Friday, January 24, 2014

Via E Alexis Doll Review

[-2/22/14-NOTE:  Since the publishing of this post, it was brought to my attention that a few of my readers felt I did not treat this review with complete fairness since the doll I used had stringing issues.  I've taken this into careful consideration and have made some adjustments to my post accordingly, mainly in the summary at the end.  I also added a few more details about company policy that I was unaware of before.  I apologize to any of my readers who felt I did not handle the situation fairly.  We all have room for growth, and I hope to improve my reviewing skills further as a result of this situation.]

Whew, I finally have some time to sit and blog!  It's been quite a week. ;)  Today, we'll take a look at the 18" doll Alexis O'Shay, new from the Via E. company.

This doll was purchased by my mom.  She was very interested in the articulation possibilities Alexis had, and was planning on having Alexis in her playroom for my daughters to play with.  It was a long wait, as there were initially some problems with the production process.  Alexis was originally supposed to be available in May, and my mom didn't get her until November.  However, purchasing a doll at this point in time should not be an issue, as there are dolls available now on their website.

Here's what was in the box when my mom first opened it: a mini booklet, a personal note from Alexis' creator, and a certificate of authenticity.

A closer look at the certificate of authenticity.

Here is Alexis herself.

Alexis in her box.

Other box views.  I really like the artwork on the box...it's very bright and cheerful:
The top of the box was numbered and signed.

The inner cardboard of the box slid out easily.

Alexis was secured by plastic ties.

Her hands were covered in protective plastic.

Alexis deboxed.

A view from the back.

Mom and I were both very pleased with her face.  It was cheerful and smiley without being "scary", as some open-mouthed smiling dolls can be. :}


Her eyes are a very pretty natural blueish color.

Alexis' profile.

Her shirt is bright and fun.  Middle Gal loves the cute kitty. :)

The shirt has Velcro in the back for easy dressing and removal.

Her skirt is denim and has Velcro closure in the front.

The back of the skirt.

Her suede-like boots are really cute and come up to her knees.

They have zipper closure in the back.

Alexis also comes with a bag.  It has "Alex" on it because that was originally going to be the name that she went by.  Unfortunately, the Via E. company ran into copyright problems.  Apparently the name Alex was already copyrighted (I believe by the Madame Alexander company, if I remember correctly), so Alex had to go by her full name, "Alexis".  I'm assuming they didn't have time to change all of the bags over.

I thought the bag was a little big for Alexis, especially if it's supposed to be a backpack.

However, as a combination of a backpack and a bag, it works.  Here's a closer look at the front...

...and the back.

When I started undressing Alexis to take more pictures for the review, I discovered that her left boot was sewn shut about halfway down and would not come off at all (which explains why she is wearing it throughout the rest of this post).

I also noticed that the braided trim at the top of both boots was not completely attached.  I'm not sure if it was supposed to be this way or not.

Alexis' hair is rooted, as you can see in this picture.

At the time I took these pictures, my mom was not sure whether she would be keeping the doll, so I didn't take her hair out of its original ribbons, just in case.  I didn't care for the look of the ends of the hair, but since I didn't have a chance to evaluate it thoroughly, I do not feel it would be appropriate to make a decision about its quality.

Here's Alexis undressed from the front...

...and the back.

Alexis comes with underwear.

Her hands are very detailed. 

 We noticed that our particular Alexis is missing the blush on one hand, though.

Right hand...

...and left hand.

A look at her pretty feet.  The company purposely made her with a big toe separated from the other toes so she could wear flip flops or other similar sandals.

One of the things my mom and I were the most excited about was Alexis' articulation, as I mentioned before.  Unfortunately, this is where we felt Alexis really fell short.  

Mom's Alexis was strung so tightly that I could hardly get her to stand.  As you can see from the above picture, her right leg naturally stayed in a crooked position. 

With a lot of effort, I could get her to stand, but I had to force her right leg out and lean her far forward enough that she would balance.

 It's hard to see it in this picture, but Alexis' head had the same problem...it naturally stayed in a tight, tilted position to the left and was difficult to move.

Because of the tight stringing, when I moved her head to the right, it went right and down...

