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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Throwback Thursday review: Amazing Maddie

Many years ago (twenty-one, if we must nitpick) I had to make a decision.  I wanted two expensive, large dolls for Christmas, and I could only pick one.  One was an American Girl doll (of course), and the other was Amazing Maddie, a doll who talked, played games, and could kinda, sorta interact with her owner.  I made my decision and now have an old, frizzy-haired Felicity Merriman doll to show for it.  I REGRET NOTHING!!!  In the time since then I forgot about Amazing Maddie...until this past May.  This is her before I unboxed her.

When I was a kid I didn't care too much for electronic or battery-operated toys.  The way I saw it, the more bells and whistles a toy had, the more items there were on it to break or malfunction.  Walkin' Baby was about as mechanized as I wanted a toy to be.  But by the time I was eleven interactive dolls were all the rage, and Amazing Ally was particularly all the rage.  Even then the blonde, blue-eyed Ally did little to impress me...but her hippie friend Amazing Maddie was another story entirely.  Fortunately and unfortunately that was the year that I got my first American Girl doll, and I was so happy to have Felicity in my arms that I forgot about Maddie completely...for awhile, anyway.  I never forgot Amazing Ally's catchy commercial though, and while researching her I rediscovered her artsy hippie friend Maddie.  These dolls were not cheap in 1999, and they're not cheap now.  Without revealing the full price, let's just say that I shelled out some extra bucks for an NRFB Maddie, since these dolls came with a lot of accessories and the only way to guarantee that they're all there is to find one in the box.  Why is this important???  If one of these electronic dolls asks for a part and doesn't have it, she asks for it and asks for it and asks for it, and nothing else will satisfy her.  This video of Amazing Amy (Amazing Ally's little sister, I assume) shows her asking for her milk, and even though she's offered playtime and cereal she wants that milk.  I used to be that way, LOL.  Yes, I can remember asking repeatedly for Skittles one afternoon and my mother finally acquiescing with an annoyed sigh and the words "You have a ONE-TRACK MIND!!!"  Granted, Amy never asks rudely in the clip, but this blogger notes that she never heard her Amy say either "please" or "thank you."  That's not unusual for a toddler, but it's still not great.  Anyway, there's a way to reset these dolls to get them to stop asking for the same thing, but sooner or later they'll ask again and then it's either reset again or take out the batteries (or let the doll keep asking until she goes to sleep; apparently that's an option for Amy).  So long story short, I coughed up the extra money for an in-box Maddie, and this will allow y'all to see what her box looks like.  Oh, and as an added little bonus, when I opened up Maddie's shipping box, this is the sight I was confronted with.  Thank goodness they're biodegradable peanuts.

I guess it would be best if I provided y'all with a bit of history on this line first.  Amazing Maddie is from the millennial era, and she was part of a laundry list of dolls created around that time by Playmates Toys, the same bunch that brought us Hearts for Hearts Girls and a Strawberry Shortcake revival.  The Amazing "family" consisted of preteens Maddie and Ally, babies Ashley and Amy, toddler Amanda, teenager Allysen, and a group of babies that had no special name.  They all had the same interactive gimmick, and they all came with the moniker "amazing."  There was also a bilingual chick named Remmy, but Bandai made her so I don't know if she counts as a member of the family.  Remmy is visually identical to Ally in every way except eye color (Remmy has brown eyes), and she's thunderously hard to find.  As far as I know the whole Playmates lot was blonde and blue-eyed except for Maddie and black versions of Ally and Allysen.

Now let's take a closer look at my doll.  The front of her box just shows a picture of Maddie's face with her mouth open, probably in the middle of a sentence.  

Above her image is her name in huge letters, and her title as Amazing Ally's best friend.  I wonder if Maddie and Ally could interact with each other, the way Furby and Shelby could?

"Perfect-O!"  exclaims her box.  Sounds like one of my favorite interjections, "fabuloso," though usually I use that when a situation isn't so great.  Usually it'll involve the fax machine at work; it'll fail catastrophically during an important fax and I'll sardonically huff "Well that's just FABULOSO!!!"  The front of the box opens like a book, reminiscent of the old LIV doll boxes, or Little Apple Doll boxes, take your pick.  The box even says "Lift 'n' Look."

