Thursday, March 9, 2017

OVERVIEW: Callie 'n' Friends

Callie 'n' Friends is a small line by Creata. They were produced in 1995 and there were 6 sets of 4 figures each, plus 3 larger playsets.

The figures are very little, only about an inch and a half for the tallest ones. Their faces are really cute in a unique way.

I can't remember how I got into the line, but I know I had the tan horse from the Western Round Up set for years. I'm guessing I got it during my pony-collecting days.

Years later, I'd amassed quite a few of them, and I finally learned in 2011 what the line was called.

The 4-packs are pretty easy to find on ebay for reasonable prices, but no one seems to have any of the larger sets right now. This isn't a very popular line, but they do turn up a lot more often than other obscure lines, so I don't imagine it would take too long or cost too much to collect them all.

I think they're really cute, especially the Native American set and the campout girls.


OVERVIEW: Alpha Critters

The Alpha Critters were an obviously alphabet-themed line produced in 1986/1987. They had a plush line made by Creative Innovators while Applause handled the PVC figure line.

The plush are relatively easy to find. It didn't take me too long to locate them all. The PVCs took much longer to find.

There was also a set of bedsheets made that I totally had and slept on in college. Heh. And if you look on Youtube, you can probably find the brief cartoon featuring them. It's kinda scary!

I grew up with the Letter People, who never got toys. I remember one of my teachers having inflatable ones, but they weren't on the regular market that I knew of. So I was happy to randomly discover the Alpha Critters and finally have some goofy letter-themed toys.

If you're looking for Alpha Critters, ebay is your best bet. I got most of mine from there. There are loads of reasonable plush on there right now. If you want the PVCs though, you'll have to be patient, because for all the plush listed, there's only one auction for PVCs.

I actually prefer the PVCs because they show the shapes of the letters better. I wouldn't part with either of my collections though. Not yet anyway!


NEWS: Descendants CJ

If you're like me, you've spent months wondering where in the world Descendants CJ was. Well, the UK finally got a load of her in, but no one in the US seemed to be finding her, so I emailed Hasbro. They took a good couple weeks to get back to me, but I finally received a call today. I had been told over two months ago that she was shipping to retailers then. That was a lie. They told me today that no retailers in the US picked the doll up. And they're sending me a coupon, which is nice for a future purchase, but doesn't make up for the extra I'm going to have to spend to import her.

So if you're waiting for CJ to hit shelves in the US, you can stop wasting your time. She's not coming.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

OVERVIEW: Disney's Star Darlings

Oh, Star Darlings, you poor things. I have never seen a line be such a money-making gimme and then be so badly handled. But we'll get into that later.

In January 2014, I stumbled across an Amazon listing for the first Star Darlings book, but it disappeared, so I tracked down an advanced reader copy on ebay. Then we heard nothing further for over a year. It wasn't until September 2015 that the first books in the series officially came out.

Starland Libby
If you want the nitty gritty on how the books differed, check out my book blog (Red, Black and White) for a detailed analysis.

The dolls for the line appeared in Justice stores and at the Disney Store (both in store and online, I believe) in November 2015. I ordered all 5 from Disney. These early versions came with stands and bracelets you could put together. They cost a rather pricey $30 apiece, but I was so into the characters at the time that I wasn't going to wait for the regular versions to hit other retailers.

The two body types
Star Darlings art depicts a wide range of body types and the dolls did okay with that. They at least gave us two bodies right away.

The quality of the dolls was middling. The hair was good after a condition and the dolls themselves are gorgeous, but the range of motion in the joints was limited. They can't bend their knees very far, which means they can sit, but it's awkward. The clothing quality was quite good. I think they're worth it, because their faces are so pretty and I love all the colors and the different types of detailed outfits.

Starland Leona

The regular line of dolls (that came with rings, not stands or bracelets) made it into Toys R Us, Walmart and Target by the holidays and brought with them the first Wishworld versions of the characters. Wishworld is Starland speak for Earth, so these girls lost their pearly-sheened skin and almost all their unnatural colors. Scarlet and Piper were the first two released, followed by Sage and Cassie in March. I never saw the latter two in my local stores. They were easy to get online though.

Scarlet: Starland vs. Wishworld

So do I love these dolls? I do. But the majority of this overview is going to be how they bombed this line.

First of all, they released way too many versions of the same dolls. The deluxe $30 ones were okay, because those stores got the early releases and they were more "special." But then those same five dolls were released with books and then again with instruments. One of the biggest errors of Star Darlings was not utilizing the twelve distinct characters. Star Darlings had an excellent, diverse lineup of girls and they completely ignored that. I don't know who was in charge of the webisodes, but they chose to focus on the five girls who were in the SD band: Sage, Libby, Leona, Vega and Scarlet. Occasionally, Sage's roommate Cassie was featured, but the others were so greatly ignored that even when they had a short webisode featuring them, they were not given a speaking role!

Wishworld Piper
The band girls dominated the webisodes until the very last special and they dominated the doll line, too, appearing in so many different ways in the same outfits that no one bought them.

