My oldest daughter, Addie, will be celebrating her fourth birthday next month, and with SOFIA THE FIRST ranking among her favorite shows right now, the just-released line of toys came to mind as potential gift ideas. We already have the book and music, but on a recent trip to Toys "R" Us, I purchased her one of the 3-inch dolls - which is more like an in-action (not very articulated) figure. Having noticed some issues with this Sofia figure, I decided to dig a little deeper before dropping any more cash - or inviting family and friends to do the same. After all, my first disappointment as a toy-buying parent came with the CAILLOU Tree House back in 2011 (which I still feel bad that Grandpa Dale spent $40 on), which led to my discovery that many of Famosa's Caillou-branded toys were of poor quality. I'm brutally honest when it comes to toy reviews, because we're not only talking about parting grownups with their hard-earned cash, but disappointing children.
Our little Sofia the First figure certainly did not advertise it's "Decapitation Action!" feature, but it does exist. In fact, Sofia tends to lose her head if you look at her the wrong way. Additionally, she has no real "feet," as Mattel opted for this strange little "base" that's true purpose is to "interact" with their $60 "Magical Talking Castle" (Come on - not every toy needs electronics). Bottom line: Sofia has a hard time standing, and only bends at the waist to sit. With nearly every retailer rolling out the Purple Carpet for the residents of Enhancia, Sofia is everywhere right now - prominently-displayed on endcaps at Toys "R" Us, Target, Walmart, and more. The overwhelming reaction thus far? THESE TOYS ARE GARBAGE.
The "Decapitation Action!" is a standard feature on all Sofia the First figures, as noted by countless reviews (like this one at Target), while the "Royal Family" is plagued with problems (Amazon has a good collection of reviews). But the biggest problem of all? That $60 Castle that all the toys are angling for you to get. A sampling from Target's customer reviews states that "Mattel and Disney Should be Ashamed," while at Amazon, the 36 reviews for the set give it a 2-star overall, with 18 1-star reviews, and a fairly damning video - showing that the floors of the castle are made of paper.
With Addie's birthday fast-approaching, my fingers are crossed that no one shows up here with any of these. I'm not sure what would be worse - not letting her open them and taking them back to the store, or opening them and having them join the Caillou Tree House in a landfill somewhere.
I'm posting this today as a word of caution to parents and all other toy buyers. Please, always read customer reviews online before you buy. They're generally the most accurate overview, along with words from blogs that you trust. I say "trust," because like many other crappy toys I've encountered, I have a bad feeling that some fellow Parent Bloggers will be breaking out the "Review and Giveaway!" shill fests to tell you how "great" these toys are (largely via press release), when in reality they're crap.
I love Mattel. I love Disney. But to them, and all other toymakers: STOP SELLING GARBAGE TO KIDS AND FAMILIES! You know better. I get it that SOFIA THE FIRST is a runaway hit that just premiered seven months ago... but rushing out a line of sub-standard junk is completely unacceptable, and utterly foul.
UPDATE: Since posting this entry, Rachel Cooper, Senior Manager of Public Relations for Mattel, got in touch. After speaking with her on the phone this evening, I can tell you that Mattel is well-aware of the problems, and that the line has gone through a "complete overhaul." This means that new shipments of merchandise should start arriving in August as part of an inline change. Families that have purchased defective or sub-standard product can contact Mattel Customer Service for a free replacement from the new batches as they arrive. Rachel made it very clear that Mattel is sorry for any issues or disappointment.
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