Monday, January 16, 2023

Ily 4EVER Fashion Dolls by Disney

Many of you (and most of Twitter) have been excited about the new Disney ily 4EVER dolls for a few weeks now, but it's taken me this long to produce a review.  Sorry!  I'm not good at doing things quickly.  I'm especially not good at writing reviews quickly, and I fear that I'm getting slower over time.  I think this is mostly because I obsess over photographs more than I ever used to, which can be a huge time suck.  Ordinarily, my slow pace is not much of a concern; it suits my life, and the reviews get done eventually.  However, when there's a hot new doll, a slow response can be incredibly frustrating.  I want to give you information as quickly as possible, so you can decide which dolls (if any) to buy!

I can totally understand the hype and anticipation over these dolls.  This new collection of 11-inch fashion dolls follows the same idea as the 18-inch ily 4EVER dolls that have been gracing the shelves of Target for a while now.  Namely, they are styled as Disney fangirls who wear modern clothing that is based on color schemes and thematic designs inspired by the classic Disney Princesses.  It's a very cool concept--especially for an 11-inch fashion doll.

The larger 18-inch ily dolls are adorable, and I've admired them at Target frequently, but they never managed to make it to the top of my review queue.  In contrast, these smaller dolls grabbed my attention instantly because of their manageable size, inset eyes, normal-sized heads, lovely faces, and what looks like great articulation.  They struck me as something that could be revolutionary for the play doll market, and also for the Disney Store which, as you know, has fallen out of my favor more often than not over the years.  I purchased all of the new ily 4EVER dolls (and a few of the accessories) and will share them in one way or another over the next few weeks.  The star of today's review is the Tiana-inspired character who was the winner of a Patreon poll.  I've named her Tia:

ily 4EVER Tiana doll by Disney, $29.99.
Tia is one of six dolls in this new series.  I'll show you a few in-box photos of the other five dolls before I do an in-depth review of Tia.

First, here's the Belle-inspired character:


She comes with a rose-embroidered jean jacket that looks really nice:


She also comes with a rose-shaped purse and a cell phone.  

I really like her sneakers!

Those might be the best-painted dolls sneakers ever.
Here's a closer look at her face:


This doll has smudged lips and eyebrows (and maybe a defect in her left eye?), so I guess facial defects are a thing to be on the lookout for:


This is the character inspired by Snow White:


I don't love her bulky apple sweatshirt, but the rest of her outfit looks great.  In particular, look at the pleated detail on her shirt!

That's amazing!
Her freckled face is also incredible:


Unfortunately, I can already see that she also has a small defect in her lip paint.

This is the Cinderella-themed doll:

I like her instant camera.  I have one that looks very similar!
Her outfit and accessories (other than the camera) are probably my least favorite of the bunch, but she has an adorable face--with dimples!


Here is the Ariel-themed doll:


Her outfit has some of my favorite pieces.  I really like her whale tank top and her fish necklace:


And this colorful shell hoodie looks pretty great, too:


My Ariel's eyes and eyebrows are a bit wonky, but her face is still sweet:


She has additional details in her mouth, too, like visible teeth and a dark liner around her lips:

...and another paint defect.
The last doll is inspired by Jasmine:


She has a lot of great detail in her outfit, too, like this graphic tee:


And the sequins in her shorts!


One of my favorite pieces in the whole series is this tiger print shirt:


I love the expression on Jasmine's face, too:


She's packed with personality.

And, like Ariel, her lips are a bit more detailed than some of the other dolls:


I can't tell for certain if all of the dolls have different face molds.  Some of the faces are clearly different--like Cinderella's, with its little dimples or Ariel's, which has a slender nose.  If I had to guess, I'd say all of the molds are unique.  Here's a GIF I put together to help determine that:


The dolls do not all have different skin tones, but there's nice variety.  Tiana and Jasmine share a skin tone, and I believe Cinderella and Snow White do, too. I will confirm all of this once I've de-boxed everybody. 

One slightly disappointing thing is that all of the girls except Jasmine have brown eyes (Jasmine's eyes are blue).  Where are the green-eyed girls (asks this green-eyed girl)?

I'm not sure exactly why I purchased all of the dolls.  It was a bit of a mistake.  I probably did it because I couldn't make up my mind which ones I liked best.  On the one hand, I wanted to own the characters that are based on the Disney Princesses that I like best (Cinderella and Belle), but on the other hand, my favorite dolls are probably Snow White and Tiana, and I'm not a big fan of those movies.  And then other dolls randomly had outfit pieces that I coveted.  So I made one excuse after another and managed to buy all of them.  Let me know if there are particular dolls or accessories you'd like to see up-close.

All of the dolls come in crisp-looking white boxes with a single rounded edge:


Each doll comes with a plastic balloon, and inside the balloon is a surprise!   


A while ago I went on a rant about surprise-themed dolls and mentioned that it would be perfect if the most important things about a doll were visible, but there was also a little surprise included--something fun, but inconsequential enough that repeats wouldn't be a big deal.  

These balloon surprises deliver on exactly that idea, so I'm delighted!

