Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Music Festival Clawdeen Wolf

There are some Monster High collectors who limit themselves to buying only the basic/signature dolls. Understandable considering this recession the experts say is improving but has yet to really, well, improve. There's also the fact that Mattel insists on releasing a plethora of MH dolls, so many that it's nearly impossible to keep up. And if you did somehow manage to keep up, not only would your bank account suffer, but so would your sanity. I'm not a Monster High completionist and sometimes I feel like I'm losing it trying to find dolls! All that said, there occasionally comes a non-signature doll I find to be so cool, so well-made, so fun, that I can't help but feel bad for those signature-exclusive collectors. Especially when said doll is from a budget line, hardly one who's going to break the bank. Sometimes those signature collectors just don't know what they're missing. Which leads me to Music Festival Clawdeen.

When the promo pic for Music Festival Clawdeen appeared it was met with a collective "meh". Even I chimed in with my disappointment. She seemed like a halfbaked rehash of elements we'd seen on Deena many times already. And considering her theme was disco, there really wasn't much to her that screamed poppers and Sylvester. So you can imagine my surprise when I happened upon a really fierce-looking, brazen, sexy doll at Toys R Us that was marked "Music Festival Clawdeen". I had to do a double take to make sure that really was her. But indeed it was, and indeed I was happy with this unexpected turn of events!

The idea behind Music Festival is that three of our ghouls have gotten backstage access to their local concert venue. In their corporate description Mattel said Clawdeen's choice of music is disco. Curiously, this isn't mentioned anywhere on Deena's box. There's a blurb that says she needs "a scary cool beat and space to dance", but no talk of mirror balls and disco whistles. Maybe Mattel meant Clawdeen is into EDM. (In which case, right there with ya, girl!) The back of the box features a large lanyard giving minimal details on the benefits of having one. Luckily our ghouls do, and judging by their box drawings they certainly made the most of them! However, the single best thing on this box back (which was also previewed on the box front), is the actual drawing of Clawdeen. She's not fierce, she's ferocious! Hips jutting out, her wild mane barely contained, Deena looks downright fearsome, glaring at you with flashing yellow eyes. She's thrusting her lanyard out towards you as if to say, "See this? Yeah, I am a Very Important Monster, and you need to deal." It's a winning moment, pure Clawdeen, all attitude. Is it my favorite Clawdeen drawing to date? I won't go that far, but it's way up there!

Encased in the box is a doll ("Duh, John!"), and not much else. Music Festival Clawdeen includes no extras. No stand, brush, collector's card (sadface) -- nada. Luckily the doll makes up for it. Clawdeen has a center part -- something we don't see often on her -- in front of her ears. Behind the ears the hair cascades down as usual. It lands just below the rear in a combination of curls and waves. In the promo pic her hair was straight until about her shoulders, where it went into a mass of tight curls. Not so on the manufactured doll. I suppose you could say the wave is a little more relaxed around the crown of the head but the wave's still there. But the biggest difference between the promo pic and the actual doll is the color. While most of Deena's hair is the standard brown color, interspersed all the way around the head is... wait for it... blonde streaks! If you're anything like me this new hair development for our favorite, but too often predictable, werewolf, made you very, very happy! Yes, Music Festival Clawdeen has blonde streaks and they're absolutely stunning! They contrast so beautifully with the brown hair. Sometimes brown and blonde together can look cheap or just plain fake, but not on Clawdeen. I think a big part of what makes it work is that the hair is parted in the middle. Middle-parted hair always looks a bit earthy to me, no matter the color, so it plays perfectly into her wolf-y nature. It's also a bit retro. Not disco per se, but not not disco.

I should point out that when I found Music Festival Clawdeen there were about 3 or 4 on the shelf. All of them looked like they had bristly, frizzy, messy hair in the box. I was worried about this but after I de-boxed her I occasionally, gently combed her hair with my fingers -- not a brush or comb -- and within a couple of days it relaxed into a groovy wave/curl look. So if you come across one who looks iffy in the box don't worry too much -- with minimal TLC it will relax into something I think you'll really love. That said, this hair is a tad prone to frizz so don't expect Jinafire-esque, silken perfection. Music Festival Clawdeen's look is tousled and carefree. And man is it fun to play with!

Music Festival Clawdeen has the smaller Deena eyes. I'm generally torn on those (what can I say, I like 'em big), but I think they work wonderfully here. She wears amaranth eyeshadow that encircles the entire eye. It is topped by a layer of goldenrod. Glitter lays over the goldenrod, but only along the lower portion. Usually MH glitter will cover the whole area of whatever shade it's on; this lowered application is unusual and stands out. Clawdeen's semi-matte lips come in carnelian.

Clawdeen's outfit isn't really disco. Sure, it's a bodysuit, and those were around for disco. But the colors place it more firmly in Solid Gold territory. So I guess we can say her outfit is post-disco. Think Xanadu, think Roller Boogie. These are all good things to me so I'm on board for this look!

