As much as I love dolls, I thought I would never get into American Girl dolls. I mostly collect 1:6 scale fashion dolls. There have been a few exceptions to my rule in the past, such as Makies, but mostly I prefer dolls that look like adults. American Girl dolls look like little girls because they’re intended for little girls, but their child-like appearance is too exaggerated. Their faces are too chubby, their eyes are too round, and they have an overbite. I’m also not a fan of their stuffed bodies with vinyl limbs. They remind me too much of the baby dolls that I had as a child. But on a recent trip to Toys R Us, I casually browsed the American Girl section, mainly to see if they made any redheaded dolls. They do – one. Number 61, to be exact. But I still wasn’t enamored enough of them to buy one, especially with their $114 price tags. But when I saw the WellieWisher dolls, I was smitten. They instantly appealed to me for many reasons: their smaller size (14.5″ versus the 18″ American Girls), their lower price tag ($60), and their all-vinyl bodies. Their facial features are more realistic and well-proportioned than the American Girl line. But what I loved most about them was how outdoors-oriented the line is. With their cheery wardrobe and adorable rain boots (the name Welliewishers is a nod to their Wellington boots), these dolls look like they’re ready to go outside and jump over puddles or climb trees, and do other fun things that kids like me did back in the day before the invention of the Internet and smartphones.
The WellieWishers debuted in June of 2016, and the line serves as an extremely well-edited version of American Girl dolls. It manages to sum up ethnic diversity in just five dolls. Camille has blonde hair and Willa has red hair. Kendall is African-American. Ashlyn is a brunette with tan skin who could appeal to Hispanic little girls, and Emerson is Asian. Of course I gravitated to Willa, who has red hair and freckles just like me. Where was she when I was eight years old? When the dolls debuted, they came in a box with only a flower-shaped window revealing the doll’s face, leaving the body hidden. Now the boxes have windows revealing the entire doll, so you can see the doll’s outfit as well as its face. The back of the box features appealing illustrations reminiscent of children’s books (the Welliewishers also includes a line of children’s books based on the characters).
The doll came with two pieces of literature. I love doll literature! The first is a brochure that goes into more detail about the dolls.
The second brochure contains tips for caring for your American Girls dolls, with information inside on how to join the American Girls club.
Willa has red hair styled in large sausage-curled pigtails, with green eyes and freckles. She came out of the box with one curl intact and one that had lost much of its curl. As the back of her box tells us, she’s a nature-loving adventurer who loves animals. If the box didn’t tell us that, you could tell she loves animals just by her outfit. She wears bunny ears lined in the same fabric as her skirt, which features a mid-century-modern-esque print of stylized hedgehogs. Her shirt has an animal face with whiskers and ears. Is it a cat? Is it a bear? I can’t tell, but it’s adorable.
What really appealed to me about Willa’s outfit were her ladybug boots. I couldn’t get a clear shot of them so I apologize for the blurry closeup photo.
The quality of the clothing is good. It’s not cheap or flimsy, but like most dolls these days, uses Velcro fasteners. The only thing that annoys me a little is the giant tag at the back of the bunny ears, which wouldn’t stay down no matter how many times I tried to tuck it under.
Since Welliewishers love to play outside, I took Willa outside to photograph her. She can stand on her own but needs some adjustment to her feet because the weight of her body makes her fall forward. And when I tried to get her to bend over or sit, her legs would splay out – just like first-wave Tressy dolls.
Next, I took Willa into the yard to play. She played on the rocks.
She also climbed trees.
As you can see, the outdoors really suits Willa. There are other outfits and accessories sold separately for WellieWishers, including a playhouse and an awesome-looking garden tent. Welliewishers are sold wherever American Girl dolls are sold, including Toys R Us and American Girl online. They’re also sold in the American Girl stores. I went to an American Girl store once. It was the one in the Natick Mall in Massachusetts, where I stopped out of curiosity during a road trip. I was amazed that it had a salon and a cafe.
Despite my previous reluctance to buy into the American Girl hype, I find myself smitten with WellieWishers. They’re adorable! Their faces, while emulating the same toothy grin as American Girls, seem better-proportioned. WellieWishers are everything American Girl dolls should be – more manageable, less creepy. At half the price of the larger dolls, maybe more little girls can own and love an American Girl doll with WellieWishers. I don’t see myself buying another WellieWisher doll, but I do plan on buying clothes and accessories for my Willa doll.
Do you own any WellieWisher dolls? Which one(s) do you have? What about them appealed to you?