Friday, March 17, 2023

Spring Break with Lena: Cheap Little AliExpress Knockoff Dolls

Welcome to the last day of virtual spring break here on the blog!  I'm going to end the week by looking at some cute, strange little dolls that are sold on AliExpress.  A lot (but certainly not all) of the products on AliExpress are knockoffs of one kind or another, and today's dolls are no exception.  However, some of the original, copied products still remain a mystery to me.  The nice thing is that you guys make the collective knowledge on this blog impressive, so maybe we'll be able to solve a few mysteries together before the day is over!

I first learned about these dolls last summer when we had a silly doll contest over on Patreon.  The idea was for everyone to submit photos of the funniest or most unusual dolls that they could find.  It was an entertaining contest, and a surprising number of the entries were things that I actually wanted to buy!  Case in point, when Amy sent me a photo of these big-eyed AliExpress kids, I knew I wouldn't be able to resist:

Plastic character dolls from AliExpress, $4.95 each.
Since this is our last day of spring break, I was really hoping that Lena was feeling better and would be up for some company.

She told me that she was thinking about starting the day by actually swimming in the pool:

See? I already have my feet in the water.
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, two little ragtag kids showed up:

This vacation keeps getting weirder and weirder.
There was an older boy, Michael, who looked worried about the big swimming pool:

I think he's scared of the water.
And his younger sister, Eloise, who appeared to be more at home:

...Maybe she should be more afraid of the water.
I told Lena that I was happy to entertain these cute kids and tell everybody a bit more about them, you know, if she wanted to finish up with her swim.  She happily agreed!

But you know I'm never going to swim, Emily, it would mess up my hair.
Okay, then I guess while Lena *sunbathes* for a bit longer, I'll give you all of the background that I have on these dolls...which isn't much.

My first exposure to them was the photo that Amy entered in the contest, which looks like this:

I love the mix of faces in this group, and the funny little animal outfits.  So, I went to AliExpress and hunted around to try and learn more.

From what I can tell, different shops take the same collection of heads and plop them onto different bodies--or give them different clothes.  For example, the girl who looks like Eloise, with her tongue sticking out:

Comes with different eye colors and in different outfits...

And sometimes on a slightly bigger body, like this one:

Or on a much bigger body, like this one!

Or even on a body like Michael's, which is mostly concealed by an animal suit, but is different from the body in the last picture I showed you:

None of the AliExpress shops selling these dolls give them a brand name or anything like that, so I assume they are copied from something.  That begs the question: who made the original heads?

After some internet sleuthing, I learned that heads like this are often called Obitsu 11 heads, but that's confusing--at least to me.  Obitsu doesn't make character heads like what Michael and Eloise have.  What they do make is an 11cm plastic body that's very popular.  It looks like this:

Obitsu 11 body.
Several kinds of mass-produced head can fit onto the Obitsu body, including Nendoroid heads--with some modification.  But none of these heads look like Michael and Eloise.

My understanding is that the cute, big-eyed style of head that Michael and Eloise share is typically handmade.  Artists use polymer clay to custom-make heads for the OB11 bodies.  In fact, there's a whole book (written in Chinese) about how to make this kind of head.  I bought the book and tried to translate parts of it:

That girl looks like Michael!
Right, Lena?  She totally does.  I knew I was on the right track when I saw the cover of this book.

Here's a section from one of the internal pages:

Sure looks like a head being made from scratch to me.
At the end of the book, there are some beautiful photos of a few different one-of-a-kind dolls, including some more shots of the adorable girl on the cover.  Here's a snippet:

Emily, tell them what her Chinese name translates into.
Oh yeah, I used Google Translate to read more about this cutie, and her name (捱嘴 大服宝宝) translates as "Slap Baby." Not really what I was expecting.

Anyway, if you search on Etsy for "Obitsu 11" dolls, you'll find a few shops that sell art dolls that look like Slap Baby.  The heads in those shops heads are handmade out of clay.  I even wrote to a few of the artists and they confirmed this.

So, my best guess is that the AliExpress heads are cast from clay art heads.  That makes them technically knockoffs, but only illegal if the manufacturers don't own the rights to the original clay head.

