Sunday, June 5, 2022

Mermaid High by Spin Master

I'm back with the second post in the mermaid series!  I learned so much from your comments on the Mermaze Mermaidz review.  As I've said before, the comments are always a hugely valuable (and humorous...) part of this blog.  Thank you so much for all of your contributions.  I'll single out a few mermaid-related things that were mentioned: first of all, Lurkins noted that I never tested Jordie's color change feature, which is embarrassingly true.  I went back and did that and added in some pictures of the results.  It's pretty cool!  Séverine's tip that one of the dolls (Riviera) has bad hair is very helpful, too, especially since I was so pleased with the hair on Orra and Jordie.  Last of all, I had no idea about the alleged backstory of the Mermaidz or which body parts were taken from other MGA lines.  I should have at least recognized the Project Mc2 eyes!  Thank you to Alé for those tidbits.

But today is all about Spin Master's Mermaid High dolls.  The first wave of these fishy friends has been out since late 2021, and the second wave of dolls hit the market this spring.  I've been waffling back and forth about whether to write about this brand for several months now, mostly waiting to see if the high original price (around $27) would come down at all.  The dolls never struck me as being worth quite that much.  I guess I waited a good amount of time, because the first wave characters recently went on sale at Target.  They were around $5 for a while, which was insane, but are now $19.99, which is a reasonable price for this brand.  I purchased first wave Finly at full price a few weeks ago, and then added Searra during the $5 sale.  This review got too long to include Searra, though, so I'll put those photos over on Patreon.

I'm going to feature Finly today because when I was looking at all of the characters in the store, she's the one who impressed me the most.  I love her rainbow-themed outfit and her cute green-eyed, freckle-filled face.  In this review, I'll contrast first wave Finly to the newer version of the same character:

Mermaid High Finly by Spin Master, $26.99.

Finly came in a blister pack box with a large plastic window:


She's arranged in a nice swimming pose, with her hair streaming out behind her.

The front of the box is all plastic, with some metallic red cardboard pieces stuck on to decorate a few sections:


As I mentioned in the last review, one of the big differences between Mermaidz and Mermaid High is that the Mermaidz have permanent tails and the Mermaid High characters are regular dolls with removable fabric tails.  This feature is advertised as "2-in-1 play" on the front of Finly's box:


Spin Master seems proud of this feature, and I have to say that while I assumed permanent mermaid tails were rarer than fabric removable tails, most of Mattel's mermaid dolls have permanent tails, so I've had to rethink my assumption.  I might look at a few of the Mattel mermaids in a third review.

There's a cartoon depiction of Finly along one side of the box.  She looks nice:


The back of the box has a picture of all four of the Mermaid High characters swimming in front of Mermaid High School:

"Splashin' for fashion" is pretty clever.  "Benthic chic" would have worked, too.
The other characters are named Searra, Oceanna, and Mari:


Interestingly, the second wave of dolls does not include purple-haired Mari.  I thought she was the least interesting of the four first wave dolls (probably because she has bangs), so I don't mind her absence too much, but it's odd that the character simply disappeared from the lineup.  In Mari's place, the second wave has a new character named Raynea.

The back of the box also has a blurb about the story behind these dolls.  The four friends attend a high school named after the mysterious mermaid sightings in the adjacent ocean, but these girls are real mermaids...and nobody at the school knows it!


I wish I'd gone to a high school that was literally right next to an ocean.  Or a school with real mermaids.

I watched the television show associated with these dolls, just to see if there was more to learn about the backstory, and it's pretty insipid.  The characters look nothing like the attractive box art:


It reminds me a lot of the Rainbow High animation.

Anyway, the hair is animated badly and the stories are only a few minutes long, so there's not much substance.  Also, the first episode has the girls going onto dry land for the very first time in their lives, and learning how to use their legs in the process.  But that's pretty hard to believe, right?  They're sixteen and they've never been on land before?  But suddenly they're off to human high school?  It's so confusing.  

But I digress.

Watching the show was good because it made me even happier that I chose the Finly character.  She seems sweet.


The Mermaid High packaging looks much simpler than the jagged Mermaze Mermaidz boxes, but it wasn't any easier to manage.

I couldn't find an obvious method for separating the plastic part of the box from the cardboard, so I had to rip it off in a pretty savage way. 


The back of the box was stuck to the backdrop with some kind of adhesive, so all of that cardboard peeled off and left behind a sticky mess...and a huge number of tiny plastic ties:


Cutting all of those plastic ties wasn't even enough to free the doll.

Some of Finly's accessories were mounted on a piece of plastic, and so there were a bunch of plastic ties holding things in place that way, too:


With Finly and her accessories gone, I was left with a sticky cardboard backdrop with a piece of plastic attached.  The backdrop design is very simple, with a faint picture of the generic-looking Mermaid High building:


Here's everything that I extracted from the box:


Finly came with a black and white instruction guide and a cardboard student id card:


The id card gives a few basic details about Finly, including her favorite school subject, details about her pet, and her special power:


I didn't see anything about the pets in the few episodes of the television show that I watched, but I sure wish Finly had come with her sea turtle Avocado!  I love that name.  I also like that her special power is to speak to animals.  I wish I had that power...although maybe I don't want to know what my cats are thinking most of the time.

