Toy Talk
Volume LIV

By Mark Patraw
Posted on 2/2/15

I was trying to think of something interesting to write for this introduction and then I happened to notice that the Roman numerals for fifty-four (LIV) are the same as the name of Spin Master's Liv brand of dolls, and, I swear, I didn't decide to cover some of those toys on purpose to take advantage of that, it's just a strange and happy coincidence!

As always, if anyone reading this knows more information about any of these items, that I haven't already discussed below, and would like to share, or just chat about toys, feel free to e-mail me and let me know!

Toy line/assortment: Lalaloopsy: Silly Hair.
Manufacturer: MGA (2011).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 1/28/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 8.0 cm (3.1") wide (from ear-to-ear, excluding the tail) x 7.7 cm (3.0") tall. The animal is 21.5 cm (8.5") wide if you include the tail, fully stretched out.
Articulation: Bendy tail.
Notable features: None.

2/4/15 Addendum: Special thanks to Hannah, over at her Never Grow Up blog, for letting me know that this particular version of the toy mouse came with the "Silly Hair" version of Crumbs Sugar Cookie (who has bendable locks, just like my rodent's tail). While reading her review for the "basic" doll of said character, I immediately noticed that her mouse had a shorter and skinnier tail, that didn't appear to be flexible, so I dropped her a note and asked if she knew why mine was different and Hannah kindly educated me as to what I really had.

Here we have Crumb Sugar Cookie's pet mouse accessory. Said doll is the best baker in Lalaloopsy Land and she lives in a house made out of candy and other sweets. I still find it odd that the Lalaloopsy characters don't name their pets, although that's easy enough for you to rectify if you like. As for myself, I'm going to be super-imaginative and call this rodent "Mouse".

The critter is made out of plastic, but, in keeping with the Lalaloopsy ragdoll look, it's sculpted to look like it was sewn together, hence the seams around the edges, the button eyes, and embroidered mouth/whiskers. The ribbed surface of the tail is probably intended to suggest rope or licorice and the ears are meant to be cookies, although they look more like crackers to me. The overall effect is pleasing, but I do kind of wish that the body had a fabric texture to it, rather than being smooth.

The paint is all done in solid colors and applied fairly well (I did touch up a couple of rubbed off areas, on the left button eye, with a black Sharpie marker). Other than some airbrushed shadows on the body, picking out the individual stitches, and doing some mottled coloring on the cookie ears, to make them more realistic, there's not a whole lot more that I can think of that the manufacturer could have potentially done, paint-wise, on a figure this simplistic in order to improve its appearance.

This "stuffed" mammal has more play value than the immobile polar bear pet of Mittens Fluff N Stuff, that I purchased a while ago, simply by virtue of its bendy pink tail. The appendage has a wire armature inside, so you can reshape it into whatever configuration you want, within reason. Curl it into a circle, pull it out straight, wrap is around the body--it's up to you! The solid tail is heavier than the hollow figure, as such, it can cause balancing issues, but it's certainly possible to make the critter stand independently as my photos illustrate.

Paired with Mittens Fluff N Stuff's polar bear. Out of the two, I definitely prefer the mouse.

I still don't have any actual Lalaloopsy dolls. I almost bought some miniature ones on Black Friday, for fifty cents a piece, but my inner Uncle Scrooge McDuck cried fowl (pun intended) at that price, because I already had a pair of 12", highly-articulated dolls (Barbie: Fashionistas and Liv) and a trio of G3.5 My Little Pony horses in my arms, that all individually cost the same amount, so, those tiny Lalaloopsy figurines didn't strike me as good value for my money in comparison. On the other hand, had the Mini Lalaloopsy dolls been priced at twenty-five cents, I definitely would have snagged the whole bunch. Granted, I realize fifty cents is a good deal compared to retail, but, you've also got to remember that I'm a miser! Heck, this mouse is larger than a Mini Lalaloopsy and it was only a quarter.

Maybe I'll just collect the pets . . .

Toy line/assortment: Liv.
Manufacturer: McDonalds for Spin Master (2011).
What I paid: [Alexis] Fifty cents on 2/19/14 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
[Sophie] Twenty-five cents on 1/28/15 at the same establishment.
Size: [Alexis] 5.7 cm (2.2") wide x 15.0 cm (5.9") tall.
[Sophie] 5.0 cm (2.0") wide x 8.9 cm (3.5") tall.
Articulation: [Alexis] Neck, shoulders, and waist.
[Sophie] None.
Notable features: None.

