Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Articulation Update: The Biggers Luxury Marilyn

I'm back with another articulation update!  This is a follow-up to my review of The Biggers by Berjuan.  Those little elfin cuties won my heart, but they have very simple articulation.  About half way through writing that review, I learned that Berjuan also produced a limited release of four highly-articulated Biggers dolls!  Of course I ordered one of the articulated characters right away, and she finished her long journey from Spain about two weeks ago.

The original Biggers dolls all have original names and costumes and are meant to represent mystical creatures that live secretly among us, thriving on laughter and happiness.  The four limited edition Biggers dolls are not like this at all.  Instead, they're modeled after celebrity characters: Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Frida Kahlo, and Marilyn Monroe.  This is a strangely arbitrary group of celebrities.  Or is it?  The only thing that really links them together is that they faced untimely, drug-related deaths.  That theme is a far cry from sprites who flit around and thrive on laughter and happiness.

I was so excited about the prospect of additional articulation that I didn't pay too much attention to the macabre tone of this collection when I was ordering my doll.  Perhaps I should have seen the dead celebrity theme as foreshadowing?  Instead, I waffled back and forth briefly between Frida and Marilyn and then happily settled on Marilyn because she seemed like the most versatile of the bunch:

The Biggers Luxury Doll Marilyn, 105.95 (~$120).
Marilyn came in a large blue cardboard box that looks nothing like the original Biggers packaging:


There are no distinctive decorations on this box, just some warnings and copyrights on the back:


Contrast that generic blue box to Artey Birbaum's whimsical packaging:


I like the original Biggers box much better.

The front of the box opened to reveal Marilyn.  She looked a little sad, but otherwise lovely:


I was very happy with my initial inspection, but when I got Marilyn out for her photography session, I had trouble right away.

I couldn't get this doll to stand up on her own (her ankles and knees are too loose), but what was even stranger is that I couldn't even figure out what direction her lower legs should be facing.

This is what the legs looked like when Marilyn came out of the box:

What the...
Notice the difference in how the knee joints look in that picture.  Marilyn's right knee has the vinyl from the lower leg touching the vinyl from the upper leg, but her left joint is more open. Here's a closer look at just the knees from that shot:

Both legs are as extended as they can be.
I figured that this asymmetry was just because one of the legs had spun all of the way around at the knee.  

From the backs of the legs, I could see the hinged knee joints more clearly.  Sure enough, one of the joints was facing backwards and the other was facing forwards (the back of the hinge has a little gap at the top and the front of the hinge looks smooth):


I spun the left leg around so that both hinges were facing the same way:


This helped a little...I guess.  The knees still look off:

Looks like she's wearing saggy stockings.
I was curious to see if the arms had a similar problem, so I inspected those next.

Both elbows have rotating hinges.  On the right arm, you can see that the hinge is visible on the inside of the arm:


And the lower arm is angle-cut at the joint, making a nice "v" shape across the hinge:


This "v" makes it easy for the elbow to flex to almost 90 degrees:

Ta-da!
The left arm has the same design, but it didn't look symmetric.  Here's the inside of the arm, where the hinge is visible, but not in a uniform way:


From the side, it's not as easy to see that "v" shape:

More like a "y" shape.
And so the elbow can't flex to 90 degrees:

Ta...d'oh.
It took me ages to figure this out, but the vinyl of the lower arms and legs can twist around the joint.  So, when I hold the hinge stable with one hand, I can rotate the vinyl of the arm into the correct position:


Now we get that nice "v" at the elbow:


And now both of Marilyn's arm joints look the same:


Ok, phew.

This is true of the legs, too.  The vinyl of the lower legs can be rotated into a bad configuration...


Or into a good one (or at least a better one):

Still looks like granny stockings.
I hope I'm making some sense; basically there are two rotating areas at these joints. The knee and elbow joints themselves can rotate, which lets Marilyn go from this:


To this:


But the vinyl below the joint can also rotate independently, to create poses like this:


In that last photo, the knee hinge is still facing forwards, but the lower leg has rotated outwards.  

