Thursday, November 2, 2023

Larvie, Teen Age Fashion Maggot

Oh, boy.  Do I have a treat for you today!  I was actually planning to do a two-part Day of the Dead review at around this time, but then a highly-anticipated doll showed up on my doorstep, and it was a stop-the-presses kind of moment.

Way back in February of this year, I was scanning Twitter for interesting doll information, and a post by fez caught my attention.  It was an advertisement for a Kickstarter campaign run by a man named Oscar Moreno.  Mr. Moreno, for inexplicable reasons that we should all be grateful for, wanted to make a vinyl fashion...doll.  Or rather a fashion maggot.  And she's a fashion maggot who looks like Barbie.  Sort of.  She's heavily inspired by Barbie, anyway, and she's easily the sexiest grub I've ever seen in my life.  I immediately pledged lots of money to the campaign and crossed my fingers that the project would get enough funding to move forward.  There was no need to worry: the campaign met its goal on the very first day.

I wish I'd had this little larva around during Barbie Month, but better late than never, I suppose.  Allow me to introduce the seductively squishy and subtly segmented Larvie, Teen Age Fashion Maggot:

Larvie, Teen Age Fashion Maggot, by American Toycoon.

Before we get to know Larvie, let me back up for a minute and tell you about Oscar Moreno and his unlikely dream of making a maggot doll.

Mr. Moreno is a long-time toy and doll aficionado who has worked extensively for two of the industry's heavy-hitters: Mattel and MGA.  He currently has a quirky animated series called Lush Vegetation - The Secret World of Cocktail Fruit and Exotic Vegetables.  These animated shorts feature a range of anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables going on spirited adventures.  Heads-up: it is nsfw and not a show for kids.

Larvie made an appearance in one of the Lush Vegetation episodes, and was an instant hit with fans.  Inspired by requests from viewers that Larvie come to life as a fashion doll, Mr. Moreno decided to see if he could actually make that happen...all by himself.

One of the neatest things about being a Kickstarter backer for this project was getting to see behind-the-scenes photographs as the dolls were being designed and made.  Oscar Moreno kindly agreed to let me share a few of those photos with you here.

One of the early updates included pictures of the tooling model:

Property of American Toycoon, used with permission.
The way I understand it, a tooling model is a test model of the doll.  It is articulated exactly like the completed doll will be, and so it's possible to try out all of the movements and make sure that, for example, the clothing fits and the arms don't bump into the head.

After the tooling model was approved, a wax model was made.  I like the color of the wax!

Property of American Toycoon, used with permission.
The wax model includes all of the little changes that were made to the tooling model, and additional details like the copyright marks.  The master molds for the actual dolls were made from this wax model.

Once the master molds were made, they needed to be tested by pouring some sample dolls.  At first, the manufacturer used any color of vinyl that they had on hand, so the resulting dolls are mismatched and look a little strange!

The color is not the strangest thing about these dolls.
At this point, Mr. Moreno was able to identify little errors in the molds and make small corrections.

While all of the body work was going on, there was also a lot of thought going into the packaging.  Mr. Moreno had originally hoped to sell the dolls in small bags, to reduce waste, but the manufacturers pointed out that Larvie's hairstyle would not survive soft packaging.

So, work began on the design for a cardboard window box.  Here's the blank box, with one of the test dolls inside:

Property of American Toycoon, used with permission.
I think it's so cool to see a mid-production doll with her rough draft packaging!  I'd love to have something like this in my collection--from any doll line. 

Finally, after about four months, the first hand-prepared sample doll was made! 

Property of American Toycoon, used with permission.
What I find amazing is that, at least judging by these photos, the hand-painted prototype looks almost exactly the same as the doll I got.  That's impressive.

Once everything was approved, the dolls went into final production.  The factory sent Mr. Moreno some assembly line photos, and they're great!  Look at this big bag of torsos thoraxes:

Bag o' bugs!
And a whole carton of Larvie heads!

