Monday, December 29, 2014

Season's Greetings! And Planning for 2015

Double Dutch Sascha (in a Carpatina oufit),
Volks SDGou Claude the Beast,
Carpatina Veronika
I missed posting on Christmas, so just wanted to make a quick post to send a Holiday greeting!

Coming up in the first few weeks of 2015,  I should be posting about the Carpatina doll and clothes line (I received a doll and three outfits as part of a gift exchange), and about my end-of-year splurge gift to myself, a Volks SDGou Claude the Beast, who I lucked into finding on Mandarake two weeks ago.  Also in the queue are Monster High's Vandala Doubloons, and some vintage Star Wars figures and vehicles.

I also seem to be hitting a storage and display limit, which means it may be time to thin the herd, so it's likely that I'll be talking myself through the process of elimination some time in the next couple of months.

And finally, my husband is expecting a new work assignment some time in the next 5 months, so since we'll be moving house some time this year there may be a series on packing-up dolls and figures in the works.  And depending on our next location, we may be unpacking out storage items as well, which will open up a whole host of new/old "Out of the Box" posts as I sort through those items.

I hope 2014 is wrapping up as well for you as it is for me, and best wishes for 2015!  Cheers!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Out of the Box: Sascha (Double Dutch Dolls)

Double Dutch Dolls "Sascha"
Before I talk about this doll, can I just mention how many times I (as a Sasha Doll fan) typed "Sasha" instead of "Sascha" while writing this?  It was certainly more of a challenge than I expected.  Anyway, on to the new doll!

A few months ago I started reading reviews of the first two dolls released from the new Double Dutch Dolls line - a line of dolls and books that were created with the goal of "celebrating the beauty, experiences, and diversity of multi-cultural children".  The creators had a Kickstarter campaign going to fund the rest of the line.  I was fairly impressed with what had been released so far, and made enough of a contribution to receive one of the new dolls once they were released - and today that doll arrived.

The dolls in the line are 18" slim dolls, similar in height to American Girl dolls, but slimmer and with slightly more mature features and bodies.  They have 11 points of articulation (knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck), inset acrylic eyes, and wigged hair.

The dolls ship out in a pink striped cardboard box . The boxes front window allows for nearly a full view of the doll inside.
In the box.

Removed from the box, the doll is secured to the inner shell via two tie-downs at the dolls neck and ankles.
The inner shell.
Out of the box and out of her pink jacket.
Sascha is outfitted in a pink jacked, white tunic-length t-shirt, patterned leggings, black socks and faux-patent ankle boots.  Having heard stories of the first two dolls having stains from their socks, one of the first things I did after removing this doll from her packaging was to take off her shoes and socks and check: I'm happy to report that there was no staining, so hopefully that issue has been resolved.

Stain free and showing off her jointing.
The outfit is decent quality, although the soles of the shoes are a bit of a flimsy foam-like material, which surprised me given the construction of the rest of the shoe.  That aside, the t-shirt is decent (if simple) and the leggings and jacket are nicely made (and I love the pattern on the leggings).

The real outstanding part of this doll is her hair - I don't think I've ever seen a doll with such a thick wig.  My mother is visiting this week for the holidays, and spent about 10 minutes commenting on how much hair this doll has - when I started taking the single hairpin out, my mum's response was "Don't do it!  You'll never be able to see her face again!"

My mother was not wrong: The hair does tend to
cover Sascha's face when it's not pinned back. 

I think the biggest challenge people may have with this doll will be related to clothes-sharing - she's too small to share with American Girl/Our Generation/18" Madame Alexander/Maplelea dolls, and too large to share with Hearts for Hearts type dolls.  That said, I've heard that there may be some sharing potential with BFC INK or Carpatina dolls, but I can't confirm that since I don't have either (although I may be receiving a Carpatina doll as part of a New Year's gift exchange, so I may have the chance to make some additional comparisons in the future).

Compared to American Girl

Compared to a Hearts for Hearts doll.

Aside from size, I think the other thing that distinguishes these dolls from others in this size range is the less-round face, which gives the doll a more mature look - which makes sense, as the characters in the tie-in books are apparently 14 versus the 9- and 10-year-olds who appear in most of the AG tie-in stories.

