Sneak Peek at the New Dora Doll. Yes, that one.
By Isabel Kallman, founder of Alpha Mom
I was able to get a in-person sneak peek at the new Dora doll. Yes, that one. The one that garnered lots of controversy when a sketch of her (called “Dora Links” or “Dora Explorer Girls”) was released to the press back in March.
So, what do I think?
Mixed feelings. I have been thinking hard about this. I don’t think I’ve thought this much about a doll since my own days playing with Barbies.
First, the new tween Dora doll doesn’t vary much from the sketch. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture to show you since I wasn’t allowed to take any and you won’t be able to see what she looks like until she’s available at retail on September 29th. The new Dora doll does NOT wear a mini-skirt- as had been speculated- but rather a tunic with leggings. Instead of ballerina slippers, she’s wearing platform sandals (which made me pause, but ultimately, I found acceptable).
She comes with lots of bells and whistles and was developed after two years of research and development including input from moms and young girls. Girls want to play with a doll’s hair, add jewelry, dress her up, etc. Moms were hoping their little girls would continue loving Dora beyond her 5-year-old original self. Kindergarten and first-grade girls find the original Dora too babyish (something I have heard firsthand). But, moms LOVE Dora and her adventurous spirit and, well, wholesomeness. Ta-da, Mattel created the new Dora doll. (The original Dora doll is not going anywhere and will continue on her backpacking adventures).
But, see this is where I am having problems embracing the new Dora doll in all her long-haired and tween glory.
The new Dora doll was created for the five-to-eight year old set, yet she is designed to be 11 years old. In fact, the new Dora doll’s body has been constructed based on the proportions of an actual 11 year-old girl’s prepubescent body (props for honest representation here).
When I look at some of the most popular dolls out there for girls in that target age group, the first that jump to mind are Barbie, American Girl, and the dreaded Bratz dolls. Originally, I thought that the new Dora doll would be a less expensive alternative to American Girl. But it’s not. The American Girls are made to portray eight-year olds for eight-year old girls. I wish they had made new Dora eight-years old, not eleven (but they didn’t ask me and it’s nt all about me either).
However, I do believe there is a market and will be demand for the new tween Dora doll. When I asked my Twitter buddies what alternatives there are for girls when you don’t want to buy a Bratz or Barbie, these were some of the responses:
– American Girl (age-appropriate, but expensive)
– Only Hearts Club (looks age appropriate and great)
– Groovy Girls (love these, but they are plush dolls so no combing hair)
– Corelle Les Cheries (looks a bit young, but great)
– Polly Pocket (tiny dolls but with teenage bodies)
– Liv Dolls (dolls look like teenagers, but not as bad Bratz; nothing is as bad as Bratz)
Yes, I think the “Dora Links” doll will be a hit, if the moms embrace it. Do I prefer some of the more age-appropriate choices listed above? Yes. But, I am also realistic and recognize that as girls push the the upper end of the target age group, they will be seeking out dolls that are more exciting. And, steering them away from the Bratz pack for as long as possible will be on moms’ minds.
And, the tween Dora has some cool attributes when I look at this product through the innocent eyes of my seven-year old self. Once you connect the Dora Links doll to your computer via USB, you can make Dora’s hair grow (though the execution is clunky) and retract to different lengths, make her jewelry sparkle in a variety of colors and even change her eye color. As much as I don’t want to like these blingy features, even I squealed when I saw the eye color transformation. One thing I didn’t like was that you could apply make-up to onscreen Dora and in-person Dora Links’ cheeks would light up (ick).
But overall, no matter how carefully a toy manufacturer engineers or tinkers with an existing icon, there will be some opposition to change. Even though the original Dora will still be around, it will be hard for some to embrace the tween Dora. Which honestly is not surprising. Watching our children grow up is hard enough. And now, Dora, too? Yes, life is rough.
BTW– the doll is available for pre-order right now in case you think this is something a little girl in your life would enjoy.