...and when I moved it to the left it went left and up.

She can look over her shoulder rather nicely.

We were pretty dissatisfied with the arms, too.  They are articulated at the elbows, but again, because of the overly-tight stringing, they didn't have much of a range of motion.

This was as far up as I could get her elbows to bend.


Aside from the problems with articulation, I did not care for the placement of her elbow joints.  They are too high up on her arms.  The arms themselves are an okay length for the body, but the elbow joints need to be lower to look more natural.

So now we move on to sitting and knee articulation.  As you can see, Alexis sits nicely.  Like American Girl dolls, she sits with her legs sprawled out to the sides.  You'll notice in her sitting picture a few pictures down that I was able to get her to sit with her legs closer together.

I was very disappointed by the lack of articulation in her knees.  Part of this is the fact that her boots cover her knee joint, and it is almost impossible to bend her knee when it is inside her boot.

As you can see, though, the boot is not the only problem.  This was the very farthest I could get her knee to bend.  She is still slightly more posable than an American Girl doll, but I expected much more flexibility, especially for a $95 doll.  I can't help but compare her to the Kidz N Cats dolls, which was more what we were expecting as far as articulation.  While I have never personally come in contact with one, my fellow blogger Emily at The Toy Box Philosopher blog did a great review on them HERE.  While Emily was not 100% pleased with the KNC articulation, I still think they look more natural in their poses and have better articulation.  It's a shame, too, because we were so excited about Alexis. 

In spite of her issues, I was able to get her to hold a few fun poses:


I thought you might be interested in seeing Alexis next to an American Girl doll for comparison purposes.  Here she is next to Emma, my My AG #41.

I was curious to see if Alexis would be able to share clothing with AG dolls, since the site mentioned that she could share clothing with most 18 inch dolls.  As you probably noticed from the picture with Emma, she is a bit taller (approximately 19 inches) and slimmer than AGs.  First I had her try on Jess's meet outfit.  The skirt has no elastic (it is meant to just Velcro closed), so this was a poor choice for Alexis. :}

The outfit from the back.

The skirt was almost falling off of her, and the shirt, while it looked cute with her vinyl shoulders...

...had a LOT of spare room.

To make it a fair analysis, I decided to try a skirt with elastic.

From the back.

As you can see, even though the t-shirt (a handmade one from eBay) has some extra space, because of the style it doesn't look too big.

The skirt also stayed up nicely.

Next I tried her in Gwen's sundress (Gwen was one of the Girl of the Year dolls from 2009).  It looks really cute on her. :)

The dress from the back.

There was still a lot of extra room in Gwen's dress, but it works. :}

Before I sum up, I also wanted to mention that Via E. advertises Alexis as a doll that can get wet.  While her full vinyl body would not be ruined the way a cloth body would, making her a better option than an AG doll for a trip to the beach or somewhere similar, I would personally not recommend fully submerging any doll in water.  There are very detailed instructions for how to help her dry out, but it would still be very easy for Alexis to get moldy or damaged even if you followed the instructions to the letter every time.  (After dealing with Middle Gal's Lalaloopsy mermaid that went in the pool and took THREE DAYS to drain and other experiences with wet dolls, I just try to avoid putting dolls in water at all.) :}


So as always, it's time for my overall thoughts.  Alexis has some great potential, but there are some definite speed bumps that keep me from giving her a completely positive review.  Based on my experience with this particular doll alone, I would have to give her a 3 out of 5.

While her face is lovely, and the concept behind her is wonderful, her lack of articulation, especially since it is one of the main focuses of her advertising, is a major negative for me.  The "soft bends" are according to her original design (as I discovered after this post's publication, and as stated in this introductory video HERE...also found on their website, but easier to link to on YouTube), but I was expecting more articulation from what I had heard about the doll.  In addition to that, it was extremely difficult for me to get this particular Alexis to stand and hold natural-looking poses.  A doll strung so tightly would provide a lot of frustration for younger doll lovers...at least for the ones in my house who love "setting up" their dollies. ;)

At the time I wrote this post, I didn't know if the overly-tight stringing was the norm for these dolls.  It has since been brought to my attention that not all Alexis dolls are strung quite so tightly.  I still don't care for her style of articulation and the placement of her elbow joints, but even so, had her stringing been looser, I would have given her a 4 out of 5.  She has a sweet face that I found quite photogenic.  I loved the detail on her fingernails and toenails, and the fun bonus of a separate big toe on each foot.  I also thought her eyes were very pretty.  

