Showing posts with label Mattel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mattel. Show all posts

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf

Monster High dolls were among the very first things that I reviewed ten years ago when this blog was brand-new, so they will always have a special place in my heart.  I delighted in their strange body proportions, excellent articulation, outstanding design, intricate accessories (those shoes!), and refreshing originality.  I've reviewed a lot of characters from this line over the years, both on my own and with the help of some wonderful guest reviewers.  When the brand was retired in 2017, I had mixed feelings.  In the year or two leading up to the cancellation, I had begun to grow weary of the overabundance of dolls on the toy store shelves.  The sheer number of characters made each individual doll feel less special.  And the dolls themselves were literally less special; the quality and attention to detail had begun to decline.  For the most part, the later dolls have simpler outfits, fewer accessories, more basic painted features, and lots of trouble with gluey heads and arms (or tails!) that fall off too easily.

After the dolls were gone, though, I missed them more than I thought I would.  Specifically, I missed the anticipation and excitement that surrounded the release of new characters.  There was always the chance that one of the new dolls would stand out from the pack.  Because the thing is, even as the overall quality and originality of the brand was declining, there were little bursts of brilliance.  Avea Trotter, for example, is still one of my favorite dolls of all time.  I also thought the Inner Monster series was a huge amount of fun.  There was a limited edition Draculaura released in 2015 who is beautiful (I owned her briefly), and the 2017 special edition of Zomby Gaga is incredible, too.  She's one of the rare dolls that I'll never sell.  So even though I coveted fewer and fewer Monster High dolls towards the end of their original run, the brand still had the ability to create some absolute treasures.

Over the last few years, mostly while I wasn't paying attention, hints started to swirl around that Monster High might reboot.  For example, in 2020, Mattel released a small series of movie-themed dolls (Pennywise and the Grady twins...covet!).  There was some buzz about a new animated television show and a new movie, too.  Then, finally, the official announcement came: new dolls would be released in 2022.  Despite the mixed feelings I'd had in previous years, I got very excited about this news; it was a chance to find some new treasures!  And the reboot wave looked like it might have some gems among it.  This group includes three collector's edition dolls; Draculaura, Frankie Stein, and Clawdeen Wolf.  Clawdeen has always been one of my favorite characters, so she's the one I chose:

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf, $75.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Catwalk Kitties by Lanard

And now for something completely different!  Today I'm going to share the wacky world of Catwalk Kitties with you!  This is a discontinued brand of anthropomorphic play dolls that was introduced in 2005 by the Hong Kong-based company, Lanard.  

The Catwalk Kitties were not very popular in their time, judging by the fact that they were released in 2005 and discontinued in 2006.  I'm interested in the Kitties because there's speculation online that these fashion felines might have been Mattel's inspiration for Monster High, which debuted a few years later in 2010.  However, Mattel explored cat fashion themselves back in 2003 when they released the Lounge Kitties--a group of Barbie dolls clad in cat suits.  Regardless of who was inspired by whom, there have been some fascinating animal-themed play dolls in the past few decades.  In this review I'll focus mainly on the Catwalk Kitties, but I'll also do short comparisons to a Monster High cat and a Lounge Kitties doll--and I'll throw in a little Pinkie Cooper to keep the dog lovers happy.

Before I get started, I want to acknowledge two good friends and their roles in this review.  First of all, even though I mentioned the Catwalk Kitties briefly in my Pinkie Cooper review, I never would have remembered them if it wasn't for Katrina.  She sent me an excited message through Patreon when she found one of these dolls on eBay, and that's what got the ball of yarn rolling.  I also want to thank Darcy, who suggested that I review something vintage and strange.  What could be more vintage and strange than a big-headed fashion cat from 2006?  Also, Darcy loves cats more than anyone I know, so--Darc et al., this one's for you:

Catwalk Kitties Sienna, by Lanard ($114 on the secondary market).

