Toy Talk
Volume XXXIX

By Mark Patraw
Posted on 5/5/14

Last week was another frustratingly fruitless affair, with little on the shelves, or in the bins, to interest me, so, I ended up buying nothing, despite multiple trips to check out the thrift shop's wares. I saw a vintage TMNT Footski vehicle that I would have very much liked to own, for seventy-five cents, if not for the fact that it was missing too many parts (I could have lived with the lost flag and torpedoes, but I think most people would agree that the absent steering column was a crucial component too important to overlook). Then there was a 12"-or-so plush girl doll, also seventy-five cents, with a removable dress and brunette yarn hair, that I kind of liked, but I couldn't find any identifying marks or tags on her body (my best guess would be that she was a Ty Girlz of some sort, but who knows?), so, she didn't come home with me either. The only other toy I came close to buying was a G.I.JOE Heavy Duty figure (I'd guess one of the Valor vs. Venom or Spy Troops versions, but I'm not sure), for fifty cents--he was in pretty good condition, but, as he's fairly boring in appearance, and I've never really cared for the character (Heavy Duty is a poor man's Roadblock in my opinion), I left him behind as well. I don't know, maybe I'm just getting too picky?

In this installment of Toy Talk, moving left-to-right, we have: a couple of Hasbro Strawberry Shortcake Lemon Meringue figures, the first from 2011 (McDonald's) and the other from 2008 [2011 (twenty-five cents "girls awesome" grab bag on 4/23/14); 2008 (twenty-five cents "girls small doll" grab bag on 2/12/14)]; to the right, and slightly in front of them, is a Spin Master Bakugan: Battle Brawlers, New Vestroia Altair figurine from a Character Pack (twenty-five cents "boys awesome" grab bag on 4/23/14); behind, and to the right of that winged dragon, is a 2011 Disney/JAKKS Pacific Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides Captain Jack Sparrow action figure (my Mother got him from a local rummage sale and gave the toy to me); next we have three Imperial rubber animals, a frog, lizard, and an alligator (the trio were all inside the same twenty-five cents "boys" grab bag on 1/10/14); and, finally, on the far right, is an Uneeda Doll Company blonde baby doll (twenty-five cents "girls small doll" grab bag on 2/12/14). With the exception of Jack Sparrow, who, as I just mentioned, was a rummage sale find and gift from my Mother, I purchased everything from the Ishpeming St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store on the dates noted above. 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!

Sweet and sour--that's a pretty apt description for how I often end up feeling about the contents of the mystery toy grab bags that I regularly purchase. That phrase is certainly applicable to this pair of Strawberry Shortcake Lemon Meringue figurines as well.

This one is from the 2011 Hasbro/McDonald's assortment (for those keeping score, there were also two other series of Strawberry Shortcake Happy Meal toys, produced in 2006 and 2007). In addition to Lemon Meringue, this particular wave of playthings also included Plum Pudding (covered in Toy Talk Vol. VI), Raspberry Torte, Orange Blossom, Blueberry Muffin, and Strawberry Shortcake herself.

Lemon Meringue and her styling chair both look good. The pose, gazing into her hand mirror as she fusses with her hair, was a nice choice. Unfortunately, some of the flesh tone paint has rubbed off of her forehead in several places, which seriously detracts from her appearance. Lost paint is always annoying, but it's particularly irksome when its in a location where your eyes are naturally drawn, such as the face. I'd like to touch it up, but, I know, from experience, that attempting to match the exact color of the original paint is a devilishly tricky business. There are also some small sculpted elements that should have gotten their own paint apps, to make them stand out, but didn't, namely the lemon wedges adorning her shirt and barrette. A shiny, reflective decal for her hand mirror would have been a welcome addition too. The food motif continues onto the chair--both the pink, circular base and the back are sculpted to resemble lemon slices. One thing that bothers me about the concept of this toy is that it seems incomplete to me with only one character; there should be another person, behind L.M., working on her locks. When was the last time you saw a girl or woman sitting in a hair salon chair styling her own tresses?

The McDonald's Lemon Meringue figure is disappointingly immobile. You can rotate and raise/lower the chair, by pulling the yellow shaft in-and-out of the pink base, but the girl doesn't move at all. At the very least, I think they could have given her cut joints at the shoulders. Ideally, you'd be able to remove her from the chair and play with her as a stand-alone toy, but L.M. is permanently anchored to the seat. With the chair extended to its maximum height, Lemon Meringue is 3.5" (9.0 cm) tall.

All of the Strawberry Shortcake toys from this Happy Meal assortment are supposed to be scented. Naturally, L.M. should smell like lemons, but my nose isn't detecting anything. Now, I'm a germaphobe, so, bear in mind that I'm sniffing this item from a distance of a few inches, not with the toy pressed right up against my nostrils, but, even so, I'd guess that whatever fragrance L.M. once had wore off long ago.

