However, probably the most recognisable of this type of doll is the American Girl doll which is unavailable for purchase here in the UK unless you buy off ebay or something and pay extortionate shipping and customs fees. Not something I want to do when I am unsure as to whether I will even like the doll when it arrives.
Therefore I have been looking for some alternative similar sized dolls that are readily available in the UK and thought I would let you know about them too. I am yet to buy any of them, and maybe I won't, but if any of you have any of these types of dolls, I'd love to hear your feedback as to what ones you prefer etc.
The most similar dolls I could find to American Girl dolls are from My London Girl. Their features seem pretty similar and they have the same soft bodies with vinyl limbs and heads etc. They have 9 girl dolls and 2 boy dolls available, with different hair colours and nationalities (as well as 4 different baby girl dolls); and stock an array of outfits, accessories and furniture to fit them too. From what I have read, they can wear American Girl doll clothes too. The set up of the shop and company seems pretty similar to American Girl but on a much smaller scale at the moment. Matching outfits for children are available too and some of the doll outfits available include beach wear sets, princess sets, horse riding sets, and a Queen's guard outfit for the boys. In this article, the company have expressed their desire to give their dolls a real "English slant" by providing outfits etc. that embrace typically English hobbies such as the aforementioned horse riding and Queen's guards outfits, and planned Wimbledon outfits amongst others in the future.
The wholesomeness of these dolls is appealing, however the price tag is not; or at least not for a person such as myself who isn't really sure if she will like them and would be buying one on a whim just to see. I am not keen on the faces of the dolls, particularly the girls; and as someone who enjoys photographing her dolls and trying to get different expressions etc. out of them, these seem just a bit too vacant for me. It would possibly be too much of a challenge to "bring them to life" on camera.
Of the girls, Grace and Zoe are the most appealing to me; and Ollie looks the nicest of the two boys and although I would prefer to start with a girl doll, I could be tempted to give him a try one day. Their clothes and accessories look lovely and some of the furniture looks fabulous too (although I have seen the same stuff available on other doll sites for similar prices or less). However, I am just not sure about their soft bodied torsos. I think this and their lack of posing and expression would frustrate me and so therefore I am unsure if I could justify spending the money to give one of these a go.
Therefore, my next challenge was to look for a similar sized doll but cheaper in price. This led me to the Journey Girls range of dolls from Toys R Us. I believe they are a little slimmer than American Girl dolls but can share most of their clothes and accessories; and rather than having the soft bodied torso of the American Girl and My London Girl dolls; they are all vinyl. There are 4 Journey Girls dolls available in the UK. I believe more are available in the US and indeed, on the American Toys R Us website you can buy a vast array of furniture and accessories from the Journey Girls range. Sadly, none of them are available here in the UK; just the 4 dolls are available (Kelsey, Meredith, Dana and Kyla). This really is a shame because some of the furniture available from the range on the American website is fantastic. On the plus side however, the dolls are a much better price at £29.99; they are all vinyl which appeals to me, and their face moulds are much more pleasing to me. They have had some great reviews on the Toys R Us website too which is certainly making them more appealing to me. Of the four dolls available, Dana is my favourite (in the glasses), quite possibly because she reminds me a little of me when I was little hehe (and perhaps slightly worryingly, of me now lol!). Their lack of posing is putting me off again but that is typical of this type of doll and I need to overlook that really. My BJD's are there for their posing abilities. I need to remember that and start thinking of this sort of doll as separate from that and a new challenge =)
Another cheaper alternative available here in the UK are the Design a Friend dolls from Argos. They have 6 girl dolls available with different hair colours/styles and skin tones etc. Prices start at £19.99 for a doll and outfit. Again, they are all vinyl and actually, their faces are pretty appealing. There only seem to be 2 different face moulds (the things that make them different are their skin tone or hair colour/style) but they all look pleasant and not too "starey". Pictured below are Violet, Grace and Poppy. They have also recently released a boy doll called Josh, but quite frankly I find him too scary to include his picture here! Definitely not as aesthetically pleasing as the girl dolls, although his outfit looks pretty nice.
