Friday, March 31, 2017

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Review

Well, goodness, I certainly kept you all hanging on this one. Thanks for being so patient with me.

I've now seen Beauty and the Beast in theaters three times. I watched it the first time on opening day, and loved it so much that I immediately bought tickets for after school that same day so my daughters could see it. ;)

My Funko Mystery Minis Beast and Belle enjoying the theater.

And the "behind the scenes" photo my friend took of me getting that perfect shot. ;) 
The big display in the lobby...

...and my three girls.

Trying to condense my thoughts on this film into one blog post has been a challenge. As you all know, I could go super deep into my Disney nerdism and give you a never-ending post about every little detail. However, I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it, and I also don't want to bore everyone to death with non-essentials. ;)

I thought I should start off by saying that, obviously, this is my favorite Disney story of all time, so I might not be the most unbiased opinion out there. Of course, that also means I could be way pickier than the average viewer in some instances. So, consider yourself warned, and don't feel you have to agree with me on everything. ;)

Okay, on to the actual review.

Original image found HERE.

Things I LOVED: 

First off, the nostalgia of this movie was epic. Seeing a beloved cartoon come to life in such a beautiful, breathtaking way was magical. From the moment the opening credits began and Disney used the BEAST'S CASTLE (eep!!) as the "Walt Disney Pictures" castle, I was hooked. I felt like a little ten-year-old girl again, with the same wonder and excitement I had when watching the original release in 1991. And, of course, the moment the beginning notes of "Belle" filled the theater and Emma Watson, as a living, breathing version of my very favorite Disney princess, walked through the town singing those iconic words, I wanted to cry with happiness. :)

I loved the depth added to each of the characters in this new version. The Beast had this quirky, dry sense of humor that gave him extra dimension. He had some of my favorite lines and facial expressions in the movie. Maurice was no longer the bumbling, silly father of the animated cartoon, but a sweet, if rather absent-minded, older man with a haunted past and a quiet dignity. You could immediately see why Belle loved him so much.

I know that some of my acquaintances were worried by the "feminist" touches Emma planned on adding to Belle's character. I myself am not a feminist, but had no problem with the changes. The strength of Belle's character did not diminish the male roles around her, which is the trend I have seen again and again in many movies with feminist input. The changes made were consistent with Belle's original character. She was still portrayed as a loving, beautiful person with a strong personality and a brave spirit. I also appreciated that some of the additions to the story made her feel less like someone with "Stockholm syndrome," which is a common complaint about the Beauty and the Beast story.

Gaston and LeFou, played wonderfully by Luke Evans and Josh Gad, were given more character development as well. I thought Luke Evans' Gaston was brilliant and believable, yet even more despicable than the animated character. The second time I watched it, the audience actually cheered when he met his doom.

Um, hopefully that wasn't too much of a spoiler. I mean, you've all seen the cartoon, right? ;}

And honestly, the entire cast was just spot on. I felt that each of the actors embodied their characters perfectly. From the main characters, to the enchanted objects, to the townspeople, no one seemed miscast or out of place. Except maybe Lumiere, but I'll get to that later. ;) I loved the inclusion of interracial couples in the film, too.

It's obvious that the director and screenwriters paid attention to many of the plot holes pointed out about the animated version of Beauty and the Beast over the years. Many of these were addressed, including the problematic ten years of the curse referred to in the original "Be Our Guest," and how that would have made the prince an eleven-year-old child who didn't let a stranger in at the door. ;) Plus, what happened to Belle's mom? Why didn't anyone in the village know about their former ruler whose castle was within walking distance? These and other problematic plot points were solved. If you don't mind spoilers, you can watch a fun video that explains some of them in detail on YouTube HERE.