Well, it took me about a year-and-a-half (I bought my first three on 9/13/13), but I finally collected all eight of the 2011 McDonald's Liv toys (and I only acquired one duplicate, Hayden, in the process)! I found the last doll that I needed, Alexis, almost a year ago, but the Sophie styling head continued to elude me until just recently (I almost wrote up a review for Alexis, months ago, but, rather than publish that in Toy Talk, I decided to wait until I had Sophie's noggin too). I'd actually been thinking about that Sophie head a lot lately, so, imagine my delight when I found her in the toy bin staring up at me last week! The store had another Daniela styling head too, but it wasn't in the greatest shape, and I don't need two, so, I left her there for someone else.

She may have been the last of the full-bodied figures that I acquired, but this Alexis mini doll was worth the wait (it's a close tie between her and cowgirl Hayden as to who's my favorite from this assortment). Alexis is dressed in a lovely pink and purple ensemble. The paintwork is a little sloppy, and I would have liked to see some color used on the molded band and flowers on her hat, but, overall, Alexis is quite pleasing to the eyes (in the toy line's fiction, she wants to have a career in fashion design, so, in my opinion, Alexis should always be the best and trendiest dressed out of the five girls). I noticed that both McDonald's Alexis toys have a darker skin tone than the full-sized doll I have--I wish that they were more consistent with one another. Proportionately, her head is way too big, but that's the Liv "look". Her neck, shoulders, and waist all have rotating cut joints, which allow you to alter Alexis' pose a bit, but she's hardly super-articulated. Alexis can stand on her own, with a little work, but she's not terribly stable, due to her small feet and the size/weight of her head, which tends to unbalance the toy. It probably would have been a good idea for McDonald's to include stands with their mini Liv dolls.

Sophie's been growing on me a lot as of late (I've got three of the full-sized Sophie dolls now), even rivaling Alexis as my favorite Liv girl. Other than the obvious molding seam on her forehead (that all of the McDonald's styling heads have), this is a good representation of her. The hair is relatively coarse, but it's rooted fairly thick, has a nice sheen, and combs out well enough. Sophie's wearing a sculpted "S" necklace and a ruffle-trimmed pink halter top--I still appreciate that McDonald's attired each styling head differently, rather than taking the easy way out and just re-using the same mold three times. I wish that they'd given Sophie her glasses though, but, chances are those would be missing on a loose sample like this anyway, and, because the styling heads are about the same size as the real dolls' noggins, you can easily use glasses from one of those if you have any.

A complete sample of this item should also include a hot pink comb, which I don't have. All of the Liv mini styling heads came with combs, but I don't believe that the dolls did, which is kind of odd, considering that they all have rooted hair too.

Scale comparison with a couple of full-sized Sophie and Alexis Liv dolls.

At last, the complete set of all eight McDonald's Liv toys are mine!
(Top, left-to-right) Alexis, Hayden, Daniela, Katie, and Sophie dolls.
(Bottom, left-to-right) Alexis, Sophie, and Daniela styling heads.

Like I've written before, even though it'd mean more of them for me to track down and purchase, I kind of wish that Spin Master/McDonald's had also produced mini styling heads for Hayden and Katie too (a Jake doll wouldn't have hurt either). Well, it's nice to finish off another set of fast food toys--maybe I'll try to complete one of those McDonald's Madame Alexander or Barbie doll assortments next . . .

Toy line/assortment: The Incredible Hulk.
Manufacturer: Hasbro for Marvel Comics (2008). This figure is actually dated 2007, but the film came out in June 2008, so, Hasbro probably began production of the toys several months before the movie's release.
What I paid: One dollar on 1/28/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 12.0 cm (4.7") wide x 15.9 cm (6.3") tall.
Articulation: Neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, hips, knees, and ankles.
Notable features: None.

This handsome fellow is the cinematic reinterpretation of the classic Hulk villain, the Abomination, which appeared in the 2008 The Incredible Hulk film. The Abomination, and his human alter-ego, the Russian-born military officer Emil Blonsky, were portrayed by actor Tim Roth, but, as you'd expect, when he became the creature, that was computer-generated/motion-captured special effects, not him in a bulky rubber costume. I haven't seen said movie, but I've always loved the Hulk and his adversaries, and I can certainly appreciate the excellent design of this monstrous brute.