There are many outfits and accessories etc. available from the range. Some of it is not to my taste at all for play dolls (not a fan of hot pink and animal print together, sorry!) but most of it seems pretty wholesome and nice, and reasonably priced at around £12.99 for a complete outfit. The bed from the range however does not seem good value at all in comparison at £24.99 considering it is made from cardboard. The furniture for the My London Girl dolls is only slightly more expensive but is made from wood. When I first saw these dolls when they were originally released, I really didn't find them appealing at all; but they are starting to seem like a good option for me for trying out this kind of doll as they are a good price and don't look too robotic.
However with all the dolls mentioned above, their lack of posing is really what puts me off. As I said, I need to try and overlook that as that is what my BJDs are for; but it did lead me to wonder if there were any 18 inch-ish dolls available with better posing abilities and happily/unhappily I have discovered that there are! Happily because I think I would get on much better with them having extra articulation, but unhappily because they are the most expensive of the lot!
Kidz 'n' Cats dolls are made by Sonja Hartmann for Heart & Soul, and are available from several websites here in the UK but the three stocking the widest range I found were My Doll Best Friend, Petalina and My Doll Boutique.
There are several girl dolls available in the range, and 3 boys. However, I believe two of the boys have just been discontinued and so will be difficult to find pretty soon. 2 new boys are expected to be released next year though. They each come with incredibly detailed (and from what I've heard, very well made) outfits, and a little plush cat friend. They have fixed acrylic eyes and kanekalon fibre hair; and have 11 points of articulation! Sounds good right? Unfortunately the price may put you off as they retail at aorund £99.99. Now I have spent more than that on a BJD but it just seems a little uncomfortable for what is a "play" doll (although arguably they are more of a collectable play doll). BUT when you consider that the My London Girl dolls are £79.99, the Kidz 'n' Catz dolls are only £20 more but look much more detailed and well made in terms of aesthetics, body, poseability and outfit quality. Puts it in perspective a bit and maybe the price tag doesn't seem quite so bad.
Although I say they are more aesthetically pleasing, actually I am not overly keen on the faces of several of the girls. However, I do like Sophie, Carlotta and Kiki (pictured below). Sophie is not yet released but will be available in a few weeks, and definitely has the most detailed looking outfit of the three of them. You can buy other Kidz 'n' Cats branded outfits but as with the dolls themselves, they are pretty pricey; but as mentioned before, they do seem incredibly detailed and well made.
The boys from the range are Alister, Tim and Jakob. My favourites are Alister and Jakob, but unfortunately Alister is one of the ones that has been discontinued and as such, he is quite impossible to find easily in the UK now. Hopefully the new boys that will be released next year will be just as lovely though.
All three of the websites mentioned have some other alternative 18 inch dolls available too, such as Gotz Happy Kids which have 9 points of articulation (2 less than the Kidz 'n' Cats dolls, but available cheaper at around £79.99); Gotz Hannah dolls, Schildkrot dolls and Madame Alexander dolls amongst others; but none of them were as appealing to me as the Kidz 'n' Cats dolls. Having looked up owner photos on Flickr of the Kidz 'n' Cats dolls, their prospects for doll photography look much greater too with their more natural look and greater poseability.
Looking back at the dolls I have featured here in this article, whilst the Design a Friend or Journey Girl dolls are most appealing in terms of price; the possibilities of the Kidz 'n' Cats dolls are much more enticing. They don't look as "static" as the other dolls and I think I would find them easier and more fun to photograph. The My London Girl dolls have been completely discounted as possibilities for me now as they are just too expensive for what they are. I would rather pay £20 more for a Kidz 'n' Cats doll and get a much more natural looking and better posing doll.
However, whether I will actually take the plunge and get a Kidz 'n' Cats doll remains to be seen. I am still struggling with the idea that I could get a lovely BJD doll for the same price ^____^ But Jakob is very enticing and I won't be too surprised if he does find his way into my shopping basket in the near future ;)
If you have any of these dolls, or any other similar dolls, please let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.