The Toy Box on ABC

Early April, ABC’s newest reality series, The Toy Box, hit the airwaves. Hosted by Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet and produced in collaboration with Mattel, this competition show gives toy creators the chance to pitch their idea in hopes of getting their toy produced by Mattel and sold at Toys R Us. In order to win the competition, toy creators need to first pitch their idea to three mentors: Dylan’s Candy Bar owner Dylan Lauren, toy guru Jim Silver and Pixar’s creative director of consumer products, Jen Tan. If the contestant can convince two of the three mentors that their idea is solid, creators then move onto four pint sized judges: Sophia Grace, Aalyrah, Toby and Noah. From the looks of it, the show will feature five aspiring creators, three going onto the four kid judges. Of those three, one is chosen to go to the finals, which will air at the end of the series.

Four weeks in and this is my opinion of the series so far. I’m not in love with the overall format of the show. As someone who’d tried to get a reality show about toy production off the ground, I found myself critiquing the production and format a little more than your casual TV viewer! “If I were producing this, I’d…” was definitely something I found myself thinking a few times while watching The Toy Box! The biggest head scratcher for me is to the point of the mentors. Since Mattel will be distributing this product, you would expect one of them to be a Mattel employee, right, like a VP of design or something? But none of them are attached to Mattel, as far as I can tell. Jim Silver, I can sort of understand, being the head of TTPM, a large toy review site, but the other two judges from Dylan’s Candy Bar and Pixar seem out of place. Besides their qualifications, I’m unsure as to if they are really necessary. Unlike Shark Tank, they don’t really seem like long lasting mentors. They are taking no stake in the toy at all. It seems like they’re only going to be in the toy creators life once (to pitch) and then that’s it. Moreover, unless production is cutting out a lot of the discussion between the mentors and the contestant, they don’t seem to be giving good, constructive advice.

I can’t say anything negative about the kid judges, though. They were quite entertaining. (Plus, they’re just kids!) One thing that entertains me is when the adult mentors will throw shade, so to speak, at a toys concept or construction, just to have the kids say that they love that particular element in the three toy face off.

There have been some interesting toy concepts put up for the competition, though so far, none of the dolls have been all that great. One bright note so far is the fact that My Ballerina Dolls, which competed in The Toy Box week 2, won a place in the finals.

At this point, there are many things I would change about The Toy Box. First, I would drop the adult mentors. They’re kind of useless, especially since none of them represent or work for Mattel. Second, I’d theme the weeks to specific types of toys: dolls, games, outdoor… It doesn’t seem like putting a doll against an outdoor water tag game against a parachute toy is fair to the toy inventors. I’d rather see five dolls battle it out and then, a week later, have five outdoor toys duke it out. At the very end of the series, the top toys in their categories could then go head to head in a battle royale. But, alas, they didn’t ask me.

Are you watching The Toy Box? What do you think of it? Share your thoughts in the comment area.

April 28, 2017. Uncategorized. 6 comments.

Dolly Review: Wonder Crew James

A month ago, I was sent a Wonder Crew doll for review. Wonder Crew is a line of 15″ dolls that come in a variety of skin tones, including Caucasian (Will), Asian (Erik), African-American (James) and Hispanic (Marco). Unlike most doll lines, the main players in this line are boys, not girls. The Wonder Crew website states that the line was “Inspired by boys but truly meant for any child, Wonder Crew builds emotional intelligence, imagination, confidence, and is 100% fun!”

Wonder Crew

Wonder Crew dolls come dressed as superheroes complete with a vibrant red cape and mask. These dolls are meant to inspire active play right out of the box and come with a matching child sized cape and mask. If you feel like switching up the fun, other outfits are sold separately. Like the basic doll, each outfit comes with a fun child sized accessory! For example, the Snuggler Adventure Pack, green pajama’s with a rocket ship theme, comes with a blanket that is the perfect size for a child and their Wonder Crew to snuggle with! See this outfit in the video review, linked below.

Wonder Crew

The body of Wonder Crew dolls is part vinyl and part cloth. With James, who is pictured in this post, his torso is stuffed, including his shoulders and hips. Three quarters of his arms and legs are vinyl, though. Posing isn’t really a trait these dolls have or need, as they are meant to be huggable playmates. And huggable they are. One thing I wish the Wonder Crew did better was sit. Unfortunately, they don’t sit well, unless propped up by something strong.

Also worth pointing out is this: the cloth body is made of a white fabric with a quilt’y sort of feel to it. With this particular doll, I would have gone with a fabric that matched his skin tone better, but you can always pretend that the white under his clothing is an undershirt.

As far as the sculpt is concerned, I think the Wonder Crew team did a great job on James. The doll, to me, looks like he stepped out of a comic book or cartoon. The molded hair has texture to it and the face is cute. The hands and feet are also sculpted well.

Wonder Crew

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the outfits and extra child sized accessories. More care was put into them than I expected. They are put together well and made with quality fabric.

