Thursday, March 31, 2022

Catwalk Kitties by Lanard

And now for something completely different!  Today I'm going to share the wacky world of Catwalk Kitties with you!  This is a discontinued brand of anthropomorphic play dolls that was introduced in 2005 by the Hong Kong-based company, Lanard.  

The Catwalk Kitties were not very popular in their time, judging by the fact that they were released in 2005 and discontinued in 2006.  I'm interested in the Kitties because there's speculation online that these fashion felines might have been Mattel's inspiration for Monster High, which debuted a few years later in 2010.  However, Mattel explored cat fashion themselves back in 2003 when they released the Lounge Kitties--a group of Barbie dolls clad in cat suits.  Regardless of who was inspired by whom, there have been some fascinating animal-themed play dolls in the past few decades.  In this review I'll focus mainly on the Catwalk Kitties, but I'll also do short comparisons to a Monster High cat and a Lounge Kitties doll--and I'll throw in a little Pinkie Cooper to keep the dog lovers happy.

Before I get started, I want to acknowledge two good friends and their roles in this review.  First of all, even though I mentioned the Catwalk Kitties briefly in my Pinkie Cooper review, I never would have remembered them if it wasn't for Katrina.  She sent me an excited message through Patreon when she found one of these dolls on eBay, and that's what got the ball of yarn rolling.  I also want to thank Darcy, who suggested that I review something vintage and strange.  What could be more vintage and strange than a big-headed fashion cat from 2006?  Also, Darcy loves cats more than anyone I know, so--Darc et al., this one's for you:

Catwalk Kitties Sienna, by Lanard ($114 on the secondary market).

I wasn't very familiar with Lanard when I started this review.  My only experience with the company was looking at the expressive little Baby World characters that I found in Scotland back in 2014.  I did some reading and it seems that Lanard is currently focused mostly on military figures and Nerf-like toy guns, which aren't really my thing (although my kids and I have a small arsenal of Nerf weaponry).  Lanard also makes a line of model horses called Royal Breeds, similar to Breyer, which is definitely my thing, so perhaps I'll look at one of those some day.  It would be fun to compare them to Breyer and Paradise.

I didn't come across too many dolls made by Lanard.  In fact, there aren't any dolls currently listed on the company's website.  They made some interesting dolls back in the 1980s and 90s, though, like a line of Jelly Bean dolls that copied Kenner's Strawberry Shortcake, and a Barbie-sized I-Girl that resembles Mattel's Get Real Girl concept.  They also made an 18-inch fashion doll called a Jet Setter that--if she were better articulated--would definitely be of interest to me because of her uncommon size.  

One of the articles I read suggests that Lanard does not rely heavily on advertising, so they tend to hitchhike their products onto better-known brands.  Another way to eliminate advertising is to take the opposite approach and make a product that is so unique that it sells itself.  This appears to be the tactic that Lanard attempted with the Catwalk Kitties.  It seems quite risky to release a fashion doll with an oversized cat head, but I'm glad they took a chance on this idea.

Let's look at the Catwalk Kitties character that I found.  Her name is Sienna:

Catwalk Kitties doll, Sienna, from 2006.
There weren't a lot of options when I was shopping for this doll.  I found about five boxed sets on eBay when I was hunting, and at $114, this one was the cheapest--if you can believe it.  Lucky for me, this is also the red-headed character!

I'm not sure what the original suggested retail was on these dolls, but I suspect it was in the $15 range. The first edition dolls from 2005 are currently selling for about $200 on eBay, and second edition dolls like this one are closer to $150.  There's also some price variability based on the character.

The story behind these dolls is that they're all fashion designers and models from Paris.  Because of that, the box art has some French details, like the Eiffel Tower taking the place of an "A" in the word "Catwalk:"

C'est malin.
There are also French words scattered here and there on the box, and while I'm no French scholar, some of the writing seems odd.  As an example, look at the text above Sienna's collection of small accessories:

Someone named Tres has a chic?
The punctuation there is wrong.  It looks like it's meant to be an apostrophe and not an accent: tres' chic instead of très chic.  Pretty big difference.

"Tres' chic" is back again on the top of the box, but this time accompanied by some Frenglish:

"Very stylish, sleek, and it's wonderful!"
I mean, it's fine, but sleek isn't a French word, which is jarring, and also c'est magnifique means "it's wonderful" not "wonderful."  

Why not say très chic et magnifique?"  Or maybe add another French word that rhymes, like magique, très chic, et magnifique!"

Sienna is unconcerned by these language hiccups and is displayed in a happy walking pose, toting her fashion portfolio, perhaps waltzing down the Champs-Élysées:

C'est bon!
She's accompanied by a pet cat that looks like it's trying to take a swipe at her leg as she walks past:

Miaou.
Shall we pause for a second and discuss the pet cat?  I mean, Sienna is a cat, right?  So maybe the smaller cat is her fuzzy toddler child?  Or perhaps the smaller cat is the real Sienna, and she's dreaming of becoming a humanoid fashion designer?  Or maybe Sienna and the other cat are sisters, but Sienna and her friends were exposed to some toxic makeup and it caused them to grow abnormally large and sprout human limbs?  Kinda like the Spiderman story but different??

Whatever the situation, Lanard is not the first company to give their anthropomorphic character a pet of the same type.

It's so wrong.
Sienna also comes with some fashion magazines that are tucked into the bottom corner of the box:

I'd like a subscription to Kitmopolitan, please.
The side of the box is white, with four stamp-like shapes featuring cartoon drawings of some of the Catwalk Kitties characters:


On the top there's Sienna with a grey cat named Anika:


And on the bottom there's a white cat named Purrl (she has heterochromia iridium!), and a tabby named Toffee:


Each character has a little catch phrase, too.  Sienna is "so sweet," Anika is "xoxo," Toffee is "hugs and kisses" (isn't that the same as "xoxo?") and Purrl "is purrfect."  I'm sure that kind of attitude doesn't bother her friends at all.

