Saturday, November 11, 2023

Rainbow High's Day of the Dead Doll: Maria Garcia

I can't believe that a big chunk of November is already gone!  Ack!  For anyone who noticed the announcement on my Virtual Garage Sale page, my plan has been to hold two big sales events during the year: one in May and one in November.  November is looking very crowded at the moment, though, thanks to Larvie swanning in and bumping other dolls from their scheduled slots.  Also, I'll have a full house for the holidays...including a foster dog and two foster kittens, so not much will get accomplished then.  Being realistic, at this point I'll probably have to shift the sale until after Thanksgiving, but I'll keep you posted.

Today I want to rewind and pretend it's November 2nd again: the Day of the Dead.  The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a multi-day celebration to remember and re-connect with those who have died.  The basic idea of this holiday can be traced back to old Aztec customs, which were adopted by Spanish settlers and merged with the Christian All Soul's Day.  Currently, the Day of the Dead is celebrated mostly in Mexico, with colorful, joyful festivities that have attracted increasing attention from tourists in recent years.  The broadening fascination with this holiday is probably also responsible for several new Day of the Dead dolls, like MGA's Maria Garcia, who is the subject of today's review:

Rainbow High's Maria Garcia, by MGA Entertainment, $124.99.

I had no intention of reviewing Maria when she came out in October of 2022, mostly because of her staggering $125 list price.  But she recently went on sale for $37 at Walmart, which made her impossible to resist.

Of course MGA is not the first or the only company to produce a Day of the Dead playline doll.  Mattel's Skelita Calaveras, who LagoonaLicious reviewed ten years ago, also has a Dia de los Muertos theme.  And Mattel released a new Howliday version of Skelita about a month ago.

I ordered the new version of Skelita when she first came out, mostly because I find her to be one of the more fascinating Monster High characters.  And then when Maria Garcia's price dropped, I saw the perfect opportunity for a comparison review.  So I'll look at Maria today, and in the next post I'll compare her to the Howliday Skelita.  I hope you're ready for a lot of skeleton-themed dolls!

Maria comes in a massive cardboard box tied with a gold ribbon and accented with a large orange fabric marigold: 


Marigolds are an important part of the Day of the Dead festivities, and tend to dominate the elaborate memorial displays.  Here's a good example:

Altar de Día de Muertos en Actopan, Hidalgo, México (2017). 24

These cheerful flowers are believed to attract the souls of the dead and bring them back to the living world for a short time.

I initially groaned at the unnecessary opulence of Maria's packaging, but it's actually hard not to be impressed:


Both the front and the back of the box have large, colorful graphic renderings of Maria.


I removed the ribbon so that we could get a better look at the box art.  I like the more mysterious picture on the back of the box, where Maria's right eye is partially covered in shadow:


The front of the box has a more bold, front-on view of the character:


The box structure is interesting.  There's a three-paneled cover on the front that is held in place by magnets.  So once the gold ribbon is removed, this cover easily lifts away from the rest of the box.

The back side of the cover has a dark purple and black color scheme, with another bright, dramatic portrait of Maria:


This would make a nice backdrop for a Day of the Dead display.

Here's a closer look at the portrait:


There's a blurb about Maria on the left panel, too:


It's funny to me that MGA trademarked the name Maria Garcia, since that has to be an extremely common Mexican name.

I did some research, and sure enough, Maria is literally the most common first name in Mexico:

That's a lot of Marias.
And Garcia is the second most common surname:


Anyway, I love the name Maria, so I think it's an excellent choice.

The real surprise for me was that when the three paneled cover of the box is lifted away, it triggers a display of blue lights that surround Maria!


The glare of the box's plastic lid obscures the lights, so here's another picture without the lid:


On the one hand this is eye-rollingly typical MGA packaging, right?  It's overblown to the point of being ridiculous.

I mean, have you ever seen a doll box that needed batteries before?  Like, the box itself needs batteries--not the doll:


But on the other hand, it's quite a beautiful presentation--especially with the lights.  And it's certainly unique.

