just above the eyebrow:


Anika's hair can be clipped up at the sides, which looks a lot like ponytails:


And it was easy to recreate the original ponytails--even using the original rubber bands:


Anika is just over 18 inches tall, which to me is a classic baby doll size.  Here she is with Lina for some perspective:


And here she is with one of my favorite dolls in the world, Victoria (also made by Madame Alexander):

Sweet and Happy Baby (left) with Victoria (right), both by Madame Alexander.
They're about the same size, but Anika has a larger head than Victoria.

Anika might be able to fit into some preemie clothes, but this Baby Gap "up to 7 pounds" romper is too big for her:


You can see how baggy it is at the bottom:


This knitted romper from Baby Gap, also in the "up to 7 pounds" size, fits well.  It also brings out Anika's true coloring beautifully:


Here's Anika back in her original outfit for one more picture:


Anika is adorable.  I especially like how she looks in real baby clothing.  Even though her hair is unrealistic for her intended newborn age, I think she can pass for a toddler and would make a wonderful companion for a real-life toddler.

Because the two dolls in this little Beauty Time series are so different, I bought the other doll, too, just so that I could compare her to Anika.

This doll has blonde rooted hair and a rainbow-themed two-piece outfit:


I'll call her Alisa, which means "great happiness."  Now I have sweet and happy names for these Sweet and Happy babies.

Alisa has a different face mold from Anika, and I don't like it as much.  I don't expect perfect symmetry in a doll (or even want it all of the time), but Alisa's left cheek sticks out much more prominently than her right:

Is she storing food in there?
The rooted hair is a bigger problem for me with this mold, too.  It looks very strange.

These two babies, shown on the back of Alisa's box, have the same face mold, but no hair:


I like both of them a lot.  So maybe my problem is less about the face mold and more about the long hair.

Alisa's mouth is slightly open and her lips are painted bright pink:


Her extended thumb does not fit into her mouth, though:


Alisa has purple eyes.  I wish they were blue, since purple is not realistic, but I suppose it's a cute feature for a rainbow-themed baby.


Alisa has the same style of eyebrow and eyelash paint as Anika, but the painted features don't match her hair very well.  They're a reddish brown color.

She has a cute profile, with chubby cheeks and a prominent upper lip:


Alisa has the same ponytail hairstyle as Anika, with a rooted part that runs all of the way down the back of her head:


Alisa's outfit is cute and well-made, although the finishing details on Anika's outfit are slightly better.  Look at the difference between the inside of the two waistbands:


Despite Anika's outfit being more complex and better-made in some areas, I prefer the simple rainbow design of Alisa's ensemble.  

Anika looks good in the rainbow outfit, too:


Alisa's body construction and limb molds are the same as Anika's.  She has a good color match between her fabric torso and her vinyl parts:


I took Alisa's hair down to see how easy it is to brush and style.  The hair feels silky-smooth and pleasant in my hands, and it's very easy to brush.  

It doesn't look great most of the time, though, mostly because it has large kinks left over from the ponytails:

And also because it looks like a baby wearing a wig.
The rooting pattern is the same as what we saw with Alisa:


It was hard to get the hair to relax at the back and cover the center part:


The hair looks messy when it's clipped back:


But looks nice in a single ponytail.  In fact, I think I like it best this way because it de-emphasizes the bulk of the hair:



It was easy to get Alisa's hair back into its original style:


Here are the two cuties together:


I think these two would be very nearly perfect if Madame Alexander had given them toddler bodies.  As it is, the floppy bodies and newborn limbs don't quite fit with those full heads of hair.

In one last attempt to capture the color of Anika's vinyl accurately, I took the Sweet and Happy girls outside for a few portraits in the sunshine:


This lighting shows off Anika's hair really well!


And also her pretty brown eyes:


Alisa's silky hair also looks good in the sun:


The sunlight makes her eyes look blue instead of purple, too, which is nice!

They're not blue, though.
I think Alisa is at her cutest in a half-profile pose, like this:


Here they are together in the sunshine:


I had better luck photographing these two in the shade.  Here's Alisa relaxing under a tree:


She couldn't relax for very long, though, because the squirrels around here have no fear and kept trying to sneak up on us:


This kept Alisa on the alert:


Anika looked worried the whole time we were outside.


I'm not sure what bothered her more, the squirrels or the fact that is was getting too cold to be sitting on the ground and posing for the camera:


Help me!
I finally gave in to that entreating little face and took the babies back to the warm, squirrel-free indoors:


Bottom line?  These two dolls have a lot of things in common.  Both have soft, stuffed bodies with a bit of bean-bag weight at the back.  They are easy to carry around while also being a nice, substantial size.  Their vinyl limbs are beautifully-sculpted with lots of adorable baby details.  The construction of the body looks durable, with cable-tied connections between the fabric torso and all of the vinyl parts, but it would have been nice if the cable ties were concealed. Also, if the cable tie at the neck had been slightly looser, the babies would be able to turn their heads.

