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Anna, Elsa, and Vanellope

Ralph Breaks the Internet
by yo go re

For the original Wreck-It Ralph, the coolest toys were only available at the Disney Store; and for Wreck-It Ralph 2, the same thing is true. That time, it was the race cars, and this time, it's the casual princesses.

Trolling around the internet (in the original sense not the modern one), Ralph and Vanellope visit the "OhMyDisney" website - it was originally going to be the domain for the Disney Infinity game, but that got cancelled while the movie was in production, and since all the plot points brought up there were too baked in to the story to ignore, the movie just wrote around it. Anyway, glitching into the dressing room for the assembled Disney Princesses, Vanellope worked her magic on them: namely, getting them to loosen up a bit. They all got cute casual outfits, and the Disney Store made dolls of them: a giant 13-pack, and this smaller three-pack.

Both sets include Vanellope, which seems... superfluous. I mean, I get it: if your kid is only going to be getting the smaller set, you don't want them to miss out on one of the movie's actual stars, but this is still weird.

This Vanellope is about an inch larger than the racer figure from the first movie - which may not sound like much, but at this size, it's approximately a 50% increase. The added size comes with added detail, both in the sculpt and the paint apps, so the figure looks more like the animated renders than before: the candy in her hair, the candy strings on her hoodie, even the mis-matched stripes on her leggings, it's all better than it was last time.

The articulation, however, remains mostly the same: both arms move as one, and both legs move as one. This time she has a balljointed head, though! Her pleated "peanut butter cup" skirt is softgoods, so it can moves when you reposition her legs, but her head is so big and heavy, she won't stand up unless the pose is very plain.

But enough about the glorified accessory! The real star(s) of this show are the princesses. While the big box set features Moana, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Mulan, Snow White, Merida, Tiana, Aurora, Pocahontas, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine [#WheresKida #JusticeForKida --ed.] this little one only has two princesses: Anna and Elsa.

Frozen was Disney's 2013 unexpected cultural juggernaut/gay metaphor on the DL, known for its inescapable song. Princess Elsa was meant to be the movie's villain until "Let It Go" was composed: the theme of self-acceptance didn't work for a baddie, but the song was too good to lose, and thus the entire movie was rewritten to accommodate it.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's popular-yet-meandering Snedronningen (or "The Snow Queen" in English), Frozen renamed the titular frosty regent "Elsa," though they just as well could have called her "Milkshake" since (as a child) she gives her sister brain freeze and (as an adult) she brings all the boys to the yard. Since she spent her childhood being closeted, Elsa's clothes and body language were designed to convey anxiety and depression - right until she learned to... release it emotionally? There has to be a better way to say that.

Of the two sisters, Elsa was the more "girly" one, and her leisurewear continues that trend. She's wearing black flats, shiny black yoga pants, and an off-the-shoulder blue sweatshirt with "Just Let It Go" printed on the front in white. A sweatshirt? I was led to believe the cold didn't bother her! Anyway. As for underclothes, well, let's just say that she's done what most every woman does when she gets home at the end of the day and wants to relax. The shirt velcros up the back, and the shoes and capris can be slid off, making these figures already better than the Forces of Destiny dolls. Time to trade outfits!

The face on the figure is even more exaggerated than Disney Princess art already is, with even bigger eyes and an even smaller mouth. It might have worked, if they hadn't sculpted her with her eyes wide open - Elsa's more common demeanor is a heavy-lidded look of patience or disdain, which this one only gets to display thanks to her cocked eyebrows. The doll's hair is braided, and there's a single thick lock falling over her forehead.

There are three kinds of songs you can generally count on to be in a Disney musical: the badass villain song (e.g. The Lion King's "Be Prepared"), the "I Want..." song (Beauty and the Beast's "Belle (Reprise)"), and the love song (Aladdin's "A Whole New World"). There can be and usually are other songs, but those three are generally the most important/best remembered. Frozen mixes things up quite a bit, since the villain song turned into Elsa's Want song, the villain song and the love song are the same thing (something that's true whether you only go with the surface-level reading or if you accept the surprising deeper truth), and Elsa's sister Anna gets two equally important "I Want..." songs, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and "The First Time in Forever." This is a needy-ass movie!

Before the movie became about sisters, Anna was the sole protagonist, like Gerda in the original story. But in the original story, Gerda and the Snow Queen never cross paths, so it would have been like The Fifth Element, where Korben Dallas and Jean-Baptiste Zorg never know the other exists - maybe a bit high-concept for a kids' movie. Making Anna and Elsa related was the first step to making the movie watchable, switching the conflict from one between good and evil to one between love and fear. Anna is determined to break through Elsa's A.T. Field.

By virtue of not living her entire life inside a single room, Anna was the more athletic and adventurous of the girls, and she still looks it even in "Netflix and chill" mode: she wears black sneakers (STBLDF Chuck Taylors, judging by the white soles and toes), denim shorts, a plaid green flannel, and a black T-shirt with a graphic of a sandwich that has "Finish Each Others" printed on the bread because even in Arendelle, everybody loves The Simpsons. If this look were any more '90s, she'd be trying to sneak some Zima into Lollapalooza. Or maybe Lilith Fair.

Anna has the same gigantic eyes as her sister, though her mouth is wider and her eyebrows are cocked in the other direction. The girls are giving each other side-eye, as well: Elsa looks to her left, while Anna looks to her right. The figure retains Anna's big twin braids, and they even remembered to include her streak of white hair, which must have been a delicate thing to root. She's also got her short bangs.

Anna and Elsa Ofarendelle move better than Vanellope did, with balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, swivel/hinge hips, and knees that are ratchet joints inside a rubber sleeve, making the legs seamless - something familiar to doll fans, but fairly rare for us action figure fans. With no wrist or ankle joints, the poses that look good and will allow them to stand up by themselves are limited. It's enough to let them sit down, though, which is good since the packaging is designed to look like a bench in the princesses' lounge/dressing room.

Wreck-It Ralph's Casual Princesses were a really clever addition, from a merchandising standpoint: in one fell swoop, Disney got an entire line of low-key cosplay outfits they could sell, plus more than a dozen new character models they could slap on anything and everything. But like the first movie's racers, it's a shame they're only available as exclusives at a store most people don't have access to. And obviously we'd have preferred action figures to dolls, but you take what you can get.

-- 08/25/19

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