The lights turn themselves off after about 30 seconds, which is nice.  Here's the box after the lights went out:


The box is ornate even without the lights.  There's purple and gold edging, and a two-layer metallic gold cardboard pedestal for Maria to stand on:


The box demands so much attention that it took me a minute to notice some of Maria's details.  

For example, she comes with a large black sombrero with lovely gold and red embroidered decorations:


She's also holding a large purple skull purse, complete with a metal chain:

And look at her skeleton hand!
Maria's face paint is also quite beautiful and interesting.  I was worried because my doll came with what looked like a white defect on the tip of her nose:


But it was just a small string of excess paint that pulled away without leaving any marks behind.

It felt wrong to disrupt the elaborate display, but of course I wanted to take Maria out of her box.  

I had a slightly easier de-boxing experience than is typical for a Rainbow High doll, but Maria was still secured to a plastic base by tons of little ties and bands that had to be found and cut.  Here's everything that was in the box:


Maria's gold stand came stored behind her, underneath the molded plastic base.

With Maria and her stand safely set to one side, I was able to investigate the box more closely.  The blue lights surround three of the box's four edges.  They are little LED strip lights:


There's a small button on the left hand side of the box that will turn the lights on:


The circle to the left of the button is what activates the lights during de-boxing.  It's a simple light detector.  It's possible to turn the lights on by covering that circle and then uncovering it.

There was clearly a lot of effort put into this box, but it can't easily be used to display Maria once she's been removed.  The plastic base on the backdrop is unsightly--especially because it had to be cut in order to remove the stand:

Maria's GhostTM.
Removing all of that plastic was difficult, and it left behind marks and rips in the cardboard:

Portal to the Beyond.
There's a lot of cardboard in this box, but I'm not sure if all of it is recyclable.  The metallic parts might not be (metallic wrapping paper usually isn't), and the lights and magnets would have to be removed from other areas.

The three-paneled cover could be used as a backdrop for display, but most of the box, for most people, will end up in the garbage.

In general, I'm opposed to this type of packaging.  I'll admit that it's beguilingly attractive, but it's so wasteful.  Even for collectors who would like to keep Maria in her box and see the light display over and over again, the box is so big that it takes up a significant amount of room.  I, for one, don't have shelf space like that to spare for one doll.

But enough about the box!  Let's look at Maria herself.

Her hair was a bit worse for wear at first:


The back of the hair was particularly bad, with a lot of visible scalp:


The rooting is okay, but the rows look a little wonky in the middle of the head:


I brushed Maria's hair and she immediately looked better!


Her face paint, framed by that purple hair and elaborate headdress, is really impressive!


The hair smoothed out in back pretty well, too:


Maria's hat and purse came rubber-banded to her wrists, so I had to cut those off.  Here's the hat by itself:


The embroidery is very pretty, and gives the hat an expensive, high-quality feel.


It has decorations on the underside, too:


The skull purse is large and heavy, but the design is fun:


The front of the skull is decorated with tiny white floral designs and a few gems.  I love how one of the teeth is replaced by a green gem!

The back of the skill has a gold "RH" in the middle:


There are short vinyl handles on this purse, and also a longer gold metal chain strap:


And there are two little charms as well: an "RH" and a purple tassel.  These are both made out of vinyl, but hang from short metal chains:


The skull opens at the top, and could hold several small items:

Or chilled monkey brains.
With the sombrero and purse out of the way, I was excited to get a closer look at Maria's hand decorations!


She has gold bone decorations that cover the backs of each hand.  The bones are held in place by a circlet at the wrist, and two smaller grips on each outer finger:


The bone detail is great, and is definitely reminiscent of Skelita Calaveras and her full skeleton body.