Like creepy eggs waiting to hatch.
There was a last-minute issue with the shoes falling off too easily, and so some final adjustments had to be made.  Mr. Moreno posted a short video of several Larvie torsos tap danding--to prove that the shoes were no longer falling off!

The Maggettes chorus line!
Then, finally, early in October (ahead of schedule) the Larvie dolls began to ship.  I love the final promotional picture that was posted to the Kickstarter page:

Property of American Toycoon, used with permission.
Larvie's Kickstarter campaign had several levels of commitment, ranging from $15 to $500.  Pledges over $49 included a doll.

I wanted a doll, of course, and actually opted for the $100 pledge.  This included a blonde doll, a brunette doll, and a few other extras, too.  Here's everything I got:


In addition to the two dolls, I got a sheet of stickers, a signed portrait of Larvie, a membership card, and a metal pin:


I almost missed the autographed portrait of Larvie because it was hiding behind the stickers!


The stickers are really great.  They showcase the art style from the animated series:


You can buy merchandise with this awesome artwork over at the Lush Vegetation gift shop.

The pin is really nice, too, with enameled details:


The membership card is pretty funny, and probably something I should carry around in my wallet:

What rights does a fashion maggot have, exactly?  Just asking.
There's a little poem on the back:


Even though the specifications for how big Larvie is are very clearly spelled out on the Kickstarter page (4.5 inches tall, 4.25 inches long, and 3 inches wide), I was still surprised by how small the doll boxes are.  

I brought my 35th Anniversary Barbie in for a size comparison, since she definitely needs to be a part of this review:

What have you purchased, Emily?
I applaud Mr. Moreno for trying to make the packaging as low-waste as possible, but I have to admit that I'm thrilled Larvie came in a cardboard window box.  

It looks so good:


The box has a pink and black color scheme, with little cartoons and silhouettes of Larvie adorning the sides and edges:


The cardboard feels smooth and high-quality, and it's very sturdy.


Here's a better look at one of the sides:


The parallels to Barbie's packaging are not subtle.  Even the American Toycoon logo resembles Mattel's 1959 design:


The back of the box has a large photo of Larvie and some cartoons of upcoming fashions:


I will be so excited if these fashion are actually made!  I need that blue and white polka dotted dress, for sure, and the pink gown in the upper left looks awesome, too:

Barbecue Larvie scares me, though.
I also hope there are more maggot dolls in the future.  For instance, Larvie's friend Midge makes an appearance in one of the videos, and she cracks me up.  Here's a screen shot:


Her vacant stare and freckles are incredible.  And I love that her name doesn't need to be modified because a midge is already a fly!  I need a Midge doll.  Pretty please.

However, Midge is the historically pregnant character, right?  What does that mean for a fly?  No Allan required, perhaps.  And also, the result is, ah...

GT Caddis Fly Egg Mass on leaf
Not as cute as a baby.
In small print at the bottom of the box there's a QR code to access the Lush Vegetation website:


There's also a warning that Larvie was designed for adult collectors only.  I'm not sure why, exactly, except that some of the accessories are small.  Perhaps it has more to do with the accompanying content on the Lush Vegetation website?

Larvie comes attached to a colorful cardboard backdrop that slides out of the main box:


Larvie is displayed nicely alongside her three accessories: a pair of sunglasses, a single high-heeled shoe, and a small magazine--sorry, a small maggot-zine:


The backdrop itself is nicely printed with a curtained stairway scene:


I think I cheered out loud when I saw that Larvie was held against her plastic shell by 4 delicate pink satin ribbons!

Best. Idea. Ever.
No plastic ties in sight.  And guess what?  The ribbons held her in place perfectly.  And they were extremely easy to untie.  And they're reusable.  I could even secure Larvie back in her box as good as new if I wanted to preserve her for posterity.