Who, us?
Finly comes with a blue vinyl purse that's decorated with molded fringe:


The fringe is painted pink, as is a tiny little sea turtle on the flap:


The turtle detail is super-cute, but overall the paint job is mediocre.

The back of the purse is unpainted:


This purse doesn't open, either.  So if we were comparing Mermaze Mermaidz and Mermaid High on the basis of purses alone, the Mermaidz would win because of Jordie's cool (albeit slightly bizarre) finball purse:

Jordie's finball purse (which opens!).
Finly also comes with a basic pink comb:

Ho hum.
More intriguing was this orange plastic shell, which apparently can be opened by submerging it in water.  I certainly wasn't able to pry it open it when it was dry like this:


I'll come back to that shell a little later.

The rest of Finly's accessories are the clothes she needs for dry land:


She has a pair of blue sunglasses:


These have gem-cut geometric flower shapes on the lenses:


I really love Finly's orange sandals:


The color is great, and the design is really intricate, but my favorite part is that there are little molded goldfish on the sides!

There are also little starfish (surrounded by seaweed) on the very front:


This is almost Monster High level shoe creativity.  Unfortunately, one of the goldfish is missing (on the right shoe, below).  It looks like a molding error: 


Finly's jean shorts are also great.  They have fringe accents at the sides, in addition to blue ruffles around the legs and some applied shiny flowers scattered over the denim.  The belt loops are functional, but the pockets and fly are decorative:


The shorts close in back with velcro:


Now, let's take a look at Finly herself!  Because of her mermaid tail, she can't balance on her own, so I had to use a doll stand:


Here she is from the back:


Finly looked pretty scruffy right out of the box.  First of all, her pretty rainbow top was crooked, and so it was exposing the right side of her chest:


Also, the vinyl decoration on top of her head was coming loose and looked really crooked:



I cut the threads that attached this headpiece to Finly's hair and removed it.  It's made out of flexible vinyl and is decorated with molded shell and starfish decorations:


The back has a slightly different shape than the front, with the same decorations:


I did my best to straighten Finly's blouse and give her a second chance at a first impression.  She looks a bit better here, I think:


Finly's head tips upwards all of the time, so it was hard to get her to look straight at the camera.  I had to lean her forwards to get a good look at her face:


She has a cute, child-like face with huge decal eyes, strong eyebrows, and a bunch of freckles:


She has pink metallic lips that kind-of match some of the pinks in her tail:


Her eye makeup is subtle, with some shimmering blue on the top and pink on the bottom


The face is a little generic, but I found that after I'd been looking at Finly for a while, going back and looking at Orra and Jordie was startling.  The Mermaidz features are so mature and bizarre in comparison!


I was smitten with Orra's face when I first saw it, but after getting used to Finly's features, Orra looks odd.  I'm not sure exactly why.  I think Esther made an excellent point in the comments about Orra's widely-spaced eyes; intentionally or not, it definitely makes her look more like a fish.

Finly, like Orra, has super-long hair:


The hair is primarily blonde, but it has a few streaks of orange.


Two of the orange sections are at the very front of Finly's head, on either side of her face.  These strands had a lot of gel in them, so they were stiff and hard to maneuver.  They're also uneven:


The hair has a lot of wave in the texture, especially towards the ends.  This makes it difficult to brush.  In addition, my doll had several pre-tangled areas of hair.  These got caught on my brush, and so I had to go through and cut them out before I could thoroughly brush the hair:

  

The plastic comb that came with Finly would certainly not have been up to the task of taming this mane, but my big wire brush did a good job:


The hair looks pretty at the top, but the ends are way too frizzy and look like a tangled mess waiting to happen:


The rooting is good, though, with decent density and a painted scalp to help disguise any gaps:


As I mentioned in my Mermaidz review, I feel like a mermaid doll needs to have long, flowing, wonderful hair.  Finly's hair is long and flowing, and a lot of it feels nice, but the wavy, frizzy ends are a problem.


I braided the hair so that I could keep it out of the way while I examined Finly's outfit:


This hairstyle makes it a bit easier to see Finly's head, too.  She has pierced ears!


It seemed strange to me that she came with pierced ears and no earrings, but I didn't think too much about it.

With Finly's hair out of the way, I got a better look at her face paint, too, and I realized that she has a funny freckle pattern.  The freckles on the bridge of her nose are dark and fairly uniform, but the freckles on her cheeks are lighter and much more varied in their shape:


I really like the detailed freckles on the sides of Finly's face, and wish the same style had been used across her nose.  Still, the overall effect is good, and I love a doll with freckles.