Both dolls have nicely-made outfits that are easy to take off and put back on again.  The clothes are designed and constructed well and seem like they will stand up to years of play.  I slightly prefer the appearance of Alisa's rainbow outfit, but Anika has an extra piece of clothing (the fuzzy grey vest) in her ensemble and her leggings are more elaborate and more securely made than Alisa's.  When I was a child, I loved changing the diaper on my baby Victoria, so I think it would have been nice to include a simple cloth diaper with these babies.

This pair stands out from the rest of the Sweet and Happy Baby line because they have thick, rooted hair.  The hair is extremely nice in both cases; Anika's dark curls are realistic and fun to play with, while Alisa's blonde hair is silky-smooth and easy to brush.  However, the hair is way too long to fit with the newborn features on these dolls.  For some reason, I find that the long hair works better on Anika than it does on Alisa.  Perhaps because Anika's face mold and vest outfit make her look a bit older than Alissa, and so she can more easily pass as a toddler.  I wish Madame Alexander had given these two larger, more toddler-appropriate bodies.  Then they could represent older versions of the Sweet and Happy Baby newborns.

Despite their similarities, my reaction to the two babies is quite different.  I think Anika, the little Black girl, is very special.  Her sweet face mold and realistic hair immediately won me over.  Her closed-mouth expression might be frustrating for kids who want her to sip a bottle or suck her thumb, but for me the charm of her face more than makes up for those play limitations.  Alisa is not quite as appealing.  Her long blonde hair, as soft and beautiful as it is, looks silly on a baby.  Also, I don't find her expression as engaging.  Her partially-open mouth makes it seem like she should be able to suck her extended thumb, but she can not.  I prefer Alisa's face mold on the simpler Sweet and Happy Baby dolls that do not have rooted hair.

I was incredibly attached to my Madame Alexander Baby Victoria when I was a little girl. She was my favorite toy for a very long time.  I'd take her everywhere with me, change her diaper, try to feed her baby food, and even teach her to play the piano.  Victoria was expensive, though (around $100 ten years ago) and is now discontinued.  It's nice to see that Madame Alexander has a new generation of durable, engaging play dolls, especially for such an affordable price.  I bet that Anika, Alisa, or any of the other 18" Sweet and Happy Baby dolls would make excellent and enduring companions for a young child who's looking for a new friend to nurture and love.

23 comments:

  1. They are very cute! I don't know what is happening to me lol. I was an ordinary Barbie lover and then Integrity Toys bitchy faces got to me. Then male dolls became the focus of my collection, remember Chip? yeah he started it all, now I have male dolls from all the lines I Collect and I live them. Then I started loving American Girl dolls, I am Mexican and while Josefina isn't technically Mexican, she is close enough... and now baby dolls? Help!

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    1. Dear Luis, you sound perfectly normal to me. :). Enjoy the journey!

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    2. Thank you Katrina! I feel better now lol

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    3. Haha! Join the club, Luis! I can't tell you how many times I've decided to "just collect one kind of doll," you know, to keep things under control. Things are very much never under control in my doll world, but I probably wouldn't have it any other way at this point. There are some gorgeous baby dolls out there! Let us know what you find. ;D

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  2. Baby dolls are not exactly my thing right now, but boy, I was first really taken by their feet, then their hands. They are so wonderfully sculpted! The more I look at them, the more I like them!

    And 28 patrons!!! That is awesome! I can proudly say I was the VERY FIRST Patron because I’ve gotten so much from this blog, especially the humor. I started reading when I worked as a hospice nurse, and the reviews were about as far away from death and dying as I could get after a long shift. I greatly missed Emily when the blog closed, but understood that life happens, and maybe the run was done. I would still read old reviews when I stumbled on some interesting doll on EBay, or even some that were just funny “What were they thinking” comes to mind! Oh...I also really enjoyed recently re-reading a tour of a store at Christmas; all those toys are history now. Anyway, I consider supporting this blog a wonderful investment, simply because of the joy Emily brings, and am more than happy to be a patron at nearly any price. In these dark times, this blog is a wonderful diversion. ❤️

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    1. Isn't the sculpting beautiful? I need to show you one of my old Zapf babies. They look like they were cast from real baby hands and baby feet (maybe they were?). So much incredible detail.

      I am SO PSYCHED about the 29 Patrons!! Woo hoo!! And of course I'll never forget that you were first. What an amazing moment that was. Thank you so much!! :) Your Patron review is next--just waiting on a few little bits and pieces (i.e. ears....).

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  3. I think Alisa's hairline is much too square for a baby,and her features are too unambiguously realistic. Anika looks a bit more cartoonish to me so her face could work for a larger range of ages. I understand the desire to mix baby dolls with hair play, but I would have designed them with just a tuft of hair.
    Anyway, what I'm really curious about is your leather couch. You mentioned having cats, what's your secret?