I would like to take a moment to give major kudos to the company and their CEO for their excellent customer service and passion for what they do.  After seeing Alexis' articulation style and thinking about her purchase, my mom decided she did not want to keep her, so she contacted the Via E. company, explained her issues, and asked about a refund.  The CEO responded within hours of her email and agreed to refund her completely, including the cost of the return shipping.  Alexis' creator mentioned that many of the little girls she interviewed when creating the product didn't want the doll to have 45 degree-angled articulation, so that's why they went for the more moderate movement.  However, she shared that their next doll to be released, Tatianna, will have 45 degree-angled articulation, so there should be some improvement on that front.  

She also mentioned that if my mom had been interested in keeping the doll, Alexis' defective boot would have been replaced at no extra charge.  Which brings me to another great plus from this line.  All doll purchases are covered by a one year warranty, as long as the break or defect is the result of normal play and not abuse.  You can read the terms of the warranty HERE.  After the initial year, the purchase of additional clothing and accessories can help girls earn points toward extended "My Kare Healthcare" services for their dolls at no extra cost (you can read the details HERE).   

There is also a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of their products.  You can read the details for that HERE.  When a doll has a defect and is exchanged, the replacement doll is sent to the family before they have to send the defective doll back.  This way, the child does not have to go without her doll at all.

 The company even gives discounts for good grades (up to 10% off for A papers), which you can read about HERE

Since the publishing of this post, I have been in contact with Alexis' creator.  She informed me that after this doll was returned, she was able to readjust her stringing and fix her boot with little difficulty, and that this was something that I could take care of myself by pulling and working the elastic.  Because the doll was not mine and was more expensive than most of the dolls I usually review, I did not feel comfortable trying to readjust the elastic on my own or fiddle too much with the zipper (I was nervous enough pulling her legs apart to get her to stand).  However, also since the publishing of this post, I have started learning how to restring dolls from one of the ladies in my doll club, so in the future I might be better equipped to handle such a situation if I would rather not exchange or return the doll.  I thought I would also mention this for those of you who are interested in Alexis and are braver than me or have more experience dealing with doll elastic. ;) 

Even though at this point in time I would not fully recommend Alexis, I am very pleased with the company's vision, desire to provide quality products, and their excellent customer service.  

I feel I should also mention that Alexis is the first doll the Via-E company has produced, so there will naturally be a learning curve with what works and what doesn't.  Throughout the whole process of Alexis' creation, the CEO of the company was heavily involved and very conscientious about every step.  It also seems she is already aware of some of the issues and concerns with the line.  With the sort of attention she paid to production details and her very personal involvement with her buyers, I am sure that this line will only improve with time.  I definitely think that with a few changes, these dolls have the potential of being something really incredible.  There are plans for new "dollfriends" for Alexis in the future, each one with a different face mold and body type.  This is something unique to the current doll market and a great thing for the many types of girls out there, searching for a doll who looks more like them.

While my experience with Alexis was not what I had hoped for, I am not the only person in cyberspace.  There are many others who were thrilled with their Alexis dolls.  To give all of you, my readers, a well-rounded look at Alexis (especially since my particular doll had some stringing issues), I've included a few links to some of her other reviews here:


If you'd like more information about Alexis, you can visit the Via E website HERE, the Via E Facebook page HERE, and Via E's Twitter HERE.  Alexis also has a blog, which you can see HERE.  

20 comments:

Ava Rose Milberger said...

No...just...no! A doll that costs that much shouldn't have that many issues. Personally, her face scares me. And I don't understand the trend of putting blush on the top of a doll's hands and feet. Did they get sunburned? Sorry if I sound angry, I just got out of a little arguement with my best friend and am still a little irritated....