I should note that, while I like this guy, I do prefer the original comic book look of the Abomination (which is more reptilian-like) over the movie version, probably because that's what I grew up with and am accustomed to. To be honest, when I first saw promotional shots of the cinematic creature, I wasn't terribly impressed, even disappointed. However, the design has grown on me with time, and it certainly makes for an imposing action figure. The Abomination's sculpt is superb, with monstrous proportions and all sorts of knotted muscles, ridges, veins, and projecting bones decorating its surface.

This is roughly how large the movie Abomination should be, in comparison to an average human.

Scale-wise, the toy is too small for a 6" line of figures (according to Wikipedia, the CG movie model was eleven feet tall). In an ideal world, this item would have been significantly bigger, but, a toy company has to deal with the realities of economics, thus, unless Hasbro opted to make him a more expensive deluxe figure, that simply wasn't going to happen. Standing the Abomination next to something like a 3-3/4" G.I.JOE character (shown above) gives you a sense of how big he should be.

This Abomination toy is very well articulated, even for a character of his considerable mass/bulk. The only additional joints that I would have liked to have seen are rotating cuts at the thighs, to improve the range of motion in his legs. A ball-jointed neck, instead of the simple swivel he has, would also have been nice, but, given how thick his neck is, it probably wouldn't have made much difference. Thanks to the huge size of his clompers, the Abomination stands great, unassisted, in a variety of poses.

The creature's color comes mostly from the olive-green plastic he's molded from, but there's enough red and off-white, for his nails and the areas where bones are protruding, to add some visual variety. While I like it, I do find the Abomination to be surprisingly gory for a mass-market figure aimed at kids, as toy manufacturers often try to play down or remove blood to appease parents. I also feel that this figure would have really benefitted from a dark paint wash, to emphasize all of the wonderful details on his body, but, even as-is, the Abomination looks pretty sharp. As my sample is secondhand, and has probably administered, and received, many playroom beatings, some of the paint has worn off, most notably on the toenails, elbow/calf spikes, and vertebrae.

A complete sample of this toy should also include a twisted, silver pipe accessory, that could be "broken" apart into two halves and then reassembled again. Sure, it'd be nice to have, but it's hardly vital. Brand new, at the time of his release, this particular Abomination toy would have retailed for about ten dollars, so, even without his pipe, I got him for a steal at one-tenth of that.

I know I often say that the bad guys always win at my house, but, I just can't bring myself to let the Abomination best the Hulk.
Besides, the Hulk is arguably a monster himself, and as long as some kind of creature comes out on top, I'm happy.

As I mentioned near the beginning, I prefer the original comic book look for the Abomination over the movie version, but, even so, he's still an awesome figure that I'm delighted to add to my collection (I immediately grabbed him the moment I spotted him, lying in a revolving rack with some other toys, near the cash register, when I walked into the store). The sculpt is top notch, he's well articulated, and the toy has a very substantial/solid feel to it. I'd definitely recommend him if you like what you see. The Abomination would also make an excellent giant, ogre, mutant, or similar fantasy creature, for smaller action figures to battle.

Toy line/assortment: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Legends Class).
Manufacturer: Hasbro/Takara-Tomy (2010).
What I paid: Twenty-five cents on 1/28/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: [Robot Mode] 8.2 cm (3.2") wide x 8.0 cm (3.1") tall.
[Bulldozer Mode] 3.4 cm (1.3") wide x 6.6 cm (2.6") long x 3.3 cm (1.3") high.
Articulation: Wheels (3), shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, and ankles.
Notable features: Transforms from robot-to-bulldozer and back again.

This crimson bruiser is Rampage, one of the Decepticon Constructicons from the 2009 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen film. Thus far, I've only watched the first Michael Bay Transformers movie, so, I haven't seen the other three, including said second one, yet. While the cinematic robot is just a computer-generated model, Rampage was voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson (instead of "Rampage", the Decepticon is labeled as "Skipjack", in the film's ending credits, which was apparently the robot's working title). Strangely, there are actually two Rampages in the film, one red, like this one, and one yellow. Are they identical twins, clones, or something else? The ochre one combined with several other Constructicons to became the super robot Devastator, while scarlet Rampage was ultimately destroyed by the Autobot Bumblebee during their battle in Egypt. Shortly thereafter, Devastator, and presumably his yellow Rampage appendage, met his end when the U.S. Navy fired their experimental rail gun at the mechanical titan.