I do not know whose decision this was. I don't know if the webisode people chose this focus and then Jakks followed through or what, but it was the key factor in the failure of this line.

Star Darlings is an absolute gimme. You have TWELVE different characters, each with a different bright color scheme, diverse looks, and a tie-in to something that's always popular: zodiac signs. On top of that, you have twelve completely different looks with different hair, eye and skin colors for the same twelve girls when they go to Earth. That is TWENTY-FOUR dolls that people would have bought. And you could even make it more by adding the villainess Vivica and puppet character Ophelia.

Vega: Instrument version and original
The fact that neither Disney nor Jakks figured out that making all the characters was the way to go blows my mind. It's the easiest thing in the world. And different stores could have different characters. Release Sage, Libby, Leona, Vega, Scarlet AND Cassie at every store, but then give each chain a different pair of other characters. Justice could have had Astra and Piper. TRU could have had sisters Tessa and Gemma in a 2-pack. Target could have had Adora and Clover. Then we've got all twelve characters out at the same time and people would have been encouraged to go find them all. Then they could have done the Wishworld characters, too. And give the girls different clothes with each new release. They have loads of outfits in the books. Make Vivica and Ophelia special Disney Store characters. It just does not make any sense how they went wrong with this.

Sage: Mojo version and original

Also, Jakks did a poor job at turning the characters into dolls. They gave Scarlet, the character with the shortest hair, a long ponytail. I cut both of my Scarlet dolls' hair into her proper short cut, but why would you add long hair onto her, but leave Vega her bob? If one character can have shorter hair, TWO can. They also put Cassie, who is frequently referenced in the books as being so petite that the girls practically treat her like a doll or a small child, onto the tall body. And they gave her glasses, but made them fit so poorly that she can only gaze over the top of them. Those aren't a fashion accessory. She needs them to SEE. The webisodes left them off her a lot, too, and that was another poor decision. I'm betting Jakks got all their bad ideas from the webisode people.

Cassie: Wishworld version and Itty version

These bad decisions were reflected in the poor sales of the line. They shelf sat in my area. Jakks, who are notorious for making bad case assortment choices, put two Sage dolls in each case. So you know who never sold? Sage. Scarlet was also in every case, so I saw a lot of her, too. Then each case got either Libby OR Leona OR Vega, so you didn't see them as often, but I still saw them a lot. Except for Vega, who I only saw once. Other areas had a different doll they couldn't find. I know someone who never saw Leona.

The line made a few last ditch attempts. The band girls were released with instruments, which is how they should have come in the original release, not with the stupid stands and bracelets. Sage was released with a stage playset. And the UK saw two Toys R Us exclusive "pet" dolls. Cassie came in her Starland look for the first time alongside her pet, Itty. And Sage came in a new outfit with her botbot friend Mojo. Listings appeared on Amazon featuring gorgeous promos of Wishworld Libby and Leona, but the dolls were never released.

Cancelled Wishworld Leona
So the Wishworld dolls were cancelled and the book line appears to also be cancelled. The next two volumes are both marked as cancelled on Amazon. We'll never know how the story ends, which saddens me.

Star Darlings could have really been something special. They had a lot of great elements to work with and they had Disney behind them. I would have thrown my money at them continually until I had all the dolls. I love all their Starland and Wishworld looks, so that's a good chunk of change to spend!

I hate to say it, but I think Jakks is a line killer. They make bad decision after bad decision. Their Winx dolls had the worst case assortment I've ever seen. They did some good things, like creating the action figure line and including the Trix, but they failed to give fans the characters they really wanted like Roxy and the boys.

Cancelled Wishworld Libby

They also eventually killed Disney Fairies by failing to produce dolls of all the characters. As soon as they saw Periwinkle, they latched onto her and we never got the incredibly beautiful deluxe dolls of Fawn and Iridessa, who were in every movie, or Vidia, who was with the franchise from the beginning. Periwinkle just had to be in everything along with multiple Tinks, one Rosetta and one inevitably hard to find Silvermist. I would have loved some dolls of the new characters from the last movie, but nope. Just more gimmicky dolls of Tink, Rosetta and Silvermist. I do love the dolls I have, but not making the key characters was just stupid.

That's what they did with Winx. That's what they did with Disney Fairies. And now that's what they did with Star Darlings.


Itty and Mojo

Companies need to stop giving Jakks lines with more than three characters, I swear.

Anyway, I did import the two UK exclusives and I have to say that Itty and Mojo are two of the highlights of this line. They are so cute. Mojo especially. The Cassie doll is pretty and the new Sage is actually really lovely, too. Both of them are a bit oddly tanner than their original dolls, but I can deal. Sage always should have been darker than they made her anyway.

So all in all, Star Darlings had incredible potential and was killed by an equally incredible number of bad decisions. What dolls we did get are lovely though, so check them out if you haven't yet.

PHOTO CREDITS: All mine, except the Wishworld Leona and Libby promos. Those are from Amazon.

NEWS: Hearts For Hearts Girls

Tipi and Lauryce have been confirmed for this July!

