Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: I Love Fashion Abbey Bominable

The same day I picked up the Ghoulia + Scooter set I also grabbed the new I <3 Fashion Abbey Bominable doll. This is yet another TRU exclusive. She's being released alongside a separately sold Frankie Stein counterpart. Each set features a new doll, three complete outfits (including shoes), and several accessories. These include two sets of earrings, a purse, iCoffin, and several small bracelets and necklaces.

Reality check: those blue shoes are actually black, and the bronze ones white.

Unfortunately these dolls do not come with stands. There's been a lot of complaining within the MH fan community about the lack of stands for exclusive releases, and for good reason. It's particularly frustrating that the I <3 Fashion dolls, who come with extra fashions perfect for displaying, don't come with anything to help you actually display the dolls in the clothes. This is obviously a cost-cutting measure by Mattel and it comes across as cheap. Mattel (wisely) responded when fans complained about the lack of torsos for the Create-A-Monster sets; why haven't they responded to the complaints about stands? Surely throwing some stands in with these exclusive dolls is cheaper than manufacturing entirely new torsos for the CAM's?

Moving on, this is a beautiful version of Abbey.

She has a simple, clean faceup. Her eyes are framed by lavender eyeshadow, which is topped by pink shadow that goes up to her eyebrows. Her lips are a fantastic deep purple. She has the standard Abbey haircolors -- white with purple, pink, and blue streaks underneath. The sides are pulled tightly into a low ponytail in the back, which shows off her colorful streaks nicely.

The best outfit in the set is the one that Abbey actually comes wearing in the box. It's a salmon pink, knitted, calf-length sweater dress with a wide, folded collar. It has no sleeves, and a black stitching detail that runs all the way down her front-left, ending in two loose tassles. The material of the dress feels really nice. My opinion: it's one of the best dresses we've seen from the entire MH line, period. The dress is paired with black and purple high heeled booties, over which Abbey wears thick black knitted legwarmers. The only jewelry Abbey wears is purple bubble earrings (if you own Dawn of the Dance Lagoona, you've already seen these in white). This is an impressive look for Abbey -- it's subtle, chic, and sophisticated without being stuffy. The second outfit included is good, too.

It's a one-sleeve top with chunks of lavender, pink, and white in geometric shapes. The top is paired with an extremely snug fitting pair of tights made to look like denim. The "denim" is white, with splashes of more lavender and pink all over. The colored splashes have glitter on them. The overall look has a retro 80's feel to it. The last outfit surprised me. Based on the promotional picture I thought this dress was one piece, but the middle portion is actually a wrap that can be worn separately. I tried the outfit on my Skultimate Roller Maze Ghoulia but didn't care for the wrap and removed it. To me the dress looks much better by itself.

I think Frankie's sparkling lightning purse matches nicely.

It's sleeveless, short, and has a seam under the bust to add visual detail. The colors are once again lavender and pink, plus some light blue, all with a purple, broken ice pattern print. The wrap has a white"fur" bodice and black, gauzy skirt that splits up the front. It's well-made but to me it doesn't really work as a "look". The two extra outfits emphasize Abbey's general "ice cold" theme. The extra shoes are lacking in detail, but get the job done (although, like the earrings, one of these pairs is a differently colored repeat). The shoes can be mixed and matched however you feel, of course. The purse is nice but is a purple repeat of the blue one included in Abbey's second fashion pack. The earrings and bracelets are standard MH stuff.

Overall grade: B+ You get a fantastic version of Abbey (possibly her best so far?), and some great clothes. The accessories are good but not very unique. The lack of a stand is frustrating. Please remedy this, Mattel. Overall quality control on the doll and clothes is good, at least for the one I bought.

Top image: Mattel. The rest: yours truly.

Review: Ghoulia Yelps + Scooter Playset

2012 has been quite the summer for MH collectors! It seems there's no end to the amount of dolls, playsets, and exclusives Mattel has heaped on us the last few months. Maybe they think the summer heat will give us all a collective sunstroke and in our foggy daze we will buy anything they throw at us. Maybe they're right. I know I've been snapping up dolls like there's no tomorrow, and I've been loving it (my wallet, not so much).

But this post isn't about Mattel's evil genius (well, perhaps in some sort of meta, I paid money for your product and now I'm basically endorsing it on a blog kind of way), it's about my cool new toy! Yesterday I made a run to the local Toys R Us, and sitting there on the bottom shelf was just what I had hoped to find: the new Ghoulia Yelps with her groovy new scooter! The scooter by itself is a wide release; if you want the Ghoulia doll with it, you have to go to TRU. Yep, it's yet another exclusive. Sigh. That said, this is probably a Ghoulia you'll want.

She has fairly simple eyeshadow, similar to her Dead Tired doll in that it's one shade, but a bit darker on this version. I like this because it puts the emphasis on her striking blue eyes. What really stands out is her bright green lip color. It's unique among the Ghoulia dolls and really pops when contrasted with her grey skin. Her hair is thickly rooted, has a light wave, and falls down to just above her rear. It's the usual dark and light blue streaks. Her outfit is amazing, one of the best we've ever seen for Ghoulia in my opinion. She wears a short, sleeveless halter type dress with a red, white, and grey splatter print. This is accessorized with a white, sleeveless "leather" jacket with zipper detailing (it doesn't actually zip), and tall, black biker boots with three red skullets down each side. She also comes with a grey, tombstone shaped backpack with red straps, and a black helmet with red glasses attached. The overall look is reminiscent of the 60's; she's like a biker babe from a Russ Meyer exploitation flick. She's extremely cool.

