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Friday, October 13, 2017

Cupcake Surprise review

Today's post is a bit of a companion post to yesterday's, given these dolls' vague resemblance to a Southern belle.  A little over a year ago I reviewed Tonka's version of Cupcakes, and at the end of that review I bemoaned the fact that Emco (a toy group that I know absolutely nothing about) had done a rerelease.  I was upset that I'd let the rehash of a childhood favorite get past me, but as it turns out I needn't have griped, because Cupcake Surprise dolls are now appearing in the local stores.  I thought at first that these were Emco's creations since they look alike, but the box says "Haschel Toys," a group that I've never heard of.  Patience has never been a strong point of mine...and self-control hasn't either, because I got one!
The name is a little different, but the concept and the design are the same.  Outwardly this is a toy cupcake, but take off the hat and flip the skirt inside out, and you've got a cute little doll.
Like the original Tonka dolls, these have assorted scents, but there does not appear to be as wide a range as there was when I was a little kid.  I don't remember how wide the range was back then, but the current line has six:  strawberry, vanilla, grape, chocolate, lemon, and caramel.
The average Tonka Cupcakes wave had about four characters, while Haschel's wave has twelve.  They appear to have ditched the goofy flavor-themed names in favor of regular names that little girls are often named.
Okay, I take that back:  I haven't met a little kid named Esther in years, and the name Liza appears to be on the slide as well, but at least these dolls aren't named goofy things like Taffy and Beri.

If I could've had my choice from any of the twelve, I'd have chosen a green or a blue cupcake, but since I didn't see either option I chose this pretty yellow one.
Folks commonly associate the flavor of lemon with the color yellow, the obvious reason being that lemons are yellow, and indeed this doll smells like lemon.  Or she's supposed to; the scent reminds me more of citronella candles than it does the fruit that goes into my favorite beverage.  I've been on a lemonade kick lately for reasons I'll probably never know.  Maybe my vitamin C is low.  Anyway, the citronella scent faded within a few short days, as compared to Beri's blueberry scent, which while faint, can still be detected after almost thirty years.

Having perused Ghost of the Doll's website, I was not expecting a lot of similarities between my Tonka doll and the current doll, so when I pulled off the packaging I was in for a surprise.  The Haschel doll's top is a very similar mold to Beri Blue's, if a little smaller.  The plastic color and the decorations are different (orange and white sprinkles versus blueberries and purple sprinkles), but the shape is the same.
The attachment mode is the same too; both hats attach to their respective doll with a thick strand of elastic.
Having looked at the back of the box and matched colors to characters, I think I grabbed a Jenny.  And...
...yep, it's Jenny!  Apparently this is the only doll of color in the series, which surprised me.  Modern-day doll lines usually do a pretty good job of representing all races, so to see just one black doll in this bunch surprised me.  But then again, the Jenny shown on Ghost of the Doll's Emco page is white, so maybe all the characters come in two different forms?  Or maybe Haschel decided to mix it up a bit?  Anyway, Jenny has some similarities to my old doll Beri, but she's also quite different.  Here's how the two compare visually.
Beri has her sneaky little smile and snarky little eyebrows, while Jenny looks innocent and a little vacant.  Her eyes are very different from Beri's.
Jenny has big brown (off-center) eyes with short black lashes and a thin band of pink eyeshadow.  PINK???  Her clothes aren't pink!  The shadow doesn't match a stitch Jenny is wearing, and they make her look a little bleary-eyed, like she's been crying or tripping or deprived of sleep.  Her eyebrows are maroon (???) don't have much personality either, though I'm glad Jenny doesn't have the resting rascal face that Beri possesses.  These eyes are very difficult to photograph, by the way.  They're flat and shiny and thus catch light like mad.  The mouth is better, being a nice dark pink shade with some little teeth painted in.  The cheeks are blushed with a similar shade of pink.
If y'all wish me to be perfectly honest, I can't say that I relate very well with either of these faces, but I prefer Beri's slightly devious expression to Jenny's blank innocence.  I think Jenny needs to be wary around Beri; goodness only knows what sort of mischief Beri could cause with an unsuspecting dupe for her partner in crime.

