Out of this world

I hate science fiction. I know that may make me unpopular with a lot of fashion doll collectors, as I know there’s a lot of crossover between these two groups. There are also a good number of science fiction dolls that use fashion doll bodies. The Robert Tonner Doll Company has produced dolls from Dr. Who, Firefly, Tron, The Hunger Games, and more. I don’t own any of these dolls, as I’ve seen about two science fiction movies in my life–and that was under protest.

I mention this because I just purchased my first science fiction-inspired doll. (That’s doll, not “character figure.” Changing the name does not change that fact that it is a doll, although it may make it more palatable for geeky male collectors.) The doll is “Jupiter Ascending,” which shares the same name as a science fiction movie currently in theatres. The movie apparently stars an actress named Mila Kunis. I have no idea who this woman is, which, according to my friends, makes me a pop culture imbecile. So be it.

Anyway, since I had no previous knowledge of what the actress looks like (I have since Googled her), I had no expectations of what her sculpt should look it. I am told that it bears only passing resemblance to Mila. You be the judge of that. I just think she’s a pretty doll, and, as a fashion doll collector, that’s all I care about.

Mila Kunis

I mention this because sci-fi fans/doll collectors may have some disappointed expectations in this doll due to the alleged fact that the doll bears little resemblance to the actress it is supposed to portray. I urge those who fall into that category to look beyond that factor–if you do, you are missing one gorgeous doll.

I have mentioned before in this blog that I very, very rarely purchase a doll soon after it is released. This rule especially applies to Tonner dolls, as the company holds frequent and generous sales, in some cases not that long after the dolls first appear on the market. That said, there is the occasional doll that strikes my fancy so much I do purchase her out of the gate. The last time this happened was last year soon after the Tonner Convention, when 15th Anniversary Tyler was offered for sale. I could not push that “buy” button soon enough, and I was rewarded with a truly stunning, quality doll.

“Fifteen Years” Tyler (She’s WAY more impressive in person)

I felt the same way when I saw pre-production photos of Jupiter Ascending. She is so different from the many fashion dolls in my collection, and her outfit to me looked like haute couture at its finest. I could totally see a human-sized version of this dress worn by a model strutting the catwalk during New York Fashion Week. I decided to break my “wait for a sale” rule and purchase her from a retailer. Although the doll’s MSRP is $240, she can generally be had for $200 or a bit less from most retailers, who typically discount their dolls 15%-20% when they are first released.

I received Jupiter in the post yesterday, and I was impressed as soon as I opened the box. Let me say at the start that this doll’s complex getup–a reproduction of a gown worn in the film–could very easily have been executed in a very chintzy, gaudy manner. Its excess of sequins, embroidery, and attached flowers of different sizes could have spelled disaster in the hands of a less practiced dollmaker. But Robert Tonner did this costume justice in its recreation. The gown is high-quality and tasteful. Yes, it’s way over the top, but that’s what haute couture (and, I suppose, the latest fashion in science fiction films) is supposed to be.

The gown’s fit is perfect, and it drapes beautifully from her waist.

photo 2The design continues on the sides and back. No cutting corners here.

backSequins, embroidery, and flowers are tastefully arranged on the gown.

detailHer headpiece is a marvel. It is huge, and, again, in less practiced hands, it could have been gaudy as hell. But somehow it works. It is attached to the head with a loop that fits over the back of the doll’s updo, making it very sturdy. No chance of this thing falling off.

The shoes are simple, white pumps. An appropriate choice, as any more frippery at this point would be a bit much.

shoes

There are two items that I would have done differently. The dress is lined in white only from the waist down, which makes those areas above the waist not covered in sequins or embroidery a bit sheer. And Jupiter’s right boob is lacking in this frippery. (Can you tell I like that word?)

I personally don’t care to see my doll’s boobs in a full-length gown. (I’m no Sybarite fan.) I have no idea why Tonner chose not to line the top of the dress. It seems like an odd choice, given the attention to detail of the rest of the dress.

Exposed boobs are all the rage in the Sybarite world.
Jupiter's boobs on display
Jupiter’s right boob on display

Jupiter also came with wrist cuffs, which I believe were recreated from the film. On the doll, they are flimsy and cheap-looking, and they attach with a large snap, which makes them lay awkwardly on the doll’s wrists. I took them off as soon as I finished photographing the doll. They add nothing to the outfit. The earrings were lovely, though. Small silver rhinestone flowers. A nice change from the studs Tonner usually gives his girls.

Totally unnecessary
Totally unnecessary

As far as the sculpt goes, I just love it. It would be terrific to see this face again in a fashion doll line (although, since it was produced under license, that’s not likely). Jupiter has a lovely, serene face with just a hint of a smile. Her face is fuller than most of Tonner’s fashion dolls, which, IMHO, makes her a refreshing change from the vast majority of angular faces in my collection.

Mona Lisa smile
Mona Lisa smile

So that’s all I have to say about that. Your thoughts?

IMHO

The Tonner Doll Company released photos of its “mainline preview” this week. Apparently, the balance of the 2015 mainline release will be announced sometime in March. According to the company, March’s release will include dolls from the Patsy, Patsyette, American Model, DC Stars, Sindy, Déjà Vu, and much-anticipated Marley Wentworth lines. And, lest I forget, I hear that there will be new Wizard of Oz dolls. Again. No one knows how to wring the value out of a commercial license like Robert Tonner.

