Friday, January 14, 2022

Cave Club Dolls by Mattel

Well, I guess it's clear at this point that the blog migration didn't work.  It worked in the sense that all of the data (including the comments and links!) got transferred from here to WordPress.  That seemed pretty magical to me.  But it didn't work because none of the pictures were aligned correctly, any picture with a caption was huge, I couldn't edit photos in old posts anymore, new photos took ten years to upload...and the list goes on.  I could tell you the whole story some day if you're interested.  The upshot is that it would have taken me literally over a year to correct all ~43,000 images by hand, so I bailed and came back to Blogger where it's safe and familiar, and (most) things work.

However, the commenting problems here are real and I'm trying to fix that.  I've found a workaround for myself that might help some of you--especially if you're using Safari: if you go to your Safari settings, select Preferences, then select Privacy, you should see a way to change the "cross-site tracking" configuration.  When I did this, I was suddenly able to comment again--and lots of other little things about the site are working better for me, too.  So give that a try if you feel like it, and please let me know if you have any success.

One of the reasons that the migration was so frustrating to me is that it took several full days away from my time with dolls.  I have a huge list of interesting things that I want to share with you, and I hate falling behind.  So let's forget about technical stuff as much as possible for right now and get back to the fun!  Today's fun is in the form of a quirky little collection of dolls that I discovered about two months ago.  The line is called Cave Club and is made by Mattel:

Mattel's Cave Club doll, Lumina ($14.99).

This doll has Mattel written all over her, doesn't she?  The little details like the bat necklace, the big eyes, and the hands make me think of Monster High (which, by the way, will have new doll releases in 2022!).

The basic idea with the Cave Club dolls is that they are "a group of prehistoric friends who are way ahead of their time." This doll, Lumina, is the obligatory musician in the friend group, and she is "the first ever music scout turned DJ, spinning volcanic beats that make her friends and dinosaurs dance!"  Whoa.  There's a lot to unpack in that sentence.  For now, suffice it to say that suspension of disbelief will be required to appreciate this brand.

I can suspend disbelief when I try (I love the Cinderella story, after all) but my science-y brain insisted that I interject some "Let's Get Real" moments throughout this review.  Apologies in advance.

These dolls are associated with a television show that can be streamed on Amazon Prime or YouTube.  The show has two seasons so far, each containing only a handful of five-minute episodes.  The animation style changed significantly from the first season to the second.  The first season looked like this:

That reminds me of My Little Pony animation.

The second season has a computer animation style that is very much like the Rainbow High series; the characters look almost exactly like the dolls--just slightly more attractive.  Here's Lumina from the second season (when she first appears):

I definitely prefer the style of animation in the second series, but it must have been strange for fans of the show to have such a dramatic change.  It didn't take me long to watch all of the episodes.  To me, each little segment feels like a protracted commercial for the dolls.

Lets's see how the animation compares to the actual doll.  Here's Lumina in her blister pack box:


The design of the box features the name of Lumina's pet Phibian very prominently, so at first I thought the doll's name was Phibian.  That actually would have been a unique name choice for a prehistoric character.

Lumina's name is displayed along the curved upper edge of the plastic window:


The Cave Club logo is printed on cardboard at the bottom of the box, and includes a cute pink dinosaur with what looks like orange feathers on its head:

Or is that a feathered pill box hat?
Let's Get Real: were feathered dinosaurs actually a thing?  Yes, they were!  Although they didn't look anything like the pink brontosaurus-type creature next to the Cave Club logo.  They probably looked more like this:

202010 Archaeopteryx lithographica

That's an artistic rendering based on fossils in a genus of organisms called Archaeopteryx or "ancient wing."  The discovery of these feathered dinosaurs was incredibly important because it documented a step in the transition between early dinosaurs and our modern-day dinosaurs...the birds!

The back of Lumina's box is brightly-colored and has a cartoon of Lumina herself:


Here's a closer look:


There's another Cave Club logo, too--this one without the pink dinosaur:


Let's Get Real: who were the cavemen?  At the most basic level, cavemen are ancient humans (genus Homo) that lived in caves during the Stone Age (the Stone Age spans from 2.6 million years ago until 3,300 BC).  Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are often thought of as the archetypical cavemen, so probably that's what Mattel used as inspiration for this line.  

Neanderthals were around from ~430,000 years ago to ~40,000 years ago, overlapping with modern humans (Homo sapiens) for about ~300,000 of those years.  So the setting for this doll line could be anywhere during that time frame.  There's excellent fossil evidence of Neanderthals starting from 130,000 years ago, so let's arbitrarily go with that as a benchmark.

The description of Lumina is the same one I quoted earlier, printed here in four languages:


In the background are two of the dinosaurs that Lumina "makes dance with her volcanic beats."  This pair looks like they have pink hair:

Dinosaur mullets.
Let's Get Real: were there any dinosaurs with hair?  No.  Dinosaurs are reptiles and reptiles have scales or feathers, not hair.  That's assuming you take a mammal-centric view of what hair is (a long piece of keratin growing out of a follicle).  Some reptiles can grow keratin projections that look sort-of like hair, but those structures do not grow out of a follicle and so are not technically hair.