But that's not all! We have the scooter to examine, as well! I'm generally not into the Monster High playsets and vehicles but I'm LOVING this scooter! In true MH fashion it perfectly combines elements of cute and creepy. Firstly, it matches Ghoulia's clothes, going with a red, white, and grey general color scheme. It has a white racing stripe that runs up from the front wheel cover to the handlebars, with a little skull head right in the center. Under the skull is a grey basket made to look like a ribcage (awesome). The handlebars are red with black handles, and red and black streamers hang down the sides. The inner portion of the front plate and footpiece is black, with a white spinal cord running down the center. The seat is made of "quilted" red brain matter, with the side portions underneath covered with a cherry print sticker. The back has a coffin shaped compartment (it actually opens) and a splattered license plate that reads "BRAINS". See what I mean -- cute and creepy!

The set also includes Ghoulia's pet owl Sir Hoots A Lot (who comes with his very own helmet and glasses), and a drink with straw for Ghoulia. There's a retractable kickstand made of bones to display the scooter. Best of all? Ghoulia can actually "grip" the handlebars while seated! So this works just as well as a display toy as it does a play toy. This is a great example of why MH appeals as much to adults as it does to children.

Overall grade: A+ You get a beautiful Ghoulia doll in a great outfit, her cute pet owl who comes with his very own accessories, and a retro-cool, functioning scooter. Quality control was good for this release, as well. Good job, Mattel!

All images by yours truly

Deconstructing Monster High Part 1: The Beginning & The Explosion

I doubt Monster High needs much introduction. Since the dolls, created and manufactured by Mattel, were launched in summer 2010 they have only continued to grow in popularity. In the world of playline dolls they are truly a juggernaut; sales are through the roof and demand has never been higher. It's safe to say they are the most popular doll line to emerge in recent years, by far. But let's take a few steps back.

When the line was first announced many were intrigued. The idea of a line of fashion dolls based on classic monsters, marketed towards girls, seemed novel at best, risky at worst. Would they succeed? The dolls hit store shelves and the answer was a resounding "YES!" They immediately found a following among the girls they were directly aimed at. Score, Mattel! Undoubtedly the success was helped by a series of short webisodes that were released through an official Monster High YouTube account and on the official Monster High website. I'll go further into the web series in part 4 of this series. The brand was further augmented by a series of YA novels by Lisi Harrison that continue to be published regularly. Garrett Sander is credited with creating the doll line, and he continues to work as Design Manager for the dolls and brand.

The initial doll line featured five female characters and one male. Four of the females - Clawdeen Wolf, Lagoona Blue, Frankie Stein, and Draculaura - were sold seperately. A combo pack featuring Cleo DeNile and Deuce Gorgon were sold together. Two more characters - Ghoulia Yelps and Holt Hyde - would be released shortly after. The six girls are the "core group" of Monster High, although there have been multiple new character dolls released at regular intervals since, each based on a different monster. Each doll comes with a pet, comb, stand, and diary. The diary's go a long way in establishing the world of Monster High, especially for those who haven't seen the webisodes. A bio on the back of each doll's box sets up the "personality" of the character. There are also multiple versions of each character, released in themed lines. I'll go further into those in a later part.

The dolls initially drew a bit of controversy over their impossibly thin figures. There was also some consternation for having one of the characters (Clawdeen, a werewolf), in her bio, complain about having to shave. But these controversies were fairly minor and have largely been forgotten. Much of that is likely due to the dolls themselves; it seems people can't help but be charmed by them. As word on these unique new dolls spread, others couldn't help but be won over by them. The dolls started growing in popularity among adult collectors, to the point that they are now arguably the most collectible playline dolls on the market. They're not just popular in the US, Monster High has officially gone worldwide. And then the impossible: they started to crossover into action figure collections. That's straight guy territory. Granted, these guys call them "figures" rather than dolls. But seeing a straight guy argue the strengths of a blue-haired zombie girl over a gold-clad werewolf vixen is a sight to behold. It's encouraging, actually, as maybe this will help blur the lines between what even constitutes a "girl toy" and a "boy toy". This crossing over has also given the Monster High brand a legitimacy you simply don't see in playline dolls. It's okay to collect these dolls; they're "cool".

Of course, having everyone in your corner, from the kids to the parents to the collectors to the guys, means demand is truly through the roof. When a new character doll starts hitting store shelves, count on at least a month or two before you'll actually be able to get your hands on it (unless you're incredibly lucky, but it's rare). Compounding the problem are scalpers -- people who devote their time to scouring the stores, snapping up all the dolls on the shelf, then selling them on eBay for up to four times their retail value. Scalpers are a real headache for collectors and parents alike, and unfortunately, because demand is so high there are people willing to pay these inflated prices. Support groups of sorts have been set up among the online MH community to combat scalpers. They give each other a heads up when specific dolls become available in certain territories, they buy multiples of dolls they find in stores to sell to fellow collector's at the fair retail price, and more. It's a great community!

One last thing I'd like to touch on in part 1 is store exclusives. That is, dolls that are only available to buy at certain stores (Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, K Mart, Kohl's, etc). Mattel started this practice last year with a couple of dolls, but in 2012 there are no less than eight different store exclusives for certain dolls and playsets. Given how hard it can be to get the regular wide release products, these exclusives once again compound the problem of scalpers. Many fans are hoping 2013 sees Mattel scale back a little on the amount of exclusives, but it's not looking likely.

Whew! Okay, for part 2 I'm going to be looking at the dolls themselves -- their design influences, their functionality, the art of facial screening, and more. I'm hoping you'll check it out -- it's gonna be fun! Til next time!

All images: Mattel