Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Mid-Week Hello :)

Hi everyone!  It's not looking like I'll have a chance to finish my second J-doll review post before I leave this weekend, so I thought I'd just pop in and chat with all of you for a bit. ;)

My house is slowly transforming into a clean house ready for company. ;)  My mom, my dad, and my aunt all came over today to help me.  Mom and Mimi helped with deep cleaning, organizing, and sorting.  My dad hung up some pictures and NIB Mini Lalaloopsies for me and also tidied up my entire carport.  I could NOT have done it without them!  I was just getting to the point where I was too overwhelmed to know what to do next, but now I'm feeling much better about having eleven ladies over in one week. :}

Tomorrow, I'll be packing, taking a few pics for a LONG overdue Jane Austen and Unicorns post, and dusting/rearranging my doll displays.  My room will be one of the highlights for my visitors next week, so I want to make sure everything looks just right. ;)

We're all getting super excited for our trip this weekend.  We decided to keep the girls home from school Friday so we can have a nice leisurely morning and then get an early start on our trip.

Speaking of our trip, I made an interesting discovery today (which may show you how out of the loop I've been for the past week).  As I mentioned before, one of our planned stops is a Disney Store, and Middle Gal and Little Gal are wanting to get Elsa and Anna fashion dolls.  When I looked at yesterday, though, I noticed that the only doll listed as available was Kristoff (and Anna was the only toddler doll left).  Then, today I noticed that the Anna and Elsa dolls from the Disney Store were going for over $100 on eBay!  That made me a bit concerned, so I looked up the number of the Disney Store we're going to and gave them a call to see if they had any of the dolls in stock.  The employee (or "cast member", I suppose I should say) ;) said that the only Frozen doll they had in the store was Toddler Anna.  She said that the Frozen stock has been flying off of the shelves. They'll get a new shipment in, and within two days, it's gone.  Incredible.

This is really cool news for the Disney company, and it shows just how popular the movie is.  Ever since I began actively collecting Disney Store dolls in 2010, I've never seen a run on first wave dolls like this.  Usually they're clearanced out and then the second, less-detailed "classic" wave is introduced the following summer.

I'm glad I called ahead, because now I can prepare my little gals.  Both of them will be pretty disappointed.  The nice thing is, even if the first wave dolls don't come to the store again, they'll at least have the second wave dolls in at some point, so eventually Elsa and Anna will join my daughters' collections.

Meanwhile, I'm really thankful I snagged mine when I did, and I'm wishing my budget had allowed for purchasing the awesome Elsa and Anna Deluxe Fashion Doll set before it sold out. :(  I couldn't justify spending $70 on the set, but that sounds a lot better than the over $100 it's selling for now on eBay! :}

I'm wondering if there will even be much of a Frozen display at the Disney Store.  If they're out of a lot of the stock, it may be a pretty tiny section. :(  At least there will still be lots of other fun things to see there. :)

And, of course, Build-A-Bear and the AG Place will be wonderful, too! :)  I'm really looking forward to making more memories with my girls and my mom and aunt.  We always have a great time together.

Well, I should go.  I have to finish sorting the stuff on my bed so Hubby and I can actually sleep there tonight. ;)  Have a wonderful remainder of the week, everyone! :)

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'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 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 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.