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. ;)

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