Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Ready for trick-or-treating.
Some people pull off massive festive Halloween displays every year - I'm not one of them, but I do have a costume mask on hand for the larger dolls, and I did find a cute doll-size Halloween top at Dollarama last year.  And putting those things together means we're ready to wish you a Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Height Comparisons Across Doll and Figure Lines

Earlier this morning a co-worker asked me about the relative sizes of BJDs with American Girl dolls, and at almost the same time I read Vanessa's question about the size of MA's International Travel Friends relative to playline dolls over on Black Doll Collecting.  And since a couple of weeks ago I also received a PM on Den of Angels asking about Teen Trends to MSD comparisons, I decided that I've amassed enough comparison photos to warrant it's own post.

First up is the Travel Friends/Playline line-up:
Back Row (L-R): Disney Classics (Li Sheng), Barbie (Princess of South Africa), Monster High (Clawd Wolf)
Front Row: Bratz (Cameron), International Travel Friends (Namaste), American Girl Mini (Ivy)
 The AG comparison:
L-R: Iplehouse EID model body (Chase), American Girl Cécile,
Illusion Spirit mini (ZhuQing), Monster High (Jane Boolittle)
The Teen Trends comparison:
L-R: Volks SD13 Long-leg body (Irvin), Soom ID51 (London),
Illusion Spirit Mini (ZhuQing), Teen Trends (Deondra)
And finally, a larger one:
Back Row: Angelheim Elderheim Angelo, Volks SD13 Irvin, Souldoll Vito Rouse, American Girl Cécile
Row 2: Iplehouse JID Boris, Ellowyne Wilde Lizette, Monster High Clawd, Girls of Many Lands Neela, AG mini Samantha
Row 3: Sideshow Toys Krycek, Hot Toys Wolverine, PlayArts Commander Shepard, DC Direct Tali, Figma Yukiko Amagi
Front Row: Hasbro/Marvel's Greatest Battles Captain Britain, Star Wars Black Series Mace Windu, Heroclix Pete Wisdom

Monday, October 27, 2014

Passing Through: Talking Nightmare Moon (My Little Pony)

In the box.
Last week I mentioned that I was considering  picking up one of the new My Little Pony figures, and it didn't take me long to do it, because today Nightmare Moon arrived.  I was looking forward to opening this one up and giving her some study, but even in-box I quickly realized that while she's a nice-looking toy, she's just not my thing (my co-worker's daughter will be thrilled with her though, so that's where she'll be heading).

This particular figure is the large (just under 9 inches) Toys R Us version.  She "talks" when a button on the rump is pressed, saying things like "You can brush my fabulous hair!" and "I will light up the night!".  The wings are the only jointed piece and they light up when the pony is talking.
The back of the box.

I've never seen the Friendship is Magic TV series (or at least not a whole episode - I've seen a few minutes of it here and there), so I'm not familiar with the character, but I've always found this particular pony to be appealing when I've seen other versions of her in people's collections.  I quite like the colours - the blue and purple on black is quite a bit more dramatic than the more pastel ponies, which I've always liked.  And the photo-edited version on the box art looks fantastic - dramatic and regal.

All that said, I wasn't impressed with the toy itself - the figure is a hard plastic, which means it doesn't have the warmth of the soft vinyl figures, and it's surprisingly light for a toy that includes batteries, lights, and speakers.  The voice button is also a little awkward-looking, and (having not seen the show) the tone of the voice surprised me.  I was also a little concerned about the potential for the (fairly heavy) wings to be damaged.

On the inner board, without the outer box.
This is as close to unboxed as I decided to go.
Still, while this turned out to not be to my tastes, I'm sure the speaking feature would be great fun for kids (and just for fans of the show), and I think the long hair and accessories are solid play features.

Size comparison with
G1 Snuzzle

Friday, October 24, 2014

Random Toy of the Day: Surprise (My Little Pony)

Surprise, SoSoft Surprise, and Baby Surprise
Is there anything that screams 1980s like this particular shade of neon yellow?  I'd be hard pressed to think of anything that even comes close!

The new resurgence in popularity for the My Little Pony line isn't something I've really understood, but having met huge numbers of fans, I found myself curious about the line.

As a result, basket of ponies came home with me during one of my recent visits to my mother's, and while I was never a huge My Little Pony fan as a child (most of them were my sister's), I've had great fun identifying them all.

I'm especially fond of the clearly retro ones like this trio with their delightfully neon manes and tails.

