Coraline 7" Dolls

Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA

Tomorrow a new film opens that I've been looking forward to for quite some time - "Coraline". Based on the Hugo award winning novella, the story revolves around a young girl who finds a secret door in her home that leads to an alternate reality, which is very, very much like her 'real' life, only a whole lot better. Ah, but like many things, all is not what it seems on the surface, and Coraline must use her wits and resourcefulness to save herself, and her family.

There's lots of good behind this movie. The novel itself was written by Neil Gaiman, who is about as close to a Geek God as you can get. The story has similarities to Oz and Alice in Wonderland, with dark undertones in a fantasy alternate world.

The movie is written and directed by Henry Selick, who is renowned for his stop motion work. He directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as James and the Giant Peach. He certainly has the right chops to bring a book like Coraline to the big screen.

Back at SDCC, NECA was showing off their line of action figures based on the film. I would love to see these hit stores, but at this point there's no sign of them. Word is that we'll only see these in small PVC form at this point, although depending on how well the film does, something could change with the DVD release. They have released three versions of Coraline herself, done on bendy style bodies with real clothing.

These three are Coraline in her PJ's (referred to as 'PJ' from now on), in jeans and a sweater (referred to as 'sweater' from now on), and in her yellow raincoat and boots (referred to as 'raincoat' from here on out).

These are about 7" tall, and are available now at online retailers. Expect to pay around $12 - $15 each, depending on whom you order from.

Packaging - ***
Each comes in a small box, with very little waste in either space or materials. They'll be very easy for the MOCers to display and store, and they are collector friendly enough for you to return the dolls to the box without damage. You'll have to deal with a couple twisties, but it's fairly minor.

I'm going to complain about nose rubs in the Paint section, but it's worth noting that these rubs weren't in the package, so it did a good job protecting the face from damage in transit.

Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECACoraline dolls 7 inch by NECA
Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA

Sculpting - ****
The three versions come with three very different head sculpts, each reflecting a different emotion.

Raincoat has a sly, sneaky look, like she just figured out how she's going to bring Other Mother down. PJ's has an expression of happiness, with a wide open smile, with nicely sculpted teeth and lips, and raised eyebrows. Finally, Sweater has a slightly worried, unsure look, as though she's seen something she's not too happy about.

All three expressions are nicely sculpted, with every aspect of the face - eyes, mouth, eyebrows, and even the nose designed to emote the overall expression.

They've used a blue translucent plastic for her hair, and it worked really well. It allows enough light to shine through to give it a ethereal quality, but not enough to make her underlying skull obvious. The fit between the hair and sculpt is nice and tight too, with no gap to make it look wig-like.

I tried swapping the heads, but the necks are a softer material than the head, and therefore you can't do it without some form of external assistance, like hot water. You might be able to remove the heads by heating up the neck in this way, but I'd be careful.

Some important info for collectors is that these expressions WILL CHANGE over the production run. I have no idea what the other expressions will be, but there will be at least one, maybe more, running changes made. If you pick up any of these and they have a completely different expression, please let me know!

All three have the same hand sculpts, with the right in a gesture pose and the left designed to hold something. Unfortunately, there's nothing for any of them to hold.

One aspect of the bendy body that has nothing to do with articulation is its ability to match the source material quite well in appearance. The stop motion bodies on screen have this same sort of lank, lithe look, so the simple, thin sculpted bendy bodies work well.

These figures do not stand on their own, however, which is normally a huge pet peeve of mine. However, the simple fact is that like the NMBC figures, Coraline's on screen design doesn't lend itself to creating any sort of figure or doll that could stand without some sort of attached base.

These are about 7" tall, making them big enough to look good on the shelf. They really are their own independent line, so scale isn't much of an issue.

UPDATE - a reader let me know that it IS possible to remove the face plate, or at least one person has managed to do it without damaging the doll. I don't know that this is intentional, but once you do the eyes can be repositioned. You'd think if it was intentional, they'd mention it a bit more (like, at all) on the package. I won't have a chance to test it myself til tomorrow, but I'll update again then. However, remember how easy the noses were to damage, so take care if you try it!