Of the 15 dolls that Tonner announced this week, 12 are now available for shipping—a huge improvement over having to wait for the vast majority of the dolls to arrive from a slow boat from China by dubious arrival dates. This also marks the first time Tonner’s release of licensed dolls based on characters from a contemporary movie will actually be ready for shipping while the movie is still in theatres. (Well, at least two dolls will. The third seems to still be pending approval.) So, even if the film tanks, there is a chance the dolls will sell on at least the premise of Jupiter Ascending being a good film.

Jupiter Ascending Jupiter Jones (In stock!)
“Caine” from Jupiter Ascending (Arrival time: Anyone’s guess.)

Besides the three Jupiter Ascending dolls, also released were an impressive seven dolls from the Diana Prince collection, which features the popular Tyler 2.0 sculpt and reimagines Wonder Woman as a fashionable woman about town. This clever recasting of Diana Prince makes her potentially appealing to both comic book geeks and fashion doll collectors. I personally know at least one of the latter who will be adding a Diana Prince doll to her collection.

Rounding out the preview are one Tiny Kitty, two Scarlett O’Haras, one Wicked Witch (probably edition number 459, but who’s counting?), and a resin Snoopy and Belle gift set. Not sure what market Tonner is targeting with that last one. My general impression of the preview is positive, and I’d like to call attention to three products that I particularly like. But before I do, I really need to get something off my chest.

My chief critique of this collection has nothing to do with the dolls themselves. It is the way they are presented. Tonner Doll Company’s inadequate photography of its products does a huge disservice to collectors, and, of course, to the company itself. With the near-eradication of the local doll shop, collectors no longer have the luxury of being able to personally handle and evaluate dolls before they purchase them.

Collector fashion dolls are expensive—and they are getting more so. Plunking down $200 for a purchase sight unseen takes quite the leap of faith. With less and less discretionary income available to the middle class, the concept of “pre-ordering” has become almost quaint. Many collectors now reserve judgement until they review IRL (“in real life”) photos of dolls that have already been purchased by other collectors who are kind enough to share their personal photos. Under these circumstances, manufacturers can become hugely dependent on the picture-taking skills of anonymous collectors to sell their wares. After investing countless dollars on creative talent, manufacturing costs, and ever-rising overhead, why in the world would any company allow their sales to depend on homemade photos shared in online collector groups?

The transformation of doll commerce from brick-and-mortar to online stores has made it incumbent upon manufacturers to try to replicate the in-store shopping experience online via high-quality, multiple, detailed photographs.  And that doesn’t mean taking one front-view photo of a doll and then using close-ups of that same photo for your detailed photos. Show me that your product is worth my $189.99! Take off that coat. What’s under it? Is it lined? Does the dress come with a slip? Are there crinolines under that gown? Pick up that long hem and show me the shoes! Do they zip up, or do I have to fumble around with tiny buckles? What is the quality of that fabric? Are the beads sewn on? How thick is that sweater? What does the jewelry look like? All of these factors can be make-or-break for different collectors.

You may very well list what your outfits do or do not include in your product descriptions, but telling me that there are “white faux leather pumps” under that long gown does nothing to help me know what they actually look like. A short time ago, Tonner Doll Company did begin posting short videos of its dolls taking a 360-degree turn. I was delighted to see that, but the effort was short-lived, and the videos were too small to see any real detail.

Mr. Tonner, you can make it wholly unnecessary for collectors to wait to see the snapshots other collectors have taken of their dolls—and you can sell more dolls in the process—by taking high-quality, detailed photos of your production dolls when they are ready for shipping. Your photos are the only thing left on which your potential buyers can base their purchasing decisions. Don’t make it an afterthought. Pay a good photographer and stylist well, and you will see a handsome return on your investment.

To borrow an overused phrase, this is not rocket science. Integrity Toys has managed it for years. Each time they announce a doll, collectors are provided multiple detailed photographs from multiple angles as well as up-close photos of the doll’s accessories. This has allowed the company’s collectors to make more informed purchasing decisions, leading to fewer cases of “buyer’s remorse” that can result in returned products.

Sermon over. I’ve been holding that one in for a while.

Back to the preview. My main pick of this group’s litter is Jupiter Ascending, a doll based on the character and movie of the same name. I am not a sci-fi fan, and I have no idea who Mila Kunis is. I do know that I love the sculpt, and that getup looks like runway couture at its best. I want one.

Jupiter Ascending

“Diana” is my second pick. Of course, it’s difficult for me to make any definitive judgement, as I have no idea what the doll’s dress looks like when it isn’t being covered up by a coat. And where do those boots end? At her knee? Her crotch? Her waist? What the hell do her earrings look like? I guess I’ll have to go down to my local doll shop and check it out for myself. Oh, that’s right…

Diana Prince

Then there’s the “Winter Princess” outfit. Although it is quite similar to Diana’s outfit, I can never resist a good coat dress. From what I can see of it, this is classic Tonner style at its best. But it would really, really be super to know what the coat looks like without the scarf on. Does it have a wide collar? A narrow one? Is the belt attached? And, please, let’s get a look at that damned purse!

Winter Princess (outfit only)

Other items that interest me (at least what I can see from the single photo that Tonner offers), include Diana Prince’s “Stars and Stripes” outfit and a darling little Tiny Kitty.

Stars and Stripes (outfit only)
Tiny Kitty, Perfectly Pink

I rarely pay retail for Tonner dolls any longer, as their sales are frequent and generous these days. That said, I did put an order in for Jupiter Ascending, as I got a good deal on her from Happily Ever After. (A terrific doll shop owned by a terrific guy. As a die-hard collector, I think it’s important that our community patronize the few brick-and-mortar doll shops still left standing, and this is a great one. I highly recommend them; tell Ed that Barb sent you.)

The entire preview can be viewed here. What are your favorites?