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Boombox Battle! L.O.L. Surprise vs. American Girl

Is anyone in the mood to go back to the 1980s for a toy boombox battle?  I hope so!  During my research for Part One of the L.O.L. Surprise catch-up review series, I got irrationally intrigued by the L.O.L. Remix dolls that have packaging which combines to make a plastic boombox.  I'm a huge fan of the 80s and have really fond memories of boomboxes, so I'm always tempted by this type of vintage, nostalgia toy.  I was shocked, however, to discover that in order to assemble the three sets necessary to make the L.O.L. boombox, you have to shell out around $50 ($44.97, ~$51 with batteries).

Most of us would think hard about a $50 purchase, but it's so easy to spend that much (or more) on a few smaller items.  Blind bag toys are especially good at tempting people to buy more, because there's always a collection to complete or a highly-desirable but hard-to-find toy in the mix.  But if you know ahead of time that you're going to end up spending $50 on a specific assortment of blind bag toys, you have options.  Maybe there's something else for that price that you or your kids would rather have.  But what is comparable to a freakin' L.O.L. boombox? 

It just so happens that for the last few months I've been drooling over another boombox toy that costs $50: Courtney's Sleepover Accessory Set from American Girl.  This toy doesn't offer a perfect comparison because, unlike L.O.L. Surprise, there are no dolls included in the set.  But it offers an excellent way to put the Remix toys into some context.  It also pits the two biggest toy companies in the country (MGA Entertainment and Mattel) against each other.  What could be more fun?  

So let's check out these two popular $50 boombox-themed toys and see which one comes out on top!

L.O.L. Surprise Remix assortment ($44.97) and Courtney's Sleepover Accessories ($50).

Friday, January 14, 2022

Cave Club Dolls by Mattel

Well, I guess it's clear at this point that the blog migration didn't work.  It worked in the sense that all of the data (including the comments and links!) got transferred from here to WordPress.  That seemed pretty magical to me.  But it didn't work because none of the pictures were aligned correctly, any picture with a caption was huge, I couldn't edit photos in old posts anymore, new photos took ten years to upload...and the list goes on.  I could tell you the whole story some day if you're interested.  The upshot is that it would have taken me literally over a year to correct all ~43,000 images by hand, so I bailed and came back to Blogger where it's safe and familiar, and (most) things work.

However, the commenting problems here are real and I'm trying to fix that.  I've found a workaround for myself that might help some of you--especially if you're using Safari: if you go to your Safari settings, select Preferences, then select Privacy, you should see a way to change the "cross-site tracking" configuration.  When I did this, I was suddenly able to comment again--and lots of other little things about the site are working better for me, too.  So give that a try if you feel like it, and please let me know if you have any success.

One of the reasons that the migration was so frustrating to me is that it took several full days away from my time with dolls.  I have a huge list of interesting things that I want to share with you, and I hate falling behind.  So let's forget about technical stuff as much as possible for right now and get back to the fun!  Today's fun is in the form of a quirky little collection of dolls that I discovered about two months ago.  The line is called Cave Club and is made by Mattel:

Mattel's Cave Club doll, Lumina ($14.99).

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Sunday Surprise: Baby Born Surprise Mini Babies (and more)!

Happy Sunday!  I have officially lived in New Jersey for one year today!  And I'm so much happier than I was on this day last year.  Last year I drove seven hours from Maine in my tiny Prius packed full with all of the remaining belongings from our old house, plus four stressed-out dogs and two small cats.  It was a long journey!  But here I am sitting on my couch typing up a surprise review, which, if you'd asked me a year ago, is not something I ever thought would happen again.

I really like surprise toys, and I especially like surprise mini babies.  I don't collect baby dolls in general anymore, so I'm not sure why babies are so appealing to me in a small scale--and especially with a surprise theme.  Maybe it's because babies bring several surprises with them in real life?  Or perhaps it's just because mini babies are great little toys, either on their own as something to nurture, or as a fun new addition to a doll family.

In any case, I've reviewed a few different surprise babies over the years, including Zapf Jolly Dollies and the unrivaled Cabbage Patch Babyland Mini Kids--which are still probably my favorite surprise mini of all.  But I wanted to see what kinds of mini babies are available on the market today, so I focused on this theme during one of my Target missions.  The first surprise baby toy I found was this one, by Zapf and MGA Entertainment:

Baby Born Surprise Mini Babies, $9.99.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Creatable World by Mattel

Creatable World was introduced in 2019, shortly after I stopped blogging.  I was instantly drawn to the dolls because of their wigs (which remind me of Liv dolls), their manageable size, and their refreshingly gender-neutral presentation.  I almost re-activated the blog briefly back then just to do a review of this ground-breaking line, but I was afraid to fall back into my old bad habits.  I still purchased two of the sets, though (bad habits!) and stored them away.

