Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Honey Bee Acres, Calico Critters, and Li'l Woodzeez: a Comparison Review!

Today's review was originally the second half of my Honey Bee Acres post, but the whole thing was crushingly long.  I was boring myself every time I tried to edit that monstrosity.  I really appreciate those of you who stopped in to say that you don't mind the longer reviews.  You're so nice!  Thank you.  Maybe I'll plow ahead with longer reviews in the future, but for this time around, at least, I've split the review in half and this is the conclusion.  Today's post will make a lot more sense if you've read the first half, though, so I highly recommend starting there and coming back here if you want to know more.

The first review took a cursory look at the Playground Pals (a set that includes nine different animals) and a more in-depth look at the four members of the Barkster dog family.  I concluded that post by summarizing the flaws that I noticed in the Honey Bee Acres line.  Today's job will be to see how the Barksters measure up to dog families from both the Calico Critters and the Li'l Woodzeez brands.

Honey Bee Acres, Calico Critters, and Li'l Woodzeez dog families.

I'll start off with a really quick summary of what I talked about last time.

These are the three sets that I'll be comparing today, and I've already reviewed the Honey Bee Acres set separately:

From left: Li'l Woodzeez, Honey Bee Acres, and Calico Critters.
The Barksters came packaged in a hexagonal (honeycomb-shaped) cardboard box with no plastic window on the front:

The family includes Cooper (the dad), Poppy (the mom), and the two boys, Gus and Theo:

Honey Bee Acres Barkster family, $9.94.
The family is wearing simple outfits with lots of common fabrics shared between them.  Many of the fabric edges are unfinished, and so several of the pieces (especially Cooper's shirt) are fraying pretty badly.

All of the dogs have six points of articulation, but Gus and Theo's legs don't bend as far as they should, so they can't sit down.  Poppy's flocking is riddled with patches of missing fur, and Theo has eyelashes that should only appear on the girl characters.

They are a cute, but flawed, little family:

Poor Theo's diaper is always falling down!
Now let's see how the Barksters measure up to the Yellow Labrador Family from Calico Critters:

Calico Critters' Yellow Labrador Family by Epoch, $24.99.
There are many dog family options in the Calico Critters line, but I was able to find this set on sale at Amazon for $15.99.  I think the MSRP is $24.99.  Most Calico Critters families cost around $20, especially if they've been on the market for a while.  So they're about twice as expensive as the Honey Bee Acres families.

The back of the box has a photo of Bell Hopscotch in front of an illustration of Calico Village:

The bottom of the box has all of the names and character descriptions for this family.  I'll type these out for you as we go, so you don't have to try and read the tiny print here:

If the side of the window box is opened, the cardboard backdrop holding the characters can slide right out:

Each dog was attached to the backdrop with a rubbery tie that looped around both of their arms.  The ties were easy to cut without damaging the dogs or their clothing.

Here's the family:

Barker, Lucy, Buddy, and Sadie.
The father in this family is named Barker.  I'm glad he's not in the Barkster family because Barker Barkster would be a mouthful of a name.  

Barker "likes playing all kinds of sports and games with his children.  Sometimes he gets so absorbed in playing the games that his children think he likes playing sports more than they do!"

Sheesh.  That's a loaded sentence.  I see therapy in the Lab kids' futures.

Barker isn't exactly dressed for sports, though.  He's wearing a dapper checkered shirt with little red buttons on the collar, paired with tweedy brown pants held up by elastic suspenders:

That is a very well-dressed chap.
The shirt closes in back with velcro, but the pants don't close, so Barker's long tail is able to stick out:

The tail has a wire base like a pipe cleaner, so it can move all around and even bend and curl:

It's not a Labrador tail, though.  It's more like a golden retriever tail.

The shirt is nicely made, with finished edges and adorable little red buttons:

Here's the inside of the shirt:

The pants are also well-made, and those elastic suspenders make dressing and undressing quite easy.

Barker has five simple rotational joints, and his tail can move in many ways, too, so that's basically a sixth point of articulation.  Barker's joints were stiff at first, but now all of them move smoothly and completely.

What a weird tail.
Barker does not have any defects in his flocking.