Here's everything that was in the box:


The mini maggot-zine has a photo of Larvie on the front:


And some pink flies crawling on the back:


Unfortunately, the maggot-zine is blank inside, as these things often are:


This accessory reminds me of the Catwalk Kitties magazines.  Do you remember those?  They were also quite clever:


Larvie's sunglasses have thick white cat eye frames with blue lenses:


The ear pieces do not move:


The glasses are clearly inspired by Barbie's original shades, although you can see that the proportions are different:

Larvie's shades (left) and Barbie's shades (right).
Larvie's glasses look more like a superhero mask!  Also, Barbie's sunglasses are flexible and have ear pieces that move.  Larvie's version is more rigid.

Larvie's single shoe is also rigid and inflexible.  It feels like it was 3D printed:


Again, it's similar to Barbie's shoe, but not identical:

Larvie's shoe (left) and Barbie's shoe (right).
The accessories are really great, but let's take a look at Larvie herself!

Now that's a dapper dipterid!
In order for you to understand Larvie a little better, I want to share a screenshot of the biographical information that's on the Lush Vegetation website.  I wish this had been printed on the box because it makes me laugh out loud:


My favorites are the pseudopod, her pronouns (she, it, that, and what), and the fact that she has a voracious appetite and can eat twice her body weight.  Oh, Larvie!  How do you keep that figure??

Anyway, Larvie comes wearing a zebra-striped tank top with a strapless sweetheart neckline:


And her hair comes in a ponytail, with the loose ends secured by a second rubber band:


She also has big gold hoop earrings:


Oscar Moreno knows Barbie really well, because the tank top print, hoop earrings, and even the way that the ponytail is secured are features of the original Barbie.

Original #1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
Larvie's face doesn't resemble Barbie much at all.  But it's quite a lovely face--especially for a grub:

Sublimely slimy.
She has coy, side-glancing eyes.  And the position of the irises is good; she can look directly at the camera:

With an engrossing gaze.
Larvie has blue eyeshadow above her eyes, with dramatic, arched brows that are reminiscent of Barbie.  She's definitely got some tenacity and sass:

That's a lot of backbone for an invertebrate.
It looks like she has a hint of blue in her irises, which makes her distinct from early Barbie, whose irises are colorless.

Larvie has a dark ridge above her eye that approximates eyelashes, but the only hair detail is in the lower lashes:


Larvie's makeup is nearly perfect.  There's no pixelation whatsoever, and the colors are vibrant and crisp.  The face is sprayed with an older technique, and the irises are printed.

You can see the molded eyelash ridge above her eye clearly in this next picture: 


That design of eyelash is, of course, similar to the original Barbie:


Larvie's bangs are also rooted the same way as the original Barbie's bangs:


The shorter bang plugs are rooted just behind the primary hairline:


The rooting on Larvie is actually thicker and smoother than on my Anniversary Barbie!


Since Larvie does not have any ears (naturally), she relies on her large hoop earrings to give definition to that part of her head:


The earrings are made out of plastic, and are removable:


The earrings are all one piece, meaning that the hoop does not move independently of the peg:


In contrast, early Barbies had metal earrings with free-moving hoops:


Without her earrings, Larvie's head looks a little funny!


She has two big holes where ears would be:

That's probably how she breathes.
The absence of ears reminds me a bit of dolls like Clawdeen Wolf, but Clawdeen has ears on the top of her head, at least.

Larvie's blonde hair is tied back into a wavy ponytail that I didn't really want to take down.  I'm not sure how many Larvie dolls will ever be made, so I'd like to keep this one looking close to mint.


I can see the rooting pattern pretty well on the back of the head, even with the ponytail in place.  It looks fairly dense and even:


The hair itself feels amazing.  It's a silky, smooth, high-quality nylon, which is my favorite kind of doll hair.  The color is pretty, too.