One thing that was NOT addressed was that the Prince was not given a name. I can actually understand why this happened, because there wasn't a great spot for it in the flow of the film. Still, it would have been nice for him to have an actual name. (I still don't hold to the claim that his name was originally Adam, since in the commentary of the animated film, the filmmakers talk about the fact that they never gave him a name. Just sayin'.) While this was a bit disappointing, it wasn't the end of the world for me. My 13-year-old was quite irritated by it, though. ;)

I also appreciated the beautiful costumes and sets of the film. I know many (myself included) had our doubts about Belle's yellow ball gown when we first saw photos, but it really was lovely in the movie. Simpler, yes, but it flowed beautifully and looked elegant on Emma. And while I loved the live-action version of Cinderella, the bodice of her ballgown was pretty plungy. It was nice to see a more modest version of Belle's dress for this film. Even Belle's simpler hairstyles and more practical shoes were fine with me. She looked like the type of girl ready for anything.

Things I Didn't Love:

There were a few things that I wasn't quite so enamored with, but they were pretty minor. One of those was some of the computer animation, especially for the Beast. I felt like the animation on the enchanted objects worked pretty well, but there were several scenes where Beast's animation felt unfinished or over-stylized. The best way I can think to describe it is that it's the type of animation that will look really fake in ten or so years...kind of like the animation of Andy and his mom in the first Toy Story movie when you watch it now in 2017. That being said, Dan Steven's acting was so wonderful and the character of the Beast so compelling, I found myself ignoring the animation, even when it was distracting, because I loved the character and the story so much.

I had my concerns about Ewan McGregor's "French" accent from the time I watched the very first trailer. He sounded like someone attempting a French accent and sounding more Mexican. In subsequent interviews, he even admitted the accent was a challenge for him, and explained that because of the way they instructed him to do it, it ended up sounding more Mexican than French.

I will say that the accent wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and didn't distract me as much as I thought it would. However, it definitely didn't sound as natural as some of the other accents. I thought Ewan's acting and singing were nice in spite of his accent challenges, though I must confess I will always prefer Jerry Orbach's Lumiere. ;)

I was also a little disappointed with the fact that they didn't actually show the full transformations of the Beast and the enchanted objects at the end of the film. However, after talking to my friend Sarah, I realized that I probably would have been disappointed by the transformations anyway. Maybe it was best that they left that to our imagination.

Things that Caused Controversy:

I feel like I can't do this review without addressing the "elephant in the room," so to speak. As most of you know, shortly before the film's release, director Bill Condon revealed in an interview that they had decided to make LeFou's character gay in this version of the film. There were heated reactions on both sides of the issue, and for a while, this was all people were talking about when Beauty and the Beast came up in conversation.

As most of you know by now, I'm a Christian, and as such, my standard for truth is the Bible. The Bible tells me that God's intention for love and marriage is between a man and a woman. However, I fully realize that not everyone holds this view. I can't expect companies with different belief systems to make movies the way I want them to, and I know that the Disney company has long supported the LGBT rights movement. I also know that Howard Ashman, the brilliant talent who co-wrote the original songs with Alan Menken, lived a gay lifestyle and died of AIDS before the film was completed, so this has always been a message close to the hearts of many involved in the original Beauty and the Beast. Because of this, I can't say I'm super surprised by their decision to include this in this particular film.

I do feel that the subject was handled tastefully. I don't know if my younger two girls would have even caught on to what was going on if we hadn't talked about it before. Going into the film knowing that LeFou was gay, I could definitely read into a lot of his behaviors, gestures, and facial expressions, but even this was more understated than overt. And really, a lot of it just reminded me of the cartoon character.

There are three main moments that might cause concern for those of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are still undecided as to whether to see the movie or not. (Spoilers ahead.)

First, at one point during the "Gaston" song, LeFou wraps Gaston's arms around him while singing, then asks Gaston, "Too much?" Gaston replies, "Yep." (Side note: throughout the movie, Gaston remains completely clueless to LeFou's feelings.)

Next. during the battle scene at the castle, Madame Garderobe (the wardrobe) attacks three men (Tom, Dick, and Stanley of "Gaston" fame) with ribbons and other accessories, dressing them like girls. Two of them run away screaming in horror, while one gives Garderobe a delighted smile. She tells him, "Be free!" and he trots off.