Finly's outfit is the main thing that drew me to her over the other dolls in the first wave.  I really enjoy the rainbow theme and the fringe.  The best part of the outfit is the rainbow blouse:

Although mermaids shouldn't need water wings.
The top closes in the back with velcro:


The fit of the blouse is not very good, as we saw earlier.  It's too loose, and so it tends to slip down and expose Finly's chest.  I mean, I know mermaids like to have skimpy outfits, but this is a children's toy. 

The construction of this blouse is excellent, though.  It's one of the better-made items of play doll clothing that I've seen in a while.  The criss-cross rainbows in the front are made out of delicate little multicolor pleats:

That's gorgeous.
The entire inside of the blouse is lined with white.  The stitching is meticulous for something this small:


The tail is not quite as impressive as the blouse, but it's still nice.  I like the multicolored scale pattern and of course the fringe at the bottom!


She's the Rainbow Fish!


The tail has a small velcro closure in back:


Notice, also, that the scale color pattern lines up along the seam at the back of the tail.  This took some effort, I'm sure, and it looks great.

The tail is made out of a stretchy fabric that has a bit of an iridescent shine from some angles.  The shimmering parts of the fabric are dotted (you can sort-of see this in the next photo) and this effect is really cool.  It definitely reminds me of real fish scales:


The tail is decorated by two little plastic charms that are sewn in place with thick colored thread.


The charms seem a little random, but they add some dimension and I'm sure kids would love them.

I don't know why I like fringe so much.  Or why I like ric-rac so little, for that matter.  But I really like fringe.  Maybe it's because I associate fringe with fancy things?  I have some vague childhood memory of trying to buy fringe and being surprised by how pricey it was.

Anyway, Finly's tail fin has a lot of fringe, and the kid in me is delighted by it:


The tail fin also has a tulle lining.  This doesn't add much to the appearance or volume of the fin, but it keeps the layers of rainbow fabric from sticking together.

The last piece of Finly's outfit is an orange vinyl belt that matches the headdress:


This belt opens and closes in back with a small peg and hole.  I feel like it clutters the look of the outfit, and it often ended up crooked in my photos, like this:


Finly has fashion feet, so she can't stand on her own even without the tail in place:


Because of this, I used a stand or various "magical" methods of suspension for a lot of the following photos.

Here's Finly without her outfit:


She's 10.5 inches tall, so about an inch shorter than a Barbie like Lena:

Mermaid High Finly next to Barbie Lena.
Clothes-sharing is not reliable between these two brands because of Finly's smaller chest and hips.  However, because the mermaid tail is made out of stretchy fabric, it will (just barely) fit Lena:


And Lena totally rocks this tail:


Finly is also shorter than a Liv doll, and her chest is a lot narrower:

Mermaid High Finly next to Liv Sophie.
The shape of Finly's body is fairly generic.  It looks younger than a Barbie body overall, and more realistic than a Liv body.  The Liv body looks like a mannequin in comparison.

Finly's lower legs are unnaturally long, but her other proportions seem straightforward. 


The body is made out of plastic, with nine points of articulation (neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees):


There are dolls with nine points of articulation who have great posing potential, but Finly's joints are limited.  For example, she can spin her head all of the way around...


But the up-and-down movement of the head is slight:


And while the head can move noticeably to Finly's left, it can't move much at all to her right:


The Mermaidz also have limited head movement, but their upper torso joints are flexible enough to compensate for some of that stiffness.

I can't say that I was this obsessed with head articulation in the past, but it's been more and more on my radar recently.  It's amazing what difference a good ball-jointed head can make.  Think of The Biggers dolls, for one, or even the little L.O.L. kids.  Both have limited body articulation coupled with super-flexible ball-jointed heads.  With both brands, the heads are so expressive that I end up feeling like the doll is better-articulated than it actually is.  Dolls like Finly who have stilted head movement end up feeling less expressive.

Anyway, Finly's shoulders are standard rotating hinges with good mobility:



Her elbows are also rotating hinges, and these can just barely bend to 90 degrees:


Finly has no articulation in her wrists or torso, which I was pretty bummed about.

Her hips are rotating hinges, but they allow the legs very little side-to-side movement:


She can do front-to-back splits, but her legs don't move as far backwards as they do forwards:


Finly can sit upright on the ground if she uses her arms to brace her body:


The knee joints are simple hinges with no rotation.  This was another disappointment.  Also, the knees don't bend to 90 degrees, so Finly can't kneel (she's suspended in this photo):


She can sit in a chair if she leans way back:


When I was posing Finly in the chair, I noticed a white spot on her right leg.  On closer inspection, it looks like a crack in the plastic:

Yikes.
That area must have gotten crushed somehow.  Certainly nothing happened to the leg in that ridiculous overkill box, but perhaps something went wrong at another point in the manufacturing chain.

Finly's articulation is not fantastic.  In particular, I wish she could move her head more so that she wasn't always looking up.  I also wish she had wrist articulation and some rotation in her knees.  That said, her articulation is better than dolls who only have head, shoulder, and hip joints (which is most of the basic Barbies on the market, and also Hasbro's Disney dolls).