Hilariously, while I was recently researching Strawberry Shortcake toys online, I ran across an auction, on eBay, where the seller was asking a whopping nine dollars for this same item, which is simply ludicrous (naturally, there were zero bids). Maybe she'll be worth that much in 2050, but not now. You'd probably have a tough time getting nine smackers for the complete set of six figures in unopened bags, let alone one loose sample.

This one is a "real" 2008 Hasbro Strawberry Shortcake Lemon Meringue doll, not a fast food promotion. The difference in quality/construction is readily apparent. I'm not sure if she was sold individually or not, but this L.M. figure was available in a "Berry Bubbly Bath" boxed set along with Strawberry Shortcake, said friend's cat, Custard, and several accessories, including the titular bathtub.

Lemon Meringue is very sweet looking in this form. To some extent, her proportions/design remind me of Mattel's larger Polly Pocket dolls (speaking of which, Polly-stretch garments would probably fit this figure, if you could get them on over her huge feet). When it comes to flash photography, her finish/paint is a bit too shiny (Lemon Meringue's body reflects a lot more light than I expected, which made capturing her facial features particularly difficult at times). Like the previous example, bits of color have rubbed off here-and-there (mostly on her striped tights), but, thankfully, that didn't happen on her face, which makes a big difference. L.M.'s blonde hair is hard, molded plastic. It doesn't look bad (I dig the green bows on the inner braids), but my preference for Strawberry Shortcake dolls is rooted hair, because that's what the original Kenner dolls sported, so, to me, that's the "right" look for them. Lemon Meringue has five points of articulation: rotating cut joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips. The hair tends to restrict the backwards movement of the arms a bit, but you can turn her head to alleviate that somewhat. She's 3.0" (7.6 cm) tall and stands very well, despite the large size of her melon, thanks to her equally big feet.

This loose sample is missing all of the accessories that came with the boxed set, most importantly her yellow and blue dress. She does have clothes painted on her body though, so, even without that garment, at least she's not indecent. The shoes aren't removable. The sole of the right one has a recessed strawberry symbol molded into it, which is a cute visual reminder of what toy franchise she belongs to.

Group shot of all the Strawberry Shortcake toys that I currently own.
After taking this photo, I noticed that the plastic bag, that I've been storing these toys in,
smells nice now, so, one, or more, of them must still be giving off fragrance.

Out of the pair, I definitely prefer the "real" one to the McDonald's version. She looks better, actually has articulation, and isn't permanently tethered to a chair--it's no contest really. When it comes to McDonald's fare, I think the 2007 Strawberry Shortcake assortment was the best (check out Toy Talk Vol. XIV to read more about the Angel Cake and Crepes Suzette dolls from that wave). On a final note, irrespective of how I feel about these toys, I'd like to mention that I enjoy lemon meringue pie (I love pie in general).

Apparently this poor critter purchased its circular base on an installment plan and has only scrounged up enough cash for half of the payments. What we have here is a Spin Master Bakugan: Battle Brawlers, New Vestroia Altair figurine from a Character Pack. The toy would have originally come on a blistercard with a "normal" spherical transforming Altair action figure and a magnetic Tidal Breeze Gate Card (Bakugan ball figures automatically change, from sphere-to-creature, when they come into contact with any magnetic surface), but, as this is a loose sample, I have neither of those items. Story-wise, Altair is unique in that it was the first artificially-created mechanical Bakugan, a product of the genius of Professor Clay. Unfortunately, as it was a prototype, Altair suffered from several deficiencies and, consequently, performed poorly in battle when pitted against "real" Bakugan monsters.

For its size, Altair's sculpt is quite good. The technological dragon design is attractive, and I particularly like the shape of its wings. There are lots of little details, like the recessed triangles and raised ribs on the "feathers", and the black, half-circular base that Altair is attached to (which lines up to form a complete circle with any similarly mounted Bakugan figurines), is equally ornate. The flying dragon is a static piece, without articulation, so, as far as poseability is concerned, there isn't any. The entire toy is molded from smokey, translucent plastic, allowing light to shine through any areas that aren't painted (primarily the neck, circular centers of the wings, and the tail), which is a neat touch. At the tips of its razor-like feathers, Altair is a mere 1.7" (4.2 cm) tall.

