Looking for something?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Effanbee International Czechoslovakia

A lot of the dolls I review are from companies that are no longer in existence; in the past I've touched on Deluxe Reading/Topper, American Character, Kenner, Tonka, and Ideal, all of whom have either folded or been bought out.  Today will be an exception, as Effanbee still exists as a branch of Tonner.  The most well-known doll I can name from Effanbee is Patsy, who came in many sizes, shapes, and incarnations through the years, and is still being carried (in the small "Patsyette" size) by Tonner.  Tonner's Patsyette is a far cry from the original ones, but she's a cute doll so who cares if she's different from the older Patsyette?  My particular doll is not a Patsy doll, nor is she related to one, though I do like Patsy quite a bit and hope some day to own one.  No, I think the line was simply called "International," which apparently dates from 1975.  A lot has changed since '75 due to the world's ever-shifting country borders, and thus my doll is a little outdated.  At the time she was created Czechoslovakia was a single country (the two sides split peacefully in 1993), and that single country is the one my doll represents.
For this doll I chose the name "Bozena," a Slavic name meaning "divine."  She's about ten inches tall, shorter than Mirari (Little Apple Doll) and taller than Wendy (Little Miss Revlon).
Before I begin, I think it would be fair to point out that Boz, as I sometimes like to call her, is not 100% factory complete.  She came from one of my favorite junk shops and is missing her shoes and her headpiece.  Judging from what other Czech dolls wear on their heads I can do without the headpiece; some dolls and ladies in the traditional Czech getup wear kerchiefs or simple red ribbons, so that's what I've done for Bozena.
This also helps to keep her hair out of her face.  Bozena's hair is wiry and quite wavy as well, so it needs something to hold it back.  The fibers are very dark brown, almost black, and the ends are curled up like so.
To my complete surprise, Bozena has a large bald spot on the back of her head.  No holes for hair or anything, just a big bald patch.
I've seen this hair pattern on cheap clone dolls plenty of times, but seeing it done on an Effanbee doll surprised me.  This was deliberately done too, not some factory gaffe like Mirari's hair was/is.  Bozena's remaining hair covers this bald spot well, but I wish the bald spot wasn't there to begin with.  Maybe her hair would've been too thick without a bald spot?  I dunno.

On to the face now.  Bozena's face is made of porcelain-white vinyl with heavy blush, like so.
Her eyes are silver sleep eyes with thick molded lashes...and thick painted ones as well.  These are framed by raised brown eyebrows that give Bozena a slightly startled expression.
Here's a better view of Boz's molded lashes.  I don't often see molded lashes on sleep-eyed dolls, but I do own a few, two of which will be popping up in the weeks ahead.
Her nose is flat and wide, and her cheeks are heavily blushed.  Her cupid's bow mouth is painted in a lighter shade of pink.
The garish rouge is shocking to the untrained eye, and having seen other Effanbee dolls in this line I'm led to think that the overdone blush is commonplace.  Not a smart move on Effanbee's part, but the mold is a pleasant one that bears a passing resemblance to a Madame Alexander head, especially one of the more modern dolls.

Now to this outfit...oh Lordy, I'm not looking forward to this one!  There's a lot to talk about.
Okay, I exaggerate; this dress looks more complicated than it really is.  But there's still a lot to talk about, so let's get crackin'!  I thought from the presence of this black ribbon that the apron would come off...
...but it doesn't.  Instead, this ribbon holds on the lace panel that decorates the front of the dress.
This lace is stiff, and I suspect that it may be tatted, though my knowledge of stitchwork is rather limited.  I'm thankful that it comes off though, as it makes reviewing the front of the dress a little easier.
The bodice of this dress is supposed to look like a blouse and jumper-style skirt, and it pulls this effect off fairly well, but in truth they're all one piece.  The "blouse" is white with puffy sleeves.  The sleeves on traditional Czech blouses can be long or short, with Boz's sleeves falling into the short category.  The sleeves are gathered above the elbow with little red bows.  These bows do come undone, so I have to be careful with them.  Short bobs of yarn like this are tricky to retie.
The armholes and neck are both trimmed in eyelet, one of my favorite trims.
The back of this blouse closes with two snaps; these are so well concealed that I wasn't sure this dress was meant to come off.
The straps of the "jumper" are sewn in place, but they are still separate pieces.  See?
Thank God they're not printed on; boy howdy, would that have been cheap!  Some doll companies do take shortcuts like that, but not in this case.  The skirt is red and has fabulous drape, though I'm not sure what sort of fabric is in play here.  The bottom part of the skirt flares out; I assume this is to give the skirt the desired fullness, as I have yet to see an authentic Czech costume that has this flare.
Most but not all Czech costumes have aprons, and the aprons that do exist can be white or black.  Bozena sports a black one.
 It's a plain panel of black fabric, made a little more fancy with embroidered daisies in several colors, and with a row of eyelet that ties the apron to the blouse.
Again, I've seen aprons printed to dolls' skirts, but again I don't have to worry about that with Bozena, as her apron is a separate but permanently attached piece.