She can strike some cute poses: 



Also, since highly-articulated dolls can be fragile and take effort to manipulate, Finly's simple joints make her more accessible to young children.

Once I'd tested all of Finly's joints, I was eager to get her dressed in the land outfit, with those cute fringed shorts and wonderful goldfish shoes.

Unfortunately, the shorts didn't fit!  They're way too tight: 

And the shirt is falling down again.
I tugged pretty hard on these shorts, but they would not budge past Finly's bottom:

I was worried that back seam would split right open!
So, I had to settle for putting Finly back into her mermaid tail and snapping some more photos of her in that outfit:

So much for the joys of "2-in-1 play."
Her hair might be tangle-prone, but it can look quite pretty and dramatic, and I love the orange highlights:


The fringe on her tail fin is also super-fun:


I tried out a few of the accessories, like the vinyl headdress:

Still looks a little crooked.
And the funky blue glasses:

Groovy.
Then I took some suspended shots to pretend that Finly was swimming through the ocean:


The fact that she's always looking upward makes more sense when I imagine her underwater.  She's looking to the surface--to watch out for jet skis, perhaps?


Or maybe she's searching for Avocado!


The more I hung out with Finly, the more she grew on me.  Her face is really sweet.


It's hard to compare the posing capabilities between the Mermaidz and Mermaid High dolls, mostly because the Mermaidz don't have any legs.  But we can at least do a pose-off with the quintessential mermaid pose.  You know, this one:


Orra couldn't really manage this pose at all:
 
 I lost a contact, Emily.  Give me a break.
Neither could Jordie, although she did a more convincing push-up:

She's the athlete, after all.
Finly is no star here, either, but I think she gave the best effort:

Almost there, champ.
I was having so much fun with Finly that I almost forgot about her mysterious orange shell that only opens in the water!

I took the shell upstairs and plunked it into a bowl of water:


I waited and waited and nothing happened.  I was just starting to think that this was going to be a big disappointment, when...POP!  The shell opened and scared me half to death:


The shell opened up to look like a mini laptop!  It's really cute:


It's a clamshell Mac!


Or maybe a scallop-shell Mac?  In any case, it's cool.

In the television show, the girls carry around smaller "shell phones" that look a lot like this.  That's also a great idea.

There was a small plastic bag inside the shell, and this had Finly's earrings!  I should have known the earrings would be a part of the surprise.  They're great:


Here's Finly modeling her pink goldfish earrings:


So many dolls come with "surprise" elements these days, but I think Finly's little magic shell hits the perfect balance; it's not overkill, but it was a great little treat.  I loved the water opening gimmick (I'll have to smash a shell open some day to figure out how that works...), the shell is useful as a laptop accessory, and the earrings are adorable!  Best of all, everything was an honest-to-goodness surprise for me.

At this stage, I was becoming more and more happy with Finly, but I was still a bit disappointed by her hair and her articulation.

Because I tried out some body-swapping on the Mermaidz dolls, I wanted to do the same with Finly.  And the obvious body replacement for her body is that of her Spin Master cousin, Liv Sophie.  Here's Finly's head on Sophie's body:


The color match is decent, and the proportions are right.  And of course now Finly can benefit from the superior Liv articulation, including a more mobile head!


And those wonderful double-jointed knees:


Oh, how I wish Spin Master had used some of their Liv articulation magic with these mermaid girls.

If Finly's mermaid outfit had fit onto the Liv body, I probably would have made this transplant permanent.  Unfortunately, Finly's blouse is way too tight for the Liv chest:


But how great would Finly have been if she could pose like that?  Sigh.

A size comparison that I forgot to do earlier (arguably the most important for this review) is that between Finly and the Mermaidz.

Here's Finly with majestic Orra:

Mermaze Mermaidz Orra (left) and MermaidHigh Finly (right).
Orra towers over little Finly!  But in Finly's defense, her tail is flattened out in that picture.  

Jordie is a bit closer in height, especially since I made an effort in this shot to get Finly's tail fin lined up with Jordie's:

Mermaid High Finly (left) and Mermaze Mermaidz Jordie (right).
But, again, the most striking thing to me when I'm looking at these dolls side-by-side is how strange the Mermaidz faces seem.  Finly looks like a regular kid, and Orra and Jordie look very mature...and a bit fishy.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just stands out to me.

After looking at Finly, I was excited to see what the second wave dolls had to offer.  In particular, I was hoping that Spin Master had decided to add some extra articulation to the new dolls.  Things like that rarely happen, though, so I wasn't surprised to see that the new Finly has the same body as the old.  Her packaging is also very similar:


This wave is called Spring Break, which I think is an excuse to give all of the dolls simple bathing suit bottoms as their second outfit, rather than skirts and shorts.

I still like the box art, though:


On the back of the box, you can see that Mari's character has been replaced by Raynea, with no explanation.  I guess I'll have to watch more of the television show if I want to find out what happened to poor Mari.


