Sunday, August 21, 2022

Toys Я Us at American Dream

I'm having a great time comparing 14-inch dolls (and, thanks to Amy's comment, I've even added another brand to the list!) but I need a little break from the formulaic approach to that series, so the next two reviews will be wildly different.

Today's post might require a bit of background, especially for anyone who is new to this site.  Toys R Us was a huge part of my life back when I first started blogging.  I used to take weekly "research" excursions to the big store in South Portland, Maine (which I'm pretty sure is now a furniture warehouse).  I loved going there.  The variety of merchandise was unmatched, and I felt like I always found some new doll or action figure that fascinated or amused me.  Between that store and the nearby Target, there was practically nothing in the play doll world that I couldn't get my hands on.  I mean, Toys R Us even carried American Girl dolls for a while.

In addition to my routine visits to the Toys R Us in Maine, I also have fond memories of the jaw-dropping flagship store that used to be in Manhattan.  That place was even more impressive than F.A.O. Schwarz, if you ask me.  There was a massive ferris wheel and a freakin' life-sized Tyrannosaurus rex, for goodness sake.  I was heartbroken when Toys R Us closed it doors in 2018.  That marked the end of an era for me, and it took a lot of the fun out of toy shopping.  And of course it was only a few months later that I made some decisions that I assumed would bring this blog to a permanent end as well.

Who could have predicted that four years later I'd be happily blogging again and--wait for it--Toys R Us would be opening new stores?  It's true!  From what I've read, these stores are all going to be smaller boutiques inside Macy's, which is disappointing, but I guess it's still better than nothing.  However, there's one full-sized Toys R Us that's been open for a while: the new flagship store at the American Dream mall.  And the American Dream mall, as luck would have it, is in New Jersey...only an hour away from my house.  So of course I went for a visit.  Do you want to check it out with me?

Toys R Us at American Dream (East Rutherford, New Jersey).

First of all, and I didn't realize this until recently (or I forgot): Toys R Us never completely disappeared from the planet.  Even when all of the stores in the United States were closed, there were still plenty of branches in other countries.  Another thing that I just learned is that many of the new Macy's Toys R Us shops are already open, and you can look to see if there's one near you on this site.  There's one about forty minutes away from me that I'll have to visit some day.

But my first priority was to visit the big store at American Dream.  Every time we drive to New York City or Boston, we pass the American Dream mall on the highway.  The structure is huge, with a visible ferris wheel and big tubes sticking out of the sides of the building to accommodate what I assume are water slides.  It's a massive mall--second only to the Mall of America.  So even though I'm not a huge fan of huge malls, I was curious about this place.

It's not an easy mall to access, though.  The exit off 95 was well-marked, and I was welcomed into the general vicinity of the mall by an impressive American Dream sign, but once I started to orbit the structure itself, I couldn't figure out how or where to park!  There isn't a big parking lot or anything, but rather a complex road system with a series of exits into parking garages (which means it costs money to park there).  After about ten minutes of clueless driving around, I ducked into a random lot and parked my car.  The lot was pretty empty:

There are presumably many, many entrances to this mall.  The one that I happened to find was underwhelming.  I'm not sure what I was expecting--some grand main doors with fountains or something?  What I got was a small kiosk that made me think of rental cars and airports:

That little entryway was just big enough to house an elevator and this extra tall escalator:

Stairway to heaven.
At the top of the escalator, I was greeted by a colorful corridor with whimsical topiary pots and painted walls:

The floor tiles are fish scales!
The topiary was really weird.  There was an ice cream cone dripping gold, and then a strange two-faced head:

The outlandish paintings on the walls are well-placed distractions from the fact that there are very few actual stores in this part of the mall right now. 

There are clearly plans to open some (high-end) stores in this wing, but it's sparse at the moment.

I feel bad for this little Mulberry store, which is all alone amidst a vast expanse of store-less painted walls:

Although it's hard to pity a store that charges thousands of dollars for a purse.
The walls were really fun to look at.  And there were a large number of paintings that featured dogs: 

I like these next two.  They're labeled "Dogma" and "Grand Paw:"

And this one--with elephants in the background--is pretty epic!

The corridor was quite long, and was punctuated by ornate seating areas with gaudy golden statues and colorful fringed couches:

It was surreal to walk through this space.  The paintings and the decor are so bizarre, and there was practically no one else around.

After about five minutes of walking, the painted walls stopped and the corridor opened up into a much more normal-looking mall space.  With actual stores:

At this point, I realized that I should probably find a map, otherwise I could be walking around for days.

Fortunately, there are interactive directories all over the place.  These are fun because they have touch screens, so you can just type in the store you want, and then an animated figure will walk along the best path to get you there.

As it turned out, I was pretty close to Toys R Us!

Even though I only had to walk a short distance, I found some cool things along the way.  Like this balloon store that had a four foot tall unicorn!

Imagine getting THAT on your birthday!
And there was a Zoltar Speaks game:

You know, like the one in the move Big with Tom Hanks (although the movie version looks way fancier...and spookier):

I did not make a wish, because I don't have time to hop around in different dimensions right now.

Right across from Zoltar was a full-sized ice skating rink:

Typical mall fare.
And just a few steps away was the whole Nickelodeon Universe:

This is an actual amusement park, right inside the mall!

Here's a peek at the layout:

Looking at this picture, I'm seeing a whole second roller coaster there in the back that was not well-lit enough for me to notice in real time!  Crazy.

Right next door to Nickelodeon Universe was the DreamWorks water park:

I enjoyed the large display of familiar characters at the entrance:

Since I didn't bring my bathing suit with me, I was more interested in the huge candy store next door:

I do like sugar.
That entire Statue of Liberty is made out of green jelly beans!  The pedestal she's standing on is made out of jelly beans, too:

I *love* jelly beans.
I giggled at the seating area outside of this candy store:

Hold my rear...
I probably should have taken the time to tour more of this huge mall, but since Toys R Us is right across the way from the candy store, and because I had to limit my time away from home according to the size of my four dogs' very small bladders, I headed straight to Toys R Us.