Despite her healthy ego, it seems that Purrl is one of the more popular characters.  I can definitely see why.  I love real cats with heterochromia--or two differently-colored eyes.  They're so cool:

June odd-eyed-cat

The opposite side of the box is minimally decorated with a wrap-around section of the plastic window:


The back of the box is covered with a pink and yellow plaid background that highlights a photograph of all four main characters:


Here's a closer look at the four dolls:


This photograph is of the first edition dolls, so you'll notice that Sienna is wearing a different (nicer) outfit than the doll I bought.

Underneath the photograph, there's a large section of white text on a bright pink background:


The writing is a bit hard to read in that shot, so I'll transcribe it for you here:

From the sizzling hot runways of Paris, meet the hot new models of the Catwalk Kitties Modeling Agency.  Sleek, chic, and tres' magnifique [oooh, that's a bit of a change], these fabulous felines do everything with poise and style.  But these kitties aren't just pretty faces, they're so much more...bringing each of their unique personalities and exciting fashions from all over the world right from the runway to you.  So get ready to strike a pose and strut your stuff because Every Trend Starts on the Catwalk...

The capitalization leads me to believe that "Every Trend Starts on the Catwalk" is a bit of a slogan for this brand.  I wish they'd gone with something cat-themed and less generic like, "Claw Your Way to the Top!" or "Fashion From Scratch!"

The bottom of the box has the Lanard 2006 copyright and some company addresses:


Sienna's box was in bad shape when I got it, so it's easier to see the layout of all the accessories with the battered outer window box removed:


Here's everything that was in the box:

The cat's out of the box.
Sienna's right arm is sticking up because I wasn't immediately able to get it to move out of that position, and I didn't want to break the doll before I'd even had a chance to examine her!

Let's start by looking at Sienna's pet fuzzy toddler alter ego precontaminated true form...let's look at the other cat:


This cat has similar coloring to Sienna, with bright orange-yellow fur and green eyes.  The face is okay, but it's a simple figure overall, with no articulation and strange proportions:

That's a very large front leg.
The cat is hollow on the bottom:


This pink, cat-shaped brush was hidden behind Sienna's hair when she was in the box, so it took me by surprise:


The short plastic bristles don't look very effective, but this kind of thing has become a ubiquitous accessory for fashion play dolls.


More interesting to me were the three miniature magazines:


These don't have any writing on the inside (it's just plain cardboard) and that was a disappointment, but I still had a fun time reading all of the headlines.  All of the titles are clever, too.  The first magazine is called Cature and features Purrl, the purrfect one:


This cover is straight-forward, with a feature article that examines Purrl's "happy life behind the camera." Of course it's a happy life!  She's purrfect.

The back just says "CAT.  Get set for the season:"

Is that like, "gurl, get set for the season?"
The next magazine, GLAMeow (evolves into Purugly), features Callie, a calico cat, on the cover.  It also has a survey that I think Sienna's companion cat should take:

Please tell us what you are.
There's practically no punctuation on this cover, and the capital letters are just thrown in willy-nilly.  For example, Find Out is always capitalized for some reason.  It feels like they're shouting at me.

The back cover poses the question, "what's your strut?"  I've never been asked that before:

I think it's a Duralast LS34-85311L?
The last magazine is called Kitmopolitan and features Anika:

Party Your Body!
Okay, if "party your body" means to look for party outfits, what if you're looking for ready-to-wear?  Are you "Ready to Wear Your Body?"  I know I am.

Kitmopolitan magazine is also advertising "Collezione Spring."  That sounds Italian, which is out-of-place here.  The box did promise that the Catwalk Kitties were going to bring us fashion "from all over the world right from the runway to you," so I guess that's fair.

The back of this magazine says to get glam with "touchable, wearable, beautiful hair!"

I like my hair to be wearable...and occasionally touchable.
Sienna's other cardboard accessory is this model portfolio:

That's a very...ah...pointy silhouette.
The inside of the portfolio has headshots of six characters, and then some "behind the scenes" photos of four others:


The headshot photos introduce two characters that we haven't seen yet: Minx and Sushi.  Sushi's dark grey coloring is very pretty:


I like that Sienna is the tallest character--and she's the same height as me!

The behind the scenes photos feature several more new characters including Callie, who we saw on the magazine cover, Topaz, Jet (who looks like a skunk), and Chase:


These pictures are advertising some of the deluxe Catwalk Kitties playsets that came out in 2006.  The only one I've seen on eBay is Jet's photography set.  I'm obsessed with that mini camera (it actually lights up!).  I can't zoom in much closer because the resolution on these images is low, but here's another look:

It has little cords and everything!
Chase's accessories look great, too, with that leopard-print fringed lamp and mini vintage desktop computer (which also lights up).  I'd love to see those in real life!


I did some searching online, and the production accessories don't look exactly like they do in these promotional photos, but they still seem detailed and fun.

Sienna's accessories are nicely-done, too.  She comes with a cat-shaped makeup mirror and compact:


The mirror actually closes:


She also comes with a pink lipstick:


The paint on the lipstick is a bit uneven, but it's not too noticeable without a zoom lens:


The lipstick container even closes!

Ready for blastoff!
There's also an adorable flip phone:

How quaint.
The phone hinges open to reveal a molded keypad:


Fun fact: did you know that certain phone numbers (555-0100 through 555-0199) are reserved for fictional use?  That's why you hear 555 numbers on television and in the movies a lot.  It used to be that all 555 numbers were reserved, but now it's only that limited set.  This system is in place to prevent people from getting inundated by phone calls because their number happens to get used in somebody's favorite movie.

Anyway, Sienna won't be calling anyone until I get her shoulder joint fixed.  I decided to take a few quick pictures of her just in case I broke the arm while I was trying to fix it.