Wonder Crew

Overall, I think Play Monster’s Wonder Crew dolls are cute. They’re sculpted nicely and have some quality outfits. The extra child sized accessories don’t come off as an afterthought, either, which happens a lot in the industry. Learn more about Wonder Crew on their website. What do you think of Wonder Crew? Share your thoughts in the comment area.

April 28, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 9 comments.

Chicago Toy Show Loot (April 2017)

This past weekend, my mother, YouTuber Barbee0913, and I attended the Chicago Toy Show at the Kane County Fairgrounds. Going on 44 years, this show is a staple for the Illinois based toy collecting community. This year, the show revamped its room set up, which was a little disconcerting to many of the long time doll buyers and sellers. Instead of housing the dolls in the ‘Dollhouse’, aka the Robinson building, dolls were housed in the atrium/cafe area’s of two different buildings. I estimate each room had 20-30 vendors. Why the change? Apparently, the “boys toys” are outgrowing their space and, alas, the poor doll vendors paid the price. Admittedly, the ‘Dollhouse’ has shrunk over the years, so we should have seen this coming, but still, I don’t quite understand why the doll vendors couldn’t just be in one room, sharing space with general toy vendors.

Despite the changes, we ended up finding some great dolly deals. Here’s some of the goodies that came home with us from the show. This post doesn’t feature all the items we purchased, just a handful of highlights. To see everything, check out the video below.

Barbee0913 is a fan of Madame Alexander Victoria dolls. She received one when her brother was born. Passing down that tradition, I received one when my brother was born, as did my younger cousins when they first gained a sibling. It’s a fun tradition that I hope to continue on into the future. We rarely see Victoria’s at the toy show, but this year, to our surprise, we spotted two! Barbee0913 got a mini and large Madame Alexander for an amazing price. The vendor was selling her mother’s Madame Alexander collection. Her mother, who had passed, had loved Madame Alexanders. Her collection seemed to be an ‘in box’ collection, as my mom noticed that the Victoria dolls were very minty fresh!

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

From the same vendor, Barbee0913 picked up this adorable Alexanderkin. We haven’t been able to really identify it, but it’s just too cute. The body has a textured feel to it, like real skin, which feels really neat. But this face? How cute is that!

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

As some of you know, something I like to collect are Jem dolls. The Jem dolls at the show were insanely expensive, so I didn’t end up with any of those. However, I did end up with this amazing play set, Jem’s Rock Backstage/Speaker! This play set is compact, has some amazing fluorescent shelving and interior pieces and, believe it or not, the speaker function still works!

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

Toodles came home to join Barbee0913’s collection. Isn’t she cute? Toodles was made by American Character and has eyes that follow you. My mom has been looking for one of these for a few years now and finally found one that was priced right!

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

My big purchase of the day was an unmarked composition Shirley Temple lookalike. She stands around 20″ tall and is adorable! For being from the 1930’s, she has very little crazing and is in amazing shape. One nice thing about this vendor was that she wasn’t a doll re-seller. Due to downsizing, she was selling her own collection. On her table were pieces that she had loved and enjoyed, not just pieces she picked up to make a profit. This Shirley doll was clearly a piece she loved, as she seemed very remorseful as she started packing the doll up. Don’t worry, I’ll give your Shirley a good home!

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

What drew me to this girl was her adorable face, her clear tin eyes, her red dress and her amazing wig! I wish I knew more about her maker, but since she’s unmarked, all I can know for sure is that she is from the 30’s, since she’s composition and most likely, over 70 years old! (Think of the things this doll has ‘lived’ though— if dolls could talk!)

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

This is only half of what we picked up at the show. To see everything else and hear more of our thoughts on the show, check out the video, linked above. Overall, I’m happy with the items that came home with us. Usually, there’s a little bit of buyers remorse that comes along with shows like this, but not this time! Everything we picked up was priced really well and I have no regrets. Have you picked up something from a doll show or flea market recently? Share your thoughts in the comment area!

April 27, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 5 comments.

Skipper Highlight Reel: A Trio of Customs

My Skipper collection has grown over the past few weeks! This Skipper Highlight Reel post covers three new custom dolls that just arrived! The first two Skippers were sent to me by my friend Arnaldo. He’s been working on Barbie customs for years and has even been featured in popular doll magazines! I met Arnaldo at a Kenvention a few years back. His customs were pretty awesome looking, but even more so, his personality was amazing. Because of this, I leapt at the chance to pick up a Skipper custom that went on sale recently on his Facebook page. The custom? A brown-eyed titian Skipper. I’ve always admired Arnaldo’s brown-eyed girls, because, as you probably know, vintage Skippers were never released with anything but blue eyes. Check the custom out below!

Custom Skippers (Arnaldo)

He was kind enough to send a surprise inside the box, as well! This Malibu Skipper has had her hair done up in a cute un-Skipper like ‘do.