Overall, I'm always eager to see new dolls from new doll lines, and this doll is a solid realization of the creator's 2D vision.  I'm hopeful that this line will continue to expand as I'm looking forward to seeing how the final 3 planned dolls turn out.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Out of the Box: Madame Alexander South Africa (International Friends)

Madame Alexander's South Africa
I was doing some Christmas shopping on Zulily last month, and noticed that their Madame Alexander section (which had previously consisted of the 18" play dolls), had a number of the smaller collector dolls available for half their regular retail price.  And three of those collector dolls were from the International Friends line (Madagascar, South Africa, and Brazil), so it's no surprise that one of those (South Africa) fell into my cart.  And yesterday, she arrived at my door (a bit of a surprise, as she hadn't been marked as being available for pre-Christmas delivery).

Being a fan of the older version of that series (I've posted about my 1970s India and Canada dolls a few times in the past), I've been curious to see what these modern versions would be like, but the greatly increased price made me wary since I'd heard conflicting reports about the relative quality of these newer dolls (the new dolls retail for $100 USD, while - with a few exceptions for rarity - the older dolls are generally available on the secondary market for less than $30).  But since this sale had them at half price I was happy to bring one home and see how she'd compare to the older dolls.

The first thing I noticed about this doll is that her box was
The box.
 slightly smaller than the ones from the old line - a surprise since this doll is slightly larger than those ones.  She was secured to the box with a pair of ribbons, which made her significantly easier to debox than the similarly themed playline Travel Friends line.

In the box.
Out of the box, one of the improvements over the "classic" dolls was obvious: this doll has jointed knees and elbows, which gives the doll significantly more posing potential.  I also thought her outfit was better constructed than those of the 1970s dolls and more obviously constructed to be removed, should one choose to redress the doll.

She also appears to have better quality hair, although whether that's unique to this doll (who is one of the few in the line to have short hair) or a line-wide improvement, I can't say.

New posing abilities: without knee and elbow joints, the old dolls
 can't sit and wave like these newer ones.
This doll has one of the classic Madame Alexander faces (specifically the "Wendy" head), so she has the traditional small puckered lips and small round sleep eyes.  The inset eyes are probably the standout feature of this doll for me - the specific shade of brown gives them a certain warmth, and they reflect light fairly well, which keeps her from looking a little less stern than many Madame Alexander dolls do (I've always felt that Canada and India are glaring out of the doll shelf with an expression of disappointment).

Compared to the older "India".  You can see the difference in height
and in eye detail here.

Overall, I'm pleased with both the general improvements to this line of dolls and with the charm of this specific doll - I probably wouldn't pick up another at retail, but at discounted prices, I certainly think they're worth looking at.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Out of the Box: Shatterstar (ToyBiz X-men/X-Force)

I was preparing a holiday-themed photo-shoot earlier this week, but the weather decided to not cooperate and a lack of sunlight meant those photos weren't going to happen.  As a result, I distracted myself by digging through the retro/discount bins and looking for more of ToyBiz's early '90s X-men figure, and Shatterstar (a fitting companion for the Rictor I found last month) joined my collection.
In the box.

As is typical for superheros of that era he's awesomely (and ridiculously) over-the-top: a huge ponytail, an open-mouthed grimace, a pair of giant swords and a degree of muscularity that went out of fashion by the late '90s.  The features are fairly broadly done, but the figure (face and outfit) are neatly-painted, which isn't always the case for figures of this vintage, so that's certainly a plus.

The character might not look much like this in the comics these days (he was primarily used in  humour and romance plotlines when X-Factor v.1 was wrapping up last year), but the figure is a perfect reflection of how he was drawn 20 years ago.

A closer view of the face.

The figure has 10 points of articulation - shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, neck, and waist - two more than the Rictor figure (whose neck and waist were fixed).  As with the other figure, the boots are made out of a slightly softer vinyl than the rest of the figure, and that softer vinyl appears to have degraded somewhat.  Shatterstar's boots were slightly less sticky than Rictor's were, but the oiliness was still fairly noticeable.  It cleaned up fairly easily, but I imagine that the boots will continue to degrade over time.

Dual Sword Action, as described on the box.

As with all of the figures in this line, the toy has a unique action feature: "Dual Sword Action" in this case. Before taking the figure out of the box, I assumed that this would be one of those push-a-button/arms-move type actions, but it's actually less intuitive than that.   In order to make the arms swing from the shoulders, you need to push the back so that the figure rotates quickly from the waist.  It works (in a fashion), but it's such an awkward way of providing a fairly standard arm-swinging feature that I wonder why they bothered coming up with something so (relatively) complicated.