I don't even know how to count the points of articulation anymore!  The knee itself can rotate, but the lower leg (and arm) can also rotate, which is technically a separate point of articulation...although not necessarily a desirable one.

Marilyn and I were exhausted from this exploration!

So many joints...
After taking fifteen minutes to figure all of this out, I finally looked at the hand tag and read (in four languages) about how "this is a limited and exquisite collection of dolls that has been manufactured under the highest quality standards and very much love:"

I wasn't feeling the love at this point.
I fixated on that last sentence, in particular:

Well on my way to being conquered by Marilyn, thank you very much.
However, with the legs sorted out, I was able to get Marilyn to stand on her own!  The loose leg joints still make her a pain to balance, but she can do it:


Here's a picture of a regular Bigger doll, Artey, so you can see the difference between the two:

Artey can't stand on her own at all.
Marilyn has the same face mold as Artey, and I think she has the same eye color, too.  Her vinyl color is brighter than Artey's, though--with more red in it.

Marilyn's wavy yellow-blonde hair makes the face mold look prettier and slightly less bizarre than it does on Artey, which takes away some of the appeal in my eyes.  I like these dolls because of how strange they are!


Marilyn's hair is very easy to manage, though, and it feels great.


Towards the end of my photo session, this small hair detail was getting messy, but it's a fairly easy thing to fix:


The rooting pattern is even and dense and looks good:


I really love Marilyn's detailed eyebrows and amazing freckles.  The beauty mark is a cute touch, too:


The distorted features of The Biggers face make the beauty mark look like it's right in the middle of Marilyn's cheek, though, not close to her mouth where it should be!


Marilyn's mouth is painted a shiny coral color, which looks good, although I wish the lips were ruby red:


Marilyn has a few bent eyelashes on her left side, but overall the eyelashes are in better shape than they were on Artey and Abba:


This doll has a defective left eyeball, though.  It's hard to appreciate in photos, but perhaps you can see that there's a drip-shaped mark at the top of the iris, and then rippled ridges running down over the pupil:


The right eye has something going on at the outside edge, too.  Based on how it feels, I think this is a small gouge in the plastic, but it's too small to see clearly, even with my camera's lens:


Marilyn's outfit is meant to reference the pleated dress that the real Ms. Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch.  Here's the real dress:


And here's a closer look at the Biggers version:


The sewing in the waistband is a little crooked, exposing some of the gathers in the skirt:


Overall, the dress is pretty nice, and it clearly mimics the original, but I wish the neckline was less bulky.  It's just way too loose--like it was made for a different doll.


You can also see here that Marilyn has a patch of blue on her back that rubbed off from the box:


That spot faded with some Mr. Clean Magic Eraser scrubbing, but it didn't disappear completely.

The sandals from this outfit mimic the design of Ms. Monroe's shoes, but they are also way too big:


Underneath her outfit, Marilyn has an all-vinyl body with thirteen (seventeen?) points of articulation:


The body is completely different from a normal Biggers body.  All of the proportions are larger, and there's a lot more detail in the hands and feet.

Here's Abba's body for comparison:


As simple as Abba's body is, I prefer it to Marilyn's body.  It makes me smile!  A lot of the charm of this style of doll is lost by eliminating that crazy, otherworldly, four-fingered body.

I've already looked quite a lot at Marilyn's articulation, of course, but let's start from the top and run through everything.

She has a large ball-jointed neck, just like the other Biggers dolls.  Marilyn has a strange indented ring in the vinyl just below this joint:


I couldn't initially tell what kind of joint was in Marilyn's shoulders.  

What was clear was that the vinyl of the upper arm does not fit perfectly into the socket of the shoulder, so the arms always stick out just a bit--more so on Marilyn's right side:


I investigated the joint more closely, and discovered that it's a big ball joint!


And apparently it's not a very sturdy ball joint, either, because without too much manipulation, the arm popped right off!


In all honesty, I found it fascinating that the arm came off.  It allowed me to get a really good look at the joint mechanism.  It was also easy to put the arm back on.  However, this feature makes Marilyn a pretty terrible doll for kids.

I popped the arm back on and put Marilyn through her paces.

Her ball jointed shoulders don't have as much flexibility as you might think.  They behave very similarly to rotating hinges.  She can lift her arms up a little:


And spin them all around:


We've already looked at Marilyn's elbows.  They are rotating hinges--as are her wrists.  The lower arm vinyl can also rotate around the joint, and if it's rotated into the right position, the elbows bend to about 90 degrees.  The wrists can't quite bend to 90 degrees:


Marilyn can touch her head:


And she can touch her mouth--provided that her lower arms are in the right configuration:


Overall, her arm articulation feels great except that her shoulders are stiff and behave strangely.



Her hands are very broad and have some molded detail:



While I was posing Marilyn, I noticed that she has a yellow stain across her chest where the waistband of the dress lay:


There's similar staining along the inside of her arms:


It's very strange that a white dress would cause so much staining.  There must be glue or sizing or something similar on the inside of the dress.

Marilyn's hips are simple rotating joints:


She can't do side-to-side splits at all, but she can sit on the ground:


And do front-to-back splits:


The knees, as we've seen, are rotating hinges....with an extra point of rotation below the knee.  In this picture, you can see how the area around the knee is really shiny:


The ankles are also rotating hinges.  They have a great range of motion, but are very loose and have a hard time supporting Marilyn's weight.

The knee and ankles joints allow Marilyn to kneel on two knees:


But she can't quite balance on one knee:


She can sit on the ground with her legs bent:


In several different ways!



She can sit cross-legged:


And even do some "yoga!"


The broad feet have a bit less detail than the hands, but they have five toes and little molded toenails:


I put Marilyn back into her outfit for a few more shots:



Marilyn's articulation has issues, but it's hard to resist those huge eyes and that cute freckled face!


Even though I had an easier time getting Marilyn to stand once I'd figured out the mechanics of her leg joints, she's still not a doll who can hold poses very well.

For example, I put her into this kneeling position:


And as the seconds ticked by...


She ended up like this!


It was also common for me to have trouble getting Marilyn into the right pose, and then realize that her legs had gone all wonky again!


I settled her into a chair for a few pics:


She composed herself nicely:


And then seemed to get contemplative:


Oh, no.  I think all of my criticisms are making her cry! 

Sorry, Marilyn.
I decided to let her do some glamor head shots to try and improve her mood.  She's quite good at those!


However I manipulated her head too much at one point, and it fell right off!

Oh, Marilyn.


I could have popped the head right back on, but I found that it was fun to play with the body on its own.  It's so much lighter and easier to manipulate without the weight of Marilyn's big head!


The body balances much better without the head, too:

I'm not a Bigger, I'm a Smaller!!!
I was feeling pretty bad for Marilyn at this point, so I put her all back together and let her show off some of her better poses for you one more time:




She really wanted to recreate Ms. Monroe's iconic pose over the heat vent.  You know the one:


I tried really hard to talk her out of this, gently suggesting that perhaps her legs aren't her best feature, but she insisted.  

It took her a sec to get organized...


And then she struck the pose:

Nailed it.
Marilyn is a problematic doll, no question.  But she also has some charm, and I couldn't help but warm up to her over the course of the review.  I'll say a bit more in my Bottom Line, but for now I want to share something fun!

My friend Katrina and I actually both ordered one of these articulated Biggers dolls on nearly the same day.  We didn't coordinate this or anything, but we were both enchanted by the regular Biggers dolls and couldn't resist the idea of enhanced articulation.

Katrina chose the Amy Winehouse character, and agreed to share a few photos and observations with all of you.  I'll turn things over to her!

Hello, I'm Amy.
Amy was explaining to her friends Abba and Yvette that her left wrist is stuck.  Permanently.


They were horrified and speechless.  This is highly unusual because they are usually jibber-jabbering all of the time.


Amy also appears to have Ehlers Danlos syndrome:

I'm so flexible that sometimes my lower legs turn backwards!
Amy's ankles are also super-weak.  No ice skating in her future!

