Thursday, May 5, 2022

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf

Monster High dolls were among the very first things that I reviewed ten years ago when this blog was brand-new, so they will always have a special place in my heart.  I delighted in their strange body proportions, excellent articulation, outstanding design, intricate accessories (those shoes!), and refreshing originality.  I've reviewed a lot of characters from this line over the years, both on my own and with the help of some wonderful guest reviewers.  When the brand was retired in 2017, I had mixed feelings.  In the year or two leading up to the cancellation, I had begun to grow weary of the overabundance of dolls on the toy store shelves.  The sheer number of characters made each individual doll feel less special.  And the dolls themselves were literally less special; the quality and attention to detail had begun to decline.  For the most part, the later dolls have simpler outfits, fewer accessories, more basic painted features, and lots of trouble with gluey heads and arms (or tails!) that fall off too easily.

After the dolls were gone, though, I missed them more than I thought I would.  Specifically, I missed the anticipation and excitement that surrounded the release of new characters.  There was always the chance that one of the new dolls would stand out from the pack.  Because the thing is, even as the overall quality and originality of the brand was declining, there were little bursts of brilliance.  Avea Trotter, for example, is still one of my favorite dolls of all time.  I also thought the Inner Monster series was a huge amount of fun.  There was a limited edition Draculaura released in 2015 who is beautiful (I owned her briefly), and the 2017 special edition of Zomby Gaga is incredible, too.  She's one of the rare dolls that I'll never sell.  So even though I coveted fewer and fewer Monster High dolls towards the end of their original run, the brand still had the ability to create some absolute treasures.

Over the last few years, mostly while I wasn't paying attention, hints started to swirl around that Monster High might reboot.  For example, in 2020, Mattel released a small series of movie-themed dolls (Pennywise and the Grady twins...covet!).  There was some buzz about a new animated television show and a new movie, too.  Then, finally, the official announcement came: new dolls would be released in 2022.  Despite the mixed feelings I'd had in previous years, I got very excited about this news; it was a chance to find some new treasures!  And the reboot wave looked like it might have some gems among it.  This group includes three collector's edition dolls; Draculaura, Frankie Stein, and Clawdeen Wolf.  Clawdeen has always been one of my favorite characters, so she's the one I chose:

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf, $75.
The suggested retail for these dolls is $75, but of course they sold out from Mattel's shop very quickly, and are now only available on the secondary market for over $100.  

Draculaura seems to be the most desirable of the bunch, because her resale price is the highest--currently around $250.  Here's her promotional photo:

The cape is awesome.
I'm not exactly sure why this Draculaura is so popular.  She looks great, but not significantly more so than the other two dolls--at least not to me.  Perhaps it has something to do with her character in the television shows and movies?  I've never watched any of those, so I don't have a sense for what the characters' screen personalities are like. 

I would choose Frankie Stein over Draculaura if I ever purchased a second doll from this series.  Her shoes look great, and I've always had a soft spot for her beautiful mismatched eyes!  Here's Frankie's promotional photo:

Her hair is so long!
But I didn't hesitate about choosing Clawdeen for this review.  I've reviewed more Clawdeen dolls than any other character, so I really wanted to see how this new girl compares to her predecessors.

Clawdeen came in a brown cardboard shipper that displays the contents:


The box also states that the doll was made in Indonesia.  Previous Monster High dolls manufactured in Indonesia have had hard, glue-filled heads that cause trouble over time.  I hope that problem has (finally) been fixed!

Inside the shipper was a coffin-shaped box wrapped in white tissue paper:


The box is all cardboard with no plastic window.  It's very attractive and feels solid and sturdy:


The background print has pink and silver metallic designs, and there's a raised imitation leather square in the middle that says Haunt Couture:


The back of the box was sealed with four circles of tape:


It took me a while to open the box because the fit of the lid is really snug, but I finally pried it off and got my first glimpse of Clawdeen!


The glare from the inner plastic lid makes everything a little hard to see in that photo, but I was blown away by how lovely this monster looked on display in her box!  She made an excellent first impression.

Here she is again without the plastic cover:


The presentation is excellent.  She definitely looks expensive when she's displayed like this.

Clawdeen came with an elegant certificate of authenticity including a printed signature from Glenda Chiu (the designer):


The other side of the certificate has some chatty text written in Clawdeen's voice:


I also expected this doll to come with a diary.  It's clearly displayed in the promotional photos:


But I couldn't find the diary anywhere.  I felt like I took the whole box (and the room) apart looking for it.  

I literally wrote this entire review and was ready to publish it, and then I finally found the diary when I was cleaning up my workroom at the end of the day. 

It was attached to the back of the box's lid:

There you are, you rascal!
The diary feels higher-quality than the diaries I remember from Monster High's early years.  The paper is heavy and glossy, and there are a lot of pages.


There are character traits listed for Clawdeen on the first page, and then the rest of the diary has more traditional entries, with topics that range from Fearleading practice and friend drama to the excitement of running a fashion show.