Tia comes with some visible accessories, too, like a backpack, a fuzzy jacket, and a water bottle:


The bottom of the box has a picture of Tiana opposite the ily logo, which I think is very attractive:


Maybe you noticed Tia's knees in that last picture?  They are double-jointed, which is one of the reasons I gasped out loud when I first saw these dolls online!

Has Disney finally made a decent knee??
The sides of the box are colorfully-decorated--one side with a photograph of Tia and the other side with a drawing of Tiana:


The back of the box is dominated by a group photo of all six dolls


Here's a closer look:


There's some text at the bottom, but it isn't very interesting.  It says "show off the Tiana in you with Disney ily 4EVER" in three languages:


The box opens at the bottom and a thin backdrop pulls out:


The variegated pastel colors on the backdrop are really pretty, and show off Tia's coloring nicely.


The surprise-bearing balloon on Tia's right was the first thing I wanted to look at.  I wasn't sure if releasing the plastic around the balloon would immediately reveal the surprise or not:


As it turned out, the balloon came out of the packaging without revealing the surprise.  It's rounded on one side, but the back is flat:


The back of the balloon has a gap at the top that can be grabbed...


And this reveals an inner compartment with the surprise:


The surprises in these sets are 1:6 scale Disney-themed food items.  There's a collector's sheet that shows all of the different options:


Here's the other side of the sheet:


My favorite is probably the Mickey Mouse pancake.  Lina wants the popcorn.

Let's see which one I got...


It's the chocolate-dipped rice cereal treats!


The texture on these is detailed, but the paint is basic.

The treats come permanently attached to a bright red plate:


Here are the treats from the side:


That's a fun surprise!  It adds some excitement to the de-boxing process, but it's not so important that it's going to bother people which treat they get or don't get--or at least it didn't bother me.

The de-boxing offered other surprises, too, but those were nowhere near as fun.  For example, the fuzzy jacket was held to the backdrop with six tiny plastic ties:


And even after I cut those ties, there were two more hidden ties at the edges of the jacket--to keep those areas from falling open, I guess?


The backpack was held to the backdrop with a clear rubber band, so when I cut the band I assumed that I'd be able to pull the backpack free...but no!  Another surprise.  There were two more tiny plastic ties hiding in the back:


Anyway long story short, the box looks really nice, but the de-boxing process was more of a pain than it needed to be.

I finally extracted Tia and her remaining accessories:


The vinyl water bottle is a shimmery purple color (with a slightly different purple on the lid) and has a fish (a frog?) design on one side.  Sadly, the handle is all squished down:


The other side of the bottle does not have any decorations--just a few scratches in the paint:


Fortunately, the deformed handle does not prevent Tia from holding her water bottle:


The backpack is also made out of stiff vinyl, but it has imitation leather straps, which is a nice detail:


The painted decorations on the pack are really nice, with a patterned base, a silver lily-inspired design at the top, and even carefully-painted silver zippers on top and along the decorative side pouch:


There's some molded and painted buckle detail on the back of the pack, too, which looks good:


The backpack opens and can hold items--sort of.  The vinyl is really stiff, so it's pretty hard to pry the sides apart:

Did they mean for the backpack to look like an alligator?
My favorite of Tia's accessories is this fuzzy bouclé jacket:


The texture is wonderful, but it hides some of the details.  The collar folds down in front, and there are two little decorative pocket flaps accented with metallic green buttons:


The jacket is unlined, but the opposite side of the fabric looks fine:


It's really hard to see the stitching, but the edges are not reinforced, which might be an issue with this type of knitted fabric.


Tia herself has a nice weight in my hands.  This is because a lot of her body is made out of solid vinyl.  Unfortunately, despite her weight, I had a really hard time getting her to balance on her own:


This struggle was partially due to the fact that there's some warping in the vinyl of her left leg:


Some other little things that I noticed right away are that she had remnants of rubber bands stuck in her arm joints:


And she's wearing a delicate little bracelet on her left wrist:


The bracelet has a molded bead pattern that's painted in three different colors, which is impressive for something so small.  The purple charm is meant to be a crown, I think:


Tia's face is delightful.  Her large, inset eyes are very much in the Disney style, and she has a pleasant smile:


Here she is from the back:


And again with her ponytails moved out of the way:


The vinyl on the backs of her knees is a little messy, and again, you can see how the left leg bows outwards:


All of the dolls in this series come with mouse ear headbands.  Tia's headband is coated in teal glitter and has a lily decoration in the middle:


The headband was attached to Tia's head with thread that I had to snip out:


Here's the headband on its own:


The back side shows more of the ears, with only a bit of the lily visible in the middle:


Extracting the headband made a mess of Tia's hair:


And while I was trying to get a good shot of her hairstyle...she did a face plant.


