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Daniela®
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Finally - here's the actual review of the Liv® dolls by Spin Master. Hopefully this will be helpful to the three people out there who haven't already gotten one....

This will get lengthy, so here's a short summary:

Pros:

  • The quality level is very high (especially for a doll that only costs US$19.99)
  • They have a lot to offer kids, collectors, and "customizers"

Cons:

  • The wigs can be difficult to manage

And now for the details. (If you don't feel like reading more words, you can see the pictures in my Flickr gallery.)

Daniela®'s outfit is cute and well-made. The blue top and black "corset" are one piece (simplified from the two-piece sample shown on the box), but the top, jacket, scarf, skirt, and leggings still give lots of mix-and-match options. (Velcrophobes be warned - all the closures are velcro.)

The only quibble I had with the clothes (and I was looking for them ) is the fusible used on the jacket pocket flaps, which doesn't work to keep the raw edges from unraveling. (There are other fusibles that work better for that.)

Daniela only comes with three accessories: A pair of shoes (that's two ) and a purse. The purse opens and is hollow inside so technically you can put things in it, but the plastic is very rigid so it might be hard to get them back out. I also have to mention - the shoes are a bit "rubbery", and that always gives me the heebie-jeebies about possible melting in the future. I'd definitely keep an eye on them. (But I'm always squeamish about that on new doll lines. )

None of the dolls come with accessories that tie into their interests. Like, Daniela's into music, but she doesn't come with any musical equipment (such as the guitar shown on the back of the box). It would be nice if these accessories were at least made available separately (especially Katie®'s skateboard ).

BTW, the earrings come out easily (they don't have barbs to keep them in like Barbie's), but they're hard to get back in because of the stiffness of the head. (More about that in a minute.) I almost broke the post on one of them trying to put it back in.

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The head is pretty, although it's a bit "mature" for a teenager (and the lips are awfully "puffy" ). I do still think they look like the Thunderbirds, although they aren't as "creepy" as I thought they would be. I personally prefer dolls that look really happy (with big smiles ), but real people obviously aren't happy all the time, and this slightly-happy expression works better for the "reality"-based concept of the line since it can suggest a variety of emotions to match different situations (including the characters' experiences on the Livworld website).

The painted face detail (with painted eyelashes) is well-done, and the inset eyes are nicer than the ones found on a lot of children's play dolls. As you can see, they have sculpted hair detail under their wigs, so they look fine without them. (Actually, I kind of like her better without the wig. )

Speaking of which - the wigs are rooted onto semi-solid vinyl caps after all, not mesh. Thankfully, they also don't attach to the head with velcro; instead, there's a post inside the wig cap that fits into a socket in the doll's head. It's a bit tricky to get the post into the socket (instructions are included that suggest a method, but it's still tough); however, once it's on, it's sturdy enough for hair play.

Unfortunately, the wigs are the only thing I had trouble with. The hair fiber type that was used is very difficult to manage in this application. (Personally, although I love this fiber, I think it's never the best choice for hair play.) The bangs are especially troublesome - the combination of fiber type and the way they're rooted makes it almost impossible to keep them from getting caught up with the rest of the hair and ruined. This is really frustrating - I think some kids will have a very hard time with it. (I always got really disappointed when a doll's bangs "disappeared" like that. ) The parts are hard to deal with as well. There's a different way to root the bangs and parts that would help (although it might be trickier to do).

I should say again that it's very difficult to engineer a wig for a children's doll that doesn't have shortcomings like this. From the beginning the wigs were the thing I was most skeptical about - but, except for the issue with the bangs, I have to say they work pretty well. The ones I got are also rooted exceptionally well, and very densely (they have a ton of hair on them).

There is one other thing that's a bit of a let down: The "second" wigs the dolls come with are basically the same as their "first" wigs, just with colored streaks added and shorter lengths. Although the idea that the dolls just got hair cuts and highlights is more realistic than having a person with black hair suddenly change to blond, more variety in the packed-in wigs would add to the play value. I also wish the doll's original wigs were included in the assortment of separately-available wigs so would-be hairstylist kids with scissors could hack away to their hearts' content knowing they could always get the doll back to its organal look.