Burn, baby, burn! Disco inferno!

So yeah, Clawdeen comes in a purple, sleeveless bodysuit. It has a black, lapeled collar and black, ribbon-hemmed sleeve holes. The pants end about halfway down the shin. Starting above the right breast and cascading down the right side to above the knee is a print of yellow skullettes, stars, diamonds, and dots. They're all outlined in orange, You'll notice a few white "starbursts" in there as well. It's a great effect, very retro. Again, think Solid Gold. Between Xanadu and Solid Gold, 1980 sure is getting some Mattel love, ain't it? Which works for me; disco and post-disco are two of my favorite fashion and music eras! Hopefully we'll see more of it popping up on the other MH ghouls.

Clawdeen's boots are a gold repaint of Scool's Out Clawdeen's zipper boots. They still have the wicked sharp heel, but all the wonderful detailing of the original boots has been painted over into one solid color. Disappointing, but the boots are pretty rad, any way you cut it (er, paint it?). She wears a solid black version of her Coffin Bean belt. A small touch, but it helps pull the look together. Her left hand has a black, fingerless glove painted on it. There's a small detail in the form of a gold "window" painted over a portion of the glove. Clawdeen wears three small bracelets on her right wrist -- two black, one gold. She also wears two gold hoops in her left ear. Her right ear has another gold hoop, plus a second hoop with three gold chains "dangling" from it. In my experience that last earring is more a hindrance than an accentuating accessory. It doesn't really add much to the look, if you ask me. But hey, at least it's there! The last thing she wears -- and the only thing here that truly connects her to the Music Festival theme -- is a white lanyard wrapped around her neck marked "VIM", aka Very Important Monster. It's a cute touch and matches the lanyard on the box art. I like when Mattel is actually consistent with these small details. (It doesn't always happen.)

Overall: Music Festival Clawdeen is one ferocious beast who clearly loves to dance -- to EDM or ELO is up to you! Her outfit is cool if not especially exciting. Probably the best thing here is the blonde-streaked, tousled hair. It's new for Deena and to say it looks gorgeous (not to mention way cool), is an understatement. Her faceup is eyecatching without coming across as OTT or ostentatious. It's just really pretty. And fierce, too! Her overall theme is vague (thank God for that little lanyard or we wouldn't know what the hell she's supposed to represent), but there's not nearly as large a disconnect here as there was with Dance Class. If you're only going to get one Clawdeen doll this year (not counting Scaris), I say go for miss Music Festival. She doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, she's just an all-around great doll.

Till next time...

Twylight Twyla...

Was playing around with Twyla today and managed to snap some pretty good shots, I felt. Enjoy... :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Such a tease

I was looking around at the various MH fansites and blogs and I realized there's been quite a bit of coverage already on Twyla and 13 Wishes Lagoona. Some great coverage at that! And, you know, I've always been the type to dance to the Music in my own head. I like to mix things up, walk to the beat of my own drum, all that stuff. And while I'm itching to get reviews of the new stuff posted, today is my niece's wedding day and I'm a bit short on time. (Speaking of, my whole family will be there, a real Festival of fools if there ever was one!) But I know everybody's ready for some new MH review-y goodness, and since I can't quite deliver that today, I thought I'd at least throw up some quickie pics of Clawdeen. I haven't the foggiest why she's the one I decided to showcase in this mini-post...

Friday, June 28, 2013

An open book...

All week Mattel has been revealing the Ever After High dolls, one doll each day. The four core characters have all been revealed, with the possible Ashlynn Ella/Hunter 2-pack maybe being shown today. Response to the dolls has been very mixed. Even some who were into the line based on the webisodes have expressed disappointment. I think a lot of MH fans (myself included), thought EAH would be an edgy take on fairy tales, basically what MH is to classic monsters. While EAH is certainly more edgy than your typical princess doll line it definitely doesn't have the cool factor that MH has. As soon as we saw the webisodes and character designs I knew I needed to adjust my expectations. Mattel is pretty clearly aiming this line towards a somewhat younger demographic than MH. I bolded that line because it's probably the single most important thing one needs to keep in mind when considering EAH. I'll be upfront -- I love these dolls. And I think a lot of it is because I eventually realized -- and accepted -- that this wasn't going to be Monster High in a princess dress. Mattel probably shouldn't have launched EAH as a MH spinoff.  I think people would be more accepting of EAH if it had been launched as it's own thing. In any case they are two different lines, and despite some similarities the appeal of each is unique. If you want more Monster High, well, there's always Monster High! There's no need to look to Ever After High for that since we already have Monster High. Ever After High is carving out it's own identity -- and it's a pretty great one if you ask me! Let's look at the dolls...

