Friday, December 14, 2012

Deja View: Gloom Beach Cleo De Nile

For a while now the hamster wheel spinning in my brain has been stopping occasionally on the idea of covering the older dolls in some way. Initially I was going to call these sort-of reviews Greatest Hits, and talk about what I consider the best of the older dolls. But then I thought, why limit myself? Sure, I can fan wank about my favorite dolls, but what about the older dolls I don't love so much? It'd be kind of fun to cover those, too! So we have Deja View, in which I take a look back at an older doll and basically evaluate her. These will more or less work as reviews, but they'll also give me a chance to place these dolls within the larger context of the MH universe. Oh, what fun!

Before I go any further I'd like to point out that while I had been tossing the idea around in my brain for a while, it wasn't until the awesome Mighoula Scaremeyer over at MHD brought up the very same idea of doing a series like this that I realized I had to go for it. Even better, the doll she suggested I cover first was the very doll I had already been eyeing to kick the series off with! I don't believe in coincidences so I took this as a big sign that I should indeed do this series! And what was that first doll our minds melded on? None other than Gloom Beach Cleo De Nile.

This chaise totally should've been a playset of some sort.

Hitting shelves in the fall of 2010, Gloom Beach was only the third MH doll line, following the initial basic dolls and Wave 1 Dawn of the Dance. Gloom Beach doubled as both the first budget MH line and the first swimwear line. In that first year Cleo was a major cornerstone of the doll lines. Her Wave 1 basic was doubled with Deuce, the first MH male doll. The first wave of DOTD featured only three dolls and Cleo was one of them. By the time Gloom Beach came around all the characters (save poor Lagoona and Ghoulia), were featured. (Ghoulia would later be released in Gloom Beach form in an exclusive pack.) It's safe to say Cleo was very much a mainstay of those first dolls; unfortunately by 2012 it would be a different story.

Gloom Beach Cleo was the very first MH doll I owned. Basic Lagoona was the doll that piqued my interest, but unable to find her on shelves I instead bought my second choice, GB Cleo. With that first doll I learned a lot about the basics of these unique pieces of plastic. I was intrigued by the odd body -- the severe sway of the back, the way the arms and wrists could be separated, the odd shape of the foot and big toe. I was immediately impressed with how well the elaborate, oddly designed swimsuit fit that odd body. The way the earrings entered at an angle so as to lay just perfectly against the ear was so unique and something I'd never seen before. The poseability was unlike anything I'd previously encountered on a playline doll. In short, I found myself marveling at this complicated new doll body and just how well it functioned.

And then there were the details of the doll's face -- those gigantic striking eyes, the angular jawbones, the flat bridge of the nose that subtly referenced ancient Egyptian paintings. It was all so clever. Mattel was not only referencing The Mummy with her wrap-like swimsuit, they were touching on her Egyptian roots in the actual mold of her face. Even her makeup referenced Cleopatra. I realized right away Mattel was taking a thorough approach to this doll's theming. Everything reflected her Egyptian lineage, and in a genuinely smart way. With Gloom Beach Cleo Mattel had me hooked. By the end of the week I had picked up three more MH dolls.

Cleo has an interesting faceup. In a running theme of the entire Gloom Beach line, her makeup is done in bright colors, but the actual shade of the colors are severely muted. This is most noticeable on the lips. In Cleo's case, she has a layer of turquoise that surrounds the entire eye, but the shade is very muted, as I mentioned. Her mascara and brows are standard Cleo. She has a brownish-purple divider line at the lid. There is no shimmer or glitter around the eyes. Her irises are the at that time standard grey with a touch of yellow and green (in recent dolls they've been subtly playing around with Cleo's iris design). Her lips are again a muted turquoise although the color is a tad lighter than her eyeshadow. There's no shimmer or glitter on the lips. It's a simple, clean faceup that puts the emphasis on her beautiful bone structure. Really, only the muted lips stand out as far as the makeup is concerned. To say she is beautiful is an understatement. GB Cleo, with her emphasized angular features and massive, wide set eyes, is almost otherwordly in her stunning beauty -- set those eyes any farther apart and she could almost pass for an alien. But no, she doesn't look like an alien, just an outrageously exotic beauty. She's stunning.