The other main scene is at the very end of the movie, when everyone is dancing once the curse has been broken. LeFou is dancing with a woman, and in the course of the dance, he switches partners and accidentally ends up dancing with the man who enjoyed being dressed like a girl. They spin once, giving each other a rather startled look, and the camera pans away. This, by the way, is the "exclusively gay moment" referenced in Bill Condon's interview.

On a more minor note, LeFou confesses to Mrs. Potts during the battle scene that he and Gaston are "so in a bad place right now," and Mrs. Potts tells LeFou he deserves better than Gaston. While this is obviously meant to play into LeFou's feelings for Gaston, it's subtle enough that it could even be taken as just two friends having a rough patch in their friendship.

After watching the entire movie, the conclusion I came to is that this subplot was minor and subtle enough that I had no issues taking my girls to see it, even though I personally wish it hadn't been included. For those of you who want a more detailed look at everything in the film, you can read Plugged In's review HERE.

I realize this is an issue that is sensitive and divisive, but I felt I couldn't do this review in good conscience without mentioning it. I know I have readers who fall on both sides of this, and I welcome discussion in the comments as long as it is kind and respectful.

The Music:

I thought I'd end with some thoughts on the music, since it played such a huge part in this film.

The singing was not as good overall as the original animated voice cast, especially Emma's singing as Belle. Her voice had a bit of a manufactured sound to it. She took breaths in odd places, which could either be her take on a unique interpretation of the songs, or just a lack of breath control. And there were several places in "Belle" that were in a lower key for her, as if she couldn't reach the original notes and they had to transpose it to fit her range. (Interestingly enough, the Broadway version of "Belle" is in a higher key than the animated version. Just in case you needed to know that random Beauty and the Beast factoid to make your life complete.) ;) Still, Emma wasn't unpleasant to listen to, and her voice had a kind of everyday girl quality to it that made her more believable. It sounded like a "normal" person singing to herself while walking down the street, rather than a professional singer.

Luke Evans, Josh Gad, and Audra McDonald all had outstanding voices. Since all of them have performed in musical theater before, that's no surprise. I have to admit, though, I kept picturing Olaf singing "Gaston" because Josh Gad's voice sounds exactly the same. (Seriously, someone needs to do an animated version of Olaf singing "Gaston." It would be hilarious. No one gives warm hugs like Gaston?) ;)

Dan Stevens is not known for his singing, but I thought he did a great job on "Something There" and his new song, "Evermore." I'd actually love to hear his singing without his Beast-synthesized voice. ;)

Speaking of new songs, this movie had three: "How Does a Moment Last Forever," sung by Maurice (and later Belle), "Days in the Sun," sung by the enchanted objects, and "Evermore," sung by the Beast. All three were written by Alan Menken. The first two were rather short, and their melodies were used two separate times in the course of the film. In addition to this, both "Gaston" and "Beauty and the Beast" got additional lyrics, unused in the animated film.

My favorite of the new songs was definitely "Evermore," with "Days in the Sun" coming in second. I wish both "Days in the Sun" and "How Does a Moment Last Forever" had been longer.

As much as I enjoyed the new songs, I couldn't help but compare them to the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast. Not only have I memorized most of the Broadway soundtrack, but I had the privilege of seeing it performed live twice (not in New York, sadly). ;) And I have to say, on every count, I felt there was just a bit more to each of the additional songs in the play than in the movie. As beautiful as "How Does a Moment Last Forever" is, I think I prefer "No Matter What," the sweet song Belle and Maurice sing together. "Days in the Sun" is lovely and melancholy, but I've always loved "Human Again" and its inclusion of all of the characters, including little Chip. And as gorgeous as "Evermore" is, I can't help thinking of the heartbreaking "If I Can't Love Her" that the Beast sings after scaring Belle away from the West Wing. (Here's a recording of the 1994 Tony Awards Performance of Beauty and the Beast, which highlights some of these songs.)

And I'm sorry, but NOTHING can beat the amazing tankard dance during "Gaston" that was performed in the play. The movie's choreography was boring by comparison. (This video doesn't quite do it justice, but it gives you a little idea of how cool it was.)