Hey! How dare you say this fine mohawk isn't hair!
    Inside the blister pack, Lumina and her accessories were mounted on another piece of molded plastic:


Most of these items were held in place with plastic ties:


Here's everything that was in the box:


Lumina's accessories are a comb, a pet, headphones, and a purse that looks like a record player:


The comb has molded details with two cute dinosaurs on the front:


The comb is hollow on the back:


The headphones have a curled cord that looks like it will attach to the record player purse:


Which it does!


Here's the record player purse on its own:


It looks like a record player to me, but it's described as a "disc player."

Let's Get Real: record players are old, but not a hundred thousand years old.  In fact, phonographs, electricity, and batteries were all invented in the 19th century, not the Paleolithic.  It's just minor error of 130,000 years.  No biggie.

Here's a closer look at Lumina's pet, Phibian:


Phibian is made out of neon pink plastic and has painted purple horns and a ridge of spines along his back:


Phibian looks like he might have articulated limbs, but they don't actually move.

Phibian's only point of articulation is his head, which can spin around 360 degrees:


He has detailed purple eyes with reflective markings that I can't quite make out--even with the zoom lens of my camera:


He's really cute:


Phibian is cute in the television series, too:


Let's Get Real: would an amphibian have dorsal spines like that?  No.  That's a feature of reptiles who have hard scales and keratinous projections.  Most amphibians have to breathe through their skin, and so they do not have the same kind of hard, scaled coverings and ornaments that reptiles have.

This crested newt (an amphibian) looks like it has spines along its back:

Kammmolchmaennchen 

But those fleshy bits sticking up are only doing that because the newt is underwater.  Outside of water (and outside of mating season) the newt looks more like this:

TriturusCristatusOctober1990 FL5

Phibian also reminds me of an axylotl:

Especially with that smile.
But these little guys don't have spines on their back, and they live underwater.  Those pink projections are gills, not horns.

But did anyone say that Phibian is an amphibian?  Why would anyone assume that?  In a twist of irony, Phibian could be a reptile.

Here's Lumina on her own:


She balances really well on those big feet!

Here she is from the back:


And here's her hair from the back:


She has blue and green-streaked straight hair that reaches almost to her ankles, but the ponytail at the top of her head is crimped and is supposed to poof up.


I couldn't quite get her hair to look like the box art.  I tried fluffing the ponytail with my fingers first, which helped:


Using a wire brush fluffed the crimped hair up even more:


That looks pretty good!  Here it is from the back:


The hair might not be quite as dramatic as the box art, but it's a unique style and I like it.

The rooting pattern is a little sparse in some places, but the scalp is painted blue, which helps hide the gaps.


Lumina's hair sheds quite a lot. You might notice that there are loose strands of hair sticking out or on the ground in several of my pictures.  I was constantly cleaning up blue hair!

Lumina's outfit consists of a top, skirt, ankle ornaments, and a necklace:


The necklace is made out of blue vinyl and is molded to look like a tooth chain with a bat hanging down as a pendant:


Let's Get Real: did bats coexist with Neanderthals?  They sure did.  Bats evolved about 50 million years ago, so they were on the planet long before Homo neanderthalensis or Homo sapiens first appeared.

Here's an artist's interpretation of fossil remains for one of the earliest-known bats, Onychonycterus:

Onychonycteris NT small

Lumina is wearing a jagged-cut purple vinyl top and a wrap-around skirt with a colorful geode pattern:


In the television show, Lumina is very interested in crystals.  She uses them to etch grooves in her musical discs.  So the skirt pattern makes sense with her character.

There's glitter speckled throughout the purple vinyl of the top, which looks pretty, but the material is very stiff and shiny.  It feels a little cheap:


The white backing on this fabric doesn't look great, but it's nice that the edges don't fray at all.


Monster High mini skirts (and skirts on other dolls like B-Kind Brianna) often have a strip of fabric that runs between the doll's legs to keep the skirt from riding up and twisting around.  

Lumina's skirt does not have this feature, and so it easily slips upwards and spins around so that the velcro closure is facing forwards:


Here's the skirt on its own:


The hem is jagged-cut and unfinished, but there's no sign of the fabric fraying.  I love the rainbow geode pattern on this skirt!  

The skirt is designed like a wrap-around and has a flap in the front that lifts up:


Lumina is not wearing any shoes, but she does have flexible iridescent purple ankle decorations that are molded to look like a cluster of feathers with hanging beads underneath:


Let's Get Real: did early humans make and wear clothes?  There's physical evidence, through stone tools that were designed to clean leather and (of all things) the DNA of clothing lice, that humans were making outfits as early as 170,000 years ago.  There's no physical evidence left about what those clothes would have looked like, though, since leather and fur can't survive such extended periods of time.  It might as well have been jagged-cut tops and wrap-around skirts, right?  Probably glitter wasn't a thing, though.