Aya is still in "the development stage." She looked great at Toy Fair, so I'm hoping we'll see her in the fall or, at the very longest, before the holidays!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

MONTH IN REVIEW: February 2017

I've been absent from here and I'm working on that by making myself do this month in review. 

I learned on Thursday that one of my co-workers and friends from back home took his life on Wednesday and I haven't been too good for much ever since. We may not have spoken in years, but he was one of my favorite people to work with and always made me laugh. He was definitely one of the good guys and he'll be sorely missed. 

So, moving on, February was a month of Shoppies and Toy Fair. I don't like repeating photos from my review here, but if I didn't, we'd have barely any content! 

For Monster High, I reviewed Music Class Cleo, Party Ghouls Rochelle, and more recently, the new signature Cleo and Lagoona. Of the four, Music Cleo is definitely my fave. 

Regal Academy's Rose also appeared. The new Regal Academy dolls for the US are one of the things we didn't get to see at Toy Fair. I really wonder what they look like and if they'll make more characters than these three from Giochi Preziosi. I really like these dolls, but I'd like to see some more variety, too.

Bratz made a little bit of a comeback in my collection after I found the Instapets dolls on and the TRU 5-pack on sale for $14.98. 

I really need to get poor Meygan into something better. Maybe tomorrow! 

I wish they'd just released her right away with the core four and Raya. Putting her in an expensive 5-pack with four dolls everyone was already sick of seeing at that point was not a good idea. 

In another deal, I picked up the Sweet Tea Barbie for almost $10 less from Amazon Warehouse. I love smashed box deals. I have yet to receive a messed up doll. It's always just the box! 

I kept hoping to see this girl turn up at TJ Maxx, Ross or Tuesday Morning during the holidays, but she didn't, so a warehouse deal is the next best thing. I actually did see the blonde from this set at TJ Maxx and I paid less for my warehouse doll. Yay. 

Possibly the last Ever After High dolls I'll ever purchase came in this month. I bought Epic Winter Apple at Toys R Us on sale for $14.98 and I used my $15 voucher on her, so free. Free is always good. 

Briar I picked up on Amazon for $10 and some change. I refused to pay full price for this line, except for Crystal, but for discounted prices, I love them. I think the faces really suit the characters and bring them to life more. 

February was really about three things buying-wise though: Shoppies and Charlie Bears. 

I bought and reviewed a whopping SEVEN Shoppies. That's a small number, yes, but compared to past Shoppie releases, it's huge. I got Polli Polish and Rosie Bloom on ebay, but the others all came from or in Tippy's case, in store at TRU. So thanks, TRU, for helping me blow money on little adorable cuteness.

Charlie Bears help me stay sane. I have 36 of them now, counting the one currently on his way. In February, I bought Chuck during one of my stockist's daily deals and Clancy during her Valentine's promotion. I picked up Spruce from an awesome fellow collector in the UK via a Facebook group. Wisteria came from Charlie Bears Direct and Dakota from a US stockist I found via Google search. I thought I was going to have to import her, but I got lucky! I also got a killer deal on Scarecrow on ebay, so he's the one that's still on his way. 

Spruce arrived on Thursday and Dakota just today, so they were March arrivals, but I'm putting them here because they were February purchases. 

So that about does it! I've done a ton of posts for February, but it seems I covered most everything in those and that doesn't leave much for this wrap up. 

I can already tell you March is gonna have more bears in it. I'm not sure what else, since I think we're in doll lull right now. So get used to the bears.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

REVIEW: Monster High Lagoona Blue

I've also got the new signature Lagoona to share. I would have had Clawdeen, too, but mine looked like someone grabbed her left eye and yanked it down at the corner. So I'm either going to wait til I find her in stores or just pass on her. She's like Cleo. There have been far better Clawdeens in the past and the current Electrified one is pretty awesome, so I don't know if I'll be spending on the new sig or not.

This Lagoona is super cute. I think the reboot suits Lagoona very well, with the only exception being her lack of webbed fingers. I still don't understand why they took those away when they made other girls even more monstery.

Lagoona's outfit is a nice sporty piece and is definitely reminiscent of her original signature fashion. However, it's one piece. Bear that in mind. This is one single piece right here. No top and shorts. Nope. It's a sporty onesie.

I've been in MH's corner with the reboot a lot, but stuff like this confuses me. I'm not sure why this needed to be one piece. It isn't a dealbreaker for me, because I never change MH doll clothes anymore. I rarely change doll clothes period. But it's still baffling as to why they keep doing stuff like this. Cleo has poor hair and a cheap-feeling top. Lagoona has a decent outfit, but it's all one piece. Considering the signature dolls are one of the few lines where the outfit is more than just another short dress, this is disappointing.

Well, anyway, moving on. Lagoona's shoes are pretty cute. They're very simple, but I think they capture her character well. Better than her original sig's shoes actually. I always felt it weird that the sporty girl wore high wedge sandals. I think she tried to call them flip flops, but no, those are not flip flops. So these are still high wedges, but at least they're sneakers, which fit well.

Lagoona's a cute doll. Not the best Lagoona and definitely disappointing with the one piece outfit, but she's not horrible by any means and I do like her overall style.