Her ankles are jointed, which is awesome, but they're really weak and apparently can not support her weight for very long:


Anyway, Tia's hair is styled into two long ponytails that are separated by a rooted zig-zag part in the back:


The front of the hairstyle has two sections of shorter hair that hang down on either side of the face:


These sections of hair are plastered with styling gel and look more like appendages or tentacles than hair:


I smoothed the two tentacles back and clipped them behind Tia's head.  This gives us a clearer look at her cute face:


She has reddish-brown inset acrylic eyes framed by painted lashes and dark brows with some faint hairline detail.

Here she is in partial profile:


My doll has shiny, yellowish areas around her hairline and against her nose that are caused by styling gel that's gone rogue.  I was able to wash this residue away using warm water and a Q-tip.

Tia has a faint layer of orange eyeshadow above her eyes, and then a tiny line of silver underneath the painted eyelid crease:


The style of the painted eyelashes is pretty interesting.  There are six black lashes on the top, and they fall in two distinct groupings.  One group of three sits on top of a molded ridge above the eye, and the second group of three is at the very corner of the eye.  There are three light lashes on the lower lid, too:


The molded ridge above the eye is hard to photograph, but you can see it here pretty well:


The ridge approximates the look of overhanging lashes.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a design like this before.

The attention to detail around the eyes helps to make Tia believably of East Asian descent--which is not such an easy thing to find in the doll world.

The eyelash style of Tia's eyes is different from the other ily dolls, as is the overall shape of her eyes.  Here are Snow White's eyes for comparison:


And Cinderella's eyes:


It's fun to see all of the differences in these dolls' face paint!

Tia's mouth has a subtle, slightly lopsided smile that I love.  Her lips are painted with a sparkling coral color and have no defects:


Tia has a nice profile with pierced ears.  She does not come with any earrings, but several of the accessory sets do.


Tia's face is wonderful, but I have to say that I find her outfit a little weird.

She's wearing a purple off-the-shoulder tee shirt with "New Orleans" in huge college-style font, and over this is a skirt with a dropped waist and suspender-like straps:


Nothing about those two pieces of clothing go together in my eyes.

The shirt and the skirt both close in the back with velcro:


I can see how the water lily print on the skirt references Tiana, but my hairdresser thinks that the overall look is more reminiscent of Moana.  I often bring my work with me to the hairdresser.  Say what you will.

Another little irritation is that those skirt straps are always falling down:


Speaking of falling down...


Tia's outfit is rounded out by a pair of lavender sneakers:


The fit on these is very tight, and they're hard to get off.  I'm always worried that I'm going to yank Tia's entire foot off!


The shoes have a little bit of white painted detail on the side, on the soles, and on the laces.


I removed the strange overall skirt:


I like the printed pattern a lot better when I'm looking at it by itself--without the purple tee.

The skirt is made out of a medium-weight woven fabric and the stitching is neat.  But again, none of the edges are reinforced.  And that tag is ginormous:


With the straps out of the way, you can see the cut of the tee shirt a little better:


The tee is made out of purple knit fabric, and the letters are ironed on:


And, yet again, the stitching is carefully-done but the edges are unfinished:


I had a hard time getting Tia to stand up straight without her shoes.  She's just a very difficult doll to manage.


I finally wrangled her into a steady, upright position so that you can see her unique body.  She has a long plastic torso with vinyl limbs and fifteen points of articulation:


I really like the shape of her body.  She has good proportions and nicely molded limbs, although double-jointed knees never look great.

Her green underwear is awesome, and it's not painted.  It's a whole separate piece of green plastic attached to the body with a very subtle seam:


Here she is from the back:


She has a lot of writing on her back, but it's all painted in skin color, so it's nicely camouflaged (and also hard to read!):


One concern I had with these dolls as I looked at them online was that they might only have simple neck articulation.  In all of the promotional photos, the girls are holding their heads straight up and down--often awkwardly so:



Fortunately, Tia's neck articulation is better than I'd feared.  She can spin her head around, of course:


But she can also tip it from side to side:


And she can move her head up and down, too...although it only stays down when force is being applied:


I was moving her head around at one point an there was a loud cracking noise.  It felt like something had broken inside, but the head still moves normally, so I have no idea what happened.  It freaked me out.

In any case, the neck articulation is much better than I anticipated, but it's still not as good as, say, a Made to Move Barbie, and I can't always get the head to stay where I put it. 


Tia's shoulders are rotating hinges, so her arms can lift straight up away from her body until they are aligned with the bottom of her neck:


The arms can't lower flat against Tia's body, though.  They angle away at the shoulder such that the relaxed hands are always about an inch away from the hips:


Tia can spin her arms around, for a wider variety of poses:


Her elbows and wrists are also rotating hinges, and while her elbows can bend to ninety degrees, her wrists are more limited:


The elbows can even bend a little in the wrong direction!


The combined arm articulation allows Tia to touch her forehead, but not her mouth.  She can also rest her hand low against her hip:


She can touch her belly and the back of her head:


And she can cross her hands in front of her waist:


Or behind her head:


Tia has a very graceful, pretty hand mold:



Both hands have the same shape.

Tia has ball-and-socket hips that allow her to slide into partial side-to-side splits:


The hips are also capable of a small amount of in-and-out rotation:


Tia can do front-to-back splits, too, but they don't look very elegant:


Her back leg cannot point straight behind her, but rather juts out at an angle to the side:


And sometimes when she's doing splits, her legs pop right off:


That certainly gives us a nice view of the ball joint!