I tied Lumina's hair back so that I could get a better look at her face and body.  

She has massive green eyes and thick, brown eyebrows.  The eyebrows have four separate hair lines drawn at the middle edge on each side:


I suspect the thick eyebrows are an attempt to make Lumina look prehistoric.  But my eyebrows are thicker than hers so I'm not sure how to feel about that.  Either way, I like the eyebrows design.  It's another feature that sets Lumina apart from many other dolls.

Here's a screenshot from the show so that you can see the differences between the doll and the animation:


The doll's coloring is more vibrant than the animated character's coloring.  The doll's eyes and lower face shape are more exaggerated, too.

Lumina's eyes have a very similar design to Monster High eyes.  They're a sloping almond shape, with several reflective designs and large black pupils that gaze slightly upwards:


Let's Get Real: did early humans have green eyes?  Early Homo sapiens probably did not.  The consensus is that these individuals all had dark skin and very dark (almost black) eyes.  Neanderthals are thought to have had light eyes, though--perhaps even as a dominant feature.  So it makes sense that Lumina has green eyes.

Lumina's lips are bright pink and she has a little bass clef symbol under her left eye:


Let's Get Real: would Lumina have known about the bass clef?  Nope.  The earliest form of written music is from around 1400 BC and is just a bunch of words describing how to play a song.  The modern notation system with clefs didn't arise until the High Middle Ages (the 12th century AD).

Lumia has a really cute, elfin profile with enormous, flat eyes and a condensed mouth and nose.  This style of face is becoming quite common these days:


Lumina's ears are really big, which is not common. I find this endearing!

Lumina's body is unlike anything I've seen in the play doll world.  She has a tiny, pear-shaped torso and super-long legs that get wider and wider as they move towards her huge feet:

Homo bigfooteus?
Here she is from the side:


And the back:


She has a 2020 copyright on her back:


These dolls were first introduced in 2020 and there have been at least 3 waves since then.  Lumina is part of the third wave.

Lumina has eleven points of articulation, which is more than I expected from a small doll like this.  Her neck has only simple rotation, though, which is a bit disappointing.  She can only look from side to side:


When Lumina is looking completely backwards, her head tips up:


Her shoulders are rotating hinges, and so her arms can lift up so that they're aligned with the bottom of her neck:


The arms can also spin around:


Lumina's elbows and wrists are rotating hinges, too, with a good range of motion:


She can easily touch all parts of her face:



She can rest her hand naturally on her hip:


And even cross her arms in front of her:


The hands are removable, which is nice for easy dressing and undressing:


The shape of those hands looks familiar.  It reminds me of an Ever After High hand.

Lumina has ball-jointed hips:


Man, it's really hard to get used to those huge lower legs and feet, isn't it?  However, I like the added balance. It's also refreshing that Lumina doesn't have impossibly skinny legs and tiny feet--like seemingly every other doll on the market right now.

Let's Get Real: did Neanderthals have huge feet? In fact, there's footprint evidence suggesting that Neanderthals had larger, wider feet than Homo sapiens.  Good call, Mattel!

Here are the legs from the back:


The hinges are a little chunky-looking from this view, but they also look sturdy.

Lumina's hips allow her to do only very moderate side-to-side splits:


She can do full front-to-back splits, but her big, unflexible feet make it hard for her legs to lay flat against the ground!


Lumina has hinged knee joints that bend to about ninety degrees:


She can kneel on one knee or two, but again, her large, flat feet make these poses less stable than they are in other dolls with similar knee joints.


She can sit in a chair perfectly, though:


And she can sit on the ground nicely, too, with her legs (and big feet!) out straight:


The knee joints can rotate, and so Lumina can angle her toes inwards:


Or outwards:


Because the lower legs are so much larger than the upper legs, the knee joints can look a little funny when they're rotated--especially if they're rotated too much!


I played around a bit to see what other poses Lumina could strike.

She can balance in a natural-looking walking position:


She can lounge on the ground (kind-of):


She can sit in a vaguely cross-legged way:


And she can do some action poses:



It's hard for her to do a bridge, but that's mostly because her arms are so much shorter than her legs:


She can even balance on one foot--no camera trickery involved!


Lumina is about eight inches tall, so she's significantly shorter than Lina:


You could fit about three of Lina's feet into the width of Lumina's foot!  Neither doll has a realistic foot size, but it seems to me like Lumia comes closer.


Because Lumina reminds me of Monster High dolls (and because I still have a few Monster High characters kicking around), I wanted to include a comparison of these two, also:

There's some shared DNA there.
Both dolls have very similar arms and hands.  Also, even though Lumina's torso is extremely short, you can see a similarity in the arched-back shape.  Both dolls are all leg.  Lumina's legs might get crazy-wide towards the foot, but they're still way longer than normal.  And of course the face paint is similar, almost making Lumina look like a child character in the Monster High world.

