Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Little Pony Nite Friends - Princess Twilight Sparkle Review

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle figurine.
The box is entirely salvageable and makes a great display for the figure!
I was very surprised by this one. Who would have thought a nightlight would end up being one of the most quality, screen-accurate, 20%-cooler-est MLP: FiM collectibles to date? Not I. But Hasbro and SpotLite have taught me a valuable lesson about the magic of friendship... or at least about not jumping to conclusions based on a product description. ;)

The sculpt is amazing. It's insanely accurate to Twilight's coronation gown from the episode "Magical Mystery Cure". Everything's there: the layers, the overskirt, the ribbons, the intricately sculpted and painted hoof decorations, even her tiny brooch! After rewatching the episode, I could only point out two trivial details missing from the figure: the brooch isn't white (easily fixed with model paint, if desired), and one ribbon from the back of the collar is absent (had it been included in the sculpt, it would have interfered with the mane, wings, and shoulders). Paint apps are excellent; very clean overall.
MLP: FiM Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle nightlight.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle figure.
MLP: FiM Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle figurine back view.

The stock photos on most retailer websites do this figure very little justice. The actual product, I'm pleased to announce, blew my expectations right out of the water. The material it's cast in is a sturdy vinyl, and many parts of the figure are actually SOLID. The main body is hollow to accommodate the lights inside, but even this doesn't feel fragile. I feel like I could step on this figure and it would emerge unscathed (though I haven't deigned to test it).

From the bottom of her hooves to the tip of her crown, Princess Twilight Sparkle stands at 5 1/2". She's perfectly to scale with regular-sized G4 ponies (aka: "Playful Ponies"), most closely matching the Celestia mold in size.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle nightlight with Princess Celestia figure.

Twilight is battery powered and 100% cord-free. This makes her awesome not just as a nightlight or collector's item, but as a fun, durable toy. :) You're probably wondering what stops her from burning through a new set of batteries on a nightly basis, am I right? Don't fret, the lights will shut off automatically after ten minutes. To turn them off manually, you can also just press the on/off button again.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle figure, lit up.

Speaking of the on/off button... Can you tell where it is? It's hidden in plain sight, but difficult to spot.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle on/off button and decorative ribbon.

Bottom line: This figure is a dream come true for fans who have longed for greater show-accuracy in the MLP: FiM toys. Her price is fair at $16.99 USD, her quality is superb in all areas, and she works well as both a soft nightlight and a toy. I really can't think of any downsides to this one! If you're a fan of Twilight Sparkle, be sure to add her to your collection!
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Nite Friends Princess Twilight Sparkle figurine.

<<Previous post: My Little Pony - Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle Review

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Little Pony - Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle Review

This is certainly the most elaborate pony to come of G4! She lights up, sings, talks, moves her head, blinks her eyes, flaps her wings, and even has wheels subtly placed under each hoof so she can "glide" along. As you can see, Twillight comes with a comb (new mold) and four large barrettes (also new molds). Her crown and necklace are removable, and snapping the crown in place activates a special button that makes her talk.

I could go on for hours with all the little details, but I'll try to make this a comprehensive yet to-the-point review. :)

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle, new in box.
Here she is, NIB. She was super-easy to unbox, I barely had to touch my scissors. Packaging is 100% salvageable, if you wish to hold on to it. Would you believe she actually comes with batteries? =D Four AAs, to be precise... If you're buying this for a child, do yourself a favor and invest in some rechargables. I haven't tested how quickly Twilight goes through a set, but at four a pop, disposable AAs aren't worth it.

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle talk button.My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle tiara and button.
My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle wings star buttons.My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle hoof wheel.
There are 4 actions that trigger Princess Twilight's phrases, sounds, and lights: pressing the button on her cutie mark, snapping her tiara into place, touching the stars on her wings, and rolling her along a surface (or just manually turning the wheel on her back right hoof). Each of these triggers has multiple phrases or sounds associated with it. Twi also has a few unique sayings if you switch her on and do nothing. See my video at end of this review for a full demonstration. :)

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle's size compared with other MLP toys.
Talking Princess Twilight stands at a colossal (especially for My Little Pony!) 14 1/2". Here's a scale comparison with the other common MLP: FiM toy sizes. Twilight's Fashion Style counterpart barely reaches the bottom of her cutie mark, "standard" size ponies don't even reach her knees, and she could practically wear the blind-bag toys as earrings. She even towers (menacingly?) over Talking Princess Cadance and her ilk.