Tia's hips allow her to sit flat on the ground, but her legs have to remain quite far apart:


She also can't sit up straight when she's on the ground:


Tia's double jointed knees are great.  She can kneel with one of the joints engaged:


Or with both!


And she can kneel on one knee, too, albeit somewhat precariously:


Sitting in a chair is not Tia's best skill, though.  Her upper legs angle out and her lower legs angle in, which creates a less-than-elegant result:


Because there's no rotation in the legs (except for that very small amount of in-and-out movement at the hip), there's no way to correct this goofy pose.

Why can't Disney get chair-sitting right?


I'm having flashbacks to the first time I encountered a hinge-kneed Disney Princess...


Anyway, here's a closer look at the knee joint:


It's unsightly, sure, but I always feel like the extra movement is worth it.


Tia's ankles are rotating hinges, too, so they can point and flex:


And they can also rotate from side to side:


The feet, like the hands, have a graceful mold:



I tried out a few full-bodied poses with Tia, but she can't balance on her own in very many positions, so I had to suspend her:



She did manage to balance on her own for this one shot:


...for a few seconds, anyway.


Tia's articulation has a lot of things that I like, but it somehow ended up disappointing me.  Maybe my expectations were too high?

Here are the biggest problems that I can identify:

1. The neck articulation is pretty good, but the head tends to snap back into a straight up-and-down position and cannot hold a lot of poses.

2. There is very little rotation in the legs--except at the ankle, which doesn't help.

3. The ankles are too weak to support the heavy body.

4. The vinyl legs can warp, and this undermines the stability of the doll and the smooth functioning of the joints.

5. The hip joint, despite its ball and socket design, is limited in its movement.  This means Tia can't sit very well (on the ground or in a chair) and her legs can pop off.

Let's see how Tia's body construction compares to a few other types of doll.  First, here she is with my well-balanced assistant, Lina:

Ily 4EVER Tiana (left) and Signature Looks Barbie Lina (right).
These two are almost exactly the same height, but Tia's large head and eyes make her look younger.  She also has more realistically-sized hands and feet.  However, Tia's large feet don't help with her balance.  Even on her tiny feet, Lina can stand up much more reliably--and in more positions.

Another big difference between Tia and Lina is that Lina has plastic legs with a rotational joint below the hip.  These two things add stability and grace to her poses and make her much easier to play with. 

Despite their different proportions, Tia can wear Lina's outfit--and it looks amazing on her!


Lina was not very excited to wear Tia's strange ensemble:


But she's ready to steal that bouclé jacket!


Next, here's Tia alongside another doll with inset eyes and double-jointed knees: Liv Sophie

Ily 4EVER Tiana (left) and Liv Sophie (right).
Tia's body shape and proportions are much better than Sophie's, but once again, Sophie's plastic legs give her a lot more stability than Tia's vinyl.

Sophie does not have any rotation in her leg joints, either, but somehow she makes it work.  I think it's because she has way more flexibility in her hips than Tia does:



Sophie is more slender than Tia, but with larger shoulders, so clothes-sharing between these two brands is not reliable.  Tia can get into Sophie's dress...


But it won't fasten in back:


Sophie can wear Tia's outfit with no problem--and can even squeeze into her shoes:


For some reason I really wanted to look at Tia next to a Rainbow High doll, too.  Here she is with Jett:

Ily 4EVER Tiana (left) and Rainbow High Jett Dawson (right).
Aside from the fact that Jett can't stand up without her shoes, she's a much better-designed doll.  Her plastic legs are sturdy and support her well, and she has an extra rotational joint in her thighs.  She even makes double-jointed knees look good!

Of course the aesthetics of these two brands are vastly different, and regardless of their articulation, they're likely to appeal to different crowds.

As someone who really enjoys both brands for different reasons, Tia's inferior balance and articulation is an important difference.


Last, just for fun, here's Tia next to her favorite Princess--Tiana!  This is the Disney Store ballet version of the character:

Ily 4EVER Tiana (left) and The Disney Store's Ballet Tiana (right).
They're clearly related to one another: both dolls have great faces and decent upper body articulation, but they both have wonky vinyl legs. 

Tiana is much skinnier than Tia, too, so Tia can't wear Tianna's costume: 



But Tiana can fit into Tia's outfit (although it's pretty loose):


I like the skirt pattern much more against Tiana's darker skin!

After I'd finished all of the comparisons, I put Tia back into her original outfit.  She struck this nice pose for a few seconds...


But I'm sure you can guess what happened next:


I got really irritated with all of the falling, but she's a charming doll.  Who could resist that face?


Or her cheery disposition?


I tried out a few of Tia's accessories at this point, too.  

The fabric straps on the backpack make it much easier to use than purses or packs with rigid vinyl straps:


But of course the added weight threw off Tia's precarious balance.


