15 May 2013

New Bratz - Part 1 - Xpress it Yasmin

First, some background.

10/10/10 marked the 10th anniversary of the Bratz franchise, and a huge "horah we have the franchise back!" celebration for MGA after having the ongoing court dispute land in their favour. But we all knew it would be appealed, and MGA must have known this too, because instead of a carefully executed and well considered relaunch, they took the "throw tons of junk at the shelves quick! Before Mattel sue us again!" approach.

(A mass of grey leggings and school girl outfits.And no, they weren't articulated.)

The designs we got... well... let's just say the outfits were rather lacking. A mass of grey knit and stitched together pieces which were not what Bratz fans had come to expect. We'd been spoiled by separate pieces, by funky styles and a large array of shoe moulds. Now we had grey grey grey, leggings all over the place (Yes they were fashionable but daaamn, why did ALL of the girls seem to wear them?) and the ridiculous peep toe boots. Sorry shoe designers but peep toe boots are STUPID, they're dumb irl and they're dumb in plastic form.  If you're gonna wear boots you don't want your toes exposed and if you want your toes exposed, you don't want toasty warm boots right?

Anyway, to make matters worse, the hair... oh god... the hair. There were reports of not only ball of fluff frizz madness, but heads falling off dolls upon opening the box. all manner of flaws came up, chipped paint, blurred faceups, hair not rooted in and actually coming out even! it was a mess that stank of rushed production.

But what seemed to really rile up the Bratz fandumb were the new bodies. Yes, MGA DARED to give the new girls new bodies (and the new boyz also got new, taller bodies. Yay!). The girls were the same height, but a little wider in the waist and thus a little more proportioned (If you can call a giant headed fashion doll proportioned.)
Some went so far as to call the new dolls "fat", what?
But the new bodies, despite their tweaks (think old Barbie vs new Barbie body) could still fit one another's clothing. In fact, the new bodies fitted the old clothes better because they had a waist not just a spinal column covered in flesh.

Bratz limped on, but never seemed to sell that well in stores I visited. The designs never quite managed to recapture that edge the old Bratz had.
Then at the end of 2012 MGA announced new Bratz, which went down about as well as New Coke.

If people were up in arms about the 10/10/10 bodies, they lost their collective shit at the new taller Bratz calling them "barbie knockoffs" and so on.
The new bodies of course, wouldn't be able to share fashions with the older dolls, an odd move on MGA's part, but they could now mine Barbie's wardrobe for fashion and help old Babs with some fashion tips of their own. As a collector who has both Barbies and Bratz, I could only be delighted by this development. Now I could pool together their fashions. HUZZAH! Compatibility!

And so, after that lengthy preamble, let me get to my point.
The new Bratz.

Over the next few months i'll be looking at the new offerings from MGA.
The new Bratz line has me excited, it's another relaunch and another chance for the franchise to reclaim their position in the doll world. But have MGA done enough this time? After their failure to generate much hype with their last attempt at resurrecting the brand, do new Bratz have what it takes to tackle Barbie head on once more?
For this series, i'll only be looking at HUMAN fashion dolls. So all those monsters and supernatural critters can go hang out elsewhere. They're a whole different kettle of fish, this here is the battle of the human chicks. Barbie vs Bratz, who's bringing more to the table this year? Have MGA finally managed to pull it together?

Well, today we'll be looking at their budget offering. Xpress it 2013. 

Now, Xpress it is a line name that's been used before. Oh man has it been used before. In fact, there have been at least 2 different waves of Xpress it prior to this one. Suffice to say, this leads to some confusion in stores and online. Xpress it Yasmin for instance, could mean one of three different dolls. This wouldn't be so much of a problem had more than a year passed between wave 2 and wave 3, but nope... several stores here still have wave 2 on shelves! (wave 1 was waaaay back in the early days of the franchise)
So finding the new taller Yasmin I wanted wasn't an easy task. Couldn't trust online to get it right, and large stores didn't seem to be ordering new Bratz dolls in since the old ones weren't selling anyway.
Thankfully, husband spotted the line in a tiny toy store near his work and brought Yas home for me.

The Xpress it line consists of 4 dolls, though if you live in the UK there's only 3. We don't get Sasha dolls here, because apparently there's no black people in the UK.. huh.. who knew huh?