Ooops, I forgot hair!  Jenny has wavy dark brown hair that is pulled back into a simple ponytail.  The fibers are very soft and smooth, not stiff like some dolls' hair.  It's a little stringy in places, but nothing that a good washing won't cure.
Compare that to Beri's long, blonde, occasionally hard to manage hair.
Hair award goes to Jenny's simple, easy-to-manage tresses.

Now to the dress.  Beri's dress isn't really a dress so much, but a painted bodice and a skirt that is a separate piece.  Jenny on the other hand...Jenny is wearing a full dress, bodice and skirt and all.
This dress reminds me a little of the dress that Princess Tiana dolls often wear, being light green and gold.  The material is cheap sateen with a fair amount of drape, and the gold panel in the front has gilded leaves and vines painted on.
The neckline is not particularly well done, slanting off to one side.  This is only obvious when Jenny wears the dress (or Beri in this case); off her it can't be seen.
The sleeves are decorated with wide bands of stiff polka-dotted tulle, and the skirt has little panels on the sides made out of this same fabric.  The left panel loves to pop up and look silly at inopportune times, but I got it to behave this time.
The back of the dress is plain and fastens with a strip of Velcro.
The inside is fairly well finished, though the bodice does have some annoying loose threads.
Part of Beri's dress is painted on, so she and Jenny can't share clothes all the way.  Here's what it looks like when they do share clothes.
That looks better than I thought it would, at least in Jenny's case.  The waistband of Beri's skirt is high enough that it can make a believable strapless dress.  By contrast, Jenny's dress is ill-fitting on Beri; the lopsided bodice is very obvious, and it makes Beri's painted bodice more visible.  So surprisingly, I like Beri's half-dress better.  The painted bodice looks less bulky, and since it IS painted it avoids sewing gaffes like Jenny's uneven neckline.

When disrobed Jenny looks like this.  Her upper half is a lovely dark brown shade, but I do wish she had a painted bodice like Beri does.  LOL, bet y'all never dreamed I'd say that, as much as I've fussed about molded Barbie clothes in the past!  Anywho, this is what Jenny looks like under her dress.
Her arms are made of soft vinyl and can move up and down.  Like Beri, her arms move in tandem with each other; it's either both arms up or both arms down for this gal.
Jenny's neck can turn from side to side too, just like Beri's.
Posing is a tie.  Neither Jenny nor Beri have much to offer in that department.

 So, to sum it up, I'm delighted to see these Cupcake dolls back in stores, introducing a creative old idea to a new generation of kiddies.  However, in terms of quality and appearance I think Beri is the superior doll.  Her face has more personality, she feels more sturdy, and her simple half-dress is free of sewing foibles.  The scented gimmick worked out better for Beri too; she still smells faintly of blueberries (even after a hairwash), while Jenny's scent has largely faded.  Jenny is a cute doll with nice her hair and eye-catching colors, but she lacks Beri's mischievous personality and her lopsided bodice suggests problems with Haschel's quality control.  So if you're searching for a toy for a kid, either one of these will do quite well, but if you're a collector looking to reign in an old memory, I'd stick to the old Tonka/Kenner dolls.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Star-Spangled Dolls Southern belle

WARNING:  This week's doll represents pre-Civil War Mississippi and has a bio that is controversial by today's standards.  If you're uncomfortable about that, feel free to skip this post.  Don't read it, get your panties in a twist, and post something stupid.  All stupid comments will be deleted.  You've been warned.