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I have to disagree with you about one thing; I personally find her face almost a little scary. That smile just seems off to me. Other than that, I agree that the line could have potential if they can overcome the problems.

Anonymous said...

If the overly tight stringing is an issue, maybe it will just loosen over time.

Julie Ann Newman said...

*Note from Julie Newman's doll mommy, Sharry*

I'm very sorry to hear this review. It basically looks like you received a defective doll. However, not all Alexis dolls are like this. I received one of the first production dolls (that didn't have issues), back in July 2013. Her legs could bend inside the boot, and her head could pivot and turn. I had no trouble at all getting her to stand and hold similar poses Ellen Callen used on her Facebook page, w/o the aid of something to lean on. I sincerely hope you give this doll and this line another chance. I'm sure the next time you receive one of these special dolls, you won't be disappointed. Check out my opening video of Alexis on my YouTube channel: HardyGirl66.

cupcakebunny said...

I thought an interesting thing on the Via page you linked on drying out the doll was that extended water exposure could cause the eyes to rust. It also seems like getting the doll to dry out after getting wet is really such a hassle. You have to blow out the water in her eyes and open her joints to pour out all the water.

BlackKitty said...

who wouldn't want more articulation in a doll? Kids are weird. Do you consider buying their next doll?

beastsbelle said...

Sorry about your argument, Ava. Hopefully you're feeling better now. :)

I think the idea of blushing the hands is to give them a little more color...I'm not really sure.

Ava and Barb, I can understand how the face would not appeal to everyone. I do hope they can work through some of the problems in the future. I think the line definitely has potential.

Anonymous, it's possible the elastic would loosen over time. It's also possible that Alexis could be restrung. My problem is having to fix or modify a doll that cost $95 in the first place. :(

Sharry, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I do realize that sometimes doll lines have issues with only certain dolls. That's why I mentioned that I was basing my review on my experience with this particular Alexis doll. I'm glad your Alexis was better. For any of my readers who want to see Sharry's video review, you can see it here (copy and paste): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6W016OfBm8

Cupcakebunny, I agree. The instructions were pretty complicated and it sounds like there would still be a pretty large possibility of damage. That's why I would not recommend submerging her in water.

Lol, BlackKitty, kids can be rather random. ;) I don't think I would purchase another of their dolls until I could see pictures and see online video and/or blog reviews to see that some of the problem areas had been addressed.

Ellen Callen said...

One of the hardest quests in life or any venture is perfection, yet it is always a goal. Since perfection is evasive, I have a strategy of fixing and addressing concerns in the most personal, loving way I can. Alexis was built for girls wiht the idea that Alexis could participated in active play a little bit better than AG or other soft body dolls. The mark for designing Alexis was to make her more poseable than AG...and she is. AG cannot go anywhere near water...a mother's fear is a water damage event. So I addressed the water to remove mom's need to worry and let girls play. Alexis joints were always stated as soft bends not 45 degree bends so she meets the design goal. Each dollfriend is hand made so variations of tension are found. What I am finding is that Alexis is not being compared to the target soft body doll market but instead to the higher end collector's doll market. Alexis is a play doll. I hope she plays in the mud, gets stuffed into bags to enjoy any adventure a little girl can think of...and to provide our parents the security of knowing that Via E has a support system for them. That all the things that surround Alexis have an educational goal to help girls do well in school and life. As I replace dolls that are not perfect for parents, we are finding that girls didn't want perfect, they just want their Alexis and won't switch them out when given the chance. I a world of things, I am so very touched by girls who show us that it is not about perfection, it is about love. Perfection is still the goal, and as I learn what the doll community wants I will answer to please as many voices as I can. Alexis is different and so will be each of our next dollfriends. Who needs another AG look alike? So, some will like the new look and others will not but I hope that each will look beyond the face and see the heart of the company. When I started Via E, it started with a heart to provide wholesome fun for girls...books and accessories. It was moms who asked me to create a doll...and I did. This you can count on. I listen, even when what I hear is hard to embrace. But only honest thoughts like these can tell me where I need to go next. So thank you. The current Alexis Family enjoys 10% off all Via E products for life...because they are the foundation and the love that will help Via E find its way into your heart. From my heart to yours...always.