Getting Clawdeen out of her box was fairly easy, the hardest parts being the plastic bits that secured her limbs, and the three plastic ties that tightly rooted her head to the backdrop.  

Because the box is so attractive, I wish Clawdeen had been attached in such a way that she could be placed back into the box for storage or display.

As it is, all of the large plastic bits that were used to attach Clawdeen's limbs to the backdrop stick out and create a bit of an eyesore:


The presence of this beautiful, durable box would be more impressive if it could be used after the doll was removed.  I wonder how many of these collector edition dolls will actually be removed from their boxes, though?

It's possible to pull the messy backdrop out of the main box, but the exposed cardboard doesn't look great:


The other items attached to the backdrop were a plastic stand and a brush.  Both the stand base and the brush are painted with a light metallic purple color.

When I first saw the stand base, I thought the plastic tie holding it to the backdrop had cut into the plastic:


It kinds looks like that, right? With the notch in the bottom of the hole and the extra plastic sticking out to the right?

In reality, the plastic tie was loose-fitting, so it didn't cut into anything.  The little notch is just where the clear part of the stand slots in, like this:


I should have remembered how these stands work, but it's been a while.

Here's the stand fully assembled:


It feels lightweight and it leans backwards a little bit.

I wanted to see if Clawdeen could stand on her own, though, and she can!  At least in certain basic positions:


The heels of her shoes are bendy vinyl, though, which makes them much less stable than they could have been.

Clawdeen is going to look more orange in these photos than she does in real life, but she still photographs well.


I love her eyes!


My first impression was that her face paint is riveting, but her hair looks messy:


Unlike the play line Monster High dolls, this Clawdeen has rooted eyelashes.  The lashes are placed into five little clumps of about ten hairs:


The overall effect is really good, although some of the lashes are bent in various directions.

Clawdeen's eye makeup consists of brown and purple eyeshadow, with some purple shading underneath her lower painted lashes:


Her lips are plum-colored, with a high gloss finish and two white fangs painted onto her lower lip:


The lip paint is a bit messy on the bottom, with some stray blotches underneath where the lip should end, but it's very hard to see this in real life.

I'm particularly impressed with Clawdeen's eyebrows, perhaps because I've been working so hard to paint new eyebrows on My Twinn and My Way Kid dolls for the last few years.  Notice how there are tiny little hair lines drawn on the underside edge of this brow:

That's impressive.
The makeup might not be as fancy or flashy as it was on some older version of Clawdeen, but I think it looks nice and has very few flaws.

Clawdeen has long, wavy brown hair with neon pink highlights:


The highlighted hair is an unexpected color.  First of all, Clawdeen's signature color is purple, so why not give her purple highlights?  

Since many other versions of Clawdeen have hair with purple streaks, I can also understand, and even applaud, the desire to do something different with this doll.  But then why (asks Miss Matchy-Matchy) don't the pink highlights match the pink in the jacket?  The two shades are very different:


Something about this combination does not work for me at all.  The bright purple in the jacket goes well with the highlights in the hair, but the two dramatically different pinks are jarring.  I'd love to see how the hair would look if the pink highlights had an ombre effect that faded from neon pink into the more pastel tone of the jacket.  That might have looked better?

Clawdeen has jewelry in both of her ears.  On the left, she has two plastic hoops that are painted metallic gold:


There are narrow breaks in the hoops, which is no doubt how they were inserted into the ear in the first place, but I was unable to get the earrings out.  That's fine because knowing me, they'd probably get lost.

The right ear has a single purple bar with two insertion points:


The two pegs on this earring are visible at the back of the ear:


The purple earring is easy to remove.  It leaves behind two holes and a small indentation:


The small indentation in the right ear is strange.  There's one on the left ear, too, but it's harder to see.  All Clawdeen dolls have these marks, and it seems like they should show where the earring holes go, but--at least in my experience--they never line up with the actual earrings.

Here's the purple earring on its own:


The design is a trio of molded beveled squares.  There's no painted detail:


Clawdeen also comes with a plastic studded headband.  It's quite large and has a high profile on the top of her head:


The headband came tied into place on Clawdeen's head, but it was pretty easy to get off.  The simple black band is decorated with painted golden spikes:


The headband is probably my least favorite of Clawdeen's accessories.  It looks bulky and dated...and it doesn't stay in place very well.

Clawdeen also comes with accessories attached to both of her hands.  On the right, she has a golden decoration that runs across the back of her hand.  She's also carrying a chained purse:



These items were tied to Clawdeen's hand with clear rubber bands.  

Here they are on their own:


I'm not really sure what to call the smaller decoration.  It reminds me of brass knuckles or a knuckle duster (and some Clawdeen dolls have come with this kind of accessory!) but it's actually just a bar with the word "monster" molded into it.