I'll admit that I got giddy at the sight of those familiar colorful letters:

I have yet to grow up.
It's an impressive-looking store front, too.  There's a huge Geoffrey statue sitting in one of the windows, and even a little ice cream parlor just inside the door:

The store has two floors, and the first floor was filled with mostly craft activities, board games, and Legos (I think--I can't quite remember).  There was also an appealing wall of Squishables:

The dolls were all on the second floor, though, so I made a beeline for that area!

On the second floor, the majority of the dolls were on display at the back, in a partially walled-off room.

On the left side of this room, there was a section with Madame Alexander dolls, a wall of mostly Dream Collection dolls, some random baby dolls, and several short, free-standing shelving units lined up in the middle of the floor:

Featured prominently in the Madame Alexander section were the 14-inch Kindness Club girls that I just reviewed:

It was great to see all of these dolls in person, and I fear it only solidified my love for Avi--the character I didn't buy for the review.

Rosa (to the left of Avi) is also nice.
Look at how sweet Avi is!

She doesn't have the bright vinyl or neon lips that I criticized on Emmi.  And I like her raincoat and boots outfit a lot better, too.

I didn't buy Avi at Toys R Us that day (her sticker price was $69.99!), but I did go home and buy her from Amazon, where she was on sale for $39.71 and I had a $10 gift card.

I rarely buy dolls for my own collection anymore, but I really like this girl and the price was right:

Kindness Club Avi by Madame Alexander.
I'll go back and add a few photographs and thoughts about Avi to Emmi's review at some point.  I like to think that it doesn't matter which doll in a collection that I choose to review, but in this case my analysis would have been a bit different if I'd purchased Avi first instead of Emmi.

While Avi impressed me more in real life than she did in her promotional photos, Zola was less appealing than I thought she'd be:

She has a different face mold than the other dolls, and I don't like her expression as much as I like Emmi and Avi's relaxed smile.  She looks stressed:

The rest of the Madame Alexander wall was taken up with baby dolls.  These included a few Lee Middleton babies, which I have a soft spot for:

I was disappointed that there weren't any 18-inch Madame Alexander dolls, but perhaps those aren't being made anymore.  The old Madame Alexander My Life As dolls from Walmart were fun and inexpensive.

Right next to the Madame Alexander dolls was this wall of Dream Collection products:

The most interesting things to me were the 16-inch Best Friends, with their animal-themed outfits:

There was one doll with lighter vinyl, but I didn't really like her complexion (although it isn't quite as orange as it looks in this photo):

These girls cost $19.99, which felt like a huge bargain after seeing the $70 Kindness Club characters.  I almost purchased this cutie, with her awesome jellyfish dress:

I ended up not buyer her, though, and I hope I don't regret it.  She's not very easy to find online.  I passed on her because she felt lightweight (which made me wonder about quality) and also because I found a different doll that I wanted more.

These Dream Collection triplets caught my eye with their cute faces...but also because they're called "Baby Happy Quints."  I gotta ask: if they're quintuplets, what happened to the other two babies??  The cheeky baby in the middle looks guilty.

One of my favorite baby doll sets was this Kisses & Cuddles duo by Cititoy:

The babies have really nice faces and look soft.

What's strange to me is that these babies are very hard to find online.  I was only able to track them down on a Canadian website where they cost $50.  The promotional photo shows their vinyl color better than my snapshots:

One of my least favorite babies was this Baby Dreami girl from Gigo:

Her layette is nice, but her face looks like it's been smooshed in.  It reminds me of a My Twinn doll that I worked on a few years ago who'd actually had her face smooshed in.  

Her promotional photo looks better, but I'm still not tempted.

And once again, I was only able to find this doll online at a store in Australia.  Strange, right?  I mean, I even searched for her on the Macy's Toys R Us website, but she's nowhere to be found.

This makes me wonder if Toys R Us is using inventory from some of their international stores to fill the shelves?  It's possible, I guess.  

The most bizarre babies in the store were on this Baby Alive display:

This store was really pushing Little Astrid, a small, soft-bodied Baby Alive.  There were about a hundred copies of her in stock:

An Astrid army.
The dolls aren't super expensive (about $15), but they don't have any of the interactive features that I expect when I think of Baby Alive (things like eating, peeing, talking, etc.).  

I also think that Astrid has weird features (or maybe her features only looked weird because I was staring at hundreds of the same face in a row?):

Her head is really flat, too--like a hamburger bun:

Everybody wants some.
Most of the free-standing shelves in the middle of the floor were filled with Barbie dolls of one kind or another, and I'll admit that I didn't inspect all of the dolls closely.

Although this particular shelf...

...had a sweet redheaded Chelsea that I'd snagged at Target about a month ago:

I don't think I've ever seen another Chelsea with this hair color, although the internet tells me that several have existed.  I just wish this one had freckles:

From where I started near the Madame Alexander dolls, you can get a good view of the other side of the main doll room:

Half way down the room, up against the wall, there's yet another Barbie display:

And, by the way, the little stack of Rainbow High gift sets that you can see on the floor in that picture are the only Rainbow High dolls that were in the whole store.  This is a far cry from what Target looks like these days.

The gift set on display there is this six-pack re-release, and it originally cost about $130 (now it's on sale for way less in most places):

The wall of Barbies behind the Rainbow High stack was a mix of Made-to-Move and regular dolls:

And the fabulous Signature Looks group was tucked down in the lower right hand corner of that display:

They should have been front and center, if you ask me!
The Looks dolls being offered are from the second wave, so they're not the most current dolls, which was a bummer.  I'd been stalking Mattel's shop for a long time trying to get Simone, who is one of the third wave dolls, and I was hoping I'd see her in the store.