A slightly different angle

Monday, October 20, 2014

Out of the Box: Hiccup (Funko Pop How To Train Your Dragon 2)

Funko Pop's Hiccup
I'm still not sure if I think that the big-headed Funko Pop figurines are brilliant or pointless, but it seems I've just picked up my first one, Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon 2.

The part of me that thinks they're brilliant appreciates the way they make clearly recognizable versions of characters in such a simple form - if you wanted to do some geek decorating, they're certainly more affordable than more detailed figures, and the simple and uniform look means that they can work with a wider variety of styles.  I was visiting a friend a couple of weeks ago whose husband has built a basement toy room, and the Funko Pop case has the cleanest lines and the least cluttered look to it (I wish I'd been able to take some photos!).

On the flip side though I'm conflicted about even calling this a line of action figures since they're not articulated and marketed for display rather than play.  And then there's the blank-eyes, is that cute or creepy?  I'm never quite sure...

In any case, as I mentioned when I looked at the Spinworks Defenders of Berk figures, I'm a fan of the franchise (and a collector of figures with prostheses), so it was probably inevitable that I'd bring this figure home regardless of my thoughts on the line as a whole.

In the box.
The box itself is, as is standard for the line, a white box with colourful cartoonish detailing and a corner window that shows of the figure itself.  Inside, the figurine is cradled in a plastic shell case which means it's simple to open - and to return to the original state, which is great for people who like to alternate between keeping the toy in-box and out-of-box (that would be people who aren't me though: the box went into the recycling bin after I took these photos).
The back of the figure.
 The detailing on the figure actually surprised me - for all that the face is two circles and a nose, the body is actually quite nicely detailed.  The armour, boot, prosthesis and sword all have  a solid level of sculpted detail and a well-selected colour scheme.
From the front.

I have to say, for all time I spent debating whether or not to pick this figure up, he's really grown on me; I think I may find myself adding another from the line to keep him company soon.  Possibly more than one - I've been thinking about giving the Lootcrate subscription box service a try, and they seem to include Funko figures fairly regularly (if you're a subscriber, how are you feeling about it?).  We shall see!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Out of the Box: Wolverine (Hot Toys Movie Masterpiece Series)

Hot Toys' Wolverine
(outfit #2).
I've had my eye on Hot Toys' releases for several years now - every time I see a figure licenced from a property I'm a fan of I've been tempted, but until now I've never owned one of these.  The amount of detail on these 30cm/12" figures is impressive, but I've never been 100% certain if they're worth the prices (which are in the high range for action figures).  Additionally, I've always been on the fence about whether the amount of detail means an awesome degree of realism as opposed to an awkward trip into the uncanny valley.

But a recent sale on some of the older figures over at Sideshow Toys happened to overlap with one of their free shipping periods, and that was enough to get me past the "But they're so expensive!" reaction and finally bring one of them home.  That one being the tie-in from last year's The Wolverine - I'd been hoping to see other X-men characters at some point, but hey - a sale is a sale!

Even before getting to the figure I was impressed, because the box was almost a work of art on its own - and quite large as well (The toys are similar in size to standard Barbie dolls, or to Sideshow's own figure line, and yet the Hot Toys box is a good third larger than either of those).
The box.

Upon opening the box, I was struck by the number (and quality) of the accessories: in addition to the default outfit and stand there are five sets of hands (fists, open hands, weapon-holding hands, bone claws and metal claws) as well as extra shoes, trousers, wrist pieces, and an impressive sword and sheath.

The figure and accessories.
The default outfit was epic in its own right, consisting of a coat, jacket, shirt, tie, trousers, socks, shoes, and undershirt plus a stocking layer (presumably meant to prevent staining from the dark clothing).  The stand is a solid saddle-type, and is functional if not particularly impressive.

The default outfit and stand.
Of course the clothes aren't even this lines claim to fame: that would be the realistic head sculpts.  And this figure is no exception - the details of the face and hands are very impressive and the paint work is stunning.  It isn't the perfect likeness of Hugh Jackman that appears on the box, but it certainly looks like it could be his miniature brother.  To be honest, I find that to be a little less creepy than a perfect replica would be, but I realize that some people might be a little disappointed given the (slight) differences from the promotional photos.
A closer view of the face.

The hands and torso are also very well sculpted and painted, and that impressed me almost more than the face since those are details that are frequently overlooked - I have a number of dolls and figures that are fantastically detailed in every way except the hands, so it was great to see that this line lives up to the hype in that sense.

The extra hands.