It looks like her arm is in traction.
I managed to get her to balance on her own in that photo, but it was not an easy thing to do.  Her legs are rubbery and the heels of her shoes are super-bendy, so it's nearly impossible to get her to stand up.

This was a much more common situation:

I thought cats always landed on their feet..?
I got out a small Kaiser stand and used that to help with Sienna's balance:


Here's Sienna from the back, where you can see her fuzzy tail peeking out from behind her lovely red hair:


At this point, I removed Sienna's shirt to see if I could figure out what was going on with her arm.

As I was unfastening her shirt, the necklace fell off:


The necklace is made out of silver bendable vinyl and has a painted blue star pendant.  

There's actually a clasp at the back of this necklace, but it had come undone over the years.  It still fits back together, although the shape has become slightly warped:


After I got the shirt off, I could see that Sienna's shoulder joint was just stiff.  There was nothing structurally wrong with the joint itself.  All I had to do was use a little force in the right direction, and the arm finally lowered down:

Phew!
I guess that's what happens when you hold your arm in the same position for sixteen years.

Here's she is from the left side:


And from the right:


Sienna's head is very catlike.  It's not a human face with cat-like features, it's a straight-up cat face:


I like the pointed areas on the sides of her face, those are very effective at conveying a cat's fur without actually being furry.

Sienna has bright green eyes with star-shaped reflective dots and several layers of eye makeup.  I like how her eyebrows and eyeshadow are mismatched, to balance the asymmetry in her facial markings:


Sienna's gaze looks slightly upwards (and maybe a bit to her left?), so I found it difficult to get her to look straight at the camera.  Even when I photographed her from the top looking down, her gaze seemed to be drifting off:


The face paint is nice overall, but this cat has a rub on her nose...which is not surprising given her age and the poor condition of her box:


Sienna's profile is unique because it's so flat--much flatter, in fact, than an actual cat nose would be!


She has very little contouring, with a tiny nose that's almost in line with her large, overhanging upper lip.  This partial profile shows the features in bit more detail:


Sienna has a few other distinctly cat-like features.  Her hands, for example, do not look at all human:


If you look closely, you can see that she has four-toed paws with little claws!


I don't know what kind of cat Sienna is, though, because she doesn't have enough toes.  Cats have five toes on each side in their front limbs (the fifth toe, a "dewclaw," is smaller and can look like a thumb):


Sienna's designers got the dewclaw part right, but she only has four toes total:

High four!
A similar mistake was made with the hind limbs.  Instead of having four toes (there's no dewclaw on the back feet), Sienna only has three:


She is, however, wearing cute molded strappy sandals with a little cat face on the front:

Those look like bird feet.
Despite the toe-counting error, I like the fact that Sienna has cat feet and not human feet.  In many ways she really is a cat doll, not a human with a cat head...like Hermione in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Look at my face!
Of course there are several human-like things about Sienna, too, like her long red hair:


I think the mix of colors in this hair is gorgeous.  The darker red, in particular, is great.  The texture of the hair is fairly nice, although I think it's nylon fiber.  Low-quality nylon hair has a synthetic feel to it and will probably not stand up to play as well as modacrylic fibers like kanekalon.

Sienna has small molded cat ears, and the hair is rooted around that area fairly carefully, although there's a gap in the rooting that runs from the outer edge of Sienna's ear straight down:


Here's the rooting around the back of her ear:


The rooting over the rest of the scalp is ok, although the density is not great just inside the hairline:


The most human thing about Sienna is her body--and subsequently her outfit.  The outfit does not look like worldly high fashion to me, though--not even for 2006:


It's not the leopard print on the shirt that dates this outfit (leopard print seems timeless), or even the cropped, bell-sleeved style (I found more shirts with this style on the internet than I ever thought I would). It's the gold and black lace accents.

The leopard print is perhaps an intentional addition to the cat theme, but if you think about that idea too much, it's like Sienna is wearing the skin of one of her cousins.  And that's creepy.

The outfit is very simple, and consists of just the top and a fringe-hem jean skirt:


Both pieces close in back with velcro, and there's a small gap below the waistband of the skirt to make room for the tail:


The tail is made out of a wire armature that's covered with fake fur.  The wire is great because it allows the tail to be bent into many different positions.  

Unfortunately, as I was posing Sienna for the previous picture, I got poked by a broken and exposed wire!

Ouch!
I also noticed as I was inspecting Sienna's outfit that her shirt sleeve is pulling apart at the seam:


The stitches aren't loose, the fabric is literally coming unraveled so that the stitches can no longer hold it in place.

Here's the shirt on its own:


The inside is tidy, but all of the seams are simple with no serged edges:


The velcro-style closure is stiff and feels like a strip of plastic:


The jean skirt is also simply-made, but it looks more durable.  All of the details are stitched with yellow thread:

I like the fringed hem.
And there's a very small velcro closure above the tail hole:


Without her clothes to break up the bright color, Sienna's body is strikingly orange!


The upper part of Sienna's body is plastic, but her legs are rubbery vinyl.  The vinyl gives her body a heaver feel than most plastic-bodied dolls.  However, the color match between the plastic and the vinyl is not perfect; Sienna's legs look lighter than her upper body.

Sienna has molded underwear that includes a textured strapless bra:


Again, I'm not sure what kind of cat Sienna is, because normal cats have eight nipples and that bra wouldn't cut it.  Just saying.

Here's Sienna from the back:


Her body has a 2004 copyright with the Lanard name:


Sienna has eleven points of articulation.  That sounds like a lot, but not all of the joints are impressive.  Let's take a quick look.

First of all, she has a very flexible neck.  Like most dolls, she can spin her head all of the way around.  She can also tip it from side to side:


And look up and down:


Her head articulation is excellent.