Here are the hand decorations on their own:


The next detail that caught my eye was Maria's large dangle earrings:


These are removable, and have black painted accents on the front and plain gold on the back:


I found it hard to see the main design on these earrings clearly without the help of a zoom lens.  They look like traditional cameo profile portraits from afar...except there's a skeleton instead of a face!

Love it!
Maria's last accessory is her multi-piece headdress.  This has bars of gold-colored vinyl sticking out in a sun-like array at the top of her head, with two rose decorations on either side:


Everything is securely rubber-banded to Maria's head:


On closer inspection, I could see that the two clusters of roses are actually barrettes:


These are stiff and difficult to open, but I finally managed to get them loose:


Here are the three components of the head decoration:


The roses are especially pretty, and have nice molded definition and a subtle mix of red hues:


The barrette clip is green, to match the leaves.  The roses and leaves are a separate piece from the barrette, and the two components can pull apart fairly easily.  Luckily they can be snapped back together easily, too.


It's a little strange that the designers chose roses here, rather than marigolds.  I think a marigold headdress would have been lovely--especially in a bright orange color.  The marigold decoration on the box made me think that this would be more of a theme with the doll.

It's not that using roses is wrong, or at least I don't think it is.  I've certainly seen a lot of pictures of Day of the Dead floral hats and crowns that include roses.  The basic idea for dressing on these special days is to emulate La Calavera Catrina, and she has a hat covered with nondescript flowers:


La Catrina was fist sketched in 1910 by Jose Guadalupe Posada and, via a complicated history, has come to be a symbol for the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  She's like the queen of the underworld, I guess.

It would have been cool if Maria Garcia had come with a floppy hat like the one in that picture (maybe instead of the sombrero?), but her headdress is really pretty.

The headdress was tied to the hair with the same rubber bands that were used to secure the braids on either side of Maria's head, so once the headdress was gone, the braids came loose:


I pulled out the remnants of the rubber bands...and big chunks of Maria's hair in the process:

That's disturbing.
Here she is with her hair brushed out again:


Fortunately, there wasn't any more hair shedding after that initial scare.

I tied Maria's hair back so that we could get a good look at her face and her elaborate outfit:


Maria's face paint has the floral and skeletal elements that are typical for Day of the Dead adornment.  However, the paint doesn't cover her whole face, which makes it look more like a mask: 


The brown circles around her eyes are meant to resemble the large eye sockets of a skull.  I don't really like the brown color here, though.  It feels wishy-washy and doesn't match any of the other elements.  It also makes her eyes blend into the background.  

I wish I could see what she'd look like with a fully-white face and pitch black around her eyes, like this:


I couldn't doctor the photo to add white to the chin, but I was able to make the eye makeup darker.  What do you think?


I feel like this looks more authentic, and makes her eyes stand out more, too.

Anyway, most of the makeup is good, and it's fairly well-applied, too.  There are only a few areas where I see little smudges.


Here's a closer look:


Maria's outfit consists of a red satiny mermaid-style dress with a tiered skirt:


I don't know enough about Day of the Dead traditions to know if this type of gown is typical.  There seems to be a lot of variety, ranging from Puebla dresses to Edwardian-inspired attire that references La Catrina's time period.

I feel like I've seen a lot of mermaid-style silhouettes on dolls lately, and a lot of red and black color schemes, but maybe I'm just fixated on Jett Dawson's dress:


The dress has some gold plastic accents on the bodice, and there's a netted shirt with a skeleton pattern peeking out at the neckline and on the arms:


The dress is rumpled in the back from being in the box.  There are velcro seams on both the dress and the underlaying shirt:


The dress is easy to get off and has a lot of detail.  There are roses embroidered into the fabric of the torso, and matching embroidered rose pieces sewn into the tiers of the skirt:


The bottom tier of the skirt also has some sparse red sequins and rhinestones:


The abundance of flowers is really pretty, but again, with my limited knowledge, the lack of variety and lack of marigolds seems a little off.