The back has two gripping pieces that hold firmly to Clawdeen's hand:


The purse is really fun.  It's designed to look like the jacket and choker from the first wave Clawdeen Wolf's outfit:


Here's that jacket:

First wave Clawdeen Wolf's jacket.
The purse has details on the back side, too, and the strap is a real metal chain:


The top of the purse is a little disappointing.  There's no opening, but rather a flat black area with obvious molded numbers on it:

Couldn't those numbers have gone on the bottom of the purse?
I wish the purse had been made out of fabric.  Then, not only would it have looked like Clawdeen actually made her purse out of an old jacket, but it might have been possible to create a real opening that could accommodate some small items.

If this Clawdeen had been a $20 play doll, the vinyl purse would be great.  For a $75 collectors doll, though, I'd have like to have seen this cool purse idea taken to a higher level.

Mark my words: some clever artist on Etsy is going to make little purses out of first wave Clawdeen jackets, and it will be epic.  

On Clawdeen's left arm, she's wearing a large golden bracelet:


In order to remove the bracelet, I had to pull Clawdeen's hand off:


This is a cute little accessory, but it's pretty strange!  It looks like there's a tiny purse dangling off the bracelet:


The purse attaches to the bracelet with a hook, and so the two pieces can be separated:


I've never seen a bracelet purse like this before.  Have you?  I turned to the internet to see if this is a real thing.

It is a thing!  And now I want one.  Look at this cute fish-themed bracelet clutch:


The highlight of Clawdeen's outfit is certainly her pink and purple striped imitation fur coat.  Historically, Clawdeen's outfits often have an emphasis on fur (Ghouls Rule Clawdeen leaps to mind!) but this jacket turns it up to eleven:


The jacket's shape is overpowered by the long fur, though.  It makes Clawdeen look like a big puff ball!

Fur explosion.
The jacket also swallows Clawdeen's arms.  It's hard to get her hands to poke out, and the puffiness creates the illusion that her arms are really short:

She's being devoured by a tribble!
The best thing about the jacket is that it has a chartreuse lining.  This is a real surprise coming from underneath so much pink and purple:

Bam!
The splash of green adds a huge amount of drama:


I can also see hints of this same green color peeking out from Clawdeen's layered shirts.  I like the cohesiveness of that detail.

The jacket appears to be made well, and the fur does not shed very much.


That picture reminds me of a Furby!

Doo-ay!
The chartreuse lining is smooth and neat and goes all of the way down the sleeves:


Even without the jacket, there's plenty going on with Clawdeen's outfit:


The back of the outfit looks messier than the front--or at least it did right out of the box:


Let's go through and take a closer look at each element.

On the top, Clawdeen is sporting an elaborate gold vinyl necklace over a two-layered shirt:


The necklace came tied tightly in place with some clear rubber bands. It has a studded collar that mirrors the collar worn by the first wave Clawdeen.  Hanging down from that collar, there are some molded vinyl chains accented with a small golden crescent moon:


I really like Clawdeen's double-layered shirts.  They were the most fascinating thing to me about the whole outfit when I was looking at this doll online--mostly because I couldn't immediately tell what was causing the colorful, two-dimensional effect:


The bits of pink showing through from the bottom shirt look like they might match Clawdeen's hair.  That would be nice.

The top shirt is a black and gold metallic woven tee with gold ribbon accents around the sleeves and hem:


Underneath that layer, Clawdeen is wearing a brightly-colored tank top:


The print on this top is neon pink and green with black claw scratches:


And, sure enough, we finally have something that matches Clawdeen's pink hair!


The hair looks good with this part of the outfit.

The tank has some stray threads around the strap attachment points, but after I tried and failed to sew clothing for a Monster High body, I can't even begin to criticize this.

Better than anything I can make.
The design is simple, but the construction is tidier than many clothes I've seen on larger dolls.


On the bottom, Clawdeen is wearing a very shiny purple imitation leather skirt with large pleats:


This skirt tends to twist around so that the fly is facing sideways.  It also rides up on Clawdeen's waist a little bit.  There's no thong-like strap to hold it in place (I never should have criticized those straps!  They're super-useful).

The skirt has little golden studs glued around the waistband and at the top of the pleats.  The fly and pockets are outlined with golden stitches: 


It's a very cute skirt, and it's easy to put on and take off.  I just wish it didn't twist around and ride up so easily.


There's a ruffle of black tulle sewed to the underside of the skirt.  This layer peeks out just a tiny little bit past the hemline.


Clawdeen's outfit is rounded out by black lace socks and toeless high-heeled boots:


The socks are pretty, but they have a hard time staying up.  Also, Clawdeen's toes poke through holes in the lace:


The holey-toed socks wouldn't be such a big deal if the shoes covered that part of the foot.

The boots are cool-looking, especially the crescent moon buckle at the top:


The painted gold stud details are carefully done, and even run down the backs of the heels:


There's nothing wrong with these shoes, but I don't find them very exciting.  They're attractive, but not creative.  In fact, only one of the Haunt Couture dolls has shoes that impress me.

Draculaura's shoes might have something interesting going on in the heel, but it's hard to tell from the promotional photos:


I think Frankie's shoes are by far the best of the bunch.  The metal strap design that weaves around her legs looks great, and the blue heels are little electrical switches.  It looks like the switches might even move!