Here's a closer look at the backpack:


The jacket looks great, too:


There's elastic in the cuffs of the sleeves that helps a lot with dressing and undressing.

I love how the light jacket contrasts with Tia's dark hair and skirt!


Oh, for goodness sake, Tia.


I wish that the jacket had some closure in the front (to hide the purple shirt) but overall it's really great.


The outfit makes so much more sense to me when the jacket is included.



The headband fits back onto Tia's head and stays in place well even without any thread:


Now she's in full fangirl mode!


And was ready to meet her idol:


I bought this Tiana ages ago for what I thought would be a Disney Store update review.  That review may never happen at this rate, but I was so happy to have her around so that she could hang out with Tia!


They're very cute together:


In addition to the six dolls in the ily 4EVER line, there are also several accessory sets.  The clothing is hit-or-miss for me with this brand, but there a few sets that I found appealing.  

I purchased Cinderella's set because I like the clothing (and the mouse bag!) better than what that doll comes with:


I also bought Rapunzel's set, because it's the only reference to that character in the lineup...and I love Rapunzel:

That sweatshirt is so clever!
But for this review, I thought it would make the most sense to look at Tiana's accessories:

Tiana ily 4EVER accessory set, $16.99.
The accessory boxes are smaller than the doll boxes, but they have a very similar design.

The back of this set has a photo of the Ariel doll wearing Tiana's accessories.  I like how this encourages mixing and matching between all of the dolls and clothing:


The items came mounted against a colorful cardboard backdrop that slid out of the main box:


This set includes a shirt, shorts, glasses, a hair tie, a piece of paper, a pair of shoes, a hat, a camera, and a pair of earrings:


Once everything is out of the box, it doesn't look like you're getting a lot for the seventeen dollar price.  I wish these sets came with a more prominent item of clothing--like Tia's bouclé jacket.

The small piece of paper is a travel brochure that says "adventures await" on one side:


On the other side there are some cartoon pictures of Tiana made to look like stamps:


The glasses that come with this set are green with a little bit of a horned rim:


Both the molding and the painting on these glasses are pretty sloppy in places, but the defects are hard to see without a zoom lens:



The earrings that comes with this set seem a bit random in terms of their color scheme and design:


Hairdorables Noah likes the style of these earrings, but she thinks they're way too small.


Tia's camera is green and has a ribbon strap which, again, is easier to use than a vinyl strap:


The strap attaches to the camera with vinyl parts that are molded to look like metal chains, but which don't move independently of the camera:


The camera has some molded and painted details on the front, but the back is completely blank:


The set also includes these green sandals:


The heels are molded to look like wood, which is a fun detail.

I like the mix of colors on these shoes, but some of the paint work is sloppy.


I was pretty excited about the hat accessory.  It looks like a straw hat from a distance, but it's made out of heavy molded vinyl.


The cap of the hat is smooth and shallow and it wasn't clear to me how it was going to fit securely onto Tia's head (or how her weak ankles would support it...):


The hair tie is delicately-made out of a gauzy printed fabric. I think it's quite pretty.  It has an elasticized section that resembles a scrunchie, and then there are two angled ribbons of fabric that hang down:


The size of this hair tie doesn't really work with Tia's factory hairstyle.  It's too tight to be worn as a headband, and while it could be looped around one of her ponytails, that'd look pretty silly.

The main components of the accessory set are this graphic tee shirt with a tie waist:



And these lily pad shorts:


The shorts are easily the best things in the set.  They have real working belt loops and a slender rope belt that looks great.

The pockets are only decorative--suggested by a few lines of green thread:


The construction is similar to what we've seen on the other items of clothing, but this type of cotton-like weave can be prone to unraveling, so the unfinished edges are a bit worrisome.


And there's another ginormous tag:


This outfit is more cohesive than Tia's original ensemble, but that shirt is difficult to tie:


The cut of the shirt is also unusual, and it tends to look baggy around Tia's shoulders:


I like this relaxed style, but it would work better with a more drapy fabric--something that's hard to find in this scale.


I had some difficultly getting the earrings into Tia's earring holes.  The one on the right was especially stubborn:


But once the earrings are in place, they feel secure:


As predicted, the hat does not fit onto Tia's head at all--especially not with her double ponytail hairstyle:


The glasses were difficult to manage, too.  I felt like they could only fit securely over one ear at a time.  They look good, though--if slightly crooked:



The ribbon straps allow the camera to be slung over Tia's shoulder:


But, even with the help of a clear rubber band, there's no easy way to have her take a picture:


The green sandals are very cute and much easier to use than the purple sneakers:


But they don't help with Tia's balance at all.


Out of curiosity, and in an effort to get the straw hat to fit, I decided to take Tia's hair down.



The hair is nice and thick, but the ponytail kinks were pretty distracting--especially from the side:


It was hard to get a clear picture of the rooting pattern, but that's mostly because the rooting is quite dense!


The hair is easy to brush, but the brushing disrupted the hair gel at the sides of Tia's face, and this caused an explosion of white dandruff:


You know what's coming next, I'm sure.


Yep.  I boil washed Tia's hair, hoping to get some of the gel out and maybe straighten the kinks.

