Special thanks to TwistSTL for the AvaStars experience. All opinions are my own.
As I mentioned in my 5 Steps to Decluttering your Kids’ Toys Before Christmas post, the thought of adding one more toy, book, or puzzle to our mix at Christmas was enough to make me hyperventilate and send me into declutter mode. It feels like our kids have so much stuff that we've actually started moving away from gifting things to gifting experiences. Creating a meaningful memory that they will treasure is a gift worth giving. With that in mind, when I recently received an opportunity to review an AvaStars experience at the St. Louis Galaria, I knew it would be perfect for Mister's birthday! My contributor Abby has two girls that are stair steps in age, literally, with Mister (7) and Sister (5) so we asked K (8) and M (6) to join us.
A trip to AvaStars is quite the experience. First, a child selects the character that they dream of becoming. They are able to customize the hair, eye color, and skin tone of their character. Then they step into the AvaStarShip portal to have their 3D photo taken. After that, they get to watch the premiere of themselves starring in a 3D animated AvaStars video. The video is available for download and can be shared with family and friends. All of that is followed up with a few weeks later with their personalized AvaStars doll, which arrives in the mail.
When we arrived at the AvaStars kiosk at the St. Louis Galleria, I realized we've actually passed by the kiosk before and had no clue what it was. I typically have three kids in tow, so I hadn't taken the time to stop and ask any questions before. The kids all posed by the AvaStarShip for their photo, which was superfun.
Since it was his birthday, the girls decided to let Mister go first. He wasted no time picking his AvaStar. He wanted to be a Martial Arts Master. He thoroughly enjoyed having his picture taken in the AvaStarShip, and then doing the arm motions, to bring his dream of being a Martial Arts Master to life on the screen.
True to character, Sister chose the Pet Healer. She loves animals, and her choice came as no big surprise to us. She tends to be a bit more timid in unfamiliar situations, but she was thrilled beyond belief to see herself in the Pet Healer video and to think that she could help animals like that.
K chose to be a Princess, and M selected a Pop Star. I had to chuckle at how the videos that went with their characters completely reflected their personalities.
Last, but not least, I took a turn in the AvaStarShip. I was a bit disappointed that there weren't any bald doll options, but I've always thought if I had hair I'd want to be a redhead, so I chose a doll with auburn hair and blue eyes. Since I'd seen the other videos, I wanted to see what the cheerleader would look like, so I selected her.
The kids all got a kick out of watching my video, too. They were thrilled with all of the videos, and watched each one at least three times!
While the kids watched the videos, I took advantage of the opportunity to chat with Dan Lauer, the genius behind AvaStars. As the the inventor of Waterbabies, he also had the dream to personalize dolls utilizing 3D printing technology. He asked me what I thought, and I expressed that I'd love to see bald doll options, especially considering that St. Louis has two major cancer centers and it would be huge for kids in chemo to be able to do an experience like this and get a doll that looked like them. He seemed genuinely interested in the idea, and said that they have a lot of things in store for the next year or so, which were based off customer input, including adding female options for the firefighter and soldier, as well as adding new app exclusive characters like a ballerina, a skateboarder, and a goth guy. The AvaStars app will be in the app store soon.
Overall, I have to say that the experience of creating our AvaStars was quite fun. We all enjoyed ourselves, and we all thought the videos were a great way to offset the fact that we'd have to wait a couple weeks for our actual dolls to come in. Kids (and some adults) often have a hard time waiting for things like that, so the video is genius. All five of our dolls arrived separately, on different days. That would be tough on the kiddos, for one to receive their doll but the other one has to wait for theirs, so I had to be a little creative in hiding boxes, etc. I wish that there was a way to have them drop ship all the dolls in an order together. I do love that the dolls come with the accessories that they are displayed with. For example, the vet doll comes with the dog and the cat, while the cheerleader comes with her pom poms, and the pop star comes with a microphone. Each doll has also has a stand so that it can easily be displayed.
When my doll came in, I actually did a double take. I have to say I think AvaStars nailed the me with hair look. Left is me at 20 with a human hair wig on. Right is my AvaStars doll.
AvaStars currently has three locations including the St. Louis Galleria, the Oakbrook Center (near Chicago), and the Kenwood Towne Centre in Cincinnati Ohio.
During the initial launch period, AvaStars is excited to offer this new experience to consumers for an introductory price of $40 (plus tax, shipping and handling) for the Deluxe Package (an all-inclusive experience) with a standard MSRP of $50.
If you're like me, and prefer to gift experiences that will be remembered, I think that a trip to the AvaStarShip is a great gift idea!
***Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): I received the aforementioned AvaStars experience to facilitate this review. ***