UPDATE 2 - I pulled pretty hard on the face plates on all three dolls, and they didn't budge. I suspect you could get a small screwdriver in there to get some more leverage, but these definitely aren't designed to come off, so beware!

Paint - ***1/2
You might be thinking "Michael, what are you doing giving these such a high score when it's obvious two of them have rubbed noses?" Well, that's partly my fault.

The paint on two of the noses did rub off AFTER I had them out of the package, not before. So yes, I did the damage...but I didn't do it in any obvious way. I didn't drop her, or rub her face against any hard surface. In normal handling, somehow I managed to damage two of the noses. While that IS my fault, I'm docking them a half star here because the paint should be sturdy enough, even on the sharply defined hard plastic nose, to withstand normal handling.

But PJ did have get a rubbed nose...yet? No, but I had a different issue with her that might not really be paint in the traditional sense, but made the most sense to mention here. She has a bit of a googly right eye that doesn't *quite* line up with her proper line of sight. I say that this might not be a traditional paint issue because the eyes are separate pieces from the head, and the problem might be in the assembly, not the paint. But it made the most sense to me to included as part of this score.

She also has a slight gloppiness to the white of her teeth, but you have to examine them pretty closely to notice.

Other than these issues, the paint is excellent. The small freckles look terrific, and the skin tone has just the right amount of blush. Her eyes are clean and shiny, with a matte finish on the face to give it a nice contrast. The translucent blue hair works really well, and even the small dragonfly hair clip is nicely painted.

The coolest paint application is the muddy boots on the Raincoat version, but I'll get to that more in the Outfit section.

Articulation - ***
Generally, I'm not a huge fan of bendy figures. But in this context, these actually work pretty well.

It's also key that their articulation does not solely come from their bendy attributes. The neck has an excellent ball joint, that allows for a great range of movement and plenty of Coraline personality. The head is fairly heavy, but the joint is tight enough that it does not do the flop.

She also has cut wrists and ankles, with hard sculpted hands and feet. This makes it much, much easier to get them in the right pose, without messing around with the arms and legs. Twisting is something that bendy appendages don't do particularly well, so it's a relief that it's not necessary here.

The rest of the body - torso, arms, legs - is a softer rubber with wiring. It's a fairly thick rubber, and the wires feel like they are quite sturdy. She can certainly take a lot of poses, and she holds them without any trouble.

Of course, the only issue here is that with such tiny feet, a skinny body, and such a large, heavy head, there's simply no way for her to stand without the use of the included display stand. While you might have had a chance at getting her to stand with a more traditionally articulated body, I'm willing to trade that off for the greater flexibility of the bendy body.

The Raincoat version can also hid the stand pretty well under the coat, making it the most attractive of the three on the shelf.

Accessories - PJ **; Raincoat, Sweater *1/2
All three figures come with a small display stand. Since standing these figures on their own is impossible, the display stands are a critical inclusion.

They are basic black, with no emblem or marking. They are also a bit too big, and when the stand is shrunk down as short as it will go, it's still above Coraline's waist. The loop is also on the large size for her tiny bendy body. You might notice that the Raincoat version looks best on the stand, and maintains the best pose. That's due to two things - one, the coat helps hide the arm and keep the figure in place, and two, there is actually a twisty tie around her and the stand down lower, more around her waist. This twisty was on her in the package, and I left it on because I thought it added some additional support.

In fact, another display option is to make your own stand. Use a small piece of wood for the base, drill a hole to accommodate a small metal rod, and run that rod up through her paint leg on the PJ and Sweater versions. If you don't want her to have one stiff leg and don't mind seeing at least some of the small rod, just twisty tie the rod to the figure up around her waist. Unlike the thick steel arm of the display stand, a small twisty tie would fit easily under her sweater or PJ top.

PJ gets a little extra in this category, because she comes with her blanket. It's made from a soft material, but seems a bit thick for this scale.

Outfit - Raincoat, PJ ***1/2; Sweater ***
Rather than go with completely sculpted bodies, these three use cloth 'soft goods' outfits. If you don't collect 'dolls', then these probably aren't for you.