During the time between when I visited Toys R Us and now, though, I actually managed to find Simone online for under $20.  She's amazing:

Signature Looks Simone (in box) and Lina.
Simone has the tall body type, which I love.  She also has thick eyebrows, lovely dark skin, and fabulous eye makeup:

She'll come out of her box eventually, but I wanted to snap a few quick pictures to share with you right now.

The shelving units on the right side of this room had mostly Disney dolls, with a section for Gabby's Dollhouse merchandise:

The Disney shelves had a lot of Hasbro dolls, which were things I'd seen before.

The Gabby's Dollhouse dolls always show up on my Amazon recommendation list, and they look cute.  Here's an example:

A similarly-sized doll that tends to pop up in my searches (but wasn't at Toys R Us) is Karma from Karma's World.  She also looks interesting:

Since I've never watched either of these televisions shows, I'm not sure if I should review either of the dolls.  I'm still considering it.  Karma's World has a redheaded character, which makes those dolls quite tempting.

Considering how big the Karma's World display is at Target, and how often I run into these dolls during my online searches, I was very surprised to not see them at Toys R Us.

On the back wall of this part of the room was a big selection of Ruby Red Fashion Friends.

Here's a better look:

The fluorescent lights in this store might have been doing funny things to the dolls, but I was struck by how unnatural some of the skin tones looked.

For example, Think Happy Thoughts Hanna looked greenish-blue to me:

The off coloring isn't as pronounced in these pictures, but it did not look good in person.

Dream Big Bella looked green-tinged, too:

Some of the dolls were also crazy-pale like the Scarlett doll I reviewed.  Siblie Rory is a good example of this:

As is Let Your Light Shine Sarah:

The characters who looked great to me were Be Confident Kayla:

She was my favorite.
Rock Star Stella:

I love her red hair!
And Siblie Kelsey:

I didn't leave the store with a new Ruby Red friend, though, mostly because the price was too big for my budget that day.

The side wall on this part of the room was covered in New York Doll Collection products.  This was a surprise to me since I'd only just learned about the brand...and most New Yorkers wouldn't be caught dead in New Jersey.  

I was really happy to see the dolls in person, though, because at the time I was contemplating a review of their 18-inch line.

I guess it's no surprise that these dolls were so prominently featured, given that the company is also located in New Jersey...and, like it or not, New York City is only about thirty minutes away from East Rutherford.

I'd been eyeing these dolls on the New York Doll Collection website and also on Amazon.  But the thing that stood out to me when I saw them in person is that their eyes are way too bright and intense:

She's going to freeze me with her stare.
I'm also not crazy about the face molds.  However, the hair on these dolls looks really nice (even if it's messy in the box).

There were two different kinds of 18-inch doll.  The New York Dolls (in the pink boxes) and the City Girls (in the darker purple boxes):

The New York Dolls look bigger, but I think all of the dolls have the same body.  The City Girls just come in smaller boxes.  

Also, one of the New York Dolls has an extra large head:

It's almost like she has a baby doll head on an American Girl body.

This is the doll that I almost bought when I was shopping online:

City Girl Madison by New York Doll Collection, $69.99.
Her name is Madison and she lives in Brooklyn (or at least that what she tells her friends, who must never know she lives in Jersey).  She actually has a long and detailed bio that you can read on the New York Doll Collection website.  

I like a lot of things about this doll.  Her outfit is cute, and her hair is a gorgeous color.  If her hair is anything like the 14-inch Glamour Girlz from this same company, then it probably feels great, too.  The box is quite heavy, which is always appealing to me for reasons that might not be valid.  I guess it suggests that the hair is thick that the vinyl isn't cheap and thin.

Anyway, I wanted to review Madison, and assumed I'd walk out of the store with her, but I couldn't get past those shamrock-green eyes and severe brow.

Next to the 18-inch dolls, there was a smaller array of Glamour Girlz:

They all have the same light brown eyes that I didn't really like on Ellery.  

I'd been tempted by Black Hair when I was shopping online, but I don't like her as much in person.  I wish her eyes were darker, and that her outfit looked less like a bee:

In person, I liked Brown Hair best overall, but Ellery has the prettiest hair.

A fun surprise were these mini dolls from New York Doll Collection:

There are five different varieties (all with pale vinyl and blue eyes) and they cost $14.99.  I purchased one and I'll show her to you in just a minute.

The mini dolls were mixed in with various 18-inch accessories and, inexplicably, American Girl Mega Bloks:

I'd been hoping that Toys R Us would have a real selection of American Girl dolls--just like the good old days.  But sadly this handful of Mega Books was all I got.  There isn't even an American Girl store at the American Dream mall, perhaps because they didn't want to create competition with the big store in Manhattan.

Most of the dolls were in the large back area that I just showed you, but there were other shelves throughout the second floor that had dolls, too.

One of the shelves was covered with Spirit toys.  I loved the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron movie, and also enjoyed the Spirit Riding Free television show (and toys!) that came more than a decade later.  I guess there's now a new movie (out last year) called Spirit Untamed, and so of course there's a whole new line of accompanying toys.

There were about fifty copies of this particular toy, Lucky's Train Home:

Here are the extra heaps of this set that were sitting in the middle of the floor:

The set includes Lucky, Spirit, and a train car (and the list price is $39.99):

It's an okay set, and I think the truncated train car is fun, but Spirit is waay too small for Lucky.  Why do doll companies not even try to make horses in the right scale?  Also, I don't like how the insides of Spirit's legs are hollow at the top (this is blurred out in the promotional photo, but you can see it in my pictures).  It looks cheap.