First up we have Raven Queen. I don't think Mattel could've done a better job of matching the doll to the character design! This is 100% the character from the webisodes. Great job, Mattel! Raven was the first doll revealed, and is clearly the lead character for the line (the Frankie, if you will). Immediately you notice how gigantic the doll's head is, it's very full and round. She looks a tad younger than the MH girls. Everything here looks really nice to me. Her outfit has a good mix of textures and the colors are deep and rich. The use of chains on various pieces give her a hint of punk while still playing into her queen theme. (By the way, anyone else getting shades of Rose Petal Place from the skirt?) Her hair is super long and looks very nice. I'd say we have a fifty-fifty chance of the manufactured doll having hair that nice. Her purse is a combination of minimalist studs and an ornate clasp. But the best thing about Raven is her eyes. Aside from the beautiful violet color they're detailed and striking. There's just a hint of fierceness there. Her eyeshadow is much more subtle than what you find on MH dolls. A smart choice on Mattel's part, if you ask me. In a running theme for this line, her shoes are rather amazing. Notice the shadowed silhouette of a raven behind her? Great touch!

Oh lordy, where to start with Apple White? What a beautiful doll! She doesn't quite match up with her character design like Raven does; if anything, she's even better than the character design! Her hair falls in long, blonde tendrils, perfectly matching the shades of red and pink in her dress. She has beautiful, watery, ice blue eyes. Notice how the lightly shaded grey eyeshadow plays off the blue? So nice. Again, there's just a hint of fierceness in these eyes. There are so many great details here! The ribbon crown, jeweled apple purse, bow tie shoes -- all fantastic. I can't tell if her ring is another bow or a butterfly. Either way it definitely works. It's here that we get confirmation that these dolls all use the same headmold. Disappointing, no doubt about it, but within the confines of the mold Mattel has managed to offer some variety among the dolls. All of Apple's colors play off each other well, not just in the dress and hair but even the blue of her eyes and the golds used for the jewelry. She comes across as effortlessly put together, a breath of fresh air compared to the overt color schemes of the other dolls. Impressive.

In Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty two of the fairies battle over what color Aurora's dress should be. Flora wants pink, Merryweather wants blue. I'm definitely a Merryweather -- "Make it blue!" Besides the suffocating PINK, Briar Beauty has a few other minor problems. Her tiara sunglasses are a clever touch but I wish the lenses were a more realistic dark color. I also would've liked her ring and bracelet to have been silver like her earrings. My last complaint is about the shoes. Nice design, but why aren't those details painted in? Briar is literally stepping off on the wrong foot in those solid pink shoes. Everything else is close to perfect. She has a caramel skin tone that plays off her pink eyes and auburn hair nicely. Like the other dolls she has plenty of small details. Most impressive to me are the thorn-wrapped tights. I'm also digging the choker/shoulder pad piece. Again I'm getting Rose Petal Place from the skirt, not a bad thing. I could be wrong but looking at Briar I'm thinking these dolls will have the matte facial screening seen on some newer doll lines. The recent Oz dolls had this style of screening and I really liked it. It's pretty different from how MH dolls are screened and I have a feeling it will be the final nail in the coffin of this line for some people. Well, if that really is how they're screened -- like I said, I could be wrong.

Finally there's Madeline Hatter. Here is where I see the only real problem for this line in using one headmold. Madeline's doll doesn't come anywhere near capturing the manic quality of the character, and I feel it's because of the mouth. Were that mouth opened into a wide smile showing the white of her teeth she'd be the excitable character we know from the webisodes. As it is she looks subdued, more thoughtful than manic. Not that she's unattractive, mind you. She has that distant, contemplative expression I'm such a sucker for in dolls. If anything, she's a serene beauty. It's just not right for this particular character. Beyond that, she's faithful to the character design. She's bright and lively, a bold mixture of colors and prints. There's a lot going on here but she's not garish in the least. Her teapot purse plays off the teacup headband, while her painted hands contrast her polka dot tights. (Speaking of, I love that all four dolls wear tights! I think I've mentioned in previous posts how much I love tights on dolls, and I mean it. Seriously, they add so much to dolls, especially these four.) Her curly hair is a cool combination of mint and grape. It looks great in the pic but I'm worried about how it'll be manufactured. To be honest, I hope it comes with the curls gelled into a helmet that we have to loosen ourselves. That's the only way I can see it working. Her upward glancing eyes look to be the largest of the four dolls, and her pearl and gold shoes are the best of the bunch. Despite the disconnect between character design and doll, Maddy is my favorite of the four after Apple.

Even though there are a few minor problems with a couple of the dolls I absolutely love them. The last time I was this excited for a new doll line was, well, Monster High. In fact, once the dolls are released I'll be switching the blog to full time coverage of EAH!* After all, once EAH takes off Mattel will be closing down MH anyway.** In the meantime a new webisode has been posted...

* Just kidding!
** Don't believe everything you hear.


Update: Came across a group shot of the dolls and it looks like Madeline will be a shorter doll than the others. You probably know I'm mixed at best when it comes to the shorter dolls. But I'm hoping her colorful design and general beauty can overcome any negative feelings I might have about her shorter stature. Anyway, check out the pic. I think the ladies look even better grouped together than they did in their solo shots!