This impulse purchase is worth a full review. I just wish I had taken a full photo in the box before I opened her.
I don’t know anything about Project MCSquared (well, I can’t do superscript, and MC2 looks stupid!), but I’m assuming it’s a television program. Or possibly web-based programming? The packaging does direct you towards YouTube, but I’m not sure if that’s just for clips or what. Anyway, I’m just going to go off the doll and packaging, on the (hopefully not too naive) assumption that they’re a fair reflection of the product they tie in with.
What we have here is a doll line that encourages girls to be smart, study science and math, and to be proud of their intelligence, all while assuring them that pursuing these intellectual goals will not rob them of the prettiness that society has drilled into their heads that girls “need” to get by. There’s a word for that: win.
I mean, for the message alone, we need to support this doll line, you know? On top of that, this is a really nice doll.
So, let’s start with the first thing you notice when you’re looking at the doll. There’s a human face on the front of the package. (I assume that’s the actress who plays the character on the show.) The dolls have individualized face molds to try to look like their actresses, but…
…it’s not a very good likeness. Maybe if they had a different photo of the actress, with a smaller smile, one more like the one on the doll, the likeness would seem stronger–the nose does seem about right–but as it stands, the doll and that photo don’t really match up, facially. (This may be intentional; if there is no actual resemblance between doll and actress, then the doll’s face mold can be re-used for later doll lines, without the need to compensate the actress for the use of her likeness.) Of course, the lack of resemblance can only be a problem to fans of the program who are disappointed not to have their favorite character well recreated (or to the actresses themselves), so I’ll move on.
This doll is burdened with the unlikely name McKeyla McAlister. She’s about Barbie height, but of more naturalistic human proportions, below the neck anyway. Her hips are wider than Barbie’s, and her chest smaller, so she can’t really share any of Barbie’s clothes. (I tried putting a jumper on her, and it looked awful; it was so tight in the hips that it wouldn’t go down any further past a certain point, and it was bagging out every which way above that, including up, in that the straps weren’t even touching her shoulders. Though that was a very old jumper; newer clothes might fit her better, depending on which Barbie body shape they were intended for.) The four dolls in this series come in two versions, a cheap version ($15 at Target) and a less cheap version ($25 at Target) that has extra stuff with it. The less cheap version has nicer clothes, and is fully jointed, whereas the cheap version does not have joints at the knees and elbows. In the case of McKeyla’s nicer clothes, the faux leather sleeves worry me; faux leather can age very, very badly.
I picked McKeyla over the copper-haired Camryn Coyle because I was charmed by her freckles. 😀 Freckles are sadly rare in dolls these days. Her face paint is very subtle, without the heavy make-up sported by a certain other MGA doll line…
The T-shirt under the jacket. Is that the cutest T-shirt or what? An owl–symbol of wisdom at least since the 5th century BC–wearing bright red glasses. (Y’know, I bet she’d get on well with Ghoulia Yelps…) I love that T-shirt. What I don’t love is her shorts. Or rather, those denim underpants. My god, those things are indecent! Maybe I’m just an old prude, but they’re so short that I didn’t feel it was right for her to sit in them. (Fortunately, despite what I said earlier about her not being able to wear Barbie clothes, I was able to find a pair of Barbie slacks that basically fit her.) Um, getting back on the topic of the doll and moving away from my prudish side, I found her joints to be very loose, particularly in the elbows, but I’m not sure if that’s the case for all of these dolls, or just this one. (I have no basis of comparison yet.) Her hands pop off, like on a Monster High doll, to allow you to remove her jacket, but it’s a bit harder to get them back on again.
Her ring looks like a Scrabble tile with half of the Theory of Relativity on it. Is there any part of that sentence not to love? (Though one wonders how you’d play Scrabble with tiles like that…)
Her boots don’t quite fit properly when she’s wearing her socks, but I love the fact that they’re eminently practical. No stupid high-heels here. (As much as I love Monster High, I have to call the high-heeled running shoes and roller skates stupid. Hilarious, but stupid.) Also, I like the fact that they went to the effort of making her shoelaces a different color than the rest of the shoes; frequently, they don’t bother painting on any details, and the laces are the same color as the rest of the shoe. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case on the cheaper version of these dolls, in fact.) Two things I noticed when I took her boots off were that her “socks” are actually leg warmers, and that her feet are enormous. I actually had trouble getting them through the legs of some of the pants I tried on from other doll lines.
And since we’re on the subject of accessories, let’s look at the other accessories she comes with. A comb shaped like a beaker, a plastic backpack that doesn’t quite hold the composition notebook that does hold the little red tablet(?) with the show’s logo on it. There’s also the red DIY lava lamp, for which there are instructions on the back of her box. (Involving vegetable oil and an “effervescent tablet” which would mean, what, Alka-selzer, I guess?) The comb is a cute idea, and the backpack and composition notebook should make nice props for photoshoots. Oh, and I’m sure they’ll be fun for kids to play with. (Yeah, okay, so I approach toys from an adult mindset. It’s hard to remember what it was like to be a kid; it was too long ago.)