Incredible.
I'd love to have seen all three of these debut dolls stomp back onto the scene with blow-your-mind shoes.  That didn't quite happen.

On the up-side, Clawdeen's boot reminds me of a horse face, and I love horses:

Neigh.
Do you see the horse?  Maybe I just have horses on the brain.

Horseshoe.
Clawdeen's body appears to be exactly the same as other Monster High bodies.  She has eleven points of articulation, most of which are rotating hinges with excellent movement.  She can't balance on her own without shoes, though, so I had to get out the stand:


The body has a 2021 copyright, but I don't see any difference between it and the other Monster High bodies I've looked at over the years (aside from the earliest ones that have elastic-strung hips, of course).


Clawdeen can strike all of the wacky and expressive poses that make Monster High dolls so well-loved:


She can sit elegantly in a chair...with crossed legs!


In fact, she can even cross her legs while she's standing up.  That's pretty unusual:


Maybe part of the reason she can strike that crossed-leg pose so easily is that the knee articulation in this doll is really loose--especially on the left side.  This caused trouble when I was trying to set up certain poses; the left leg can't hold its position very well.

Here's a video of what happens when I move the left leg to one side:


The first wave version of Clawdeen Wolf is one of the dolls I'll always keep.  She's been a bit of a benchmark for evaluating other Monster High dolls over the years--particularly other versions of the same character.  She has huge sentimental value to me.  Let's see how Haunt Couture Clawdeen measures up!

Here are the oldest and the newest versions of Clawdeen side-by-side:

First wave Clawdeen Wolf (left) and Haunt Couture Clawdeen (right).
Their bodies are almost identical, but the older Clawdeen has different hands.  The hand shape of this character was changed very early on, from rounded fingers into the claw-like nails that we see on Haunt Couture Clawdeen.

First wave Clawdeen Wolf's arm (left) and Haunt Couture Clawdeen's arm (right).
I didn't notice this right away, but you can see that the Haunt Couture arm has a thicker attachment peg, too.  This is nice because it keeps the arm in place better than the earlier dolls (although not perfectly--my doll's elbow still pops out of joint every now and then).

The dolls have differences in their heads, too.  


Face paint aside, the biggest difference is that Haunt Couture Clawdeen appears to have nicer vinyl.  The new vinyl looks warmer and more three-dimensional.  It also matches the body better than the first wave head does.

At first I thought that Haunt Couture Clawdeen's head was full of glue, just like my first wave doll.  The two dolls' heads feel equally hard to me.  This would have been really bad news because my first wave Clawdeen's entire head of hair is saturated with sticky glue.  I guess the glue wicked out of her head and into her hair over the years.  It's really unpleasant.  I have not tried to wash it out yet, but have read online that it's not an easy thing to fix.

The good news is, as BlackKitty pointed out in the comments section, that Mattel did away with this glue technique a while ago.  Now the dolls have hair that's held in place by singing the ends from inside the head. 

And you know me, I had to open Clawdeen's head to see this for myself...and to find out why her head felt so firm.

Whoa.
Sure enough, there's no glue in sight!  Just a huge glob of burnt hair at the top of the head:

Harebrained.
That's gross to look at, but it's a pretty cool technique!  And it seems effective, given how little Clawdeen's hair sheds.  Thank you, BlackKitty, for cluing me in to this!

Clawdeen does not thank you.
Never fear: I was able to re-glue Clawdeen's head back to almost-new.  And she only shed a few hairs in the process.

Here's first wave Clawdeen in her original outfit so we can do some quick comparisons with accessories, too:


I remember thinking that this doll's skirt was way too short for a kids' toy (it's so short), but other than that, I really love her outfit.

She's not wearing all of her original jewelry in these photos.  I must have lost her second necklace.  She came with both a black choker and a gold chain with a purple pendant:


A few comparisons between the two outfits stand out to me.  First of all, I like the original jacket more than the poofy fur coat on the Haunt Couture doll.  The fur jacket is flashy and fun, but the original jacket is so delicately detailed and well-fitted:

And it allows her arms and hands to be seen clearly.
The skirts are also quite different.  Both are purple with a black tulle underskirt, but the Haunt Couture skirt is much more modest.  I like the added detail of the vinyl belt that goes with the first wave skirt, and I like the finishing details on the Haute Couture skirt.  

Despite its absurd shortness, I like the first wave skirt more.  Imitation leather doll clothes can be really shiny and look cheap, and I'm cautious about them because they can crack and peel over time.

Looks great now, but what about in five years?
The difference between the two tank tops is also striking.  The first wave tank is fitted nicely and has a double ruffle along the neck while the Hunt Couture tank is super-basic:

Haunt Couture Clawdeen's top (left) and second wave Clawdeen's top (right).
To be fair, the Haunt Couture tank is designed to go underneath another shirt, but still.  The first wave shirt impresses me:

Very well-made and very tiny.
Another difference that stands out is between the two purses.  The Haunt Couture purse has a clever design (and that metal chain got a lot of press) but compare it to an earlier Clawdeen purse:

Haunt Couture Clawdeen's purse (left) and second wave Clawdeen's purse (right).
Ok, I messed up when I was taking the photos for this review: the comparison purse here is not actually from the first wave Clawdeen, but the second wave doll.  I substituted it a long time ago because it's way better than the solid vinyl first wave purse.