I feel like there's still a lot that I don't know.  For example, other than a few Etsy shops,  I'm not sure where you can find clay heads for the OB11 body.  If any of you are familiar with this collecting world, please help me out!  I've become really curious...and I kinda want one of the real dolls.

But let's get back to the kids I found on AliExpress.  First, here's Michael:

He comes in an adorable little shark suit, complete with a toothy hood with a fin on top--and a little shark tail!

That looks like a dog bone to me.
Underneath the hood, Michael has rooted blond hair with curly bangs:

His hair is tied back into a very short ponytail:

I think it's cute how there are little rooted sideburns just above each of Michael's ears:

Here he is from the back, where some scalp is visible below the ponytail:

That looks like a bad rooting job to me.
And, sure enough, the hair is only rooted around the edges, with a big ol' blank scalp in the middle:

Friar Tuck called. He wants his hairline back.
The shark suit has a real metal zipper that works well, and the arm and leg cuffs are elasticized for easy use.

It's a little icky, though, because several of the white teeth on the hood have yellow stains on them:

Somebody didn't brush after they ate.
With the shark suit gone, it's easier to see Michael's face.  

There's a surprising amount of detail here for a $5 doll, like the little hairlines in the eyebrows, the realistic-looking inset eyes, and even a tiny spot of drool just below the mouth!

I draw the line at cleaning up kid drool, Emily.
It's a little strange that he has lower eyelashes but not upper, but he's totally adorable.  I'd really love to see the original version of this head.

Michael has a hollow, lightweight plastic body.  The plastic is so thin that you can see light through it--you know, like a cheap carnival prize or something.  However, he has thirteen points of articulation!

Still not as many as me.
His torso also has two lines on it that look like joints but aren't--they're almost certainly molded from a body that did have articulation in those places.

His neck is a simple rotating joint, so he can only look from side to side:

But his shoulders are rotating hinges, so he can lift his arms out to the sides:

That's more than a Lori doll can do.
His elbows and wrists are also rotating hinges, although neither can bend to 90 degrees:

Michael has two different hand molds: a peace sign on the right and curled fingers on the left:

His hips are ball-shaped hinges, so he can slide into side splits:

Or he can do an excellent full split when his legs are rotated upwards:

He can do nearly-perfect front-to-back splits, too, which is pretty impressive:

With two fingers of support, Emily, come on.
And he can sit on the ground with his legs together:

Also more than a Lori doll can do.
He can kneel on one knee...

Or on two knees!

And he has rotation in his lower legs, too:

So he can almost sit cross-legged!

Despite the lightweight body, Michael's balance is excellent.  He stood on his own in all of these photos.

Aside from being made out of cheap material, the body is really great.  It's surely a knockoff of something awesome, but I don't know what. 

It doesn't look like a copy of the Obitsu 11 body:

It's a little bit more like an 11cm YMY body--in the torso, anyway.  But the legs are still wrong:

And it's not like either of the Penny's Box or Nendoroid Doll bodies that I've reviewed, either.  

Michael's body is roughly the same size as Penny's Box Honey, although it's a bit narrower (which is common with re-molded knockoffs).

Penny's Box Antu and AliExpress knockoff doll.
Does anyone recognize the body?  Again, I'd love to see the original.

In any case, because Michael is so similar in size to dolls like Nendoroid and Penny's Box, he should be able to share a lot of clothing with them.

Michael wearing a Penny's Box Antu dress.
Now, let's move on and take a look at little Eloise:

Her face is similar to Michael's, but she has blue inset eyes and the tip of her tongue is sticking out:

Great.  I think she's also drooling.
She came wearing a hand-crocheted beret hat, which is very nice.  Underneath the hat, she has grey-ish blonde hair tied back into a ponytail:

Her hair looked a little scruffy at first:

Especially in this one area:

Ahhh! Who is her hairdresser?  That's unacceptable.
I was hoping I'd be able to re-arrange things to cover that patch of scalp.

I took Eloise's hair down and brushed it out.  The hair fiber is stiff and a little scratchy.  Cheap nylon, perhaps?