The PJ version has the bright orange polka dot pajama top and bottom with the salmon colored socks. The top is held together with a strip of Velcro down the front, but it also has the faux buttons. The scale on the buttons seems pretty good - the style of animation allows them to be a little oversized - but the Velcro strip is a bit thick for such a thin costume. Of the three outfits, it does the least for me.

The Seater outfit is probably - without having yet seen the movie - going to be her most common look. The Velcro strip is a bit thick here too, but because it's down the back, rather than down the front, it's far less of an issue. Her jeans look great, and even have back pockets sewn on with stitched designs. She is also wearing socks, but these have the different colored toes, just like the on screen version.

Finally, there's my favorite, the Raincoat. Again, the Velcro is a little too thick, but with the thicker slicker it's less noticable. There's no shirt under the coat, and the coat is big enough to hide the arm of the stand pretty well. It still poofs it out a bit, but it's not too bad.

The hood also has a Velcro strap in front, but is sewn to the coat so it can't be entirely removed. She looks pretty good with the hood down or up, however.

She also is wearing jeans, and some very well done rubber boots. The sculpt is excellent, and they are made from a rubbery material that even feels like real rubber rain boots. They are splashed with mud, which is perfectly sculpted and painted around the sole. The mud-like paint wash on the upper section of the boots is a *little* overdone, but considering how well done the mud on the soles is, I can live with it.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
These would actually make great kid's toys, although the odds of too many kids getting their paws on them is pretty small. The clothes are relatively easy to remove and replace, and the bendy bodies and solid heads are very sturdy. Kids won't care all that much if a little paint rubs off her nose, the one issue that I had. If you have a choice between Bratz and Coraline, go with Coraline.

Value - **1/2
I picked them up for $39 for the set of three, or $13 each. That's pretty much the going rate these days for action figures in this scale, and particularly specialty market products like this. With a score of **1/2 stars, the Value category is a wash and has no effect either good or bad on my personal Overall.

Things To Watch Out For
Not too much. It might be interesting to see how long the bend arms and legs last, but I'm not going to stress test them for you. Hey, I like my little Coraline's too much for that.

Be very, very careful with her nose. The two that have rub marks on the tip of her nose acquired them AFTER I had them out of the package. I did it somehow...but quite honestly, I don't know how. It's clear that it doesn't take much to rub the paint off, so handle with care.

Overall - Raincoat , Sweater ***1/2; PJ ***
The Raincoat version is easily my favorite of the three. It helps that the coat is large enough that the arm of the stand can be hidden underneath, making her necessary support much less noticeable. But it's also the excellent outfit including the cool muddy rubber boots, as well as the great, sly expression that makes her the must have of the trio.

The sweater version is nice, and I love her expression. I also suspect that this will be the look that becomes her 'signature' in the film. Even PJ's is well done, but I really do wish that at least one of these had the little doll with her. 

I was really hoping for action figures of course, done much like the superb NECA NMBC line. But these dolls will have to suffice for now - fortunately, they turned out great.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - PJ **; Raincoat, Sweater *1/2
Outfit - Raincoat, PJ ***1/2; Sweater ***
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - Raincoat, Sweater ***1/2; PJ ***

Where to Buy -
Online is your best option, unless you have a really amazing LCS:

CornerStoreComics is selling the set of three for $39.

- Entertainment Earth has these three for $43, and a pre-order up for a case of PVC figures.

- Forbidden Planet is selling these individually for 15 GBP each. Just search for 'coraline'.

- or you can search ebay using the sponsor MyAuctionLinks.

Related Links -
No other Coraline merchandise yet, but check out the other figures that NECA had on display at SDCC last summer.

Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

Reader Ratings!
Here's your chance to weigh in!  Select your rating for this figure(s) to the right.  Yea, it's a five star system and not a four star system like mine, but it's the best I've been able to come up with so far.  You can only rate once from any particular IP.  My score converted to a five star system for comparison: 4.17

Share this review with others! 
  Digg it!    StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!      Reddit

Coraline dolls 7 inch by NECA

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2000 - 2008, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour