Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Ella and Veronika's Trucks

Everyone Needs a Treat

Ella pushes open the awning on her truck.  It is a beautiful, sunny day.


She has to be ready for all the people that are going to visit her food truck today.  Inside the truck, she readies some of the hot food, cooking hot dogs, kabobs, and pretzels.


Across the street, Veronika readies her ice cream truck.  She arranges all the toppings so people can easily get to them, sets out samples of the frozen treats, puts out the tubs of ice cream, and when she is all ready...she turns on the music.


With the sun high in the sky and the temperature getting higher, people start to wander towards the two trucks, the music guiding them to the treats being served.  Both Ella and Veronika are excited to see the people start to line up, but secretly hope that the other truck won't do as well as their own.  There is a little bit of competitiveness in both of them, as they both dream of being the most well-known food truck in the town.


People start to gather at each food truck, deciding which truck has the better menu for them.


Kelsey gets a double scoop of cotton candy ice cream in a sugar cone from Veronika's truck, while Samantha decides on a single scoop of chocolate ice cream from Ella's truck.


Megan rides her bike down the street, trying to decide between the two food trucks, finally picking Ella's but not sure of what she will buy.


Saraphina knows exactly what she wants from Veronika. "Can I get a large scoop of strawberry ice cream with strawberry syrup on top?"


"Of course!" Veronika happily replies, "Would you like it in a cone or a dish?"

"Hmm...I think I'll take it in a dish.  Thanks!"


Veronika scoops up Saraphina's ice cream and hands it to her.  Saraphina grabs a spoon and joins Kelsey for her treat.


Megan is still trying to decide what she is going to get at Ella's truck.


Chavonne has been roller skating.  She decides on a little healthier snack.  She orders a pretzel, and within a minute she has her soft, warm pretzel and is skating on her way again.


Jasmine was out walking her dogs when she heard the music from Veronika's truck and decided a cold treat sounded delicious.


As she puts her order in, the dogs look around for scraps of food.  When Veronika gives Jasmine her chocolate ice cream, the dogs look up at her with those big sad eyes.  "No chocolate ice cream for you two...it'll make you sick!" Jasmine says as the dogs resume their exploration for food.


Jasmine tops off her chocolate ice cream with some sprinkles, then continues on her walk.

Veronika makes some pretzels and donuts, while also getting her ice cream treats arranged again as the crowd dies down a little.


Megan finally decides on a hotdog and a drink from Ella.  The day continues with many people coming to both trucks.  In the end, both trucks sell plenty of food.  Maybe this town is able to have two great food trucks in it!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our Generation vs. My Life

An Ice Cream Truck Showdown


My Life Food Truck

Each time one company comes out with something, it seems that the other follows suit immediately or very soon after.  Our Generation’s ice cream truck came out soon after American Girl released their ice cream cart.  My Life’s ice cream truck came out this past Christmas.  Although both are ice cream trucks they vary drastically in their design and quality…and price.  So which one is worth its price?  Are both trucks worth the money?  Let’s compare and find out.


My Life products are not always the highest quality items; however, they are usually inexpensive, which makes them a great option for many people.  So it was surprising that the ice cream truck retailed at $99.99!  Right now you can get it online for $63.90…and I picked it up on clearance for $25!!!!  At what price does this truck become too much?


The truck is made of high gloss molded pink plastic. In the cab, there is a black molded plastic dashboard and a tan molded plastic seat.  Huge openings on both sides of the cab allow okay access to the front seats.


To get your doll in you will have to wiggle her in and find the right spot for her legs, but once in Ella fit great.


There are gray plastic side view mirrors with reflective stickers on them on both sides of the cab.  The hood sticks out from the enormous front window about 4 inches.


Open the hood and reveal an ice chest (a sticker at the bottom of the compartment has ice drawn on it).  Kind of a neat feature, but you loose the inches in the back area.


On top of the roof, a chalkboard sign flips up to write the daily specials on.  Clear, non-working lights and a matching gray plastic bumper and grill round out the front of the truck.

On the driver's side of the truck, a pink awning can fold up and out to give the people buying food some shade.


Be careful though, the thing is right at eye level, meaning the dolls have to duck or stay back if they don’t want an eyeful of awning.


The large opening has a 2 inch wide counter, with another smaller slide out counter underneath.  I love this feature as it gives more room to show off all of the neat food that is with this truck.

On the opposite side of the truck, there is a similar window, without the awning.


There is a small sink with a swiveling faucet and a grill, but no extra ledge.  Inside the truck’s back end, underneath the counters, are a couple of shelves and a refrigerator that is a pain to get open.  There are also hooks at the top of one of the walls to hang utensils.

