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Monday, August 6, 2012

Dolly Wars

I imagine everyone knows by now that Mattel and MGA Entertainment have been feuding for some time.  Barbie, that oh-so-perfect Mattel doll who has trumped countless rivals in the past, finally got a run for her money when MGA released the Bratz.  Edgy, trendy, a little trampy...at the time they were everything Barbie was not.  They became hugely popular, and a couple of competing products that Mattel released (MyScene in particular) prompted a lawsuit by MGA.  Mattel counter-sued, and the fallout from this legal mess is still going on today!  If you look at the two sets of dolls below, then you'll understand why there's such a fuss.  The top doll is Bratz Catz Jade, one of MGA's more recent creations.
The pair below are My Scene Barbies.  Svetlana is either a Barbie or a Kennedy (the two characters looked similar), and the other doll is Nolee.  Even the most devout Barbie fan cannot deny that these two look like the Bratz.
Anywho, ever since the lawsuit began Mattel and MGA appeared to be in an arms race of a sort.  A competition to see who can create the trendiest, cutest, most original doll.  MGA lost the first part of the lawsuit and released Moxie Girlz as a replacement for the Bratz (which eventually made a comeback after MGA won an appeal).  When a third toy company, Spin Masters, released the highly articulated LIV dolls MGA responded with Moxie Teenz (which are highly similar to the LIV dolls) and jointed Bratz dolls.  Below are a Moxie Teenz (left) and a LIV doll (right).  The joints are obvious on both, as are the inset eyes, a trait common to both lines.
Mattel countered with the Fashionistas, which have enough joints to rival Living Barbie...
...and with the Monster High dolls, which are also very poseable.
The LIV dolls are now discontinued, and had been decreasing in quality for some time; the last ones did not have jointed elbows, and their knees were very different from the earliest ones.  Their replacement for the LIV dolls are the La Dee Da dolls.
These dolls are very cute and very colorful (just like the LIV dolls) but they are not anywhere near as poseable as their predecessors, and their overall appearance is downright cartoony...vaguely like the Bratz dolls.  I will discuss the La Dee Da dolls in more detail in the future.  Anyway, with poseability out both Mattel's dolls and MGA's dolls have become decidedly stiffer.  The Barbie Fashionistas are no longer fully jointed (I do not own any of the new Fashionistas so I can't give you full details) and MGA's Moxie Teenz appear to have been phased out altogether; I haven't seen a new one in the local Wal-Mart in almost a year, and I've only seen ONE extra fashion pack (that being the pink nightie that Tristen is wearing in the image above).  However, MGA does seem eager to cash in on the hole the LIV dolls left in the souls of doll collectors, as they have released a new line of Bratz dolls called Bratzillaz.
These are jointed with glass eyes (just like LIV dolls), and have a witch theme.  It seems almost like MGA is trying to rip off Mattel's highly successful Monster High dolls with the Bratzillaz (both of which have a lot of the scary-but-cute theme factored in), but that's not all MGA has been up to...more on that later.

Meanwhile, what's Mattel been up to?  They never bothered with inset eyes, which is probably a good thing since the last Barbie dolls with eye gimmicks (Miss Barbie and Western Winking Barbie) were downright creepy.  No, instead Mattel released the Stardolls, Barbie dolls that are apparently based on a web game where one can have their individual little avitars and dress them up.  Sort of a virtual paper doll game, I guess (I've never tried it; it seems like it's too similar to Zwinky, which I HAVE tried and quickly got bored with).  Anyway, these Stardolls are only jointed at the arms and neck; no leg joints at all.  They basically stand there and look cute.  Oh, and their bodies are proportioned differently from both playline AND collector's line Barbie dolls (yet another body change!), so finding extra clothes and shoes that fit them is very challenging.  Mattel has released some accessory packs for the Stardolls, but so far there have been only four (there are eight dolls as of writing).  I have one, whom I named Raven.  Raven is very cute but very stiff.
I didn't think Stardolls would shake up the doll world too much.  Yeah, my dolly friends on Facebook like some of them (most appear to prefer the one I've got, coincidences!), and I like them, but they don't make great toys for kids.  And yet...MGA's latest little idea brings to mind both the Stardolls and Monster High dolls.  Enter the Novi Stars, a line of intergalactic themed teenagers with huge inset eyes, rooted eyelashes, and long flowing hair.
Apparently one of the characters is wigged (I'm basing this information on some images I saw on Flickr, so I don't know how accurate that info is).  Currently there are five characters, each with her own little gimmick;  Alie Lectric is green and lights up, Ari Roma is purple and bubblegum scented, Una Verse is blue and filled with water and glitter, Mae Tallick is metallic pink and talks (she is the one I saw that was wigged), and Nita Light is a greenish-white color and glows in the dark.  Nita also comes with a pod that lights up.  Alie Lectric and Una Verse both have frozen legs like the Stardolls.  Alie, as I mentioned, lights up and the lighting mechanism necessitates a stiff pair of legs.  And Una Verse's body is fluid-filled; any joints in the legs would allow the fluid to leak out, so her legs are stiff as well.  Overall, it's a cute concept, BUT...