Larvie's outfit is simple to discuss, since it consists of a single item of clothing: the striped top.  The top closes in back with velcro and is easy to get off:


Here's the top on its own:


This piece is meticulously made, with neat stitching, well-matched stripes, and a full white lining on the inside:


Underneath her shirt, Larvie has a vinyl body with four points of articulation...and at least thirteen segments:

No garbage-eating maggot should be that seductive.
Her neck has simple rotation and can only spin around.  She can't look up or down:


Her shoulders are also simple joints that can only spin:


Technically, maggots are not supposed to have any limbs.  Larvie must have a mutation or something, because not only does she have arms, but she has hands with fingers, too!  There's not a lot of definition in the hand mold, but those are clearly fingers:


Here's the other side of the hand:


The fingers are in a loose gripping position, and so Larvie can hold a few things, including her maggot-zine:


Larvie's torso has rotational movement, for lots of "twist & squirm" fun:

Shake it up, baby.
I like how, because her body isn't symmetric, turning Larvie's torso in different directions results in very different poses!

Work it on out.
This is my favorite:

You know you look so good!
Larvie does not have any legs, but she does have that single pseudopod:


A pseudopod is more of an amoeba thing, but I'll let that slide.

Larvie has two factory marks on her body, one on the back of her torso:


And an American Toycoon copyright on the bottom of her body:


The Toycoon logo is cute, with a happy baby in a top hat:

Makes me think of Monopoly.
Larvie may not have a lot of joints, but she can stand solidly on her own with no trouble.  In fact, her body is made out of smooth, heavy (odorless) vinyl, and so she stands very solidly in many different positions.

She can also sit in a chair with elegance, which is not something I can say for a lot of dolls:

Did you hear that, Cinderella?
She can lounge, I guess:


And has the perfect pose for star gazing:

Or carcass gazing, or whatever maggots do.
I wanted to bring in my Chelsea doll, Tilly, for a size comparison, but I probably should have given her a bit of a warning...

Eeek!  Wha--- I'm so confused!
Anyway, Larvie is about an inch shorter than Tilly, with a much larger head:

Chelsea doll (left) and Larvie doll (right)...in case it wasn't obvious.
I got Larvie dressed again, which took all of two seconds.  Then I added her single black shoe:

Hey big fly, do you like my shoe?
The shoe fits really well.  It certainly doesn't fall off easily, in fact, it never fell off during the whole review.  I also like how it hangs a little bit away from the heel--as a real shoe would if the foot was lifted:


Incidentally, Larvie's single pseudopod is right-sided, with five little humanoid toes that peek out through the shoe:


Larvie's sunglasses fit well, too, even though she does not have any ears:


The glasses are probably tight enough to stay on without the earrings, but the earrings certainly offer a nice degree of stability:


The sunglasses can also be perched on top of Larvie's head, like this:


That's a pretty sophisticated look for a bug:

Very digniflied.
Barbie was very curious to meet Larvie, as I'm sure you can imagine:

How much did you eat to get that tall?
They got along almost instantly, which I suppose makes sense.

Let's go check out GrubHub.
I guess we could think of Larvie as Barbie's distant ancestor or something like that?  After all, flies and their maggots have been around for about 250 million years, so way before humans.  And Barbies.

Not quite.  Review your phylogeny, Emily.
Larvie was also interested in Lena's doll version of Barbie:

Can I eat it?
I think she's a little frustrated that the doll doesn't look more like her.

No, just that you won't let me eat it.
Lena noticed that her doll was missing and came over to see what was going on.  Maybe I should have given her a warning, too.

Is this a nightmare right now?
I'll admit, Larvie is not a typical guest.