Here's the back of her dress:


It's too tight to sit!

Denim doesn't have a log of give, does it?
If the dress is pulled up and left open in back, Amy can sit normally:

No one will notice, right?  Short skirts are more my style anyways.
Amy's friend Maru (Mini Pal!) let her borrow a red dress so she could finally sit decently:

OMG.  It's the Blue Fairy!
"No," she said, "I'm 'a' blue fairy, not THE Blue Fairy."

"But," she continued, "I heard about your unmovable hand.  This is not a known problem with our kind."

That makes me feel a little better.
"Unfortunately, fixing your wrist is above my pay grade.  But I will listen empathetically and reflect back your thoughts to you."

Maybe I need to find THE Blue Fairy?
The end.  Or is it???

***

I really appreciate Katrina taking the time to share her Amy with us!  It seems like Amy has many of the same problems as Marilyn, plus a hand that is permanently stuck in one position.  Yikes.  For the record, Yvette totally stole the show for this whole review, and she was only in two pictures.  What a character!

Bottom line?  It'll come as no surprise that I found Marilyn disappointing.  For a $100 doll (plus about $30 for international shipping), she does not deliver the quality that I expect.  

Marilyn's biggest problem is also her most intriguing selling point: the articulation.  There are at least thirteen points of articulation, and each of them has a good range of motion.  This should be a recipe for success, but it is not executed well.  The leg joints, particularly the ankles, are too loose to support Marilyn's weight.  The doll is advertised as being "perfect for artistic photos," but the lack of balance and stability make her anything but.  The joints are also designed strangely, with an extra point of rotation beneath the elbows and knees.  This movement is completely useless for enhancing poses, and allows the legs and arms to shift into awkward and inefficient positions.  Another problem is that Marilyn's three ball joints (in her neck and shoulders) allow her head and arms to be easily removed.  This is not a big deal for an adult collector, I suppose, but it would be awful for kids...or at least kids who aren't into spontaneous decapitations and amputations.  Last of all, the joints simply look bad.  They are clunky, lumpy, shiny, and don't deliver anywhere near the elegance that a Marilyn Monroe doll deserves.

The quality control on these dolls is not great, either.  Marilyn has several areas of staining on her body, an ill-fitting dress and shoes, a shoulder joint that sticks out, and a noticeable defect in the acrylic of her left eye.  Katrina's Amy has a broken hand, wonky eyes, and a dress that's too tight for sitting (Amy should've said "no, no, no" to that dress).

I do love the heads on these dolls, though.  Marilyn's face is adorable and expressive.  Her huge eyes, big ears, and gorgeous, delicate freckles endear her to me.  She's full of charming personality.  In addition, her hair is soft, smooth, and easy to brush.  And of course she smells like vanilla, which is a treat.  Amy's face has its own kind of charm; she looks tough and edgy sometimes, but at other times she can look so sad and vulnerable that I want to reach through the screen and give her a big hug.  It's really, really easy to love the Biggers faces.

I had hoped that the added articulation would take the already fascinating Biggers dolls and make them incredible.  Instead, the new bodies only detract from the charm and quirkiness of the brand.  I liked being lost in the magical world of The Biggers.  The backstory, whimsical box design, unique clothing, alien-like bodies, and personality-packed heads all combine to create a compelling package.  So many of the original Biggers characters are dolls I'd love to own.  The Luxury Doll line omits all of The Biggers' backstory and originality in order to turn those charming heads into awkwardly posable caricatures of tragic celebrities.  In the end, I just don't get it.

15 comments:

  1. this concept is... interesting, to say the least! as amazing as mj, marilyn, amy, and frida kahlo were, i just don't think this kind of concept works with the biggers, unless they also have a large adult collecting community? in any case, marilyn seems versatile enough to convincingly play different roles!

    i know you've stopped doing these but because marilyn's dress looks so pretty, can you think of other dolls that could pull it off? overall, i'm really not crazy about more mature looks on these whimsical dolls and i think the company could've done a better job picking a more cohesive line of celebrities/icons!

    cheers,

    bébe

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  2. Ok, here I am trying to comment. Let's see what happens!