The line costs £9:99 making it a budget line, a little cheaper than the Barbie Fashionistas and a little more expensive than the cheapo Barbie fairy dolls.

Now first I have to talk about the obvious here. Her hair. This packaging design is one MGA have used before, where the upper half is free and only the legs are in a box. It's a very strange design and it leads to a few issues.
First, the aforementioned hair. Her hair is a state, half of it has come loose from the little threads holding it to the backing card. This is due to small child picking up doll and grabbing her head. Now, this is bound to happen in stores and it results in crazy messy doll. In transit even, any slight snag and the hair is messed up. I dread to think about potential face paint scuffs etc caused by having no protection over her.
The second, and probably the one we'll see most often. The earrings. Not only do they fall off very easily, they can also very easily just be swiped because nothing is holding them into the box. I wonder how many of this line in stores have already lost their earrings one way or another.

It seems a very strange way to package your doll, especially MGA who have a reputation for crazy over packaging. This minimal approach is jarring and seems a little poorly thought out. Why not give her a full plastic window over the rest of her body? Why are only her legs encased? It looks weird.

However the open box does allow me to fondle her hair and check the texture. It's soft, so it's not that fishing wire they used on the zillaz. Thank goodness. i know it'll fluff up but i'm expecting that. I've had enough Bratz in my day to know what curly hair means at deboxing.

It also lets me play with her new articulated arms, which aren't held down at all. No plastic gauntlets here, she's free to pose as she pleases. The articulation is nice, she can even touch her face, a huge improvement over the 10/10/10 party doll articulation then.

So first impressions.

She's a pretty doll. her eyes are a little lopsided but that's pretty common across all doll lines. but there's no smears, no missing paint and no massive glaring errors which is a relief. Her outfit is adorable and one of the main things I wanted her for, however, the seams of the purple top are a bit rough and the patterned ribbon part is already fraying. raw seams and unfinished edges strike again! Her jeans seem pretty well put together though, and i'll just have to be careful with her top. I can see it looking pretty ratty pretty quick with regular play though.
Hair is a mess right now, i'll have to see what I can do for her and quite how giant a fluff ball we'll be dealing with once she's out of her box.

The back of her box shows illustrations of all four girls in the line. I find it interesting they've decided not to show photographs of the actual product, I suppose this means they don't get as much whining when the doll doesn't match the promo image right?
Though a few things strike me about this artwork. First, is that a headband Yasmin's wearing?? Where'd that get to? also, her earrings here are silver while the doll has matte blue earrings. Why blue? I haven't a clue, it looks a bit odd.
Kinda a shame about the headband though, anything that could tame this frizz would be awesome.

Deboxing time:

So here we go... how awkward is this box going to be to open?

Actually surprisingly easy. The bottom just swings open once you get the tape off and the whole thing unfolds like this. Wow... i'm impressed, usually you need to take a chainsaw to MGA doll boxes.

Out of box:

A few plastic ties snipped and she's free. The process took only a few minutes, about as long as it takes to open a Monster High box so i'm very happy. Thank you MGA for finally creating a box I don't need to hurt myself opening!

So here's Yas free from her restraints. her hair is a little worse for wear but you can make out the beautiful golden streaks through the front. I love this, it gives her hair depth and interest. it's very attractive. Now she just needs some taming.

Before I run a brush through this, let's take a look at her hair as it is straight outta the packaging. The length is typical of mga dolls, bum length and totally unlayered. The weight of the hair is immense, there's so much of it. Thankfully, the texture is nice and soft but the poor girl is almost entirely made of hair! This is really common with Bratz dolls, like MGA decided "girls like long hair! let's make our dolls 90% hair!" but at least they went with a fibre that isn't unpleasant to touch this time. I assume it's nylon, but my hair fibre recognition skills aren't great.

After a quick brush the poor girl looks more yeti than fashion model, look at all that hair! It's everywhere!

Girl needs a hairdresser stat!

So out comes the kettle of boiling water, the scissors and a half hour of careful snip snip snipping.

Much better.

her hair tamed, restyled (see, this is where that headband would have been useful!) and cut a good inch shorter with layering put in to reduce the shere size of her frizz, she's looking more like she can hit the town and less like cousin It.