Overall I'd say that this is a solid playline figure - this Shatterstar may not be collector quality, but he's an awesome example of the ridiculousness of early 90s superheros, so I'm totally pleased with him on that front.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Out of the Box: "Handsome Devil" Damon (Integrity Toys' Dynamite Girls)

"Handsome Devil" Damon
It's a couple of months too late for a proper Halloween post, but rather than making him wait until 2015 for an introduction, let's pretend that this is a festive Christmas devil, shall we?  After all, red is a seasonal colour!

I've actually been considering picking up one of the Dynamite Girls boys since before I bought my London Calling TJ this past spring, but they've proved illusive (or more correctly, have always sold out faster than the girls, and had secondary market mark-ups that went beyond what I was willing to pay).  But then last month I noticed a reasonably priced listing for this doll on eBay and decided to take the plunge.

Damon has the standard Dynamite Girls male body, which turned out to be a fair bit sturdier than the female bodies of the line.  I was glad to see that - the delicacy is one of the only complaints I have about TJ.  The body has 14 points of articulation and can hold a solid selection of poses - the pose-ability was actually significantly better than I expected.

This particular release comes in their medium skin tone
In the box.
The box.
(which I believe is called "Latino" on the official site) and has little red horns affixed to his scalp.  He has rooted black and red hair which matches the colours of his (quite detailed) outfit.

The outfit quality is solid (and quite a bit more detailed than I expected).  There is a layer of plastic wrap under the body to prevent staining - something I was glad to see, although that did factor into my decision to not undress the doll (I don't want to have to try to re-wrap with thin enough layers to redress him at this point).

Out of the box and on his stand.

The face painting is well done, and gives the doll an expression that borders on smirking.  I did find myself wondering about the materials, since the doll's face seemed to reflect light in a different way than most of my dolls, but I'd have to try photographing him in a wider variety of lighting situations to say anything definite on that.

In any case, in every other way this doll exceeded  my expectations, so I can't complain too much!

With fellow Dynamite Girl "London Calling" TJ
A closer view.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Tale of Terrible Packaging

The outer box.
This isn't quite toy-related, but it's close enough:  I've been a little weak with getting posts out these past two weeks, in part because I went on holiday (I spent a little less than a week doing site-seeing in Boston), but mostly because my entertainment time has been eaten up by the mid-November release of the latest instalment in one of my favourite games franchises, Dragon Age: Inquisition.  

The game itself I've been impressed by.  It's a solid RPG (although there are still some issues that need patching) and has plenty of lore for people who love the world-building,  but the packaging of the collector's edition was quite possibly the least competent professional packing job I have ever seen.  I'm not generally a fan of CE releases either, and this set is certainly not making it more likely for me to buy any others in the future).

The box itself looks great (and exactly like a chest that appears in-game), but upon opening it I found this:
Everything had a slot, yet everything was loose inside.

Two of the chess pieces were all broken (surprisingly, nothing else appeared to be damaged):
The damage
I'm not terribly upset by the breakage (I really only wanted the tarot set, fabric map, and the box itself, and luckily those items met my expectations), but I was shocked to see such poor package design on a release like this.
A sampling of the tarot cards.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Out of the Box: Hearts for Hearts Surjan

Hearts for Hearts Surjan
I've been watching the Hearts for Hearts line for about while now - ever since I passed on one of the original releases (Nahji) when she was on clearance at Canadian Tire last year.  I didn't end up picking up that doll, but when two new ones were released this year, I was able to grab one this one (Surjan) the first week she appeared on the shelves (it helps that I'm in the US now, and the dolls are better stocked here).

The line consists a series of international-themed playline dolls that are slightly shorter than AG-sized.  They represent a solid selection of nations (this doll's story ties her to Nepal), and include a short story/pamphlet that discusses their lives (and that has an "out of poverty" element - part of the doll's proceeds go to a charity that is apparently involved in the issues described).

There are a multitude of reviews for this line out there, so I won't go into much detail, but the doll has a fully vinyl body with 5 points of articulation, and inset acrylic eyes.  This particular doll  comes in a patterned dress, pink sandals and a few pieces of jewellery (earings, nosering, bangle, and a necklace).  The plastic jewellery is decent quality for dolls at this price point, and the outfit, while simple, is better quality than I'd expected.  Her face is painted in a style that gives her a neutral-on-the-side-of-happy expression, which I found more appealing that I'd expected based on promotional photos.
In the box.  The doll also comes with a human-sized
bracelet and a comb.
The back of the box includes a shorter version of the
pamphlet's story.
Size comparison: The Hearts for Hearts dolls are a head
shorter than Ellowyne Wilde and American Girl dolls.