Although this truck looks like it has 4 wheels, if you flip it upside down you will notice 5 more, small wheels underneath.


Why the heck are these extra wheels there?  Well, the entire back of the ice cream truck pulls apart, making the truck wider, but with an open gap in the back.


From the front of the truck, the open compartments have stickers on them, showing advertisements of what the ice cream truck is selling.  On the inside of the truck, the sticker is a refrigerator, stocked full of items to sell.  The wheels make it possible to move the truck while the back is open.


It is also the only way to get your doll to be inside the truck’s back.  You can shove her through the window…but she will be too tall to stand on the floor of the truck and serve out of it.  Even with the back pulled apart, Ella’s head just barely fits in the truck.


The other downside of this design is that once the sides are pulled out there is nothing to hold them back together well.  There are these little posts on the edges of the two sides that are supposed to help keep it closed, but they really do not.  I didn’t have an issue with them popping apart as the truck was being pushed around, but there is always a gap when the truck is closed.

With 38 pieces of food, this food truck is stocked for a few customers.  One of the great things about this truck is it is technically not an ice cream truck; technically it is a food truck.


This means that it comes with other items then just ice cream.  As a matter of fact, this truck comes with very little ice cream.


There is a blue ice cream freezer with stickers of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate ice cream on the top that can open up.  There is nothing inside the container, but you can put the scoops of ice cream in there and close the top.


Three cones complete the ice cream cone treats.  You can also scoop up a banana split, complete with a cherry on top.


Well actually it already comes prepared, but you can serve it to your customers…2 banana splits come with the truck.  The ice cream scoop rounds out all the ice cream items that are available with the set.

There are plenty of other things to serve out of your truck though.  There are two lollipops, two pretzels, two donuts on a stick, 3 churros, 2 tacos, two kabobs, two hot chocolates, two hot dogs, two hamburgers, and two containers of fries…or onion rings.


You can take the fries out of the box, flip them over, and on the other side, the plastic is sculpted to look like onion rings.


The set also comes with an ice cream scoop, a spatula for flipping burgers, ketchup and mustard bottles, two soda bottles and 3 water bottles.


The soda and water bottles have a handle that fits around Callie’s hand to help her hold them.  Although I appreciate the handle, I also severely dislike it.  It looks very unrealistic, and the bottles can be held without it.  In addition to all of the food, the set also comes with some paper money that has to be punched out, a piece of chalk, and lots of stickers to decorate your new ice cream truck.


Of course, you will first have to take off all of the My Life stickers that are on the truck, but they come off easily.

I love that there are other items than just ice cream in this set.  However, it would be nice to have a few more options for ice cream.


The ice cream itself is awesome though.  It fits in the scoop, it fits on the cones (and stays), and you can stack more than one scoop on a cone!  I like that the hot dogs come out of the buns, so they can be cooked and then delivered in the buns.


I do wish that there were containers for things.  The churros, tacos, burgers, and hotdogs don’t have a serving option or something to display them in.  For that matter neither do the donuts on a stick, the lollipops, or the kabobs either.  I do love the creativity with the fries/onion rings.  Overall, it’s a pretty good food supply.


The My Life truck feels cheap.  It looks decent (but cheap).  And it has an okay amount of food.  The problem is…this ice cream truck is not worth the $99 it retails at.  I don’t think it should cost any more than $40.  It is a good product, but not for $100!

Rating
All ratings are out of 10

Playability 8 – Vehicles have innate playability.  It's hard to resist the urge to drive around anything with wheels on it.  Though you can push it around, the truck does not roll well on its own and will stop quickly. Dolls fit well in the front seat, but I wish they could fit in the back without opening it up. With 38 pieces of food, there is enough to give food out to a small line of people.  It is nice to have different options other than just sweet treats...just would like to see more of it.

Value 5 or 10 – What is this nonsense...a 5 OR an 10?  Well, value depends on price, and this truck had a huge range of price.  At retail, the asking price of $99 is way too much for a vehicle that comes with only 38 pieces of food and is made of a very cheap (but seemingly sturdy) monochrome plastic. However, at $25, the truck is a steal!  It would be hard to find an accessory set for close to that, let alone a truck with it.  So that is why there are two different scores.  I'd be hard pressed to by those truck at $99.  It was an easy sell at $25.

Quality 5 – I know what you get when you buy My Life items.  They aren't made extremely well, but they are very functional and fun.  This truck feels cheaply made though, with only one opening cupboard and almost everything in the same color pink plastic.  There is something about the color of the plastic and its feel that just makes it feel cheap.  Plus the stickers are not on straight or have bubbles in them (this was the only one of 9 trucks that the stickers looked decent).  The wheels, although functional, are not easy to roll (mostly because of design - they have really chunky treads).  Some of the food looks great, while some of it is pretty blah.  Again, it's not horrible, but there is no way I would be happy spending $99 on this.