I usually call an exterminator for things like this, Emily.
Larvie seems to win people over very quickly, though, and eventually Lena decided to stick around and chat for a while:

Larvaely to meet you.
Larvie and Lena eventually bonded over the challenges of working in the fashion industry:

Like, after I eat, nothing fits.
And before long the girls were swapping fashion tips and debating the best shoe style.  They even tried to swap shoes, but Larvie's pump is too small for Lena:

And there's only one of them.
Anniversary Barbie's shoe fits Larvie pretty well:

Rocking it.
But several of Lena's fancy shoes are too big:

Does this shoe make my thorax look small?
I'd love to see an accessory set for Larvie that included only a collection of shoe!  She certainly wears them well.

The brunette Larvie is exactly like the blonde version, but with darker hair.  Since I have her in the house, we might as well take a quick look.  

She has the exact same packaging and accessories as blonde Larvie:


Her hair is also silky and smooth, and I like the dark brown color:


Both dolls are great, but I might slightly prefer blonde Larvie, simply because that's a more Stereotypical Barbie look.

I could be President Larvie.
Here are a few final photos of blonde Larvie:


I love how she looks in her sunglasses!

Super fly.
Larvie didn't feel like she was being shown to her best advantage indoors, though, even with all of her accessories in use:

I crave the great outdoors. 
I understood what she was saying.  I mean, maggots are always happier outside in the dirt and muck.

So I took Larvie outside to explore my garden.


You might think that maggots are incredibly brave, but Larvie was actually timid at first.

But then she saw the bright roses and wanted to have a closer look:

This doesn't look edible.
Even more impressive than the roses were these huge mounds of fungi that are erupting in my front yard!

That's more like it!
Larvie munched on some all of the mushrooms, and then relaxed in a bed of decorative grass so that she could digest her meal:

Buuurp.
After a nice rest, Larvie explored some more and discovered a great use for her pseudopod!

Wheee!
I never thought I'd meet a glamorous fashion maggot, let alone one that's wearing a high-heeled shoe while swinging through the trees of my garden, but here I am.

Right where you should be.
Bottom line?  Larvie could so easily have been a cheap gimmick of a doll.  And I probably would have appreciated her for that.  I mean, she's certainly the first and possibly the last maggot-themed fashion doll in all of history.  But Larvie is extremely well made.  In fact, she's better-made than most of the dolls I review.  Her body is high-quality vinyl, her hair is silky-smooth nylon, her face is full of character and beautifully painted, her outfit is crafted with care and precision, and her articulation is better than I'd expect for a worm-like doll.  Even her packaging is attractive, easy-to-use, innovative, and relatively friendly to the environment.  I'm very glad that Oscar Moreno made this particular doll, but now I kinda want him to make some conventional dolls, too!

I appreciate the homage to Barbie that's present in so many elements of Larvie's design.  She would have been an entertaining doll even without the Barbie references, but somehow the absurdity of combining Barbie's iconic elegance with a shapeless (shapely?) grub is ridiculously entertaining...and delightfully confusing at the same time.  I'm still shocked by how attractive a maggot doll can be.

The creativity, zaniness, and sense of fun behind Larvie's conception are rare and wonderful.  The doll herself makes me smile every time I look at her, and elements of her backstory make me laugh out loud.  I smirk every time I think of Midge, too.  Oscar Moreno said that his hope was for Larvie to put a smile on people's faces and make them forget their troubles.  Well, this gorgeous grub has only been in my house for a week, and she's already wormed her way into my heart.  She's also brought more smiles and giggles than eyes on a fly, and my worries are on the doorstep.  Thank you for the fun, Mr. Moreno.  I'll buy any doll you make.

14 comments:

  1. The adult collectors thing might be about product liability and compliance. If it's not a toy, it doesn't have to go through the rigorous safety testing required for products meant to be used by kids.

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  2. I loved Larvie when I first saw her, and I'm glad to see a review here! Totally bizarre stuff like this is always fantastic, and independent creators being able to achieve it is great! The cherry on top for me really is the humanoid foot on the tail with the high heel. That's what makes this silly idea into a perfect execution.