Cave Club Lumina and Monster High Clawdeen Wolf.
I got Lumina dressed again so that I could play with her accessories:


As I was dressing Lumina and Clawdeen, I definitely noticed the similarities in their accessories and clothing.  I can't help but feel like Mattel was looking for Monster High 3.0 with this line.

Cave Club Lumina and Monster High Clawdeen Wolf.
As an aside, a Neanderthal with a reptilian pet makes a lot more sense than a werewolf with a cat.  Just saying.

Lumina's disc player purse fits nicely over her shoulder:


But when she's wearing the headphones, the curled cord does not fit into the hole on the disc player:


It works a little better when Lumina is wearing the disc player on her left shoulder, but the purse strap has to lift up off the shoulder in order to make the hole high enough to reach the cord:

That's awkward.
The headphones fit over Lumina's ears, but they mess up the two sections of hair on either side of her face:


Even after I removed the headphones, the hair stayed messed up!


I tried to fix the little ponytails, but eventually gave up and took them down:

That looks fine.
I fluffed the crimped hair on Lumina's head again...


And then let her do some more posing!


She struggled to get comfortable on the ground--especially with that super-short skirt:


Phibian likes any pose that involves a lap for him to sit on...and he can help hold down the flap of Lumina's skirt:


This position looks the most comfortable for Lumina:


Lumina figured out that her disc player can connect to the headphones best if she's holding the strap in her hand and not draping it over her shoulder:


And with her hair down, the headphones don't cause as much of a mess:


I had a lot of fun with Lumina and Phibian!


So much fun, in fact, that I purchased Lumina's friend, Bashley, too.  Bashley was introduced with Lumina in the first episode of season 2 of Cave Club.  I wanted to see her amazing purple hair in real life!


Bashley's box style is quite different from Lumina's.  I think that's because I got a special Amazon edition of Bashley.

Bashley's box is all cardboard, and all sides are decorated with bright illustrations of the character:




The text on Bashley's box doesn't say anything specific about her personality, but it's apparent from the box art that she's also a musician.


Bashley's blurb (from the other style of box) is "Bashley is a total rock star who makes the ground shake with her dino-mite hits!"

A bright yellow cardboard backdrop pulled out of the main box to reveal Bashley and her accessories:

I love how she's peeking out from behind all of that hair!
Overall, I much prefer Bashley's packaging to Lumina's.  It's so bright and enticing, and I love that there's so little plastic.  The only down side is that it's not possible to inspect the doll before you purchase her.  I was shopping online, so that wouldn't have made a difference to me, anyway.

Here's Bashley with her two accessory bags:


She comes with a hair extension, a comb, a beaked dinosaur, and a keyboard:


The hair extension is a really fun accessory, and I was hopeful that perhaps the pick comb would be a useful tool for taming Bashley's hair:


Bashley's pet is named Snare and appears to be a purple dinosaur with a plume of feathers on her head and a bird-like beak:



Let's Get Real: did dinosaurs have beaks?  Yes!  In fact, many species of dinosaur had bird-like beaks.  Perhaps not as cute as Snare's budgie-esque schnoz, but beaks nonetheless.

The the real dinosaur I found that looks the most like Snare is a pachycephalosaurus.  These creatures had ridges along their head and a beak (and they might have been purple, too, for all we know).  Here's an artist's reconstruction of a pachycephalosaurus:

Pachycephalosaurus (3)

That's a pretty cute dinosaur!  Not as cute as little Snare, though:



Snare has molded spirals on her feet, which took me a while to notice!


Like Phibian, Snare only has one point of articulation--the neck:


Let's Get Real: I need to finally address the dinosaur in the room.  Would dinosaurs have been early human pets (or human predators)?  No.  Absolutely not.  With the exception of birds, dinosaurs did not exist in the same time period as any human--not even the very earliest species of humans like Homo erectus.  All non-avian dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago; a good 64 million years before the first human appeared.

Why do so many shows, movies, and toys try to make humans and dinosaurs contemporaneous?  Probably because everyone is fascinated with dinosaurs and it's really fun to imagine what life would be like if we had them around.  I get it.  But another part of me hates to see a toy that's enforcing an idea that's so plainly wrong.  I appreciate the Jurassic Park franchise for merging dinosaurs and humans with a valiant effort at scientific realism.

Bashley's other accessory is a portable keytar (a primitive electronic instrument from the 1980s) with a shoulder strap:


The neck of the guitar extends out from the body:


The keys on this guitar are not arranged like a normal keyboard.  Typically the black keys would be clustered into groups of two and three, but this keyboard alternates between one black key and two white keys.  You know, because it's really old.

Let's Get Real: how old is the first known musical instrument?  The oldest instrument that's even been found is a Neanderthal flute from 60,000 years ago.  It was made out of the leg bone of a cave bear.  I don't think any of the Cave Club characters play the flute, but that would be a really neat (and accurate) accessory.