This week's doll is related to the Sunshine Family, enough so that I could've lumped her in with their review...but since she's from a different line I decided against it.  God only knows when I'll get that Sunshine Family review done, as I don't yet have the father.  Anyway, this young lady comes from a line of dolls that Mattel released during the seventies called Star-Spangled Dolls, which commemorated various eras of American history.  I assume that this sudden wash of patriotism was done in preparation for the upcoming bicentennial, but that's beside the point.  There was apparently a decent-sized line of these; I love the jazz-themed couple, but to twit the ever-growing legion of south-haters out there I chose the little Southern belle, Rosa Lee Linden.
Yeah, she's a Southern belle, and her bio...well, here's what the side of her box says.
POLITICAL SOAPBOX ALERT!!!  Don't worry, I'm not going to try and defend the part about Rosa Lee living on a plantation, other than the fact that it's historically accurate.  Slavery unfortunately did happen, and no amount of monument-toppling or flag-burning is going to change that...NOR DOES IT SOLVE ANYTHING!!!  With that out of the way, I'm going to come to the defense of the crop Rosa Lee's father is growing:  cotton.  Lately cotton has become politically incorrect, and that is ticking me major league.  Cotton is extremely important; it was back in Rosa Lee's time, and it still is today.  It was once such a big deal here in the Missouri Bootheel that school used to let out for two weeks in the fall so that kids could help pick cotton.  It was called a cotton vacation, and children of all races participated.  Children could opt out if they wanted to (or needed to, if the child was allergic to the cotton), and those who did work were paid a little bit, which they usually spent on clothing or other necessities for school.  Cotton vacations are a thing of the past now, as far as I know; Malden definitely doesn't turn school out to pick cotton, and none of the surrounding towns do either.  Most folks today, black and white alike, don't know Thing One about getting filthy, sweaty, thorn-jabbed, mosquito-bitten, et cetera while caring for a cotton field, including Yours Truly.  Most of the work is now done by farmers with combines, which is a thankless job itself at times.  But that's for another soapbox session.

Should I also mention that every single one of us probably still uses cotton in our daily lives???  Shirts, cosmetics, paper money, food for our pet fish, cigarettes, you name it.  Plus, a healthy field of cotton is a sight to behold.  The fields below are just outside of Malden's city limits.
That last one is actually a soybean field, but it's a beautiful crop too so I threw it in.  I wish now that the milo hadn't been picked, because it too is a lovely crop when it comes to head.  I knew that the fields would not be photogenic for long (indeed, all the fields above have since been harvested), so I sneaked back to one field after dark one evening and photographed Rosa Lee with a couple of bolls.
I will allow one gripe, that being the chemicals that farmers spray on the cotton to make the bolls open up.  I hate defoliant; it smells bad and it always gives me a sore throat.  Defoliant is one of two things I hate about living here in the Bootheel (the fault line, which has been active lately, is the other).  The sore throat I get from defoliant seems like a small price to pay, though.

Okay, I'm done ranting, I promise.  I've grown up among and around farmers and I get defensive when they're under attack, but I'm done ranting. The picture I got of the back of Rosa Lee's box is a little washed out, but it shows the other single dolls in this set.  In addition to the Southern belle, there's the Native American, the colonist, and the pioneer. There's also some ominous-looking stains, probably from stuff leaking out of the vinyl over time. 
Also noteworthy is this, visible on the front of Rosa Lee's package.
When's the last time any of y'all saw a sticker like this???  Kmart isn't a thing of the past yet, but it's getting there!  Kind of a shame too; I can remember (just barely) when going to Kmart was a bit of a treat.  While Poplar Bluff's new Wal-Mart was big, cold, and hard to navigate, the Kmart was smaller and...well, in my child's eyes it seemed more homey.  Poplar Bluff still has their old Kmart, but it's slowly dying like the whole chain is.

One more brief story, then I'll get this show on the road.  Because Rosa Lee comes from an era where cotton is king, her story would likely be set in the 1830's.  She lists her hometown as Natchez, Mississippi...which is significant to me as a disaster buff.  For Natchez was the site of the second-deadliest tornado in U.S. history.  At least 317 people died (probably more), and that's the only the SECOND-highest death toll in a U.S. tornado!  This occurred in 1840, which means that Rosa Lee may very well have been there to see it if she'd been a real little person.  It's too bad that her bio didn't include some information about that.