I also wasn't impressed by this Snack Cart set.  While is the poor baby horse hooked up to a cart?

Foal labor.
Some of the Spirit sets were appealing to me, though, like this one with a young version of Lucky.  While the larger Lucky dolls often look strange to me, this little one is sweet, and her toy pony is adorable:

This Cuddle Colt and Mama set is also nice, although the insides of the mare's legs are hollow:

I didn't buy anything from the Spirit display, but it definitely got me thinking about the movie (I want to see it!) and sent me on an internet hunt for other Spirit toys that might be fun for review.  I'm such a sucker for model horses.

Speaking of horses, on the other side of the Spirit display, there was an assortment of My Little Pony merchandise:

I was most tempted by these little articulated ponies, especially Rainbow Dash:

There was a Miss Pommel character, too:

There was another style of articulated figure available, but these didn't look quite as cute to me, and they don't have as many joints:

There were no Equestria Girls in sight, which is too bad.  Those were fun.

On one end of the My Little Pony shelf, there was a small selection of Fancy Nancy items.  I don't know much about Fancy Nancy, having never read the books or seen the show, but there was an articulated 18-inch doll that caught my eye:

Her articulation reminds me of the BFC Ink dolls, but her proportions are different.  In addition to what looks like an impressive number of joints, she has bright red hair, sparkling green inset eyes, and freckles!

She cost $49.99, which is a lot, but since I haven't seen her anywhere else, I decided to splurge.  Once I got home and searched for her online, I realized that she's been on the market for a while, and $49.99 is currently an excellent price.  Amazon has her listed for $90.58 (which is insane).

Anyway, I'm excited to review her, and to see what Fancy Nancy is all about in the process!

Right next to the Fancy Nancy section, there was a shelf with a lot of bargain mini dolls that I'd never seen before:

The sets are by PlayKidz and most of them cost only $9.99.  The dolls are about the same size as American Girl minis:

The sets I chose to photograph all have dolls with red hair, but it's hard to see that--sorry.

This Food Cart sets cost $11.99 and was appealing, although all of the little food accessories are pretty basic...and orange:

Your entire diet should probably not be orange.
I like this Cozy Ride car, too:

It declares itself to be cute.
There was a $9.99 dollhouse family made by this company, too, but I didn't think it looked great:

The low prices on these toys were appealing, but I wasn't tempted to buy any of them.

Across the aisle from the PlayKidz toys, there was a Polly Pocket display:

I've been on-and-off tempted by the Polly Pocket toys at Target, but when I look at them up close, often the figures have paint defects and warped faces that I know would bother me.

This display had lots of copies of the same few toys, like these two larger sets:

It's hard to see any detail in my photos, but this is what one of the sets looks like when it's de-boxed:

There were some smaller sets, too, my favorite of which was this pet-themed Hedgehog Cafe:

Here's what that set looks like when it's de-boxed:

This style is nice because everything folds up into a little case.

I might have to do an updated Polly Pocket review some day, but I'd probably buy my toys online, where there's a wider variety of themes to choose from (including a horse stable!).

Near the Polly Pocket display, there was an entire shelf unit covered with L.O.L. Surprise items:

The only dolls that I hadn't seen before were these little blister pack minis.  They're very cute!

I have no idea when these were released, but when I searched for them online I got mostly international sites.  Have any of you seen them in real life?

This little freckled girl was my favorite, and I probably should have bought her, if only to encourage the simple, no-surprise packaging:

There was also a shelf full of Trolls, which are not really my thing:

But I did enjoy finding this one little Hairdorables mini tucked in amongst the Trolls!

This is a "Hairdorables Loves Trolls" doll, and I like her:

There's a whole series of "Haridorables Loves..." dolls that feature different themes like JoJo Siwa and Hello Kitty.  I think this JoJo doll is fun, with her tiny balloon animal dog!

There were some mini dolls by Zuru scattered about the store, too, like these Angel High balls:

These dolls didn't look very remarkable to me.

There were also some Itty Bitty Prettys (also by Zuru):

I couldn't even tell what the Itty Bitty Pretty dolls looked like, so I had to find pictures of them online when I got home.

Turns out they look a lot like the Angel High dolls:

The redhead is cute, and she even comes with her own tiny teacup!

The Itty Bitty Prettys were more tempting than the Angel High dolls, mostly because of their teacup packaging (that might get reused!).  But I'm mostly done with over-packaged small surprise toys.

That's about all I found in the doll area, save for a few more shelves (and piles) of Barbies scattered throughout:

There was a whole wall of Barbie Extra dolls:

The same five dolls again and again.
And I liked this one best, with her furry rainbow coat:

I didn't find any of the new Barbie Extra Minis, though, which is a shame (even though I already have several of them for review).

But there was a pyramid of Barbie heads!

Somebody took a lot of time stacking all of those heads!
These are mini styling heads, which is a nice idea, but it looked freaky to have such a huge stack of disembodied heads in the middle of the room.

I should try out a styling head some day.  It would be fun to practice different doll hairstyles (and I could definitely use the practice!).  But I keep wondering how they can possibly be heavy enough to stay put while the hair is being brushed and pulled around--especially with really small heads like these.  Do they even work?

Anyway, the rest of the second floor was dedicated to things other than dolls. There was a Steiff display (with the same stuffed unicorns that Lottie and I found at FAO Schwarz):

There was a massive Playmobil section:

Including some big diorama displays like this fire truck:

And this beautiful castle dollhouse:

I really love Playmobil!  Look at the gorgeous horse-drawn carriage:

I could peek into the back of the house, too, which was fun:

There was a smaller Calico Critters display:

The selection here wasn't amazing, but I like the big flocked bunny in the middle!