Her hair is rather simple. Black with gold tinsel, straight bangs, the rest pulled into a tight ponytail. Quality is good -- the texture is nice, the tinsel isn't all broken and twisted like some of her newer dolls, and it lays perfectly. Two years later this doll's hair still looks fantastic. It's held up well (unlike some of my other older dolls -- we'll get to those). By pulling her hair back into a ponytail this once again puts the emphasis on those angular facial features. I'm sometimes iffy on ponytails on dolls but here the effect is perfect. It all comes together -- the faceup, the high quality hair, the use of hairstyle and makeup to highlight her beautiful facemold. Good job, Mattel!

Of the Gloom Beach dolls I feel Cleo has by far the most interesting swimsuit. It's really more like a bikini that happens to have a strap running across her abdomen. It's yellow and black and the print is done in a wrap style (of the mummy variety, not the swimsuit wrap kind). It has one sleeve while the top connects to a piece that stretches diagonally across her abdomen where it connects to the bottom. I'm sure you know by now that if you take this swimsuit off the doll it takes a little "figuring out" before you can get it back on. It's all straps and Velcro and leg holes. It can be a little confusing. This swimsuit really shows off the unique design of the MH body. I'm really glad this was my first doll because it allowed me to keep her completely clothed while still being able to marvel at the design of the body. Over the swimsuit she wears a netted wrap in turquoise. It rather short and over the years has started to really bunch up at her hip joints. It fastens with Velcro. I like the wrap but enjoy the doll just as much just wearing her swimsuit.

Gloom Beach Cleo came with numerous accessories. Over her left forearm she wears a molded cuff of black and gold. The design mimics mummy wraps. On her right leg she wears a matching cuff that clips onto the calf. These go a long way in adding visual interest to the doll, not mention they further enhance her mummy theme. She wears golden earrings in the shape of a triangle (or pyramid) -- once again some clever theming there, and as I mentioned I love the way the earrings are designed at an angle to perfectly lay at her ears. She wears solid turquoise wedge sandals. The wedges are layered bricks while a strap covers the top of the foot. There's a hole for her big toe to slide into, holding the shoe in place. This was inspired design on Mattel's part, but I'm glad they've moved on to bigger and better things in shoe design. Her last accessories are her translucent, chunky green sunglasses -- there's some interesting, unexpected molding going on here, and the glasses make her look oh so hip. Even two years later these still look very wicked. She also has a fan of gold and turquoise feathers, another nod to her Egyptian roots. It has a handle so Cleo can actually hold it and it works quite well!

Cleo also included a collector's card with her drawing on one side and a "postcard" to be sent to one of the other MH girls on the other. Unfortunately I can't find this card at the moment. I still have all my other GB cards so I'm not sure why Cleo's has gone MIA.

In summation, Gloom Beach Cleo De Nile is simply a stunning doll. She may be budget, but she ain't cheap. She's beautiful, her theming all adds up and highlights the work Mattel put into making these dolls the kind of toys you can "sink your teeth into", so to speak. Especially back during these early lines Mattel was going out of their way to deliver high quality dolls that had interesting character set-ups, and they followed through on that in both the overt and subtle design details. I'm so glad Gloom Beach Cleo was my first MH doll. She easily sold me on the line as a whole, and this specific character, in one fell swoop. Give it up for Gloom Beach Cleo, y'all!


  1. Nice pun. hehehe :)
    This Cleo is pretty, but I think I prefer her Skull Shores doll. Pity she was an exclusive, though.
    But if there's something about both her swimwear dolls I like, it's the subtle Art Deco style.
    The geometric arm & legs cuffs with the fan and the romper/jumpsuit with palm fan print.
    If they ever make an ILF version of Cleo, I hope they add those art deco elements, because I love them.
    Looking forward to more Deja Views from you. :)

    1. Thanks, Felicity! Oh, I totally agree about SS Cleo. I would've written about her but she's too new! ;) The Art Deco touches on Cleo are one of the best things about her imo. Especially on her SS doll, they're just perfect. I especially love how the SS swimsuit and jumper have a strong 70's vibe, when Art Deco was having a resurgence. It all came together so well thematically for that doll.