Now, one of my first thoughts on seeing these dolls was “Wow, they look like Moxie Girlz Teenz!” So, let’s get some comparison shots up here and see how right or wrong my first thoughts were.
Well, obviously, I wasn’t wrong. There’s a lot of influence there. And although you can’t see the joints because I put her jacket back on and gave her pants to replace those denim undies, the joint structure of the two doll lines is similar, but not identical. The body shape is not the same, though. McKeyla’s body shape implies a younger individual–I’m guessing she’s supposed to be maybe fifteen or sixteen at most, though probably younger–and the Moxie Girlz Teenz would seem to be more like eighteen. So in addition to being larger in scale, the MGT have all around fuller bodies, not just in the breasts, but also in the legs, and even in the arms. (As you may have noticed in the shots without her jacket, McKeyla has very scrawny arms.)
While it’s plain that the MGT face, scaled down, was the starting point when they were making the faces for this new line, the fact that they were trying to create dolls to match (however ineffectively) living people forced them to do something that otherwise seems to be anathema to MGA: create multiple facial molds for the same doll line. Each of the four dolls in this line has a unique face, unlike the MGT line, who all have the exact same face. Could the faces have used more tweaking, to make them more unique? Yes, definitely. But they’re still distinct enough that you wouldn’t mistake them for each other, which is a big step up.
Now, to round out the review, let me quote the character’s self-description from the back of the box:
The name’s McKeyla McAlister–writer, hipster, undercover spy, ya know, just like every other teenage girl.
When I’m not journaling, I’m probably reading a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel (he’s so boss), performing magic tricks, or trying to save the world.
I’m SMART–get over it!
While I’m not sure Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would want to be described as “boss” even after he had it explained to him (as a proper Victorian gent, being admired by teenage girls would make him nervous, after all!), anything encouraging teenage girls to read literature instead of Twilight or whatever ought to be seen as a good thing. This certainly seems like a much better and more interesting message for young girls than Barbie starting yet another rock band. (Seriously, how many bands has Barbie had? I mean, there must have been three of them just in the 1980s alone…)
Anyway, now that I’ve reviewed the doll, I want to get out my soapbox for a moment. What follows is pure opinion, and possibly slightly disjointed; I apologize if I give any offense, because that’s not my intention. Looking at this line, as it was squeezed into a tiny portion of the aisle that Bratz stole from Monster High (me, bitter? never!), I couldn’t help but feel two things. One, that the line had been given the space without any particular confidence, just as a favor to MGA in their big moment of the triumphant re-return of Bratz. And two, that they were really holding themselves back by continually falling back on Bratz.
This line proves that MGA is capable of much bigger and better things than Bratz. When I saw the new line of Bratz dolls, my only thoughts were “yep, those are Bratz all right” and “nope, no Bratzillaz.” There was no need to pay attention, because the dolls were the same as they had been before in all key respects. I’m sure there are changes that Bratz aficionados noticed right away, but for people like myself, with whom Bratz never really clicked, it’s just the same old tired thing it was before; a line of dolls who all have the same face and wear too much make-up. Once upon a time, Barbies all had the same face, it’s true, but that time is long past, and now if you walk down the Barbie aisle, you see lots of faces. Monster High characters all have unique faces, and have right from the start. Mattel’s Disney Princess dolls have their own unique faces, and the Disney Fairy dolls from Jakks Pacific have their own unique faces, too. Ever After High is afflicted with MGA’s “same face” disease, but other than that, most of MGA’s major competition has moved on into the age of unique faces.
MGA doesn’t need Bratz, financially, I’m sure. They’ve got Lalaloopsy supporting the company now, and that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Of course, they do have to do whatever the consumers want; that’s what a company’s supposed to do. So maybe they’ve been getting tons of mail/e-mail/what-have-you, begging for a restoration of Bratz. And I do understand that for them to totally abandon Bratz would be like Mattel abandoning Barbie, because Bratz was what made MGA in the first place.
But I don’t think this re-relaunch of Bratz is going to last, no matter how big a deal they’ve made of it. The line has not kept up with the times. I mean, okay, maybe they’ve tried to update the clothes to keep up with current fashion trends. (I didn’t pay that close attention. And I don’t really know anything about current fashion trends anyway.) But they still all have the same face, and it’s the same face they had back in 1999 or whenever (2000?), when they were first introduced, and I just don’t think that’s still going to fly, not the way it used to.
Keep in mind, the last time Bratz disappeared off the shelves, I’m pretty sure it was because they’d lost their viability in the modern market. And that wasn’t too long ago. What’s supposed to have changed so much about this re-launch to have given them new viability?
Instead of wasting time and money on Bratz, MGA should be putting more time and money on really quality lines like MCSquared here, which is not only a better line of dolls, but also has a better message for the children it’s aimed at. I mean, sure, Bratz standees say “Be you!” but how unique can the dolls really encourage you to be when they all have the same face? Below that surface claim of individuality, the message of Bratz is just that: surface. It’s all about looks, about fashion and make-up and how you look. But MCSquared is about who you are underneath all that, which is a better message. (Not, perhaps, a very easily marketed message for a line of fashion dolls, I’ll grant, but a better one none the less.)