The tone and pacing of the play was different than the movie, so I can understand why those songs wouldn't have worked for the live action film, but I loved every extra Broadway song as much as the originals, while the extra songs from the movie left me wanting more...either more verses or more depth.

Bottom line, the music from the movie was enjoyable. The orchestration was beautiful. I especially loved the inclusion of an instrumental version of "Home" (from the Broadway version) whenever Belle went to her room. The singing was nice, especially with the visuals. But I have to admit, if I was going strictly for a soundtrack without the visuals, I'd choose either the original or the Broadway version...and maybe Dan Stevens and Josh Groban's versions of "Evermore." ;)

Also, I hate to even bring this up, because I really was pleased with the casting, but I would love to see the Disney company cast actors who can act and knock it out of the park with their singing in the future. Emma wasn't bad at singing, but if they could have found someone who could really sing those songs the way they were meant to be sung, I think it could have been so much richer. But then again, I thought her acting was wonderful.

In spite of these few, nit-picky issues I had, I fell in love with this story all over again and enjoyed it thoroughly.

One of my favorite parts? The amazing, wordless acting in this scene right here:

Original image found on Pinterest HERE

I still get teary just thinking about how beautiful it was. :) The look of wonder on the Prince's face as he turned around and gazed at Belle, the same glorious music playing in the background from the animated version, the joy of true love and reunion after death...Eep! I'm going to geek out again!!

My other favorite parts were the Beast's facial expressions after he tried to ask Belle to dinner politely, and his reaction upon finding out her favorite book was Romeo and Juliet.

So, those are my thoughts on Beauty and the Beast 2017. I think I still prefer the 1991 version for the most part. Not only is it beautifully animated, but the casting is perfection and it's a huge part of my childhood. But 2017's Beauty and the Beast will definitely have a spot on the shelf right next to it. :)

Have you guys seen it yet? What were your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Back from the Birthday Trip

Hey everyone! Just thought I'd drop in and let you know that we actually made it to Roseville this time. ;) We had a wonderful birthday trip for the girls and got back home safely this afternoon.

I'd hoped to get that Beauty and the Beast review up before I left, but between packing and everything else, it didn't work out. The short version of my review is that overall, I LOVED it. :D More detailed thoughts to come. ;)

I don't have the energy to do a full post tonight, but here's a short little preview of our trip:

More to come! ;)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

In Which my Monthly Posting Trend Continues...

Okay, seriously, where did February go? There's no way my calendar is right. Oy.

I really hate starting blog posts with an apology, but I feel one is due this time. It's been over a month since you've heard from me, which is ridiculous. Apparently, this is my new thing for 2017: one post per month. Sorry, guys! :}

So, what have I been up to during that time?

First off, I have to share the rest of our Spirit Week pictures with you. (Side note: I think Spirit Week was the start of my blog neglect. I'm pretty sure I used up most of my brain cells then, and things haven't slowed down since.) ;)

If you guys remember, all of the dress up days this year had board game themes. So the first day, highlighted in my previous post, was Candyland. Day Two was "Scrabble Day." The students each had to pick a famous character or object that started with the same letter as the first letter of their name and dress up as that. So, I suppose now you'll know the first letter of each of the girl's names. ;) Little Gal went as Captain America, Middle Gal went as Porthos (from the 90s version of "The Three Musketeers"), and Oldest Gal went as Boo from Monsters Inc. Little Gal's shield and Middle Gal's sword were both handmade by my dad, using cardboard, duct tape, and paint. :)

Puppy kisses for Captain America. ;)

Day Three was "Apples to Apples Day". Oldest Gal and Little Gal went for more literal interpretations of this by going as Apples to Apples game cards, while Middle Gal chose a theme from one of the cards and went as a fairy.

