This is going to be a very picture heavy review. Actually, since I haven't seen MA's Germany Travel Friend doll reviewed, this post is the first one I'm going to treat like a "real" review and not just an overview. Before the break, I'll show you pictures of the dolls in their boxes. Let me give my standard disclaimer here: the in-the-box pics are poorly lit because I often don't get the mail from the group mail box down the street until later in the day. Thus, the natural lighting is poor, and I'm eager to break the girls free, therefore poorly lit pics.
The Germany doll has been named Gretel. The Ireland doll is now Nora. Here are some even more dimly lit head shots of Gretel and Nora, still in their boxes.
You can see a twist tie around the girls' necks. You can also make out in Nora's pictures a piece of plastic between her hair and her neck. There is a similar piece of plastic, with a twist tie and rubber bands, around the girls' feet. The piece of plastic is held on to the back of the box on either end with clear tape. Thus, the plastic piece was easy to free, but the plastic twist ties and rubber bands, not so much. For all four plastic pieces, I ended up sliding an X-acto knife in and cutting through the plastic and rubber bands, as the twist tie was very difficult for me to untwist. It's unnerving having anything that sharp near my dollies. Fortunately, nothing bad happened.
Here is the back of Nora's box.
Fortunately the doll's legs are not that abnormally long, nor her skirt that short. She's definitely not doing Irish dance in this picture. Her legs are doing something like a ballet arabesque, but her arms are not in a correct position. I love watching Irish dance.
Moving on, our girl likes to visit Bavaria's gardens. Um, okay. Bavaria is actually kind of comparable to one of our states. It used to be its own country. Does she like to visit famous gardens in all of Bavaria? How many famous gardens are there in Bavaria?
There's an actual error in the greeting at the very beginning of this packaging blurb. The t in Tag should be capitalized; it should read, Guten Tag. This is like, first week of German 1 stuff. ALL nouns in German are capitalized, and Tag translates in English to day. Day is a noun. Did anybody whose first language was English OR German proofread this?
About this eleven cities called the eleven stars of Germany? I'd never heard of that, so I looked it up online. The first few links went to travel planning sites pushing travel in Germany, and the very first link claimed Germany has ten star cities. Maybe this is a real thing, maybe not.
I don't get why Ireland gets six cities listed on the map, and Germany, which is larger, only gets three. I'm guessing the building with the two towers on the left is the Kölner Dom, the Cologne Cathedral, but they don't bother listing Cologne, or Köln, as a city. Here's a picture I took when I visited the Kölner Dom, and a postcard I bought at the same time.
Lastly, I totally don't get the bear pictured over the German flag, both on the back of the box, and the front. It's not totally incongruent to have a shamrock with an Irish flag on either side, but a bear does not appear on the German flag. When I was in Germany, I learned that the bear is associated with the city Berlin (the word for bear in German is Bär, pronounced much like our English bear.) So why have the bear here?
We've gotten this far and haven't even gotten to the actual dolls out of their boxes! But the back of Gretel's box just has so many errors on the back of a small box, that it needed to be discussed. Let's get to the dolls, starting at the top!
For some reason, I didn't get a closeup picture of Nora by herself. You'll see, though, her face is about the same as Gretel's, with different coloring. As others have pointed out, this face feels like a Madame Alexander sculpt; I like that. I took a (slightly blurry) picture of Sophie's face without bangs, and also a picture of the back of her head to show the rooting.
Nora's hair has flyaways in front, because some of the longer strands have escaped from underneath the side strands of her hair that have been pulled back into a ponytail. I tried to pull those bits back underneath the ponytail with tweezers, but when I started to mess up the perfect twist of the strands, I stopped. The hair does feel soft, as do Gretel's braids.
Do you think Gretel's bangs are fairly proportional to her face? Well, Nora's are not so much. I took a picture of the two girls face to face so you could see. It looks like MA just rooted an extra row or so of bangs on Nora, and I have no idea why.
The heads were a little stiff at first, but developed more movement as I worked with them. Neither can look up and down. Nora's head turns side to side easier than Gretel's. Gretel's head can lean left or right easier.
|Do I look quizzical?|
As you can also see, there is a small rectangle that sort of stands out just above the elbows. Those marks are also above the girls' knees, front and back. I can only think they have something to do with the way the joint was put in so the arms and legs bend. Ah yes, we finally get the articulation of the arms and legs. I'm not even sure how to describe how they work. The legs are fairly straightforward. They bend backward fairly far, and allow the girls to sit nicely. The bottom half of the legs and arms can also rotate, so they can do things like cross their ankles as they sit, or turn a foot to one side as they stand.
