Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Ghouls Alive Spectra Vondergeist

How was your weekend? I spent mine lodged in a book, a biography on Cleopatra that I'm near finishing. My mind is filled with images of opulent barges, Roman wars, royal monuments, and political intrigue. It's potent stuff; I haven't thought much about dolls this weekend and I'm having trouble doing so now. It's too bad there's not a Cleo doll to cover, talk about a perfect marriage of interests. On the plus side I am covering a Spectra doll today -- always a good thing!

In my review of Ghouls Alive Frankie I covered my initial feelings on this line. Frankie managed to turn my ambivalence around, and I wound up quite liking that doll! But what about Spectra? Despite having some strong similarities to the Frankie doll, at least in terms of functionality, there are just as many differences. Had I written this review just a week ago my opinions on this doll would have been pretty different from what they are today.

For starters, let's take a look at her box art. In keeping with the other dolls in this line she comes in a beautiful, flashy box that features a window that lets you test her out. The Spectra drawing is fantastic, as they always are, and the box back features an interview with Spectra in which her ghostly activity is highlighted. Her saucy personality is in evidence. (Speaking of, why does this sauciness never come through on the webseries? Her persona in the booklets and this interview is pretty out of step with her character in the show.) Anyway, take a look--

Spectra's "action" is that her clear limbs blink with bright blue lights while a spooky, ghostly sound emanates around her. I forgot to mention this in the Frankie review but the action only lasts for about three seconds. I thought it might continue longer if you held the button down, but no, it does it's thing as usual and stops abruptly. It's a cool effect, perfectly fitting for this character.

Spectra's sounds come from a speaker placed inside her head. For this reason her head is hard molded plastic and has speaker holes in the back. These dolls were intended to be elaborate recreations of their original basic dolls. With Frankie we saw that they took some liberties in recreating the look of her original doll. Spectra hews a little more closely to hers. Her faceup is somewhat similar to the original -- the colors are more or less the same, though the shape of the makeup is rather different. Much like Frankie, the facemold of GA Spectra is a tad "off". If you imagine an invisible vertical line down the center of her face it seems to protrude sharply forward there. Her eyes are considerably bigger and protrude in an outward and sideways direction. There's also some mild weirdness going on around the base of her head that wraps the neck joint. A huge plus, for me at least, is that they used the original Spectra mold as the basis for this doll. The cheekbones are here in full force. Due to the odd nature of this mold the pout of her lips is actually even more pronounced than on the original doll. Although this doll's face is very much "off", I like it. It's not as pretty as the original mold but it's certainly interesting. The emphasized pout and presence of the beloved cheekbones are more than welcome, here at Voicething anyway. Like Frankie, Spectra can't look up or down, only side to side. Her head turns a little farther in each direction than Frankie's head. Spectra's earrings aren't removable; they're straight repeats of the basic doll's. (Unless, like me, your basic doll has the silver chains with black ball. GA Spectra's are solid black.) Her hair is standard Spectra -- purple and lavender, straight, landing at her rear. She has a sidepart on her left. You can always count on Spectra to have great hair -- this doll doesn't deviate from that.

In terms of shape and color Spectra's body looks exactly like the original doll's. She has the pure white torso connected to pure white upper arms and legs that lead to clear lower limbs. The similarities end there -- when it comes to functionality this doll is very different, and this is where I have some problems. Her shoulder joints are similar to a standard doll's. Her arms can pivot outwards, upwards, and forwards. Unfortunately there's no backwards movement. Her hip joints are even more restricted. There's no outwards or backwards movement at all and both legs can only move forward about an inch. This means the doll is completely unable to sit; very disappointing. In order for the doll's lower limbs to shine, a light has been placed inside the lower portion of the upper arms and legs (at the elbows and knees, basically). To accommodate this there is no ball and pivot system at the elbows, knees and wrists. Instead, the lower arms and legs simply attach to the upper portions via a socket. You can't bend her elbows, knees and wrists at all. Her wrists are molded into a sideways pose, the hands tilted upwards. This is all vastly different from a standard doll and hugely limits posing options. On the plus side, you can twist the lower arms in their sockets. This adds some minor posing options. I tried this at the knees as well and it didn't work. Aside from the one inch forward give at the hips, Spectra's legs have absolutely no poseability. Worse yet, her lower legs always hang a little loose in their slots so there's always a gap showing. I also have problems with her lower left leg constantly falling off. Bottom line: aside from some limited options at the head and arms, this doll is virtually unposeable.


Like the Frankie doll, Spectra uses cell batteries placed in compartments in her thighs. A Phillips screwdriver is all you need to open them up. These compartments aren't intrusive as far as her outward appearing body mold goes, although I suspect they may have something to do with the limited hip movement. She has the same egg shaped button on her tummy as Frankie; push it and the doll goes into action.

Note the knee gaps.

An unexpected side effect of these odd limbs: you now have the perfect base doll for that ruinous Greek statue custom you've been wanting to make!

Spectra's outfit sticks closely to the original. Her top has the same design, although the black material is now a semi-stretchy knit and therefore feels a bit nicer. The straps are thick pink ribbon with a black stripe down the center, another upgrade from the original. The pink strip and silver chains on the bodice seem about the same. Her skirt is the same as well save for a new print of silver chains. It's not a huge difference but it adds some visual interest the original skirt lacked, and looks a bit nicer. As far as I can tell her pink boots with silver ball heels are the same. She wears the same silver belt, necklace, and wrist cuff.

The only extra she comes with is her stand. It's the new one, featuring a holster instead of a waist clip and a base in the shape of a skullette. The bar that holds the holster is taller here than on the other stands. This is to create the effect that Spectra is mid-float while she lights up. I'm not really digging it. Since her feet can't touch the base to stabilize her, she's constantly leaning forward. I'm guessing Mattel's thinking is that this will only enhance the floating effect, but too often it just looks awkward. Since it's taller you can't really use this stand on other dolls. They'll stay upright a bit but try to do any kind of "fancy" poses and they start to fall over.

The taller stand is for the most part not standard doll friendly. (But doesn't Operetta look wicked in Ghoulia's outfit!)

This gives you a better idea of the problems this stand poses than the pic above. (Really that first Operetta pic is just to show her off in the outfit. Yes, I'm shameless.)

Overall grade: B A week ago I would've given this doll a C. The severely limited posing options were a huge buzzkill for me. Half the fun of these dolls is posing them, after all. But as I've grown accustomed to this doll's limited movement I've been better able to see her strengths. Even though the facemold is a bit weird I find it endearing, and hey, if nothing else we've got those cheekbones back. Whether this is their last hurrah or not we'll find out when Polterghoul is released. (The SDCC one was a prototype, keep in mind. The manufactured doll may have the new facemold). Ultimately, I'd say this doll is probably only for the Spectra diehards, or anyone who just really digs her ghostly, glowing "action". If you're like me and love you some Spectra cheekbones she's pretty essential, especially since this could very well be the last time we see them.

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