The gel came out pretty easily (in clumps of clear slime), but despite lots of dunking and combing, I was unable to completely remove the ponytail kinks.

Here's Tia after her bath, wearing a new combination of outfit pieces:


The hair is nice and smooth for the most part, but there's still a bump all around the top of her head:


And, sadly, the hat still doesn't fit very well.  All I can do is balance it on top of Tia's head:


I tried out some more mixing and matching between the two outfits.  I like how the color of the lily shirt goes with the skirt, above.

And here's Tia testing out the purple top with the lily pad shorts:


With Tia's original hairstyle gone, now the gauzy hair tie can be used to decorate a single ponytail:


Which thankfully I was able to capture before things went south.


I played around with all of the clothing and accessories, trying to settle on a favorite combination: 


I think my favorite is the lily pad shorts paired with the purple tee (covered by the bouclé jacket), worn with the easy-to-use green sandals, and with the cute glasses for an extra splash of green on top.

I'm not wild about the earrings, but they were hard to put in and take out, so I left them alone.


Come on Tia, hold it together for a few more shots!


The hat is pretty useless.  When I tried posing Tia with her head tilted, the hat would only stay in place if it was positioned straight up and down.  And that does not look natural:


I love the idea of the hat, and think it could have been a wonderful compliment to the other outfit pieces...if only it had some way of staying on Tia's head.

I used the bulk of Tia's thick hair to help hold the hat in this position for a few seconds, which looks better.


Bottom line?  It's intoxicatingly fun when a completely new doll line comes out, isn't it?  And for me, this one seemed to hit the market with virtually no advertisement or build-up; I was totally surprised (I love surprises!).  And I only had to look at the promotional photos for about thirty seconds before I got super-excited, squealed with delight, and placed a huge order.  Excitement like that is sure to end in some kind of let-down or adrenaline crash, so let's break down how Tia both lived up to--and also fell short of--my various expectations.

First and foremost: the articulation.  Seeing those double-jointed knees was very high on my list of reasons to be psyched about these dolls.  I have been wishing and hoping for Disney to design a better knee joint for a decade now.  And Tia's knees are pretty great.  But my enthusiasm for the knees is dampened by my frustration with other elements of the body design.  For example, the ankles are extremely weak and cause Tia to fall over constantly.  I'm not sure how much kids will care about this flaw, but for adults who collect (and apparently there are a lot of us), it's a bummer.  The dolls don't come with stands, so we're left having to buy a stand (on top of a $30 doll) or be plagued by never-ending face-plants.  I'm also dismayed by the lack of rotation in the leg joints, and am confused by the strange design of the hips; even with her double-jointed knees, Tia can't sit in a freaking chair very well.  And her legs fall off too easily.  I think several of Tia's issues can be traced to her vinyl legs.  They warp easily, which further disrupts the overall balance, and they make the body heavy, which puts more stress on those weak ankles.  I'll venture to say that Tia's articulation is an improvement over many of the Disney dolls that I've reviewed in my career, but I'm still waiting for something better.  Both Mattel and MGA (among others) have created play dolls with incredible articulation.  Figure it out, Disney.

I was also really excited to see the clothing and accessories in this line.  I love the idea behind the ily 4EVER dolls, and how they allow an intersection of beloved Princess themes and modern, trendy clothing.  I will reserve judgement on the clothing as a whole until I've had a chance to look at a few more sets up-close, but for now I can safely say that the items are hit-or-miss for me--with big hits and big misses.  I love things like Tia's fuzzy bouclé jacket and those quirky lily pad shorts, but I'm less enthused about the suspender skirt and that ridiculous hat.  And I'm always happier when I see secure sewing techniques.  The number of accessories that come with each doll is impressive, although the accessory pack I opened didn't feel like quite enough bang for the buck.  On the whole, little details like the backpack's fabric straps, the jacket's elasticized cuffs, the working belt loops on the shorts, and the variety of lily-themed designs, are all well thought-out and much-appreciated.  And the added surprise of the Mickey Mouse food item was a lot of fun.  Despite a few clunkers, I'm still overall happy with the clothing in this line.

The very first things that grabbed my attention with these dolls were their inset eyes and appealing faces.  And these are the things that lived up to my expectations the most.  I love Tia's face.  She has a friendly expression, engaging eyes, and a face mold and face paint that are thoughtfully designed to make her look recognizably Asian.  Furthermore, all of the dolls in the series have different faces and a variety of skin tones, which makes for some truly wonderful combinations.  It also makes buying a lot (or all) of the dolls extremely tempting!  There isn't a face in the mix that I don't like.  I should mention that while Tia's face is blemish-free, a few of my un-boxed dolls have paint defects and smudges, so choosing a doll in person is recommended if possible.  Tia's face is framed by lovely hair, too.  The hair texture is not silky-smooth (nylon, maybe?), so it tends to have flyaways and rough-looking patches, but it's thick, feels good, and is easy to manage.  I only wish it had been possible to remove the kinks made by those ponytails.  I appreciate Tia's youthful face and body design as well.  She looks like a bright-eyed teenager, ready to visit Disneyland with her friends.