MLP: FiM Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle, close up of glitter design on forehead.
Her glittery details look very nice--not at all tacky! Not an easy look to pull off! The glitter also doesn't seem to be shedding... definitely a bonus.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle detail shot.
It's a shame that her tiara and necklace don't feature any paint details. It's especially odd since most of the tiaras included with Twilight Sparkle toys of smaller (and far cheaper) varieties DO... Considering how important an aspect the Element of Harmony crown is to both Twilight's character and to the show itself, it seems like a real oversight to not at least make the central starburst purple. That said, the sculpts of both the crown and necklace are detailed and quite nice. Alas, some paint (or purple glitter) would have made them perfect.

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle mane rooting.My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle tail.
Her mane and tail are a bit sparse for a toy this big, but this may be a good thing. Too much hair would probably have become entangled in the mechanical parts and damaged them (I speak from an entire childhood of experience with these kinds of toys... >_<;;).

Also worth noting is that the mane is rooted into a section of plastic that moves slightly outward from the head when the hair is tugged. This is most likely to prevent stress on the head-turning mechanism during brushing and styling. An excellent idea that will no doubt extend this toy's life in many a home! I initially thought it might be another lights-and-sounds trigger, but I've been unable to get any reaction from it.

MLP: FiM Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle's eye blinking.
Here's her eye closed (this is as far down as it goes). She "blinks" at various points while singing and talking.

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle close up of hoof decoration sculpt.
Her hoof ornaments are pretty show-accurate; just a bit more elaborate.

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle battery compartment.
Her battery compartment and on/off/demo switch are well-concealed on her underbelly. It's very hard to see either when she's standing. (Note Duracell advertisement. XD)

Front view of MLP: FiM Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle.
Here's a front view... Talking Princess Twilight's sculpt is excellent all around! I'm happy to see that her proportions aren't "Celestia-like". Instead, they match Twilight's appearance in the show quite well!

Offside view of My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle.
...And an offside (non-display/cutie mark side) view. If you look, you can see the little plugs of plastic that conceal areas where screws were necessary.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle toy light up.
Here she is in action, lit up as she sings "Isn't it Amazing?", a new song apparently written exclusively for this toy.

My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle light up feature.
The light effects are very pretty, especially as they silhouette the glitter designs on her wings. The wings glow pale blue, while the horn glows a fiery yellow and magenta.

Finally, here's a video I made demonstrating all of her phrases, sounds, effects, and animatronics.

Bottom line: I truly love this pony. The artistic liberties taken with the character design work well and add to the aesthetic appeal, as far as I'm concerned. She has a few flaws, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a toy that doesn't. For a collector, she makes a lovely centerpiece to a MLP: FiM collection. For a child, buying this one is a no-brainer; I don't know what young fan of MLP wouldn't be delighted to receive this beautiful toy. :)
Close-up of My Little Pony Talking Princess Twilight Sparkle.

<<Previous post: Funko Pop! Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt and Slave Leia Review

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Funko Pop! Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt and Slave Leia Review

Funko Pop! Star Wars Slave Leia and Jabba the Hutt posed with a vintage SW: Return of the Jedi playset.

My love of bobbleheads has officially been renewed! These cuties are numbers #18 (Leia) and #22 (Jabba) in Funko Pop!'s line of Star Wars collectible vinyl bobbleheads. They stand at around 4" tall and look great together. Sadly, there are several instances of paint errors/color bleeding on the two I ordered. Not bad enough to be deal-breakers for me, but a shame nonetheless. In my opinion, their overall adorable factor makes up for these issues.

Jabba the Hutt

Funko Pop! Star Wars Jabba the Hutt with box.
This is arguably the cutest Jabba ever, right down to his drool... and his facial expression is absolutely perfect. :) His sizable girth also sets him apart as the largest figure (and the only one with a proportionate head). The sculpt is fairly detailed, and just right for the cartoony look of the line. Jabba's body is hollow and lightweight, but it doesn't feel "cheap" at all.