I would have sworn that I'd donated my Creatable World sets to the Goodwill when we moved last year.  In the blurred flurry of clearing out the house, I let go of a lot of things that I never thought I would be able to part with.  But when I was sorting through some moving boxes a few months ago, I found both of the sets! I guess they made the cut.  It was extra-fun to find these dolls because I couldn't remember exactly which ones I'd chosen, and I love a good surprise!

One of the sets included this lovely individual, who I've named Riley:

Creatable World doll dc-220 by Mattel, $29.99.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Barbie Signature Looks by Mattel: Part Two

I'd like to start with a huge thank you to my very first Patrons!  I am so honored that you would pitch in and help me with my re-invented dream for this blog.  I'm enjoying the Patreon site, and think we can have some fun over there.  For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, I've just launched a new Patreon page where you can pitch in a few bucks per month to help the future of the blog.  It's also a place where you can chat and even help me figure out what to review next.  Please consider joining us!

Today's post is a follow-up to my review of the Barbie Looks male characters.  Some of the background and deeper thoughts about this line can be found in that review.  I still feel regret that I didn't include Model #1 (Nina) in this review, since she's very beautiful and would have added to the fun, but the three characters I bought kept me plenty busy.  They are a delightful and diverse trio:

Barbie Signature Looks dolls from left: Model #2, Model #6, and Model #3.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Barbie Signature Looks by Mattel: Part One

Before I start talking about the Barbie Looks dolls, I want to mention a new development that I hope will keep the blog sustainable: I'm on Patreon!  Many of you suggested that I start a Patreon page a few years ago. I was too silly to take that advice then, but I've seen the light.  You can find my page here, and it's also linked in the right hand column.  A few dollars a month from you would make a huge difference to me. This will also add some new ways for us to connect, and you might even get a discount in my store!  I love my work, but I need to not loose huge amounts of money be more savvy about the business side of things. I'm excited to get my first patron!

With that out of the way, we can move on to the fun part of this post!  As many of you know, I was enthralled by the Barbie Made to Move dolls when they first came out.  With all of the dolls I sold or gave away during the last few years, I've kept my Made to Move girls.  They have extraordinary articulation for their price point, and I also think they're very attractive.  During the process of getting back up-to-speed with recent doll developments, I was delighted to discover that Mattel has expanded their highly-articulated offerings to include petite dolls, curvy dolls, tall dolls, and male dolls!  Dude!

Today I'll review the two highly-articulated male model dolls in the Barbie Looks collection, and then in a few days I'll showcase three of the female dolls from the same line.  I've had a lot of fun with this group!

Barbie Looks Model #5 (left) and Model #4 (right).

Friday, November 9, 2018

WWE Superstars Eva Marie by Mattel

Well, I'm back in business with a new camera, thanks to my mom and a gorgeous little Cannon she didn't need anymore.  Thank you, Mom!  I'm still experimenting with settings, so these pictures are a bit flaky.  For example, the doll I'm looking at today, WWE Superstars Eva Marie, is not quite as much of a fiery redhead as she looks in many of my pictures (it's a bit more orange-tinged in reality) but she's every bit as fierce:

WWE Superstars Eva Marie by Mattel, $14.99.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Wizarding World Hermione Granger by Mattel

Well, I'm finally back with a Wizarding World Hermione review!  I was going to try and keep this post a little shorter than it is, but I wanted to throw in some comparisons to other Mattel Hermione dolls (one of which I've never shown on the blog), and that took a little longer than I anticipated.

