Monster High — “Freaky Just Got Fabulous!”
Universal Monsters are very popular amongst sci-fi afficionados, and there have always been Universal Monsters-based toys that have allowed them to share that interest with their sons, but, until recently, their daughters have been largely left out. The launch of Mattel’s Monster High franchise gives the classic screen icons a “freakishly fabulous” make-over that finally welcomes girls into the monster club. Monster High’s characters are the trendy teenage offspring of monster legends, and attend a school full of students whose supernatural heritage has resulted in such unusual physical traits as green skin, fur, fangs, and pointed ears.
The highlight of the Monster High toy line is a collection of plush dolls, its first and second waves including a selection of the most popular Monster High students:
- Frankie Stein, daughter of Frankenstein’s Monster
- Draculaura, daughter of Dracula
- Clawdeen Wolf, daughter of the Wolf Man
- Cleo De Nile, daughter of the Mummy
- Deuce Gorgon, son of Medusa
- Lagoona Blue, daughter of the Creature from the Black Lagoon
The dolls come in “Friends” box sets with their signature pets: Frankie Stein & Watzit (franken-dog), Draculaura & Count Fabulous (bat), Clawdeen Wolf & Crescent (kitten), Cleo De Nile & Hissette (Egyptian cobra), Deuce Gorgon & Perseus (two-tailed rat), and Lagoona Blue & Neptuna (piranha). Cute profiles on the boxes’ back panels give background info on each of the pets, written from the pets’ point of view.
If you’ve read Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s creepy children’s novel, then the Monster High plush dolls, with their big button eyes, will immediately remind you of the book. Their sewn-on eyes are friendly looking, though, unlike the Other Mother’s sinister black buttons. Also, instead of being made of hard and shiny plastic, they’re sculptured on with soft, embroidered thread, as are the entire faces of all the dolls and pets. The embroidery adds to the folksy charm of these ragdoll-style toys, and the stitched-together look seems appropriate to monsters, especially since one of them is a Frankenstein’s Monster. While traditional ragdolls are usually fairly basic in design, the Monster High dolls are lavished with detail. They have full heads of thick, multicoloured yarn, the strands tacked into place for some of the more elaborate hairdos. Their outfits, which look like miniaturized sets of real clothes, are made of a variety of materals, trimmed with fur and other accents. Clawdeen Wolf even has tiny loops of ribbon sewn into the edges of her ears to recreate her gold hoop earrings. These dolls are almost as enjoyable to touch as they are to look at, and the only real complaint to be made is that Deuce Gorgon’s snake-hair is reduced to a tuft of green yarn instead of recognizable snakes. (Granted, plush micro-snakes are probably difficult to produce.) At ten inches high, the dolls are big enough to be huggable, yet still small enough to be easily toted around. The pets are a fair size, but if you’re giving the toys to younger children, you may want to tether the pets to their friends with a yarn leash so that they don’t go astray.
In addition to the plush dolls, Monster High features a line of fashion dolls that are similar in appearance to Bratz dolls, their articulated limbs removable to allow for quick and easy fashion changes. Each doll comes with a plastic pet figurine, spooky fashion accessory, skull hairbrush, doll stand for posing and display, and a diary written by the character. Wave 1 consists of the same six monsters that appear in plush form, with couple Cleo De Nile and Deuce Gorgon paired together in a gift set. Wave 2 adds two new characters: Ghoulia Yelps (daughter of Zombies) & Sir Hoots A Lot (owl), and Holt Hyde (son of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde/alter ego of Jackson Jekyll) & Crossfade (chameleon). As in all fashion doll lines, there are themed variants, such as “Dawn of the Dance” (Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolf, Cleo De Nile) and “Gloom Beach” (Frankie Stein, Clawdeen Wolf, Draculaura, Cleo De Nile, Jackson Jekyll); separate fashion packs, such as the “School Spirit Uniforms” (Clawdeen Wolf — soccer, Deuce Gorgon — casketball, Frankie Stein — fearleading, Lagoona Blue — surfing); and playsets, like Frankie Stein’s Mirror Bed and Draculaura’s Jewelry Box Coffin. Every bit as detailed and elaborately dressed as their plush versions, the Monster High fashion dolls will appeal to both adult collectors and mini-geeks.
In the age of the Internet, Monster High isn’t just about the toys, of course. An immersive, sign-up website at monsterhigh.com allows junior monsters to register at Monster High, meet and interact with its famous students, explore the campus, participate in school activities, play several games, and download music, wallpapers, buddy icons, and a ringtone. Special codes, obtained from toy packaging or hidden locations on the website, unlock even more content. Best of all, the website hosts an animated Monster High web series. The webisodes are brief but very entertaining, and can be viewed on the Monster High YouTube Channel, as well. Of higher quality than a lot of cartoons on TV, this is a show that parents can actually enjoy watching with their little ghouls. (Episode 1 is “Jaundice Brothers”.) The Monster High Fright Song music video is also posted on YouTube, its upbeat lyrics encouraging everyone to embrace their “freaky chic ‘n’ fly” differences.
Perhaps of greatest importance to geek parents is that Monster High promotes reading, with a tie-in series of novels that’s fun and prepares geeks-in-training for when they’re old enough to read Dracula and Frankenstein. The debut book, simply titled Monster High, deviates somewhat from the web series, but since it’s a prequel of sorts, chronicling Frankie Stein’s creation and arrival at school, it may eventually synch up with the web series in future volumes. The book’s reading level is aimed more at teens than the tweens that the toys are primarily targeted at, so it’s recommended that you preview it before giving it to young readers, to make sure that it’s appropriate for them. Monster High: The Ghoul Next Door continues right where the original story paused at a frightful cliffhanger, and is set to be published on April 5.
Pre-order at Amazon.com:
Monster High: The Ghoul Next Door (Book)