Before we begin, a quick apology. I am currently without power here at Pixelkitties Manor thanks to the ginormous storm that spanked Pittsburgh yesterday and last night, so I am posting this update via my tablet. I am a terrible typist and proofreader at the best of times, and sitting here pecking at a touchscreen, I worry that this is going to be an incoherent mess! If I sound like an idiot, it's mostly because I'm laboring under less-than-ideal circumstances. And...partially because I'm an idiot. Anyway, on with the stuff!
Over the past few days I've discussed how detail and a commitment to both brand and character themes are one of the key factors making Monster High such a wildly successful line of dolls. Factors that the Equestria Girls are severely lacking despite a ready-made fandom, backstory, characters, themes and motivations.
Today we'll continue taking a look at the use of theming and details, while also examining how what's under the doll's clothes is just as important as what they're wearing.
Unfortunately, that sounded much creepier than I wanted it to....
Our monster du jour this time is Skelita Calveras, a calaca (traditional skeleton doll) from Hexico. Like Ghoulia, Skelita is one of my very favorite dolls in the entire Monster High line. She is absolutely gorgeous, the kind of doll that, when I was six, I would have shived all the snotty rich girls in elementary school for. Luckily for Betty Lynn and her nasty little clique, nobody was making dolls like this when I was a little girl.
Anyway, off the subject of shiving other kids, Skelita is a beautiful doll with a tremendous amount of inspiration and design.
Skelita is part of the Scaris, City of Frights line. Unlike yesterday's $10 US Skull Shores Ghoulia, Skleita is a bit more expensive priced at around $19.99. The "gimmick" with the Scaris figures is that Ghouls from around the world are traveling to Scaris, the Monster version of Paris, for a huge fashion show. So each new character represents a new country and culture, and comes with a piece of luggage. As you can see, Skelita's suitcase reflects both her Mexican and Día de Muertos influences with lovely flourishes, roses, candles and a sugar skull-inspired take on the Monster High logo. All that is great, but check out my FAVORITE part about it-
The luggage handle is made of bone, and when recessed into the suitcase it creates a spinal column! How great is that? Each piece of luggage is individual and unique to the doll it comes with.
Here's Skelita's case next to the one that comes with Jinnafire Long (We'll talk more about her tomorrow!) The suitcases are different shapes, have completely different handles, design motifs, and are decorated both front AND back. It would be so much easier to create one basic shape for the luggage and then copy it with either minor retooling or something as simple as a sticker or decal to add a bit of individuality from doll to doll. Instead, Mattel goes the extra mile and makes these potentially insignificant accessories a part of each doll's unique personality.
I really think that despite being, well, a skeleton, Skelita is the prettiest of all the MH dolls. She has huge brown eyes and an exceptionally sweet and beneveloent expression. A question was asked yesterday about why the Monster High dolls share the same head. While the expressions are often similar, the heads ARE often unique the the doll. Skelita, for example, has larger eyes, higher cheekbones and a wider mouth than the other dolls, along with, naturally, no ears!
She has gorgeous black and orange hair. Part of Skelita's backstory invloves her love of Monarch Butterflies that make their winter home in Mexico. That interest is reflected in her color scheme and butterfly necklace.
Skelita's face is detailed in the traditional style of Day of Dead sugar skulls and decor. Her outfit continues the ethnic influence, with a black embroidered dress, leather gaucho belt and bracelet, and lime green and leather sandals with etched flourishes, skulls, and flowers.
My favorite part of the outfit is her colorful skirt made from Novio Papel Picado banners, yet another ethnic reference to Day of the Dead celebrations.
I must confess, I may be a bit biased towards Skelita because she looks just like my friend Romina!
Once again, the designers at Monster High and Mattel have lavished on the detail and thought a lot about the character and her ethnic cultural influences. But with this particular doll, my favorite detail isn't immediately obvious and is as much a commitment to quality of manufacturing as it is to the theme.
As with the suitcases, it would be so simple to standardize aspects of the doll's production. You can see this quite clearly with the Equestria Girls dolls.
Much like the MLP brushables, Hasbro is cutting corners a bit with limiting the variations of the doll's body, limbs, heads, and even faces. There's not a lot of variety here in terms of the doll's construction. Rarity and Fluttershy appear to have slightly different faces, but Dash, Twilight, Pinkie, and even AJ have virtually the exact same expression. The pegasus/alicorn characters have wing removable accessories, but overall its the skin color, hair, and outfits that differentiate the toys.
And realistically, this approach is understandable. Dies and molds for casting plastic toys are INSANELY expensive and have a limited lifespan. It's a huge investment to make parts unique to individual toys. What usually happens, however, is a toyline will have a few variations that are swapped around to give the appearance of individuality. GI Joe has been cleverly doing this for years, a left arm with a pouch here, a right hip with gun holster there. Between that and changing the application of color and paint it can be difficult to even notice parts are being repurposed.
Unfortunately, the Equestria Girls toys seem to have taken this to the extreme. The doll's are all identical in construction, with limited posability.
Taking a look at poor Pinkie, her arms and legs are one solid piece. No bending at the elbow, wrist or knee. In fact, the Equestria Girls don't even have feet. Their boots plug directly into their ankle joints, a fact I find way more horrifying than a walking, talking, makeup-wearing skeleton!
With Monster High, as with virtually all toy lines, there is some overlap and re-use in terms of limbs and bodies. But while that approach is common, its not absolute. Many of the dolls have wildly different body details and types, from robotic limbs, to scales to fur to fins. But even with different limbs and heads, one would expect the bodies to be standard, considering a fashion doll is almost never undressed (except for the Barbie doll bin at Goodwill where it's like lesbian Woodstock with wild nude ladies and wildly unkempt hair!) You generally don't see under the dress, it costs significantly more to produce a unique body type, so why bother?
Mary madre de Dios! It's a naked skeleton! In the case of Skelita, those bones go ALL the way up! In a way, it's a shame to keep clothes on the doll because her details under the outfit are just as awesome as the rest of her!
The construction of her bones and ribs is just awesome, reflecting a girly body-shape that fits the standard MH clothes and accessories, but is definitively skeletal. Not only is the detail phenomenal with ribs, clavicle, spine, pelvis, etc, but the manufacturing on all of this had to be expensive. Two part molds with undercuts are enough to make my product designer/engineer husband faint. Well, that and the fact his wife is taking photos of naked dolls in our front yard...
In all seriousness, its things like this that set Monster High apart from not only other dolls, but other toy lines in general. Even blue-aisle juggernauts like Marvel and Transformers are made cheaper and flimsier these days with less detail and more re-use of molds. This kind of variety and commitment to every aspect of the toy is simply unheard of as manufacturing processes are streamlined and plastic petroleum materials become more expensive.
Thanks once again for reading my rambling and semi-coherent adoration of all things Monster High! Tomorrow will be my last post on the subject as we take a look at a toy that combines the intricate theme detail of Ghoulia with the manufacturing and unique construction of Skelita- the golden dragon Jinnafire Long!