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Monday, September 30, 2013

Monster High Skelita Calaveras review

When I was seventeen I took my first foreign language class in high school, as many high school students do.  It was Spanish, like so many high school students have had to study.  Unlike many high school students, I had the luxury of having a teacher who was a Mexican native.  She was fluent in both Spanish and Italian, and was a fascinating person.  In addition to the language she taught us a lot about Mexican culture and a few things about Mexican and Spanish holidays.  My favorite of these holidays was Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  Day of the Dead is held on November first and second (thus coinciding with the Catholic holidays All Saints Day and All Souls Day), and it contains Catholic and Aztec elements.  Celebrants build altars to dead loved ones and decorate them with marigolds (which symbolize death), sugar skulls and skull-shaped items, and food and items that were special to the decedent.  I was tinkering around with the idea of a mortuary career at the time, so I was ecstatic to learn about a holiday that celebrated death.  I was used to holidays that commemorated happy things (birthdays and such), but this "new" holiday fascinated and thrilled me.  Being a doll collector even then, I thought "Wouldn't it be great if some company made a Day of the Dead themed doll?"

Fast-forward nine years.  In that time frame I've seen six Day of the Dead-themed dolls.  Five were Living Dead Dolls (series 20 had a Day of the Dead theme), and the sixth is Skelita Calaveras, a Monster High doll.
Skelita is part of the "Scaris, City of Frights" line, based on a Monster High television show of the same name.  The line introduced three new characters:  Catrine DeMew (a French werecat), Jinafire Long (a Chinese dragon), and Skelita Calaveras (a Mexican skeleton).  As a side note, I'm a biology buff just like Miss Emily is (hooray for bio buddies!!!), so I'll probably be making comments about the accuracy of Skelita's bones as we go along.  Just wanted to warn you, LOL!  But first things first.  Let's start from the top with Skelita's hair.
Skelita's hair is dominantly black, with some pumpkin-orange highlights in the front.  These orange stripes were originally lacquered into curls, but the styling product caught dust and looked ratty so I combed that crap out.  The highlights then fell into attractive waves that frame Skelita's face.
The top of Skelita's hair is tied up into a small, retro bouffant.
It reminds me a little of Amy Winehouse's hair.
In terms of quality Skelita's hair is meh.  It feels thick and covers the head, and the rooting is decent.  However, the fibers feel coarse.  They like to bunch together in bundles, which makes me wonder if Skelita doesn't have a ton of glue inside her head, like a lot of Mattel's current dolls.  The hair is also difficult to brush.  Every time I brush Skelita's hair, either with my fingers or the brush she came with, it snags.  These snags are hard to pull apart and often develop into huge knots.  I have been able to pull apart most of these knots, but I can just imagine how Skelita's hair will look after she's been in a child's possession for any length of time.

Okay, so the hair falls short.  Skelita's face, on the other hand, is impressive.  Look at this paint job!
Remember back at the beginning when I mentioned sugar skulls?  This is why:
Skelita's face is painted to look like a sugar skull.  She's not as elaborately painted as these skulls, but she definitely has the overall look.  I'm not going to go into a ton of detail, talking about every spot on her face.  Heck, we'd be here all night if I did that!  But I will touch on the highlights.  First of note are Skelita's eyes.
They're large, as is typical of Monster High eyes.  The irises are a lovely two-toned brown and have long lashes.  Also noteworthy are Skelita's lips.  Wait a minute...LIPS???  On a skeleton???  Yep!
This is one of the few places where Skelita differs drastically from a normal skeleton.  No fully-skeletonized vertebrate, human or otherwise, has lips, and the majority of the sugar skulls I've seen don't either (some do, but not many).  Skelita does, however.  She has pink and black lips that are painted in a slight smile.  Most Monster High dolls have serious expressions on their faces, like this:
Skull Shores Frankie Stein