I've also finished the Lenora My Twinn restoration and am just waiting for a sub-90% humidity day so that I can get her outside for a few final pictures.  I think you'll be surprised by how she looks.  Predictably, that project prompted about six more My Twinn makeovers, but I doubt I'll chronicle those on the blog.  I've also invested in a few Hairdorables.  I haven't been keeping up with new doll releases the way I used to, so I had no idea what Hairdorables were until several of you told me about them in the Boxy Girls review.  Thank you!  Those seem like a perfect Sunday Surprise.  All in all, I've been working on several different things, which is great for keeping my mind off the empty nest. However, today will be all about Hermione!

I bought all four of the Wizarding World child dolls (Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny) and, of the four, decided to review Hermione because I have a bit of a tradition reviewing Hermione dolls on this blog.  You can see another Mattel Hermione review here, and my two Star Ace Hermione reviews here and here.  There's no mistaking that the Wizarding World version of Hermione was made by Mattel (she looks like Barbie), but the iconic hair and outfit immediately conjure the spunky and inimitable Ms. Granger:

Wizarding World Hermione Granger doll, $20.97.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Create Your Own American Girl

The wait is over!  My Create Your Own American Girl doll, Eliza, arrived two weeks ago (almost exactly on schedule).  I noticed recently that the wait for a similar doll now stretches into May (!) so I guess the concept is faring well in the holiday market.

I had to peek at Eliza before I started this review, and I noticed something unexpected right off the bat.  For those of you who followed along with Eliza's design process, you'll be expecting to see the "D" (Sonali) face.  Well, that's what I was expecting to see, too, but apparently I ended up picking the "B" (Josefina) face instead.  It's certainly my fault (I was going back and forth between faces a lot that day...) and it's actually a happy accident.  Once I realized that my other new American Girl, Melody Ellison, also has the Sonali face, I regretted picking that same mold for Eliza.  Now I have the face I actually wanted!

It's a really cute face, too:

Create Your Own American Girl doll, Eliza, $200.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Li'l Secrets by Mattel!

I don't know why, but that last review--the Forces of Destiny dolls--took forever.  I would sit down to work on it first thing every morning, but I'd usually get distracted within minutes.  I think it was partly because the review has so many pictures.  It's also probably because the weather here feels like summer (still) and I want to be outside.  Another distraction is that my youngest son is applying to colleges (how did that happen so fast?) and so we're wrapped up in a turmoil of decisions, deadlines and details.

I thought that perhaps a good counterbalance to the last review would be a quick Sunday Surprise post--better yet, a vintage Sunday Surprise post.  I get a huge thrill from discovering new vintage surprise toys, and it's pure fun to share these discoveries with you guys!

I don't even need to write much of an introduction to this post, because the star of today's review, a Li'l Surprise doll from 1994, describes her mysterious nature better than I ever could.  Quite simply, the girl has secrets in her hair:

Mattel's Li'l Secrets doll (1994).

Thursday, September 21, 2017

American Girl Create Your Own Clothing

As many of you know, I'm waiting for the arrival of my redheaded Create Your Own American Girl doll, Eliza.  I expect her to ship sometime in mid-November.  When I ordered Eliza back in late August, I also ordered a few custom outfits for her, just to see what the quality is like.  These items all arrived at the beginning of this week and I thought I would quickly show you what they look like in person.

Since Eliza herself can't model these clothes yet, I've asked Keira and Melody to step in and help out:

Design Your Own clothing by American Girl.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Waiting for Eliza

As many of you have probably heard, American Girl debuted their Create Your Own doll feature early this month.  This is an online program that allows kids (of any age...) to design their own dolls and clothing from a wide range of options.  It's similar to My Twinn's old BFF customization tool, but it offers more variety.  I think the addition of this option to the American Girl lineup is a brilliant move by Mattel.  Not only is the website super-fun and easy to use (I spent the better part of a day playing around with it) but it allows kids (and doll reviewers) to have pretty much exactly the doll they want.  This is great because it will eliminate the inevitable disappointment that accompanies each year's new doll releases.  This year, if you don't see the doll you want, you can design him or her yourself!

I designed a custom doll who I've named Eliza.  Eliza has a few backordered features, and so she won't arrive until mid November.  I figured that while I'm waiting for Eliza to arrive, I could walk you through some of my experiences with the Create Your Own program.  That way, we can all wait together to see if the final product lives up to our expectations.