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    1. Good point about the hairline! I didn't pick up on that, but you're exactly right.

      In fact, all of our furniture is leather because of the dogs (they pee and barf on things). The cats are good about not scratching furniture (we got lucky) and I also keep their nails trimmed very short. I cut those things more than once a week! Poor cats. We bought a $90 couch this summer that was Italian leather, but was riddled with horrible cat scratches from someone else's cat. I managed to fix it up using super glue (to glue the scratched edges down), sand paper (to sand the glued areas smooth again), and then I re-colored the whole couch to hide the sanded areas. It was a moderate success, but we later realized that the whole thing smells like cat pee, so it's airing out in the garage for a while. Sigh.

      You had no idea what can of beans you would open with that question, did you? Lol. Sorry. We have had a lot of couch adventures since we moved. :)

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  4. They are adorable and definitely would've been perfect for my sister when she was younger. I totally agree with you about how hard it is to capture the vinyl color of darker dolls -- most of the time I just have to do simple color grading to look more accurate!

    Also, I do think you can iron paper! I definitely did that to a lot of my test papers that were supposed to be compiled back in high school lol.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with getting the colors right! Thank you for making me feel better. What do you mean when you say color grading? That sounds like something I should try.

      It's pretty cool that you can iron paper, and I'm giggling at the thought of you ironing your tests back in high school! That's awesome. My husband spilled feta juice on an important legal document I had to sign recently, and I was bummed because it got wrinkled and ugly. Maybe I should just iron it!?

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    2. By color grading, just some very simple photo editing using applications like Adobe Lightroom! There's lots of other ways, too, but Lightroom works the best for me. You could also call it post-processing since the pictures are edited after they're taken.

      And I do think you'd have fun with Color Reveal, if not for the unboxing experience alone! The dolls aren't all that spectacular for collectors, but the color reveal technology is super cool, though a bit messy.

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  5. Also, have you considered doing the Barbie Color Reveal line? They're technically surprise dolls (even though a doll always come with the same accessories no matter what) and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the color reveal gimmick. There's been several versions throughout the years, though.

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    1. Oh, interesting! I have not looked into those before, but it sounds like my kind of surprise! Maybe I could do a comparison of some of these dolls over the years? A retrospective? Fun suggestion! Thank you. :D

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  6. Related to previous post....I want to know more about your leather couch that looks...purple???

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    1. It is indeed purple!! I love it so much. I searched all summer for a purple couch and I finally found one on Etsy. It's used from the 1980s--totally my vibe. Not at all expensive.

      Etsy is amazing for buying used furniture, btw. We've furnished practically our entire house with vintage items from the 1980s that we found on Etsy. I also have a huge green 1980s Italian leather sectional couch set that seats seven people (and six pets) and cost about $2000. Best purchase of the year!

      Anyway, as I told BlackKitty, I'm way too invested in furniture this year--because of the move. But I can highly recommend a purple couch for lifting your mood and making a room feel special. ;)

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  7. Maybe it's because it's so cold outside right now but it really bothers me that they have bare feet. Couldn't they have put little booties or socks on them?

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    1. I know!! Ack!! I'm sorry. It was sunny and about 54 degrees in New Jersey that day. Does that help? I usually put little socks on my baby dolls for exactly that reason, so I feel your pain. ;) But yeah, it would have been really cute to include some booties or socks with these babies. That definitely would have been a better accessory than a comb and brush that don't work very well. Good call.

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  8. I think you hit on the problem just fine. Anika's face mold is more toddler/older baby so the hair does not look odd. Alisa's face is newborn or at least just a few months old so her hair ends up looking like a wig! I love Madame Alexander's dolls, but they marketed these dolls for the wrong ages. Anika should have been described as an older baby to toddler and they need to ditch the hair on Aliaa or at least make it a LOT less!

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    1. Yeah, it's a real shame, I think. These two could have been given toddler bodies and then advertised as the older versions of the more newborn-looking babies with the same face molds. I love the idea of having a doll line that represents various stages of the same kid growing up. I can't honestly think of any company that's doing this kind of thing right now, but it could be marketed as having your child's doll grow up with them, which is an idea that might get some traction. The dolls are still really cute as they are, and I suspect kids won't track the age discrepancies and will love them as they are, but it still feels like a missed opportunity for something unique.

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  9. I've been hoping you'd open more slots for the "Bear Hug" tier eventually. :3 I gotta keep my eyes open...

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  10. Anika is super sweet but I also think the purple couch stole the show!

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  11. Oh Anika is so adorable!! She looks so inquisitive! I think she's just the right amount of stylised, just the right amount of realistic-- so cute. I must agree that Alisa can look a little strange though. It's like my brain doesn't know how to interpret her age because of her incongruous features-- or, well, it's mainly just the hair really, yeah. ��

    What a cute pair though, and a lovely review as always!!

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  12. Awww! They are both lovely, but I´ve fell in love with Anika.

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