The thing that I'm left thinking about with these new ily dolls goes beyond any one design detail or construction feature.  I'm struck by how the dolls look like Disney Princesses.  Like, if you handed me a naked doll and asked what it was, I'd say, with no hesitation, "oh, that's a Disney Princess doll."  But when I look at the dolls as a whole--with their modern clothing and with physical characteristics that do not necessarily match any particular Princess, it gets confusing.  But I suspect that's intentional.  I don't want to get too sappy, but I feel like these dolls are subtly and effectively sending the message that any regular girl, despite her particular mix of physical features or the clothes she's wearing, can be a Princess.  Any Princess.  And that's some real Disney magic.

25 comments:

  1. Interesting to see how they're reusing some of the art pieces; the Jasmine t-shirt has art from World Princess Week 2022 Jasmine stuff -- I have a travel cup with it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I kind of wish to see the other articulated asian girl prone to falling because of her weak ankles also called Tia posing with her, lol. I'm glad Lina got to replace her and now the poor thing gets to relax and recover her ankles

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luis! I didn't even remember at first that I had another assistant named Tia! Lena has totally overshadowed her, poor thing. And she fell over all of the time, too--you're right! Smh. I need to keep up. ;)

      Delete
  3. Oh, my goodness. SO. MANY. PLASTIC. CLIPS. And seriously Disney. The sitting!!. But I do love my Snow White. Not sure I feel compelled to get another though.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The repeated photos of Tia keeled over got funnier the more they went on! I'm sorry, though, because I can definitely understand the frustration that must have accompanied them. Doll stands are such a precious luxury!

    Also, I don't want to be a bother, but I wrote a comment on the last post you might not have seen. I wanted to tell you that you've inspired me, after several years reading your reviews, to start a review blog of my own. It's at teatimetangentsandtoys.blogspot.com if you have the time (maybe a lot of time--I dive deep). I'd be very flattered and honored if you'd give it a peek since your work was such an influence.

    ReplyDelete
  5. it's nice to see a play doll line with barbie-like proportions and good quality but i think some of the designs are a little over the place...belle speaks to me the most cuz i love both the doll and the fashion! her quality and level of detail definitely seem to be a bit higher compared to the others lol i do appreciate how they switched up the hair and skin colors across princesses.

    speaking of princesses, mattel got the disney license back! the first batch of dolls aren't anything to write home about but i look forward to seeing the live action dolls..and maybe some comparison reviews on here too ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm so happy you did this review, Emily! Just like you, I was extremely surprised when this doll line dropped, seemingly out of nowhere. And, just like you, I was immediately smitten by them. When I found out I would be able to purchase these through shop Disney EU I was even MORE excited. I went so far as to put the Belle, Tiana and Snow White dolls in my cart together with a couple of fashion and accessory packs before I snapped out of it, hahaha! I decided to wait for reviews first, and I am glad I did. I won't lie, I'm somewhat disappointed by the articulation. Thinking of where I would place my new dolls (if I hadn't interrupted my buying trance) I pictured them sitting on one of my book shelves, and so it was a bit of a letdown to find out they can't sit properly. The legs popping off and the sound of something breaking in Tia's head also have me worried a bit. Finally, I hesitate to purchase because of the face defects (you're not the only one; I read about others dealing with the same issues over on Reddit) and because of the prices in general. These are not cheap dolls and packs, and I would be so sad if they arrived with paint defects and with items from the packs being (nearly) unusable, like the hat, earrings and glasses you reviewed here. All in all, I think I will hold off for a while, perhaps see if prices drop a bit (although I don't know how frequent sales are on shop Disney) and then make a purchase. I do still really adore their faces, their general look, the concept for the line, and a lot of the accessories and clothing from the packs, but maybe not enough to buy right at this very moment.

    Also, if you find yourself wanting to review more of the packs, I had a closer look at them and I'm personally very interested in the Rapunzel, Mulan and Belle fashion packs, and the Rapunzel and Cinderella accessory packs (I'm a sucker for anything miniature, and especially miniature art supplies and stationery!!). In any case, would love to see some more mini reviews of the packs sprinkled here and there.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sounds like you had similar issues I did lol. I managed to pop my girl's leg off too and was for a moment panicking that i'd broken her. And Snow White's glasses don't fit either. They ping off if you try to get them to go over both ears. I love their faces though, so characterful. I jsut wish they could sit the hell down.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven't heard of this line, but it looks pretty cute and trendy to me! I love the idea of Disney princess fangirls, and I hope to see more of them! I'm in my mid 20s, but I would still wear the purple shirt with that skirt! I don't think things have to be too matchy matchy now, and it looks like a fun casual outfit to wear in the summer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. MnGrl here. Boy do I have mixed feelings about this line. I immediately liked her body and underpants in the first pictures. Her clothes, while an odd combination, have some wonderful aspects-that Boucle jacket and the sandals are terrific! But…dang it, why can’t Disney fix their darned legs? So, so many of their dolls have spindly warped legs, and while weak articulated ankles are not only with Disney, it is all seeming lazy at this point. Articulated dolls have been around for at least 50 years*, and “Made to Move Barbie” appears to be leading the game. I have seen countless mods made on dolls using a MTM body and new heads. My point is that building a well articulated body has been figured out, so what is the deal with inferior articulation? And don’t get me started on ridiculous tiny feet (Sorry Lena) that not only can’t support a doll but are so out of proportion to be almost monstrous. All that said, I do love the hands and feet on this new doll.
    I just wish that Disney would live up to their image and name and just make an outstanding play-doll body. They won’t be reinventing the wheel.
    *check out Uneeda “Little Miss Dollikin” for an articulated Barbie-type doll from the 1970’s. You can see them on EBay