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  3. Awesome! I can comment again!! :D I'm going to re-post a comment that came from WordPress from WigglyWogglyWaffles (it got lost when I switched back to Blogger):

    "The Biggers were such a wonderful discovery and I really enjoyed learning about them through your reviews! However, this presumably adult collector line is really bizarre, to say the least. I agree that these mature styles don’t really fit the vibe of the original dolls and the awkward articulation is a pity, especially at that price point. Also something about the color of Marilyn’s hair feels off to me, like it’s a wig or something. I wonder if Berjuan has much experience with complex limb articulation in their dolls or if this is a relatively new thing for them? The Amy Winehouse one has a better overall look IMO, but the hand defect and hobble skirt situation are major turn offs. Here’s hoping newer releases will work out the kinks and hopefully choose a less unsettling theme for their subjects…"

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  4. And here's BlakcKitty's lost comment:

    "It looks like the transition succeeded? I was reading old posts and the design changed as I went from Ken's car to Hearts 4 Hearts. I'm glad the comments are back! The site displays nice on my phone. Thanks for the review update. These dolls are like a completely new line, they don't fit in any way with the ones from the previous post. The articulation, instead of helping, looks very frustrating. The elbows with the V that has to be perfectly aligned to flex remind me of the first version of Fortune Days dolls. I have a review of them on my blog. I find the first Biggers superior in every way. I guess the celebrity ones are made with adult collectors and fans in mind, but IMO they should have separated them from the original Biggers and given them a different name."

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    Replies
    1. Hi BlackKitty, yeah, the transfer "succeeded," I guess, but there are huge issues. It'll take me ages to fix all of the photos by hand. Maybe you noticed that some of them are huge and none of them are centered anymore?

      It's frustrating. I might have to switch back to Blogger--we'll see. At least I can comment here! :D

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  5. And here's Maricha's lost comment:

    "As always I enjoyed your review. Only you would see the opportunity to check out poseability in a doll's head falling off. :-D It's too bad these dolls don't make sense either in the context of the elf-like Buggers or the celebrities. At first I thought to myself that it would have been worth exploring by making these dolls the child version of these people but at least two had such terrible childhoods that it would also be a no-no. One thing I've noticed lately is that many doll lines appeal to different buyers at once: children, collectors, miniaturists....but I doubt these will please anyone."

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  6. Glad you're back at the old familiar site!

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  7. Wow, what a strange idea for a collection.

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  8. Hopefully my comment will get through...

    Whoa, how strange! I've never seen articulation like this?? It seems so counterintuitive. :0c I wonder what the thought process behind this was-- if these dolls had had better designed articulation which wasn't so difficult to handle (and didn't come apart so easily) I think this line could have been better... But I'm inclined to agree with you Emily, that the original Biggers' charm was so intertwined with the concept behind them, and their odd, Christmas-elf-like proportions, that even if the celebrity line's articulation had been executed better, the celebrity line still wouldn't have been as endearing as the original Biggers. The originals are just too cute as they are! This was so interesting to read about though; thank you for checking them out for us! :D

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  9. Test test test :)

    Hmmm…I really don‘t know about this doll. I think those dolls look cute when they have that certain wood elf look with wild hair and red cheeks…but this version doesn‘t work for me at all…

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  10. Hey, custodian of the Amy doll here. I’ve had moments of wondering what I was thinking when I bought Amy. I love Amy Winehouse’s music, but her life slid down such a tragic path that I can’t help but think of her end when I listen to her. Anyway, despite the doll’s um...flaws...I feel protective over her in a weird way. I guess I send her TLC vibes; strange to do that to a hunk of vinyl, huh.

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  11. The other day I was reminiscing on my childhood then felt very sad that you have left the doll community...what a pleasant surprise to see you back again!!! I found you in 2012 when I was 15, and I got my Moxie Teenz back then. I still have them now at 25, and I'm thinking of customizing them. Will be catching up with your new posts now!

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  12. What brand/doll name is that blue fairy doll?

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