In all areas of media, there are certain companies that operate just on the fringe of good taste, principle... and intellectual property laws. Much like those companies that put out similarly-titled and plotted films that land on DVD racks just to confuse good-hearted grandparents (I'm looking at people like Engine 15 Media, with their dubious CARS & TOY STORY knock-offs; and whoever the makers of CHOP-KICK PANDA are), there's long-been some occasional similarities in the toy department from major and minor players alike. Such is the case with "The Toon Studio of Beverly Hills" (aka United Trademark Holdings) and their "Junior Elf Fairy PRINCESS" line, which I'm sure is meant to look nothing like the famous DISNEY PRINCESS collection. Nor is their "Original Cars" line supposed to evoke images of Disney-Pixar's CARS... their "Original Monsters" supposed to resemble UNIVERSAL MONSTERS... or the "Original Fairies" supposed to be anything remotely similar to Disney FAIRIES. So what of this new FAIRY TALE HIGH collection of dolls that showed up at Walmart and Toys "R" Us this past month? Nah, they're not similar to anything else out there right now.
Originally touted as "Fairy Tale Academy" at Toy Fair earlier this year, toy maker S-K Victory partnered with the Toon Studio of Beverly Hills (see the pack logos to the left - note the "Princess" piece) for these new dolls, opting for the more familiar "High" in their name for the release versions. Now we have teenage versions of Cinderella, Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Tinker Bell, Rapunzel, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty - the students of FAIRY TALE HIGH - all inhabiting an aisle at your local store alongside the students from Mattel's MONSTER HIGH and the more recent, EVER AFTER HIGH. While the latter lines feature the children of these famous characters, FAIRY TALE HIGH represents the Princesses themselves, set in a modern-day environment.
Launched alongside the prerequisite webisodes and app-stuff that all toys seem to come with these days (and will be outdated next month), the "world" of FAIRY TALE HIGH is fascinatingly inconsistent, with the characters barely resembling themselves, but confusingly resembling one another between the terribly-animated videos, key art, and the toys themselves. They can't even get the tagline consistent across the line, with the toys featuring "FAIRY TALE HIGH: Where Dreams Begin," and the website stating "Where Magic Happens." It's weird, but what can you expect from an obvious attempt to cash-in on someone else's IP?
There's those that can fall back on the old "Fairy Tale characters are public domain," routine - and that's true. But these dolls even feature the same color palettes of their well-known, Disney-designed counterparts... that aren't public domain. But the folks behind this are old pros at this game... and when the Princess is a Disney original? That's ok, too. They couldn't use "Tiana" from Disney's THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, so they just invented "Tenika" instead... and since she's already in the Toon Studio's ONCE UPON A ZOMBIE line, you can expect that she'll be a student at FAIRY TALE HIGH very soon. Pochahontas has already been announced. There's ways to be original and to put a fresh spin on classic characters. McFARLANE Toys did it a decade or so ago with their reimagined fairy tale action figures.
The reason I'm writing about all of this tonight is simple: A pair of FAIRY TALE HIGH dolls unexpectedly arrived here at Rock Father HQ. Inside, Teen Cinderella and Teen Belle were eagerly awaiting their introduction into my oldest daughter's world. She loves them.
The dolls are actually pretty cool, and from what I've seen thus far, decent quality. They look better in-person than they do in their promotional art, and I'm partial to Cinderella - who came with her own headphones and iPod. As toys, they bring a smile to my daughter's face, and she enjoys playing with them, as they've become "friends of Barbie." In that, they do what a good toy should.
But they won't be awarded the "Rock Father-Approved" shield.
I know from some discussions I've already seen on Facebook that a lot of the "Anti-Princess" crowd is already complaining about these dolls, and I can't get on-board with their message, which often seems more geared toward getting a few web-hits here and there than actually saying... or accomplishing anything. My issue with FAIRY TALE HIGH has little to do with any perceived "message" or "image" that they may or may not portray, but has everything to do with the fact that they are a blatant attempt to trick certain members of the purchasing public into buying a product that they are meant to "think" is Disney, but is most certainly not. And for the few that might try saying the people won't be confused, you're too late. It's already happened on more than a few occasions, not only with my own readers asking me "What do you think of the new Disney Teen Dolls?" - but with followers of FAIRY TALE HIGH's own Facebook Page.
In a way, I'm actually a bit surprised that these landed at major retailers like Toys "R" Us and Walmart, if only because most of the other "Junior Elf Fairy PRINCESS" products look like they'd be found at Dollar Stores or in third-world countries. If you must own a set, feel free to order them through my affiliate, Walmart.
PS: When did "Tinker Bell" become LADY GAGA?
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent) Blogger, has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.