Custom Skippers (Arnaldo)

The final Skipper in this post is one I commissioned. I hinted in a video a few months ago that I had purchased a Skipper doll for a special project. To make my idea a reality, I enlisted the help of Krista’s Doll Restoration. She’d done work for me in the past and I knew I could trust her skills to make my very special Skipper come to life. So, what was the project, you ask? Well, I commissioned a Skipper doll that mimicked the Skipper shown in the first ever Skipper commercial. In that commercial, Skipper didn’t have a side glance; she looked straight ahead. You can see it in the video below.

Because the reality of one of the Skipper dolls seen in the commercial popping up on eBay, let alone at a price I could afford, is a pipe dream, I figured why not create one, or ask a talented friend to make one for me! Below is the outcome and I’m very, very pleased with the results.

Chicago Toy Fair Goodies/Haul Highlights

To compare, here’s a normal Skipper standing next to Krista’s fantastic custom prototype Skipper inspired by the original Skipper commercial.

Custom Skipper Vs Production

I did have one slight hiccup in making this custom Skipper a reality. The doll I originally bought for this project is not the one you see in the pictures. I had first thought of going to a different person to create this custom, but after sending my doll off, the person dropped off the face of the earth. After a few months of zero communication, I decided that I needed to go elsewhere. I don’t think I’ll be seeing that doll again, but thankfully no money was exchanged.

I should have gone to Krista in the first place. She was kind enough to sell me a doll at a good price. Krista did an amazing job on Skipper and did it very quickly, too! (To learn more about Krista, visit her website!) I’m very pleased with how this straight gaze Skipper doll turned out!

Read more Skipper Highlight Reel posts here. What do you think of these three customs? What do you think of my special project? Have you commissioned a custom recently? Share your thoughts in the comment area!

April 26, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 5 comments.

Skipper Highlight Reel: Skipper Doll Cases

Recently, I’ve been taking inventory of my Skipper collection. I photographed the vast majority of my dolls and am now moving onto getting a clear idea of the ‘other’ items in my collection, like cases, coloring books and other Skipper branded items. The other day, I decided to look at my Skipper doll cases.

Produced by SPP, most of these cases are made of cardboard lined with a thin layer of vinyl. Because of this, it’s common to run into cases with splits, water damage or rust (to the clasps). If you stumble upon a case online that you’re thinking about buying, always ask about the condition. You may also run into cases that are very ‘musty’ on the inside, because, let’s face it, in many cases (pun intended), these doll cases haven’t been opened in years!

Skipper School Days Case

From 1964, the above case features Skipper in three different outfits: School Days, Red Sensation and Skipper’s Dress Coat. This case is pretty easy to find and comes in various colors, including beige, blue and yellow.

Skipper Beach Case

The Running on the Beach double case is one of my favorites. It has such an action packed graphic on the front, which features Skipper and Skooter running in the sand at the beach. They’re both dressed in their basic red and white striped outfit. This is also from around 1965 and comes in various colors.

Skipper, Barbie and Francie European Travel Case

Another favorite of mine is the European Travel Trunk from 1965, featuring Barbie, Francie and Skipper. Skipper wears Ship’s Ahoy, her sailor themed fashion. (One of my all time favorite Skipper outfits!) Another thing that makes this case stand out is Skipper’s super sassy side glance. It has more attitude than other promo graphics. This is also a more sturdy case than the others. And, of course, this comes in various color options.

Skipper and Barbie Red Sensation Case

This Barbie and Skipper Red Sensation case is a double case featuring Skipper in the popular Red Sensation outfit (featured in the School Days case, as well as the Purse Pal case). This case comes in multiple colors, including yellow, blue and beige.

Skipper Mod Case

This 1969 Mod Case showcases a Skipper drawn in a way that is very different from the other cases in this post. While less detailed, the design features Skipper with a head of full, bouncy blonde hair and a short, bright pink outfit. This case also was released in orange.

Skipper and Scooter Portraite Case

This double case includes portraits of Skipper and her pal, Skooter. This case is more simple than the others, but I love how big Skipper and Skooter’s faces are.

Skooter Case

In this case, Skooter is seen modeling Platter Party and Sunny Pastel. This yellow case showcases a blonde and ginger haired Skooter. Like the rest, it comes in various colors.

Purse Pal Case

The Purse Pal doll case is ‘unofficially’ a Skipper product. It was made by the company who produced the cases in this post, but not for Mattel.  It’s rare, because it features a doll that looks a lot like Skipper on the toy shelf, which isn’t something Mattel did with their cases. You’ll find this in both blue, like mine, or pink. Notice that Red Sensation is also used on this ‘super generic looking’ doll on the doll shelf, a popular look used on many of the ‘official’ Skipper cases.

I’m happy with the cases I have so far. For someone who is pretty picky about case quality, I have gathered quite a few! (I need the graphics to be top notch in order to spend money on a case!) Do you have any doll cases? Do you have a favorite among these? Share your thoughts in the comment area!

April 7, 2017. Tags: . Uncategorized. 9 comments.

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