I didn't want to publish a post filled with nothing but screenshots, though, so I decided that I'd also use this opportunity to share an American Girl doll that I purchased back in April; the new 1960s BeForever character, Melody Ellison:

review
BeForever Melody Ellison by American Girl, $115.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Enchantimals by Mattel

Today I'm going to review Mattel's newest sensation, the six-inch tall, animal-like Enchantimals.  I came across these little dolls almost by accident a few weeks ago while I was researching the new Monster High Family line (which also includes several six-inch animal-like characters).

Instead of leaping right in and introducing the Enchantimals, I though maybe I'd change things up and try to describe what it's like here in my house as I type up these reviews.  First of all, there are animals everywhere.  I usually have my chronically flatulent mini poodle, Zelda, curled up on my right side and my mutt, Pants, cuddled as close as Zelda will let him get.  A parakeet cage sits immediately to my left, and this houses our two male birds: Bundy and Griffin.  Griffin is always very interested in what I'm doing.  His favorite activity is to "help" me type (in other words, to sit on the keyboard and pull up on the computer's keys with his beak...pooping on my track pad as he works) but when I don't let him do this, he sits in his cage and looks over my shoulder, offering helpful chirps (or squawks) when he feels they're necessary.

While all of this is going on, my youngest son (now 17) is practicing the piano about ten feet away from me.  I say this like it's always happening...because it is.  In fact, a few of you might have noticed him in the background sound of my WuvLuv videos.  I enjoy listening to the piano while I work, I do, but the problem is that my ancient dog, Padawan, imagines himself an excellent jazz singer.  So, he's often accompanying my son's practice with his geriatric howl.  Better still, all three of the parakeets tend to sing (or squawk, depending on whether or not they like the song...) to the music as well.

So, basically, everything I do is set against a background of piano music, animal noises, and pet interference companionship.  This can be distracting some days, sure, but today--as I review an animal-themed doll line--it feels totally natural.  Speaking of nature, I'll start things off by showing you one of my Enchantimals (Felicity Fox) outside enjoying the brilliant colors of summer:

review
Enchantimals Felicity Fox by Mattel, $7.99.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Kuu Kuu Harajuku Dolls by Mattel

At the end of May I was looking at the new wave of Project Mc2 dolls on Amazon (apparently I can't stay away from those science girls!) when a recommendation popped up on my screen: Mattel's Kuu Kuu Harajuku dolls.  I had never heard of these dolls, but they looked really cute in the pictures.  At the time when I was shopping, there were three ten-inch fashion dolls and five four-inch mini dolls available.

The fashion dolls are a bit like a mash-up of Ever After High girls and Little Charmers (with big oval heads, round eyes and good-looking articulation), but they also have Japanese Harajuku-themed accessories...similar to the Shibajuku Girl dolls I reviewed back in December.

The dolls are based on an animated television show inspired by Gwen Stefani's 2004 Harajuku Girls song.  The show's five main characters, G, Angel, Music, Love, and Baby are based on Gwen Stefani and her four (controversial) Japanese backup singers from the Love. Angel. Music. Baby. album.  Dolls were made from each of the five main characters.  I chose to purchase large and mini versions of "G," the lead singer and alter ego of Ms. Stefani herself:

Kuu Kuu Harajuku "G" fashion doll ($19.99) and mini doll ($5.99).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Black Label Barbie Wonder Woman Dolls

The suspense is over!  Here's my update to the Wonder Woman comparison review from earlier in the week.

To recap: Mattel offers two different Black Label Wonder Woman dolls at the moment, one from the 2016 Batman v Superman movie and another from the more recent Wonder Woman movie.  I assumed that--other than a few accessory and packaging differences--these two dolls were the same.  Acting on this assumption, I included the Batman v Superman doll in my comparison review so that I could leave the newer doll on display in her box.