Barker was happy to meet Cooper, but I think Cooper felt a little insecure meeting IRL and not on Zoom:

Maybe I should have changed my outfit...
The two canines are about the same height, but they have different proportions.  Cooper is skinny and light with a large, rounded head.  Barker is more solid and his weight is distributed evenly.  Although neither is especially realistic, Barker is clearly a Labrador and Cooper is more of a generic cartoon dog with a huge head:

These two have basically the same eyes.  In the rest of the facial features, Cooper has more detail than Barker; his pink nose is plastic while Barker's is painted, and Copper has more molded definition around his mouth.  Despite this, I think Barker has more personality.  Cooper's expression can look a little blank, while Barker looks calm and friendly--like he's ready to have an important conversation...or maybe lecture you about the proper technique for spiraling a football.

The difference between the two outfits is especially striking.  Compare Cooper's unraveling, unfinished shirt:

To Barker's immaculate buttoned shirt:

Here are the two dads without their clothing:

What's hard to appreciate without holding these two in your hand is that Barker is very soft and smooth, while Cooper's flocking is not as dense or soft to the touch.

Also, Barker feels more solid in my hand.  Copper feels light and hollow.  It turns out that there's a 0.2oz difference between the two:

They're both so light that the difference might not seem like a lot, but Cooper weighs 25% less than Barker.

Looking at the differences between the two bodies, I wouldn't expect these two to share clothes.  Sure enough, Barker's outfit is way too loose on Cooper:

    Too bad, I need a new shirt!
The outfit looks really cute on him, though:

The clothes make the dog, I guess.
The outfit bags a lot in the back, though, and there's no fuzzy tail to conceal the gap in the pants:

That's awkward.
Cooper's pants won't even fit over Barker's feet:

The mother in the Lab family is named Lucy.  Lucy "loves taking care of babies.  She likes to read to them and show them colorful pictures.  They are always happy to see her!"

That's great (I love babies, too), but it's a bit sparse for a personality.  Couldn't Lucy also be a novelist or a member of the community theatre?  Maybe she likes to play games with the kids, too!

Lucy is wearing a lovely blue dress with a rounded white collar, a shiny pink ribbon sash, and delicate lace trim along the bottom of the skirt:

The little puffed sleeves are even gathered!

The dress closes at the top with velcro and then has a gap below the velcro where Lucy's tail can stick out:

The skirt is stitched at the bottom, so Lucy won't have the same kind of wardrobe malfunction as Poppy.

Lucy's flocking is flawless and all of her joints work.  You can see some dents in the fur here and there where the dress was tight on her body, but these areas can be rubbed smooth:

Lucy's body and face are identical to Barker's.  I cannot tell these two apart when they're undressed.  For all I know, they got switched six times during this review.

I think Lucy has a darker nose and Barker's eyes bug out more.
Poppy and Lucy were happy to meet one another, although Poppy was careful to keep the back of her dress facing away from Lucy!

Let's not do butt-sniffing this time, ok?
Here are the two moms side-by-side:

Poppy's dress is a bit nicer than her husband's fraying ensemble, but the discrepancy in quality between Lucy and Poppy's outfits is still pretty glaring.  The only unfinished edges on Lucy's dress are at the collar, and the collar is made out of some kind of sueded vinyl that doesn't look like it will ever fray.

Here are Lucy and Poppy without their dresses:

They each have the same body as their spouse, so there's nothing new to compare here, except for the fact that Poppy has so many more flocking defects than Lucy.

Similar to what we saw with the dads, Poppy can wear Lucy's beautiful dress, although it's too big for her:

She looks really nice in this dress, probably in part because it conceals her super-skinny body.

Lucy can't fit into Poppy's dress at all:

Way too much ventilation.
The only problem with Lucy's dress is that those amazing little puffed sleeves turn inside-out at the edge when Lucy is redressed:

I had to tuck the ragged edges back in with a toothpick.

I think Gus and Theo were a little apprehensive about meeting Buddy and Sadie.  Theo, in particular, felt underdressed for the occasion:

The brother in the Lab family is named Buddy.  Buddy "likes playing catch with his father.  He treasures a toy his father gave him when he was a baby.  He even secretly still sleeps with the toy at night!"  

That statement is oddly vague.  Why can't they say what the toy is?  I bet it's a dead squirrel.

Buddy hides his stinky little secret well.  He looks above reproach in his crisp red shirt and checkered pants:

Both the shirt and the pants close in back with velcro.

The shorts have an extra-long piece pf velcro to hold them in place securely, and both pieces are stitched well:

Buddy's flocking is great and all of his joints work.