With another layer of clothing removed.
Amusingly, the metal claws are actually sharp!
All that said, there was one major problem - the elbow joints.  Every other joint on this figure has a wide range of movement that allows for some impressively realistic posing, but both elbow joints on this guy are significantly more limited.  Given the poses I've seen other Hot Toys figures in, I think it must be a flaw specific to this one piece, because they're clearly intended to have a wider range of movement (I took the arms apart to see if there was an easy fix - I couldn't find one, but I'm going to give it another go at some point).

Regardless of that issue though, this is still an impressive-looking doll with an impressive array of accessories, so I'm happy to have added him to my collection.  Whether they're worth the retail price is a complicated one though (I wouldn't have bought this one if he hadn't been on sale), and I'm not sure that I'm going to feel any drive to pick up more Hot Toys figures in the future, but we'll see.

He's glaring at you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Out of the Box: Namaste (Madame Alexander Travel Friends: India)

Being a fan of country-representative dolls (I blame the souvenirs relatives sent me from wherever they were living when I was growing up), I'm always curious to hear about new lines of them - even when they come from a company that already has two other distinct lines of international dolls, as Madame Alexander does.

The Madame Alexander Travel Friends line appears to be the playline equivalent to their International Collection (which I have a couple of dolls from)- the dolls are the same size (7inches/18cm), and are intended to represent specific countries (currently represented are India, Kenya, Germany, China, Mexico, Ireland, France, Russia, and Italy).  I was originally tempted to pick up more than one (for a while France, Kenya and India were all in my cart), but temperance prevailed, and I only bought one - "Namaste", the Indian doll (the others are similarly named: the French doll is "Bonjour", the Kenyan is "Jambo" and so on).

The packaging is colourful, but not particularly sturdy - my doll's box was crushed in the mail, and although obviously that's less of an issue for people who pick them up in person, it didn't make for much a first impression.  Still, I can imagine that these would have quite a bit of shelf appeal since the doll is fully visible from inside the packaging.
The box has a plastic window that makes up the front,
top and part of the sides of the box.

The sides of the box are decorated with faux travel stickers, while the back has a artwork that includes the doll and a map of India with a few major cities marked (the text of which is done in a faux-Hindi style, which I'm a little on the fence about - I found myself thinking that "They could at least use faux-Tamil for Chennai!", but I realize that that's probably expecting too much).  There's a blurb about Namaste's love of cricket (which is described as "very much like American baseball"), and of course a "collect them all!" message.

The back of the box.
Considering how simple the outer box is, the doll was rather over-secure on the inside.  There were twist ties at her hands, feet and neck, and her was stitched to the card and her braid was secured with a tie.  And then all of those ties and stitches were taped over as well.  I can easily imagine the dress getting ripped when someone, thinking they'd clipped all of the ties, tried to separate the doll from the card without noticing the extra stitches.

Namaste can strike a variety of poses, but needs
support to balance in most of them.
The doll herself has 9 points of articulation (although the elbow joints look like hinges from the package, they actually only rotate and cannot bend), long rooted hair (rooted in circles, so there are gaps when it's not in a braid or ponytail) and a two-piece outfit (a dress and underskirt) plus yellow plastic sandals (which are held to her feet with elastic).

A clearer view of the jointing: the marks on her upper legs are
from the edges of the hinges from her knees - I can imagine
that they might easily poke through with play.

The outfit is colourful, but a little challenging to get on and off (it's a bit tight
at the waist).  The metallic loops at the neck and arms are an attractive touch
but would rip easily with play (I nearly snagged one on the dolls thumb myself).

Compared to one of the Madame Alexander International
Collection line India dolls.

 Despite not being as impressed by the joints as I'd expected based on the promotional photos, I think the doll is a solid playline alternative to Madame Alexander's shelf-dolls with similar themes.  And while I wish the outfit was a little sturdier, I think this doll could easily share clothing with a variety of fashion dolls, so from a play perspective that's probably not the end of the world.
Namaste in softer light.
I'll be curious to see how the lighter and darker vinyls
of other dolls in this series look in owner photos, since
I found this doll to be more natural-looking than I'd
expected based on the sales photos.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Out of the Box: Aveline de Grandpré (McFarlane Toy's Assassin's Creed Series 2)

Aveline with her pistol and whip.
Good news!  I've found my camera!  So on we go with the toy talk!