Now that her hair is sorted, I can start to look at the rest of her.

(Photo height compare)

She's slightly shorter than a barbie doll, but a lot taller than an older Bratz.
She does however maintain the same sized head and feet as the older girls, they just look more proportionate on the taller body. I kinda like it, she looks less like a lollypop and more balanced. Especially with her mane tamed.

Her shoes are grey boots and like all Bratz, clip on. She can happily share her older sister's shoes so at least some of the older Bratz stuff isn't completely obsolete.

Her outfit is simple but stylish. A pair of boot cut jeans which I love for their simplicity, and a thin, stretchy fabric halter top with an embroidered trim. The bottom piece of the top is rather rough, fraying in parts and a bit messy looking but the rest of the outfit seems pretty solidly put together.

Aside from a pair of inexplicably blue earrings, Yasmin has no other jewellery which is expected for a budget doll but I can't help but feel a little bracelet or something would really pull her look together nicely. I'll have to have a dig and see if I can find something for her.

(Arm poses, compare with party and movie dolls)

Her body has articulated arms, but the legs are your basic clicky legs. A shame, especially given the fashionistas manage to have knee joints as well at a similar price point, but poseable arms is still a massive step forward from the older static bodies and allows for some fun photo posing.Considering the last articulated bodies MGA gave us were retailing in the £20 region, half articulation for half the price seems a fair compromise to me. These arms pose better than the party dolls anyway.

she's got an attractive face with striking, smoky blue eye shadow and muted pearlescent pink lips. I do like this faceup on her, the narrowed eyes give her a sultry look that really suits the Bratz pout.

Overall, she's well worth the £10. For a budget doll, and especially compared with other dolls MGA is marketing at twice the price, her quality is pretty decent. There's a few issues with the finishing on her top and her hair isn't the greatest quality, but for the money, I can't really grumble. Her hair is tameable if you're willing to put the effort in, and the texture is in my opinion, not bad at all.
The new body is a welcome change and opens up a new world of possibilities wardrobe wise. It feels like a step toward Bratz and Barbie living in unison rather than continuing this ridiculous all or nothing "You can't have both" rubbish.

Chandra's loving her new look.

With the ability to trade fashions, finally Barbie can get some trendy clothes! I like to hope the new Bratz will light a fire under Mattel to step away from the glittery red carpet rut they've been stuck in with Babs, and start to give her more mainstream fashions. I always loved fashion dolls dressed like real people, and Bratz have achieved that here. Yasmin's outfit looks like something you'd see someone at the mall wearing, and that to me, is a huge deal.

Oddly, while Chandra fits Yasmin's clothing, Yasmin can't wear Chandra's. So Barbie clothing is going to be rather hit and miss in terms of what can fit the new Bratz. The trousers seem to fit pretty well, but the tops are oddly gaping thanks to the Barbie body's much larger bust and narrower torso. But the stretchy fabric of Yasmin's top means it's a fantastic fit for the Barbie body and the jeans look like they were made for Chandra. Length is perfect, which makes me very happy.

As for Bratz to Bratz interchanging, Yasmin can fit the smaller Bratz jackets, but nothing else. The smaller Bratz are swamped by the taller doll's clothing, there's gonna be no swapping of outfits going on here.

However, the new taller Bratz CAN wear Skipper sized clothing. The trousers are far too short, but everything else seems to work just fine.
Here Yasmin is wearing her original jeans with the top, scarf and jacket from a Mary Kate/Ashley doll. The hat is original Bratz, one of the few older Bratz items you can still mix and match.

I love her in this outfit. The blue scarf is the same colour as her earrings and pulls them in with her design.

Overall, I give Xpress it Yasmin a B+, she's basic, she's budget, but she's gorgeous and her outfit rocks! Also being able to wear Skipper sized clothing while offering up her own wardrobe to Barbie makes for a lot of options. New Bratz fit Barbie trousers but skipper tops and dresses, Barbie will fit the Bratz outfits as if they were made for her. This gives Barbie a new fashionable wardrobe to play with and gives me a change to use all those High School Musical outfits I have lying about at long last. YAY!