Remember when I said that it feels like MGA is trying to cash in on Mattel's success with the MH dolls?  Yeah...I'm gonna explain why in a little more detail, and it directly concerns these intergalactic little minxes.  Has anyone noticed how much the Novi Stars are like Monster High?  Each of them comes with their own little pet, their own distinct hobbies and personalities, their own little quirks, and their own colors--just like the Monster High characters.  Una Verse is particularly questionable; her "skin" is a sparkly shade of blue, and her hair is white with colored streaks.  Does that sound like anyone we all know???  Hmmm, which Monster High character has sparkly blue skin and white hair with colored streaks.  Could it be ABBEY BOMINABLE???  And I suppose if one wanted to nitpick one could draw comparisons between Draculaura and Mae Tallick, with their pink coloring and pigtails!  But one would really have to be nitpicking to do that.  So since I pointed it out does that mean that I'm a nitpicker?  Haha, sometimes having an eye for detail isn't so much fun!

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the new Novi Stars.  I am particularly fond of Una since blue is one of my favorite colors.  Everything that I love about Abbey is present in Una, and that is unfortunately where I can see problems arising.  If the similarities between Abbey and Una are that obvious to a flaky twenty-four-year-old like myself then they will be obvious to any sharp-minded nine-year-old.  She'll look at Una and say "That looks just like Abbey" or vice versa.  Hey, if you don't believe me then take a look at this Flickr user's photo!  I can't help but wonder what Mattel thinks about the Novi Stars?  Will they look down their noses and say "oh, MGA is making another pathetic attempt to outdo us; it'll never work!" or will they call foul and file a lawsuit?  If you will recall, the result of the last lawsuit was Mattel demanding the cessation of production of the Bratz dolls (which proved to be temporary). In addition, I also am pondering Mattel's feelings about the Bratzillaz.  They are jointed like Monster High dolls, they come with pets like Monster High dolls (though it is worth noting that Bratzillaz pets are sold separately from the dolls), they have a school theme like Monster High dolls, and they have different colors and themes like Monster High dolls!  That's a lot of similarities, folks.  The dolls I'd be most concerned about are Cloetta Spelletta and Meygana Broomstix.  Cloetta has heterochromia (bi-colored eyes), two-toned hair, and a sewn-together pet...just like Frankie Stein and her Whatzit. As for Meygana, she has a steampunk theme going on with a lot of blue thrown into the mix, highly similar a new Monster High character named Robecca Steam; it isn't quite as big a similarity as the one between Cloetta and Frankie, but it's there!  Pretty wild, eh?  I can't wait to see what Mattel says about this!  Who knows, they may turn a blind eye and not throw a tizzy of a lawsuit after all.  As for me myself, I'm going to grab an Una Verse and a Jade J'Adore (another of the Bratzillaz) off that store shelf, crack open a bottle of Snapple, and watch it all go down.

As a final word, the Toy Box Philosopher offers a thorough and excellent review of both the Stardoll I have and Meygana Broomstix.  Based on her word, I advise you to be wary of Meygana's hair, ESPECIALLY if you plan on getting her for your daughter.  The Stardoll's review can be found here, and Meygana's review is here!

God bless,