Almighty Hat ([personal profile] hat_plays_dolls) wrote2017-08-02 08:06 am

Doll Review: Monster Family Pawla Wolf

So yesterday I ran my usual errands, dropped eBay stuff off at the post office, did a quick Target run (my nephew broke a plunger and... look, it's really important that the number of toilet plungers equal or exceed the number of toilets in your home, especially if you have a toddler around), checked out the toy aisle (still resetting-- but I saw First Day of School Clawdeen and Fangelica! I held off), and went to Toys R Us because I had a $5 reward. I was about to use it on Lagoona and the least-wonky Kelpie when I said to myself "Wait, let me check this endcap," and lo and behold there was the $9 doll I really wanted to use that $5 coupon on.

Check it out, I got me a Pawla!

Okay, first things first, I frickin' love the Monster Family dolls, I plan to get all of them except maybe Ebbie and she could still grow on me (if I ever find one who doesn't have her pigtails covering her face). Weredith is cuter in person, Dracula is cuter in person, at this point I'm even assuming Sandy is cuter in person, they're all cuter in person. I love the concept of the Monster Family line and while I agree the execution could be a little better, the execution is still really good.

But I have like fifteen more pics, so click the cut to see if I can't sell you on Dead Tired Pawla. ... Okay Monster Family of Clawdeen Wolf Pawla, but 'Dead Tired' is a lot faster.

Face! Okay, so Pawla-- and indeed the entire Monster Family line, as far as I've seen-- is made in Indonesia. Luckily, her head is so small it doesn't feel like they used ANY glue, a development I'm super-happy about. Both the Pawlas at my Toys R US had pretty good eyes, I just grabbed the best one after a few minutes of peering and comparing. She's fresh out of the box in these photos, and may still have some paper dust from the factory. Spa time comes later. Pawla has fairly thick brown hair with mint streaks, styled in curly pigtails-- her box art (not shown, my box wasn't the prettiest) shows her with Honey Swamp style coils and I'm handy enough with a boil perm that I might just try that. Her hair is saran instead of nylon, fortunately. I'm not a huge fan of her pale lipstick-- not that I'm against letting a kid wear lipstick if they want to, but the Wolf 'story' for Monster Family is that they're getting ready for bed. Pawla, sweetie, wash your face.

The sleep mask on Pawla (and Barker, too) are why I think of the Wolf family as a sort of Dead Tired extension-- the dolls' eyes can't close, so have a sleep mask! For her price point, Pawla couldn't have a fabric one (three layers plus ribbon plus elastic, those Dead Tired sleep masks are a lot of fiddly sewing), so she got a really cute molded plastic one instead. It has little circles on the sides that I think were meant to have tag-holders shot through, but being a barbarian, I'll use straight pins to hold the mask in place if I ever want to leave it on Pawla.

It does fit well, though I wouldn't trust it to stay for long without being secured in place somehow. Also, look at that sculpt! Only Dead Tired Cleo has a mask that cute. I'm definitely going to paint this, at the very least those eyelashes need a coat of black.

Pawla could have had a little ribbon bow stitched to the front of her nightgown, but for the sake of redressing her, I'm really glad they went with a molded necklace that can be used with other outfits (that I'll have to make myself but here we are). Plus the ends are bones! Mine has some flashing, but flashing is on the list of things I can easily fix.

Mattel strained and I think overshot the limits of their technology on the fabric of Pawla's nightgown. The base is the same mint as her hair streaks, crossed with jagged black stripes full of staring yellow eyes. That's where I would've stopped, but the mint stripes also have lavender paw prints and... yellow? Gold? Pale brown? Anyway, your standard set of three Wolf-family claw marks. But they don't contrast enough with the mint at that scale, and they get lost in just sort of a blobby texture.

Pawla comes with three non-wearable accessories, and they're all really cute-- particularly since she doesn't come with shoes, not even bedroom slippers. I'm equal parts disappointed and understanding, because shoes probably require a lot more engineering (design time you have to pay for) than, say, a pillow. And frankly the pillow is the only one of Pawla's accessories I wish had been skipped in favor of shoes.

Which isn't to say the pillow isn't cute, or that I won't be painting it to bring out its texture and its monster face. In person, it's a much more grape-purple than the ultraviolet it looks in my photos-- my digital camera is not the newest thing and it sometimes struggles with highly saturated reds, blues, and purples. (It would do better if the pillow were painted, actually, with more color variance to focus on.)