Rampage's robot form is kind of strange-looking: he's top-heavy, with a single, jackhammer-like "leg". Although, on this toy, you can separate his lower anatomy into two actual legs if you prefer a more humanoid shape. I think that was a great idea, as it gives the consumer two different looks for the character (while it's trickier to get him to stand that way, I prefer the pogo-stick arrangement, because that's how he appeared in the film and I also like the vaguely serpentine shape it gives him). As a smaller, Legends Class figure, he's not as intricate as some of the other, larger Rampage toys that Hasbro produced, but he still sports a fair amount of mechanical detail.

His bulldozer form (a Caterpillar D9L) is also pretty sharp-looking. There are noticeable hollow gaps, behind the shovel and between the treads (the vehicle appears "gutted"), but, other than that, it's a very nice representation of the machine. The treads don't actually move, but there are three wheels, one underneath each track, and a third under the shovel, so that Rampage can be rolled across any smooth, flat surface.

Transforming Rampage is pretty easy--I figured it out quickly without the benefit of any instructions. In bulldozer form, you simply unhook his arms from the body, fold them out, and then rotate/pivot the legs down into position, separating them if you like, to complete the robot. Reversing the process changes him back into the bulldozer. Converting some of the larger Transformers toys can be an exercise in frustration, due to how complex they've become, so, it's nice to get a simpler one like this from time-to-time. A younger child might need help, but I think most kids would be able to handle Rampage with little trouble.

While some of the Revenge of the Fallen Constructicon toys can do so, this particular Rampage figure does not combine with the others to form Devastator. I knew that going in, and I'm fine with it, but, if you are looking to own said giant robot, make sure that you do your research and purchase the correct version(s) of Rampage to avoid disappointment.

Comparison with my (bootleg) G1 Devastator. Rampage is roughly analogous to the G1 Bonecrusher character.

As I've written in the past, I'm not particularly fond of the Transformers "movieverse" aesthetic (I favor classic Generation 1 above everything else because that's what I grew up with), but, that aside, this is a pretty good representation of the film character, both in robot and vehicle forms. I've always liked the Decepticon Constructicons/Devastator, no matter what form they take, so, when I found him, while scrounging through the toy bin, it was a given that Rampage was coming home with me.

Toy line/assortment: Monster High.
Manufacturer: Mattel (2012).
What I paid: Fifty cents on 1/28/15 at the Ishpeming, Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Size: 11.7 cm (4.6") wide x 6.5 cm (2.6") high x 3.3 cm (1.3") deep. 9.8 cm (3.9") high with the sliding cover open.
Articulation: Sliding screen and forty buttons.
Notable features: Multi-function electronic utility.

This is something a little different than what I usually buy: an electronic text messenger/utility. I freely admit that I snapped it up because of the Monster High association, but, then again, I probably would have purchased it regardless of what toy license they had slapped on it. My version has Ghoulia Yelps (zombie) and Lagoona Blue (sea creature) graphics on the cover/screen, but you can get them with other designs as well. Being secondhand, my unit is a bit scratched up, and has a pink glob that I couldn't get off (which I believe to be dried nail polish), near the infrared sensor, but it performs flawlessly despite that minor wear-and-tear.

The Monster High Slide Text Messenger has the following features:
  • Short-range text chatting (via infrared signal with similar devices), including private chat.
  • Date and time, with an optional alarm clock. You can also select the time zone.
  • Telephone number directory (text + number).
  • Calculator with memory function.
  • Unit conversion (i.e., inches-to-centimeters).
  • Memo storage (text + date/time, 100 maximum).
  • Password protection.

  • This device is somewhat tricky to figure out on your own, if you don't have the instructions like me, but I've got a fairly good handle on it now. I learned how to do some of the stuff through simple trial-and-error, but I also consulted a PDF manual, for a similar device, that I found online, which was helpful (I didn't have any luck finding digital instructions for the Monster High model, and I noticed that several other individuals online were in the same boat). While its operation does get easier with practice, I think Mattel could have made things a bit more intuitive, as it isn't always clear what button(s) you need to press to get the results you're after.