Bashley has side-glancing blue eyes and some decorative face paint.  She has a bolt of lightning running over her left eye and a neon green line that runs all of the way over her nose and across both cheeks: 


The style of Bashley's eyebrows is quite different from what we saw with Lumina.  There's a block of dark purple outlining the basic shape of the brow, and then some silver hair lines added on top for detail:

I like Lumina's eyebrows better.
This doll has some missing paint in the decorative green line that runs across her cheeks:


Most of Bashley's purple curly hair is arranged into a ponytail, but a section from the front of her head is left free so that it falls down over her right eye:


Here's the hair from the back:


Bashley's lightning bolt headband comes plastic-tied to her head:


I removed the headband so that I could get a closer look at both the headband and the hairstyle.  Here's the headband on its own:


The dramatic style of this headband goes really well with Bashley's big hair.

Underneath the headband, you can clearly see the section of free hair on Bashley's right, and then there's a side part on the left.  Most of the hair is swept back into a poofy ponytail--including a little piece of the pink streak along Bashley's hairline:


The section of loose hair was getting in the way of seeing Bashley's face, so I pulled that hair back with the headband:


The headband actually works really well.  It held all of the hair securely in place the whole time I was posing Bashley.

Bashley's hair extension accessory has a bone-shaped barrette with green and silver crimped hair attached to it:


It's pretty easy to clip the hair extension into Bashley's hair:


But this accessory looks even better on Lumina!

Now that's some poofy hair!
Bashley's outfit has a few plastic components like this green lightning bolt necklace:

Nowhere near as interesting as the bat necklace.
She's also wearing light purple vinyl decorations on her lower legs.  These are much larger and stiffer than Lumina's leg decorations, and so they're harder to get on and off.



Bashley is wearing a black and white leopard-spotted dress with an asymmetric neckline and a jagged-cut hem:


The left shoulder of the dress is decorated with a big blue tulle flower.  Underneath the top layer of the skirt, there's a matching blue tulle underskirt:


I wasn't able to remove Bashley's dress while she was still wearing her leg decorations:


In fact, these dolls have such large calves, it's hard to get the clothing off even when the leg decorations are removed!

Here's the inside of Bashley's dress:


It's a very simple little dress, but looks well-constructed and I like the design.

I put Bashley back into her full outfit so that she could do a little posing for you!


I love Bashley's dramatic appearance.  Her amazing hair, mixed with that lightning headband, bold face paint, and sly expression produce a memorable character.

She looks anything but bashful.
This is a cool action pose, but the tulle flower on Bashley's shoulder makes it look like she has a goatee:


Bashley invited Snare to join her for a few pictures:


They're a cute pair.


Bashley also wanted to break out her prehistoric keytar and play a few tunes:


She can hold the guitar nicely with the shoulder strap draped over one shoulder:


But the shoulder strap can also be detached from the guitar on one side, so I was able cross it over Bashley's chest to hang on her opposite shoulder.  This gives much better stability to the instrument and is excellent for really rocking out:

Rock!
Before I end this review, let me quickly show you what each cave girl looks like with her hair let down.

Since I had already taken down the side ponytails in Lumina's hair, the only thing that was left to remove was the top ponytail.  This was held in place with a neon pink rubber band, and incorporated some of the hair towards the back of Lumina's head--presumably to keep the ponytail from flipping forwards.


Lumina's hair is rooted in a normal way, but the sections of hair that were hanging close to her face were pulled forward from the midline part to hang in front of her hairline.  

In this next picture, the left side of Lumina's head shows how the hair was arranged in its original style, the right side of her head is after I tucked the purple section of hair underneath so that the full rooted hairline is visible:


I brushed and smoothed the hair until I could get it to lay fairly smoothly along the rooted midline part:


This is what it looks like now:


I like how mixing the crimped hair in with the smooth hair gives the whole head of hair more volume.  It's not as good as the original hairstyle, but it's pretty fun.

I pulled the hair back into a ponytail hoping that this will encourage it to lay more smoothly over time:


I'd recommend keeping Lumina's original hairstyle in place for as long as possible, but if the style falls out, the hair can still look good.

Here's what Bashley's hair looked like when I took down her large ponytail:


There was still a little section of hair on her left side that was tied back into a smaller secondary ponytail:


The rooting on the back of Bashley's head is a bit sparse, and so the scalp is slightly visible when the hair is in a ponytail.  With the hair down, though, the volume of curls easily covers the scalp.


I used Bashley's hair pick comb to fluff up her loose hair, and it worked well!  The combed hair is spectacular:


I put Bashley's curls back into a ponytail and then added the hair extension at the top of her head:


I like everything about Bashley's hair, and that extension barrette is a really great accessory.

Bashley and Lumina finally got to meet each other:


And quickly bonded over their common love for music:


Bottom line?  Mattel has had some brilliant ideas for their play doll lines.  The monster children of Monster High transformed the doll world back in 2010, and Ever After High was an extremely clever follow-up.  In each of those collections, there was a wealth of material to draw on for the development of new and unique characters.  In addition, since the themes were fantasy-based, there were no limits to what magical or outlandish ideas could be incorporated into the dolls' personalities or the television shows.