Here's Buddy with Gus.  Gus' suspenders are coming un-sewn at the top, hence the long blue thread that's sticking out of his right shoulder and poking Buddy:

Gus is shorter and skinnier than Buddy, but their head sizes are similar:

Again, neither figure is realistic, but I'm struck by how well the Calico Critters are able to capture the essence of a particular animal with such soft, simple features.

Buddy's clothing is ridiculously big on little Gus!

In fact, you can fit two Honey Bee Acres kids into Buddy's pants!

The sister in the Lab family is named Sadie.  Sadie "likes wearing pretty dresses, especially when she goes to parties with her family on the weekend.  She sometimes wears a dress that matches her mother's dress for fun!"

Ok, these character descriptions are getting on my nerves.  The gender stereotyping is archaic.  It's fine that Sadie likes pretty dresses, but is that all there is to say about her?  What about the time when she scored six points in her school's ultimate Frisbee game?  Or the time she broke the tail wagging contest at the town fair?  She might not enjoy those games of catch as much as her dad does, but why didn't he give her a dead squirrel to sleep with?

Anyway, Sadie is adorable, and she's wearing a dress that might not match her mother's, but it has a similar style:

This dress also closes in back with velcro and has stitching at the bottom to keep it from hanging open:

Like their parents, Buddy and Sadie look exactly the same without their clothing.  I have no idea which one is which:

One might smell faintly of dead squirrel.
Comparing Sadie to Theo doesn't make sense because Theo is a baby.  I wouldn't expect this pair to have much in common:

Here they are without their outfits, just for the sake of consistency:

A better comparison for Theo would be a Calico Critters Labrador baby, so I sought out a pair of those:

Yellow Labrador Twins, Shiloh and Marley, $7.99.
It's worth noting that this set of two small babies costs only two dollars less than the entire Barkster family, and half what I paid for the whole Labrador family.  Those are some expensive babies...but they'll make Lucy really happy.

These two have names and personalities just like the larger characters:

Marley and Shiloh's personalities are much more interesting than the rest of the family--or at least Marley's is.  I don't know of any dogs or humans who were aspiring trumpet players before they could walk.  It's pretty impressive.

The twins come with a purple plastic toy car:

The car is dismissible.  It's solid plastic with no moving parts, and neither twin can fit inside of it very well:

The Honey Bee Acres baby accessories were much more appealing, and those sets only cost $4.94.

The Lab twins are adorable, but their bodies are only articulated at the head.  Shiloh is in a permanent sitting position and Marley is crawling:

Their little outfits can be removed:

Shiloh's romper is pretty easy to take off and put on again, but Marley's diaper is quite difficult to put on:

Theo was excited to see some Labradors who are closer to his own age:

These babies are all similar in size, but of course Theo can move his limbs (or should be able to move his limbs) and the twins cannot.

Despite Theo's superior articulation, I prefer the Lab babies.  They are irresistibly cute--especially Shiloh.

Some of the Calico Critters families come with one older sibling and one articulated baby.  Here's an example:

The Caramel Dog Family ($19.99).
This style of baby is much more equivalent to Theo.  I probably should have focused on one of these sets for this review, but I got fixated on the idea of having two Labrador families.

Here's the baby dog from the Caramel Dog Family set:

She's insanely cute.
This little one is named Carlie.  Carlie "loves traveling.  She gets so excited she can never sleep the night before a big trip.  She can't sit still for a minute, so she's always off on her next big adventure.  She can't wait until she's old enough to buy a camper so she can drive it out on many more trips."

Wow.  That's a big personality for a baby, but I have to say that it's way better than any of the Lab character descriptions!

Carlie is wearing a little yellow romper with lace straps.  The romper is open in back so that it can be removed:

Carlie has five points of articulation.  She doesn't have a tail, so she's missing that joint.

The flocking on Carlie's back is matted down from where it pushed against the box backdrop, but there are no actual defects in her fur.

All of Carlie's joints work smoothly:

Here's Carlie with Marley and Shiloh:

Marley looks fascinated by Carlie's movable legs!
And here's Carlie with Theo:

He's in love.
Carlie's romper is much harder to use than Theo's checkered diaper, but the romper looks way cuter when it's on, so I'm torn about which outfit is better.

Here are the two without their clothes:

At least Carlie is house trained.
I really love Carlie's cuddly proportions and simple, fuzzy face.  She's delightful.