Enchanted Styles said...

Wow! This was an excellent, unbiased review. Thanks for the information about this doll. Great informational post!

DMV said...

Alexis arrived home here at my house and I couldn't be happier.,as a doll collector very many years with being raised by a doll loving Mom, I myself raising my 2 daughters to love dolls and now with 9 granddaughters, I am very please with Alexis. She has come to live at my house, but will belong to my 8 year old granddaughter. This is her "special doll" to play with here

Tam said...

Off topic, but while I'm thinking of it, you should definitely check out Lulemee.com if you haven't already. I think you'll love her OOAK Disney dolls!

beastsbelle said...

Ellen, I'd like to thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment. I want you to know that this was a very difficult post for me to write. As I mentioned, I have seen your passion for your product and the level of care and interest you have taken in every step of production. However, I also have a duty to my readers to be honest about the things I observe in the dolls I review, and there were some issues I felt could not be ignored this time around.

I do agree that an Alexis with better stringing would be more posable than an AG and would be able to go near the water without as much damage. I tend to be pretty strict about doll water play myself. Honestly, I don't even have my daughters put their $20 dolls in the water, so there is no way I would be comfortable having them put a $95 doll in the water. :} I realize not every mom feels the same way, though.

I also have never given my daughters dolls higher-quality play dolls at their regular prices (we find most of our dolls secondhand), so I think that's part of the difficulty for me. I want my girls to be able to play with their dolls and not feel like I'm watching their every move, so I find them dolls at a discounted price to keep me from stressing out. ;)

I had not seen that Alexis' articulation was advertised as "soft bends". After searching for a while, I was able to find this on your website in the introductory video (http://via-e.com/shop/dolls.html). Because of this, I will raise Alexis' score to a 3 out of 5. I would respectfully suggest that you might make this particular information a bit easier to find, however (perhaps including it in Alexis' written product information, for instance). It was a bit difficult to find any mention of "soft bends". When I was doing earlier research, all I could find on the site (before I watched the video) was either non-specific descriptions of her articulation, or your claim that Alexis' arms and legs could "bend like yours" (talking to the little girls). I realize it is difficult for a doll to achieve this literally, but I did expect a little more bend to the elbows and knees because of this.

I do understand that handmade dolls will naturally have some variation, and I'm sorry that our doll was one that was strung too tightly. I did mention in my post that my review was based on my experience with this doll in particular for that reason.

I think that one of the reasons Alexis is being compared to higher-end dolls rather than the soft-body doll target market is that she is so completely different from them. I know that, for myself, when I review a doll, I try to compare it to other dolls that are similar. Soft-bodied dolls and all-vinyl dolls have so many differences that comparing two all-vinyl dolls gives the audience a clearer comparison. This is why I mentioned the Kidz N Cats dolls. You also mentioned in your description of Alexis that she has "a life-like quality found only in high-end collector dolls", so, for me, that brought to mind some of the comparable higher-end dolls.

I am glad that Alexis is pleasing to many of the little girls out there. I realize that as moms or doll collectors we can at times be much pickier than the target audience. I will say that I do not envy your job whatsoever. :}

As I said before, I am very pleased by your excellent customer service and your desire to provide wholesome entertainment and friendship for little girls. I hope you realize that I have great respect for you as a person, and that everything I said in my review was meant with kindness and honesty. I'm sorry if the review was painful for you. I believe your company has a wonderful premise and your dolls have great potential. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so graciously. I wish you all the best.

beastsbelle said...

Enchanted Styles, thank you. I'm glad you found the review helpful.

DMV, I am glad that you are enjoying your Alexis doll. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience.

Hi Tam. I have discovered her site before. I especially love her Frozen customs! :)

Ampy Moh said...

I'm not really a fan of 18 inch dolls ,but alexis' face looks very sweet,she doesn't really scare me at all,unlike princess and me dolls that look creepy(to me).

