Friday, September 20, 2013

A look at Bianca & other new Cutie Pops for Fall 2013

Cutie Pops have disappeared from my local Walmart and Target, but I'm guessing new dolls will show up before the holiday shopping season is in full swing. When I say disappeared I mean completely gone, not a trace! The dolls and their dogs, outfits, hair & eye packs, pop packs, everything was marked down this summer. They were either bought up or sent back to a warehouse sometime in late August. For now, at least where I live, Cutie Pops can only be found at Toys R Us.

Fashion Pups

Coletta and Dalia make up the Fashion Pups wave, each doll comes with two dogs. They've been at TRU for a few weeks now. I'd like to show a promotional photo but I can't find one on the official website or Facebook page, even though the dolls are already in stores. Weird. The best I can offer is a misleading cartoon drawing:

In reality the production Dalia is barely tan, she doesn't look anything at all like the teaser image from Jada Toys. This is disappointing to say the least. It makes me wonder what prompted the change. I won't even bother talking about using blue eyes for both dolls, regardless of vinyl color, except to say it's disappointing too.

You can see Dalia and Coletta for yourself by following this link to the Cutie Club Tumblr page: (large image) and (tumblr post).

I'm a little surprised Jada Toys went with dogs again. In case you forgot, when the Cutie Pops first rolled out last year we could buy large dogs ($10) as a pet for each girl in the first wave:

1st wave Starr and Candi with a 1st wave pup

The decision to offer dogs again would be easy to understand if Jada Toys simply used the same dog molds (cost effective!), but Coletta and Dalia have new dalmations and poodles. Oh well. 

At $25 (TRU price) they're on the expensive side of playline dolls. Dalia is cute but not $25 cute. I'd be very tempted to buy Dalia once she hit a decent sale if she came with cats instead of dogs.

Got Hattitude?

Fortunately there is an affordable budget line, the Hattitude girls are $10 and I think they're adorable. Dumb name but cute dolls. According to the Cutie Pops website this wave was called Bear-y Cute before the dolls hit production, which makes sense. There are three dolls in this wave, each one has a different bear hat (which is more like a headband): panda bear Bianca, koala bear Sydney, and brown bear Dakota.

Back of Bianca's box

I have an affection for panda bears and the $10 price made it feel like I was buying a doll on sale so Bianca came home with me.

For $10 you might expect the doll to be wearing a simple cheap dress and basic shoes (see "Liv for Color," the sad swan song for Liv dolls) but I'm impressed with the Hattitude outfits. 

Pockets for her hands! So cute!

This is not a fancy outfit with separate pieces, but it's cute for the price, especially when you consider how much the bear headband probably factors into the manufacturing cost. This doll does not shout BUDGET so congrats to Jada Toys for pulling that off.

I wish more toy companies realized they can keep things affordable if they don't clutter up the box with plastic that is usually tossed in a box never to be seen again. (OK, it seems like most toy companies include 20 cents worth of plastic extras to justify charging $15 instead of $10.) I care more about the price than how much plastic junk is tacked to the cardboard. The last thing I need is yet another doll comb or molded plastic bag so I don't mind at all extra junk isn't included with Bianca. You don't get a second set of eyes or a bunch of pops with the Hattitude girls, but it's a $10 doll and I think the price is more than fair.

Biance with a pink hair piece (from a 2012 hair & eye pack)
You can put a bow on the hair piece but it kinda clashes with the bow already in the ear.

As you can see, the Hattitude name isn't exactly accurate. This is a headband, not a hat. 

It doesn't bother me, I don't display my dolls facing the wall. However, I can understand why this might frustrate some people. 

Here is Bianca without her panda hat, er headband. She comes with a single black ponytail hair piece, which can be swapped out for hair from another Cutie Pop doll or hair pack. 

She does not come with a bow for the hair piece, but these can be borrowed from other Cutie Pops as well.

Bianca with 1st wave dolls Chiffon and Candi (Candi is wearing Starr's outfit)
When I first saw Bianca in the store she didn't look much different than the other two Hattitude girls. Sydney the redhead has the lightest vinyl "skin" but Dakota and Bianca are only slightly tanner. Now that she's out of the box in natural sunlight I am surprised to see how similar Bianca looks to Candi, the darkest Cutie Pop. I think that's because this is how I think of Candi in my mind (wishful thinking):

Photoshop alert! Not true to actual vinyl colors.
I manipulated this photo in Photoshop to darken the vinyl used for both Bianca and Candi. I wish Jada Toys would make a doll that matches my vision of Candi! It'd be nice to see more diversity instead of playing it safe. It would also help if more Cutie Pops came with brown or hazel eyes instead of blue or green. (Hattitude Dakota does have brown eyes, I think she's the first!)

