Back in October when I wrote my overview of the then-forthcoming Scaris line I figured it wouldn't be until well into Spring 2013 before I would be writing reviews for the debut character dolls, fashion packs, and playsets. I was basing my assumption on past experience -- for the previous two Christmases Monster High products, especially brand new ones, were nowhere to be found. But this Christmas the new stuff has been almost ridiculously easy to get ahold of. Aside from Catrine, who has yet to hit shelves, all things Scaris have already made their way to my shelves. And this isn't bragging on my part -- looking around online it seems most MH fans have been able to find everything quite easily. The only exceptions seem to be Deuce (male dolls are always scarce), and Jinafire. In Jinafire's case it seems to be an issue with the case allotments rather than scalper or underproduction interference. And you international readers who tend to get things a couple months after the US, take heart: once the new stuff reaches your shores I have a feeling you'll have no problems getting ahold of them, either. It seems with time and experience Mattel is getting the hang of this whole Monster High thing. And so it is with pleasant surprise I bring you my review of the Scaris Cafe Cart playset.
Since its kind of become my thing, let's look at the box first. The front is basically just a big window showing off the colorful contents inside. On the back we get a big drawing of the set, placed in front of the Eiffel Tower and adorned with the MH "Big Three": Frankie, Draculaura, and Clawdeen. Deuce is there as well which confused me at first, then I remembered they needed a token dude to mix things up, plus it reminds people they occasionally make boy dolls. The drawing is accompanied by a few "clever" quips from the characters. To the left is a lengthy blurb. The first paragraph is the same text found on the back of all the doll boxes establishing the what's and why's of Scaris. The second paragraph focuses on the playset. One spine of the box features several more pics of the characters, taken from the various doll diaries. You know how I love these drawings so I had to include those here. Take a look.
The set consists of four large pieces -- a cart, a table with attached umbrella, a bench, and a chair. It also includes a handful of small pieces to flesh out the set. The biggest piece is the cart. It looks about ten inches tall, six inches long, and two inches thick. Those are all guesstimates. The body of the cart is magenta and features black detailing in a sort of cobwebs meets ornate wrought iron style. Actually, cobwebs meets ornate wrought iron will be a running theme of this set so keep it in mind. The cart features a black push handle on one side and a small black counter protruding from the front. Under the counter is a really cool sign in black and light pink. It has a white silhouette of the Eiffel Tower and says "CAFE" in large white letters. The sign is in an abstract bat shape. The cart is hollow; from the back you can access two deep shelves. The cart features working rolling wheels in teal; spiders form the hub of each wheel. A translucent teal canopy tops the cart and features more ornate molding. The front bars each have an attached menu. A lone black bat rests atop the canopy. The cart comes completely assembled except for the bat, which just slides into place. I love the cart. It feels vaguely like something from the late 19th century, especially those spoked wheels. The ornate molding is Gothic, but in a bright, whimsical way. This bright, whimsical take on the Gothic look will also be a running theme.
Next we have the table with umbrella. It's just a little shorter than the cart; the tabletop is about three inches in diameter. The umbrella is a tad wider. The table, including the legs and umbrella pole, is solid purple. There's more whimsically Gothic detailing going on here, especially on the umbrella pole which looks more like a twisting stalk of some kind than a straight up pole. I love it! The legs curl under and have webs hanging off them. The umbrella is translucent pink and has webs and molded liquid running down it. Eight small, yellow skulls dangle around the edge. The table comes fully assembled; you attach the umbrella and hang the skulls yourself. I really like the use of color here -- the table is bright and consists of several different shades. They all contrast nicely and perhaps most surprisingly, it isn't garish. When you have this many colors involved it very easily could've devolved into pure tack but Mattel has avoided that somehow. Better yet, this colorful table matches the cart without being matchy-matchy or monotonous. The yellow skulls are perfect -- they're unexpected and add a lot of personality to the set. They're pure MH.
The last two large pieces are the seats. First is a teal bench that seats two. There's more Gothic whimsy, including a skull centerpiece for the seatback and webbed, curlicued legs. The bench comes in two pieces which you snap together -- very easy. I like this bench a lot but wish it had arms to help stabilize your dolls when they're seated. Mine had a tendency to fall over unless I had they're legs placed just so the floor. In any case, the bench looks way cool. The last piece is a solo chair for the table. It's magenta and has a matching skull/web/curlicue motif. The best thing about it, though, is the actual seat bottom. When you look down on it, it's a skull! Very cool.
There are several small extras included with the set. For the cart there's a coffee maker and a display shelf. The coffee maker is black and has a really cool teal skull on the back surrounded by a teal circle. The display shelf is purple and features your standard cobweb-adorned corners and such. A wine glass, a cup of coffee, a small cake, and a bat muffin are the food options. For the table there's a vase of wilted flowers (awesome), and a bottle of oil shaped like the Eiffel Tower.
Overall grade: A- Despite all the pieces being made in a wide array of bright colors the set comes together well; it works as a whole. They nailed it in delivering a toy seeped in Gothic style that's still whimsical and fun. It feels like pure Monster High while successfully establishing the French theme of this line. No doubt, in terms of style this is a truly cool toy. Aside from my complaint about the lack of armrests for the bench, I also wish there were two seats for the table. One seat just doesn't make sense -- who wants to sit alone when on your first trip to Scaris and you're there with all your besties? Plus it just would've been nice to have more seating in general. Especially when you're selling less and less dolls with stands. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)
But what fun is a playset with no dolls? Let's take this baby out on a test drive! Ignoring convention as I so often like to do (this is a full grown man writing a doll blog, after all), I grabbed the dolls that struck my fancy in the moment rather than the ones actually involved with Scaris, and got to snapping. Enjoy!