As with the Honey Bee Acres set, the last thing I did with the Lab family was to choose somebody and give their foot the scratch test:

I was able to disrupt the flocking on Lucy's right foot because there's a hole there and my nail had something to hook onto.  On the left foot, I was unable to scrape away any fur.

Here's a family portrait:

The Calico Critter Yellow Labrador family ($24.99) plus the Labrador twins ($7.99).
The Calico Critters have not changed much in the last ten years.  I found all of the Lab characters to be very well-made, with in-tact flocking and smooth joints--even if many of the joints were stiff right out of the box.

The clothing on these characters is detailed and easy-to-use, with meticulously-sewn edges and attractive, old-fashioned designs.

My one critique of the Calico Critters is that the two adults and the two children are identical.  I can't tell the characters apart unless they're dressed, and if I pick up one of the dogs in isolation of the others, it's hard for me to tell if I'm holding an adult or a child.  With the Honey Bee Acres family, I'm able to tell which character is which, regardless of whether or not they're dressed.

Next up is a comparison between the Honey Bee Acres family and a similar set from Li'l Woodzeez.  I chose these chocolate Labs for the job:

Li'l Woodzeez Wagadoodle chocolate Labrador family set, $19.99.
This is a slightly unfair comparison because it's a much larger family set than either the Calico Critters yellow Labs or the Honey Bee Acres Barksters.

However, this set, which costs $20, has three little babies that we can compare to the babies from the other brands.  But, I have to say, adding babies is expensive!  Why do these sets, with the three extra babies, cost $10 more than the regular sets??  I think that's the most expensive baby add-on that I've seen so far. There isn't even a story book included with this family.

Anyway, the back of the box has a photo of the whole Wagadoodle clan, including their names:

It's interesting to me that Mom and Dad get human names (Wanda and Chester) but all of the kiddos have dog names:

Can you imagine being named Scoot Wagadoodle??
There are three other deluxe family sets advertised on the box, each of them with five kids:

They're all adorable.
The FitzMoo family looks awesome, and they've given their children normal names (Dixon, Tucker, Millie, Lillie...and Sillie).  Okay, they gave most of their kids normal names.

Also, there's an owl family for you, Pam B.  With three baby owlets!

Incidentally, this is the Li'l Woodzeez dog family that I originally planned to review:

Li'l Woodzeez Houndsley beagle family, $10.99.
But when they arrived in the mail I realized that they're not flocked!  Ack!  The promotional photo definitely makes them look fuzzy.  In fact, several of the newer Woodzeez characters are not flocked, which I find very disappointing.  I guess that's a good way to avoid flocking problems, though.

Anyway, back to the Wagadoodles.  These are the hardest toys to un-box out of all the sets I've shown here.  The characters are anchored into their open-faced box with a network of solid plastic restraints that were hard to cut away:

Here's the whole roly-poly pack, all standing up on their own:

Neither the box nor the Woodzeez website provide any character information about the Wagadoodles, so I'll be forced to invent some personalities for this family.

The dad, Chester, is clearly an investment banker.  What isn't so clear about him is that he likes to collect dolls and action figures...and then sometimes chew their heads off.

Bad dog, Chester.
The waistband of Chester's pants tends to flip down, making the outfit look less tailored.  Here's the waistband when it's flipped up the right way:

The outfit closes in back with velcro and has a small (unfinished) hole cut into the fabric so that Chester's tail can stick out:

Chester's outfit is not as hard to put on as Copper's is, but I found it tricky to get the pant legs in the right position because of how short Chester's legs are.

Chester has a round body with even flocking and six points of articulation:

Like the Barksters, Chester can move his tail:

That's a good Lab tail.
All of his joints move well, although his legs are so short it's hard to tell if he's sitting or standing!

Cooper and Barker were eager to meet Chester to see if he had any good financial advice for them:

Or if he knew of any particularly yummy new action figures.
All three are approximately the same height:

Chester's body shape is significantly rounder than the other two.  It's almost like the designers of the Li'l Woodzeez and Honey Bee Acres lines felt they had to take their animals' body shapes to an extreme to avoid copyright infringement of the Calico Critters.  

It's hard to beat the original.
Barker's fuzzy tail looks very out of place in this trio!

