Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Picture Day Cleo De Nile

Let's talk about doll hair. Way back in the history of fashion dolls, thanks to lots of focus grouping, Mattel discovered that one of kids favorite things to do with their dolls was play with their hair -- cut it, style it, shampoo it, you name it. This seems pretty obvious to us today but seeing as Mattel pretty much invented the modern fashion doll thanks to Barbie they were still figuring things out. Mattel called this style of doll play, appropriately enough, Hair Play. Mattel astutely started releasing Barbies that focused solely on Hair Play in addition to their usual Barbie dolls. Some doll's hair could "grow" and be cut; another approach was Hair Fair Barbie, which was simply a doll head that came with several different hair extensions. You gave the disembodied head a cool new 'do and popped it onto one of your old Barbie bodies. Voila, whole new doll, and with your own personal mark of style. My personal favorites are the Quick Curl Barbies of the 70's, dolls that had pieces of wire rooted in with the usual hair that could be curled into all kinds of styles. This gave way to the swimwear Barbies in the 80's that had silky hair that went to their ankles. Long, thick, and oh so perfect for Hair Play. This splintering of Barbie dolls that focused on different styles of play were the seeds that gave birth to the "adult collector" Barbies that we started seeing in the late 80's. Mattel realized they could charge more for these dolls and make lots of money, especially since by that point the kids who played with those very first Barbies were now adults and many of them had become collectors. But what does this have to do with Monster High? Well first the obvious -- Mattel also makes Monster High so the connection between Barbie and MH is a direct one. It would be foolish to say that Barbie hasn't been a major influence on Monster High. The other thing is that, well, just as kids then and today love them some Hair Play, so do adult collectors. We may not shampoo it up in the tub with our dolls like the kids do but we certainly appreciate great doll hair just as much. But the ultimate point of this mini history lesson is to point out that, for adults and kids alike, good or bad hair can make or break a doll. And since you're reading this at the top of my Picture Day Cleo review you can probably guess it's not good news for our cherished Cleo.

First things first -- like the other Picture Day dolls Cleo's box is adorned with a school picture poking fun at her. In this case her pet snake Hissette is giving her bunny ears. I love this pic of Cleo -- she looks great, the bunny ears are funny, and you just gotta love Hissette's big, satisfied grin.

Picture Day Cleo comes with the requisite Fearbook, highlighting her votes for different character personalities in addition to that awesome composite picture of all the MH characters. She also includes a sticker sheet of 16 different MH characters (love this!).

I love this Cleo's faceup. Her irises seem a bit brighter than usual -- less grey, more turquoise. She has the usual Cleopatra-inspired mascara; her entire eye is surrounded by gold shimmer. She has a blue divider line at the lid. For some reason her eyes seem a little smaller than usual but I've compared her to my other Cleo dolls and they look to be the same size. Anyway, my favorite thing about this faceup is her lips -- super glossy and in a beautiful deep blue shade. Although there's nothing particularly unique about this Cleo's face for some reason she looks like a bit of a departure to me. I just can't put my finger on it. In any case I love this faceup -- Cleo is certainly as pretty as ever here!

Like the other Picture Day dolls Cleo's outfit is unique and a bit of a departure for the character while still feeling pure "Cleo". She wears a shirt-dress in a base color of Catalina blue (yep). It features a very busy print of stylized wraps in turquoise, black, and shining gold. There's also an occasional jeweled necklace printed in gold. The sleeves go to her elbows. Under the bust is a hem where the top splits and overlaps in the front. Under the shirt-dress Cleo wears black and gold striped tights that end just below the knees. She wears a wide gold belt of molded wings under the bust. In the center is a black scarab. Coordinated with this is a gold bracelet also baring a black scarab.

While we're on the scarab tip I might as well go ahead and discuss her purse, my personal favorite of the Picture Day dolls. It's translucent turquoise, very thin, and has a strap for the handle. Molded onto the front is a fairly large scarab painted in gold outline. In one of those cool little MH details I love so much the arms of the scarab are raised and "clutching" the clasp to open the purse. Yep, unlike Abbey's backpack and Spectra's purse, this purse actually opens! Of course it's so thin I doubt you're gonna get much in there, but who cares? It opens and that's all that really matters to me in this case. The scarab on the front is repeated on the back but minus the cool gold outline. Looking at all these scarabs I can't help but think of Nefera -- aren't scarabs her thing? Somehow I doubt she's gonna be down with Cleo hijacking them for this outfit. To Cleo I can only offer one of my favorite movie quotes (from Ghost and said by Whoopi Goldberg) in warning: "You in danger, girl!"