Crown Cuties

I'm looking forward to seeing Crystalina in person, she's the blue haired girl in the Crown Cuties wave. These two dolls emphasize hair play, if you look online for more promo photos you'll see various hairstyles that are possible with the included hair pieces.

Crown Cuties promotional photos

You can buy these dolls on for $17, the website says they're only available online. I hope this changes soon because I prefer to buy dolls in person to avoid factory defects. 

I still have hope that Jada Toys will eventually introduce new bodies, with articulated elbows and wrists. Real doll hair without a trace of plastic molded hair would be a welcome change as well, this would probably help the dolls appeal to older girls. When I first saw a small photo of blue haired Crystalina I thought she didn't have any molded hair, but no such luck. At least Jada Toys changed up how the plastic bangs are styled (molded) on some of the new dolls like Crystalina and Dalia.

I'd also like to see more fashion packs, but if they keep offering $10 budget dolls with cute outfits that's a decent alternative. It's actually a lot cheaper to buy a $10 doll than the fashion pack plus its matching hair & eye pack, although you do get a better outfit (and more pops/eyes) in the packs. 

2012 "Day in the Park" fashion pack
2012 "Day in the Park" hair and eyes pack
The fashions were around $9 and the hair & eye packs were around $7, so it cost approx $16 to get an outfit with matching hair and eyes (two sets, open and closed) and several theme pops. Prices varied by store, I think TRU charged $2 more than Walmart for the same pack.

Fewer pops and eyes but only $10 -- and you get a doll

When I first saw this image on the back of Bianca's box I thought "Oh cool, there's a froggy girl too?" Ha! Nah, it's just Sydney with her koala hat, the green ears tricked me.

I first reviewed the Cutie Pops last September and I wonder if there will be new Cutie Pops to review in September 2014. Do kids like these dolls? They haven't been a big hit with adult collectors, I realize I'm in the minority for liking them so much.

I now have four Cutie Pop dolls (Starr, Candi, Chiffon, and Bianca) and I keep thinking I should hold out for better bodies and less plastic hair... but I'm tempted to go buy Dakota tomorrow! She's only $10 plus I have a 20% off TRU coupon... so tempting. :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Novi Monster High-brids

I posted Part 1 a couple days ago, you can read that first if you'd like. In a nutshell:

  • Novi Stars might be cancelled if sales don't pick up.
  • I bought robot-alien Mae Tallick to put her head on a Monster High body.
  • Then I learned Mae "won't work" as a hybrid head donor due to the voice box in her robot head. 
  • I decided to open up Mae's head anyway and see if I could make it work.

Spoiler alert:

After buying Mae Tallick I googled for hybrid tutorials and quickly learned Mae is not a good candidate for a body swap due to the voice box in her head. Oops! This is what you see once her head pops off:


The other Novi dolls don't have a barrier preventing access to the inside of their heads. Most neck knobs I tried DO fit in this cavity, but they can't be pushed up further inside the head, so on certain bodies the neck looks unnaturally long. 

Here's an example of Mae's head on a Monster High body:

apple neck (pre-surgery)

OK, Mae Tallick is an alien, maybe aliens have long lumpy necks, who can say? I think it looks like she swallowed an apple and it stuck in her throat, so I'll refer to it as apple neck in this tutorial. 

If you don't mind Mae's apple neck then you don't have to open up Mae's head! Her head pops off the original robot body with very little effort, so remove her head and then place her head on a Monster High body. Pop off, pop on, couldn't be easier. I'm using the Blob Girl's body from the Ice & Blob Girl Create-a-Monster pack but you can use any Monster High body, CAM or regular. 

Here she is on the same Monster High body post-surgery, no more apple neck:

I put the Monster High roller skates on Mae because her original robot body has molded on roller skates. Now her wheels work. :) 

Keep reading to learn how to perform the head surgery.


"I don't have Mae, what if I want to make a hybrid doll using a different Novi head?"