There's no way any of the Li'l Woodzeez clothing will fit the Honey Bee Acres characters, but Cooper wanted to try:

The mother in the Wagadoodle family is named Wanda.  Wanda was an agility champion in her youth, but now spends most of her time training the triplets.  In her scant free time, she enjoys bird chasing watching,  molecular gastronomy, and rolling in rabbit droppings.

Wanda is wearing a simple sleeveless sundress with a bright orange belt.  The dress closes in back with velcro:

Even though the skirt of this dress isn't stitched at the bottom, it doesn't flare out as much as Poppy's dress does.

The dress has finished edges and no signs of unraveling:

Even the inside of the dress looks clean and neat:

Wanda has the exact same body as Chester:

The only way I can tell these two apart is that Wanda has a scuff in her flocking and her eye alignment is wonky.

Here's a closer look at the scratch in her flocking:

Not too bad.
She also has a rubbed patch on the back of her right arm:

Lucy was especially excited to meet Wanda because she'd heard Wanda has triplet babies!  Poppy was more interested in comparing patches of missing fur: 

Here are the three moms together:

Wanda's outfit stands out in this group because it's bright and relatively modern.  It's definitely the easiest outfit to use out of the three, and the sewing is excellent.  It's a good lesson in how less can be more.

And again, since all of these characters have the same bodies as their spouses, there's not much new commentary I need to add:

The Barkster kids had gotten to know Buddy and Sadie really well at this point, but they were still happy to add Scoot and Spark to their group:

First, let's meet Spark.  Spark loves being outdoors in any kind of weather, and always tries her best to step in mud puddles.  She's a budding gardener who enjoys eating long grass.  Even if it makes her barf.

It tastes so good, though.
Spark is wearing a green striped skirt with an overall top.  The overalls are stitched together with an underlaying orange tee shirt.  The overall straps do not extend past the shoulders in the back:

Like Wanda's outfit, this little dress is bright, well-sewn, and easy to use:

Spark's body is a miniature replica of the adult Wagadoodle bodies, with the same six points of articulation.  Spark's left eye is askew:

Takes after her mother.
She also has some rubbed flocking on her left arm:

Here are the two big sisters, Sadie and Spark:

Sadie and Spark both have well-made outfits, but the overall design and detailing on Sadie's dress is really nice.  The shortcuts and simple design of Spark's outfit stand out to me when I look at the two girls together.

There's no equivalent Honey Bee Acres character to compare with this duo, so let's move on!

The big brother in this family is Scoot Wagadoodle.  Scoot is the top student at his school and is especially good at World History.  He's helpful around the house; always offering to bark at the doorbell or lick the floor for his mom.  He's learning how to eat without chewing his food.

Like his father, Scoot has a Humpty-Dumpty style shirt-and-pants unitard that closes in the back and has a cut-out hole for a small tail.

When I was dressing and undressing Scoot, I had a hard time getting his super-short legs into his pants:

Scoot has the exact same body shape as Spark.  I can tell these two apart because Scoot's eyes are even wonkier than Spark's, and he also has more defects in his flocking.

The damage on Scoot's right leg is especially bad:

Neither of Scoot's eyes is placed into the small indentation where's it's supposed to sit.  You can see this particularly well on the right side:

Here are all of the big brothers together:

Buddy's outfit is much nicer than the others.  It's both attractive and well-sewn.  Gus and Scoot's outfits are fairly similar in terms of the quality of their construction.  They both have some finished edges and some unfinished edges.  Because the Honey Bee Acres bodies are so much smaller than the Li'l Woodzeez bodies, the outfits seem unimpressive when compared to the more substantial Woodzeez garments.  It's also easier for the small clothes to look lopsided or sloppy.  But I don't think Scoot's outfit is very attractive, so Gus wins in that respect.

Here are the boys without their outfits:

Since all of these guys are basically miniatures of their parents, I don't have much to add to what I've said before.  When I anthropomorphize these characters, I like that they represent several different body types.  However, when I think of them as dogs, Buddy's proportions are the ones I'm most comfortable with; not explicitly overweight nor underweight--just a generic medium.

Last but not least, Theo, Shiloh, Carlie, and Marley got to meet the Woodzeez triplets:

Ready to rumble.
The chocolate Lab trio makes me think of the mischievous triplets in Brave.  They're not humans or bears, but that's still where my brain goes when I look at them.  They look like trouble:

Who, us?
The names they came with are Rumble, Tumble, and Romp...but I think they should be Harris, Hubert, and Hamish.

