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).

Thursday, February 24, 2022

I'm a Girly Doll

I'm a Girly is a Swiss doll company that launched in 2017 and expanded into the United States market in 2020.  The dolls seem to have been (still are?) quite popular in Europe, but didn't make as much of a splash here--perhaps because they occupy the same niche as American Girl.  The mission of the company is to produce "sustainability with style" by using top-quality materials and as little waste as possible.  That's certainly a mission that I can get behind, although nothing specific about the realization of this goal is mentioned on the website--beyond the fact that the cardboard packaging can be reused or recycled.  

The thing I find most unique and interesting about the I'm a Girly brand is that the design of the dolls is overseen by a group of children, the Kids4Kids team.  These boys and girls (ages 9 to 13) were instrumental in tweaking and perfecting the first prototypes, and continue to be involved in designing and testing the dolls' accessories and clothing.  Specific items of I'm a Girly clothing can be attributed to specific young designers or design teams, and I can't imagine anything more exciting or empowering for a child!  What a great idea.

I happened upon this brand only by chance.  I was browsing the Target website, looking at some of the ILY 4ever Disney dolls, and the thumbnail of an I'm a Girly character popped onto my screen.  I was captivated by the doll, but her $80 price was high enough to give me pause.  I continued my search on Amazon, where I found several of the dolls being offered for under $20.  That seemed way too good to be true, but I took a chance and ordered the least expensive character, Lucy, who at the time was $9.92 (with free shipping).

I'm a Girly doll, Lucy, MSRP $79.99, on sale for $9.92.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Catching up With L.O.L. Surprise Dolls, Part One: Boys, Minis, and Hair!

I clearly remember reviewing my first Li'l Outrageous Littles (L.O.L.) Surprise dolls back in 2016.  I was delighted to find a doll with packaging that mimicked the idea of an original surprise ball, i.e. a ball with many layers to unwrap, each layer containing a little treat.  As I mentioned back then, the fun of unwrapping an L.O.L. doll also reminded me of the "pass the parcel" game that I used to play at some of my friends' birthday parties when I was younger.  I loved that game, even if the treats hidden in each layer of paper were only single sticks of gum.

I can also remember that back in 2016 L.O.L. dolls cost $7.99 and showed up in stores one variety at a time, presented in big cardboard display boxes or tall cardboard chutes.  These displays were mostly empty (the toys sold out quickly), and I often had to resort to online shopping to get one of the dolls to review.

I was chatting with one of my lovely Patrons recently, and she suggested that I do a L.O.L. "bonanza" review that would attempt to explore all of the new incarnations of the L.O.L. concept.  I'd been thinking that I should get up-to-speed on these ultra-popular dolls anyway, and so her suggestion was exactly the inspiration I needed.  A few months ago I started paying more attention to the L.O.L. aisle at Target and accumulating a collection of L.O.L. products.  Over a multi-part review series, I'll share my thoughts about how things have changed for this brand in the last six years.

L.O.L. Arcade Heroes Flyer ($17.79) holding two minis.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Smart Doll by Danny Choo

Even during the time when I wasn't actively reviewing dolls and tracking trends, I was aware of Smart Doll.  I do a lot of wig shopping for the My Twinn Project, and I noticed over the last two years that several of my favorite wig vendors, who had previously been offering mostly American Girl wigs and accessories, were switching their focus to Smart Doll.  That got my attention because few things in the doll world are more popular than American Girl.  After a while, it became impossible to shop for a wig without seeing a dozen gorgeous photos of Smart Dolls in the process.  So, when I decided to start blogging again, one of the very first things I did was visit Danny Choo's site to learn more about this enticing brand.

Danny Choo (son of fashion designer Jimmy Choo) grew up in England with a fascination for Japanese popular culture.  This fascination led to the creation of a television show, Culture Japan, and the design of an anime mascot for that show.  The mascot's name is Mirai Suenaga, and she's described as a second year high school student with an interest in journalism.  Mirai loves the color orange and is often shown in orange-themed outfits.  The Mirai character went on to become quite popular, getting her own anime series (Mirai Millenium), and even being recognized as the official symbol for Japanese and Malaysian tourism.  In 2012, Mr. Choo began the process of turning Mirai into a 60cm fashion doll: the first Smart Doll.  Mr. Choo currently lives in Japan, where all Smart Dolls are made.

I probably should have chosen the Mirai character for this review, since she's the original Smart Doll, but those of you who know me won't be surprised that it's the smiling redhead with freckles who I couldn't resist.  She's a newer doll from the Story Tellers collection and her name is Monday:

Smart Doll Monday (Tea skin tone, Cherry wig, replacement eyes), ¥52,000 or ~$453.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Honey Bee Acres, Calico Critters, and Li'l Woodzeez: a Comparison Review!

Today's review was originally the second half of my Honey Bee Acres post, but the whole thing was crushingly long.  I was boring myself every time I tried to edit that monstrosity.  I really appreciate those of you who stopped in to say that you don't mind the longer reviews.  You're so nice!  Thank you.  Maybe I'll plow ahead with longer reviews in the future, but for this time around, at least, I've split the review in half and this is the conclusion.  Today's post will make a lot more sense if you've read the first half, though, so I highly recommend starting there and coming back here if you want to know more.

The first review took a cursory look at the Playground Pals (a set that includes nine different animals) and a more in-depth look at the four members of the Barkster dog family.  I concluded that post by summarizing the flaws that I noticed in the Honey Bee Acres line.  Today's job will be to see how the Barksters measure up to dog families from both the Calico Critters and the Li'l Woodzeez brands.

Honey Bee Acres, Calico Critters, and Li'l Woodzeez dog families.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Honey Bee Acres by Sunny Days Entertainment

Well, this has been a bumpy month so far with the failed migration and then the massive shutdown at Enom.  Yikes.  I'm cautiously optimistic that there will be no more technical drama on the horizon for a while, but I guess these things can be hard to predict.  Thank you very much for being patient with all of the disruptions.  In the future, you can always get news from me even when the blog is down if you visit Twitter or Patreon.

One of the things I noticed when I started looking over this site back in October is that my Li'l Woodzeez vs. Calico Critters review still gets a lot of traffic.  It's neat to know that the information in a ten-year-old review can be useful.  Because of that post's popularity, I started toying with the idea of writing an updated comparison review between the Calico Critters and the Woodzeez.  Then, in November, when I did the Li'l Woodzeez Sunday Surprise post, Sar mentioned to me in the comments section that Walmart now has their own line of small flocked animal figures: the Honey Bee Acres collection.  That was exactly the inspiration I needed to follow through with a new comparison review--this time including all three brands of flocked mini animals!

I originally planned for today's review to be a comprehensive post looking at all three brands, but with over 240 photos, that got way too long.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to stop producing novel-length reviews.  Nobody has time for that.  So, I've split this massive review into two parts.  The first part will look only at the Honey Bee Acres animals.  Part two, which will be posted this Wednesday, will compare a Honey Bee Acres family to equivalent Calico Critters and Li'l Woodzeez characters.  I also have plans to compare a few playsets in the near future.

There's a lot to talk about here, so let's get started!

Honey Bee Acres Playground Pals characters, $19.97.