Heat the heads with a heating pad or hair dryer (be sure to protect the hair) and then adjust how much neck is visible by moving the Monster High neck knob inside the Novi head. You want to move the neck until the 'stuck apple' is hidden just inside the head, that looks the most natural. It feels and looks right, you'll know when it's in the correct position.

Here's a video showing this simple process, made by MyDollsareMyModels -- he's the collector who first posted his Novi-Monster hybrids on Flickr and inspired many people to do the same: -- The tutorial video will open in a new window, I can't embed it due to Blogger being fussy.

In the video he recommends heating the Novi head longer if you can't get the neck knob through the smaller second hole inside the head. Other customizers say they heat the head and then, while the vinyl is still soft, use a big knitting needle (or similar object) to temporarily open up the smaller hole so the neck knob will pass through it.


"I have Mae and don't want the apple neck, how do I fix it?"

Warning: This surgery will remove (and possibly destroy) Mae's voice box. If you don't want to lose her voice then skip to the next section.

In this section I will show how to make Mae's head fit on a Monster High body. It doesn't matter if you want to use a Create-A-Monster body or a regular Monster High body. If you use a regular body you'll need to remove the ghoul's head with a heating pad or hair dryer. Watch this video (it's the same one linked in the previous section), he shows how to remove Spectra's head with a heating pad. You can also dunk the Monster High head in a mug of very hot water. 

Mae's head does not require heat (and definitely not water! No water!) to remove. Give it a tug and it will pop right off her robot body.

Now, on to the simple head surgery. This is rather easy but kids should ask an adult to do it for them.

Click on a photo to make it bigger.

8-Bit says, "Use a regular Phillips screwdriver."

1) Remove the two recessed screws and the battery pack screw in the middle. I recommend you remove the batteries. Be careful, Mae's ears will fall off their pegs when her head is open. Remove the heart-shaped ear pieces and put them in a safe place with the screws. 

2) Set the front half of the head aside, you won't change anything about it -- unless you want to change the eyes. 

3) Remove the neck hole barrier piece, it slides out easily. You can see I was living dangerously and hadn't removed the ear pieces yet. Do this ASAP, they are tiny and would be easy to lose without you noticing when and where they fell off.

4) Remove the voice box. The main parts will slide out but you'll see two wires connected to metal tabs hiding behind plastic (I took this photo after the wires had been removed). Remove the plastic circular piece in the middle, it lifts off.

5) Now you can see the metal tabs (I took this photo after the wires had been removed). The two wires will need to be pulled off the metal tabs at the solder points. A firm tug will do it. 

6) I sanded the U-shaped opening in the circular plastic piece just a bit. I was afraid of doing it too much and then having to fix it. You might be able to improve Mae's up-down head mobility by experimenting with the size of this opening, but I can't promise anything. (Her head twists sideways just fine.) I'm happy with her as she is right now so at this point I won't open her head again to experiment.

7) Place the neck inside the head as shown, the neck knob will be cradled in the U-shaped opening. Return Mae's ears to the pegs and then put the face plate on. 

8) Screw the two sides back together and you're done! This is an extreme angle shot from Mae's feet. You won't see this square opening when she's on display, unless you're trying to look up her skirt.

Mae with her pet 8-Bit, post-surgery


"I have Mae and don't want to perform surgery on her, but I don't like the apple neck!"

If you want to keep the voice box but you don't like the apple neck then you will need to find a donor body with a short neck. This means Monster High bodies won't work for you.

The size of the neck knob isn't too important -- if it's too small you can build it up with tape, if it's too big you can file it down. 

If surgery doesn't appeal to you then I think Mae's head as-is out of the box looks best (among the spare bodies I have on hand) on a Moxie Girlz body, thanks to its short neck. 

Moxie Girl

Last year I cut up a Moxie Girl to use with Monster High CAM limbs, so this gives me the shorter neck of a Moxie Girl with the limbs of a MH doll -- just what Mae needs. 

We'll get back to the Moxie Girlz later, I'll discuss these bodies in order of the line-up photo below:

Some body options for Novi Stars heads

A - Polly Pocket (pointy neck knob)
B - Polly Pocket (rounded neck knob)
C - Littlest Pet Shop Blythe
D - Kelly clone (Barbie's toddler sister, before Chelsea era)
E - Mae Tallick Novi Star
F - Bratz, articulated
G - Moxie Girlz torso with Monster High limbs
H - Monster High (Blob Girl) 

How does Mae's head fit on these bodies?

small body options - click pic to make huge

A & B - Polly Pocket: No photos because Mae's head doesn't fit at all. The neck knobs are too small, but they could be built up with tape or epoxy. Athletic tape works great.