At $21.99, second wave Finly's suggested retail price is a few bucks lower than the first wave version.  

The de-boxing experience was no less irritating this time around, but there were definitely some other big differences that I noticed right away.  

First of all, this Finly comes with fewer accessories.  The accessories are hiding behind her tail in this picture, but they include sunglasses, shoes, and a bracelet:

Pretty scant.
There's no comb (no great loss), no shorts, no purse, and--worst of all--no magic laptop surprise!  That means that there are no earrings, either.  Boo.

This doll (like so many others on the market right now) has a color change feature, though.  The streaks of color in her hair are supposed to change in the bright sun.  I'll test that out in a sec.


Finly's hair is shorter and curlier than the first wave doll.  It also includes bangs in front, which I don't tend to like.  I'll admit that these bangs are pretty cute, though.  Maybe I'm outgrowing my bang bias.

When I finger-combed the hair briefly, it looked even more scraggly than it did right out of the box:

Oof.
Here's the hair from the back:


The rooting on this Finly looks worse than on the first wave doll:


I went back and looked at first wave Finly's hair again, to make sure I hadn't just photographed her from a strange angle or something:

Way better.
The plugs of hair are spaced similarly on both dolls, so I think the difference must be that first wave Finly has more hair in each plug.  Her hair definitely feels thicker.

Second wave Finly's hair isn't terrible, in fact I like the twisted style and the bright colors quite a lot, but it's not as high quality as the first wave doll.


This Finly's face paint is similar to the original, but she has lighter green eyes, darker eye makeup, and a different shade of pink lipstick (with a spot of missing paint on her upper lip).  She also has freckles that are more like what I'd hoped for with the first wave doll:


Finly's two jewelry accessories are a soft vinyl necklace and a matching bracelet.  The necklace has "Finly" written at the top, and is decorated with molded flowers:


The vinyl on this piece is really soft.  So soft, in fact, that I didn't see how it would possibly stay in place.  But it manages to stick itself to Finly's neck, or something like that, and does not fall off easily.

The bracelet is less distinct, but it looks like there's a fish along one side:


These pieces are not as detailed as first wave Finly's accessories, and the coloring is strange.  With that purple color layered over blue-ish green, the vinyl almost looks like it's supposed to change color in the sun--like the hair.  I wasn't able to get it to change at all, though.

Finly's crocheted top is by far the best part of her outfit--despite its ric-rac straps:


The crocheting is delicate and attractive, and the whole top looks well-constructed.  Look at the tiny lined bodice!


The tail is not as impressive.  It's made out of a brightly-colored stretch fabric, but it's missing the iridescent shine and fringe accents of the first wave version:


The printed pattern doesn't match up along the back seam, either:


The tail fin has a few mesh accents at the top, but that's it:

No fringe :(
Underneath the tail, Finly is wearing some very basic swim bottoms:

Can't compete with fringe shorts.
And her shoes are turquoise slip-on sandals with some simple flower designs:


These shoes are nowhere near as impressive as the first wave goldfish shoes, and it also looks like I might have gotten two left shoes.  Both have the flower accent on the same side:


The sunglasses look great.  They're shaped like flowers, and even have little leaves on the ear pieces!


The sunglasses are huge on Finly's face, though!

Flower power!

Overall, this secondary outfit is nowhere near as impressive as the first wave version, but at least the shorts fit.



With Finly dressed in her swimsuit outfit, I figured she was ready to go bask in the sun for a while to test her hair's color change feature.

I sat her out on my grill for about 20 minutes in the direct (very hot) sunlight, and there was no change:


The description on Amazon says, "play with your Finly in the sun and watch as her hair streaks magically change from blue and pink to dark purple!"  Didn't happen.

Here are the two versions of Finly side-by-side:


I think they're both cute.  I like the second wave doll's bright green eyes, but I prefer the first wave doll's lipstick, eye makeup, and hair...or at least I like the length, thickness, and color of the first wave doll's hair better.  The second wave Finly's hair is easier to manage.

I did some mixing and matching with the two Finlys and their outfits.  I love the second wave top, so I wanted to try that with first wave Finly and her scaly tail:


I think this is a great combo, and it really made me wish that first wave Finly's short fit!

I decided to get the shorts out and try one more time.  This time, I noticed that some of the blue ruffle at the hem of the shorts was stuck inside the leg:


That was making the fit of the leg too tight.

I repositioned the ruffle so that it didn't invert, and tried again:


It wasn't easy, but with the ruffle repositioned and a lot of tugging, I was finally able to pull the shorts into place!  Hurrah!


I really like this outfit!


Unfortunately, when I removed the crocheted top, one of the straps broke:

Ric-rac attack.
That's an easy thing to fix, but it was pretty frustrating.

I tried Finly's original rainbow blouse with the shorts next:


This combination also looks great (apologies for not straightening the fringe!):


Here are the shorts from the back:


The shorts are super-tight, so even though Finly can sit down in them...


