And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Bratzillaz Cloetta Spelletta

Figure: Cloetta Spelletta || Line: Bratzillaz
Scale: 11 inch || Accessories: Witch hat, hairbrush, display stand
Manufacturer: MGA Entertainment || Year Released: 2012 || Original Price: $19.99

If you'd told me ten years ago that someday I'd be buying a Bratz doll for myself, I'd have said... well, I'd probably have admitted that it was a remote possibility, but I'd have insisted that the doll would have to be well articulated and pretty damned cool-looking for me to ever stoop so low. Given the look of Bratz dolls back then (not to mention the awful CG cartoon), those criteria might have seemed laughable -- and yet MGA Entertainment has indeed released just such a doll (sort of), so that day has finally come. Today, as they say, is the day -- hence today's review of Cloetta Spelletta of MGA's new(ish) Bratzillaz subline.

Still, if the mere mention of a Bratz doll has made you disinclined to read further, it bears noting that the Bratzillaz subline is quite a bit cooler. The box refers to the Bratzillas as "the witchy wicked glam cousins of the Bratz," but, at a glance, the Bratzillaz have more in common with the cast of Mattel's Monster High. Yes, the Bratzillaz are witches and the Monster High girls are based on classic movie monsters, but the dolls have a similar look and seemed like they'd work well together... and since I have several of the Monster High dolls and like them well enough, I've been curious about how the Bratzillaz dolls compare. (While quite a few spookified doll lines have popped up to capitalize on the success of Monster High, only the Bratzillaz dolls appeared to have comparable articulation at a glance.) In my collection, I enjoy seeing both cute girls and supernatural beings... and these, my friends, are both. <insert Krang chortle>

There are a lot of dolls in the girls' toy aisle, but few have boxes as appealing as the Bratzillaz packaging. It's difficult to make a toy look darkly compelling when one's palette is largely comprised of bright and traditionally "happy" colors -- shades of pink here; the other dolls in the line have different colors on their packaging -- but whoever designed these packages managed it beautifully. While all of the dolls in the line have neat-looking packages, Cloetta's is especially attractive since it takes after her two-toned design: the border is split between silver and pink, like her cape, and the background (which looks to be a closet of sorts) is split between pink and blue, like her eyes. Furthermore, there are lots of details scattered about -- feathers and beaded trinkets on the border; raised images of Cloetta and her pet dog/cat Barkthalameow in the interior; articles of clothing hanging in the background -- that enhance the look and give the impression of a (fashionable) witch's cluttered workshop. And as wickedly cool as all of this is, it somehow manages to complement rather than completely upstage the doll. We'll say more about Cloetta herself in the following paragraphs, of course, but she looks especially great standing smack in the center of this gorgeous jumble.

The back of the package is a lot less inspired -- it retains some nice color choices, but is otherwise pretty standard stuff. It does, however, feature some nice artwork of Cloetta and Barkthalameow and note some fun facts about Cloetta, including her favorite class: History of Platform Shoes. So at least we know that Cloetta's taking some pretty interesting courses! There's also the obligatory cross-sell for the other dolls in the line, and apparently the raised images in the package can also be used to activate some feature on the website. If one has a webcam, anyway. I don't, so we'll just move along.

By the way, someone at MGA clearly has it in for little girls and/or their parents, as releasing Cloetta from her package was easily the most difficult such experience I've ever had in my 20+ years of opening toys. Unboxing this doll was such a frustratingly complex experience that I half expected to be snatched up by bedazzled Cenobites the moment I snipped the final plastic tie tethering Cloetta's hollow skull to the interior cardboard backing.

Out of the package, Cloetta looks almost as bewitching as she does boxed. Foremost, she retains the same two-toned color scheme that originally made her (and the box) so appealing to me -- and whereas the paint work on the lips is very impressive, the eyes command even more attention. Unlike the Monster High dolls, the Bratzillaz eyes aren't painted: they're inset clear plastic dealies and they look fantastic. Of course, the hair needs work (it's combed easily enough, but still looks kinda messy and uneven at the ends), but that's probably par for the course when it comes to playline dolls.

As I'm not a dedicated doll collector, I lack the lexicon to appropriately comment on Cloetta's outfit -- but I'm mostly very impressed with it, too. There are a couple of different materials in use here, with the cape being made of a flimsy, shimmery fabric (with elastic bands at the ends that wrap around Cloetta's wrists) and the main outfit being made of a stiffer, pleather-like material. As far as extras go, Cloetta has a pair of mismatched earrings, a glittery bead belt, and a pair of mismatched boots. They all add further character to the doll, though the earrings and boots look a bit cheap and the raised belt can make Cloetta look fat depending upon the angle.

Still, earrings and boots notwithstanding, it feels like this is much nicer stuff than what the Monster High dolls get to wear in terms of the quality of the fabrics in use. However, there's a tradeoff, at least with Cloetta. While it appears that the Bratzillaz dolls have great range of motion in their hips (judging from this in-depth review of Meygana Broomstix over at The Toy Box Philosopher), the stiffness and restrictive nature of Cloetta's outfit renders her hip articulation functionally nonexistent. If that's the tradeoff, I might have preferred a cheaper outfit and more poseable legs! The arms, however, retain all of the range that one would expect from swivel-hinged shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and the uncovered knees can bend just past 90 degrees. Unlike the Monster High dolls, though, there's no swivel here: the hinged knees do appear to be pegged into the thigh pieces, but for some reason the peg is rectangular. D'oh.

Cloetta and Draculaura are pink pals!

Cloetta also falls a bit short in the accessories department. She comes with a tiny witch hat -- which might as well be a permanent part of the doll's outfit, since it comes stitched to her hair (I cut the thread to make it removable) -- a broom-shaped hairbrush (not pictured), and a display stand... and that's it. Monster High dolls at the same $20 pricepoint come with a brush, display stand, pet (not just a picture of the pet), and a small diary (which is actually kinda fun to read). Heck, even the cheaper Monster High dolls usually come with something fun, like a pet-shaped keychain or a carton of Brain Puffs. Maybe the quality of the outfit justifies the lack of accessories, but -- again -- I think I'd have preferred a slightly cheaper outfit (which might have benefited Cloetta's poseability) and a few more accessories.

Overall, Cloetta's not a bad doll -- and if it weren't for the restricted hips and lacking accessories, I might be inclined to recommend her over the similarly priced Monster High dolls, as I really do like her look (especially the eyes). As it stands, I can't quite go that far, but I will say that, if you want to add some variety to your spooky doll collection, you could do worse than the Bratzillaz. While they're typically $19.99 in stores, you can currently (that is, as of December 2012) find Cloetta Spelletta -- as well as Meygana Broomstix, Jade J'Adore, and Yasmina Clairvoya -- for just $11.99 on Amazon.

It also bears noting that there's a new flavor of Bratzillaz just now hitting retail shelves: a Midnight Beach assortment that features dolls with glow-in-the-dark skin. The skimpier swimsuits should reduce the possibility of restricted articulation, and the glowing skin sounds delightfully eerie... so if you're at all interested in Bratzillaz and want to try one, you might want to wait until those hit in numbers.

-- Wes --
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