C - LPS Blythe: As you can see in the line-up photo above, Blythe's neck knob is just about the same size as the knob on Mae's original robot body. So as you might expect, her head fits great on Blythe's body! 

It does look a little silly but at the same time I think it's cute. Silly-cute. :)

Blythe looks skeptical. As usual.

Imagine this body painted to match Mae's head.

Blythe's head pops off with a strong tug, there's no need to warm it up first.


D - Kelly clone: Mae's head fits great. It reminds me of this photo -- click that to see weirdly adorable panda and cat hybrids made with painted Kelly bodies and LPS pet heads.


E - Mae's original robot body obviously fits perfectly, no photo.


regular size body options - click pic to make huge

- Bratz (articulated): The end result is not perfect but it works for display purposes. Painting the neck to match the head would make it look even better. The length might not bother you, especially if you have a shirt or jacket that helps hide the neck length, like the collar on this vest.

Notice when I pull the collar off the neck the length is more noticeable:

You can see a little separation between the head and neck where the neck knob narrows but this isn't obvious when the doll is on display -- this is like all minor flaws that melt away when you're admiring dolls on display and not examining a doll in a photograph. I think you might be able to hide this gap inside the head if you file off say the top half of the neck knob, but that's an experiment I'll leave to someone else.


G - Moxie Girlz: This is a Moxie Girl torso with Monster High arms and legs (instructions here). Of course you can use an unmodified Moxie Girl body. 

The Moxie neck length is great. Mae's head fits on the neck knob but the knob is wobbly so I wrapped two tiny clear elastics (package of 100+ purchased at the dollar store) around the knob to stabilize it. 

The weight of the wig pulls her head back on this neck
2 mini hair elastics wrapped around neck knob base

The clear rubber bands will be visible from lower angles, especially if you know to look for them. If you want to make this a dedicated body for Mae you could stabilize the neck knob with something like air dry clay or epoxy and then paint the new body (at least the neck and upper chest) to match her head. 

Another option would be the same experiment I suggested with the Bratz body: I think that making the neck knob smaller (file off the top half) would allow you to hide the gap inside the head, where it belongs. No guarantees, I haven't tried it myself! 


H - Monster High: The fit on the neck knob is great but the exposed neck is too long and it looks like Mae has an apple stuck in her throat. Scroll back if you skipped the photos at the beginning of this post to see the apple neck. This can be fixed by altering Mae's head (which requires removing the voice box, instructions in this post), and it's not a problem for the other Novi Stars.


You may have a body in your collection that works better, please leave a comment if you have a suggestion. I recommend trying a neck that looks short even after the head is removed. 

Be careful when removing heads, just yanking them off could tear the vinyl and ruin the head or neck knob. The safest method requires a heating pad to soften the vinyl, this is shown in the tutorial video I linked to earlier in this post. OK, here it is again: (video by MyDollsAreMyModels, not me)

A++, would try again

I like the Novi-Monster hybrid so much, it's tempting to buy a Novi Star at TRU for $15 so Mae will have an alien friend -- but I'll hold strong! TRU will someday put them on sale and I saw a report on Tumblr yesterday confirming a 2013 Novi Star was spotted at Ross (overstock discount store). They'll eventually show up at thrift stores for $1-$3 too. 

If Mae turns up at the Goodwill then I'll experiment with spray painting her head, I saw a custom silver Mae on Tumblr so I already know it looks great. She'd be easy to spray paint because her head is hard plastic, her removable wig means there's no hair in the way, and you can open her head to remove the eyes -- no masking required. You can even change her ears since they're removable too. I think this makes Mae the ideal Novi head to customize so if I find one then I'll definitely buy another Mae at the thrift shop.

Update: I went to Ross today and they had one Novi Star in stock, the Beach Orbit Una Verse for $7.50. This is the only doll in the beach wave I want (LOVE her hat and hair style) so I was OK with spending 3 bucks more for her than I spent on Mae at Target. Not ideal but still a good discount. I'll pass on any other first wave or beach dolls at that price, but I'd seriously consider a few of the 2013 Novis for $7.50. Ross hasn't seen the last of me yet!