The Cave Club premise is clever, but there isn't the same fodder for creativity that we saw in the other lines I mentioned.  The Cave Club dolls all have big hair, jagged-cut hems, huge feet, and no shoes, but beyond that Mattel mostly abandoned the caveman theme and just gave everybody contemporary hobbies and personalities.  There's not much room for generating anything truly unique, and I don't think any kid is dreaming of living in the Paleolithic. 

The Cave Club concept pretends to be based in reality, but is actually pure fantasy.  This creates a bit of a no-win situation for me.  Because of the caveman reference, I find the factual inaccuracies jarring--especially the inclusion of dinosaurs and electrical accessories.  But would more accurate Neanderthal dolls have been any fun?  I'm not sure Berry-gathering Bashley or Firestarter Lumina would have been appealing to kids, and Neanderthal life, with its high infant mortality and child labor, certainly wouldn't have made for a compelling kids' television show.  I think Mattel should have gone full-fantasy with this line. They could have made the Cave Club characters into a group of time traveling kids who got stuck in the early Stone Age.  I'd have enjoyed that type of Magic School Bus vibe.  And then each new wave could strand the same characters in a different time period--opening up better potential for new ideas and brand longevity.

But you know what?  Despite all of this, I really like the dolls.  They are a great size, full of personality, and are fun to play with.  Overall, the articulation and balance are excellent, although I wish that the dolls could look up and down; it would add so much to their expressiveness.  I enjoy the shape of the bodies, too, with their comically large feet and elfin heads.  Bashley's hair is fantastic, and can even be combed with the included hair pick.  Lumina's hair is colorful, and her original hairstyle is great, but the hair sheds a lot.  The clothing is fun and appears well-made.  I especially like Lumina's geode skirt and Bashley's spotted, tulle-lined dress.  The only problem I encountered is that Bashley's leg ornaments prevent her dress from being removed, and those ornaments are also stiff and hard to use.  Both of the dolls' large legs, if they are rotated to the side, also make the clothing hard to remove.  I really like Bashley's accessories.  Her headband is dramatic and looks awesome with her hair, her keytar fits well in her hands and adds a lot to her personality, and the hair extension is easy to use and can be shared between dolls.  Lumina's accessories are not quite as good, since the headphones and disc player don't connect in many positions, and the headphones mess up Lumina's hair.  I love the upside-down bat necklace, though.  Snare and Phibian are original and sweet, and it's great that they have articulated heads.  They make me want to meet all of the Cave Club pets, just to see what other creatures Mattel has dreamed up.

As a former educator, I'm always looking for teachable moments with kids.  This side of my personality doesn't mix well with the Cave Club's jumbled theme.  But I also really love playing with dolls, and so I'm happy to put my teaching instincts aside and just enjoy a fun doll line for what it has to offer.  And each of these bizarre little cave cuties has a lot to offer, even if the line itself doesn't really have anywhere new to go from here.

28 comments:

  1. It's funny that they reminded you of Monster High because Cave Club has gotten hate for being a "replacement" of sorts lol I agree that Mattel probably could've done better with the prehistoric element, but these aren't necessarily educational tools like American Girl for example so I get it. Bashley reminds me so much of Shana from Jem and the Holograms, especially in the comic series!

    That Amazon box style is great! You won't be able to inspect the doll when ordering online anyway so why bother with fancy presentation... less plastic, too! The Disney Store is also using similar plastic-free packaging for the classic dolls.

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    1. Oh, I totally see the Jem and the Holograms similarity! Good call. :) In fact, there's a real 80s vibe with all of these dolls, making me think some inspiration could have been pulled from Jem and the like.

      I'm mostly kidding about the educational stuff. I know that the dolls were never intended to teach anything, but I tend to see everything as a teaching opportunity, regardless of intent. Can't help myself, lol!

      And I love the Amazon, box, too. A lot like the new Disney Store boxes (which are also great).

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  2. I took a gander at the new Wordpress site while it was still up and somewhat selfishly I have to say I much prefer this old style. The new one was sort of too polished and professional while this one is just cosy and familiar.

    Loving the hair on these girls but it's a shame Mattel decided to make them all barefoot when the best things about MH and EAH were the shoes!

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    1. Hi Esther! I'm so glad you prefer this old site! I'm not great with change, in general, so it suits me, too. :)

      You're so right about the Monster High shoes. Those were incredible. I hope Mattel keeps the shoe creativity alive with the new releases! And I think it's funny that the Cave Club can sew themselves fancy outfits--including leg decorations--but can't be bothered to make shoes! I suspect real Neanderthals would have made a different choice. ;D

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  3. I inspected one of these dolls recently and didn't touch the hair a lot, but my impression was that I didn't like the texture, It was like a costume wig. Looks like Mattel found a huge stock of beautiful, but coarse hair to put on Cave Club and Barbie Extra - they have the same colours. It's so weird that you are praising this hair while I can't stand touching it. I wonder if they used different types of hair (the doll I looked at was a neon pink character) or we just have different sensitivity to textures.