Here's a better look:

So cute.
There was a Schleich shelf with a life-sized tiger on top of it:

And a line of Playmobil animal figures called Wiltopia that I'd never seen before:

The animals cost $11.99 each, and this baby elephant was my favorite:

There was also a large action figure section that I only explored towards the end of my visit when I was starting to get tired.  I scanned that area for new and interesting things, and the character who caught my eye was this Hasbro Captain Marvel doll:

She has rooted hair with a very strange hairline:

But I really like her expressive face:

And of course I love Goose, her alien-spewing cat.

That was everything I managed to photograph at Toys R Us.

Whew.  I was at this store for about two hours, and I feel like I saw everything.  I also got to see a lot of families go in and out, and it was fun to stand back and watch what toys the kids gravitated towards.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for Barbie, Disney, and L.O.L. Surprise, but not a ton of interest in the Ruby Red Fashion Friends or the New York Doll Collection.  The Playmobil section was very popular, too, especially because kids could ride in the fire engine display.  But of course I only got a small glimpse of what goes on at this store every day.

I have a lot of thoughts about the reincarnated Toys R Us, but I'll save those for the end of the post.  For now, let me quickly show you another fun store that I found on my way out of the mall.  It's called P!Q, and has a New York City theme:

In addition to New York City souvenirs, this place carries a lot of trendy, unique items like blind box toys, manga products, and plushies:

There was a huge wall display of mini Sonny Angel figures, which I love:

And a display case full of other tantalizing blind box goodies:

Look at the donut-headed dolls on the left!

I especially like this coffee cup-toting cat:

And this manga Unicorno!

There was a wall of Marc Tetro dog merchandise (which I covet!):

Too bad there are no Chihuahuas.
And these awesome Worlds Smallest games:

I want that Boggle set!
And a bunch of adorable plushies:

OMG that fat Pusheenicorn in the middle!
These are even cuter than the Squishables, if you ask me:

Especially the fuzzy avocados.
And they even had Monchichis!

I still have the original Monchichi commercial going through my head...37 years later.

Anyway, I had a fun five minutes in P!Q before I had to head back home.  It was arguably the most fun five minutes I had all day, and I kinda wish I'd spent more time there, but I was pretty tired at that point; I get shopping fatigue much the same way that I get museum fatigue, even though I'm not moving around very fast. 

I grabbed a few blind box toys from P!Q that I'll share with you at the very end, but first I want to do a quick review of the New York Doll Collection mini that I bought at Toys R Us:

I'm going to name her Freya because it's the closest thing to a feminine version of the name Geoffrey that I could think of.  It's also the name of my cats' mother.

Freya cost $14.99 and is actually more expensive ($16.99) if you buy her online at the New York Doll Collection store or at a place like Amazon.

She came in a small cardboard box with a plastic window.  

Inside the box, Freya was secured against a pink cardboard backdrop:

She was attached to the backdrop with three plastic ties; one around her neck and two around her legs.  Her sweater was also attached to the underlying dress with two super-tiny ties, and her shoes were rubber-banded to her feet.

Freya stands nicely on her own and looks pretty good right out of the box!

Here she is from the side:

Her hair was tied into three ponytails; small ones on either side of her head and a larger one at the back.

She has blue painted eyes, natural pink lips, and detailed eyebrows that are raised to create an expectant expression:

I lay Freya down on the table so that the light would illuminate her small face a bit better:

The paint job is quite good, with only a few thin areas at the inside edges of the eyes:

I took the rubber bands out of the hair and brushed it.  The fiber feels great, although the kinks from the rubber bands stuck around for a while:

Freya looks nice with her hair down:

Her outfit consists of a floral dress and an off-white cardigan:

I thought that this was one of the nicer outfits in the collection.  The cardigan is made out of a jersey knit, and the edges are all carefully finished

The inside tag is pretty huge, though:

That'll have to go.
And one side of the cardigan came with a small smudge of dirt on it:

The floral dress is sleeveless, and it coordinates with the pink headband fairly well:

The dress has a velcro closure in back, and is easy to take off and put back on again:

The inside of the dress looks secure and well-made, and the bodice even has a mesh lining:

Underneath her dress, Freya has a pair of white underpants:

Her little shoes are made out of flexible vinyl, and they slide easily on and off:

The shoes do not have any molded or painted details:

Underneath the shoes, Freya is wearing delicate little white knit socks:

Her body is made out of hard vinyl and has five points of simple articulation:

She can raise her arms and sit on the ground with her legs angled apart:

And she can do front-to-back splits:

Freya is 6.5 inches tall, and her body is virtually identical to the American Girl mini body:

New York Doll Collection mini (left), and American Girl mini (right).
The only differences I can see are that Freya's head and hands are bigger than Molly's.

New York Doll Collection mini (left), and American Girl mini (right).
Here's a closer look at the hand difference: Molly's fingers look like they've been cut off short:

Molly's fingers are on the bottom.
The two dolls can share clothing very well:

New York Doll Collection mini and American Girl mini with swapped outfits.
Although Molly's shoes are very tight on Freya:

The quality of the American Girl outfit is better, but the New York Doll Collection outfit is easier to use.  And I actually think Molly looks better in Freya's outfit than she does in her own!

Here's Freya back in her original clothes:

I took her hair out of the headband for a minute, just to see how that would look:

I think she looks nice without the headband:

And the rooting pattern is quite good, too, although it's a bit random in places:

I struggled a bit to get the headband back on while keeping Freya's hair neat:

But it was easy to smooth the strands of hair down.  

I like Freya best in her dress and headband with no cardigan:

Freya is a really sweet little doll.  She'd be a nice friend for the American Girl minis or for the Battat Lori dolls.  At $14.99, I think she's an excellent deal.