As y'all probably noticed, Rosa Lee came in her box, and it looks like it been through...well, it looks like it went through a tornado!  The eBay seller was very honest about this, and I had no intention to keep the doll in the package anyway, so no biggie.  Here she is without raw cotton and mangled cardboard backing her up.
Rosa Lee is nine inches tall and thus would fall into the "small doll" category.  She's shorter than Midge, Sindy, and Jenny (Sindy does not look thrilled to have Midge propping her up).
Licca-chan is even taller than Rosa Lee, albeit by a tiny bit.  I wasn't expecting that.
Whimzee is quite a bit smaller, unsurprisingly.  Whimzee and Rosa Lee make a cute pair though, sort of a Hotaru and Rini sort of pairing.
Rosa Lee and her star-spangled cronies used the same body and head molds as Stephie Sunshine (and less often Steve, as this line only had three males), thus why I listed the two lines as "related."
Notice that Rosa Lee's head is smaller than Stephie's; I'm unsure if this was intentional or if Rosa Lee's head shrank over time, but having looked over pictures of other folks' Star-Spangled Dolls I suspect the former.  The molds are clearly the same despite the size difference, but their hair and eye color makes the two their own selves.  Stephie is a blue-eyed blonde, while Rosa Lee is a redhead.  She may look blonde in my pictures, but she's a redhead in real life.  Notice that she's got two shades of red mixed in there, light red with copper strands mixed in.
She has two portions of hair pulled back in a "Pollyanna" sort of style, and the rest of her hair forms several big sausage curls, a style that I've only reviewed one other time.
There are no bangs (again, historically accurate), but a side part is present.
The eyes are inset beads of blue and black plastic, with brown painted eyebrows and eyelashes, and a thin band of blue eyeliner.  Did Southern belles wear eyeliner?
I've read that these inset eyes can melt and look glazed as time passes.  Rosa Lee has dodged this bullet thus far, but one of my Sunshine Family dolls has not so I'll be watching these eyes closely.  Dolls and toys from the 1970's are odd like that, having plastic parts that melt together with time...yeah.  More on that in a bit.

The rest of Rosa Lee's face is appropriately minimalist.  She has a little button nose and a small, peachy, smiling mouth.
I'm not sure if it's the difference in head size or the difference in paint jobs, but Rosa Lee has a more focused, intense look in the eye than Stephie does.  Stephie looks a little like she smoked one too many doobs and went on a permanent trip.

I ran into a few problems when I disrobed Rosa Lee for the body and clothing reviews, the least of which was the trim on her hat.  The flower fell off and the ribbon is coming undone!
I'll have to get some thread together and sew that back in place.  Anywho, the hat is just your simple straw hat with the aforementioned green velveteen ribbon and the orange cloth flower.
The hat is lined with...with SOMETHING that helps it keep its shape.  It looks a lot like a thin layer of plastic, and it doesn't photograph very well.
The brim is wide but the crown is shallow, so if I want this to stay on Rosa Lee's head I have to pin it to her hair.  Hence the straight pins sticking out of the crown.

Now to the dress.
The design is simple but clever, and the fabric pieces are skillfully placed.  Each panel is set at a diagonal, so that when Rosa Lee wears the dress she looks like she's wrapped in chains of yellow flowers.  But let's start at the top.  Like many Antibellum-era dresses, Rosa Lee's is small on top and big at the bottom.  She's got short, very full cap sleeves and a ruffled neckline.
The bodice is trimmed with an orange cloth flower and a green velour ribbon, both of which tie the hat to the dress.  Thankfully, this flower is sewn on more securely than the one on the hat was.
The skirt has three tiers of equal length, each one being wider than the other.
To my surprise, these tiers are not hemmed, even though the sleeves are.
Also surprising was the presence of seams here and there in the design.
I don't know what that's about, but it doesn't detract from the dress so I'm not complaining.  The hems on the sleeve are nicely done though, with no loose threads hanging out.
The interior of the dress
The back closes with two snaps, par for the course back in the seventies.  I really miss this method of closing doll clothes.
Lastly, these shoes.  Simple bone-colored vinyl flats, with a very slight heel and a flat sole.
The shoes are the last thing I'd expect a doll like Rosa Lee to wear.  I don't know what Southern belles usually wore on their feet, but I doubt it was shoes like this.  Plus, look what these shoes did to Rosa Lee's feet!
Yeah...THIS is the worst part about this doll.  When her hard-plastic parts touch anything vinyl, over time they will melt.  Rosa Lee's feet are merely disfigured from the vinyl shoes, but check out her neck joint.
From what I understand, this is commonplace for dolls from the sixties and seventies.  Stephie Sunshine avoided this problem for reasons I'll never know, but one of my other dolls did not.  Sindy has melt marks too, on the hip joints.
The worst part is that as far as I know, there's no way to stop this.  I can prevent these joints from freezing up as they age further by moving them on a regular basis, but I don't know how to stop it completely.  With that joyous thought, let's move on.  I think Rosa Lee will have the same body as Stephie, but having seen their different heads I wasn't sure what to expect.
At first glance Rosa Lee does have the same body as Stephie.  Same shape, same knee joints, same flat torso, same ol', same ol'.  Interestingly, Rosa Lee's hard plastic torso and legs have yellowed while Stephie is still peachy all over, but that's more of a head-scratcher than a problem.  I think Rosa Lee's arms may be thicker too, but that again is just an observation.  Look closely at Rosa Lee's shoulders though.
Yep, her joints melted, just like Sindy's.  I got her hips freed up without much fuss, but it took a considerable amount of force to move her shoulders.  The left shoulder looks worse, but the right one was actually the harder one to deal with; I pulled hard enough that I was afraid I'd break the arm off, but that fortunately did not happen.  Rosa Lee's hips were frozen too, which I found odd since all involved pieces there are made of hard plastic.  Maybe all those years of being NRFP are what did the damage.