Her shoulders are rotating hinges, and as we saw from the beginning of the review, the joints are very stiff.  Her arms can lift up a little bit, but they can't reach the level of her shoulders:


The arms can also spin all of the way around:


Sienna has no elbow or wrist articulation, but her right arm is molded into a bent position and her left arm is straight, so that adds a tiny bit to her versatility.  Her arms still feel very stiff and limiting.  They're nowhere near expressive enough for a cat, if you ask me.

There's a rotating joint just below Sienna's chest that's camouflaged nicely by her bra:


This joint allows her upper body to swivel all of the way around!

I have a tail!?
I counted the tail as a single point of articulation, but it probably deserves more than that.  It's the most flexible part of Sienna's body!


Even with the broken piece of wire, there's still enough flexibility in this tail for it to be a lot of fun.


Sienna's legs are rotating hinges with limited side-to-side movement:


The bendable material in Sienna's legs lets her slide into slightly better side-to-side splits than her hips alone will allow:

That can't be good for her knees, though.
And she does excellent front-to-back splits:


Sienna has internal click knee joints (long-time readers will know how much I dislike these joints).  These do not allow the legs to bend very much, and so while Sienna can sit in a chair, she has to lean back quite a bit:


Sienna's feet attach to her legs with a peg joint (like a Bratz doll) and so she can rotate her feet all of the way around:

Mary Poppins feet!
The feet are removable, although shoe-sharing is not going to be a good option within this line because the shoe designs all have exposed skin at the ankles and toes, and most of the cats have different colored bodies.


The feet are not compatible with Bratz feet, either.

Because Sienna can't balance on her own, her posing repertoire is very limited.  I managed to get a few quick action shots by using some camera trickery:




Sienna is 12.5 inches tall, so about an inch taller than a Barbie like Lina:

Catwalk Kitties and Barbie Signature Looks dolls.
Despite their difference in height, these two have similar torsos, and so they can share clothing nicely:

Lina is almost making that leopard print top work!
I like Sienna much better in Lina's white outfit!


The streamlined shape of this outfit, combined with the all-white color, allow me to focus my attention on Sienna's features more.

She looks like a fashion model now:

Purrfect.
It was very clever of the designers at Lanard to make this body compatible with Barbie.  For all of the articulation shortcomings, having Barbie's vast wardrobe available to the Catwalk Kitties characters is fantastic.

Sienna is much taller than the last anthropomorphic doll I reviewed, nine-inch Pinkie Cooper from 2013:

Catwalk Kitties doll (left) and Pinkie Cooper doll (right).
That's not actually Pinkie Cooper herself, but Pinkie's friend Pepper Parsons.

Pinkie and the gang didn't enjoy much popularity in their day, either, and that has always made me sad.  I think these little dolls are delightful.  I especially like the unique shape of their bodies and the removable ear-like hair.

Here's Pepper in her original outfit:


Pepper has a lot in common with Sienna.  First of all, she has a very dog-like face on a mostly humanoid body, and yet her hands and feet are molded to look like paws:

She doesn't have enough toes, either.
Pepper is also wearing an outfit that features leopard print, but I really love the colorful, youthful look of her dress.  It's well made, and it's not trying to look like real leopard skin:


Both Pepper and Sienna come with "pets" the are of the same species, too.  Here's Pepper with her Jet Set Pet, Saltine:


Neither Pepper nor Sienna can balance well on their own, and both have the dreaded click knee joints, but Pepper's articulation is slightly better because of her flexible elbows.  She's also a more manageable doll because of her compact size:

But she can't share clothes with Barbie.
I enjoy both of these dolls for their originality, but I have to say that I have a much softer place in my heart for Pepper Parsons.  And it's not just because I'm a dog person!  She's a wonderful little doll.


Many people think that the Catwalk Kitties look like Monster High precursors.  I don't see the resemblance as being that strong, but it's definitely worth looking at the two brands side-by-side.  

Here's Sienna with a used Toralei Stripe that I found on eBay for cheap:

Catwalk Kitties doll (left) and Monster High doll (right).
At 10.5 inches, Monster High dolls are quite a bit shorter than Sienna, and of course they're also much skinnier...and vastly more flexible.

I find the difference in their facial profiles especially interesting, since Toralei's features jut out and Sienna's are very flat:

Toralei's profile actually looks more like a real cat.
Because the Monster High bodies are so much more expressive and articulated than the clunky Catwalk Kitties bodies, somebody at some point got the brilliant idea to swap Catwalk Kitties heads onto Monster High bodies.  Now the internet is full of this kind of hybrid.

Not only that, but you can go on eBay and buy a bag of loose Catwalk Kitty heads specifically for this purpose!

Pile o' heads!
These are advertised as being original heads (factory extras?) but who knows.  They're incredibly cheap and ship from China.  You can get a whole bag of heads for $14, which is probably less than the original Catwalk Kitties dolls cost.

Here's Sienna with the matching extra head that I bought:


The paint is not as crisp on the loose head as it is on my doll.  That doesn't necessarily mean anything, though, because a factory reject, or extra, might not be as nice as a head that was chosen to be placed on a packaged doll.  The hair is exactly the same.

Here's a closer look at the loose Sienna head:


I'll show you all of the other heads that I got, too, because it's a nice way of getting an up-close look at some of the other characters' faces.

Here's Topaz:


Her face paint looks bright and clear--better than my loose Sienna.

And here's Callie.  I love calico cats, so I was pleased to get this character:


This next cat is Sushi, I think.  I really like her face, but I don't like her bangs:


Sushi's hair came still enclosed within a plastic holder while most of the other heads did not have this feature.  I'm not sure what that means:


This is Jet:


There's nothing wrong with her looking like a skunk, honestly, but that's all I can think of when I look at this face.

Did I ever tell you that one of my vet school classmates had a (de-scented) skunk as a pet?  Well she did, and it was an absolutely gorgeous animal, but my friend said it was a terrible pet (duh) because they're not at all domesticated or social.