Gloom Beach Cleo De Nile

All eight of my other Monster High dolls look like that, so Skelita's cheerful visage is like a breath of fresh air.  She reminds me a little of my Steffie-faced dolls.
Now...running from each side of the mouth is a black line of paint; this is done up to look like a line of stitches.
I initially thought that it was a Glasgow smile, but in truth it is faithful to the makeup that the living wear during Day of the Dead (notice that the woman in that link also has lip paint like Skelita's).  This line of paint is supposed to simulate the skull's bared teeth, and it does a pretty good job.  It still looks odd though, to see such full lips on a doll that is supposed to be a skeleton.  Maybe Skelita has been partaking of the candy on her shrine.  Maybe she's gotten a hold of some wax lips and is now wearing them!  LOL

Most of the rest of Skelita's head is decidedly skeletal.  Yes, I've got more to discuss with the head, believe it or not!  Skelita has some well-defined bone structure.  Yeah, I know she's a skeleton, but molded vinyl doesn't always have such definition.  Skelita does, though.  She has a prominent jawbone and some equally prominent cheekbones:
And a visible browline.
Her facial structure bears a slight resemblance to the first-issue Spectra Vondergeist dolls...before Mattel changed Spectra's face.
Oh yes, I forgot.  Skelita also does not have any ears.  None at all.  Not even holes or spots of paint that suggest holes.
The lack of ears is accurate for a de-fleshed skull, but the presence of a nose is not.
This is cute, though.  It has a little patch of black paint on it, to make it look like the fleshless hole that a skull would have.  Inaccurate as it might be, I love this touch.

Okay, so far Skelita sticks to the Day of the Dead theme pretty well.  But let's take a gander at these clothes.  Another item common to Day of the Dead celebrations is the Calavera Catrina figure.  La Catrina was created in 1910 and is thus often depicted as wearing a long, old-fashioned style of dress and a huge hat, like this:
Skelita's outfit is anything but old-fashioned.
At first glance it looks like either a one-piece dress or a skirt and a top.  But...it's neither!

The "top" is actually a minidress!  Skelita can wear that dress with or without the skirt.  It's a little plain without the skirt, but it can be done.  The dress is a halter dress that fastens behind the neck.  Both sides of the neck strap are trimmed in satin ribbon.
The dress itself is black with gray flowers and dotted vines printed on it.  In the center of these flowers...are little SKULLS!!!
Those skulls are better than polka dots...and you know my opinions on polka dots.  The budding mortician inside me is doing handsprings.

The skirt doesn't have little skulls on it like the dress does, but I love the colors on it.
It has three tiers of ragged, multicolored material.  This material feels like paper and has a black design painted on it.
I wasn't sure at first how this skirt tied into the Day of the Dead theme.  Mattel doesn't normally throw something random onto a product; it HAD to fit the theme somehow.  As it turned out, someone knew how.  Miss Emily had a guest review of this very same doll (once again, she beat me to the punch), and during that review it is revealed that the skirt is based on Mexican party flags that are used during celebrations like Day of the Dead (and probably other celebrations as well).  Here's an example of what these can look like:
See the resemblance?

It would have been neat to see the skirt made from openwork lace like those banners, but that probably would've made the skirt both see-through and very fragile.  It's a clever idea though, to utilize party banners for an article of clothing.  Just more testament to the originality and creativity of Monster High Dolls.

EDIT!!!  A Mexican reader has informed me that these are NOT "party flags" at all, but rather decorations used to honor the deceased.  Her full description can be found in the comments section.  Kudos to Lily Handmade Designs for pointing this out.  

That same creativity slacks off a bit in terms of accessories.  Skelita has a few pieces of jewelry, a pair of shoes, a stand, a suitcase, and a booklet.  Her necklace is made out of pumpkin orange plastic.
It doesn't want to lie flat.  It has to be held down with a rubber band, and even that doesn't hold it completely flat.
It does have marigolds on it though, which pleases me.  Marigolds are popular for Day of the Dead, and they happen to be one of my favorite flowers so I was disappointed that they didn't play a bigger part in Skelita's fashion.  But they did make it on (even if it is just in the necklace), so I guess I shouldn't gripe too much.