It sucks to have a doll that's advertised with articulation but it doesn't in reality.also I would like to add,the thing about the kids that said they didn't want 45 degree articulation,maybe the kids didn't want them to put joints on the dolls knees. Some children actually hate seeing visible joints.believe me,I've had children visit our house and wanted to play with my bootleg barbies with legs that doesn't even bend rather than disney store tiana (2010).

Off-topic,I think alexender(the taeyang) should stay in his body with his handicap,I dunno why but I think pippa should like him because of his good side,instead of his flaws but you should glue on his broken hand though,he'd look weird without it . :P

Ellen Callen said...

I think your review was good. You were detailed and presented both good and what you thought needed improvement. The Tatiana Dollfriend(TM)will address the articulation requests for 45 degree bends at the knees. She will be introduced with the newest book, "Treasure of the Red Sand Beach." this Spring. Every Dollfriend(TM)has her own personality and body shape to match their unique faces. Alexis calls Tatiana a Warrior Princess because she is fearless and fights for the rights of others. So you can see that she would need those 45 degree joints to match her active personality. With medium dark skin, dark brown hair, dark hazel eyes and dimples in her cheeks, Tatiana will help build the unique story of Alexis and her friends. This first production of Alexis was 550 with only another 1,000 before Alexis will change as well. So every Alexis first family will be a member of a very special time and have a very special dollfriend. That is what is in it for collectors. Not perfection, but to be the very first one of a very limited production. How many time can you be part of something new? But I guess that is only special if you can dream of a bigger future for Alexis. :-) I hope you keep on blogging and keep on reviewing staying always true to yourself and your readers. I wouldn't want it any other way. --Ellen

beastsbelle said...

Hi Ampy. :) I think that the articulation issue, like a doll's face, is largely a matter of preference and expectation. The company did provide articulation according to their design plans...it was just not the same articulation my mom and I were expecting, and not the type we prefer.

I hadn't even thought about the fact that visible joints might bother kiddos, but I can see how that might be an issue for some of them. Good point. :)

I like your idea about Alexander. He'll definitely stay the way he is for a while...maybe I'll just get used to his stiff hand. ;)

Ellen, thank you for stopping by again. I'm glad you did not find the review offensive, and I do sincerely hope that Via E will continue to grow and expand as you go on with your doll line.

Tatiana sounds intriguing. I look forward to seeing pictures of her and finding out more information about her once she is released. All the best to you. :)

Julie Ann Newman said...

*Note from Julie Newman's doll mommy Sharry (again) *

Beastbelle, I appreciate the fact that you want your readers to be informed. However, since this doll was clearly defective, it might have been better if you had returned her to Ellen to be repaired or replaced, so that a more fair and accurate review could have been written. I realize I am somewhat biased, being the doll mom of one of these dolls myself. But as a toy collector, I too know what it means to invest of lot of money and expectations in a toy. If you check out the Via-E Facebook page, you will see that the majority of parents as well as children are for the most part pleased w/ this doll. And your readers should know that Via-E is not like any other company. Concerns and questions aren't replied in a form letter or by a nameless, faceless person whose only concern is getting a paycheck. Ellen Callen who is the founder of this comapany and creator of this doll will take the time herself to talk to you, help you out, address any and all concerns, even if it means losing a litle money and/or sleep if something isn't right. She truly sees each and every customer as a member of a family, and wants to keep in touch w/ all of us. She has always taken the time to answer my e-mails, or reply to people on Facebook w/ honest answers. I wish all companies handled things w/ the same care and compassion as Ellen, and I would buy another doll from her in a heartbeat.

beastsbelle said...

Sharry, I'm sorry you're disappointed with the way I handled the review. Exchanging the doll was not my choice since it was purchased by my mom. I did state in the post that my review was based on the particular doll I had, and especially tried to point out the wonderful customer service offered by Ellen and her company.

I am glad that you were so pleased with Alexis and am happy to publish comments by you and others who feel the same way. I will be interested to see Tatiana's release, especially since she has the type of articulation I was hoping for in Alexis.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Beastbelle, thank you for another great review, I appreciate all the time that very detailed reviews require, please keep doing it, you are the Best!

beastsbelle said...

You're welcome, Anonymous. Review posts are involved, but I enjoy doing them. :)