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.


  1. Have you written a review of Starland Cassie yet? I'm curious about her and am on the fence about getting her for myself. She just doesn't look like herself to me lol. I too am dissapointed that this line died I was really looking forward to the other, non band, characters. Shame

    1. I haven't and I don't plan on doing one. There's really not too much to say about her that isn't me complaining. Heh. They got the hair right, but the glasses have the same problem as the Wishworld version, her outfit seems overly simple, she has repeat boots, and as I mentioned in the overview, she's too tall. I'm glad I have her, because I prefer the Starland versions, but she's even more not like herself than Scarlet. At least Scarlet can be fixed with a haircut. Maybe she could do a body swap with Vega, but I'm not sure how easy these girls' heads come off.

  2. Totally true!! love this :)