Overall, I'm quite impressed with this doll she's appealing, her accessories fit her theme, and for a doll at this price point ($25USD/$35CDN), the line certainly exceeded my expectations.

ETA:  I can't believe I almost forgot: For the Americans out there, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Out of the bag: Mirodoll Lele

Mirodoll Lele.  Forgive the dress, I had nothing
else that fit him on hand.
I was away on a work trip last week, and - much to my surprise - when I arrived there was a new BJD on my doorstop.  Having only ordered the doll (a Mirodoll Lele) three weeks prior, I hadn't been expecting to see him so quickly, but I was also surprised because I hadn't received a shipping notice from Mirodoll.  The shipping surprise turned out to be reflective of my overall experience with this company: some positives, but a fair number of negatives as well.

Mirodoll is one of the lowest-cost BJD producers out there and, having not heard much about them, I was curious to see how they would stack up against other dolls.  Normally, their 1/4th scale dolls retail for just over $100 USD, but they had a sale recently and as a result the doll was offered for $90.  I think it's important to mention that up front because I do have a fair number of complaints, but it's worth noting that the doll's price was a fraction of some of the ones I'll be comparing him to.

The first surprise was discovering how little packing protection was used: inside the shipping box was a simple draw-string padded bag - and almost nothing else!
The shipping bag.
 the hands were wrapped in a little foam, but that was it.  Luckily, the doll survived his journey and still made it to me intact (and that's despite the box being slightly crushed in shipping).

The second surprise was that they cast my doll in the wrong colour.  I  had requested their "dark chocolate" resin, but the doll I received is in "dark grey".  The colour isn't terrible (and if you wanted to create a drow/dark elf character it might be perfect), and while I can understand shipping errors for off-the-shelf items, for a custom-cast item, I was surprised to see this kind of mix-up happen.
Dark grey Lele, unclothed.

Unfortunately, the dark grey shows sanding marks even more so than tan colours do, and as a result the doll is covered in lighter patches.  The faceup is also a bit on the odd side in terms of colour choices, but for something that was included with the price of the doll, I can't really complain.

Still, there are some positives:  the weight of the body is surprisingly hefty. While he can't compare with the weighty (and much higher-priced) dolls from Volks or Iplehouse, he easily outweighs even larger-scale dolls from Bobbie/ResinSoul and Angel Street/Fdoll.

The body and head also have much more detailed sculpts than any other doll I've seen at this price point.  The body in particular surprised me with its level of detail and also with the solid engineering.  In fact, while my overall impression is less than stellar, I would whole-heartedly recommend this body for hybrids.

One other thing of note:  although this doll is sold as a 1/4th scale doll, he's actually significantly shorter than any other MSD-range doll that I own.  That's not an issue if you're using him as a customization project and intend to make your own clothes, of course - but it does mean that he can't share clothes with many other dolls (and it's why he's wearing a dress here - it's the only thing I had on hand that fit him).

In any case, I think he'll make a great project doll - but if I order from Mirodoll in the future, I'll certainly be tempering my expectations.

Height Comparison: Volks SDC Miko
Height Comparison: Island Doll Kevin

Height Comparison: Withdoll Aiden
Battle of the Grey Dolls: with Monster High
Neighthan Rot.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Out of the Box: Rictor (Toy Biz X-Men/X-Force)

It's been a while since I've talked about a '90s action figure, so it's time to remedy that and unbox this 1994 Toy Biz figure of X-men spin-off character Julio Rictor (specifically an X-Force character at the time this toy's production, although I always think of the character as part of either the earlier New Mutants or the more recent X-Factor).

The figure has that classic early '90s superhero look, with the muscle-heavy body, an oversized weapon and a  ridiculous outfit (the character hasn't looked like this in the comics for a long time now).  The figure takes a final step into the completely absurd with the action feature which is called "Power Vibes" - you wind it up and he moves slightly.  The motion is supposed to recall the character's seismic/shockwave powers but it actually just looks like wiggling.

In the box.