LOL, reminds me a little of the instructions on the front of The Velvet Underground and Nico:  "Peel slowly and see."  Opening up the box provides us with our first glimpse of a pink banana Maddie, and how her paint isn't as vibrant as her stock photo self.

Those eyes, though!  I love those eyes!  They remind me a little of Li'l Devil's eyes.  But before we open the doll up and look closer at her eyes there's still a lot to photograph.  The inside flap of the box has plenty of information, but first I want to make note of this.

Both  Ally and Maddie had these add-on sets called "Adventure Ware" playsets that came with a new outfit, assorted accessories, and other doohickies that the dolls could interact with.  Ally had five sets (school, ballet, cheerleader, skating, and pajamas), but Maddie only got this one.  Also, the fine print notes that Ally's sets can't be used with Maddie, and vice versa.  Nuts.  Battery information is also given, but I'll worry about that when I find the time.

Inside of the box info discusses Maddie's technical nitty gritties.  The first blurb tries to explain how Ally's and Maddie's personalities differ.  It describes Maddie's "today" way of talking, but when I described to Mama how she talked Mama replied "She sounds like a sixties kid!"  Mama was a sixties kid herself, so she'd know.
Then there's a brief rundown of her style, and how she can pick and choose her hair barrettes.  I don't know about y'all, but for me a dragonfly barrette beats a flower barrette any day.  Flowers are great, but dragonflies are REALLY great!
The next blurb suggests conversations that one can have with a doll.  I can't share my (less-than-stellar) feelings on the current president or discuss anything super-important, but I can chew the fat with her about music and art.

No, Maddie.  I said "I loathe hip-hop," not "I love hip-hop."  But look, she likes the term "fabuloso" too!  I haven't even heard her talk and we already have something in common.  The next blurb invites the doll's owner to get artsy alongside Maddie, and to my delight she appears to include photography in her interests.  Not all art-themed dolls do that.

This bit caught my attention, as it suggests that one can tell Maddie secrets and have her remind one of certain things.  That'll be good for a Forgetful Jones like myself.
And lastly, Maddie responds to some external stimuli, kinda like Worlds of Wonder's Julie did back in the day.
There's one more little panel that rehashes the Adventure Ware playset.
Here's the technological jargon for y'all out there that understand it.  I wonder if Julie's box had a description of her technical nitty gritties?
The side of Maddie's box window also had these little blurbs, which offer a further little peek into Maddie's abilities.  

Do I sound chipper so far???  That's because I hadn't started the deboxing when I wrote that first bunch of stuff.  Maddie wasn't thunderously hard to debox, but there was an unnecessary amount of tape holding her and her things in place.  Compounding matters was poor Maddie herself.  Look at her hair!!!

Uh-oh, that's mangled and tangled, not naturally curly as Maddie herself proclaims.  It was also held in place with not one but TWO of these hateful plastic strips.
After a lot of cutting, a few pinched fingers, and some naughty words, I finally got Maddie free.  It took a lot more cutting, a few more pinched fingers, and some more naughty words before I got everything else free.  Maddie's cards, barrettes, and accessories were all sheathed in a clamshell of plastic, and that in turn was all gommed together with tape.  Here's the full load of stuff; there's a lot of it.  The "creative padd" is the most important part, as it allegedly allows Maddie to "read" her activity cards.  Ally's analogous piece was a book.
The padd plugs into Maddie's arm, and I assume that cord was supposed to stretch at one time, but it doesn't anymore.  The padd itself has six little buttons inside, and these are theoretically supposed to help Maddie use her activity cards.
Here's the activity cards, which should allow me to set the date and the time, play games, and other assorted things.  There are thirteen cards in all.  These are made of thin plastic, and to make them work you have to get the options on the card lined up with the buttons on the creative padd.  I've seen folks online really struggle with these.
To my great delight, Hanukkah is included on the holiday card.
Notice that the year card goes up to 2011.  If I'd owned this doll back in the day I'd have thought "2011 is too far away to even think about!"
Maddie also comes with a "travel mug," a camera, and either a doughnut or a bagel.  The tan thing with the blue ribbon is her Adventure Ware cartridge, which plugs into her back 
Here's the brush and hair clips.  Some of these clips actually clip into her hair, and the other ones...don't.  More on that later.
Stock pics also show Maddie with a green purse, but my doll didn't have that so I guess it didn't make the final cut.