Not only does the second wave purse have an impossibly small (but perfectly functional) plastic clip in the strap, but it actually opens and closes and can hold small items:

I know which purse I'd rather have.
If I had to try and guess which of these purses came with a $75 doll, I'd go with the one on the right.

Another big different between the first wave and Haunt Couture Clawdeens is that the first wave girl came with her cat, Crescent!

I should rename her Dusty, poor thing!
It would have been really fun if the Haunt Couture dolls had come with their pets.  I always enjoyed the diversity of the Monster High pets.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I assembled this chart to compare the clothing and accessories between first wave Clawdeen and Haunt Couture Clawdeen:

First Wave Clawdeen

Haunt Couture Clawdeen

Fur collar jacket

Full fur jacket

Ruffled tank top

Plain tank top

Purple skirt with tulle

Larger purple skirt with tulle

Stockings

Stockings

Tall boots

Short boots

Solid vinyl clutch purse

Solid purse with chain strap

Earrings in both ears

Earrings in both ears

Choker and necklace

Necklace and headband

Vinyl belt

Hand jewelry

Pet cat

Extra shirt

Stand

Stand

Brush

Brush

Diary

Fancier diary


Some of the comparisons aren't completely fair (is a pet cat equivalent to an extra shirt?  Is the hand jewelry equivalent to a belt?), but on average, there's not much difference in the quantity or quality of the extra items that come with each of these dolls.

So what justifies the high price on the Haunt Couture doll?  Hopefully not just the fancy box.  Maybe the face details?

I've always thought of my first wave Clawdeen's face paint as nearly perfect.  I love her dark lips and layered eye makeup.  


However, the newer Clawdeen's eyes are so much more realistic!  Her yellow-tinged gaze is riveting:

Her lips aren't as good, though.
Haunt Couture Clawdeen has wonderfully-detailed eyebrows, too, which look great.  But I think I prefer the painted eyelashes to the rooted ones.

I love the copper highlights in the first wave Clawdeen's hair.  Even though her hair is a gluey mess at this point, I still think it looks nice.  In fact, the glue limits the flyaways and so the hair is almost always smooth and under control:

Literally glued into place.
Haunt Couture Clawdeen's hair is clean, but the pink highlights and wavy frizz just don't speak to me:


This doll's outfit is already so detailed, I feel like the color in the hair adds a superfluous new element:


Also, while the hair is easy to brush and feels smooth, the wavy texture makes it look messy and uneven, only seconds after it's been brushed:


The rooting is nice and dense, though, and the scalp is well-hidden:


Now that I've shown you all of the little details in Clawdeen's design, I'm going to have some fun with her!  

I started by putting her back into the most basic version of the outfit:


I like this pared-down outfit because it coordinates with Clawdeen's hair.  


I added in the necklace next, but I find this to be a problematic accessory.  It's molded to fit against the shape of Clawdeen's chest, and it looked good when it was rubber-banded into place, but it doesn't work as well without the rubber band:


The necklace bulges out strangely in the middle of Clawdeen's chest:


The necklace also swings around a lot.  I frequently found it sticking out backwards, like this:


I like the overall look of the outfit better when the second shirt is added in:


The black in this shirt ties in really nicely with Clawdeen's socks, shoes, and headband.

The hand accessories are fun, too.  I especially like the monster knuckle duster on Clawdeen's right hand:




Because the vinyl purse is solid, it's very heavy.  The chain slings easily over Clawdeen's shoulder, but the weight of the purse makes it fall backwards to that it's hanging awkwardly next to her bottom:


At other times it slides around to the front:


With some careful maneuvering, I finally got Clawdeen to hold the purse in a natural-looking way:


I had to get the stand out in order to balance the purse, but I found the stand difficult to use with Clawdeen's outfit.

The grip slides easily over Clawdeen's waist if her shirts are pulled up, but this doesn't look very good:


Alternatively, the grip can be positioned over both of the shirts, but this is a tight fit, and it makes me worry that I'll snag or damage the delicate fabric of the black shirt:


To make matters worse, the connection between the stand and the base is not at all tight, and so the stand tends to fall out of the base...causing Clawdeen to topple over:


So I mostly avoided using the stand.




Here's Clawdeen back in her fluffy jacket for a few shots:





At this point I got tired of Clawdeen's hair always looking messy, and so I tied it back away from her face.  The version of Clawdeen from the Howleen Sister Set has her hair tied back around her face, and I've always thought this was a great look for the character.  It tames the frizz, at least:


This hairstyle also minimizes the impact of the pink highlights.


I had a lot more fun posing Clawdeen after this hairdo change!  I didn't have to waste time trying to fix flyaways.