The magnetic transforming function of the standard Bakugan spherical figures is neat, but the physical limitations imposed by an orb shape also tend to negatively impact the appearance of the creature/thing it changes into (in other words, they don't always resemble their cartoon counterparts that well). That being the case, on an aesthetic level, I tend to prefer the Bakugan toys that don't turn into balls, like this one. The thrift store I bought Altair from often has some of the standard Bakugan figures rolling around at the bottoms of their toy bins (albeit sometimes broken, but, of course, that doesn't deter them from trying to sell them to their unsuspecting customers anyway), for fifty cents a pop, but, I always leave them there. As I've said in the past, while I don't dislike Bakugan, I'm more of a fan of Spin Master's girl-orientated take on the concept, Zoobles. Don't ask me why, but I'd rather have a bunch of cute, colorful animals than a pile of robotic-looking monstrosities.

While I ultimately ended up identifying this toy myself, special thanks goes out to the forum members at for pointing me in the right direction when I asked for assistance in figuring out what Altair was. My initial impression was that it might be a Pokémon, but that turned out to be incorrect.

Where's me rum? This is a 2011 Disney/JAKKS Pacific Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides Captain Jack Sparrow action figure (who's portrayed by Johnny Depp in the films). I haven't seen that particular movie, which was the fourth, and most recent, entry in the series, but I did watch the first three (The Curse of the Black Pearl, Deadman's Chest, and At World's End) and found them all fairly enjoyable. In addition to Jack, this assortment of figures also included Blackbeard, Gibbs, Barbossa, and Angelica.

The sculpt and paint are good quality for the most part. You can recognize Depp in the likeness and JAKKS' sculptor(s) put a lot of effort into all the little details of his costume, including, but not limited to, the compass and shrunken head dangling from his belts. I'd say that Sparrow's noggin is disproportionately large, but his big headband and voluminous locks probably contribute to that impression. The rubbery sleeveless blue coat, belts/sash, and bandolier are separately molded pieces that are layered on the body in a "floating" fashion, that is, they're not permanently attached and can be moved around a bit, which is good, as that's not as restrictive to the articulation as pieces sculpted from rigid plastic would have been. Most of the coloration on the toy comes from molded plastic, and what paintwork there is in on the sloppy side, but, overall, he's a pretty sharp looking figure.

Captain Sparrow is fairly limber. He's got rotating cut-joints at the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, and hips, and pin-jointed elbows and knees. The hair and clothing restrict the movement of the neck and waist/hips a bit, but, as they're made out of rubbery plastic, they do bend to facilitate motion. While he's pretty flexible as-is, Jack would have benefitted from some ball joints, particularly at the hips and shoulders. At the top of his mop of hair, Sparrow stands 4" (10.2 cm) tall.

Ah, hello! There be my pieces of eight!
(This is a Safari Ltd. treasure chest, it's not an accessory that belongs to, or came with, Jack.)

I don't have any of them, but a complete sample should include a sword, two flintlock pistols, a tri-corn hat, and a life-sized, black-light-emitting ring. There's a sheath/holster molded on the back of Jack's bandolier, so, you can store one of his weapons there, and I imagine it'd be fairly easy to slip the others into his layered outfit somewhere as well. If you're wondering, the deal with the light-up ring is that each of the figures from this wave have special paint apps that only show up under ultraviolet lighting conditions (skeletal, zombie-like features are revealed). Alas, I don't currently own any items/devices capable of producing black light, so I can't try it out or show it to you, but I think it's a neat idea.

Jack's articulation and paint could have been a bit better, and his oversized melon smaller, but, other than that, he's an excellent plastic rendition of Disney's zany pirate.

Hiss! Roar! Croak! Here we have a trio of 2012 Imperial rubber animals: a yellow and red lizard, a green alligator, and a green and reddish-orange frog. They're all filled with EBT beads, which gives them a fun, squishy feel, not unlike a Ty Beanie Baby.

Out of the three, the alligator has the most intricate sculpt--a lot of effort was put into the scaly texture and the ridges running down its back. The paintwork is limited to the black eyes and white teeth (which have pretty spotty coverage). Unfortunately, the gator's tail has seen better days. The end of it is missing (when it comes to rubber critters, lost extremities are the most commonly seen damage in my experience), and what's left it starting to deteriorate. The poor thing must have picked up a bad case of tail rot down in the bayou. The gator is 0.9" (2.3 cm) high and 6.2" (15.7 cm) long (with the tail naturally curled, not straight). This reptile would make a nice pet for G.I.JOE's Croc Master character.

With its predominately yellow coloration, they can be difficult to see, but there are lots of scales and wrinkles covering the body of this lizard. The head elements, particularly the eyes, are more cartoon-ish in appearance than the features found on the other two. Paint is limited to the black and white on the reptile's peepers and the haphazard streak of red running down its backside. I have no idea what species of lizard this is supposed to be, but, based on the coloration, it looks like it'd be a desert dweller to me. This scaly slinker is 0.8" (2.0 cm) high and 5.2" (13.1 cm) long (with the tail naturally curled, not straight).

Please don't dissect me in anatomy class, I don't have any organs!