The interior and hems of this dress are very well done; all edges are serged, and I think I saw ONE loose end hanging loose.
To my great surprise Bozena wears a petticoat underneath her dress, something that I don't see too often on dolls.  It's your basic white petticoat with an elastic waist, made a little more special with the addition of eyelet at the hem.
The tights are also nothing super-special.  They're just plain off-white tights, made out of thick stockinette fabric.  I wish they came in my size, as thick and soft as they are!
Most of the ladies I've seen in Czech clothes wear black knee-high boots or simple black flats.  If Bozena had come with her shoes she would've fallen into the flats category, but she doesn't have her shoes so there's that out.  I'll have to replace them with...with SOMETHING.  Bozena's feet are a unique size, so finding something to fit her may be a challenge.  Speaking of feet, time for the body review!  Here's what Boz looks like out of her clothes.
Like many dolls in this scale, Bozena has a prepubescent body with a relatively shapeless torso and limbs.  Her long arms and legs and the slight development on her chest suggest a girl of about eleven or twelve, give or take.  The limbs have back-and-forth movement but no sideways motion, thus Bozena always has her arms sticking out a little to the side; this isn't as obvious when she's wearing her full-skirted dress.  She can lift her arms...
...she can sit, though not gracefully...
...and if I really want her to she can do splits.
Boz's head can also look from side to side, but not up or down.
Molding is a mixed bag on this doll since part of her body is hollow plastic.  Her arms are made of vinyl and thus took to a mold relatively well...
...but her legs are hollow plastic and thus have seams showing.  These seams are a little rough in places so I have to be careful about those tights.  The toes came out pretty well, though.
I can't name too many dolls that can share clothes with Bozena; Little Apple Dolls like Mirari are too big and Little Miss Revlon dolls like Wendy are too small.  It's entirely possible that some Madame Alexander dolls have clothes that Bozena can wear, and Effanbee undoubtedly has other dolls that can share clothes, but I don't own any so that's that.  So I reckon I'd better sum it up.

*WHAT IS UP WITH THAT HAIR???  Bozena is BALD on top!!!
*The existing hair is wiry and would be a nightmare if it got tangled.
*Heavily made-up, which is jarring against Boz's pale vinyl.
*Posing isn't great
*My particular doll is missing pieces, though that's not her fault.

*Eyes are not fogged over; why this is important will become clear over the next two weeks
*What hair Bozena does have covers her bald spot well
*Face is appealing, despite being overly blushed
*Clothes are well-made, and for the most part they appear accurate

If anyone out there is of Czech decent, this may be the doll for you.  Mattel did release a cute Czech doll in their Dolls of the World line; indeed, she's one of my favorite DOTW Barbies.  But Barbie isn't everyone's thing, and for those who don't care for Barbie the Effanbee set will be perfect...or close to it.  Bozena does have a few surprising shortcomings, the most shocking of which (for me) was her hair.  I've said this above, but I'll say it again:  I've NEVER seen a higher-end doll with a bald patch on her head.  Toys, yes.  But dolls for collectors...not usually.  Fortunately Boz's existing hair covers this bald spot quite well, and I assume that if she had her hat that would cover it too.  Also beware of missing shoes, as my doll isn't the only one I've seen without her shoes.  Other than that, she was a good buy.  If your allegiance lies with another country, no worries, as Effanbee has plenty of other countries, including countries that one doesn't see too often, like Israel.  I was sorely tempted by the Israeli Effanbee, but my eyes got dazzled by another Hebrew doll, one that will make her debut next week.

Yours truly,

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.