Finally, here's the first picture I took of Maddie, fresh out of her box with her hair still matted and her face unwashed.
Maddie is a good-sized doll, at eighteen inches...just like the doll she lost the coin toss to twenty years ago, Felicity.
Maddie:  My name is Amazing Maddie, and I'm gonna kill you.
Felicity:  You just try it, sister.

Uh-oh, I think I'd better separate those two before something bad happens.  Felicity has spent long enough in the modern day to know how to defend herself, and she was never a shrinking violet to begin with.  With my girls safely apart and the steak knives locked up, I can now focus on Maddie's hair.  It's waist-length with bangs up front and a partial ponytail in back. 
As is often the case with dolls over a certain age, I had to replace the elastic on Maddie's half-ponytail.
The hair looks a little better now that I've worked a brush through it, but it'll never be the best play hair I've seen.  In pictures without a flash the hair looks reddish, but under regular lighting her hair is mouse brown, like mine. 
Maddie claims that her hair is naturally curly, but it looks more like frizzy waves to me.  Again, I'd know because my hair is often like this.  The rooting is pathetic.  It has huge gaps between rows of rooting.
On the crown of her head, just behind her bangs, Maddie has this headband.  It has four molded flowers, and three ports to attach her hat and her barrettes.  Remember when I said that some of her clips don't clip in???  This is how they attach, and this is how Maddie knows what she's wearing in her hair.
The side ports are obscured by Maddie's hair, meaning that I'll likely have a difficult time inserting anything there.  
I've taken Maddie's hat off and put it on a few times, and it doesn't take a lot of force to get the plugs undone.  A gentle tug is all.  I advise pulling the plug itself and not the hat, lest one damage the hat otherwise.  Overall I'm not a big fan of this hair and am strongly considering cutting at least the ends of it.  Since Maddie was an artsy type she might've faired better with a Mary Quant-style bob...but then again, who knows who Mary Quant is anymore???  Just the same, I think I'd have preferred short hair, as terrible as these fibers feel.

Now the face.  Since Maddie's mouth moves as she talks she had to have a rather soft face, and Playmates used the kind of vinyl that gets sticky with time.  As a result Maddie's face got pretty dirty in the first twelve hours of her life with me.
Gross.  I'm not sure if a Clorox wipe was the best thing to use, but I lightly ran one over Maddie's cheeks and ears anyway.  It didn't cure the stickiness, but it washed off the crud that had stuck to the stickiness.  Keep this in mind if you have one of these dolls with a moving face; she'll become a dust magnet as she grows old.  Indeed, as many animals as I have, I predict that keeping my Maddie clean will be an uphill battle.  Anyway, Maddie's eyes are mostly green with a brown center.  They're ever so slightly skewed, but they're beautiful eyes.  They remind me of My Twinn eyes, the older ones that don't change color as readily, like the ones Rael and Salome have.
No, I take that back...I HAVE seen these eyes before, but they belonged to Miss Emily's Sweet e.Baby.  Turns out there's a good reason why Maddie and Sweet e.Baby have the same eyes, as they're both Playmates dolls.  Anyway, Maddie's upper lashes are applied, and her lower lashes are painted in this odd orange shade that appears to have faded with time.  Her eyebrows are this same weird color, so thank goodness for those bangs, shaggy as they may be.
Maddie's eyes look like they should move as she talks, but they don't.  They stay stationary, kinda like Daria's dumb-as-dirt classmate Brittany's eyes.  Well...take that back, Brittany does blink every now and then, but not nearly enough.  Julie, Ask Amy, and Amazing Allysen all have eyes that blink, but Maddie wasn't quite that advanced...I don't guess.  I don't actually know what Playmates' reasoning was there, but no biggie, I can live without eyes that open and close.