Of course, you can buy separate wigs for them. (Here's a a picture of Daniela wearing a blond one with bangs.) I'm sure there are other dolls who can wear the wigs (you can easily cut the post out of the cap), and they'd also be great for "donor hair" for re-rooting if you like this type of hair fiber (which I do - and it's the only commonly-used doll hair fiber that still isn't available for "customizers" to buy).

The neck knob

Which leads me to the customizability factor - the thing most of the people I've heard from have been interested in. I think the Liv dolls would be excellent for "customizing" in a bunch of different ways.

Body-swappers (and nosy people like me ) will be happy to know that there's no "safety hook" on the neck knob, so it's pretty easy to get the head off. The heads are made from stiffer vinyl than Barbie, though, and while the neck joint feels quite strong, you'll most likely need to heat the head up before you can remove it. (I wrapped the head in a towel [to protect the eyes] and used a hair dryer to soften the vinyl around the neck, which works great.)

The neck construction is the same as most 1:6 scale fashion dolls, so it could definitely work with a lot of other dolls' heads. Barbie heads fit, although they're a bit loose without some "modifications". (Heads from smaller dolls, like High School Musical-size dolls, fit more tightly.) The Liv head also fits perfectly on Barbie's body (and I think it looks amazing on it ).

So, to summarize - if you can find a skintone match, you can have all kinds of fun with dismemberment.

There's no way to get inside the head to change the inset eyes, although careful crafty people with sharp tools could probably figure out a way to do it. There are all kinds of cool doll eyes available to replace them with. (She would look great with real eyelashes, too.... )

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The Liv® Body
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The body is very nice. There are joints at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist (which twists and tilts), hips, knees, and ankles. The quality is quite good for a play doll - especially at this price point. (It's better than some "collector" dolls I've seen. )

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The Liv® body compared with Barbie®'s
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Size-wise, it's close enough to Barbie's standard 1999 Secret Messages™ "belly button" body that the dolls can share a lot of clothes (especially stretchy things). The height is similar to the shorter 2006 "hobbit" Barbie® body, and it can share many clothes sized for that body, too. Daniela's clothes fit alright on Barbie as well (although the shirt doesn't close all the way in back).

Many shoes that fit on flat-footed dolls like Teen Skipper® fit pretty well on the Liv feet, which are soft enough to "squeeze" into them if necessary. (Shoes for Barbie's high-heel feet don't fit.) Because of the ankle joint, the dolls can wear both flats and shoes with heels. Of course, dolls with similarly-sized feet may also be able to wear the Liv shoes.

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The Liv® body - check out the knee
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The articulation is very good - the joints offer a lot of poseability without being too obtrusive. Actually, the body reminds me of some of the 1/6 scale bodies made by Obitsu and Volks - especially the characteristic knee joints with separate "knee caps", which allow the legs to bend much more steeply than the joints found on most other articulated dolls. The rest of the Liv body isn't as highly-articulated as a Volks or Obitsu body - but, again, it's very good for a play doll, and the trade-off is a more natural (less "robotic") look.

The body is also very sturdy - the joints are nice and tight.

I think it would be great for making "hybrid" dolls.

(I really like the hand and feet sculpts, too. )

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Star Team™ Stacie® goes well with Daniela®
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As for how the Liv dolls fit in with other dolls - as you'd guess, they don't go so well well with standard Barbie dolls. The heads are also too big for them to go well with My Scene® dolls. (Here's a picture showing Daniela side-by-side with a standard playline Barbie doll and a My Scene doll so you can see what I mean.)

However, I did have one doll laying around that goes very well with Daniela: Wee 3 Friends™ / Star Team™ Stacie®. The proportions are perfect - she'd make a great "little sister". That being the case, I'd bet the larger "amazon" Kelly® dolls from a few years ago that pair up with the Star Team-size dolls would match Liv well, too (but I don't have one to compare to).

Well, hopefully this is helpful in some way. All in all, I think the Liv dolls are very well-done - it's obvious a lot of work went into them, and the designers, artists, and engineers all did a great job.

You may also be interested in these entries (or not - it's your call):
   • Liv™ - A New Fashion Doll Line by Spin Master
   • New Liv® Dolls
   • Liv™ - More Information
   • Doll Review: Liv® by Spin Master - Part 1
Doll Diary 31 August 2009