Overall 6 – If this was the only truck on the market I might be more inclined to give it a higher rating.  It does have a good amount of food.  Even though it is a bummer that the truck's back end has to be open for the dolls to stand in it, My Life did put small wheels on the bottom so that it could roll.    So it's not all bad, but when you compare it to the Our Generation truck, it just looks second rate.  Again, if the truck was cheaper, that would be a different story.  If the My Life truck retailed for $60 it would have a big upper hand on the Our Generation truck.  So unless you can find it on sale or clearance...save your pennies for the next truck.



Our Generation Ice Cream Truck

Available in two different colors (a light pink and a light teal), the Our Generation ice cream truck is made of a thicker plastic than the My Life truck.  It retails for $109, although it goes on sale for around $80, and I found the pink one on clearance for $54!!!!  So the questions is…is this ice cream truck worth the extra money?


Although its dimensions aren’t that much different than the My Life truck, it feels much bigger.  It is just a smidge taller, a little longer, and a little wider.  The front of the truck is barely 2 inches, compared to over 4 inches on the My Life truck.  That extra room is put at the back of the truck.  The windows and doors of this truck are also much bigger, going almost all the way to the roof, making the vehicle feel taller.  And there is no separation between the cab and the back of the truck, which really opens up the entire truck.

On the driver's side of the truck, there is a triangular window in the front, with a silver door handle below it.  A larger window behind the front window is able to slip open and shut.


Look closely you will see hinges just below this window because the whole top of the truck turns into a sitting area (more about that later).  Large double side view mirrors hang from “metal” rungs that can swing in and out.  Tiny “rivets” around the edges of the truck are the only thing that really breaks up the very plain look on this side of the truck.  That and the bright pink rims of the wheels tucked below the wheel wells.  Tiny reflectors at the back and one at the front make sure that the truck is safe.  The My Life truck also has reflectors, but on the Our Generation truck, all of them are made of clear or colored transparent plastic rather than being painted on.

The front of the truck has a large window with working windshield wipers.  The two wipers start in the middle and arc out to clear the rain off the windows.


A small grill with the OG symbol and a matching metallic gray bumper adorn the front also.  There are also yellow headlights (that turn on) and red turn signals (that turn on when you turn the steering wheel the corresponding direction).

On the passenger side of the ice cream truck, there is much more going on then on the driver’s side.  A large open door at the front allows Callie to get in and out easily…well pretty easily.


It does allow access to the steering wheel, which when turned makes the turn signals blink, the windshield wiper button, the ice cream truck music button (because all ice cream trucks need to let you know they are coming), the headlights button, and the break pedal, which when pushed lights up the back brake lights.


After the door, a large window takes up most of the side of the truck, ending about an inch lower than the window on the driver’s side.


Below the window is a chalkboard for writing the specials of the day.  There are also little hearts that stick out at the edges of the window.  These are for an accessory banner set that is sold separately.  You could also make your own banner or little flags to hang from these hearts.

Inside the truck, there are a plethora of things going on.  I’ve already mentioned all of the buttons up front on the dash.  The seat is more of a stool that can turn all the way around, facing the front, back or side of the truck.


Under the sliding window on the driver’s side is a shallow counter to put customers’ orders or display some of the many treats in the truck.  In the back corner on this side is a cup dispenser that hangs on the wall.  Pull on the cup and it pops out the bottom of the dispenser.  To reload it, pull the dispenser off the wall and refill from the top.  Underneath the cup dispenser is a deep fryer, and underneath that is a freezer (ummm…is that the best set up?).


Next to the freezer are two cupboards or they could be an oven or they could be more cold storage.  And finally, there is an oven for making pretzels and other hot treats.  On the passenger side, a deep ledge runs from the door to the back counter of the truck.  In the back corner is a sink, then some much-needed counter space, then a well for putting ice cream dishes in.  Underneath the ledge is a storage area to throw things in.

Look closely at the roof of the truck and you will notice that it is not solid.  Below the sliding window, you’ll notice hinges, because the entire roof and side flips over to create a sitting area.  A “paved” patio is a great place for the stools to sit for all of your customers.


Well…maybe they should stand; these stools are so skinny, it is a balancing act to get your doll to sit on them.

Now to get to the impressive part of this set…the food!  With over 100 pieces (actually 112 not including the money) this truck has more than enough to serve everyone that orders from it.


Let’s start by looking at the non-edible items.  There are 4 wooden ice cream spoons, a tong for picking things up, an ice cream scoop, 3 cups, 2 frozen treat holders, 1 popsicle holder, chocolate, caramel and strawberry syrups, chocolate and rainbow sprinkles, a straw container, a napkin holder, 4 backing sheets, 4 large ice cream containers, 3 donut holders, a bell, 2 seats, and a fryer basket.