I think the jacket looks better when Clawdeen's hair is tied back, too:


The jacket paired with the frizzy hair makes Clawdeen's overall look too chaotic, but with her hair tied back, the jacket is more of a focal point, and can shine:





There's no denying that this wolf has some wonderfully dramatic moments:


Bottom line?  One thing that surprised me about writing this review is that it felt like a slog.  All throughout this week, I simply couldn't motivate myself to sit down and write.  Why is this, I wonder?  It's highly unusual.  One possible explanation is simply that May is a crazy-busy month for me and my family.  Kids are graduating left and right, and we have a ton of travel coming up that I have to prepare for.  But I think there's more to it than that.  I've written so many Monster High reviews over the years, I'm just not sure if there's anything left to say.  I had hoped that this expensive collectors doll would offer something new and noteworthy, but in the end she feels a lot like many of the other Clawdeens that I've reviewed...and she's not my favorite of that bunch.  I haven't found my new treasure yet.

One thing that does feel new and special about this Clawdeen is her face.  Her eyes are detailed and intense, and her rooted lashes are unique.  The vinyl in her head looks nice and appears to have more depth and warmth than the first wave Clawdeen's vinyl.  The color match between her head and body is also really good.

But with almost everything else about this doll, I prefer the details of the first wave version.  First wave Clawdeen's outfit is more tailored and put together, her hair is prettier and easier to tame, the shoes are more interesting and offer better balance, the stockings don't have feet that get snagged, the tank top has better details, the jewelry is more cohesive, and the stand works.  And she comes with her pet cat, Crescent!  In contrast, Haunt Couture Clawdeen has a huge, amorphous coat that swallows her expressive arms and hands, stockings that fall down and get snagged on her toes, shoes with bendy heels, a loose necklace that's curved strangely, a purse that doesn't open and is too heavy to stay in place, hair that's always messy, loose knee joints that won't hold certain poses, and a stand that constantly falls apart.   

All of that is pretty harsh, but I don't think of Haunt Couture Clawdeen as a bad doll.  Like all Monster High dolls, she's a lot of fun to pose and has wonderful personality.  I also like many of her accessories, even if they aren't perfect.  Her big fur coat is well-made, and feels both comical and dramatic; the green lining is a wonderful touch.  I also love the three dimensional effect of her layered shirts.  And despite how hard it is to use the purse (and the fact that it isn't made out of fabric) I think the idea behind it is extremely clever.  And this girl definitely has a gorgeous face.  

This version of Clawdeen would be a dream at $25, but she's not worth $75.  And there's something else that doesn't sit well with me about this release: it was very hard to secure one of the dolls directly from Mattel.  They were introduced with strange timing (two at once and then Draculaura later?), and sold out quickly.  By the looks of eBay these days, most of the people who did manage to buy a doll for "only" $75, did it for the sole purpose of re-selling on the secondary market.  That feels rotten.  This highly-anticipated release didn't end up being much fun for kids--or even for a lot of collectors; but it was a real treasure trove for scalpers.

Despite my complaints, I loved getting a chance to de-box a new Clawdeen Wolf doll after all of these years.  I felt like a little kid again when I opened that fancy box and got my first glimpse of this fierce fashionista.  But I'm looking forward to getting that nostalgic experience for a smaller price tag.  Perhaps that's when the real magic of Monster High will return.

21 comments:

  1. I was hoping you'd take a look at the Haunt Couture dolls! I absolutely love this Clawdeen's face. I think the rooted lashes work really well for these versions of the characters. I've noticed Draculaura has become pretty popular as somewhat of a goth girl icon, particularly on TikTok, so I suspect that contributes to the heinous prices. As a known sucker for pink and frilly things, her outfit was my personal favorite, but Clawdeen's is a very, very close second, especially now that I've gotten a close look at her tops. The initial $75 was already too much for me to justify to my part-time minimum wage bank account, so I've been through all five stages of grief and accepted that I will not be getting my hands on any of these ghouls, but I'm very excited for the wave 1 reproductions dropping next Friday at normal prices! I'm pretty optimistic for the revival of the brand, especially since other more detailed doll lines like Rainbow High and LOL OMG dolls (which is a name that sucks to say out loud) are so popular.
    By the way- would you be at all interested in bringing back guest reviews/posts? I never actually acquired one of Mattel's BTS dolls, but I find them slightly fascinating for the many missed opportunities I think they represent. If not, that's fine! Just wondering :)

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  2. It's such a crazy throwback to see you reviewing monster high again! Makes me feel nostalgic for when I first found your blog (5? 6?) years ago and was starting my fall down the doll rabbit hole. I also have had issues with the skullector/haunt couture releases. You really said it best, "Not fun for kids or collectors, but tons of fun for scalpers." Artificial scarcity to this degree is so frustrating, especially when the product being delivered seems somewhat hap-hazard. I've heard that they're releasing a new ghoulia soon (my favorite!! no matter how long its been, going to snag her before anyone else) and I hope she has a good balance of the modern features they want to introduce and the classic fashion references that make the line special. I also agree with the confusion surrounding D-Lo's relative popularity. I think it has to do with the fact that her chosen style is universally more appreciated than the others (modern lolita with light gothic elements i guess? people seem to like vampires a lot too). Shes also the 'pink' one (a huge advantage from what I can tell in doll lines) and seems to be the most popular character among fans and non fans alike. I love drac dont get me wrong, I just dont really understand why shes such a standout favorite all over the internet. It's a shame this clawdeen seems to underwhelming, despite her absolutely stunning face paint. I'm hoping the issues with production and design are resolved when the new dolls roll into stores.