It's funny because even without getting my hands on one of the New York Doll Collection's 18-inch girls, I feel like my assessment of the brand will be: the smaller the better.  I like Ellery better than any of the 18-inch dolls I saw at Toys R Us, and I like Freya better than Ellery.  I only wish that the mini doll lineup had some more options--like a doll with dark skin, dark eyes, or, say, red hair.

This review is already quite long, and you're probably feeling fatigue similar to what I felt at American Dream, but I want to really quickly show you the three toys that I chose at P!Q.  It'll be like a mini Sunday Surprise!

First up, I had to have one of the Manga Mania Unicornos:

The box itself is like a mini work of art!  Part of me didn't want to open it.

I love the Unicorno origin story:

But they are not cheap!
Here are all of the different options:

Midnight and Meteor look especially awesome.
I didn't care too much which one I got, but P!Q has a nice policy where you can open the toys in-store and if you're unhappy, you can trade for whatever is on display in the cabinet.

Inside the box was a foil pouch and a little pamphlet with all of the characters listed again:

As soon as I cut into the foil, I knew which Unicorno I had gotten!

Here comes the Sunshine!
Here she is:

She's awesome, although I kinda wish that her eyes were black and not yellow--they'd show up better:

But I love the manga design and the bright yellow accents!

It's even possible to read little sections of the text:

"The city is taken over by waves and a Mermicorno appears from the sea..."
The second blind box toy I chose was Lena's Favorite Mini Pig:

Lina is the name of my Barbie assistant, of course, but it's also the name of this sophisticated redhead who I gather has a penchant for fancy pets:

The different pig options are shown on the box.  There's Luis, Lara, and Ria:

And also Romy, Emily, and Mia:

It's hard to chose a favorite, but I was really hoping I'd get Emily!  I love her hat.

Luis graces the top of the box:

And inside...

Ooh!  I see a string of pearls:

It's Ria!

She's wearing pink polka-dotted bloomers with her name written on them, and her little tail sticking out at the back!

The molded detail on her bloomers continues all of the way around her body:

And her necklace has a big yellow flower:

She's delightful...and certainly very fancy for a pig:

Ria is about 1.5 inches tall, which is smaller than Sunshine:

The last blind box toy I chose was, of course, one of the Sonny Angels:

I picked a boy from the animal series. Apparently he may (or may not) bring me happiness:

One side of the box shows all of the different options:

I was definitely hoping for the Chihuahua, but all of them are great!
The box opened to reveal an orange foil pouch:

I cut into the foil and discovered Sonny's feet sticking out!

A breach birth.
And I got the little rhinoceros!

These guys are so cute, with their side-glancing eyes, impish smiles, and naked bottoms:

The rhinoceros hat is simple, with two black circle eyes and two stubby horns:

A side view shows off the rhino hat best, I think:

There's less detail on Sonny's back, but he does have two eensy-weensy wings:

It will be fun to have this little guy around, smiling at me whenever I'm photographing a new doll:

He definitely makes me happy.
Here's the whole blind box crew:

 And here they are again with my Barbie assistant, Lina, so you can see how their sizes compare to her:

Lina and her very fancy pets.
Bottom line?  It's funny that I came home from American Dream with more toys from P!Q than from Toys R Us.  But I do still have that large Fancy Nancy doll who will get her own longer review at some point.  And, to be fair, I came away from that trip with tons of ideas for other reviews, most of which were inspired by browsing at Toys R Us.  It was definitely a fun day.

I left American Dream feeling a bit let down by Toys R Us in general, though, and it's hard to say exactly why.  Some of it might simply be nostalgia-driven; things are seldom as good as I've built them up in my mind, especially after a lot of time has passed.  But I feel like this Toys R Us wasn't anywhere near as good as the one I used to visit in Maine.  Why?  Let's see if I can break it down.

First of all, I was struck by how a lot of the inventory seemed outdated, like the large Fancy Nancy doll that's sold out everywhere else by now, or the piles and piles of Spirit Untamed toys that are from a movie that's more than a year old.  Some of the toys also seemed uncommon in this country--like those baby dolls or the L.O.L. blister packs that I could only find on international sites.  My memory of the Toys R Us in Maine is that there was almost always something new that had recently hit the market and was not widely available yet.  One of the reasons I went to that store so often was to educate myself on what was new and exciting.  Target serves that purpose for me these days--it's where I discovered things like the Mermaze Mermaidz and Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay.  But I didn't find anything at Toys R Us that was brand new to the market and took me by surprise.

The brand selection felt off, too.  Instead of American Girl, this store features the obscure New York Doll Collection products.  And instead of packing the shelves with Rainbow High, which is arguably one of the most popular play doll brands of the moment, they offered only a single, very expensive Rainbow High gift set.  And there were no Na Na Na Surprise dolls or Mermaze Mermaidz to be seen.  There were also no Monster High dolls, no Journey Girls, no Cabbage Patch Kids, no Breyer horses, no many of the things I associate with Toys R Us were absent.  But I suppose you could argue that many of the toys I felt fondness for back in 2018 simply aren't being sold at any stores anymore--like Liv dolls, Ever After High, Project Mc2, and more.

On the whole, it didn't really feel like Toys R Us to me.  First of all, it's much smaller than the store that used to be in Maine.  Also, there's nowhere near as much variety as I remember.  Entire shelves were taken up with the same doll repeated ten (or more) times--rather than displaying ten different dolls.  And there was a huge emphasis on Barbie.  Toys R Us always used to have a large Barbie section, for sure, but this was extreme; it felt like half of the shelves were dedicated to Barbies, and those shelves were spread out all over the place--as if the Barbies were filling in when there was nothing else to display.  I want Toys R Us to feel like a warehouse of toys: a vast, high-ceilinged monstrosity with rows and rows of big shelves covered in cool stuff.  The boutique-like style of this store, with its small shelving units arranged throughout the space, felt much more like FAO Schwarz.  And FAO Schwarz is a fine store, but it's not my beloved Toys R Us.