It looks okay, though:

And the rooting is better than Michael's, at least:

That's not saying much.
But even after I tried to re-arrange the bangs, I couldn't get that bald patch on the top of her head to go away:

Good thing she has a nice hat.
Eloise came wearing a very simple grey checkered dress that's basically a pleated loop of fabric with elastic around the top:

It looks nice on her, but the elastic is loose and there are no shoulder straps, so it slips down off her body a lot.

Under the dress, Eloise has a very familiar body:

Lol, I've seen that before!
Identifying this body was basically the only thing I was able to figure out on my own about these knockoffs.

Here's Eloise next to one of my L.O.L. dolls:

AliExpress Knockoff next to L.O.L. Hair Hair Hair doll.
As I was getting these two dressed again, I could see that Eloise was eyeing the more fashionable L.O.L. outfit...

Which, not at all surprisingly, fits her perfectly:

She looks ready for the beach now!
So, that's the scoop on these two little ones!  Let's see if Lena's finished with her swimming sunbathing yet.

You two are pretty weird, I have to say.  But do you want to hang out and explore St. John?
The kids were actually quite enthusiastic about seeing more of the island.  Michael, in particular, wondered if we would be able to see sharks anywhere.

Sharks are certainly a possible sighting in the Virgin Islands, so we headed out to a nearby beach to see what we could find.

Michael thought we might have good luck spotting sharks from the cliffs overlooking the ocean:

Not surprising from the kid who's afraid of a swimming pool.
He tried several vantage points, but did not see any sea life--including sharks.

You gotta get near the water, kid.
After trying the far-away tactic for a while with no success, Michael agreed to go sit on a rock a bit closer to the water:

'Atta boy.
We still didn't see any sharks, but I think Michael's confidence around water might be improving.

I'm proud of you, Michael!
In contrast, I could barely keep Eloise away from the shore.  I guess she was empowered by her new vinyl L.O.L. outfit:

And after thirty seconds of sitting on the rocks, she was off towards the water!

And this is the last I saw of her before she went for a long swim:

She doesn't have to worry about her hair the way I do.
Even without a shark sighting (I think that actually would have scared Michael) the kids were abuzz with excitement as they came back to the pool to meet Lena:

These kids have spunk.  I like them.
In the end, it's hard to say exactly what these dolls are knocking off.  I guess I could describe them as knockoff Obitsu 11 dolls, and a lot of people would know what I mean by that, but since neither the heads nor the bodies are copied from anything Obitsu makes, it's not a very accurate description.  They're basically knockoff hybrids, and the only thing I'm sure of is that Eloise is sporting a fake L.O.L. body.

I resist showcasing knockoff dolls on this site, but I have to admit that I'm fascinated by them.  These two weirdos, who only cost $5 each, ended up being two of my most favorite companions on the St. John trip.  I'm not sure Lena would agree, since she was won over by Jessa's cold beverages and Tilly's surprise reveal, but Michael and Eloise have an undeniable charm.

I'll admit that I feel very attached to this pair, and part of me wants to go back to AliExpress for more, but dolls like this are part of an insidious knockoff trend that is damaging to a lot of talented artists.  So, I hope that the next time you see faces as cute as Michael's and Eloise's on this blog, it will be on a doll that isn't violating any copyright laws.  My new mission is to find a handmade clay art doll head on a real Obitsu body.  That would be something to cherish.

On that note, Lena and I want to thank you for joining us this week for our spring break bonanza!  Lena likes nothing more than lounging by a pool all day, and I like nothing more than having beautiful settings for my photographs.  So, we've both had the time of our lives, and we're glad you could be here to share it all with us.


  1. Thanks so much for this week of reviews, Emily (and Lena)! I've come across so many fascinating dolls on Aliexpress, but I've never actually ordered any. Aliexpress can be a very confusing place, with original, high-quality dolls mixed in with cheap knock-offs, factory reject items and recasts of BJDs. These particular dolls have a very distinct look, but I don't have a clue about their background either! I have to admit that they're a little scary to me, but I'm glad Lena took a liking to them haha ;) I wonder if they would be good candidates for reroots with nicer quality hair. Or maybe even wigs?

  2. These are not my cup of tea personally, but I love reading your reviews regardless of whether or not I like the doll. Thank you for such a fun week, every day I was so excited to read a new entry!