Pawla's well-loved teddy bear is almost, almost the star of her accessories, and certainly it's the easiest to admire in the box or right out of the box. Instead of dark grape purple or bright hot pink, Bear here is a soft lemon yellow. I'm still gonna paint Bear-- the detail is-- this is not a Frankenbear, as I've seen some reviews say, or a bear with a frohawk-- this is a bear that's so loved it's lost an eye and has stuffing leaking out of the head and one shoulder and has visible stitches elsewhere on the body. I think there's even a patch on the back of the head, I'll find out when I do a paint wash. This bear has been loved to pieces and rebuilt from those pieces, and I love it.

Pawla also includes a hot-pink storybook. The cover is textured, and the front has wolf paws and claw marks...

And the back has a crescent moon and a couple of stars. The pages are sculpted to look like teeth, with a tongue bookmark dangling over the back-- very Monster Book of Monsters. The storybook, in my opinion, is the star accessory of Dead Tired Pawla-- but not because of the Harry Potter reference.

It opens up lookit lookit lookit it opens up and inside, on the verso, you have a bas-relief of a spoooooooky house against a backdrop of clouds. The 'printing' is set into the hill the house sits on, cleverly. On the facing page, there's more 'text' and an elegant wolf howling at the crescent moon and I really can't wait to paint this book. It's gonna take about sixteen coats to cut the hot pink but this is gonna be a fun project. To stay closed, the book has a clip on the side that snaps into place. It's fantastic. I love it. I was 'meh' until I opened it but I love it.

Okay, back to Pawla herself.

Pawla's nightgown is half-printed-- which I feel is reasonable for a nightgown, actually, no matter how I feel about the rash of half-printed mini-dresses we've been getting lately (disappointed but understanding), and it has a hole for her tail. I kind of like that the littler the Wolf siblings get, the more monstrous they look-- it wouldn't have worked as well for Classic Monster High, but the Reboot gives werewolves the ability to shapeshift, and the kids being fuzzier and having more paw-like hands and feet and retaining tails suggests that shapeshifting is a skill they get better control over as they get older, and possibly something that doesn't manifest at all until sometime between Weredith and Barker's ages.

The drawback, of course, to the cute oversized hands and feet-- and Pawla's bent right arm, ANY doll arm permanently bent at such an extreme angle-- is that the armscyes and any sleeves have to be REALLY BIG to get the doll dressed. Pawla's armscyes here go down to her waist-- but I think this is for ease of dressing in the factory and by little kids, I'm pretty sure I could make a tighter armscye fit okay. Other options for redressing Pawla include strappy sundresses and halter tops. You might be able to get a T-shirt on her (or Barker, who has a bent left arm for his toothbrush), but the sleeves would necessarily have to be super-baggy. I wouldn't try long sleeves on Pawla unless they're very full, either with elastic at the cuff for poofiness or big open Medieval sleeves for a princess dress.

Pawla has six points of articulation: her head can turn and look up and down slightly (comparable to a Classic Boy in range of motion), her tail rotates so she can sit, her shoulders swing, and her hips are on a V crotch joint. They are not rotational, but do splay if you sit her down. This is not a fantastic range of motion (especially since you can look at the Enchantimals and see that they got bendy knees, and note that Pawla's elbows aren't any skinnier than Clawdeen's Frankie's wrists-- Pawla could be more articulated than she is), but it's comparable to Chelsea, who's the same height, a similar age, and might be able to share (some) clothes with Pawla. It's also pretty comparable to the Barbies I grew up with. So I'm not actually unhappy with or complaining about Pawla's articulation-- just sort of officially stating that if Mattel ever does make a Pawla (or Barker or Kelpie or Fangelica or Lux or Pharrah or Alivia or Dracula) with even two more points of articulation, I will also buy that one. I support and will buy basically the entire Monster Family line, but if you give me more articulation later I will buy it AGAIN. ... Especially if the faces are different.

On the other hand, I'm also not buying any really new articulated MH dolls from Indonesia (except as ride-alongs for the Monster Family kids) until the whole inflated-joints issue gets sorted, whether that's deliberate or somebody trying to pass off one plastic as a different kind of plastic and Mattel not being able to afford to just scrap all the dolls that are assembled with the badly-fitting stuff or what. Pawla may only have six points of articulation, but they all fit together and don't leave her looking like a monster marionette, which is more than I can say for the fully-articulated 16-adjacent dolls lately.