...the back busts wide open when she's in this position:


The other thing that was beginning to frustrate me about the first wave outfit is that the puff sleeves on the blouse are hard to use.  Finly's fingers have to be maneuvered through four areas of elastic-gathered fabric.  The more times I dressed and undressed Finly, the more irritating this became.


This would be extremely frustrating--if not impossible--for little kids.

As an experiment, I snipped the threads that were holding the puffy sleeves in place and removed them.  Here's the blouse without the sleeves:

No more water wings!
I love how this looks:


But the blouse is really loose.  And I think the sleeves played some role in anchoring everything in place, because without the sleeves, the blouse is even more prone to slipping down.   

It gapes open in the front a lot, too:


Here's the top-down view so that you can see what I'm talking about:


I wonder if all of the first wave Finlys have this problem, or perhaps my doll got unlucky?  It's really sad because the top is so pretty.

I also wanted to try the first wave outfit on second wave Finly:


I think she looks great like this!  The color in her hair matches the outfit nicely:


She also looks good in the land version of the outfit:




The first wave outfit is so much nicer than the second wave outfit--especially given that the second wave top broke within minutes of me getting it out of the box.

I do love that crocheted top, though, and enjoy the emphasis on pink.  It coordinates with Finly's pink hair streak:


I prefer almost everything about the first wave doll, but her hair was a real stumbling block for me.  Second wave Finly's thinner, shorter hair was easier to manage, which made her more fun to play with. There's no way a young child could play with that first wave hair for more than about a day without it deteriorating into tangled madness.

So, I decided to boil wash first wave Finly's hair to see if that would help.  

It most certainly did!


The hair straightened beautifully, and now it's possible to brush all of the way through the entire length with one stroke.


The hair is vastly superior now--so smooth and silky.  It makes me wonder why companies ever use that wavy hair?  In my opinion, the waves don't look good enough to compensate for the associated frizz and hassle.


Bottom line?  My appreciation for Finly built slowly over the course of this review.  My first impression of her was, frankly, not good at all.  The packaging was a pain in the neck, the long hair was difficult to brush because of the pre-tangled areas and frizzy ends, the articulation felt stiff and limiting, the blouse looked crooked and kept falling down, and the freaking shorts didn't even fit.  I remember an early moment during one of my photo sessions when I sat back, shook my head, and thought "well, this is a disaster of a doll."  But I don't feel that way anymore.

Some of my initial impressions were accurate, though.  First of all, the articulation is limiting.  I found myself particularly frustrated by Finly's inability to move her head up and down; it felt like she was always staring off into space.  The lack of wrist articulation and the absence of rotation in the knees were two other sources of disappointment.  In addition, Finly doesn't balance very well on her own (even in shoes) and my doll has a bad crack in one of her legs.  Despite all this, Finly has better articulation than many dolls on the market, and her simple joints make her manageable for younger children.  I'd be fine with her joints if her price was closer to $15, but for the $26.99 MSRP, the articulation is not good enough for me.  Happily, the current price of this doll is below $20, which is where I hope it will stay.

The Mermaid High clothing is a source of mixed feelings.  Overall, the first wave clothes are more substantial and more detailed than the second wave clothes.  The first wave rainbow blouse is particularly beautiful and well-made.  However, the top is ill-fitting and has gathered sleeves that are tough to navigate.  The second wave crocheted top is also beautiful, but it broke after only a few minutes of use.  The fabric tails on both dolls are a really fun feature, and both are colorful and easy to use.  The first wave tail, with its fringed fin, detailed fabric, and well-constructed seams, is nicer than the newer version. Thanks to some stretchy fabric, both tails fit onto other dolls like Liv and Barbie.  First wave Finly has a cute secondary outfit with fringed shorts and fantastic shoes, but the shorts are extremely tight and are hard to get on and off.  Second wave Finly's secondary outfit fits nicely, but it's just a simple swim bottom with slip-on shoes...and my doll came with two left shoes.

Hair is an important feature for any mermaid, and I feel like the first wave doll's hair was problematic because of its length and frizz, and the second wave doll's hair was disappointing because of its scraggly, thin style and failed color change feature.  The thing is, I was able to transform the first wave Finly's hair by cutting out the tangles and straightening the waves with a quick boil wash.  Now the hair is sleek, gorgeous, and easy to brush.  I absolutely love it.  I'd highly recommend boiling this hair in any circumstance, but especially before giving Finly to a young child.

By the time I boiled her hair, I'd already begun to think kind thoughts about first wave Finly.  But once that long, glorious hair was straight?  That's when real affection began to creep in.  I started to see how this cute little mermaid, with her freckled face and bright eyes, might be the perfect companion for a child.  She's such a colorful, happy presence, and I can clearly see the effort that went into her detailed rainbow outfit--even if each item wasn't perfectly executed.  As I was taking those last few photos at the end, with Finly's hair tamed and the puffy sleeves of the blouse out of the way, I realized that somehow--despite all of my little complaints--I actually really like this doll and want to give her a good review.