The last day was "Battleship Day," or, more traditionally, "Red, White, and Blue Day." I think this one's pretty self-explanatory. ;)

The girls still managed to keep up with their homework during Spirit Week. Here's Little Gal doing her reading in one of the under-bed storage cubbies, waiting to go into Oldest Gal's room. ;)

In the middle of this crazy week was the AWANA Grand Prix at our church, an event where each of the kiddos get to make their own boxwood derby cars and race them. Oldest Gal isn't in AWANA anymore (she's too old), but the other two both had fun working on their cars with Papa.

Middle Gal decided on a dolphin design and made a mermaid to ride on top.

The mermaid is trailing her hands in the water at the end of the dolphin's tail. The water was made from hot glue droplets (all Middle Gal's idea).

Little Gal decided she wanted to make Moana's boat. Here it is from the side...

...and from the front.

As if this wasn't enough fun, we've celebrated two birthdays over the past month, too. 

Middle Gal's was in February. She decided on an ice cream and toppings bar instead of cake, so my mom and Mimi found all sorts of fun toppings for ice cream.

She requested something for a fairy garden as her [non]cake topper, so Mom found her some figurines and a wishing well, and my dad made her a little fairy-sized bridge.

Little Gal's actual birthday is almost here, but we celebrated her family party last week. She requested a Moana cake with Moana high-fiving an ocean wave.

I think Mom and Mimi pulled it off pretty well. :)

The "sand" was graham cracker crumbs over a cream cheese frosting, with chocolate shells for decorations. The water was made of blue and white fondant.

My dad made Little Gal her own miniature version of Moana's boat for her little Moana doll. Pua looks ready for adventure!

Backtracking a bit now. Right after Spirit Week, over President's Day weekend, we attempted to take the girls' annual birthday trip to Roseville.

Mini Josefina and Ooma the Zelf, all excited for the trip.

We specifically took I-5 instead of Highway 99, our normal route, because of the possible flooding of the Oroville Dam. Ironically, 99 was fine that day, but I-5 was partially closed because of heavy flooding. But unfortunately, we didn't find out about it until we were stopped in traffic and didn't know why. :{ There was no warning at all. One moment we were driving along, excited to visit Toys R Us and the Disney Store and the mall, and the next, we were in standstill traffic. For the next three hours, we only traveled six miles. It took some involved research and phone calls to even figure out what was going on. Thankfully, we had lots of snacks, water, and Disney's live action version of Cinderella downloaded on Mimi's tablet, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

Brake lights. Not what you want to see on the freeway. :(

Josefina is bored. ;)

Even on the sides of the road and in the fields on either side, the flooding was pretty crazy: 

"Aaarrrgghhh!!! Let me out of this car!!"

Because the flooding was so bad, and because another bad storm was supposed to hit while we were there (not to mention the fact that two people REALLY needed to go to the bathroom, and we'd passed the rest stops hours ago), we made the difficult decision to turn around and go back. Traffic was stopped a good twenty miles back from the spot we'd left. It was a bad day to be on the freeway. :(

We found a spot for a late lunch (we never reached our original lunch destination because of the traffic issues). We had just decided to do a mini overnight trip to Chico (a town a little over an hour away from our home), which was on our way back, when Mimi tripped over a parking block in the parking lot and fell. She broke her brand new glasses, cut her face, and injured her bad elbow. She insisted we still do a quick Toys R Us stop in Chico, but after that we all decided it would be best to just go home.

It was a tough weekend. The girls had really good attitudes about the whole thing, but of course they were devastated. They were all in tears (and I was, too).

As bad as the trip was, there were a lot of things to be thankful for. The weather was beautiful, so when we were stopped, we could leave the windows down and enjoy the fresh air...except for the first part, when there were a ton of tiny gnats flying around because of all of the water. ;) Another nice thing was that the girls were not the ones who needed the potty stop, so for a while, the need wasn't as urgent as it could have been. We had a long time to chat and visit in the car together. We had plenty of food and water, which was a huge blessing, because we didn't eat lunch until after one. We were also able to turn around before we had to drive through flood waters. And thankfully, Mimi's injuries were not as bad as they could have been.

So, not the way we would have chosen the trip to go, but still a memorable experience. I told the girls that someday they could tell their grandkids how the I-5 flood of 2017 ruined their birthday trip. ;) I-5 flooding is extremely rare. I haven't heard of it happening in my lifetime.