    My absolute favourite parts of this review were the Let's Get Real points. As a biology nerd, it wasn't new information for me, but I enjoy seeing other people care about scientific inaccuracies as much as I do.

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    1. Hi BlackKitty, I went back and felt Lumina and Bashley's hair again with your thoughts in mind, and it still didn't bother me. And I would have said I had a pretty sensitive feel for bad doll hair! I know exactly what you mean when you reference costume wig hair. *Shudder.* Maybe the early dolls had bad hair and wave three is better? Both of my dolls are fairly new.

      Anyway, I'm glad you liked the Let's Get Real moments. That was fun for me, too, and I definitely learned something! :)

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  4. Education in a doll review! Just imagine what other things you could teach kids (and grownups) in a doll review! I find these rather charming, and interesting that we’re seeing trends of bottom-heavy dolls now. I was JUST thinking of how tired I am of ridiculously tiny feet on Barbie and her like; spending too much time thinking about doll proportions these days...which lead my brain to foot binding...when lead my brain to the subjugation of women......winter in a pandemic, you know! And I can’t wait for new Monster High! I don’t have that many, but just love the creativity in them.

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    1. Katrina, the Cave Club dolls leading you to think about foot binding and the subjugation of women is about the most Katrina thing ever. I love the way your mind works!! :D

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  5. I so enjoyed all of your real facts, especially the clarification that headphones would have been anachronistic! I think the size/shape of these dolls is great for kids.

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    1. Thank you, Rebecca! They really are a great size and shape. Totally agree! And I love the word anachronistic, btw. Should've used that in my text! :)

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  6. I reviewed these dolls in May and felt that they were missing something. What on Earth they could be missing, I don't know, since they have everything that made Monster High fun. These dolls aren't popping up in my local Wal-Mart, so I'm glad to see that they're still around. Lumina is awesome!

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    1. They do seem to check all of the right boxes at first, don't they? And they're super-cute. But I don't see a lot of potential for longevity. Maybe I'm wrong? I don't see any new dolls since May 2021, but it's hard to find good information. Maybe they're already discontinued?

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  7. Would it have been so hard to make the headphone cord just a LITTLE bit longer so it could connect to the purse better?

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    1. I know, right? Or make the cord stretchy! Headphones are such a great accessory, it's a shame for them to have such an awkward shortcoming. ;)

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  8. Sorry to everyone who wanted to stop by over the weekend and found a dead site!

    My domain host, Enom, was down for almost three days, and there was not a single thing I could do about it. I've been following the debacle over on Twitter, and it seems like possibly millions of domains were affected. Apparently the Scottish Parliament website was among them, so at least I'm in good company! ;)

    Anyway, it's such a relief to be back. Let's hope things stay operational from now on! I've had enough technical drama for the year.

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    1. Thanks for this heads up Emily! I was among those who wanted to check the site out over the weekend and couldn't - I suspected the migration might have been at fault. I'm glad to see it up and accessible again! Just like a few others have said before me, I, too, prefer the good old looks, but I'm sad it's causing commenting issues for some (I'm using Firefox, and never experienced that issue) - I hope your tip will be helpful to Safari users.

      I'm so happy you've reviewed these dolls. I have been eyeing them for some time (I first come across them back on the Monster High Arena which has unfortunately closed down), and while I did find them cute, definitely not purchase-worthy. I'm still not sure about the latter, but both of these dolls appeal to me much more than the ones I've seen so far, which were all from previous lines, so I may keep my eyes open for these latter waves, which I believe aren't yet available where I live. I do love the bodies and the big feet, and for some reason I don't mind the lack of shoes - but the clothes aren't really my taste, so if any of them would make it to me, they would get redressed. And as I was thinking about redressing options, I probably realised what my initial issue with previous lines was: all that bright neon! While I like colourful things (on dolls, not on myself :D ), the flashy neon hair that the dolls I've previously seen had were a little too much for me. But neither Bashley, nor Lumina have eye-killing neon hair, and I believe that's exactly what's making them more appealing to me.
      My wallet disapproves of the realisation :D

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    2. Hi L, I thought I'd screwed something up with the migration at first, too, but it ended up being this epic national debacle. So many people's businesses were hurt. It's eye-opening how dependent we all are on the internet and all of its inner workings.

      Anyway, I'm delighted to hear that my failed migration didn't disappoint you, and that you have no trouble commenting! Firefox is awesome. :)

      I see what you mean about the neon hair. I might have subconsciously chosen these two characters because they were less day-glo. Even as a child of the 80s, the neon is a lot for me, too.

      Do you want me to send you my used Bashley and Lumina? They won't fetch a price after I took down their hair and de-boxed them, but I need to get them out of the house because that's my new rule! I would absolutely love to send them to you. You can experiment with them. Let me know!