Maddie's smile can change shape a little as she talks, meaning that she doesn't always look as she does now.  Her lips are glossy pink and are a shade brighter in real life.  The same shade is present on her cheeks, but it's pretty faint.  I don't like these lips as much as I do the box art doll's lips; the color is too...well, too PINK and the edges are a little harsh.
Since Maddie can open and close her mouth she has some teeth visible in there, kinda like American Girl teeth, or Chatty Cathy teeth, or Jumeau teeth, take your pick.  Notice that Maddie's face is already catching lint and cat hair again.
The rest of Maddie's mouth appears to be flesh-colored like her face, which isn't noticeable unless one shines a light in there.  Such a paint job doesn't look good up close, but from a distance it looks fine.

Maddie's body is hard plastic all over, and she has a preteen build:  slim with long legs, but with a round torso and a flat chest.
Maddie has seven joints, all of which rotate but do not pivot (neck motion is all but negligible).  That's a bummer (bummeroo), but as mechanized as Maddie is the low level of posing is not a surprise.  Indeed, I was shocked that her wrists can rotate.
Both of 'em!  I don't twist them too much since I don't want to wreck the wires inside, but her wrists do rotate, I assume so that Maddie can hold her creative padd better.  Maddie's hands are even molded to hold on to it better...but she still can't hold it worth a dern.  More on that later.  Anyway, Maddie's hands are cupped, a little like Sasha's are, so they can hold a fingertip if a child wanted.
In this case I'd advise against keeping one's sweaty little fingertip in Maddie's hand, as her right palm has a port in it.
This allows her to interact with her mug, her camera, and her doughnut/bagel/whatever.  I reckon I'll find out what that is when I fire Maddie up.
Maddie's wrists both have molded green bracelets with pink accents.  Her right bracelet has her "yes" and "no" buttons, used for when the activity cards don't want to cooperate.
More important is the left bracelet, which has a port underneath the daisy.
The daisy hinges aside and is bad about falling off, so if you have this doll keep that in mind.  Anyway, this port is where Maddie's creative padd plugs in.
In the commercials Maddie and Ally both held their padd/book in their left hand, but I can't get this to stay in Maddie's hand for the life of me.  The padd even has an indention in the side for Maddie's thumb...
...but it WILL.  NOT.  STAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!!!!  Maddie can hold it in her right hand a little better, but not much better.  I think things might've worked better if the padd had plugged directly into Maddie's hand like her camera and mug and doughnut/bagel/whatever do, but then putting the cards in might've been a pain in the posterior.  I can't see an easy compromise, but either way Maddie can't hold her creative padd worth a dern.