  3. Though not identical, the eyes in particular remind me of Q-Posket by Bandai! If that's ever something you'd like to look into! There are dolls (with brushable hair, articulation, and removable clothes) and also figures (molded clothes+hair and in a set pose).

  4. What strange little guys! I have a few 1/6 fashion dolls from AliExpress who I would love to know more about. They are gorgeous girls. I am curious about whether they are copied from other dolls, or simply playline dolls who are not well known to the English-speaking side of the collector hobby. Thank you for the lovely reviews these past days.

    This may be an off-topic question to the post, sorry if so! I am just wondering. Does anyone here happen to know know whether Adollya is a manufacturer, or just a retailer? I've seen many hinge-jointed vinyl dolls labeled as Adollya, and there is an official Adollya store on AliExpress, but I've found little information about it!

    1. From what I can tell I believe Adollya is a manufacturer, but they mainly stick to vinyl dolls and doll parts/accessories. I haven’t seen any styles in their vinyl dolls that I could identify as knockoffs at this point (I’m not an expert though). I purchased a few pairs of really cool and unique-looking 12mm eyes from Adollya, but they took almost a month to ship them off to me - so if you decide to buy anything from them be prepared to be patient, they’re in no hurry to pack up and ship your stuff. :-/

  5. These two have so much charm! Thanks for a fun week of tiny dolls.

  6. I love these funny little guys! I recognize one of the other faces as an Itwotwo Doll copy, but not sure about Michael and Eloise- I think you have it right with the Ob11 guess!

  7. The reviews from St John have been so much fun! It’s great to learn a little more about these odd little dolls - they have a lot of personality! I went back to AliExpress to browse around and found a cool blind box doll that just came out called “Bonnie The Journey of Streets”. They look really cool and seem legit. It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole looking at new dolls!

  8. Based on the frequency and context that I see "baby" when looking for doll stuff on Chinese sites, I think it's supposed to be "doll" here. I'm not sure about "slap," but my guess would be that it's related to how the head is constructed. Google Translate spits out some very odd results when it comes to hobby-specific terminology.

    As an aside, I have a guess as to why the Monst dolls were called "savage baby." Monst sounds like it could be short for monster, so the Chinese name might contain symbols from "monster" as well. So Google Translate interpreted that as "savage."

  9. I am enjoying all your new reviews too. I hope you post again soon. These little guys are so cute, I wish had room for more dolls.

  10. From what I can tell sellers will often title heads that will fit on 1/12 bodies as "Ob11" in order to show in search results, which may explain why these were labelled as such!

  11. This was fascinating, i really do wonder what those two were based on. Pity for the poor artist, their work is beautiful. I collect transformer knock offs sometimes, so I feel a bit hypocritical, but I know dolls like this are often from a small company, or single artist, as opposed to a giant like Hasbro, and that feels worse.

    That said though, I can't say I never expected to see an LOL on a more artistic head like that! Both those faces are wonderful.

  12. This was such a cute and enjoyable review, thank you. I’ve seen these types of heads on AE mentioned as ‘polymer clay heads’ and they can sell for a pretty penny when they’re hand-painted, like your Monst head. It’s really hard to tell who owns the designs for these.

    I’ve been interested in collecting the Stodoll babies they’re just the cutest, but it’s so hard to tell if Stodoll sells through these retailers in addition to their own website. The cost is about the same; AE includes ‘free shipping’ and the dolls are more expensive, while Stodoll’s website has a cheaper doll price but the shipping is $22 USD per doll. So it comes out to about the same which is why I’m thinking they’re legit.

    An idea for a future post would be an ‘ID this doll for me’ often I see appealing dolls on AE and would be interested in purchasing the legit version if I knew who the artist was. IDing the original artist/company for popular AE knockoffs is a great way to promote their work and let people know who designed the model.

  13. Obitsu does actually make character heads - the 50 cm ones being the most popular ones, but they make full 11 cm dolls as well (the Desktop Dolls and Twinkle Sign series). Although not directly Obitsu, Parabox and Dollce make heads for the 11 cm bodies as well.

  14. I think these are made by @sto_doll originally! I might be wrong, but they make their own sculpts so I think this is them!