I'm pretty sure they want to play a prank on poor unsuspecting Theo:

Tell us where you buried the remote, kid.
The triplets do not have any velcro on their diapers, while Theo's diaper has velcro on both sides.  It's harder to put the diapers back on when there's no velcro, so Theo has the better outfit in this comparison.

I think all of these babies look better without their scruffy diapers:

The Wagadoodle babies are surprisingly expressive for how simple they are.  

Here's Theo with Carlie and one of the Woodzeez triplets:

I like that Carlie has a full outfit and not just a diaper.  The diapers are pretty easy to manage (Theo's more so than the Woodzeez babies'), but the diapers can also look droopy and messy compared to Carlie's neat little romper.  I think Carlie's outfit is worth the extra dressing effort, although little kids would probably have a lot of trouble getting the romper on and off.

Here are the three babies without their outfits:

While in the other sizes I prefer the Calico Critters proportions, I feel like with these babies I lean towards preferring the roly-poly Woodzeez body type.  It's a close call.  I love Carlie a lot, of course, but the Woodzeez babies have something very charming about them.

Here's Theo with Marley, Shiloh and one of the triplets (who knows which one):

I should point out that after I'd dressed and undressed Theo several times, I noticed that he'd developed a new, large gash in the flocking on his left leg:

I wonder if the velcro on the diaper pulled that fur off?  Whatever happened, the manipulations I use during these reviews would have to be considered very mild play, so this new defect is troubling.  

The babies are my favorites from each set.  They're really sweet, and it's amazing that so many of them are well-articulated.  Here's a group shot of this handful of cuteness:

I let the babies play for a little while because they're so fun to have around.  Romp wanted to try out the Honey Bee Acres rocking horse:

But Rumble and Tumble got jealous and wanted to take a turn!

The commotion brought all of the other babies running (or crawling) to see what was happening.

Carlie organized a system where everybody took turns with the rocking horse...which of course involved her getting the first turn:

At nap time, I tried to see how many of the babies I could fit into Pif's crib from the Li'l Woodzeez Sunday Surprise post.  I managed to fit all of them, but it doesn't look very comfortable!

Ok, that was a long baby tangent!  The last thing I need to do is a scratch test on one of the Woodzeez.  Spark volunteered for the job:

I wasn't able to remove any of Spark's flocking with my fingernail.  The Li'l Woodzeez failed the scratch test back in 2012, so maybe things have improved?  Or maybe Spark just got lucky.

Here's a portrait of the entire Wagadoodle family:

The Li'l Woodzees characters haven't changed much since I reviewed them last, either.  The biggest change that I've seen in the Li'l Woodzeez line over the past ten years is the number of available products.  Battat has expanded the diversity of the families to include things like cows (adorable), elephants (covet!), and even cardinals.  The variety of available playsets and accessories has expanded dramatically, too.  Not only are the Honeysuckle Hollow General Store and Tickle Your Tastebuds Bakery still available (at the same price as in 2012), but there are many other tempting options now, too--a few of which you'll see here on the blog in the coming months.

I'm a bit dismayed by the complete lack of flocking on some of the newer Woodzeez families, but I suppose that the unflocked animals are easier to keep clean and don't have to worry about defects in their fur.

All of the dog families wanted to me to take one last portrait of them before I end the review, so I told them that if they could come up with an interesting new way to pose together, I'd include another shot.

The Barksters decided to make a pyramid:

And then of course the Wagadoodles one-upped them:

The Yellow Lab family might not have had the tallest pyramid, but I give them props because their formation was the hardest to balance!

Bottom line?  I was so excited to hear about the Honey Bee Acres line.  I really enjoy both the Calico Critters and the Li'l Woodzeez, and so the prospect of a new collection to mix and match with these two brands was extremely compelling--especially with the low prices.  Quality control issues quickly dampened my enthusiasm about this new line, though.  The three biggest problems with the Barkster family are the defective flocking, the fraying clothes, and the flawed joints.  I'll briefly summarize each of these problems and compare it to the other two brands.

Poppy Barkster came with many patches of missing flocking all over her body.  In addition, it was very easy to scrape the flocking off the bottom of her foot.  Theo didn't appear to have any flocking defects, but had a big chunk of fur missing from one of his legs by the end of the review.  In comparison, three of the seven Li'l Woodzeez dogs had flocking defects, but only one of those is really bad.  In addition, I didn't cause any new problems during the course of the review, and the scratch test failed to remove any fur from Spark's foot.  None of the Calico Critters have any flocking defects, and the scratch test on Lucy's foot only removed flocking around the area where there was a hole (from the molding process) in her foot.