Ohh…and 3 coins and 5 dollar bills…but I didn’t count those in the 112, so I didn’t count them here.  There are a ridiculous amount of food items in this set…ridiculous!


12 single stick popsicles, 3 twin popsicles, 6 cup popsicles, 2 twirl popsicles, 4 different ice cream bars on a stick, 8 different ice cream cones, 2 different ice cream sandwiches, a banana split, 3 different shakes, 2 sundaes, 2 ice cream scoops with toppings, 6 snow cones (2 different flavors – 3 of each flavor), 3 different Icees, 6 different bins of ice cream, 1 container of ice cream, 6 donuts (3 different kinds – 2 of each), 3 crueler donuts, and finally 3 pretzels.






There are also two pieces of ice to put in the sink.  Holy cow!  What an amazing amount of really cool food.

Even though the ice cream truck is impressive there are a few things that could be improved.  The first thing is that the zip ties that are holding some of the food in its plastic protective container are ridiculously difficult to get off.


Along those same lines is the fact that there is tape on everything that does not have a zip tie.


That would be okay if the tape came off easily, but in some cases, it rips and a part of it stays behind.

Another sticky situation is the stickers for the “Try Me” feature.  Neither of them comes off without a lot of scraping.


Each time you pull it rips in a different section.  That is fine if this was a permanent sticker, but it is supposed to come off.

I love that the top flips out to a dining area.  It opens up the truck, making it easier to maneuver the doll.  However, it is kind of a bummer that the shelf flips with the side.  When I staged this set up I put all of the little items on the shelf and then tried putting Ella in.


It is not impossible to do through the door and the windows, but it is a lot more difficult than through the roof.

Even though there are some issues with the ice cream truck, the benefits, and awesomeness of the truck far outway the downsides.


This truck is closer to what I would expect for $100.  I wish it was a little wider, that there were a few more storage areas and those items had display holders, but even as it is, this truck is amazing.

Rating
All ratings are out of 10

Playability 9 – This truck was made to drive.  The wheels spin nicely making it so that if you push the truck it will go on its own 10 to 20 feet.  There is so much food with this set...so much!  It could take hours just to set up all of the food.  Plus the truck has really neat electronic features.  What is an ice cream truck without its music!  It is awesome that the roof opens, but I wish there was a way that the shelf stayed upright.  That being said it is still a great feature, making it much easier to move your doll around inside when the roof is folded out.  Two things that were a bit frustrating; one is that some of the food does not stay in the dolls hands (so it pretend or use tape), and two the seats for on the patio are ridiculously horrible to try and seat your doll on.  You'll have to balance them on the seats and then don't breath because if you do they will fall off.  Other than those two issues, the set is awesome!

Value 9 – $109 is a lot of money, but I feel like you are getting your monies worth.  The quality of the plastic is very good.  The design of the truck is really good.  It has little design elements that really add to it, like the sliding window, the cup holder, and the windshield wipers.  The truck feels solid, even with the fold out roof.  I wouldn't suggest sitting on it, but it seems pretty tough.  Then there is the food!  Holy cow is there a lot of food!  It is an awesome amount of food that comes with this set.  It is annoying that there are bowls that are empty with nothing to put in them.  And I would love to see the scoops of ice cream scoops like in the My Life truck.  Overall though, the food is awesome!

Quality 8 – This truck feels like it is made well.  It looks like it is made well.  It is made well...for plastic.  It isn't going to hold up to Tonka truck like driving (but most kids won't play with this the same way they play with Tonka trucks), but it seems like it will hold up to regular play for a long time.  Like the kitchen set, the plastic cabinets don't quite close in some spots, and the countertop has a slight bow in it.  The plastic is still prone to some issues but seems better off than that go the MY Life truck.

Overall 9 – This is an awesome set!  Look on some of the American Girl websites or on Instagram for all the ways that people have customized their trucks, making them taco stands, or My Little Kitty shops.  This truck is really cool.  It has so many great features.  It made me excited to find all the things that opened or moved or made sound.  And the food...oh my gosh!  I know I have gushed over the food items a lot, but there is good reason.  With over 100 accessories this set has an amazing amount of things to do.  All of the food items are made well with a lot of cute details.  There is a huge variety of food and utensils.  Just a great play toy.



I think the Our Generation truck is the clear choice between the two trucks here.   Especially if you can get the OG truck on sale.  If you get lucky and find the My Life truck at $25, pick it up, it is worth it at the price.  Plus a little friendly competition for ice cream vendors is good!