Cleo's shoes are strappy sandals in Catalina blue. They rest on a wedge of phoenix wings while the soles are layered bricks. I love these shoes although they don't have a patch on 2.0 Cleo's hourglass heels. Actually while I love this entire outfit in general I feel it doesn't come close to her 2.0 basic outfit. Ditto the face and hair.

Speaking of, here comes the bad news. My Picture Day Cleo has awful hair. Yes, major sadface. I picked the Picture Day dolls up at Wal-Mart and while the shelves weren't loaded down with them I had several Cleos to choose from. Unfortunately they all had bad hair. I picked the best one but that's not saying much. Her hair is dry, stringy, and frizzy. When I combed it several strands came out and had to be trimmed. Her bangs were uneven and had to be trimmed as well -- and they still look pretty bad. I've seen other Picture Day Cleo's on Flickr who look like they have great hair so I guess I just (un)lucked out. It's really disappointing because Cleo was one of the few characters whose dolls could always be counted on to have nice silky hair. Even her Skull Shores doll, whose hair looked terrible in every box I saw on store shelves, was a really easy fix - a quick brush and slight trim and it was ready to go! It was short but still just as silky as her dolls with longer hair. This dry, frizzy Picture Day hair has taken a lot of the fun out of this doll for me. Like I said, good or bad hair can make or break a doll.

Cleo's last accessory is her folder, a gold number featuring molded papyrus and phoenix wings framing the snap. Oddly, Picture Day Cleo doesn't come wearing earrings. In the past they've released dolls without earrings but it made sense -- SRM dolls can't wear them with their skating gear; Dance Class could've used them (and Howleen does have her signature safety pin earring), but that was a very budget line so I get it. But Picture Day isn't a budget line. And the other dolls in the line have them (well, Abbey only wears one, that infuriating hair-grabbing ice thing), so why not Cleo? Pretty odd if you ask me.

Overall grade: I really hate to do it but I have to give this doll a B-. She would've scored an A- like my other Picture Day dolls had she had the usual silky Cleo hair. I'm really disappointed she doesn't. Like I said, it just takes a lot of fun out of this doll for me. I hope this dry hair isn't the way of the future for Cleo's dolls. That would be pretty disheartening. I like her unique outfit and pretty faceup although they don't come close to her 2011 2.0 Basic doll. I especially admire that they're trying new things with these dolls' outfits even if they don't always measure up to past glories. The lack of earrings is just odd. Curiously, I've noticed this doll seems to photograph better than she looks in person. That's not to say she's unattractive (quite the opposite), it's just something I've noticed.  If I come across another Picture Day Cleo and she has silky hair I will be getting her, and my grade for this doll will go up. Sorry Cleo. You need to rip Mattel a new one for doing this to you.


  1. Oh my Ra! She's so beautiful. I love the colours, scarabs and faceup. The hairstyle is wonderful. But too bad that hair is messy. I'm still in love with the doll. It is so sophisticated. She doesn't need earrings. Less is more!

    1. Lol! I know I'm a big supporter of less is more but in this case I kind of would've liked to have seen some earrings. That said, I don't think she suffers for not having them. Mostly it just confuses me I think. If I can find a PD Cleo with silky hair -- and I know they're out there -- I'll definitely be picking her up! I do love this Cleo's face and outfit.

  2. I'm not really that into this Cleo, unlike most other MH freaks. I think it's her eyes.
    Her face looks so different from all other Cleo's, there's something really off and I don't like it :c
    I'm sad because I love Cleo and she just deserves an A+ release. I'm also sorry about the hair, it's something you wouldn't expect on a Cleo doll!
    Another PD doll that's just not my fave, sigh. Better for my wallet but not for my MH spirit :(

    Btw, I love the reference to the movie Ghost, I just saw it recently! :D

  3. I detinseled my Cleo and washed/conditioned her hair, and though its still really thinly rooted, its a million times better now. Super soft, and the turquoise really stands out more without the crappy tinsel!

    1. That's really cool. When I washed my PD Cleo's hair the water that ran from the hair was brown. So odd. Getting rid of that awful tinsel really helps a lot, doesn't it? I've done that to a few of my Cleos now and they're always much better afterwards. At least Mattel has caught on and has stopped it using it on her, for the time being anyway.