    Annoyingly, this unit uses the old number/letter method for doing the alphabet instead of a proper QWERTY keyboard. In other words, each digit, 1-9, corresponds to 2-3 letters of the alphabet, so you may have to press the button multiple times to get the one that you want (i.e., just to spell out my first name, "Mark", I have to press "5" (MNO) once, "7" (ABC) once, "6" (PQR) three times, and "4" (JKL) twice, which is about as much fun as it sounds). Granted, a QWERTY keyboard would require more buttons, and presumably more manufacturing costs, but it would have made this thing infinitely easier and more efficient to text with. I happen to enjoy the beeping noises that this item makes as I press the buttons, but, if you don't, or want to text quietly, the sound can be muted.

    The Monster High Slide Text Messenger runs on two AAA batteries, which can be accessed from a panel on the back of the unit with a screwdriver. I'm grateful that this thing didn't require button batteries, as those are generally harder to find and more expensive. My unit came with working cells, so, I was able to test it out in the store before purchasing it, to make sure that it worked properly, which is always a plus. There's also a recessed reset button on the back, that you'll need a thin, pointed instrument to depress, like a toothpick or sewing needle, which will clear the organizer's data--that's useful if you forget your password, or, like me, you acquire a secondhand unit that's already password locked.

    I can't test the chat feature properly, because I only have one device and you need two to send/receive messages. I can tell you that it's done via infrared signals (similar to a television remote control), so, both units have to be pointed at one another and you need to be in the same room/area, which limits their range considerably. I read quite a few complaints, online at places like, from both parents and children, that it's difficult to send/receive messages unless you're really close, and that the process is less than intuitive. That, coupled with how time consuming it is to input text with the number/letter method, makes it sound more frustrating than fun, although I don't doubt that, for the right individual(s), it could still prove to be entertaining.

    The calculator functions as you'd expect, although it's the "basic" kind, not a scientific one, so, you probably aren't going to be using your Monster High Slide Text Messenger in Calculus or Trigonometry class. On the upside, it does have a memory function, which is something I use a lot when I'm working equations.

    Similarly, the unit conversion feature works well, but you have to manually put in the conversion rate yourself (i.e., 1 inch equals 2.54 centimeters). I think that commonly used values like that should have already been built into the device's memory. That said, this is a useful tool for me, as I frequently convert metric and standard units of measurement, both for my artwork and web site (in fact, I used it for this very page!) However, as the device already has a calculator, this conversion tool is arguably redundant, as you can just as easily do those types of calculations with that instead.

    For the memo function, you can input a short message, as well as the desired date and time, to remind yourself of various activities/obligations. I read, online, that the unit can store up to a hundred of these notices, which is a good amount. I don't have the time, or patience, to input that many, so I'll just take their word for it. Oh yeah, I'm not sure why, but this thing does dates in the year/month/day format, which is the reverse of the day/month/year method I'm accustomed to--it's not hard to adjust to, but, initially, that was messing me up, giving me an "Error!" message every time I tried to set the time.

    The telephone directory is exactly what you'd expect. Just input the person's name and number, save it, and you can bring them back up whenever you wish (of course, that'd be a whole lot more useful if this thing was actually a phone too). I'm not sure how many of these you can store at the same time.

    If you're concerned about others reading your notes, or seeing who's listed in your phone number directory (like nosy siblings/parents perhaps?), you can put a four-digit password lock on all of your data too. Just don't forget what it is, or you'll have to reset the unit and lose all that information. I don't see myself using a password much, beyond testing it for this review, but it's nice to have if you need it.

    Hey, this is a private chat, go away!!!

    As noted earlier, while searching for instructions, I ended up reading a lot of online comments/reviews from individuals that were very unhappy with these Monster High messengers (some even going so far as to say that this item was the worst toy that they had ever seen/owned), so, unless you can snag a unit for dirt cheap, like I did, you may want to think twice before plunking down the cash, as the majority of buyers seem to be displeased with them. Personally, while I would agree that there are some aspects of this device that Mattel could have handled better, I don't regret my purchase, because, if nothing else, both the clock/alarm and calculator/convertor are useful to me and I never had any intention of actually using it for texting to begin with. That said, you should remember that this thing only cost me fifty cents too--had I paid full price, I might be more pessimistic.

    I also noticed that several people mentioned buying these in an attempt to appease their younger children's desire for a cell phone without having to get them a real one. I can understand that rationale, although it probably isn't the best idea in this case, as so many people have indicated that they found them difficult to use.

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