The good news is, the trip is rescheduled for this coming weekend! Mimi is all healed up and the storms haven't been as bad, so we shouldn't run into the same flooding problems. We're not going to take I-5 again this time, though. We'll stick with 99. There are more options there if traffic ends up stopped for some reason. ;)

Somewhere in the middle of all of this craziness, Toy Fair 2017 happened in New York. While I didn't do any blogging about it, I did set up a Pinterest board with a few videos from those who were able to attend. There are some great vlogs from My Froggy Stuff and others. You can see my board HERE.

And, of course, Beauty and the Beast news, clips, and merchandise have been abundant. I've pinned most of the clips and interviews I could find on my Pinterest board HERE.

Fun Beauty and the Beast merch at Barnes and Noble.

And some at Walmart.

I got myself a Beauty and the Beast purse and an adorable Beast keychain. (Shout out to the awesome Hot Topic employee who helped me feel the blind bags before I purchased them to figure out which one felt the most like the Beast. I love our Hot Topic employees! They're so nice.) :)

This purse is just the right size and so colorful.

And the Beast is adorable! :D

The entire soundtrack is now available to purchase, and is also available on Spotify. I have so many things I want to share about it, but I really want to hold off comments until I've seen the movie and am able to observe the visuals while listening to the music. As a teaser, I'll say that my reactions at this point are...mixed. But I'm also not horribly disappointed. ;)

The Beauty and the Beast headlines have not been without controversy, as most of you probably know. Director Bill Condon's comments in his interview about the decision to make LeFou gay instantly became huge news. I'm not going to say much on this topic at this time, as I've made the decision to see the film myself first before I share my opinions. I know that my readers all hold different views on this issue, but I felt I couldn't go without saying anything due to my Christian readers.

I was directed to THIS article which details what exactly Mr. Condon was referring to in his interview, which is helpful for parents trying to decide whether or not to take their kiddos to see it. For a more detailed review from a Christian perspective, you can check out Plugged In's thoughts HERE (warning, a few plot spoilers in this one).

After reading these articles, I have decided that I will still see the movie, and most likely let my girls see it, too. After I watch it, I'll do a full review and share more of my thoughts. For now, I'll say this. While I personally hold to different values than the Disney company, I understand that this is a sensitive topic on both sides of the issue. I think there have been overreactions on both sides and there has been insensitivity on both sides. My hope is to share my honest opinions in a way that is respectful, loving, and gracious. But, the rest of this conversation will have to wait for a later post. ;)

Most of you have probably also seen the announcement about the Beauty and the Beast Limited Edition dolls that will be released online and in select stores tomorrow, on the same day the film is released. They made Belle in her yellow ballgown (a 17 inch doll) and a Belle and Prince set (which I believe are regular fashion doll size). You can see a detailed review of the reveal photos on this YouTube video HERE.

As some of you may remember, around Christmastime I was able to purchase $100 in Disney Store gift cards with some of our Best Buy gift cards. I'm going to take them with me on the trip this weekend, just in case, although the dolls will probably be sold out by the time we arrive on Sunday. I think the LE Belle is a definite improvement from the smaller doll, but I've decided I still want to see her in person before I decide whether or not I want to purchase her. If she's not still there, I'll take that as my decision maker. Gift cards or not, I can't justify spending that much sight unseen, especially after the disaster that was the Classic Live Action Belle. ;) Since I will most likely only own one limited edition doll in my life, I want to make sure it's one I'm absolutely in love with.

As for the Belle and Prince set, I think Belle is nice, but I'm horribly disappointed in the Prince. He does NOT look like Dan Stevens to me. I think Hasbro did a better job on their Prince doll's face. It's exciting that the Disney Store version's head is the proper proportion for his body, but it makes Belle's already oversized head look even more huge. And while his clothing is amazingly detailed, he's really just kind of ugly. How does the Disney Store keep taking these gorgeous people and making them hideous in doll form? :(

Ahem. I realize the irony of nitpicking over the looks of dolls from a story about looking past appearances, but I hope you know I'm not trying to be shallow, just big on accuracy and detail. :} Especially when the dolls in question cost $700. Yikes!!