There's also a black lace layer in each tier of the skirt:


The skeleton shirt underneath the dress is actually a bodysuit:


This has some fairly accurate bone designs painted onto the black netting:


And if the velcro in back doesn't line up perfectly, it looks like Maria has two backbones!

A bivertibrate!
Unfortunately, somehow the paint from the bone patterns leaked through the netting and got stuck to Maria's body, so the shirt was extremely difficult to remove.  In fact, it was so securely adhered to the body that I felt like maybe I shouldn't even be trying to remove it!

Ouch, Emily!
I had to peel away the fabric very carefully, but was finally able to get the bodysuit off:


It left behind small patches of white paint on Maria's body:

Scars, more like.
And some faint dark staining on her wrist:


I was surprised to see that underneath her dress, Maria has thigh-high black boots!


These are made out of soft faux leather and pull on and off quite easily.


Each boot has decorative metal clasps on one side, and a gold plastic toe guard on the front:

I wish the clasps and the toe guard matched.
Underneath all of her clothing, Maria has a normal Rainbow High body, which I've reviewed before.


I was a little disappointed that she doesn't have a torso joint like Jett Dawson, or swappable legs like Meena Fleur.  She's marketed as a $100 doll, after all.  But I certainly don't miss Jett's articulated ankles.  Those were not an improvement.

Maria has red painted underwear with a small defect in the back:


When I redressed Maria, I decided to leave out the skeleton bodysuit.  It's too hard to get on and off, and I wanted to see what the dress would look like without it:


The dress looks fine without the shirt, but the fit is a little loose and the bodice can fall down in an exposing way.  I think the shirt was a nice aesthetic touch, I just wish it was easier to use.

Next, I tried to re-assemble Maria's hair decorations.  First I braided the kinked sections of hair and tied them at the back of Maria's head, then I added the rose barrettes.  These are a bit tricky to snap back in place, and they can slide down the silky-smooth hair really easily:


I finally got them into position, although they tend to angle backward at the middle:


The headpiece slips on easily, although it doesn't feel like it will stay in place very well:


Last, I added the earrings and hand decorations, and Maria is looking like herself again!


I wish that eye makeup was black, though:


I wanted to test out Maria's cool accessories, especially that embroidered sombrero:


I like the sombrero, but after seeing La Catrina's hat, I'm kinda wishing Maria had come with something like that!

The sombrero fits Maria, but not snugly.  It mostly perches on the top of her head:


Here she is from the side:


And from the back, where you can see the fancier decorations:


I think the hat looks really good!  I just wish it sat slightly lower down on her head.



The last accessory is the purple skull purse:


I like this piece because not only does it look cool, it helps tie in the color of Maria's hair with the rest of the ensemble.


And everything would tie together that much better if the eye makeup was black!


Bottom line?  I know I harped on the brown eye makeup too much, but it's symbolic for something I feel about a few elements of this doll: there could have been more editing.  For example, I'd love to see how Maria would look with full face paint.  Why is her chin bare?  I browsed a ton of Day of the Dead makeup photos while I was writing this review, and everybody had full face paint.  Also, while the rose details on Maria's barrettes and dress are beautiful and relevant, I wish marigolds had been included.  It's an odd omission.  The fabric marigold on the box feels like an afterthought.  I also think a purple and orange color scheme would have been really striking and unique.  All of the red and black in Maria's dress, especially with that mermaid silhouette, leans towards feeling cliché.

The other thing that bothers me about Maria is her box.  It's big, beautiful, and very impressive, but it's also extremely wasteful--especially for those of us who want to enjoy the doll out of her box.  The intricate packaging can't easily be used for display once the doll is removed (with the exception of the magnet-attached cover) and even if you want to keep everything in-tact, the box is big and bulky, takes up a ton of space, and could overwhelm a display.  Also, certain elements of the doll make it feel like she was never meant to be taken out of her box.  For instance, once the head decorations are removed, they're difficult to put back in place and don't stay on well.  Also, the braided hairstyle is dependent on the headdress and falls out once that's been removed.  And the skeleton bodysuit was stuck to Maria's torso, very hard to get off, and left behind paint residue and stains.