Back view of Funko Pop! Jabba the Hutt bobblehead.
Here's a view from behind. As you can see, there are no paint apps in back.

Close-up of Funko Pop! Jabba the Hutt vinyl bobblehead.
Here some paint issues are visible. There's chipping on Jabba's tongue and chin, and a streak of beige paint near the bottom-right of his face.

Slave Leia

Funko Pop! Star Wars Slave Leia with box.
Even as a super-deformed bobble head, Leia still manages to look like the spunky rebel princess we all know and love. She stands with her hands on her hips, defiant and clearly displeased with her current predicament.

The little details are all there: the designs on her signature metal bikini, the intricately braided hair, the jewelry, the collar... In fact, the only thing really missing is her chain, which is a bit unusual considering the instrumental role it plays in RotJ. Perhaps bobblehead Jabba watched the movie ("Spaceballs" style), and thought better of giving her one in the "Funko Pop! Star Wars Universe". (Or perhaps a chain would have just interfered with the spring that makes her head bobble.)

Unlike Jabba (who doesn't need one), Slave Leia includes a circular stand with "Star Wars" printed on the front. There are pegs to keep her in place, and she doesn't fall off of it no matter how many times you set her bobbling. ;)

Funko Pop! Star Wars Slave Leia from behind.
I was pleasantly surprised by the attention to detail. Her hair ornament features a realistic texture that just adds that much more awesomeness to the figure. The rich, metallic-gold paint is also lovely.

Bottom line: These are adorable figurines, and I'm happy to add them to my SW collection. If paint errors really eat at you, though, I'd suggest buying these in store so that you can give them a first-hand examination.

<<Previous post: Monster High: 13 Wishes Walmart Exclusive Gift Set

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Monster High: 13 Wishes Walmart Exclusive DVD Gift Set Review

No worries, I'll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. ;)

The outer packaging for the Walmart Monster High: 13 Wishes DVD gift set with included lunch bag.
Whenever a new toy, game, movie, etc. that interests me is announced, I always scope out any potential retailer exclusives. Monster High in particular churns out exclusives like no brand I've ever seen, so of course I did my research on the "13 Wishes" DVD and Blu-ray release. As it turns out, Walmart once again offers the best deal (in 2012, Walmart's release of "Ghouls Rule!" included a bonus DVD containing webisodes) in the form of this "gift set".

The gift set includes the regular DVD release of the feature film and a thermo-insulated lunch bag featuring artwork of Frankie, Draculaura, Clawdeen, and Abbey in their "Haunt the Casbah" attire. Since the bag is the only exclusive piece in this set, I'll talk about it first.
The Walmart Monster High: 13 Wishes DVD gift set.

The exterior of the lunch bag features a textured vinyl material with a fold-over Velcro closure. There are graphics on the front and back, as well as the Monster High logo on the sides. The bag is surprisingly good quality, and I could see it holding up to a lot of use and abuse. As I'm past my school years and have no children of my own, it's unlikely I'll have the opportunity to test my theory, however. If you're in the same boat as me, or your kids prefer a lunch box,  it would also work as a lovely storage bag for extra MH brushes, clothes, shoes, diaries, and the like.
The Monster High: 13 Wishes lunch bag sold exclusively with the Walmart gift set. (front)The Monster High: 13 Wishes lunch bag sold exclusively with the Walmart gift set. (back)
Front (left) and back (right).

The DVD includes three webisodes that are (at least currently) NOT posted on MH's official website or Youtube channel: "Department of Monster Vehicles", "Royal Pest Sitter", and "Cookie Creeper". There's also an Ever After High teaser, but it doesn't offer anything more than what you can already see in the videos at EAH's website. Though it's not listed as a "special feature", a short preview of the Spring 2014 MH film "Frights, Camera, Action!" is included as well.

One of the coolest bonuses is an advertisement flyer inserted in the DVD case, which gives us a first peak at Viperine Gorgon! She can be seen on the cover of the upcoming Monster High film "Frights, Camera, Action!", alongside Draculaura and Cleo in their new outfits. Clawd's there in a tux, too. :)
Our first peak at Viperine Gorgon! Cleo, Draculaura, and Clawd also sport new looks in this advertisement for Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action! DVD.
There's Viperine on the leftmost; aren't her pink hair-snakes cute? =3 Cleo and Draculaura appear to sport early-Hollywood chic.