Skelita's other piece of jewelry is this bracelet.
The bracelet is brown plastic and has a design stamped on it.  I assume that it's supposed to look like leather.  Skelita's belt is made in the same manner.  It too is brown plastic and is held on with a peg.
I'm not a tremendous fan of the belt.  It is not heavy enough to hold the skirt down, and I'm constantly having to push both the skirt and the belt down so Skelita doesn't moon the world.  Not that she has much too moon the world with, but we'll get to that in a bit.

Skelita's shoes are a tad humdrum compared to the shoes of other Monster High dolls, but they tie in with the outfit.
These are open-toe wedges with chartreuse tops.  The heels are stamped with a design that matches that on the belt and the bracelet, and the green parts have some molded detail.  They look like they're woven out of something...maybe straw or leather or fabric.  Or HEMP, maybe (LOL).  I love this shade of green, by the way.  It adds a final little pop of color to an outfit that is otherwise relatively dark.

Like all the other dolls in the Scaris line, Skelita comes with a rolling suitcase.  Here is what it looks like.
I've GOT to get some better camera equipment!!!

Pink.  Arguably the most overused color in the doll world.  It would've been nice to see this rendered in yellow or blue, so it would tie in better with Skelita's overall look.  But then again, she DOES have a lot of pink patches on her skirt, so I guess I shouldn't complain about the color.  Besides, the suitcase is covered in little details that help me overlook the color somewhat.  The handle is shaped like a spinal column, and it has some sort of medical insignia at the top.  I can't remember what that's called for the life of me, but you've probably seen it on the walls of medical buildings.
The handle telescopes and the wheels actually roll, and the suitcase itself opens and closes.  The interior is very realistic.
It roomy enough that it could hold some little accessories, or maybe a carefully-folded outfit.  I may have to try that; since Skelita is an exchange student maybe I could pack a swimsuit for her weekends on the French Riviera (or whatever they call that in the Monster High world).

Skelita's booklet is not the journal common to most first-wave Monster High dolls.  It's part journal, part sketchbook.
Skelita reveals a little about herself in this booklet.  She's very family oriented and bilingual; some of the text is in Spanish.  The pictures look like they might be watercolor or pastel paintings, or possibly colored pencil.  The diary/sketchbook also mentions that Skelita has a pet butterfly, which I find odd since she didn't come with one.  I guess poor Skelita had to deal with a problem common to many students who travel:  leaving her pet at home.

The stand is the three-piece job common to most Monster High dolls.  It's made of black plastic.
Here is where we run into one of the problems that I found with Skelita.  She does not fit into that stand.  Well...okay, she fits, but the fit is HORRIBLE!!!  The stand is too big for her and she is constantly tipping out of it.  The problem isn't with the stand, though; it's perfectly functional.  If Skelita had been a normal-bodied Monster High doll, I'd have jammed her onto that stand and she'd still be there.  BUT...Skelita doesn't have the body that most Monster High dolls have.  When I had her out of the box she appeared to have the same body, but that sameness turned out to be a clear plastic shell underneath her clothes (which I have sadly pitched; you'll have to look at Miss Emily's review to see the shell).  The shell was supposed to fill out her clothes, but it also helped her fit into the stand.

But wait just a minute...why on Earth would Skelita need something to help fill out her clothes???
Because underneath her clothes Skelita is completely skeletonized!  I don't know why this surprised me, but it did.  Maybe I was expecting something like the Create-A-Monster skeleton add-on pack (which did not include a torso and thus did not create a full skeleton doll).  Or maybe I just wasn't expecting so much detail!  I mean, Skelita's hands have individual little metacarpals, or palm bones.  Seriously...they have GAPS in between them, like real metacarpals do.  The carpals, or wrist bones, are also molded on.
Her feet have molded tarsals and metatarsals.  Her toe bones (phalanges) are shaped accurately.
There are fourteen ribs in the ribcage (humans have twenty-four ribs).
I didn't think to count how many vertebrae, but Skelita's got those showing too, plus a pair of scapulae (shoulder blades).
She's got a pelvis with the proper bones.
Oh yeah, I should probably mention that Skelita does have molded butt cheeks, which normal skeletons DON'T have.
She has a molded coccyx (tailbone) in there, too.