Those critiques took a lot of words to describe, but they're fairly minor in the grand scheme of things.  Overall, this is a beautiful, dramatic, and impressive doll.  She has the baseline virtues that come with all Rainbow High dolls, including amazing articulation, high-quality hair, and an intricate outfit.  On top of that, she has some very well-made accessories.  I like the embroidered sombrero, the realistic-looking rose barrettes, and the skeletal hands.  The purse is a stand-out, too.  I especially appreciate the skull's mismatched tooth, and the fact that the top of the purse opens--with enough space inside to actually store some items.  I also really admire the detail in Maria's earrings.  They have a classic cameo design, but with a skeletal face (La Catrina herself, perhaps?).  That's the type of clever detail that we got accustomed to in the early years of Monster High.

The biggest problem with Maria Garcia is actually a compliment to the Rainbow High brand in general.  Because the standard $25-35 dolls deliver great articulation, high-quality hair, and intricate, fashion-forward outfits, it's not super-clear to me what extra qualities Ms. Garcia brings to the table to justify her whopping $125 price tag.  I feel like the box is playing a big role in that valuation, which is unfortunate.  For the sale price that I paid, though, Maria is a gem.  I'm eager to see how she measures up to Skelita in the next review!  See you then.

10 comments:

  1. Of course, it's Maria Garcia! I forgot all about her release...even though I've participated to a tiny extent. I ordered and customized a separate Maria purse to use as a makeup kit for goth SFX artist Heather Grayson in Shadow High. That bag holds a lot-- I could fit in SH Monique's makeup palette, an RH brush, and even a SH hand and eye I threw in to represent monster makeup!

    Maria overall doesn't fully impress me. I agree the eye makeup looks way better in the image edit when it's fully dark, because it just looks like she has a mesh over her face or something, and full paint would have been even better than the mask look. I overall prefer Skelita, who I'm going to be diving deep on soon...but I have to give Maria a point for having a big hat! It's not La Catrina's frilly style, but Skelita has been desperately bereft of a big hat for ages, and giving her a second holiday collector doll should have been *the* opportunity to include that! I love Howliday Skelita, but I do have a 3D printed fan Draculaura hat coming in so one of the Skelitas I'm going to work with can benefit from it.

    Maria certainly works to justify her initial price tag, in both awesome and ridiculous ways! That packaging is so MGA in all the most exasperating aspects, but the actual doll itself does have a pretty great production level past the nonsense. MGA clothing is always incredible for any of their dolls' prices, so their collector releases feel even more impressive...but the boxes can really do less.

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  2. RH boxes are indeed not recyclable. Every new release that catches my attention is always a tough negotiation in my mind. I pass many of them because the design artistry can't compensate the guilt I feel for the waste. I keep the largest, smoothest parts of boxes stored flat, kidding myself that I'll use them in some project.

    And to answer your question about packaging with batteries, there is at least one more doll like that - Barbie Amethyst-something. She comes surrounded by two light-up purple rocks. The batteries are not designed to be removable and mine came already dead. We did pry the rocks apart to run a current through them and see what they look like. But most people don't have a well equipped electronics lab at home.

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  3. She's pretty! The high price tag makes me much more critical of the doll, bringing out all my nitpicks into high focus. Great review, thanks for the detailed pictures as always! Interested in hearing more about the sale plans when you are ready to share it :)

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  4. Finally found time to catch up on the blog again! The last month was hectic for me, to say the least.

    Rainbow High is probably my #1 brand right now in terms of collecting, but I never even really contemplated getting Maria. The price was probably the biggest thing putting me off from buying her, but some of the other elements you have criticized in this review played a role as well. The make-up not being as good as it could have been, the HUGE box that I have absolutely no space for, how MGA could have done much more with the flowers and color palette... I'm not kidding anyone though, I still find her an absolutely stunning doll that screams "special edition collector's item" in every sense of the word. But unlike Lily Cheng, whom I have two of (sale!), I don't feel this irrepressible urge to add her to my collection.