It's the bending of the arms where it really gets strange. The joint is very stiff at first, to the point where some reviewers weren't sure the arms even bent, or were afraid they'd break the arm if they tried to bend it. Not only is it stiff, but the rotational bottom half of the arm means that you have to get the arm in just the right position to bend. It doesn't bend as obviously as the knee does. At the elbow joint, the arm has to be turned just right in order to bend. Here's Nora bending her arms. Hopefully you can see what I'm trying to get at.
You can also see that the join in the hips is unusually sculpted, in that it leaves a lot of room between her torso and her legs. This allows her to move her legs forward and back (though not as far going back), as well as side to side for splits. Here's a picture of Gretel in a sitting position with a knee bent, so you can see what the knee joint looks like.
There's a dark mark on the top of Nora's painted-on underwear.
A couple of similar but smaller marks are on the back, also at the top of the underwear.
Other people have noticed cracking and flaws in the plastic at the joints. I found only one flaw, on Gretel's left shoulder. It's merely a piece of flash, something that should have been cut off in the process of making the joint, but wasn't.
Moving on to the clothes, I like Nora's dress very much. It's one piece, with a knit top and a woven skirt, with a ribbon accent at the waist, and lace trim on the skirt. The bright color of the ribbon does look a little strange, but I associate that bright kelly green as Ireland's color, so it gets to be present in the outfit while still leaving the dress not too shockingly bright. It just works for me. The ribbon is nicely sewn on my dress. The ribbon has frayed along the stitching just a little bit in places. The sleeve hems and necklines are only finished with a line of serging, but that doesn't bother me in a doll this small, and also since her dress is a modern style.
You can see Nora's dress in full in a couple of other places during this review. As for poor Gretel, her outfit is like the back of her box, full of problems. As you saw up above, Gretel wears a white blouse with red and black dots. She also wears shorts with suspenders that are designed to look like lederhosen (the leder in lederhosen means leather.) These are made of a kind of felt. Let's ignore the fact that traditionally only males wear lederhosen. The real problem is that Gretel's blouse is just a little too short to tuck properly into the shorts. Not only does that leave an unsightly gap at Gretel's waist, but the row of stitching around the bottom of the blouse is falling apart, making the whole thing even worse.
Now I know first hand how hard it is to sew a top this size. A blouse with a collar is even more difficult; I've done that. Why MA even attempted it instead of going an easier route, I don't know. But if you do it, you'd better do it right. There are so many things wrong with this outfit. First, the suspenders are made to lie nicely on the doll's shoulders while she is standing up. When she sits down, the shorts don't ride up enough, and so the suspenders become too tight and slide off from the strain.
|I had to tug hard to get her left suspender back on her shoulder.|
The back doesn't really fit well either, and has a mistake on the left shoulder, where stitching is visible.
The worst is that the seams aren't finished on the inside. With Nora's knit top, it doesn't matter, but on Gretel's woven blouse, it certainly does. I also don't understand why MA felt the need to have *two* giant tags inside the clothing of dolls this small.
Personally, I think they would have been better off making a knit dress for Gretel that was similar to Nora's. Maybe with the embroidered heart, that is on the side of the shorts, on the bodice instead. They could have made something to resemble a dirndl, which is much more traditional for a German female to wear.
Gretel's socks aren't finished at all at the top. I think they're too heavy of a knit to make good socks for a doll this size. And they don't work well with the shoes, as the shoes fall off way too easily. At least the socks did keep Gretel's ankles from getting rubber band marks on the legs, as Nora's did.
Lastly, the shoes. I find it strange that Gretel got green shoes, when nothing in her outfit is green. Also, I thought Gretel and Nora had the same size shoes, and Gretel's shoes were falling off because they were too small to fit over the socks properly. This turned out to be wrong. Gretel and Nora may have shoes that look identical, but Gretel's shoes are significantly larger.
This would explain why Gretel's shoes have the number 1 on the heel of the shoe, and Nora's don't. They're a different mold. This makes the fact that Gretel got green shoes even stranger.
I took Gretel out of the outfit she came in, and put mini-AG Caroline's outfit on her instead. Not only does she look great in it, but there's green in the ribbon around the waist, so that the green shoes now go with her outfit.
Did you enjoy my first real review? What do you think of these dolls? For all of their faults, I still really like them, and I'd buy more, at a good price. My opinion might be different if my dolls had cracking issues around the joints, I'll admit. If you saw any pictures from Madame Alexander's booth at Toy Fair, you noticed that MA had several plans to expand the line of dolls this size. Unfortunately, if you look on MA's website, a lot of those dolls aren't on it. I wonder if the few new dolls there will even be produced. It seems a shame that a new line with potential should be shut down so quickly.