The knees have little patellas (kneecaps).  For some reason I've always been fond of patellas, so I love this touch.
Heck, she's even ball-jointed at the hip and shoulder, just like a real skeleton!
The body isn't entirely biologically accurate; the pelvis is too narrow for a female, and it has a little meat on the backside!  But seeing as Skelita and all MH dolls are highly-caricatured child's toys, I'm willing to overlook these inaccuracies.  Plus (beware the oncoming wave of silliness), what may be inaccurate for our skeletons may in fact be a reality in the Monster High world.  Maybe ALL the females have narrow little pelvises underneath their skin...or scales...or whatever else they've got.  If that's so, then there may be trouble ahead for all of Monster High's female population.  Check this out!
One of Miss Emily's friends dubbed these "rib-boobs," which I think is an excellent way to describe this.  Miss Emily conjectures that Skelita's chest is molded this way to help fill out the clothes a bit better, and I'm at a loss for a better explanation so I'm going with what she said.  But...maybe this is really how all female Monster High skeletons are.  Maybe instead of fatty tissue and glands, they've all got bony breasts!!!  Imagine how painful that will be if they try to squeeze into corsets (like Clawdeen Wolf did for the "Scarily Ever After" series)!

OR...maybe Skelita's ribs are like that because she has rickets!!!  Look at her arm!
Okay, silliness over.  Skelita's arms and hands are very flexible, and I don't mean in a good way.  The bones bend in ways that bones should never bend.  Her femurs are that way too.  The lower legs are rigid, however, and this difference in plastic has thus made for some VERY stiff knees.  I can get them to move, but it takes a LOT of effort, a lot more than it does with my other MH dolls.  When I try to bend her knees I can feel the plastic itself bending, and I don't want to strain the joints so usually I just leave them alone.  When I DO get the knees to bend, the range of motion is normal for a Monster High doll.
She's good at sitting once I get the knees bent, though she's not as good at it as Midge is.
The hip joints are ball-jointed and have fantastic movement.  I can get Skelita to do poses that I wouldn't dare try on my other girls (especially the ones with elastic joints).
The neck joint isn't the greatest either.  It has the usual range of movement:  left...
...right...
...and up.
The problem is that Skelita always wants to look up ever so slightly.  I can't get her head to move down at all.

Skelita's arm joints are average.  It takes some effort, but I can bend the arms into some halfway decent poses.
"PLEASE!!!  No more topless pictures!"

I haven't tried to pull Skelita's arms apart, by the way.  Monster High arms normally pop apart at the wrists and elbows, but I haven't tested this on Skelita, nor do I plan to.  As bendy as her hands and arms are, I fear that once I pull her apart I won't be able to get her back together again.  So that brings us to the big question:  would I recommend Skelita to a child?  To a collector?  Let's see...

BAD
*Hair is not the best.  Cute style, but the fibers feel yucky.
*Most of the accessories are humdrum.  The booklet and the suitcase are nice, but the creativity falls flat on some of the jewelry and the shoes.
*Skelita's body is too skinny to fit in the stand.  This is remedied with a plastic torso cover, but said remedy is temporary.
*Skelita's body feels fragile and doesn't pose as well as other Monster High bodies.  Her knees don't bend easily, her neck is stiff, and her arms bend in places they shouldn't.
*Not really a bad thing, but give this doll a good once-over if you purchase her in a store.  Her face paint is very detailed and thus could be flawed.
*This is just a personal gripe of mine, but I wish there were more marigolds!
*She's white, which means she could get dirty easily.