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  3. I'm so glad you reviewed a haunt couture doll! I've been following all the releases and announcements so it was not a surprise for me that MH is returning, but I didn't watch any reviews. At this price, they were a hard pass for me. I immediately thought of my older collector Draculaura. She had a custom body and stand, custom eye paint, rooted eyelashes and fancier, different hair. She also came in a fancy coffin box, had embroidery on the clothes and lots of special details. And she cost less, even in my country! I cut out her beautiful portrait from the back of the box and hung it inside next to her after wallpapering the backdrop with patterned translucent washi tape. She didn't have any plastic stuck to the inside, only holes. The new dolls don't even come near in terms of value, although they do look nice. The outfits look like MH-sized Barbie Extra items, and those cost under 25$ and come with pets. Metal chains and charms are extremely easy to find in any nail art shop. I'm pretty sure the price is 100% artificially inflated.

    That being said, Clawdeen is a beautiful doll. I prefer her previous yellow eyes and thinner eyebrows, but out of the three new ones, she's my favourite. I'm glad they used the pre-reboot body. I guess the signature rereleases that are scheduled to drop on the 17th will also have the older style of body. I didn't like the pink streaks in the hair (looks like a Briar Beauty mix up) and I'm surprised the head is hard. Mattel hasn't been using glue to secure the hair in years. I'm not sure when they stopped, but my first doll with the new hair attaching technique was Fashionista 52 Plaid on Plaid from 2016. The hair is now secured by melting the ends together inside the head. Perhaps you just came across a bigger clump/thicker head vinyl? The glue method was a huge problem that coincided almost exactly with the entire lifespan of MH and I think it was the main factor that drove MH into the ground. Besides ruining the hair, the glue caused irreparable yellowing over the years. Now that the effects are obvious, it would be really stupid of them to return to using the glue, especially since there's a better method available. I refuse to believe there's glue inside and I will definitely verify that when I get my hands on the regular priced dolls that are coming out later this month.

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    1. I'm not completely sure about the glue in the head--you might be right! I probably shouldn't have jumped to conclusions. This Clawdeen's head feels about the same as my first wave head, that's all I know. But I'll do brain surgery this morning to get to the bottom of it. And I'll add in some pics of the procedure. Just for you. ;)

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    2. You called it! Indeed, the firmness was just a big wad of stiff, singed hair. Pics added. Thank you!

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    3. Oh, no! I wasn't counting on brain surgery on a collectible doll! But I'm extremely relieved it's just melted hair. Thank you so much!

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    4. you are so right about the barbie extra comparison! they have the same level of stitching details and special fabrics used which is so disappointing. the barbie extra outfits are hit/miss but most of the pieces (especially the bottoms) are great!

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  4. This is an excellent review! And I'm glad I'm not the only one who really loves this Clawdeen (Even though I do agree that the $75 price tag is too high). Heck, I personally *adore* that coat, but that's a 'Me' thing. I like how it feels. (I hope that doesn't sound weird.))
    My only personal disappointment was the shoes, though once I gave her some different one (Her Legendary First Wave buckled boots), she really was perfect, at least for me. (I gave her shoes and socks to my Scaris Clawdeen. They fit really well with that outfit.)
    But overall I agree with the review. Pretty doll, just not $75 and the distribution was just a mess. Here's to hoping the dolls actually in stores will be just as good, for a better price.

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  5. Echoing everyone else, what a delightful blast from the past, MH was how I found you too! Clawdeen is beautiful, but it's a pity about the QC issues.
    I am looking forward to see what other monsters they explore, hopefully some that capture that initial magic for you. :)

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  6. Hi Emily! It's been a while since I commented, sorry for that! Thank you for this wonderful and complete review! I like this doll a whole lot, but the price in Scalping Land is outrageous. It's such a nasty trend and sucks a lot of fun out of our hobby. This is such a lovely doll, I like many things about her, the shoes, knee high socks, the lashes, ... For a collector doll, I think I do expect more, so I would have liked it if she had been a toy, available in toy stores, for a better price. But she's gorgeous, and I'm so glad that you did some brain surgery on her to show that there's no glue inside her head. ;D Monster High is and stays special and unique, so I'm happy with the new ranges, and it also makes me feel old, as I used to have the first wave dolls! It doesn't seem that long ago in my mind, but it is! Aiaiai!! Lol!

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  7. I love the jacket and the face, but that's really it. I didn't believe these were worth 75$, and i'm sorry to be correct.