And last, but not least, here we have the frog, or possibly a toad, which is my favorite out of this trio. The body has a pebbly texture all over it, but this amphibian is arguably the lightest on sculpted detail. The eyes are painted black and the tops of the feet reddish-orange. It would have been nice if they had done the interior of the mouth in pink (I could say the same for the other two as well). The frog is fatter than the rest, so, when you squeeze its belly, that action deforms the mouth, which kind of makes it look like the animal is croaking. The colored feet suggest that it's supposed to be a tree frog to me, but who knows? This amphibious critter is 1.3" (3.2 cm) high and 3.9" (10.0 cm) long.

Feeding time at the zoo!
Whoops, looks like I'm going to need to place another help wanted ad . . . shame too, I just hired that guy.

My siblings and I had plenty of rubber critters as children, and I expect most of my readers probably did as well (I seem to recall them being solid, or hollow, instead of filled with beads though). They can't hold a candle to most action figures, but, they're fun for what they are. As I said, the frog is my favorite, but all three are nice pieces (ignoring the gator's tail damage that is). My only real concern with them is that rubber toys tend to deteriorate over time, so, I'm not sure how long they'll last. I fear that, years from now, I'll open the plastic bag that they're stored in only to find tattered corpses hemorrhaging EBT pellets . . .

"I don't care what the paternity test said, I'm not the father of this child!"-- that's exactly what I told the judge before she had be forcibly escorted from the court room and told me to take my stupid toys with me. This is a 1995 Uneeda Doll Company blonde baby. I don't know if she belongs to any particular line of toys or if she's just a stand-alone item.

The doll's sculpt isn't exceptional, but she looks cute and her anatomy is fairly realistic. She's molded from hollow, flesh-toned vinyl that has some flexibility to it. The plastic has a bit of green-ish discoloration here-and-there (most noticeably on her digits and the backside of her right ear), which I wasn't able to completely remove. Paint is limited to the eyes, eyebrows, and lips--it's clean, symmetrical work. Ignoring the pigtails, she sits 3.6" (9.2 cm) tall.

At first glance, her hair looks decent. After fussing around with it, I found that it's fairly coarse and I had difficulty getting either a comb or a brush through it (which is why it's kind of messy in these photos). The rooting pattern is cheap. They gave her just enough locks to accommodate the hairstyle and not an iota more. The hair plugs are only rooted along the edges of her head and the uneven part in the middle; she's bald everywhere else. While those empty spaces are hidden by the hairstyle, if you were to take down her pigtails and try something else (which I didn't do, for fear of never being able to get it back the "right" way again), I expect you'd run into problems. When I got this doll, there were a couple of crusty, rotted rubber bands, underneath the yellow ribbons, that I removed, as they were unsightly. I'm not sure if the doll originally came that way, or if they were just an addition made by a previous owner, but doubling up on hair restraints seems like overkill to me, as one or the other should have done the job (the pigtails are held in place fine by the ribbons alone).

This doll's articulation is almost non-existent. Her neck rotates and that's it. I think the addition of swivels at the shoulders and hips would have helped a lot. Mobility in the arms/legs would have been particularly useful when it comes to dressing and undressing the doll. She does sit well, although, because her pose leans backwards slightly and the large pigtails skew her center of gravity, it's relatively easy to tip the infant over.

The doll's clothes are a mixed bag. The yellow and white dress opens/closes in the back via a velcro strip. It matches her blonde locks and fits okay, although it's a little difficult to get the garment on-and-off. The material is somewhat stiff/coarse, but the stitching is all right. The arm-holes aren't hemmed, and the adjacent side seams are starting to come undone a bit, which is probably a direct result of having to squeeze that part of the outfit through the narrow spaces between her immobile hands and feet. A "Made in China" tag is sewn into the interior. The diaper, which I strongly suspect isn't a manufactured article and was instead handmade by a previous owner, looks like it was sewn from an old T-shirt or sock. It fits poorly (the waist could really use an elastic), the edges aren't hemmed, and it's starting to unravel. The diaper is also slightly stained, but, with the possible exception of bawling, dirtying themselves is what babies are best at, so, that discoloration is arguably appropriate.

Here's the Uneeda baby being held in the arms of my MGA BFC Ink 18" Addison doll.
And, no, I didn't finally find, or make, Addison some clothes.
That's just one of my shirts, clothespinned behind her back to keep it up, acting as a makeshift dress.

She's fairly cute, but this Uneeda baby really isn't my type of doll (as I've noted in the past, I don't care for infants, plastic or real). The lack of joints and thinly rooted hair limit her play potential, although she does look nice enough cradled in a larger doll's arms. This little gal isn't something that I would have ever bought, had she not come, sight unseen, in a mystery grab bag. That said, while her construction/design is on the cheap side, you could certainly do worse.

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