With all of that off my chest, let me close by describing a scene that I witnessed while I was at the store.  I was exploring near the Playmobil section when a small family group with two kids moved past me.  The kids were on the older side--maybe eleven or twelve--and yet both of them were trying really hard not to run, their giddy energy palpable.  As they zipped past me, the taller one exclaimed, "wow, it's not every day that you get to see a Toys R Us anymore!" And you know what?  He's absolutely right.  For all of my moaning and groaning, I'm glad that Toys R Us is back.  And it's noteworthy that every single kid who I saw that day was grinning from ear to ear, no doubt bursting with a combination of joy for the moment and fond memories of the past.  And as I left the store, with a big doll box tucked under one arm and my head replaying all of those old "research" trips in Maine, my smile was just as big.


  1. Wow, I had no idea TRU was back! Of course, I live in the shopping desert, with only WalMart, Target, and Amazon to fill my toy desires. I loved your pictures and review--I was smiling the whole time. I LOVE Fancy Nancy--especially the 18" articulated one you got. I still have one in the box, because it seems like every other week, I find a jointed, 18" Fancy Nancy at a thrift store! No idea why so many end up there, but she calls to me for some reason. That might explain why so many of them live here with me....I'm going to have to watch my nearest Macy's (a 90-minute drive) for any TRU developments!

    1. I'm glad someone else is captivated by that Fancy Nancy doll! I was so excited to find her, even though I don't know anything about the character. Spotting her from across a crowded room was the best moment of that day. I guess there's a lot of value in a store that has old inventory! I never would have considered the current online prices.

      I'm so curious how she holds up to play, too, so maybe I can interview you about the condition of your thrift store rescues? ;)

  2. I live in one of the countries Toys R Us remained opened in (Singapore) so it's really interesting to see how different it is to yours. Ours seems fairly up to date in the dolls department (though I'm not really sure what is new anymore, just that it has the latest waves of the Rainbow/Shadow high dolls that really tempt me every time I walk past them...) Possibly because in my country Toys R Us is still the 'main' place to get toys - we don't have Target or Walmart and the rest of our grocery stores don't sell toys, so Toys R Us is kind of the only big default outlet left. The brand does seem to still be doing well here; no outlets have closed that I am aware of and it's always jam packed with people anytime I drop by.

    Also, malls in America are kind of crazy. How do you have the space for an entire amusement park AND water park AND an ice rink all in one building??? (I live in a really tiny country so this always blows my mind!)

    1. I'm so glad Toys R Us is thriving in Singapore! Doesn't surprise me, based on what I know about your awesome country. What you describe is much more like what I remember from the old Toys R Us store in Maine. And I hear you about the Rainbow High Shadow dolls. I have been SO GOOD trying to resist them, but they're really cool and creative. I'll break down eventually, I'm sure. ;)

      I don't know what to say about American malls. They're not all like American Dream, of course, but it is a little crazy. New Jersey is a fairly small state, but in the area near Newark where American Dream is located, I'm not sure what else you could build that would be useful. It's one of the ugliest places I've ever seen (this from someone who really loves New Jersey!).

  3. Ohhh I think this is one of my favorite reviews this year ❤️ I always loooove your shopping trips (cause I also get that shopping fatigues, so I‘m happy I can sit on the sofa and read, hehe), and it‘s always so much fun to see what you have in your stores.

    Our Toys R us here in Switzerland stayed open till two years ago and then he was renamed into „Smith Toys“. Everything looks the same except for the name…and the online shop is really poor now. But it was never such a lovely store in general, more of a warehouse. And most space was reserved for baby furniture.

    I really like the tiny doll you bought, she‘s adorable and perfect as a tiny travel companion :)
    Also that little angel boy, the unicorn and the piggy - sooooo cute, I really love them 🥰 My mum has one of those angel boys made of porcelain from the 70s I think.

    1. Thank you, Séverine! I'm glad you enjoyed shopping with me in the virtual world.

      I've seen Smith Toys! That's what they have in Scotland, too, and I agree that it's very much like the old Toys R Us. I didn't mind the warehouse aesthetic too much. I felt it was worth it for the huge inventory!

      I wonder if your mom has an original Sonny Angel?? That's very cool! I'll have to do some research on the origin of that brand.

  4. We never lost TRU here in Canada, and while I haven't been in one in ages, there were definetly changes around the time the State's ones were closing. I think you summed it up well with even if it's different now, there's still something special about it.

    That second store you went to looks right upy alley, I'm glad you went in for a mini Sunday surprise!

    1. Yeah, I really loved that second store. I should have stuck around to get more photos of the cool stuff they had. The person working there was very chill, too, and didn't mind my photography or questions. I also bought a pseudo-realistic windup plastic pigeon there, which I failed to share on the blog but which is incredible. :)

  5. I'm surprised you didn't know TRU was alive and well in literally every country outside the US. Surely someone had to have mentioned it when yours were closing - not me though because we never had one to begin with. Maybe they will slowly grow back to former glory and future trips will be less disappointing. I really enjoyed the mall tour. The fact that it's big enough to house rollercoasters and a skating rink is blowing my mind.

    1. I mean, I might have been told but then forgot. That's totally in the realm of possibility for me.

      The roller coasters blew my mind, too. It's hard to even fathom how big that building is. I'll have to go back some day and do the whole tour. Maybe I'll ride a water slide...

  6. I was just visiting NJ to be with family and actually went to the American Dream mall! We ate pretzels and looked around, I didn’t buy anything but was VERY tempted by the calico critters, but since they didn’t have the family I had been wishing for I decided not to buy anything. I usually don’t go to chain stores for my toys, mainly independent ones that usually carry calico critters and adorable stuffed animals. It’s funny, when I was at the American dream mall I kept thinking “I wonder if Emily knows about this place” especially when I saw the Sonny’s angels display! I took tons of pictures there too, and even have an almost identical one of the Sonny’s display! Splendid review as always.