Anyway, here's Anika:


I like her color scheme, but I can't get past the bangs.  The extra hair overshadows the cool facial features.

These heads showcase the poor quality of the nylon hair.  They all have terrible hair that has become frizzy and tangled over the years.

Of course I wanted to try some head swapping myself, so I purchased a group of used Monster High cats, some of which I thought might match these heads.  I figured white was a safe color, so I made sure to include a Catrine DeMew doll.  I wanted to pair her body with Callie's head:

Um, Emily?  What's the plan here.
Because Catrine's face was yellowed and scuffed, with some missing paint on her nose and mouth, I felt okay about removing her old head:

Removing my WHAT?
I heated the old head for quite a while before I pulled it off, but the neck connection piece still looked stressed after the procedure...although not as stressed as Catrine!

Ahhhhhhh!
Those white stress lines are not great.  I probably should have watched some YouTube videos on how to do this procedure correctly, but I got impatient.

Anyway, I heated the vinyl on the new head, and it slid on really easily.  Here's my hybrid Callie!

Oh, actually, I kinda like this new head!
Okay, I definitely see the appeal of this project.  She's awesome!

I am awesome, aren't I?
The heads are the most interesting and unique thing about the Catwalk Kitties, and so transplanting them onto an expressive body is every bit as rewarding as I would have hoped!

Am I purrfect now, too??
It's been a while since I played around with a Monster High doll, and so I'd started to forget how fun they are.  Mattel got so many things right with these dolls.


That said, and as great as this hybrid is, some of the Monster High bodies that I got in my eBay lot are prone to falling apart.  Toralei, in particular, has arms that really don't want to stay in place.  It's a pain in the neck and there's not much I can do about it.  As an adult collector and reviewer who doesn't put much wear on my dolls, it's really interesting for me to get my hands on some well-loved dolls to see how they're holding up.

Fortunately, this white body is in good shape.


Here's hybrid Callie next to Sienna:

Catwalk Kitty Sienna (left) and Catwalk Kitties/Monster High hybrid Callie (right).
I think the hybrid doll is a huge improvement on the original.  It's like Sienna is a statue and Callie is alive.  I'll never take Sienna apart because she's a wonderful piece of history, but I like Callie so much more.

Honestly, I think hybrid Callie is even cuter than Toralei!

Monster High ToraleiStrip (left) and Catwalk Kitties hybrid Callie (right).
I liked Callie's head and body combination so much that her mismatched outfit and messy (musty) hair were starting to bug me.  I removed the micro braids and boil-washed her hair as a start, but that still wasn't enough.

I got this vision of creating a little dress for Callie that matched the colors in her face and hair, and once I have ideas like this in my head, I can't let them go...even if I'm pretty sure I should.  So, I ran out to the fabric store to get some colors that I thought might match.  I also bought an "easy" pattern on Etsy and threw together this tragic dress:

"Threw together" meaning it took me two hours.
I've never had such a hard time sewing anything in my life.  I had to do almost all of the seams by hand, and nothing was big enough to pin.  I mean, I'm not a great seamstress--or even someone who would call herself a seamstress, but this was ridiculous.  Give me a quarter inch seam allowance and I can muddle through, but give me a microscopic seam allowance and I'm sunk.  No thank you.  I have no idea how people sew for Monster High.  I bow to your superhuman sewing skill.

Anyway, you get the idea of what I was going for, I hope.


She's still a cool doll and I had a blast posing her.



Just don't zoom in and look too closely at the dress!


There's huge potential here, even if I don't have the skill to capture it.


The last doll that I want to compare to Sienna is the earliest of all the dolls in this review.  This is one of Mattel's Lounge Kitties from 2003:

Lounge Kitties white tiger doll by Mattel (2003).
She's a white tiger character without a name.  I was fascinated by white tigers when I was a child, but I can't remember the name of the white tiger who inspired this obsession.  There's a lot of controversy over captive white tigers now, from what I've read.  The white coat is the result of breeding two Bengal tigers with the same recessive gene, and so there's a lot of inbreeding and dishonesty involved in trying to produce these "showy" animals.  I get so frustrated with humans sometimes.

The plastic box on this doll was really beat-up and stinky, so I immediately removed it.  Now we can get a better look at the doll and all of the decorations on her box:


Talk about leopard print.  What do you think of the leopard print stiletto lounge chair?  I think it's pretty amazing, although it--like everything else in this box--stinks of mildew.

The back of the box has white text and some very small photographs of two dolls in the series:


The other doll shown here is a black panther girl who is very pretty, but way more expensive on eBay:


There's a third doll in this series, too, and I'm not sure why she isn't included on the box art.  She's wearing--wait for it--a leopard print suit!


Both the panther doll and the leopard doll are more interesting than the doll I bought, but I was trying to be economical.

There's a lot of text at the top of the box that doesn't say very much:

I know I always wear a cat suit for my evenings in.
What's not clear to me with these dolls is whether they're supposed to be cats, or people dressed as cats.  They look like people dressed as cats, and the description refers to things like faux fur and a catsuit outfit.  But then she has "purrrfect paws and manicured claws."  And I don't think she arranged her hair into ear shapes in order to be fashionable.  It's confusing.

Anyway, the bottom of the box has the Mattel copyright information and a 2003 date:


This doll, who I'll call Panthera (the tiger genus) can just barely stand on her own.  Her legs feel very loose at the hip:


She has pale skin and dark eye makeup.  I think she has a really nice face, although the eyeshadow on this doll's right side is darker than on her left:


The catsuit and boots are all one piece, and the whole outfit is sewn onto Panthera's body

Permanent catsuit.
The tail is really long and fuzzy, and it does not have a wire inside.


