Friday, July 29, 2022

Gwynn Tan by American Girl

I got a little nostalgic about the blog this week.  As I was writing today's review, which features Gywnn Tan, a 14-inch American Girl doll, I thought to myself, "I should reference the WellieWishers review I wrote not so long ago."  Well, "not so long ago" turns out to be six years ago.  I was struck by my commentary at that time; I mentioned being caught up in our town's high school musical, which was, indeed, a big part of my life back then.  But both of my kids were in high school six years ago...and now they're done with college and interviewing for jobs.  Ack!  And I know from the wonderful letters that I've gotten over the years that many of you were little when you first started reading this blog (some of you even wrote guest reviews!) and are now in college or working at jobs of your own.  It's crazy.  The doll world can slow time in funny ways (the WellieWisher kids are the same age they were six years ago, after all) but real life forges ahead.

Enough about that, though.  Let me tell you a little bit about why I'm bothering to revisit this style of doll six years later.  The first reason is simply that I'm excited about Corinne, American Girl's Girl of the Year for 2022.  I'm excited about Corinne because she's the first Chinese Girl of the Year, and I'm also excited because she has doll siblings--like Gwynn!  Corinne herself will make an appearance on the blog at some point in the future, but for now I'm focusing my attention on her little sister.

I'm focused on Gwynn because of the larger purpose of this review.  I've noticed a variety of 14-inch dolls on the market over the past few months, and, because I tend to get obsessive about certain ideas or styles of doll, I bought five of those different varieties.  These five dolls aren't different enough to each need long, complicated reviews, so I had the idea to run a series of shorter, interconnected reviews that will take a more comparative look at the five brands.  Every comparison series needs to start somewhere, and with some benchmark, so I figured where better to start than with one of America's most popular doll brands?  With all of that in mind, here's Miss Gwynn Tan to kick off this 14-inch doll extravaganza:

Gwynn Tan by American Girl, $65.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay by Just Play

I'll confess that these days I do most of my doll shopping online.  This is mostly because of the pandemic, of course, but also because there are many enticing doll brands that I can only find online...or that I find through random online searches.  However, I try really hard to visit an actual store every now and then, because that's when I find things that I never would have learned about otherwise.

Case in point is the doll I'm sharing with you today: Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay.  That's a series of words that I never would have known to search out on the internet, but as I cruised around Target back in May, preparing for my mermaid-themed reviews, there she was, sitting on a shelf right next to Mermaze Mermaidz Orra.  As I dallied in the aisle, her broad smile drew me in.  She was completely different from any of the other dolls on the shelf, with relatively normal proportions and a lot of personality in her face.  When I peered into the box, I could see that she looked well articulated, too.  So, knowing absolutely nothing about who Lay Lay is or why there's a doll that looks like her, I popped this charmer into my cart and took her home:

Freestylin' Fashion Lay Lay by Just Play, $19.99.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Revisiting Paola Reina's Las Amigas...and a knockoff

Today's review grew out of two different things that have been kicking around in my head recently.  First of all, Paola Reina added new joints to some of their Las Amigas dolls and, as you can imagine, I got really excited about this development.  As soon as I heard the news, I purchased a beautiful-looking redheaded Las Amigas doll with the new articulation.  However, I ended up being disappointed by that doll, so I did a quick review on Patreon and then sold her.  The upside is that in the process of researching that doll, I discovered about six other traditional Las Amigas girls that I love!  I bought two of those six, and they'll appear in this post. 

The second thing that happened was that my friend Arin drew my attention to a collection of Las Amigas lookalikes that are being sold on Amazon.  For some reason I'm always fascinated by knockoffs, even though I should probably be offended by them.  I was eager to see what these imposters look like up close, and so I purchased one...and then purchased another authentic Las Amigas doll who I thought would offer a good comparison.  Both of these girls will appear in this review, too.

I've written about Paola Reina dolls many times before (including a review of a Ruth Treffeisen doll who is equivalent to a Las Amigas), but I couldn't resist the chance to revisit this charming brand.  And there's even more going on in the Paola Reina world than I have time or resources to write about today.  For example, there are now 8-inch Mini Amigas that are completely adorable and will have to make an appearance here at some point in the future, and also a lot of boy characters who melt my heart.  For now, though, let's start with this standard-size Las Amigas girl, Dasha, and her gorgeously freckled face:

Las Amigas Dasha by Paola Reina, $71.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sunday Surprise: Mini Fashion and Real Littles!

I was disappointed that I couldn't quite get last week's review done in time for a Sunday Surprise, so I decided to try really hard to get a quick surprise-themed review done for you today!  

My progress was slowed down a little bit this weekend because I finally hit a breaking point with my work space.  I've been writing reviews almost non-stop since October, and I forgot that if I don't take a day or two every now and then to stop and clean up my mess...well, things can get very out-of-control!  On Friday, when fetching the doll for my next review felt like an obstacle course, a death trap, and a game of hide and seek all wrapped into one, I realized that it was time to pause and clean up.  But now my room is beautiful and clean again and it's such an amazing feeling!

As I was tidying and sorting through my stash, I realized that I'd accumulated two different surprise-themed toys that involve purses or bags of some kind: Mini Fashion by Zuru and Real Littles by Moose Toys.  I thought that these two brands might be fun to compare and contrast.  Lena was excited about this idea because she's been pestering me for months to de-box the Mini Fashion sets.  She knows that they contain high-end purses that might be just her size!

Barbie Lena with a Surprise Mini Fashion ball (Zuru, $9.99).

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Mischa's Toy Jewels (now with answers!)

I'm traveling a bit this weekend, so today's review will be pretty short, and very different from what I normally write.  Anyone who's read any of my Sunday Surprise posts, especially recent ones, will know that I often comment on how the expense of surprise-themed dolls, particularly those that cost over $10, is risky because of the chance of getting a repeat.  And what happens to all of those duplicate dolls?  Some end up on eBay or at Goodwill, I'm sure, but many probably land in the garbage.  As if the packaging waste from this type of toy wasn't bad enough.

Knowing how I feel about all of this, my friend Ariel messaged me the other day and showed me a cool Instagram page called Mischa's Toy Jewels.  Mischa gathers up unwanted mini toys and turns them into children's jewelry!  How cool is that?  What's even better is that she donates half of the profits from her sales to a local food bank.  I wanted to showcase this neat project, so I purchased several bracelets and necklaces to share with you.

I had so much fun looking through Mischa's selection, not just because the jewelry is colorful and attractive, but because of the variety of mini toys on display.  I could identify some of the brands right away, but not all of them.  The unidentified mini toys were irresistible little mysteries to me, and I had a great time trying to figure out what all of them are.  And I'll confess--Mischa had to come to my rescue a few times!  I thought some of you might be similarly amused by identifying these small toys, and so today's post will have two goals: one is to simply showcase Mischa's fun jewelry, but the other is to play a little guessing game!  I'll show you what I bought, with no labels, and then in a day or two I'll post the answers and a little follow-up review.  Be warned, though, that there's one mini toy in the mix that neither Mischa nor I could identify.  Bonus points to anyone who knows what it is!

A necklace from Mischa's Toy Jewels, $10.00.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Hairmazing Hairdorables by Just Play

I decided to take a little break from mermaids for a week or two, just in case some of you aren't interested in the underwater side of doll collecting.  But I'll return to the subject later so that I can explore a few of Mattel's best mermaid options.  In the meantime, I wanted to get back to the review that I was working on when the Mermaze Mermaidz stole my attention.  The dolls I'm going to look at today are from the Hairdorables Hairmazing collection.  Word play on the adjective "amazing" is popular in the doll world these days, isn't it?  "Hairmazing" doesn't work quite as well as "Mermaze," if you ask me, but--again--at least they didn't go with Hairmazeballs.  That makes me thinking of hacking cats.

Anyway, I reviewed the smaller, huge-headed, surprise-themed Hairdorables back in 2018, and found them a bit goofy--with a lot of plastic waste.  The newer Hairmazing dolls are basically the Hairdorables characters when they're all grown up and in high school.  The dolls still have caricatured faces and brightly colored hair, but as they matured, they appear to have grown into their heads and also acquired an impressive number of new joints!  The larger size and better articulation on these dolls made them something I didn't want to miss.

There are three waves of Hairmazing dolls available: the first release dolls, a Prom Perfect themed collection, and a brightly-colored Kaleidoscope trio.  The first two groups are really easy to find (and often on sale) but the Kaleidoscope girls are more elusive.  I gather Just Play had some distribution problems in 2021 that made these dolls rare in the United States.  There are still plenty of great options available, though, and I had a tough time deciding which of the dolls I should feature in this review.  Fortunately, my Patrons stepped in and, through a series of polls, they chose the dolls I'll look at today.  Thank you for the help, guys!  Sorry it took me so long to write the actual review.

Hairdorables Hairmazing Noah by Just Play, $19.99.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Mermaid High by Spin Master

I'm back with the second post in the mermaid series!  I learned so much from your comments on the Mermaze Mermaidz review.  As I've said before, the comments are always a hugely valuable (and humorous...) part of this blog.  Thank you so much for all of your contributions.  I'll single out a few mermaid-related things that were mentioned: first of all, Lurkins noted that I never tested Jordie's color change feature, which is embarrassingly true.  I went back and did that and added in some pictures of the results.  It's pretty cool!  Séverine's tip that one of the dolls (Riviera) has bad hair is very helpful, too, especially since I was so pleased with the hair on Orra and Jordie.  Last of all, I had no idea about the alleged backstory of the Mermaidz or which body parts were taken from other MGA lines.  I should have at least recognized the Project Mc2 eyes!  Thank you to Alé for those tidbits.

But today is all about Spin Master's Mermaid High dolls.  The first wave of these fishy friends has been out since late 2021, and the second wave of dolls hit the market this spring.  I've been waffling back and forth about whether to write about this brand for several months now, mostly waiting to see if the high original price (around $27) would come down at all.  The dolls never struck me as being worth quite that much.  I guess I waited a good amount of time, because the first wave characters recently went on sale at Target.  They were around $5 for a while, which was insane, but are now $19.99, which is a reasonable price for this brand.  I purchased first wave Finly at full price a few weeks ago, and then added Searra during the $5 sale.  This review got too long to include Searra, though, so I'll put those photos over on Patreon.

I'm going to feature Finly today because when I was looking at all of the characters in the store, she's the one who impressed me the most.  I love her rainbow-themed outfit and her cute green-eyed, freckle-filled face.  In this review, I'll contrast first wave Finly to the newer version of the same character:

Mermaid High Finly by Spin Master, $26.99.