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!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Novi Stars on the brink of extinction?

When I first saw MGA's Novi Stars last year I thought they were cute but they looked more like figurines than dolls. However, these aren't your grandma's Precious Memories figurines.

Novi Stars promo photo, first wave

The Novi aliens are short with poor articulation and hard plastic bodies, so in my eyes there isn't much doll there. I also didn't think they were worth $20, the original price. This regular retail price eventually dropped down to $15 everywhere, but many parents and collectors still think that's on the high side for what you get.

There was a rumor going around a few days ago that Novi Stars were cancelled. Then a somewhat vague response to the outcry from fans was posted on the official NS Facebook page. You can read the rumor and official public response for yourself.

The good people at did some investigating and their source on the NS team gave them some great scoop:

It was confirmed that at the moment, there definitely will not be any new Novi Stars products for spring 2014, but that the fall 2013 line is still going to store shelves (Many of the new dolls have actually been out for a little while now!) and it was also made clear to us that Novi as a whole is not “cancelled” or “discontinued” just yet, and that if sales pick up dramatically this fall, it’s VERY likely that we’ll see more from them in the future! Our cosmic pal also added  that “Things change from week to week or even day to day [at MGA]. Hardly anything is ever set in stone.” and reminded us that “It’s all about sales numbers. If people don’t buy, stores don’t order new product. They won’t take a risk on something with a small interest group." 

Follow this link to read the entire post about this subject on Bookmark that site and check their blog for updates.

About that "small interest group"

From what I've seen, the Novi Stars line has not developed a strong following online where teen and adult doll collectors hang out, which is message forums, blogs, and photo sharing sites like Flickr and Tumblr.

I've also seen very little enthusiasm online for Cutie Pops and La Dee Da, two other lines that were new in stores last year. I was curious to see if the big head doll collectors (Blythe, Pullip) would like them but the general response was "oh, cute" -- not negative but fairly lukewarm. They'd rather spend $200 on a new Blythe I guess. There aren't enough adult doll collectors to save a toy line though. 

Maybe La Dee Da and Cutie Pops are popular with young children so sales satisfy their manufacturers, but it doesn't seem like they're strong sellers where I live. 

I'm definitely not pro-Facebook but a lot of young people are so I think this says a lot:

Facebook fans, as of 08/19/13

Hello Kitty:  13,617,908 likes
Barbie:        8,096,325 likes
Monster High:  1,633,679 likes
Bratz:           882,609 likes
My Little Pony:  400,313 likes
Str. Shortcake:  287,141 likes
Novi Stars:       16,369 likes
Cutie Pops:        4,110 likes
Liv:               3,668 likes (discontinued 2012)
La Dee Da:         2,942 likes

To sum up: A "like" indicates a Facebook user went to the official doll's FB page and clicked the LIKE button, which means all their friends can see they like this doll on their profile page. You can only click LIKE on a page once so there's no ballot box stuffing going on. Think of it as a look at the fan numbers of any product/musician/movie/TV show/etc -- on Facebook.

The dolls introduced last year (Novi Stars, Cutie Pops, La Dee Da) are at a disadvantage due to how long they've been on the market, so you can compare them to each other to gauge how popular they are with FB users. Also, I believe Facebook requires users to be 13, which doesn't stop some kids, but it does cut out a lot of the target demographic for most toy companies. 

Novi Monster hybrids

Last year I decided to eventually buy a Novi Star after seeing these Novi Stars/Monster High hybrid dolls on Flickr -- it's worth a click to see that photo by Flickr user "My Dolls are My Models;" it's lovely. Check out his hybrid set on Flickr here. I told myself to wait for a really good sale though, because who wants to pay full price for a head? This counts as really good:

Thanks Target

I chose Mae Tallick because she talks, plus she's the only first wave NS with a wig -- and I love dolls with blue hair. Robots are also very cool.

Notice 8-bit, her cute pet

I won't bother reviewing the actual doll, except to say I'm glad I didn't pay $10+ for it. Under $5 is a really good deal but it's hard to say where good deal turns into just right. Would $10-$12 retail be OK? That's fair, especially since a pet is included -- the small Bratzillaz pets alone are around $6, which is ridiculous. But 10 bucks is still more than I want to pay for a head. Ross sells last season's toys at a discount so I expect these first wave dolls will show up there for around $8 maybe? 