Back to that Classic Belle doll and her Beast counterpart. Here are just a few photos I took of them and the Hasbro Belles I picked up.

Disney Store Belle and Beast.

The artwork on the backs of their boxes matches.

I'm still disappointed in this face.

The Beast is pretty incredible, though. 

Here is "Enchanting Ball Gown" Belle from Hasbro, and the "Castle Friends Collection" set. I purchased both of these at Toys R Us the weekend of our botched birthday trip.

Castle Friend Collection front...

...and back.

The set includes Cogsworth, Lumiere, Plumette (Feather Duster), Mrs. Potts, and Chip. I was surprised to discover that all of them are made of a slightly flexible plastic instead of hard plastic.

Cogsworth is definitely my favorite from this set. Judging by the clips I've seen, I think he's going to be my favorite in the movie, too. Plus, there's something so surreal about having a little animated clock with Gandalf's voice. ;D

Cogsworth from the back.

Mrs. Potts front...

...and back.

Chip front...

...and back.

Lumiere front...

...and back. I think I was most disappointed in this guy. Even though his detail is pretty cool, the pose they chose for him makes it almost impossible to get him to stand up, especially since he's so flexible.

Plumette's base is more solid, but since it's uneven on the bottom, she can't stand at all. I wish they'd designed it so she could.

Plumette from the other side.

A closer look at the peacock detail on her handle. 

The two Belles side by side.

Hasbro Belle

Disney Store Belle

Hasbro Belle's dress.

Disney Store Belle's dress.

Hasbro Belle deboxed.

She holds a carboard rose.

A side-by-side of the two dolls together.

And a closer look at their faces. While technically the Disney Store doll looks more like Emma Watson, I think the Hasbro doll has an overall more pleasing face.

I also snagged the Target Exclusive Belle from Hasbro. I loved the fact that she came in her castle grounds outfit.

Her box from the back.

This Belle comes with her castle grounds dress, her shoes, her cape, and her village dress.

Her face is identical to the other Hasbro Belle's.

A look at her shoes. Unfortunately, because they chose to make her feet AND shoes on her tippy toes, she doesn't stand on her own. Even when she's leaning against something, it's difficult to get her to stand up.

Here's a look at her feet.

Her cape from the back.

It doesn't untie in the front, but has a Velcro spot in the back that allows you to take her cape off over her head.

Here is her dress underneath.

I was disappointed to discover that the dress and the little pink over-jacket are sewn together and can't be separated. 

Here she is in her village dress.

As to be expected from a play line doll nowadays, both of her dresses are cute but made of satiny fabrics that will fray and tear easily with rough play. Just an FYI for moms out there. ;)

I didn't plan on deboxing the Disney Store Beast and Belle dolls. The Beast is still in his box, but I was so disappointed in Belle, I ended up deboxing her so I could remove her freckles. But then I accidentally took off a part of one eyebrow, too. One thing led to another, and suddenly I was removing her head, relaxing her hair with boiling water, and taking off all of her face paint. :}

Belle's empty box. 

She had so much paper stuffing in her skirt! 

Here she is with the stuffing still intact.

I'd hoped that I'd be able to enjoy her face mold more when I deboxed her, but it still isn't quite right. She actually photographs better than she looks in real life, too.

Bodice detail. I do like her dress.

Skirt detail.

I love her little pinky ring. :)

Her dress from the back.

I love all of the layers and little details.

Her hair is super curly and a bit crunchy with gel. The top is in an elaborate braided bun.

She has this odd golden earring thing over one ear that looks more like accidental factory paint. ;)

Her skirt has lots of layers.

The details of her shoes.

Sigh. And the wonky Disney Store jointed legs strike again. :( 

I tried pulling her hair a little loose from its style at the top. I think this softened her face nicely.

I decided to hold it in place with a rubber band for a while:

Spinning in her dress.