I have to say, this has been my favorite of the Monster High specials. The new characters were likable, the old characters had some development (Howleen, Cleo), and the story, though drawn from a classic concept, still felt fairly fresh. I was never bored with it.

There were lots of cameo appearances, including those by Wydowna Spider, Catty Noir, Clawdia Wolf, Invisibilly, and Scarah Screams. Interestingly, there were also a few references to Ever After High... some of which served as vital plot points. This hints that the two series might be more closely intertwined than previously expected.

Very slight spoilers for "13 Wishes":
It's a shame Whisp wasn't made in doll form. :( I also find myself really loving the design of the first "Finder" of Gigi's lamp (a werecat?) in the prologue... Most bizarrely, the film features "Haunt the Casbah" outfits for Cleo and Ghoulia, which are also unavailable as dolls. Cleo's "Skulltimate Roller Maze" design also got the shaft for doll production last year... Poor ghoul. :( It's possible the marketers felt a second Cleo doll being released within the "13 Wishes" line (her first being included with the "Oasis" playset) would be overkill. No rationale for the lack of a "Casbah" Ghoulia, though.

Bottom Line: If you've enjoyed previous MH specials or webisodes, this one should prove a real treat. :) As for the gift set, I'm glad I bought it. The bag is attractive and sturdy, and will make a nice storage for my vast MH brush collection. The gift set only comes with the DVD RELEASE of the film, however. If you're dead-set on getting Blu-ray, you'll have to go without the bag.
This is the textured slipcover of the Monster High: 13 Wishes DVD.

<<Previous post: Once Upon a Zombie - Full Line Review!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Once Upon a Zombie - Full Line Review!

Complete first wave of Once Upon a Zombie dolls! The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White.
From left to right: The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White.

With the Monster High brand controlling the fashion doll market, and the recent addition of fairy-tale based spin-off "Ever After High" to Mattel's stable of cash cows, other companies are doing their best to compete. It seems WowWee has gone for a decidedly eerie middle-ground between monsters and fairy tales. Mind you, many fairy tales come equipped with their own monsters: there are dragons of course, the Big Bad Wolf, the Jabberwocky...

However, most fairy tales don't come with zombies. And I can't think of any with zombie princesses. Which is what makes "Once Upon a Zombie" not only original, but awesomesauce-tastic.
Complete first release of Once Upon a Zombie dolls, NIB.
Full line-up, NIB. The packaging is shaped like tombstones, but don't get too attached... The boxes must face total annihilation if you plan to open them.

There's a story to be had, as well. Apparently a trilogy of illustrated children's books are slated for release alongside the dolls. The premise is intriguing: the various famed fairy tale kingdoms (which apparently all co-exist within the same world) are becoming zombified wastelands, alongside their iconic residents. The cause of the decay must be found and stopped before it consumes the universe. A surprisingly epic tale for a fashion doll line, hmm? I'll be very excited to read the books when they're released. :)

The first dolls in the series are very familiar names: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Belle, and Rapunzel. They all appear to share a head mold, which, while a bit disappointing, is a very common practice amongst fashion doll manufacturers. Each has inset  glass "follow-me" eyes, and they're honestly quite haunting! I found myself engrossed as I studied the amount of detail put into them. Accenting the beautiful eyes are long, rooted eyelashes. The bodies are poseable, with joints at the wrists, elbows, and knees.
Once Upon a Zombie Rapunzel, detail shot of glass eyes.Once Upon a Zombie Rapunzel, detail shot of glass eyes.

All of the initial dolls feature a muted gray skin tone with "stitches" (similar to Frankie Stein of Monster High). The stitches are placed differently on each doll. One complaint I've seen floating around, and that I share as well, is the lack of... well, rotting. I'm not saying these dolls should look "disgusting", per say, but maybe something closer to Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" would have felt more zombie-ish. In fact, art of Zombie Snow White portrays her left arm as being nothing more than exposed bone, while the doll's arm is fully intact. It's a shame this design feature didn't carry through to the product... On a positive note, the bandages and "broken" skin do look very nice.
Close up of Once Upon a Zombie's Sleeping Beauty's hand with bandages.Once Upon a Zombie's Rapunzel (close up of rotting arm).