The rest of Maddie's arms are stiff plastic and have no adornments.  Her shoulders go back and forth...
...and it turns out that I was mistaken about the shoulders having no lateral movement.  They do have a little bit.
Maddie's legs are about the same, except that her ankles don't rotate like her wrists do.  Sort of the opposite of a My Twinn doll's static wrists and jointed ankles.
Maddie can't sit very well, but she can balance in a convincing walking position.  Her hips are too tight for much else.
Okay, maybe that walking position isn't so believable, LOL.  Anyway, the sole of Maddie's right foot has a port, which allows her to tell which shoes she's wearing.
Cute idea, but it makes putting her shoes on and taking them off a royal pain.  Better than them constantly falling off, I guess.  As we'll soon see,, Maddie's torso also has several ports that allow her to tell when she's wearing her blouse and her brightly colored jeans.  Like many talkers before, Maddie's belly has the holes for her speaker.
The aforementioned ports are all on Maddie's back.  There's also a port in her shoulder for her blouse...
...another one on her left butt cheek for her jeans...
...and the rest of Maddie's back has a battery compartment, a switch, and a port for the Adventure Ware cartridge.
This plugs in like Maddie's other accessories do, and because it lies flush with her back the blue ribbon is required to pull it out again.  According to the label the cartridge should be locked in before turning on the doll.  There's also a teeny-weeny reset button next to the port for the blouse, in case things go awry, or if the batteries need changing.  Nuts, that means I have to reset this gal after every battery change!
Since she's so mechanized Maddie has a unique body, but at the same time it's an average doll body.  Kinda weird, really.  If Maddie WEREN'T mechanized I'd cloud up and rain on her posing, but she IS mechanized and that interferes with some movement, so I won't gripe.  I'll also note that the hard plastic took to the mold quite well, as Maddie has some nice fingers and toes. 
Maddie's bright outfit is the main reason why I like her better than Ally.  Ally is cute, but Maddie sets my retro-wallpapered heart aflame-a!
Aside from the plugs that insert into the ports, these items would be regular doll clothes, and I'm going to treat them as such.  The hat is your stereotypical artist's beret, made a little less stereotypical by being pink and having a big blue flower on the front.
The fabric is fleece and is kinda thin.  It doesn't have a lining, and it could've done with one.
The beret does little to cover Maddie's mouse nest hair, but it does hold her bangs flat so that's something.
Maddie's blouse is made of flowered velour, and as warm as it's been lately, just looking at the danged thing makes me sweat.
The background is sky blue, and the flowers are big and multicolored, kinda like the "clouds" at Bikini Bottom.
This Velcros down the back, and the Velcro does a lovely job of further tangling Maddie's hair.
Luckily Maddie's hair usually doesn't make contact with her blouse, because she wears a puffy pink vest over the blouse.
This is...well, puffy and pink, and the material feels like vinyl or pleather, neither of which age well.  I like the textural contrast though, between the smooth vest and the fuzzy blouse.  Unlike the hat and blouse, the vest is lined.
The right bottom edge of the vest has Maddie's name in big letters.
Maddie's blue jeans are dark wash and loosely cut, like bell bottoms.  To my great delight they did NOT stain Maddie's body.
The jeans have belt loops, pockets, and a fly.  These are not real, but they're not printed or painted either, like modern doll clothes might have.
The cuffs are adorned with brightly colored ribbon, and the right leg has an embroidered butterfly.
The back of the jeans are plain, except for a tag with "MADDIE" on it.  Oh yes, and a strip of Velcro.
Lastly, shoes.  Maddie wears brown vinyl clogs that look like potato shoes.
These are largely plain but do have molded stitches and more butterflies.
These shoes are the only item that gave me any trouble.  The right shoe plugs into Maddie's foot, and when I took the shoe off the plug remained in her foot.  It wasn't a huge deal, nothing a little glue couldn't mend, but it annoyed me.
Lastly, the soles of Maddie's shoes have her name on it, plus another butterfly. 
Kinda a shame that Maddie's name isn't reversed, so that she'd leave her name imprinted in the sand.  When I redressed Maddie I was chagrined but not surprised to see a small rip in her vest.  All the more reason to hate pleather. 
Both Ally and Maddie had extra accessory sets that you could buy, sets that included a new outfit and some handheld odds and ends, all of which would increase the doll's vocabulary.  As noted above, only one of the accessory sets belonged to Maddie, and to my great chagrin Ally and Maddie can't share accessories back and forth (bummeroo, LOL).  My intention was to find Maddie's sole outfit, and indeed eBay has plenty of them, but...well, I got obsessed with American Girl dolls again.  My play group has increased by three with a fourth possibly on the way, much to Maddie's chagrin.  Now you play nice, Missy, or I'll toss you back on eBay!!!  Anyway, my intention is to get both that outfit and some batteries and try to film this doll in action.  But since I don't have the other outfit or batteries, I grabbed a My Life number at Wal-Mart to see how it looked.
Not bad for a little hippie!  It's good to know that Maddie can wear at least some of these pieces, because My Life has some super-cute Halloween costumes this year.  I already have the deer costume...but I'm intending on having Reagan wear that.  I haven't tried any of the shoes yet.

Normally this is where I'd insert a good/bad segment and wrap it up, but with a doll as technical as Maddie it's not that simple.  I want to get some batteries and find out if her mechanisms are as tricky to deal with IRL as they are on the YouTube videos.  As an ordinary doll Maddie is pretty average, especially with that hair, but...well, we'll all just have to wait and see.  Giving this doll a proper examination may take more than just an evening here, an evening there.  But I WILL get it done!  Y'all keep your eyes peeled.

Love and pumpkin spice,

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