Rosa Lee's arm shape surprises me a bit, by the way.  I'm so used to having dolls with fully extended or fully bent elbows that this half-bent style looks a little weird.
Her soft vinyl arms took to molding well, though; check out her hands!
Despite the melting, Rosa Lee's feet still have five little toes apiece.  The molding is about equal to that of the hands, neither better nor worse.
Now that Rosa Lee's joints are freed up she has pretty good posing.  She has the prerequisite neck, shoulder, and hip joints, plus hinged knees.
I'm grateful for those hinged knees because without them Rosa Lee has a hard time standing, despite those flat feet.  This is how I have to stand her in order to keep her upright.
If I prop Rosa Lee against the wall or something else she can strike a walking pose...
...and she can also sit, both with her legs out straight or with her knees bent, like so.
I can't do much else with these legs though, because the joints are too floppy.  Yes, the hips that were once so tight are now very loose.  If Rosa Lee were a ball-jointed doll I'd pop her head off and tighten her strings, but she's not strung so there's that possibility out.  She CAN lift her arms and move them about, though this is tricky due to that gummy melted plastic.
Side splits are among the poses that Rosa Lee CAN'T strike, as her hips have no lateral movement.  She can do front-to-back splits though, thanks in part to her loose knees.
It's an unusual set of joints.  The shoulders and neck are prone to getting gummy and frozen up over time, while the knees and hips are very loose.  These things combine to make Rosa Lee largely a display doll, capable only of standing tentatively or sitting solidly.

Regarding clothes, the only doll I can name outright that can share clothes with Rosa Lee is Stephie.  There's a possibility that Barbie's sister Stacie can also pull it off, but I'm not betting on it.  Stacie is buried too deeply in storage to try that anyway, so that's that.  Time to sum it up.

*Melting badly; one of the shoulder sockets eventually did give way, so now I've got a doll with loose AND sticky shoulders.
*Hair is in a style that I can't recreate if it gets mussed
*Trim came off of the hat; I'll have to mend that
*Can only share clothes with one, count 'em, ONE of my dolls

*Concept is fairly original, particularly by today's standards
*Cute face
*Eyes are not melted
*Jointed; can strike a few more poses than the average doll
*Can share clothes with the Sunshine Family

In the increasingly PC modern world a doll like Rosa Lee is a breath of fresh air.  I think the last time I saw a Southern belle for sale in a toy store was clean back in 1995, and even she wasn't really a toy.  Rosa Lee is not without her problems of course, the least of which is her bio.  No, she's melting badly enough that she's beginning to fall apart in places, and I'm not really sure how to fix that outside of a rebody.  I'm willing to bet that this problem is fairly widespread with these dolls, so beware of that when seeking one of these out.  The trim is also falling off of Rosa Lee's hat, but that's an easy fix.  So if y'all like the Sunshine Family these Star-Spangled Dolls might be worth a looksie.  Just watch out for that melting!