Another point of interest: many people have expressed confusion over some of the dolls not "looking like the character". To clarify, these dolls are NOT, I repeat, NOT Disney-produced or licensed. They are presented as classic fairy tale characters, not their Disney interpretations. So no, Cinderella did not steal Sleeping Beauty's dress. All the same, Disney's influence CAN indisputably be seen in places, such as Snow White's clothing:
Once Upon a Zombie Snow White.

On the topic of classic fairy tales... Did you know that the original story of "The Little Mermaid" did not offer any name for the titular heroine? "Ariel" was entirely a Disney name choice. Thus, Once Upon a Zombie merely refers to the character only as "Zombie Little Mermaid", though some retailers have taken to calling the doll "Ariel" on their order pages!
Once Upon a Zombie's Little Mermaid. Lots of stitches!

I would like to shake the hand of the designer who made the decision to mostly forgo bright colors in favor of a darker, eerier palette for this line. The skin is a dead, ashen gray, and the clothes are almost jewel-toned. These colors contrast well, and the skin tone makes the spooky eyes pop even more.
Detail shot of Once Upon a Zombie Little Mermaid's eyes.Detail shot of Once Upon a Zombie Sleeping Beauty's eyes, face, and crown.

The hair comes in vibrant, realistic colors, and has a sort of metallic sheen. Some dolls seem to have a bit of dryness and frizz on the ends of their lovely locks, which are otherwise silky and sleek. This is most notable on the end of Rapunzel's braid. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella seem to have escaped this issue entirely.
Once Upon a Zombie Rapunzel has very long hair that is styled neatly in a braid.Once Upon a Zombie Belle at angle with hair displayed.

The clothes are what you would expect; typical princess dresses, only significantly (and intentionally) worse for the wear. The clothes feature jagged hems, holes, and a general "undead going-to-the-ball" look. There are also a few dark accents, such as the yellowed-skull fastenings on some of their gowns. I applaud the designers for not trying to "modernize" or "street-fashion-ize" their clothing in some tacky effort to compete with Monster High. There's quite enough on the market currently to fill that niche, and it's good to see a new series blazing its own path.
Once Upon a Zombie Cinderella dress.Once Upon a Zombie Rapunzel gown.Sleeping Beauty dress and cape.

Accessories are sadly far and few between. You get a doll stand (which is great, but not an accessory, per say), a gothy-cute brush, and whatever accessories the doll happens to be wearing (crowns, mostly). This is a missed opportunity, for sure. Just imagine a magic hand mirror for Snow White, with cracked glass and a grim reflection. Or maybe a withered rose for Belle? Alas, no such luck.
Once Upon a Zombie Rapunzel with hair brush.
The brush does go well with Rapunzel, though.

Oddly, none of these dolls wear shoes. I guess zombies have a hard enough time lurching around without satin pumps? I do find this gives them a more zombie-ish look...

Don't get your hopes up about outfitting them in footwear borrowed from other doll lines, either; I tested Monster High, Ever After High, and Bratzillaz shoes on these girls, and none fit. So until Prince Charming finds her glass slippers, it looks like Cinderella's going barefoot.
Once Upon a Zombie feet.Once Upon a Zombie Little Mermaid tail and feet.

Going from the artwork that can be viewed currently on Once Upon a Zombie's official website, we can look forward to a diverse array of characters hitting shelves in the near future. Among the assumedly upcoming zombies are: Little Red Riding Hood, Pocahontas, Peter Pan, Prince Charming, and perhaps most surprisingly, an original take on the leading lady from "The Princess and the Pea".

The good:
·         Original premise and epic storyline.
·         Refreshing color palettes; beautiful hair tones.
·         Mesmerizing glass "follow-me" eyes and rooted eyelashes.
·         Broad selection of classic fairy tale characters slated for release.

The not-so-good:
·         Some of the hair has frizz and dryness on the ends, and can be hard to manage.
·         Few accessories.
·         Could be a bit more "decayed".

Bottom line: these are gorgeous dolls. Their cons are easily outweighed by their pros, and they make a lovely addition to my collection. They're out just in time for Halloween, too, and will be decorating my mantle for the coming month. ;)