So, I ended up liking Finly, and I like the first wave version much more than the second, but what about the choice between the Mermaid High dolls and the Mermaze Mermaidz?  When I purchased Orra and Finly, I had them positioned side-by-side in my shopping cart.  I kept looking down at them and thinking that the idea of a comparison review was silly; why bother contrasting these dolls when I could see clearly, right off the bat, that the Mermaidz doll was vastly more unique and beautiful?  But I'm glad I persisted, because the differences between the two brands are more complex than I anticipated.  What strikes me after spending time with both types of doll is that Finly's place in the market is clear: she's a kid's play doll.  Not to say that adults can't enjoy her (I do!), but she's designed to be a kid's play doll, and, with a few tweaks, she's a good one.  But what niche do the Mermaidz fill?  They don't seem designed for younger kids because the rigid plastic tails make them hard to pose and play with.  They'd make good bath toys, but a $30 or $40 bath toy is really pricey...and bath play is mostly for younger kids.  Are they geared towards older collectors?  That makes some sense, especially for the dolls like Orra who can stand alone and be easily displayed.  But, as an anonymous commenter mentioned, for a lot of collectors, the design of these dolls contaminates the mermaid concept with bizarre additions like sweat pant tails and waterlogged puffy jackets.  So even though I can appreciate many things about the Mermaidz, I'm not sure I really get them.

But of course a doll doesn't have to make sense to me or fit perfectly into a market niche in order to be a success.  In fact, there's a unique vibe to the Mermaidz that's tantalizing in its obscureness.  But I find myself drawn more to the sweet simplicity of Finly and her Mermaid High friends.  This is a doll I'd feel good about buying for a child, especially if I could stick around to boil the hair and snip off the sleeves.  Finly might not be unique, but she's a solid, versatile, cheerful little play doll with a bit of mermaid magic, and the value in a toy like that is something I can understand.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for another great review, Emily! Though both brands revolve around mermaids, Mermaze Mermaidz and Mermaid High probably couldn't have been more different from each other. I've already posted all my thoughts about the Mermaze dolls before, including elements that MGA could (and also should) work on for a potential series two. I guess we could do the same for Mermaid High, but tragically, it seems competition from both Mattel and MGA once again beat down Spin Master. I assume we won't be seeing another wave of Mermaid High dolls. But despite some of their flaws, I don't think that's actually to blame on the dolls themselves. They're very cute, colorful, versatile (I prefer having both a tail and regular legs option) and attractive dolls, suitable for both kids and the mermaid loving-adult collector. But a saturated market, high initial price ($19.99 seems much better, but for $5 I would've picked up all them in one go, haha!) and lack of international distribution (like Liv, I don't think they actually made it overseas, pun intended) must've all contributed to the line's failure. Add to that the seeming downgrade from the first wave to the second (not carrying on the shell surprise thing was such a missed opportunity) and the fact that Spin Master just can't seem to reach that quality they had with Liv, and not much is left other than another commendable try at making waves (pun not intended!) in the doll market.

    By the way, if you really want to watch a fun show about girls going to a high school that's close to an ocean while secretly being mermaids, watch H2O: Just Add Water. It's a childhood classic for me!

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  2. I hope I wasn't the only person seeing Searra going "...That's Briar Beauty."

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  3. Those shoes really do make me miss Monster High's gorgeous footwear. It's interesting seeing the contrast between these dolls, especially the faces. I found the Mermazing dolls to be very pretty and serene last week, but seeing them in direct comparison to this more traditional and friendly doll face makes them eery too.

    Two sides of the mermaid coin (the dangerous sailor predators vs the sweet mythical ladies of newer tales and the Little Mermaid).

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  4. So glad you did this review!!

    I found myself drawn to wave 1 Oceanna because she was part of a present to myself during the christmas sale at Target for toys and found mysel smitten with her - The shell surprise was spoiled for me a bit via other reviews but still fun and her hair is the perfect silky texture. With that positive experience - and getting lucky by nabbing an unmarked wave 1 Finly from the walmart shelves that just rang up as 'doll' for $12 - I quickly grabbed the spring break versions of her and Searra for my birthday too. I haven't been outside to see if their streaks work but I liked all 4 dolls enough to grab Mari and have a feeling the remaining ones I lack will be here by summer's end LOL

    I definitely agree that as far as play/play value go that Mermaid High does have a tail up on Mermaze both because they seem more geared to play vs. display but also little things like better use of posability and clothing that can potentially get wet/have water play without it being an issue. I definitely have notes on the line - mainly that some details could perhaps be real vs printed and that I would like a wrist articulated body down the line - but they've got good bones and with sketches/leaks of at least two more lines they're planning for - a prom line with a potential 2 pack featuring a boy and a sleepover line - I'm hopefully to see how they can keep surprising us.

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    1. Wow! Hoe do you get the inside information?