Panthera's short blonde hair is painted with black stripes and styled into cat ears:


The painted stripes look messy, but it's cool how alternate sections of hair were pulled up to sculpt the cat ears.  That can't have been an easy thing to do!


Most of the hair is plastered into place with some type of gel, but there's a small section in the back that's come free and gotten a bit frizzy:


I'd love to see how Panthera would look with platinum blonde or white hair.  The yellow blonde doesn't go very well with the rest of the theme:

It sort-of matches her gold glitter stripes, I guess.
I thought that the absence of a wire in the tail would make it less fun to play with, but the flexibility and length of this tail is actually quite fun!


I enjoyed finding dramatic ways for Panthera to wrap the tail around her body:



I'm torn about this doll because on the one hand she's a bit tacky and not at all versatile, but on the other hand her face is really pretty, her ultra-pale skin tone seems rare, and I enjoy the drama of her tail.


Here's Panthera next to Sienna:

Catwalk Kitties (left) and Lounge Kitties (right) dolls.
I guess it wouldn't surprise me if somebody at Lanard looked at the Lounge Kitties and thought, "somebody should fully commit to the cat theme and see what happens."  I look at these two dolls and I find Panthera fairly interesting, but she's just a Barbie in a catsuit.  Sienna is, for better or for worse, something completely different.

Sienna likes Panthera's shoe chair, especially because the leopard print matches her shirt!

Or does it clash with her shirt?
Of all the dolls, I think Callie makes this chair look the most comfortable:


I could have left Panthera and her catsuit alone, and I almost did, but I was really curious to see if the skin tone of her body matched her head.  I also wanted to know why her legs were so floppy.  So, I cut the catsuit off:


It was interesting for me to see this nearly 20-year-old Barbie body.  The proportions are really different from modern Barbies--especially the Made to Move girls.  Also, the construction has changed over the years.  This doll has metal pins connecting her elbow joints and elastic bands connecting her hips.  

I was glad to see that Panthera's body matches her head nicely.  It's a pretty skin tone.  I'm not sure if it's paler than, say, the Signature Looks Victoria doll?  I think it's quite a bit paler, but I don't have Victoria on hand for a direct comparison:


It turns out that Panthera's elastic-strung hip joints were what was making her legs so floppy. The elastic here is completely shot.  I can easily pull the legs away from the body:

It's a wonder she could stand up at all.
Lina was itching to get her hands on Panthera's catsuit, so I added some velcro to the opened back and let her try it on:

...and now she's just itching.
The boots are really tight and were hard to pull on over Lina's legs, and the fur cuffs were way too tight to fit over Lina's hands.  Since the cuffs were glued in place, I was able to pull them away from the rest of the sleeve so that Lina could get dressed.

The suit was sewn together in back with larger stitches than the rest of the seams, so it wasn't too hard to cut it open without damaging any of the outfit.  The velcro I added works pretty well to close this gap, but I'll need to add a bit more down near the tail:


Strut your stuff, Lina!

I don't know what my strut is, Emily.
This just...doesn't work for me.  I thought Lina would look incredible in this suit, but something is wrong.  Maybe it's the contrast of Lina's realism and the costume-like quality of the suit?  Maybe it's the fuzzy, high-necked collar?  I don't know.

Maybe it's a bit like Judi Dench thinking a Cats remake was a good idea:

Bad cat, Judi.
Lina has far more posing options than Panthera, but she had some trouble balancing in the catsuit's high-heeled boots!  Here are a few shots of her as a white tigress:



Now that we've had a quick look at some of the other anthropomorphic dolls that have graced the market over the last few decades, I'll finish up the review by going back to Sienna for a minute.

Sienna is not a very fun doll to pose since she can't balance and her articulation is limited.  I think her best features are her unique head, the pretty color of her hair, her flexible tail, and the fact that she can share clothing with Barbie.

Here she is showing off her flexible tail and her lovely hair!


I wish I had more Barbie clothing for Sienna to try on, but I only have one other Barbie-sized shirt in my house at the moment: this pretty floral tee that goes nicely with the jean skirt:


I like this outfit much better than the original!


Here's one last close-up of Sienna's most intriguing feature: her friendly (but slightly unnerving) cat face!


Bottom line?  This little exploration into the world of anthropomorphic play dolls has taught me a few things.  First of all, it seems like a risky venture to introduce a doll like this onto the market.  Even for people who love dolls and animals, the amalgamation of the two can be too freaky or unsettling for mainstream taste.  The mixture of human and animal features has to be just right, and the blend has to make sense.  And of course the animal elements, particularly the face, have to strike the right balance between realism and fantasy--preferably leaning heavily on cuteness.  Furthermore, the doll itself has to be well-made, otherwise the concept can come across as tacky or dismissible.  How well did Lanard do with all of these challenges?

I'd say that Sienna has almost the right mix of human and feline characteristics.  Because her head is very cat-like, I would have preferred a more unique body to match.  On the other hand, the fact that she can share clothing with Barbie is a huge plus.  I think her head is well-done.  It's cute and relatable, and the character is unquestionably a cat--not a human dressed in a catsuit.  The cat-like paws are another nice touch, but of course I wish the anatomy had been done correctly.  The tail is an excellent addition to the body, especially because of the wire armature that allows it to be twisted into so many different shapes.  While I might wish that other elements of the body, like the limbs, had been tweaked more towards the cat side of the spectrum, that could very well have pushed the whole doll into the freaky zone.  So, for the most part, I think Sienna's design is a good mix of human and cat features.

The thing that holds Sienna back from being truly great is that she's not very well made.  Her hair color is beautiful, but the nylon fiber is cheap and is prone to tangles and rough ends.  Her body articulation is limited, with no elbow and wrist joints, and she only has click joints inside her wobbly knees.  This articulation would bother me with any doll, but it bothers me even more with Sienna because extra articulation, particularly in her limbs, could have added some cat-like expressiveness to the human parts of her body--making for an even better balance.  Sienna's tail, which adds a wonderful layer of personality to her character, was diminished because my finger got injured from a broken armature wire.  Last of all, her wardrobe is simple, unimaginative, and poorly-made.  The leopard print shirt was literally coming apart at the seams, and there's no way to change or share shoes.  I should acknowledge that Sienna's small accessories are detailed and fun, but there's no way for her to interact with them.