Some of the 2013 Novi Stars are worth $10, maybe even regular retail (I want to see them in person first), but they're not showing up everywhere, and they're definitely not in my area. We didn't even get the Orbit Beach dolls from earlier this year. I've read a lot of complaints from collectors saying they haven't been able to find the 2013 dolls yet. All traces of Novi Stars (and Cutie Pops) are gone from my Walmart and Target, I don't know if they plan to bring in the new dolls. TRU is still selling the first wave for $15 -- sigh. 

skeleton legs!

Above are promotional photos of three 2013 Novi Stars I'd like to find on sale. There are several more 2013 NS dolls not shown here, including a cyclops alien and one with multiple arms. You can find them with a google image search.

The Hybridization of Mae

There was one problem with my original plan. After bringing Mae Tallick home I looked up hybrid tutorials and learned from MyDollsareMyModels that Mae's hard robot head means she can't do a body swap. Apparently the other aliens are fine because they have regular vinyl heads.


So I grabbed a screwdriver and opened up Mae's head. I took a ton of photos and will edit them over the next day or two. Soon I'll post my own tutorial on how you can put hard headed Mae on several different body types, including Monster High.

You'll see photos of Mae on bodies she borrowed from LPS Blythe, Kelly,  Bratz, Moxie Girlz, and Monster High! The results range from silly to awesome, check back soon. :)

P.S. MGA also makes Bratz, Bratzillaz, Moxie Teenz, and Moxie Girlz, so going with Stars instead of Starz is worthy of applause. Thanks MGA. You know it was just killing them not to use that Z. ;)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Monster High CAMs

CAM = Create-a-Monster

Blobbie shows off her torso and upper limbs, Skelly and Bee are jealous

 First, I'll point you to if you want to read up on all the CAM dolls and see stock promotional photographs. The information there is thorough and accurate so I won't repeat most of it here.

I really like some of the single CAMs, like skeleton and bee girl, but the lack of a torso and upper limbs (thighs and upper arms) in these add-on packs is a downer. Last year Mattel sold torso packs via their web store but it didn't take long for them to sell out. If anyone wants to trade away a Mattel torso pack let me know -- as in you send me one and I send you something you want, I don't have any torso packs to trade away! :) I made a few using donor bodies but the real thing is better.

The CAM starter packs are a solid deal, especially after Mattel included two torsos in each starter pack instead of one torso for two dolls to share. That's a perfect example of customers voicing their opinions and Mattel doing something to fix the problem. However, they continued to sell the add-on packs without torsos and upper limbs. I understand the difference between "starter" and "add-on" and the concept behind it all, but I still think it'd be nice to have limbs and torsos that match the parts in the add-on packs.

The starter packs sell for $20 at Walmart and Target (and $27 at TRU, ugh), which is cheaper per doll than the add-on CAMs ($11 Walmart, $15 TRU).

When you consider the $20 starter packs have two torsos ($10 per doll for two complete dolls) and the add-ons have zero torsos ($11 for a half-doll -- actually less than half a doll because she lacks a torso, upper thighs and upper arm pieces!), the $20 starter sets seem like an even better deal.

Blobbie & Icy, here at last

The Blob and Ice Girls starter pack is my favorite CAM starter. I call these two Blobbie and Icy, with affection -- and a remarkable lack of creativity. I love almost everything about these two dolls, even the funny plastic blob wig, which some people hate.

Orange eyes, unusual choice

Icy's legs are faceted like they were carved from ice, they look and feel so satisfying in person.

I also appreciate how unique both dolls are because I don't need another vampire or werecat. (Actully I don't need another doll at all, but whatever.) Monster High's Abbey is a creature from an icy land but her opaque shimmery body isn't like Icy's translucent body. This is a wonderful set and if anyone asked me which CAM pack they should buy I'd recommend this one for sure. These girls are weird and wonderful.

Her nose is too cute!! Great hand sculpts too.

The only thing I don't like is the shoe count. Mattel includes two of everything, including two wigs and two dresses, but only one pair of shoes (and one doll stand). One pair of shoes isn't a deal breaker but it does seem cheap. How much do doll shoes cost to make per pair? It seems like they'd be a lot cheaper than wigs and dresses.

promo photo showing everything in the box (except the one black stand)

I suppose Mattel's theory is customers are more likely to notice there's only one wig or one dress for two dolls and put it back on the shelf. The big pieces make the set seem like an even better value. The fact both dolls share the same pair of shoes is easy to miss in the busy packaging. It'd be interesting to know how much money they make by not including two pairs of shoes. Simple curiosity.