The Honey Bee Acres outfits are very simple, with many unfinished, fraying edges.  This is particularly bad on Cooper's shirt.  In addition, because the clothes are so small, they tend to look lopsided or have uneven sewing lines.  The tiny size also makes the boys' outfits, with their thin pant legs, really hard to get on and off.  I dreaded having to undress any of these characters by the end of the review.  The Woodzeez clothing is made slightly better.  There are fewer unfinished edges and the designs tend to have more detail than the Honey Bee Acres clothing--perhaps just because the clothes are larger.  The Wagadoodle outfits are also easier to use than the Barkster clothing, with the exception of the triplets' diapers, which don't have any velcro.  The Calico Critters clothing is extremely well-made and attractive.  It's also quite easy to use, with the exception of the babies' outfits.

The flawed joints are only a problem with the Honey Bee Acres line.  While several of the Calico Critters characters had very stiff joints right out of the box, I could coax those areas into movement without feeling like I was going to break something.  With the Barksters, no amount of coaxing would get Gus or Theo's legs to bend to their full capacity.  This means they can't sit down...and can't take their coveted turn on the rocking horse.  In the Playground Pals set, there were many more characters with immobile heads and bum legs.

The Calico Critters remain the undisputed rulers of the fuzzy toy animal domain. Everything about them is well-made and well designed. The characters are all ridiculously cute, and manage to represent their designated species with an effortless simplicity.  The clothing is highly-detailed and easy to use, and the flocked fur feels soft and dense.  I was skeptical about the Li'l Woodzeez when they first came out.  It didn't seem like the world needed another line of flocked animals; the Calico Critters had that territory covered.  But the Woodzeez have grown on me considerably, and the line has expanded to include some truly adorable sets that continue to be about half the price of the equivalent Calico Critters items.  Over the years, the Woodzeez have established themselves as an economical and satisfactory alternative to the pricey Calico Critters world.  Where, then, do the Honey Bee Acres families fit in?  Personally, I don't think there's much need for them on the current market.  The quality is noticeably lower than it is with the Woodzeez, and yet the prices are equivalent.

The Honey Bee Acres accessories might still have a place in the market, though.  Anyone who collects Calico Critters, Li'l Woodzeez, or even small dolls like Petite Blythe or Nendoroids could make use of items in this scale.  I have my eye on several of the furniture and play sets that look appealing and cost very little.  In an upcoming review, I'll take a closer look at how those items measure up to their competition.

For now though, I have no further interest in the Honey Bee Acres animals.  Throughout this review, I didn't find myself coveting any of the other families.  At this point I don't think I'd even buy a unicorn or cow family if it was released (although I wish Epoch would make a Calico Critters unicorn family!).  In contrast, I found about six families from the other two brands that I'd really love to own.  I even bought a few of them because they were literally irresistible (have you seen the Calico Critters Meerkats? Eee!!).  In my opinion, that irresistibility factor is what's behind the great success of the two more established brands, and something that, at least for me, Honey Bee Acres is completely missing.


  1. the personalities you come up for these are fantastic! so much more fun than the ones they come with

    sylvanian families (as they're called here) are such a classic that i don't think anyone can really hold a candle to them, though the honey bee acres and the woodzeez are sweet in their own right. the babies totally steal the spotlight, especially the triplets!

    speaking of minis, barbie has released a line of big-headed, articulated mini dolls with stands for the barbie extra line that you might be interested in! apparently, the colored hair is of worse quality than the natural ones, but i've heard good things about the joints and the fashion.

  2. The personalities are hilarious. I thought the Labradors were otters (or the woodchucks!) at first.

  3. I’ve coveted the calico critter meerkats for some time now. Let me know when you find a good source! This was just too much fun to read ❤️
    My favorite part are the group photos! Just imagine the stories you could tell with them! Enough exclamation points. . . !!!