But then, Rett informed me that the two dolls are not the same.  Not only is the newer doll more muscular, but she she has different arm articulation.  So, of course I had to de-box the newer doll for a quick showdown.  Here's the lovely (and strong!) Black Label Wonder Woman 2.0:

Black Label Barbie Wonder Woman from the Wonder Woman movie.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Comparison Review of Three Mattel Wonder Woman Dolls

After watching the Wonder Woman preview fifteen times, I finally got a chance to go and see the real film.  It's amazing...or it has many moments of being amazing.  For example, I got choked up during all of the battle scenes--and now I see that I was not alone in having this reaction.  I mean, the battle scenes, for goodness sake!  Those are usually my least favorite part of a movie.  I actually found the love scenes in Wonder Woman tiresome and unnecessary, which is totally backwards for me.  As much as I enjoyed this movie, it didn't completely live up to all of my expectations.  In fact, my son and I critiqued the movie for the whole drive home--while cheerfully agreeing that we both loved it.  I kind-of knew something like this would happen, though, because when I'm obsessively eager to see a certain movie, my expectations get unrealistic and there's an inevitable (often temporary) let-down.  The same thing happened with Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast--except of course with those movies I enjoyed the fight scenes least and cried during all of the romantic scenes.

As a long-time fan of the Wonder Woman character, I've been thrilled to see all of the new dolls and action figures that have debuted during the past year or so.  There were a few Wonder Woman dolls released with the 2016 Batman v Superman movie (in which Wonder Woman has a cameo), and those offerings have probably tripled with the opening of the new film.

In this comparison review, I will look at a mix of dolls from Wonder Woman and Batman v Superman.  Strangely, all of these dolls are made by Mattel:

Black Label Batman v Superman Wonder Woman, Multiverse Wonder Woman, Battle Ready Wonder Woman.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Surprise: Family Corners by Mattel!

Some of my favorite Sunday Surprise dolls have been vintage items that are older than my kids.  The Jolly Dolly babies from Easter are a good example, as is one of my all-time favorite baby dolls: the Sweet e.Baby from 1999.  I like these older dolls because they offer secrets that have been hidden for decades, but also because they give a fascinating glimpse into the history of dolls in our society.

A few weeks ago I was talking about how Mattel has been making some modernizing changes to many of their doll lines.  Today I will go back in time and show you how this company was doing things in the early 90s.  The Family Corners dolls came out in 1994 and featured separately-sold male and female characters.  Kids could match up their favorite couple, stage a wedding, and then reveal a hidden baby doll.  I bought these dolls because of the secret baby (a fitting topic for Mother's Day...happy Mother's Day!) but what I actually find more interesting is how the presentation of this concept manages to be both socially restrictive...and also inspiringly open-minded.

Family Corners "Nicholas" and "Trista" dolls (1994).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Endless Hair Kingdom Barbie by Mattel

I've been going to Toys R Us every week for the past month, trying to find something new and exciting to review.  This is often a slow time of year (after the holidays but before summer) for new doll releases.  In fact, I've been noticing absences from the shelves more than additions: Bratz dolls have been discontinued and are gradually disappearing, the Journey Girls have been replaced by American Girl, Winx Club dolls--and their Make it Pop imitators--are gone, and although Cabbage Patch Kids are still around, they look really different under the Wicked Cool Toys label.

Amidst all of these changes, evidence suggests that Mattel might be doing well--recovering from their multi-year financial slump.  I don't have a lot of data to support this, but the Toys R Us doll section in South Portland is certainly dominated by Mattel these days: there's Barbie, Ever After High, Monster High, My Mini MixieQ, DC Super Hero Girls, Loving Family...and of course the whole American Girl mini-store.  The only chink in Mattel's armor seems to be the fact that Hasbro scored the Disney Princess license.

Mattel's dominance doesn't bother me the way it used to.  I think this company is starting to make a lot of great changes.  While I've all but lost interest in Monster High and Ever After High, I'm very excited about some of American Girl's new releases: the WellieWishers, Melody, Gabriella, Logan, Z and Nanea.  The Barbie aisle is more exciting to me now than it's ever been, too, with the brilliantly-articulated Made to Move characters and the diversity of body types and skin tones in the Fashionista line.  In fact, the most interesting doll I found at Toys R Us last week is a Barbie doll.  This doll is from Mattel's Endless Hair Kingdom collection.  She caught my eye because of her size (about 17 inches), her great articulation, and her very long hair:

Endless Hair Kingdom Barbie, $24.99.