It's interesting to see how some of the other anthropomorphic play dolls manage the balance between human and cat (or dog) features.  The Lounge Kitties Barbie doesn't commit enough to the animal theme (she's just a Barbie dressed as a cat), while Pepper Parsons might have gone too far into the dog zone.  Personally, I think the Pinkie Cooper line hit the balance quite well, and did a better job with body design than Lanard, but the body still has some problems.  Monster High really hit the nail on the head.  Those faces are neither human nor feline, but they find a middle ground that works not just for cats, but for a variety of other creatures, too.  In addition, the strange, highly-articulated body of the Monster High line is well-made and expressive.  And again, it feels both human and non-human at the same time, making it believable for a cat--and a vast range of other characters.  And of course Monster High got a lot of other things right, too, like the detailed and creative themed outfits, and some truly incredible shoes (I miss those shoes!).  And they advertised the heck out of their dolls.

I really love my Pinkie Cooper girls (they're keepers), but my favorite doll from this review might actually be hybrid Callie.  She combines the unique head of the Catwalk Kitties and the articulation of the Monster High body into a personality-packed feline who's fun to pose and play with.  If only I had the skill to make custom clothing for her!  I suspect Pepper Parsons' head on a Monster High body would have similar success...although I'm not willing to decapitate my Pepper to find out.  I can totally see why Catwalk Kitties are making a comeback as head donors for Monster High.  And all of this makes me wonder: how would play doll history be different if the Catwalk Kitties had sashayed onto the scene back in 2005 with highly-articulated bodies, creative outfits, and fabulous shoes?  They might very well have clawed their way to the top.

23 comments:

  1. It's so interesting to see a line that's like Pinkie Cooper crossed with Barbie. (lol, maybe the pet cat is actually her baby? it was weird for pinkie and friends to have those pet dogs, too...) I could easily see the black-panther Lounge Kitty as Catwoman, which might explain her popularity (and, it looks like her furniture item is far more versatile). Panthera really does look like she belongs in Cats... I honestly thought the hair was a hair until you said otherwise. >_< Of the Catwalk Kitty heads, I actually really like Sushi; the multicolor braid with the dark fur looks really nice. And even if the dress didn't turn out *technically* good, the concept is very cool and it looks great from a distance. (And your velcro-ifying of the catsuit seems to have worked better, so you're still a good seamstress in my book. :P) I honestly think the Catwalk head looks better and more "at home" on the MH body than on the actual Catwalk body. Hopefully you'll have just as much luck with the other heads if you choose to make more hybrids.

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  2. Such an interesting review! I have seen pictures of these dolls floating around on the internet before, but had never really taken a closer look at them. They absolutely scream early 2000s to me, not just because of the fashion but also because of the odd and playful mix between traditional fashion doll and something slightly gimmicky that had never really been done before (see Betty Spaghetty and Diva Starz). I love it when the toy market/doll world gets innovative like that.

    The Callie MH/Catwalk Kitties hybrid was definitely my favorite out of the bunch. The head and body were a match made in heaven, and the dress worked out great as well. Really, sewing something so tiny would be a nightmare for most people (including me) so I'm impressed!

    Lastly, you had me laugh out loud again with that toxic make-up theory, and I never knew about that phone number trivia! You always manage to blend humor and entertainment with interesting facts, kinda like how Callie is a perfect mix ;)

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  3. I haven't thought about Pinkie Cooper in years! You've inspired me to go get my Pepper Parsons out. She truly is so beautiful (I have a Pinkie as well, but Pepper remains the favourite). It's so wonderful to stumble upon your blog again after some years. I started reading it when I was about 11, then stopped throughout high school. I'm rediscovering my interest in toys as an 18 year old university student and your blog brings me right back to my inner child. I loved this review just as I have loved all of your reviews.

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  4. What an absolutely fun review! I loved it! I’m much more a cat person than a dog person, so when I saw pictures of the Catwalk Kitties years ago I was intrigued. I remember looking them up on eBay and considering getting a bundle of heads to put on Monster High bodies, but I never did. I may have to revisit that idea now. Your Callie is so adorable and the Catwalk Kitty heads work perfect in the Monster High Bodies. There’s a small version of the Catwalk Kitties too called Petites. I remember that I had a Catwalk Kitties Petites doll in my eBay watch list a long time ago. I thought she might make a good friend for Pepper Parsons, but I never bought her. Now I wish I did.

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  5. I'm glad you brought up the Cats movie, because I thought there was something decidedly creepy about the Lounge Kitties dolls. They're pretty uncanny and almost (at least to me) feel like some designer's fantasy that shouldn't have been shared. They're definitely interesting but also feel very wrong.

    Also, it was funny seeing cat puns that I associate with other things. Purrl is the name of a cat villager in Animal Crossing, and Glameow is a Pokémon!

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  6. Emily, you have just made my day! I always thought animal figures having animal pets, especially of the same species, very, very weird. I’ll have to see what else I can find on The internet.
    You answered the question about the hair on the Lounge Kitty. I couldn’t figure out if it was a wig or what from the online pictures. The way it is sculpted into shape limits it....hmmmmmm...wonder if anyone I know is tempted to do a boil wash to find out???
    The Catwalk Kittie....kind of a disappointment as a whole, although it was great to see paws (more or less) instead of the human hands. But the MH blend....that’s a hit!
    Lots to think about with this review....