    1. P.S- the pigs are SO adorable! I used to have something similar but I can’t remember the brand at the moment

    2. That's so cool that you were there recently!! How awesome would it have been if we'd met? I hope New Jersey treated you well.

      I wonder what Calico Critters family you're dreaming of, because there have been some incredibly cute ones lately! I am personally obsessed with the giraffes. And I like to hunt these toys out at our local toy store, too. The inventory there can't compare to Toys R Us, but it's nice to support a local shop. I should do a blog about my shopping experience there. :)

      And I agree about the pigs. Ria is very spoiled.

    3. It would have been awesome if we could have met! I actually own the giraffe family and they are even cuter in person! I got them at a tiny beach toy store on the west coast. Right now I have been dreaming of the caramel dog family or the goat family! I have been collecting calico critters for years now and have a lot! None have been worn down or lost (except the ones that have been eaten by the dogs of course!) at last count I think I had 30? Maybe need to size down a bit 😂 I would love to see a tour of your local toy store as well!

  7. Those L.O.L. Surprise blister packs don´t seem to be a wide release (I have seen similar ones in a discount store in my country, but not in toy stores: The dolls in them are leftover stock or reproductions from earlier series like in your case Line Dancer and Roller Sk8er. I can´t tell without seeing the code on the doll´s body if they are actually leftovers from 2016/17, but that makes sense considering the random selection of pets in the packs I linked.

  8. It's interesting to see LOL surprise in a non-blind format. I note that Cats Vs Pickles, a newer blind bag toy trend, also sells the products in trays without packaging so you can choose from the available plushies and avoid a surprise. This is a lot less wasteful and more tempting to me than blind bags. I know you don't really review stuffed animals but they are very cute and silly.
    In the UK we have Smyth's Toys, and also a chain called the Entertainer which has more traditional format small shops, so I don't really miss TRU. In its later years the stores looked very unloved and the product selection wasn't that great.

  9. What a wonderful post, Emily. You almost made me tear up right there at the end, even though I personally don't have any memories of Toys R Us (the power of writing!). I loved coming along with you through that crazy mall section and looking at all the store displays -- I zoomed in on so many of the pictures, haha! I would probably spend like crazy at P!Q so I applaud you for only getting three things. It's a shame Toys R Us didn't fully meet your expectations (or memories), but I'm still glad they've made somewhat of a return. I remember very well how sad the American doll and toy collectors I followed were when news broke that the stores would be closing. I really do hope that the internet era will never bring an end to brick and mortar toy stores entirely. In my area, most have closed down over the past years as well, and now I have to travel quite a bit to get to the nearest (relatively small) toy store. I understand the benefits of shopping online and I frequently make use of them, like pretty much everyone else nowadays. But there's just something so magical about going to a real store, hunting for that special toy you've had on your wish list since you found out it existed and... actually finding it! Even when I don't always purchase the things I like, I still thoroughly enjoy seeing them in real life and watching other customers around me be excited about them, too.

    The other day I visited a large toy store while staying with a friend in a city far from where I live, and they had this lovely, big Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families display showcasing some of the new sets. It had a huge bunny on one side (even larger than the one you showed in this post!) and cardboard animals waving from a balcony at the top of the display on the other side. It was MAGNIFICENT. Even though I don't have the space or budget to collect them right now (I will one day, mark my word!), the store display and all the sets on the shelves alone filled me with so much joy, and you just can't get that type of experience shopping online.

    Anyway, I'm rambling haha! Having gone through wholly new shopping experiences with friends while on holiday this summer has really made me passionate about this online versus brick and mortar discussion. I'm already looking forward to your Fancy Nancy review and hopefully another excursion blog post like this one in the future.

    P.S. isn't Simone divine?? She'll be the first Barbie I buy in a long, long time. If only Mattel would hurry up a bit and release the new Looks line over here, oof!

  10. Minnesotagirl here—Emily, I think your toy store tours are some of my very favorite episodes, especially if one reads the early ones of toys gone by. I live not too far from the Mall of America, and there are only a few small stores with toys. ☹️☹️☹️ There are more dolls at Target.The American Girl store they had was amazing, but that is now gone. The MOA has a big amusement park in the center, but I’d love a skating rink, even here in MN! I have to figure out how to get some of those little pigs as they are beyond adorable. Actually, I think I seriously need them.SERIOUSLY.

  11. That looks like such a cool mall! I miss the days of shopping at Toys R Us (both as a kid and adult). We have a couple smaller, independent toy stores where I live, which are wonderful, but it’s a different experience than the vastness of the old Toys R Us. It’s kind of odd that you found Fancy Nancy dolls. I haven’t seen those around in years!

  12. I have been reading your blog for years and am SO happy you are back - this review was divine! Brought back so many wonderful Toys R Us memories <3

    If you are ever interested in delving deeper into the world of model horses (like artist resins, or our annual Breyerfest in Lexington which just happened in July, or even how we often get together to live show our horses), I think you'd really enjoy how varied the hobby is :D

  13. My daughter is 11 years old and when I saw you thing about Toys R Us in Macy's I thought "I need to find out if one is close so we can go visit" She was *second* grade the last time she was in Toys R Us! That's huge. She used to go to Toys R Us to make her wish lists for birthday/Christmas (Even though they only had "Mainstream" toys, not the fantastic smaller press stuff like Lottie dolls). And got a Toys R Us gift card from one of her relatives to spend afterward. So this would be a place she'd LOVE to visit. Sometimes we drive past the building and she still looks wistfully remembering what it used to be