GOOD
*The face is amazing.  Skelita has elaborate, highly detailed face paint and equally detailed eyes.  Such a face should be a minefield for paint flaws (keep your eyes peeled for these, like I mentioned above), but my doll has none.
*Skelita's mouth is painted into a smile, something I don't see too often in the Monster High world.
*She's original.  I've NEVER seen a skeleton doll before.
*She sticks to the theme.  Her outfit, her face paint, and her overall body all scream Day of the Dead.
*Highly detailed body that is for the most part accurate.  All the bones are in the correct place.  The hands have separately molded metacarpal bones, which I love.
*I love the colors.  She's not dominantly black or dominantly pink.
*The outfit, while not what I would expect for a Day of the Dead doll, is highly creative.  Using Mexican party banners for a skirt is a clever, original idea.  Further, there are little skulls on Skelita's dress!  Instead of playing it safe with polka dots or normal flower centers, the designers put skulls on there.
*There's a potential to learn here.  Kids might browse through Skelita's sketchbook and start asking questions about Mexican/Spanish language, culture, and holidays.  A child with sharper eyes might ask questions about the symbolism of the flags on the skirt, or the marigolds on the necklace, or the makeup scheme.

In answer to the question presented above, no and yes.  I wouldn't recommend Skelita to a small child because her body feels fragile, her body could get dirty, and her hair is coarse.  She also doesn't fit in her stand, which gets very frustrating.  But I WOULD recommend her to an older child, to a collector, to anyone who likes Goth things or Latin culture (or both).  Like C.A. Cupid, whom I reviewed last November, Skelita is covered in clever little details.  Her body lacks Cupid's solid construction and elaborate paint job, but she makes up for it with an original body design and a stunning face.  Her outfit sticks to the theme and utilizes normally mundane things like party decorations to make some highly creative pieces.  If you don't have Skelita Calaveras and like her, then I highly recommend that you get her.  She'll definitely flesh out your collection!
Skelita is my ninth Monster High doll (she's only the second I've reviewed, but she's my ninth doll).  She won't be my last; I'm currently searching for a decent Abbey Bominable, and the new Target exclusives are really adorable.  But after this I intend to take it easy with the MH dolls.  It isn't that I don't like any of the new releases; quite the contrary, in fact.  I love so many of the dolls, and I've yet to see a Monster High doll that I absolutely hate.  That's where the problem lies.  I simply cannot afford to buy every doll that I love, nor can I find the space for them.  Furthermore, Skelita is the perfect Monster High doll for me.  She's pretty, she's unique, she's detailed, and she has a Day of the Dead theme.  She's everything I ever wanted in an MH doll.  Yeah, her hair could be better, and her joints could be looser, and the rest of her body (particularly her arms) could be...not so bendy, and her stand could fit better, but overall I'm pleased with this purchase.  I'm pleased enough to call off the search for Monster High dolls (at least for now) and focus on filling in the other holes I have in my collection.  There are some adorable new Bratz out for this fall, and Mimi Merize still eludes me, as does a decent B.F.C. Ink doll.  Recently, something else has appeared on my radar...something I normally would have paid no attention to.
This is Katia (not my pic), and she is a Mooshka doll, MGA Entertainment's latest contribution to the dolly world.  Katia and her brightly-colored cronies are cloth dolls and follow a story line similar to that of the Lalaloopsy dolls.  Since these are cloth dolls (and thus strictly a child's toy) I never dreamed that one of these would catch my eye.  But I'm childish, and I love MGA dolls, AND I love colors, something that Mooshka dolls do not skimp on.  Plus, they were good enough to catch Miss Emily's eye.  Miss Emily promised to go over one of these dolls in a recent review, and that will probably determine whether I pursue a Mooshka doll for myself.  If she gives them a thumbs up then I probably will seek one out.  If she doesn't...well, I might still anyway, because our opinions may be different!  My twenty-sixth birthday is right around the corner, and these dolls are already in the local stores; heck, I've even seen them in my town's rinky-dink little Wal-Mart!  We usually NEVER get the new dolls, so seeing Mooshka here in town was certainly a treat.  Maybe one day very soon you will be seeing one of these soft little minxes highlighted in a review.

Happy last day of September,
RagingMoon1987

2 comments:

  1. i from mexico and her skirt is not based on "party flags" in Mexico people decorate a table in honor of whom has died for example in my house is for my dad and besides put the favorite food of the disease person ., we decorate the table with flowers and tissue paper just for the table to not look bad some towns in holidays decorate the streets with tissue paper and looks so colorful.

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    1. Oh, okay! It's always good to get the word of someone who knows the truth. Thanks!

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