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh man, I didn't know there was an 11" version of the 18" dolls! I love the faces on the 18" dolls, but I feel like they'll look too odd next to my other 18" gals, so I've held off on the dolls themselves, but have picked up a couple of the outfit sets (the quality is... not what I want for what they cost new, but I've lucked out on some secondhand buys!)

    If you don't mind, do the ILY 11" clothes fit Rainbow High dolls to any degree? Their bodies are pretty differently shaped, but Gosh do I love the Rapunzel outfit top, and the Cinderella accesories! (Mouse bag!!)

    ReplyDelete
  11. i can’t believe its been TEN YEARS since the first hinge knee’d disney dolls and they still haven’t figured out how to do hip joints. wild

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ah, Disney store dolls and wonky legs. Name a more iconic duo.

    The concept of this doll line seemed intriguing in concept but the execution is rather lacking. For supposedly diehard Disney princess fans, only Belle and Snow White really come close to emulating the feel of the characters. Cinderella is just a hot mess (who associates her with yoga pants???)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for the detailed review! I really love the idea of these dolls but the weak ankles and inability to sit well are disappointing. I will still probably pick at least some of the fashion packs next target toy sale.

    ReplyDelete
  14. You could probably fix her leg with boiling water or even a blow dryer. Same with her water bottle. I ordered 5/6 of the dolls, 2 fashion packs and an accessory pack which is supposed to be here Friday. I'm really excited to get them. If I'm feeling brave, I might use a dremel to try shaving away a bit of the undies in hopes of giving the legs a bit more movement and maybe letting them sit up a bit straighter. I hope the next wave will have a red-head. I want a red-haired doll with green eyes and freckles.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Happy to see you reviewed these! Seen it on insta first & thinking they look interesting as my first impression is Disney mismatched dolls & outfits on purpose so one must buy at least 2sets to get at least one doll to her *correct outfit?:) p.s Tia looks like Mulan to me? wonder will we see Mulan inspired set in serie2?:)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Is it me or do these dolls look a little cross-eyed from some angles???

    ReplyDelete
  17. I just have to say: I think the silken "hair tie" in Tiana's extra outfit is actually supposed to be a little silk neck scarf! Though that admittedly reads more Jane from Tarzan than Tiana.

    I also think the dolls are a reference to or inspired by "DisneyBounding", which is this thing among Disney adults where they wear normal clothing inspired by various Disney characters. Here's an article about it by Today: https://www.today.com/style/what-disneybounding-see-trend-loved-disney-enthusiasts-t136403.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love the clothes and the beautiful heads but those bodies are disappointing! I may need to play Frankenstein…

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh dude, if anything, all the brown eyes is the main draw of this line for me, seeing how hideously neglected brown eyes usually are in doll lines. If anything, I wish the blonde girl also had brown eyes!

    That said, I'm not into Disney, so these dolls are not for me (aside from the Aurora fashion pack being sorely tempting), but I always appreciate looking at new doll lines. They are really cute and the fashions look very well made!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great review! Most of the large-eyed fashion dolls look like ROBOTIC AI characters to me, so they don't appeal. The bodies and the joint articulation looks like a lot of the dolls I have seen on Aliexpress, so perhaps Disney is giving some of the design responsibilities to factories in China that do their own designs and molds. Lastly, just because they make a doll in different shades, doesn't excite me. I'd rather buy a vintage Asha or Teresa or some other doll with more realistic and non-AI video game-looking face. Excellent unboxing!! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I recommend heating the ears a bit with a hairdryer, that's what I do with my Bratz. They can even wear Barbie's slightly larger earrings with this trick.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Aww, thank you for doing this review. I love their little faces, and I adore the detail of Tia's Mardi Gras bracelet (to add that extra New Orleans touch)!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Flashback to Crazy Legs Cinderella! I first found your blog when that review was current and to this day, I will randomly remember her and start cracking up.

    Glad to see a review of this new line as I’ve been contemplating buying but I think I will wait & see if they go on sale. The price seems high for dolls with so many defects, and the articulation is a bit disappointing.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I bought the Tiana and Snow White ILY dolls. It's weird, but I have mine sitting at the edge of my desk, and they both sit better than yours does. Not perfectly ... but better. I love this whole line. I hope there will be a series 2.

    ReplyDelete