Closing thoughts: Monster Family Pawla Wolf is not flawless. Her dress print tries to push it farther than it can go, her articulation is limited but reasonably so, she has no shoes, you may have some flashing to trim, and I strongly urge you to buy Pawla (and in fact any Monster Family dolls) in person rather than from online retailers if you're particular about wonky eyes. However, even with those minor issues and quibbles, I find Pawla to be super adorable and I'm glad I got her. The entire Monster Family line is cuter in person than it is in any prototype, Toy Fair, or production photo I've seen, and the paint style is a perfect midpoint between Classic Monster High and Reboot Monster High-- so if you prefer New Scaremester Clawdeen to First Day Of School Clawdeen, Pawla will still look related. Pawla's accessories are all-new and great sculpts, and look like a lot of fun to paint if that's your thing. (It's my thing, maybe it's your thing too.)

Also, if you like the idea of the Monster Family line, even if you feel like it has some drawbacks and issues or overall execution problems, I urge you to buy the Monster Family dolls you like best (or hate least, or want but want with better articulation) before they go on clearance anyway. If the line flops, then Mattel will likely cancel it after its second wave (which should drop sometime in November or December). If it succeeds, then we'll see more of these little characters, in different outfits, possibly with better articulation and more kid-activity playsets than a kitchen. I for one would love to see the Monster High aesthetic applied to a jungle gym and swing-set.

I mean, maybe that won't be super-soon, Monster High is definitely being throttled right now to give Barbie a chance to retake the lead in sales, because that's a business decision Mattel needs to make for the good of the company after losing the Disney Princess license-- but the only way to ever see any of these characters with additional points of articulation is if the ones with only five or six points sell. If they shelf-sit until they go on clearance, we'll probably never see them again.

And that'd be a bummer. These aren't like the Frightmares (nothing against the Frightmares, exactly), who weren't to-scale and had different face screening styles and felt like an attempt to get some of that sweet My Little Pony money; the Monster Family dolls expand the home lives of characters we already know, the faces look like MH-universe faces, and although some of them require a little more explanation than others, they fit into the storyline while widening it beyond high school.

(Can I do a parenthetical thing about how excited I am for Lux, Sandy, and Pharrah? Because as much as I see other fans going "WHERE did they even COME from?" I feel like they actually add something to Cleo's story-- a timeline. A reason their usurping uncle put his plan into motion when Nefera was nineteen and Cleo was fifteen. That's a long time to wait, right, almost-twenty years since Ramses's first kid was born-- why wait so long? Or, because this is Ancient Egypt, why not just quietly poison Ramses and marry Nefera? Because Lux is six years old, tops. Uncle Usurper might've been biding his time-- Lux and Pharrah might be twins, they're certainly on the same body mold, and the boys in brother-sister twins are notorious for failure to thrive. (Ask me about historical infant mortality! I'm a font of horrible information. Vaccinate everything.) But nope, Lux survived the million things that could've killed him and now he's old enough that even if Ramses dropped dead, Lux would be the new Pharaoh-- sure, his advisors might hold all the actual power, but Uncle Usurper wouldn't be Pharaoh, which is what he really wants. Which means the time has come to incite a peasant uprising, dispose of Ramses, his favorite wife, his daughters, and his heir, quell the peasant uprising and blame the deaths (or "deaths" or undeaths) of the royal family on the peasant uprising, and finally rule Egypt the way he wants to.

The little de Niles also give Cleo a reason for always referring to Nefera as "My big sister, Nefera" when she starts talking about her. I have a sister and I call her "my sister," because I've only got the one sister. If Cleo has three sisters-- even if two of them were entombed with Missing Mom Dedyet along with Lux, and Cleo didn't know where they were for millennia-- then she's got a big sister, a little sister, and a baby sister. Referring to Nefera as her big sister could easily be a way of reminding herself that there are or were or should be more than just Nefera. So that's my headcanon and until there's enough canon to tell me otherwise, I'm sticking to it. Come to me, tiny mummy babies, I want all three of you and especially Sandy's ridiculous high chair.)

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