    I wrote down some thoughts while catching up on the blog but didn't feel like spamming all the posts I missed, so here they are, haha:

    - Larvie is... not for me xD But I definitely see the fun in the whole wacky collectable art toy world, and it was nice to read about all the effort that went into the production process and about the character's backstory (especially since my first response to her was similar to Tilly's, oops!). It seems everyone who got her is extremely happy with her, and that's a testament to the love and care Mr. Moreno put into creating her.

    - I'm thrilled you decided to review more of the 11-inch ily 4ever dolls. Shortly after reading your first review, I did cave and got Tiana, Belle, Snow White, and two fashion packs (with a 20% discount, mind you!). The issue with the articulation is still a big con, but I honestly love looking at them *standing* up on my shelves. Sadly, the Jakks dolls don't seem to be available here and Shop Disney EU doesn't carry them either :( I guess I'm lucky that I don't really love the Jakks faces. Something about their expressions (more smiley than serene?) and perhaps also the painted-on eyes makes me like them slightly less than the Shop Disney ones. But I'm bummed out that I can't get their clothes because I do really love those. Ah well. Guess the only danger left for my wallet is the Holiday 3-pack, which I abso-freaking-lutely adore even though I don't celebrate Christmas! xD

    - The 18-inch ily 4ever guest review was super interesting -- very detailed and extensive. I enjoyed learning about the brand, even though I don't plan on collecting it. The faces are really wonderful though, for some reason I like the style even more on the larger dolls than on the smaller ones.

    - Man, do the Make It Mini foods hold the perfect recipe (pun intended) for addictive toys. I love miniatures and I adore all the miniature ingredients, but the resin, the price, and the scale issues (especially sad that the awesome-if-working kitchen is so small) are holding me back from purchasing. I might still try them in the future, though. They're hard to resist, and I would love to even own the tiny ingredients separate from the resin, like you mentioned at the end of the review.

    - The Mali and Lilli post was both adorable and hilarious. It really felt like a mini holiday scrolling through all of your pictures. "There's nothing quite like a massive disembodied baby head" is probably the best catchphrase you ever came up with.

    Looking forward to the Skelita review!! Will definitely grab my own skeleton girly when it's up :)

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  5. For what you mention on the dress- mermaid silhouettes definitely are popular right now, but I do recall seeing some disappointment that the color scheme and silhouette remind people of a flamenco dress- a Spanish dance style, and thus maybe not the best choice for a DotD doll. A very pretty dress, but, yeah.

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  6. Wow, Maria is a knock out! All the details below me away. I agree with your points though. For how elaborate and beautiful it is, not having her skull paint cover her whole face, and leaving the sockets brown, not black, was such a strange choice. And flowers in general are used, as are all sorts of colours, but the omission of marigolds seems odd.

    That skeleton jewelery and purse though, are the bomb. And I'm impressed with the detail of the bones on the body suit. Someone did their homework!

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  7. If her face is fully painted white, she'll look like Hentai Kamen with those large dark areas around her eyes. Another thing to note is MGA is racially ignorant, the box's marigold is a late addition because people complained about the roses among other things.

    Another example is Lila Yamamoto, a japanese character with her kawaii aesthetic but end up being japanese-chinese due to the designer mixing japanese, chinese & korean inspo to her wardrobe. 😆 She also speaks in a cartoonishly heavy japanese accent in the show.

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    1. Oh, and DO NOT let any other doll, especially if like Bratz they have rubbery limbs touch her body suit & pleather boots because they stain. Actually, just assume any dark material to stain if it's from MGA(I had another LOL OMG doll claim staining victims).

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  8. I've read"those who have lived" & think it better fit! btw rh/sh are gem looking forward to see how they compare to mh

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