Blobbie looks so sweet to me.

This set was released in late 2012 but I didn't find it in my town until this week. Seriously, 8+ months? Every so often (maybe three times since January) I saw the other starter CAM released at the same time -- the one with the purple wig and plastic green ponytail wig. So that tells me both sets were occasionally showing up, assuming they were boxed together, but Blobbie and Icy were selling out before I got there. You know what this means of course: now they will be in stock and plentiful everywhere I go.

The ghouls switch wigs

The one good thing about the wait is that Walmart had this starter pack on sale for $15! Nice! That makes TRU's $27 price for CAM starters even uglier. TRU can have amazing clearance sales but I have to pay attention to how much stuff costs there compared to elsewhere in town.

Scroll down for more Icy and Blobbie fun, after I discuss the 2013 CAM line.

What's coming in the future for Monster High CAMs? 


Thanks for the torso but you want how much?

Mattel is now shipping two Color Me Creepy CAMs. A third doll comes with the Color Me Creepy design lab but I'm not sure if she's a normal doll or a CAM that can be easily dismantled. I saw these dolls for the first time last week at Target.

The werewolf and sea monster are sold individually (not as a two pack!) with their very own torso and upper limbs, which is awesome, but the price made me do a double take. Mattell's MSRP is $21 ($20.99 to be exact). According to store websites, they are $20 at Walmart and $22 at Target. Per doll. I've been spoiled by the $20 two doll starter packs.

The dresses are cute but they look like simple CAM dresses, these are not special outfits with multiple cloth pieces. Included are two plastic tools to change colors and some plastic cuffs for the arms and legs. Does the color change gimmick (which isn't exactly new, Mattel did something similar in the '60s with color change doll hair and clothing) justify the significantly higher price? Can this be blamed on manufacturing costs?

Another strike against the CMC CAMs are the plastic wigs. A plastic blobby wig works for a blob girl (in my opinion) but I'm not sure it's a good fit for a werewolf. I've seen complaints online about the plastic wigs, I don't think they've been well received. Opinions vary of course. The doll included with the expensive design lab has regular dolly hair.

I don't know if we've seen the last of the $20 two pack starter sets. It makes me happy to see solo CAMs with torsos, that's a huge improvement. I hope the new price is due to the Color Me Creepy gimmick and this won't be the regular price from now on.

promo photo - Color Me Creepy design lab, comes w/ doll, $46

I look at this design lab and just see plastic junk that might be fun to set up and play with once. $46 MSRP? Yikes. Factor in $20 for the doll, would you pay $26 for the rest of it?

Finishing off the Color Me Creepy line are these two fashion packs ($11 MSRP). The yellow dress with black fringe is cute and I like how each pack has two dresses and two pairs of shoes.

This stuff is nice but I'm going to play with Blobbie and Icy and leave the color changing to everyone else.

Summer time and the skating is easy

I bought an Abbey fashion pack last year that hasn't been opened yet and I think the outfit will look cute on Icy. Don't tell Abbey! Poor thing is still wearing a funky Bratz outfit I dressed her up in a long time ago, I'm kinda scared to approach her now.

If I were a serious ice skater I'd want these boots and skirt in human size.

Since Icy got to try on a new outfit (sorry Abbey), Blobbie decided to try on Icy's dress. The fabric print reminds me of Fair Isle sweaters.

Head UP Icy, keep your HEAD UP! Nooooooo...

Icy is lectured on ice skating safety

Right now we don't know if Mattel has plans to continue the CAM line in 2014 and beyond. The sales numbers for the new Color Me Creepy dolls could be considered a test. The price is a huge jump from the add-on packs. Will customers decide the torso and upper limbs are worth an extra ~$9 per doll? (Keep in mind the torso pack Mattel sold last year cost around $7.50 for all five torsos, three of which included matching upper limbs. Most customers never heard about it though since it was only sold for a few months in Mattel's webstore.)

Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for reading my ramblings about prices, it's just the way I think about new dolls in stores: what's a good deal, what could I get if I paid that much for a different doll in another line, will it sell out or go on clearance in 6 months, and so on. :)