    I'm excited for your Day of the Dead reviews! I'm sure I know what one of the dolls will be, (and I'll be interested in your thoughts because I've been writing a review of her myself as part of a retrospective I want to do on the character), but whatever the other review could be is something I can't guess, and can't wait to see!

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  3. What a delight to hear that the doll is high quality as well as so creative! I appreciated seeing all the details of the Barbie homage shown in this review, the love for Barbie and other fashion dolls really shines through Larvie's creepiness. Everything about this doll comes across like a playful love letter to toy and doll collectors and designers. I loved the pics of her with the more typical dolls, especially the classic Barbies. I somewhat wish the flat part of her sculpt was fully rounded out but of course then she couldn't sit and stand (crawl?) so well, so it is a reasonable design approach. Her hair is great! Unfortunately at my workplace we have been dealing with a fly problem, Larvie is a lot cuter than the real thing for sure. Too bad real maggots don't wear cute little shoes.

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  4. An absolute A for effort to Mr Moreno! The love of dolls, the references, that spot on eye makeup and pout, this would have been so easy to do cheaply, as a throw away gag piece, but this has such a genuine,earnest quality to it, it's well made and enthusiastically weird, and the kind of thing that makes the world a better place.

    It's very evident how much fun you had with this review, in the puns, the photos, Lena's spooked pose, lol! I'd say money well invested, and time well spent. :)

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  5. What a strange and fun little doll! She’s really cute!! I never thought to check out Kickstarter for dolls. Really cool!!

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  6. I think I watched too many movies (looking at you “House of 1000 Corpses”) and this little doll disturbs me! Thank you for sharing this!

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  7. Hey there Fashion Maggot Luver! Squirm-a-riffic reviews! So far, every review I've watched over the last couple of days, the reviewer has had similar reactions. Love Larvie (or wtf?), you can't stop thinking about her! You noticed all the things that drove my design. First, I love humor! I learned long ago, in focus testing groups with kids that if you get them laughing, they'll fall in love with the toy. Second, a design can be as abstract or as grotesque as can be but it needs balance, rhythm and symmetry to be satisfying visually. Third, every toy tells a story and the viewer needs to be able to 'get it' at first glance, however weird that story may be. Larvie is the result of everything I love about toy design! Thank you so much for being a early supporter. I'm glad you like her nylon hair, too. The reason why the Cher doll (of the 1970's) outsold any other fashion doll of that decade is because she had that ultra-long hair to brush and comb. Kids (and adults) love to comb hair!

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    Replies
    1. Thank You for Sharing Your Wonderful Design & Tips with us! She's truly Masterpiece art Doll! I had no idea abt this character or story but seein her next to Barbie & other dolls Her Design is Striking Charismatic Beauty Fashion Icon!๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ™Œ✨๐ŸŽ‰

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  8. I have no words other than she is TOTALLY AWESOME! Maggots rule! (Although, TBH, I’d prefer the live kind not live at my house. —MnGrl

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  9. Oh my gosh, she‘s absolutely adorable! I love her and she made me laugh! Is there a way to buy her somewhere even the kickstarter ended?

    Thank you so much for your fun review, Emily.
    PS: I german maggot means „Made“. That gives „Barbie - Made to move“ a whole new meaning ;)

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    Replies
    1. Oh, that was me, Sรฉverine ;)

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  10. Random, but hi- I’ve been reading (never commenting) your blogs since i was maybe 12/13 (i’m 20 now!) and I’ve always adored your review style. I came back to see if you were still blogging and i’m thrilled you are!! So cool you have a Larvie, I’ve seen some videos about her on my fyp. Thanks for the amazing reviews ❤️

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  11. She looks so beautifully done, Mr Moreno did not cut any edges and it really shows. Bought myself one today on the indiegogo campaign for the second production run, can't wait to have her with me!

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  12. Larvie looks amazing! I love dolls that bring something new and creative. And the quality looks great as well.

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