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    3. It is eye-opening indeed! It's so easy to sink into the convenience of having everything readily available, until an event like this slaps us and makes us realise that it can change. When a site goes down, I often find myself going back often (every few hours, or even more frequently, depending on the site and its actual importance to me), fretting about the time it takes for fixing the issue - and then I realises that due to my work I do have an idea about the cost of short downtimes and quick fixes for telecommunications stuff, and I know how many customers want these at first, only to abandon the idea when they see the price that comes with it. Ever since I had this aha-moment, I try to bring my working mind to the surface whenever I feel grumpy about a downtime.

      Regarding the commenting issues, in case this comment goes through, that means that the function also works fine on Microsoft Edge (typing this from my work laptop).

      Haha, I'm a 80s kid too, and I did think about whether the neon overflow I've received back then has anything to do with me finding the neon-haired dolls less appearing. I don't really know - but I do know I didn't like these colours already back then, neither did I have neon-haired dolls (or ponies, which were more my thing then) in the 80s, and it's definitely not nostalgia I feel when I look at all that bright hair.

      Ahh, that's so kind of you to offer, thank you. However, I live across the ocean, in Europe, and I remember you usually do not ship outside the US (which I can understand, given the extra paperwork I learned you have to do if you want to ship something outside the US).

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  9. Have you ever read the Earth's Children series of novels by Jean Auel? The first in that series is "Clan of the Cave Bear" and it's about forty years old now. Really interesting look at Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon life and customs.
    Did you know that apparently Neanderthals' life cycles were very different from our own? As in, a Neanderthal was sexually mature and ready to reproduce at around the age of seven or eight, and few lived much beyond their teens; in the book, there is a man who is near thirty, but only because he is crippled and unable to hunt or do other dangerous jobs.

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    1. My mom used to read those books! I have very vivid memories of sneaking to read little snippets (you can guess which ones). But no. I have never read them myself. Now maybe I will! I'm so glad you reminded me of that series. I think one of my kids read them a few years ago. I love the name Ayla, btw.

      I read quite a few new things about Neanderthals for this review, and it was fascinating--and often depressing. I did see several sources that mentioned the short life span, but didn't do any deep-dives on that. I'm glad you brought it up. What a difficult life it must have been! With all of the things that we stress about these days, at least thirty-year-olds aren't seen as crippled old people! Ack! Thank goodness! ;D

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    2. Yes, Ayla is a pretty name. In 1995, a friend of mine at college had a baby girl and named her Ayla Michelle after the character. Funny thing: in the book, it's made clear that Ayla (the Neanderthals' best atempt at her Cro-Mag name) is pronounced to rhyme with Kayla, but my friend seemed to think it was pronounced to rhyme with Kyla, and that's how her daughter says it. (Nowadays the British name Isla is the one pronounced with a long i.)

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  10. Yay, you are back ❤️❤️❤️
    And I completely forgot about thia line. They came out if nothing last year ans vanished again. I boughg Fernessa fron Wave 1. They were really cheap for Mattel dolls here and I was tempted to buy the big T-Rex set, haha. I do love their bodies, they are very cute :)

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    1. Hi Sév! I like Fernessa's character, too. And the price is very reasonable. $15 for such a well-articulated doll is about as good as it gets these days!

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  11. This reminds me of that MH line where they were rock stars - I know Venus and Clawdeen were in it (bc I still have my Clawdeen).

    Also Lumina would probably be a fabulous base for an Amity Blight doll.

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    1. Oh, yeah! With Jinafire on the keys! I never had any of the MH rock stars, so I didn't pick up on that. I also didn't know about Amity Blight or anything about The Owl House. I learn the best things here! Now I have a new show to explore. :)

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  12. I wondered when you were going to 'address the dinosaur in the room'! I love dinosaurs and all sorts of history too, so I just kept thinking, "But there were no dinosaurs when there were people." I guess we just have to take the whole Cave Club line with a dose of Flintstones and go on. (Remember, the Flintstones had gramophones and guitars and more.) The dolls are cute, but a bit too wild and colourful for my tastes. But then, I'm old. I might have liked them when I was a kid.

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    1. Yeah, I had a bunch of Flintstones references in early drafts, but I think I deleted them. I watched the Flintstones with zero concern about historical accuracy when I was very little, but I didn't like the show. Not sure why? But yeah, you're totally right; they had all kinds of cars, gramophones and other modern devices.

      The dolls are very bright! I didn't mention the obvious 80s vibe in the review too much, I don't think, but it was all about those bright colors when I was a kid. And I'm not old. Neither are you. End of story. ;)

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    2. I think it's just plain more fun when cave people have all the modern conveniences and dinosaurs for pets. Also a LOT of fun when dinosaurs have all the modern conveniences and act like humans. I'm thinking here of the nineties TV show "Dinosaurs." Man, that was a funny show; as far-out as the Flinstones but smarter.

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