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  7. Oh Emily, you missed a great opportunity! You ought to have named the white tiger girl Pantera instead of Panthera! Like the band. Which was named after a sports car. Which is also what I want to call Panera Bread. Pantera Bread: Croissants from Hell.

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  8. Oh, I love this review. It was so neat to see the Catwalk dolls, they are really cool and unique.

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  9. fantastic review as always! the catwalk kitties were a cute concept but i feel like the dolls don't quite live up to the potential--i think the body looks particularly clunky!

    that dress is a great idea too! if you ever feel like re-doing it, i'd probably suggest using a less slinky, stretchy fabric and a different finishing for the dress hem.

    that catwalk kitty is the same skin color aa your made to move tia, i believe. i definitely love barbie's modern, diverse image today but miss when she did campier, kookier things like lounge in literal catsuits lol

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    1. whoops, i meant LOUNGE kitty!

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  10. Glamour Survey; What Am I? Is making me laugh far too much today.

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  11. Did you know Monster High Dolls are being released again? They're called Haunt Couture and they are drop dead gore-geous! The shoes, cloths, tights are BACK! Damn, they're boo-tiful! The faces aren't exactly the original, but they aren't the smiley cutesy ones either. It's a good balance from scary and nice to a fierce face. And the eyes look inset and glossy next to the stunning lashes. You should take a look at those shoes and cloths, Frankie's heel can actually move!!! Clawdeen got a fur coat and her ever edgy look. Frankie still got the short dresses, plaid prints and a mix of preppy and monster look. Draculaura just looks stellar, she's freaky fab, but got a hint of lolita and cute. Lagoona and Cleo are going to be released later on in 2022!

    https://creations.mattel.com/collections/vendors?q=Monster%20High%20Collectors

    Have you heard of the Skullector Dolls too? They creep me out a but, but the idea is very creative!

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  12. My friend recently destashed all but 2 of her Catwalk Kitties. I could really tell just by holding them how difficult to pose they are, but there was something satisfying about the scale. I would have been too tempted to brush out that Lounge Kitty’s gelled up hair and ruin everything! Sewing that velcro into the cat suit really ups the play value. The shoe lounge and the fact that they didn’t initially have removable clothes probably indicates that they were just a display doll marketed at adult collectors.

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  13. It’s very interesting to actually see the original Catwalk Kitties doll! I know they also had a line of mini dolls that used to pop up on eBay from time to time.

    I love the Catwalk Kitties/MH hybrids! A few years ago I bought a bag of the CK heads and made a few of my own! Callie on Catrine’s body is amazing of course, but I discovered that Howleen was actually a much nicer match for Sienna than Toralei- well in my opinion, of course. I also have Jett on a Catty Noir body who is gorgeous!

    It would be very interesting if Lanard took notice of all the attention the Kitties hybrids got and made a new version of this line to follow up the MH revival!

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  14. Thank you for mentioning the other dolls made by Lanard. I accidentally stumbled upon some iGirls for very cheap on aliexpress. Not knowing what they were, I bought them and deduced that after checking the clothing labels. There was surprisingly little information about them, and I doubt there's more now. On the other hand, I was familiar with Catwalk Kitties. I guess their design was unique enough to advertise itself. The Sushi head is my favourite out of the ones you showed. Will you keep Callie? For future reference, I find sewing easier when I trace the seam lines and add my own seam allowance. If a pattern includes a seam allowance, I cut it off (they usually mention how wide it is, 1/4" is pretty standard). I add whatever seam allowance I feel comfortable with, depending on the type of fabric. After each seam, I trim it down, and eventually fray check the intended edge before cutting it. I hope you try sewing more. I liked your dress design and it suits Callie nicely.
    Panthera is my favourite of all the dolls from today. I don't like the bodysuit and hair, but everything else is very nice.

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  15. Thanks for another fun review! I'd seen some of the heads for sale before but didn't know the history of the line. The comparisons were really interesting.

    Your Pinky Cooper review back in the day convinced me to get them when they were clearanced out, and I'm so glad I did. There's something really special about them.

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  16. Thank you for the great review! There are actually new Barbies on the market called Cutie Reveal. Barbies dressed in full animal suits and matching makeup that's activated by hot/cold water. Very interesting and pretty dolls!

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  17. I have toffee and Anika. I bought them secondhand years ago but haven't seen any for sale since in the UK.
    I always figured the pet cat was kinda like having a pet chimp or something. Wierd, but not as creepy as having a pet baby or something lol.

    I wonder why you can get the heads so easily on aliexpress but no bodies. Their bodies were so interestingly wierd with the little paws and stuff. I've been tempted to grab a few of the heads to hybrid, I always wanted Sushi and Callie.

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  18. Ohhh I‘ve never seenn them before, but I really like them cause they have such unique and friendly faces! I‘m getting a bit tired of all those grumpy faces on fashion dolls lately.

    And don‘t you think that the kitty on the Kitmopolitan cover looks exactly like MH Catherine DeMeow?

    Oh and thank you for the idea with the headswap! Sadly several of my Monster High dolls are completely destroyed cause of the famous Monster High head glue problem (this is so so so so so gross…how can this happen? Shame in you Mattel)….so I guess they will get a head swap. At least a way I can save the bodies ❤️

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  19. They really are the cat version of Pinky Cooper and friends, (which I love), right down to the same species 'pet'. I like your Frankencat much better than the real thing though.
    I read once that the reason cartoon characters have only three fingers and a thumb is because when they were drawn with all five it just looked too busy.

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  20. Oh and you can also look at Enchantimals and the new upcoming Wild Childz dolls.

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  21. Just want to say that I am very happy that you are back!

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  22. Ooh, this reminds of the Mystikats from the same era! Me and my sister had one each and they had the worst hair and the skin-colored ears were a little weird. But I was obsessed with Tokyo Mew Mew so I liked having a catgirl doll! I would've been obsessed with these catwalk kitties if I had known about them at the time.

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