Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Ghouls Alive Frankie Stein

When the Ghouls Alive line was first announced I didn't pay much attention to it. News was coming in fast and furious about several different lines at the time and all the others seemed much more in line with my personal tastes than what little I'd heard about Ghouls Alive. Eventually I got around to investigating the line and what I found was what seemed like a gimmicky collection of borderline ugly dolls. In theory that's perfectly fine -- toys and gimmicks go hand in hand, after all. But looking at the pictures I wasn't sold on them at all. I decided I might buy Frankie and that'd be it.

Fast-forward a few months (to today, actually), and suddenly Toys R Us was loaded with all three of the Ghouls Alive dolls. These are "action" toys so each has a window in their box to push the button that makes them, well, go into action. I found myself testing all three and I have to admit I was totally charmed by two of them. (Poor Clawdeen -- no matter how cool the effect nothing can salvage that face. Yikes.) It didn't hurt that their boxes are completely awesome. Each has a huge drawing of the character on the box front next to the line's name, Ghouls Alive!, done in an amazing B-movie horror-style font. Oh yeah, and as if that weren't enough, there's silver reflective foil surrounding the words. So. Cool. On the back of the box is an interview with the character that establishes their monstrous trait that you can now enact with the doll. Best of all, however, is the left spine of the box -- a composite of each character's drawing topped by the line name (in that same awesome font), all done in comic book style. Regardless of the actual quality of the dolls I'm gonna go ahead and call it -- the Ghouls Alive boxes are the best MH boxes to date, period. Just take a look at Frankie's--

This isn't actually part of the box. It's from the booklet inside. But doesn't Frankie look freaky in that drawing?

Pretty cool, right? So yeah, I left Toys R Us today with two Ghouls Alive dolls, and at least 50% of the reason is because I love the boxes. I'm so shallow.

As an action toy, this Frankie lights up through her ribcage, neck, and head. She emits the sound of pulsating electricity as she lights up. It's a great effect and pure Monster High. Where else can you find a doll that sparks and sends bright electric volts coursing through her skull and body? It's wicked. And this is a fashion doll. Amazing.

As you can imagine all that coolness required some significant design changes to the doll's body. Most noticeable is her head -- instead of the usual squishy vinyl this head is hard, thick, molded plastic. The texture is very similar to the hard lower half of a standard doll's legs. It is hollow to allow for the light effect. In the back of her head under her hair are speaker holes -- this is where the electricity sound comes from. This Frankie can't look up or down. Her head turns on a flat axis to her left and right, about 45 degrees in each direction. Although this Frankie wears earrings they're not removable. They rest in small slots under each ear. A small tip on each earring rises above the slot so it looks like the earring is hanging from her ear even though it is actually connected below it. Frankie's neck bolts are clear and a little larger than usual -- once again, this is to enhance the light effect and make it look like the bolts are "sparking". Although her torso is shaped like a standard MH torso it has several stylized slits running down the bust and upper abdomen. When lit up these create the effect of a ribcage pulsing with electricity. On her tummy is a flat button shaped like an egg. This is what you push to start the effect. Although her legs have the standard MH shape their movement is limited. At the hips the legs can only move forward, but they do bend to almost 90 degrees. There's no side to side or backwards movement at the hips. From the knees down the legs function the same as the standard MH leg. There's a compartment in each thigh for the batteries. Frankie uses cell batteries, and as long as you have a Phillips screwdriver it looks like replacing them should be a cinch! Aside from the limited head and upper leg movement Ghouls Alive Frankie functions exactly the same as your standard MH doll. She separates at the elbows and wrists and the arms move exactly as you're accustomed to. As I mentioned earlier her knees also function the same as always.

Aside from the fact that her head is hard, this Frankie also looks a bit different from a standard Frankie doll. They came kind of close in getting this facemold to match the standard one. She looks most different when looking at her from the front. The new doll's forehead is wider and rounder, the eyes protrude a little where the standard eyes are sunken, and the cheeks are a little puffy. The nose, lips, and chin look about right. In profile she looks about the same, although under the chin leading to the neck the new doll has no curve, giving her a weaker-looking jawbone. In terms of actual faceup, they got it right. The blue and green of each eye, not to mention the actual design of the eyes, is correct. They look to be the correct size. Her cheek scar is shorter and fatter while her brows are a little on the red side. She has purple eyeliner and shadow above the eye and grey liner below. Her lips are pure red. There's no denying that she looks a bit "off", but honestly I think she's incredibly pretty! She has a certain charm about her. She may not be the usual Frankie we love so much but she's definitely got her own thing going on and it's working for her. At the very least she has personality plus!

In the official description of the line Mattel told us these dolls would come in "over the top" versions of their original outfits. That's more or less true for Clawdeen and Spectra -- their outfits are pretty straightforward interpretations of the originals, but perhaps a little nicer. Ditto their hair. But with Frankie they've taken a few more liberties in the design; both her outfit and hair are actually rather different from the original. Her dress is one piece. The bodice is plain white, a departure from her original outfit but necessary for the lighting effect in her chest to be visible. It's collared and features a black bow tie with white spots, another necessary departure. The sleeves are short, black netting. Under the bust is a hem where the bodice attaches to a plaid skirt. It has the expected print. At the hips is a pleat while the hem features black netting. She wears the expected black and silver belt with chains and black and white heels. Her body stitches are pure silver -- there's no black like on a standard Frankie. The previously mentioned earrings are translucent blue and feature a dangling skullette, more an "homage" to the original earrings than a straight repeat.

Rather than the flat ponytail of the original doll, Ghouls Alive Frankie has a sidepart on her left. Her hair is banded near her forehead on her right. The rest hangs loose and has a mild wave; it lands at her rear. The black streaks are spread evenly at the part but the rest of her hair is mostly white. The texture is good although I feel it could've been rooted a little more thickly.

Frankie doesn't come with any accessories, not even a purse. There's no diary, no pet. She does come with a stand -- it's a brand new design and it's very cool. Rather than a clip that grabs the waist this stand utilizes a holster that rests between the doll's legs. It's a lot like the Barbie stands from the 90's, but better. The base is a black skullette. This stand feels really nice and is by far the best-looking MH stand to date. It's certainly the most flashy. At first I had doubts that a MH doll would work on this style of stand but I needn't have -- Frankie rests fine on it. I used this stand for my Scaris Ghoulia photos (review coming soon!) and it worked great for her, too.

Overall grade: A Great packaging drew me in; luckily the doll it contained was worthy of its' flashiness. Her lighting mechanism works great and is just plain fun. Yeah it's a gimmick but this is a toy we're talking about -- toys are all about gimmicks and when done right they can actually be pretty cool. She may look a bit odd compared to a standard Frankie doll but she has a charm all her own.  At the very least she exemplifies unique. Consider me a fan!

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