  4. Hi Emily, I'm sorry to hear about the move not functioning. I'm glad that there's this nice long review though! I love long posts because they're always so informative and include good photos and details. I never knew about this brand until now and I like seeing comparisons. I agree that Calico Critters rule this type of toy (I'm a collector myself), but Woodzeez are a nice cheaper alternative. These comparisons helped give me a better understanding of the differences, thank you! The skinny body of the Happy Bee Acres toy seems strange, but they're clothes are cute. Your personalities made me laugh, they're unlike the generic sweet profiles, you are very creative! Calico Critters recently released a hair dresser and hair salon with ponies, I find it interesting and different from the original idea. Woodzeez are taking away flocking, while Calico Critters keeps adding it, such as using long fake hair for the mane😂

    Take care,
    Posh Pear

  5. First of, I really like your long posts: super thorough, lots of detailed, funny and aesthetically pleasing comparison photos (extra helpful) and always a good read. I'm glad you are back to blogging, btw.
    When Calico Critters were released, they didn't appeal to me, as I considered myself too old for these kind of toys then. I was reintroduced to them by your rewiews. And now I buy them for my niece - living vicariously...

  6. I didn't mention on the previous post, but I love long detailed reviews too. Your captions, stories and tangents crack me up. You'd get along gloriously with my niece - I hear she likes toys she can spin stories about, and prefers Sylvanian families over human dolls for now.
    I'm glad Lil Woodzeez were able to pass the scratch test ten years later. They seem like a decent cheaper alternative to the Critters. The one thing about them that rubs me the wrong way is their body shape. I'm all for representation and I think overweight dolls can teach important lessons... as long as the dolls are human. Making every species of animal indiscriminately obese has no educational value and in fact could skew the perceptions of little pet owners.
    However, if copycat dolls mean copycat playsets, I welcome all competition. I think the upcoming playset comparison will be tougher because plain plastic with no joints is hard to get wrong. Can't wait for that one.

  7. Goodness the unflocked Lil' Woodsies don't look good

  8. The gender stereotyping of the Calico Critters' descriptions (though it may just be this particular set, I suppose) is severe enough that I would choose the Woodzeez over them for that reason alone. Completely agree on the higher quality of... basically everything... material-wise, plus the cuteness factor, but for me, the way the female characters are described vs. the males negates that and then some. Enough to make me choose a different brand. It's that much of a turn-off. These toys are probably mostly played with by little girls, and if I had a daughter, I'd really not want her to pick up these kinds of messages.

  9. I‘m also one of those who loooooves your long reviews, so you really don‘t have to stop with them :)

    We only have the Sylvanian families here…well, we used to when there were still local toy stores, but it was always Sylvanian, and I still have lots of them from my childhood and they still lool amazing. No missing flocking or so on. And they so sweet and so vintage.

  10. I really enjoyed both halves of this review! I have never been personally interested in this style of toy, but your writing and humour always makes me excited to read and maybe learn some more about lines I'm not so familiar with (and even learn some educational tidbits along the way!).

    The personalities and jokes you came up with for these reviews were hilarious-- I loved how you would occasionally reference the older personalities and jokes even when you'd moved on to looking at a new dog. It made me feel like I was getting to know these little critters more! And I loved how you incorporated well known dog habits into the characters' more humanized occupations- like getting financial advice from a fellow who likes to bite the heads off his dolls and action figures on occasion! XD

    My grandmother used to collect Calico Critters, and so I always associate this style of toy with her, and it was cool getting to know the different qualities of these toys, and the reasons why she must have fallen in love with them.

    Thank you for such a thorough review! But of course we'll also enjoy your reviews of you decide to keep them simpler too.

  11. True confession time: these two reviews justified my finding a family set of meerkats. And yes, they are just as adorable as one might imagine.😁👍 I do have a set of Turtle woodsies because...well, no need to explain THAT! I mean, they are turtles!

  12. I have been a big fan of the Lil Woodzeez line for years and own many of the sets, including many of their Bobbleez line, which are an adorable addition and work well with the regular sets. I own a few Calico Critters which I have bought on ebay individually and though I recognize that they are much better quality I find the Woodzeez roly poly bodies more appealing. It isn't a given to me that all characteristics register negatively, though it is worth being conscious of. I wasn't happy to see the unflocked versions coming out either. I think the elephants might be unflocked and have wondered whether one could flock them oneself. Thanks for another great review. Great to see you back in the saddle again.

  13. Oh man! I am so sad to learn about the quality of Honey Bee Acres because the molds used are sooo cute!

  14. Epoch making equine figures will create the Goofy/Pluto problem since the Sylvanians rode horse drawn carriages. 😆

  15. Lol! Very thorough comparisons. And you had me chuckling😁