Back in late 2012/early 2013, I attempted to get through the entire Assassin's Creed series. I made it through 1, 2, Brotherhood, Liberation (I even bought the special edition PSVita for that one) and about a quarter of the way through Revelations, when the sameness of them all started to get to me.   Still, I do still have a fondness for the player characters from those games, and while I see to have missed seeing the first series of figures when they were new (I'd have considered picking up Altaïr and Ezio if I had), on Monday I happened across the new series.  Having not played AC3 or ACIV, I wasn't interested in the tie-ins for those, but since Aveline de Grandpré (the main character from Liberation) was on the shelf as well, she made her way into my shopping basket.

Before getting to the figure, I have to say that I'm impressed with the minimalist packaging for this line - too many figures come with ridiculous layers, but this one had the single card, a basic front + back of plastic and only a single tie-on.  I appreciated that both in terms of ease of unboxing, and in terms of not having to throw out huge amounts of packaging for what's ultimately a fairly small toy.
In the box.

For a figure at this price point ($13USD), I was impressed with the amount of detail:  the clothing is fantastically well sculpted and painted, and she comes with a variety of accessories including a hat, a whip, a pistol and a variety of blades.  The figure has 11 points of articulation (although the hip movement is quite limited due to the outfit), and poses well.  Her balance is less than ideal though - a stand would have been helpful for this one.

With her machete and knife.
 Overall, I'd give this figure top marks - she's a good likeness of the character with lovely detailing and a solid number of accessories (which I will probably lose, but hey).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Shopping for Dolls: Wilde Imagination

The "Bitter Cold" outfit
Back at home at last!  But my camera seems to be MIA, so please forgive today's photo quality!

A few weeks ago I ordered a pair of outfits during the one of Wilde Imagination's regular sales; The "Bitter Cold" outfit and the "Seeing Red" dress.  Both items were on sale already, so that was an additional bonus.

As you might remember from my review of my Ellowyne Wilde line Lizette Spice, I liked the doll and her basic outfit, but didn't adore them, so I was curious to see what the non-basic outfits would be like.

The package arrived within two business days (as happened with the doll), so again I'm very impressed with their packing/shipping times.  I wasn't home to open it up that early, but it's still solid service that's worth mentioning.

Upon coming home and picking up the box, the biggest surprise was the sheer size of it:  the box for these two outfits was just as large as the one that had come when I ordered a doll!

Look at the size of this box!
The size of the box was somewhat excused by the size of the inner packaging (although there was quite a bit of extra space as well) - each outfit had an additional thick cardboard box inside:
The second layer of packaging

Within each of those was another box, this time the decorated Ellowyne Wilde-branded ones:
The "Seeing Red" Dress box
Inside the dress box, was an inner layer of thin board to which the dress was stitched to.  That part was wrapped in a layer of tissue:

Seeing Red Dress

The Seeing Red dress is simple in style but is a lovely colour and a solid quality material.  The dress portion isn't lined, but the top is.  The buttons on the front are non-fuctional; the dress closes via a series of snaps up the back.  Being a fairly simple piece of clothing, it's easy to get on the doll, and has a classic look:

Lizette in the Seeing Red Dress

The Bitter Cold outfit, containing more pieces, came in a larger inner-box (and one with a clear plastic window):
The Bitter Cold outfit
The top adds too much bulk.
As with the red dress, this outfit was stitched to an inner layer of board.  The full set included leggings, a top (which turned out to be leotard-style), a coat and boots. 

I quite like the style of this outfit, but unfortunately the quality was hit-or-miss.  The leggings on their own are fabulous:  they're a nice quality material, an in-scale print and they're lined which is wonderful.  On their own, they fit the doll perfectly.  Unfortunately though, because this outfit's top is a leotard, there's extra bulk on the doll when the two pieces are worn together, and because of that it's near-impossible to get the leggings to close.
The too-small left boot

The boots were even more disappointing.  the colour (a dark blue) goes perfectly with the colours in the leggings, and the style is an eye-catching one - lace-up high heels, slightly higher than ankle-length.  Unfortunately though, the quality doesn't live up to the appearance.  The first challenge was just getting the books on as the zippers on the backs are both weak and stick easily (I had a similar problem with the boots on my Tonner DW Martha Jones).

The tip of the heel.

Even after getting the zippers unzipped, only one of the boots went on as the right boot turned out to be too small for the doll's foot.  And then to top it off, it turned out that the glue on right heel tip had started coming off, and the tip was hanging off of the boot.  That's an easy one to fix at least!

All of that said, the coat didn't disappoint, and is a solid thickness, is nicely lined and has solid details.  Still, with all of the other issues with this outfit, I'm very pleased that I didn't pay full price for it.
The Bitter Cold outfit (minus the boots).