Still, the ridiculous costume is well-painted, and while the lack of neck gives the face a certain oddness, it's not a terrible likeness of the then-current art style (although he's not so fair-skinned in the comics).  Strangely, the boots are a softer vinyl than the rest of the body and seem to have degraded over time, so they're now a bit greasy, which is unfortunate.

The figure has 8 points of articulation - shoulders, elbows, hips, knees.  The lack of neck articulation is a shame, but not a surprise given the lack of neck in general.

The lone accessory is the gun, which is decently sculpted and fits perfectly in the figure's hand.  Most impressively to me (given some toys of this age), he's able to balance easily with the gun in hand.
Side view: the wind-up knob is very conspicuous here.

Overall, I'm in love with the complete ridiculousness of this figure - it's not particular good, but I'm entertained, and that's the most important part, right? ;)

More of the same line.
What absurd features do they have? 
And do I need to hunt them down to find out?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Out of the Box: Prettie Girls Dahlia (One World Doll Project)

The Prettie Girls are a line of fashion dolls from The One World Doll Project.  Three dolls from the line have been on the market for nearly a year now, but I was waiting for the release of this particular doll, so this is my first in-person experience with the line.  Interestingly, the new releases showed up discounted on Zulily before they were available for sale on the official site!  I was surprised, but certianly not complaining about the discount (and I imagine it would be a solid way to build extra buzz for the line).

The five dolls in the line each share the same body type and head sculpt but have unique face screenings and hair types, and come in different skin tones (to go with the cultural/national themes that each is assigned).  Dahlia (whose description on the official site and box is now listed as Indian from Dehli, rather than the broad and vague "South Asian/Middle Eastern" that appeared on the website pre-release) has a dark straight hair (with two twists), what appears to be the second-darkest skintone of the line, and has been painted with a fairly soft and pleasant expression.

The packaging is quite attractive, although I did find it a little odd that the cartoon Dahlia on the box looks so different from the doll - everything from the pattern on her leggings to the colours of her hair, eyes and skin is unmatched.  Still, the box looks good and keeps the doll secure, and it wasn't too challenging to free her from the box (there were multiple tie-ins, but unlike some doll lines, they weren't taped over, so they were easy to snip).
In the box.

Each doll also comes with a unique outfit and set of accessories.  In this case, the outfit consists of a purple top and patterned leggings, along with a purse, two bracelets, a chucky necklace, hoop earrings and orange shoes.  The shoes appear to be vaguely wedge-like, probably because the doll's feet have neither the high arch of a Barbie or Monster High doll, nor the flat feet of an action figure or male fashion doll.

Going for a run (or showing off her outfit).

A clearer view of the joints
The shoes are fairly easily removed (and replaced), and are made of a softer vinyl than the jewlery pieces.  Unfortunately, that harder material makes it somewhat more challenging to get the bracelets on and off, and causes the necklace to hang in a slightly unnatural way.

The doll has 10 points of articulation (neck, chest, shoulders, elbows, knees), most of which have a solid range of movement. The knees are hinge joints, so they can only swing, but the other joints have rotation as well - the chest joint works particularly well at allowing the doll to be posed in more natural-looking positions.

The vinyl itself is uniform in colour and has a decent weight to it, although I felt that the legs felt a little bit lighter relative to the rest of the body (although not enough to throw the doll out of balance).

I wasn't able to get her to stand on her own, but given the not-quite-high-heel-feet,  I felt that it would probably have been possible with more patience, although I wouldn't count on her balancing for any length of time.  These dolls don't come with stands, but are compatible with the stands for a variety of other fashion dolls, so she's using a Monster High stand in the comparison photos below.

Between a Monster High and a Barbie.
Dahlia is slightly taller than the MH, and nearly identical in height
to Barbie (the slight difference is probably due to the heel height)
Between an Integrity Dynamite Girl & Barbie again

Overall, I'm quite impressed with this doll: she's a solid playline doll at a reasonable price, and I admire the creator's desire to create a more diverse line of dolls (although I confess that when I first read the old "South Asian/Middle Eastern" description, I briefly hoped that meant she'd be both - I have several nieces who are Indian/Mediterranean mixed, and the thought that someone was producing a doll with that background blew me away - but it seems that was just a generic placeholder).  Ideally, I would have preferred to see wrist articulation, since more and more lines are offering that, but at the same time it's certainly not a necessity, and the doll is lovely even if she can't quite wave to the camera.

A parting shot (in stronger lighting).