Ugh, that face shine. :(

At this point, I knew I wanted to take off her freckles and face shine, and I didn't want to risk getting acetone on her dress, so I had to figure out how to get her undressed. I had to snip the little threads holding her sash in place to remove the bodice.

Here it is.

Her tulle underskirt.

Her skirt.

Another look at all of the amazing layering.

NUDE DOLL ALERT for those of you who don't want to see it.

She looks like she's been riding a horse for a while.

So, I pretty much right then and there decided to take off her head. I will eventually use a Made to Move body for her, but I want to get her customized first. You'll also notice my rubber band experiment didn't work at all.

A comparison of the real Emma's face next to the doll's face.

I decided to take out her hair and try to relax the curls a bit. 

It was super frizzy in some of the sections because of the braids. 

And here she is with her face paint removed.

I did a boil perm to loosen her curls.

This is what she still looks like to this day, as other obligations have taken away my doll customization time: 
I'm keeping her hair separated in its different sections so I can hopefully duplicate the braided bun hairstyle.

After the birthday trip, when things settle down a bit, I'm going to work on her in earnest and hopefully give her a nicer face. I'm a little nervous I'm going to ruin her, though!

One of my Hasbro Belles got a body swap, too. She has a Made to Move body like my Disney Store Belle will:

The skin tone's not a perfect match, and her head hole is a little larger than the neck, so sometimes I have to adjust it a bit to allow her to look up. Also, the Made to Move body is slightly larger than her original body...which I discovered when I tried to Velcro her dress. :{ So just be aware of this if you decide to customize your own. The original Hasbro bodies aren't terrible, but they don't have any leg articulation, and the arm articulation feels a bit fragile. I wanted her to feel stronger and have more posing capabilities.

Her pink dress fits slightly better on her new body.

I've had fun posing her for different pictures. I think it will be fun to tweak some of these on Ribbet. :)

And while we're on this subject, remember my previous review of the Project MC2 dolls? I really loved McKeyla's face, but was super disappointed in her body. Well, thanks to THIS YouTube tutorial from My Froggy Stuff, I figured out that the Project MC2 dolls can be combined with Made to Move Barbie bodies. Eep! :D

P.S. More naked doll photos coming up, for those of you who might be concerned.

At Walmart, I found a Bryden doll on clearance, and realized her skin tone was a perfect match for my African American Made to Move Barbie:

Getting her head off was fairly easy. I've been doing so many body swaps lately that I've gotten a lot better at it. ;) 

Bryden's was fairly easy to remove, too.

Even though this gal's head looks cute on the Project MC2 body...

...the neck joint doesn't fit correctly, so her head falls off easily.

Because of the difference in head cavities, I actually had to trim some of the neck joint off of my Made to Move Barbie body so it would fit in Bryden's head.

It was a little tougher getting Bryden's head on this body. I had to use the blow dryer on a low setting (AWAY from her eyelashes) to soften the plastic enough to make it work. Some people prefer to put the heads in a sealed back and soak them in warm water for a while. Whatever method works best for you.

And here she is with her awesome new articulation!

She has the most gorgeous face.

Trying out a new look. ;)

In other news, I thought I should update you on my book. I spent a week or so completely retyping it and reworking some of the problem scenes, and then submitted it to a dear friend and mentor from Mount Hermon for editing. I have several other writing friends and family members critiquing it. Once I've heard back from all of them, I'll make the needed corrections and revisions, and then submit to the agent I met at Mount Hermon last year. I've gotten great feedback so far, and feel much more confident about the story now that I've made so many needed changes.

And in the middle of all of that, I'm working hard on some sample illustrations for another writing friend, trying to get those wrapped up.

Oh, and I'm also working on an exciting project that I'll be able to share with you soon. ;)

So, yeah, just a little busy. But thinking of you guys even when I'm a horrible blogger. ;)

Sorry, guys. ;}

I'll be posting again by next week at the latest, but I hope to have a review of Beauty and the Beast up sooner than that, if possible.

Talk to you soon! :)