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  8. I was really in love with that line, and spent lots of money on them (they were around 40-50 usd here if I remember correctly), so I was really sad and disappointed when I saw 3/4 of them destroying themself over the year cause of that disgusting glue. I had a whole box where I stored my dolls in and the whole bottom of that box was covered in oily and sticky stuff and so were the clothes and the dolls. No way so safe them, sadly. So yes…I feel a bit bitter about Monster High.
    That limited release and the price doesn‘t make it better (I don‘t like the limited Mattel Released in general…like the Queen Elizabeth doll recently..they mostly end up on ebay).

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    1. You can get that glue out with tea tree oil, just letting you know :)
      I collect MH dolls secondhand and I've never found one to be un-salvageable!

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    2. I tried tea tree oil as well and even recommended it at the time, but some five years later, the hairline and scalp yellowed beyond help, and there's oily/sticky residue at the roots.

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  9. She really does have gorgeous eyes, though. I actually like the look of the rooted eyelashes (and I've never seen such a thing on a doll!) - it makes her eyes look softer and more realistic. If she had the well-painted, wine-colored lips of the first-wave doll, her face would be perfect.

    I have the answer to why she's so expensive, too: inflation. I've noticed in just the last 8 years - which is how long I've been an adult doll collector - that there has been a *very* drastic trend in which prices have increased steeply and quality has decreased. I think that we're just at the point where, in order to achieve the quality of the first-wave doll, it costs so much more that they simply can't do it for $25 anymore. In the 18" doll world, American Girl (also a Mattel company....) has been putting out more and more outfits with plastic shoes (!) instead of cloth, and the price of the outfits has skyrocketed; they also redesigned the WelliWishers to have way simpler outfits, which is probably easier for small kids but definitely saves them money. Our Generation recently(-ish) introduced a new default facemold, and when they've revamped certain dolls with the new face, they've also done so with simpler outfits and/or fewer accessories. Maplelea has doggedly clung to quality, but they too have had to jack up their prices and simplify outfits. For a child of the 90s who had Pleasant Company sets made of real materials like metal and porcelain and constructed just like tiny versions of the real deal, it's difficult to look at something like one of the current American Girl sets where 90% of it is plastic and the crazy-high price tags and think "yep, I'm going to buy that"... even on sale. And like... it's not like toys are the only place where inflation is on a runaway trajectory, but it's still a bummer.

    Oh man, sorry, that turned into such an essay. >_< In conclusion, only Emily would chop open the head of a $75 collector doll just to see what was inside. XD

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    1. That is so true about the inflation! It's everywhere, from food to gas to dolls. Calico Critters is offering less furniture at the same price as the sets from the past that came with lots of stuff! When I go on Amazon, I am often shocked at the high prices for a med sized product.

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  10. Aah, it's so nostalgic to see you review another Monster High doll again! I loved the look of these dolls but with that hefty price tag and all the extra costs that would come with importing something from the US, it just wasn't worth it to me. I don't have much to add to your review. I think your conclusions match what most collectors have expressed about this line: beautiful dolls, nice designs, but also lots of flaws (I'm happy your Clawdeen was at least painted nicely and that the stand didn't completely break like I've seen happen with so many other collectors), bad pricing and annoying release methods. They did sell out quickly enough, though, so I guess it was a success for Mattel. I wonder what the rumored Cleo and Lagoona Haunt Couture dolls will look like. For now, my focus is on the 2010 reproductions which seem to be a lot more affordable c;

    P.S. of course you cut open Clawdeen's head. I wouldn't have expected anything different from you, Emily xD

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  11. Angelica NyneaveMay 8, 2022 at 10:33 AM

    Hey!!
    Such a great review, I bought all 3 haunt couture dolls but am too scared to take them out of their boxes hah! It’s funny though, so Frankie was released first, and then clawdeen, and then Draculaura, but Frankie still hasn’t arrived in the mail for me. So strange!

    Did you know they’re doing a reproduction of the original wave one dolls! They’re going to retail for I think around $25, and I’ve heard they’re hitting stores on next Friday the 13th! Isn’t that so exciting? You should totally get the clawdeen reproduction and compare her to your original clawdeen and see how the quality stands up :)

    Again, super awesome review! Reading Your reviews are always the highlights of my day!

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  12. Oh my golly, I cannot believe you got your brain surgeon on. Love it. It's not hard to wash the glue out of the doll's hair - use a little Goo B Gone to scrub it out and then wash, condition, and style as usual - the real question is going to be how the glue affects the vinyl and saran over the long term. We're 10 years in and we're starting to see it break down already, what's it going to look like in 20? To be fair, plastic deterioration is something we're going to have to watch for in most dolls anyway (and anything else plastic that we collect, it's fascinating reading about how museum curators are attempting to handle the plastic in their collections,) but the glue adds another factor to consider.

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  13. Oh my goodness!! I am SO happy this blog is back! I can't even express how cool this is!!

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  14. I love Monster High, and never even heard of these three! I hope they relaunch the line.

    Laughed out loud at the horse shoe picture! Lovely doll and review, thank you. - Micah

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