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    2. There are listings on amazon with some sketches and someone posted a leak of a potential commercial for the prom line

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  5. The wavy hair is actually just a result of the hair being rooted into the head without it being styled. Most rooting machines use doll hair that is spiraled on a spool, much like sewing thread is, which is why it has that kind of wave that you can't replicate afterwards.

    I assume the dolls were rooted with the hair, gelled down so it would lay alright in the box without any other styling but why it requires a boil wash to get the hair to lay correctly.

    Once you notice that more modern dolls don't have as much styling done before they're packaged up, the more you notice how distinct factory waves are in doll hair.

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    1. This makes so much sense! I can’t believe I’ve never put two and two together before about this!

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  6. Thanks for the follow-up on the current mermaid dolls. I think both lines are overpriced for what they are, but my favourite are the Mermazes because of their striking faces and hair. Out of these ones, I would have preferred Mari based on the pictures. Scrapping her character without a clear explanation makes me think not much thought was put into this line. Indeed - am I the only one who thinks this concept is easily replicated by pairing any fashion doll with a fabric tail?

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  7. second wave Finley's nose freckles are more random like her cheek freckles. That's interesting. I think they're cute dolls, but their default price point is a little high for what you're getting. They're very much aimed at a younger audience than MGA's offerings and I appreciate that, though I do wish they had wrist articulation.

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  8. Hi Ms Emily!! I really liked this review. I was skeptical of this series but I really ended up liking the second wave doll. Such a shame that the articulation isn’t up to the potential of the series. Speaking of articulation, have you seen the Raya and Sisu classic dolls? I got my hands on a couple second hand. I’d love to see you do an articulation update for the Disney Disney dolls considering your previous investment with the brand!! Thanks for reading! Love your blog!

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  9. Thanks for another fun review! The faces remind me a bit of the Moxie Girls dolls. Not what holds my interest but fun for play.
    That type of fringe on Finly always makes me think of bookmarks.

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  10. Loved the review! Just wanted to say that I have first wave Finly, and her top fits very well. I might have to give her a boil wash as her hair is a bit out of control. I've got it styled in a braid at the moment.

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  11. Oh, I‘ve never heard of them before. But I guess the reason is that we don‘t have Spinmaster here in Europe :)
    The box art ist really realky beautiful, but the faces are a bit…I don‘t know. They remind me a bit of those knock off Barbies. But I‘m sure, as a kid I would have loved them :)
    And you are right, the Mermaze girls look creepy when you compare them. More like those man-eating sirens :)

    Oh and those Spinmaster girls have the roundest booties I‘ve ever seen on dolls, haha.

    And I looooove the photo of your kitties 🥰

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    1. Ps: Could it be that the freckles on the nose are more like these hippie henna paintings? Cause she has that hippie style :)

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  12. Where did the new blythe post go? Did they get pissy again? If so I'm so sorry

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    1. Hi other Anonymous person! The new Blythe post is right here: https://www.toyboxphilosopher.com/2022/05/patron-post-is-this-blythe.html?m=1

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  13. Thank you for another entertaining review! (I'm so glad, you are back!)

    To me, the difference is clear.
    Mermaid High is obviously targeted torwards children while Mermaze is for older collectors.

    I would have loved the Mermaid High dolls as a kid. Especially when remembering our family trips to the beach where we went down the beaches storefront. There was that one particular toy shop where my parents bought me a small treat every time. MMH would have been so perfect. I would have had a blast playing with these girls at the beach, probably ruining them with sand and salt water. They are colorful, imaginative and have rather simple accessories. The tangleprone hair is unfortunate but thats a rather easy fix. The only thing I would wish for was more clothing options or at least fashion packs because dressing up was a huge part of play in my childhood. But their intricate (if few) clothing pieces are a huge step in the right direction because most dolls nowadays that are targeted torwards children have horribly simple clothes with boring cuts and few or printed on details. That's a shame.

    Mermaze on the other hand seemed to be targeted at an older audience in the first place. I have seen several doll youtubers and content creators having been send them to review. But they also seemed to promote them to children with advertising campaigns where young girls where styled like one of the dolls. If I was asked, I would just drop preteens and children as a Target Group and advertise them only to collectors. They usually don't mind the price as much. The clothes and accessories seem quite intricate and way to complicated for active play and small children. Also the articulation is a bit lack luster (I love how expressive well articulated dolls can be in photos or on display) but what we got probably better suits display purposes than small child hands. I am not bothered by the lack of sense in their fashion either because high fashion doesn't have to be logical, it has to look cool.
    But I would scrap the color change feature or replace it with UV-color change instead of themperature based change. I hate to wet my dolls and the change fades to fast as for it to even be usefull. Having a doll on my shelf with a tail that changes color depending on the time of day and if sunlight is shining onto it does sound pretty cool. Also double jointed articulation in the ellbows, a better articulated head and maybe a spine based vinyl tail would be really cool. I wouldn't mind a higher price for that either.

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