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Saturday, April 07, 2012

The World Of Strawberry Shortcake

With just two more days left in the “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This Week", I thought I’d dedicate today’s blog entry to a cartoon that was filled with a lot of sweet things, sweet people, and sweet morals. 

Basically a show that was so sweet, it had the potential to give you a cavity.

I imagine you’re probably asking yourself why I have decided to make this entire blog entry red in colour today (as opposed to the dark brown that I’ve used for the duration of the week).  Well, it happens to be a colour that is quite dominant in the world of this character.  This character started off life as a greeting card mascot, and by the early 1980s, she exploded in popularity alongside her friends.  She’s had several television specials, an entire line of dolls, and even has had her own video game series!

This is also a character that I had to do a lot of research on as well.  I believe that when I was growing up, I only saw one episode of the series she starred in at the most, and let’s just say that it wasn’t my favourite show.  Granted, it was a show that was marketed for young girls, and the only reason I ended up watching it in the first place was because it was a cartoon that aired before a feature presentation at the movies, but it didn’t make much of an impact.

When it came down to it, however, I figured that this subject would be the perfect one to spotlight.  It’s a cartoon, so it fits in perfectly with the Saturday morning theme, and it’s got more references to baked goods and sweet treats than any other cartoon I can think of, so it definitely fits the theme.  Unfortunately, it happens to be a show that I wasn’t a fan of, so I took on the painstaking task of watching old shows and looking up information to bring the subject to life, even though it wasn’t a show I cared for.

I’m wondering if the fact that the main character happens to be named after a dessert that I am allergic to has something to do with my nonchalant attitude towards this cartoon.

At any rate, today’s blog entry will look at the wonderful world of Strawberry Shortcake.  Not THAT shortcake.

Yes...this one.

Strawberry Shortcake first made the scene in 1977.  She was created by artist Muriel Fahrion for the American Greetings card company.  The designs for Strawberry Shortcake and her calico cat, Custard were drawn up by Fahrion for various greeting cards, and shortly thereafter, the characters were presented to Bernie Loomis (who worked for General Mills).  Loomis loved Strawberry Shortcake enough to license the character, and Fahrion designed a total of thirty-two characters for American Greetings card and toy lines.

The first Strawberry Shortcake doll was designed by Fahrion herself, and created by her sister, Susan Trentel.  The doll was similar to a Raggedy Ann in that it was a rag doll, but it set the tone for future dolls and characters during the late 1970s.

By 1980, the Strawberry Shortcake brand was continuing to grow, as the company focused on fleshing out the details for Strawberry Shortcake’s friends.  Each character was named after a specific dessert treat.  They were also given a wardrobe that matched their name, as well as a complimentary pet.  One feature that stood out for the Strawberry Shortcake dolls were the fact that their hair was scented after the dessert they were named after (for instance, Strawberry Shortcake dolls would smell like strawberries).  At the time, no other doll boasted that feature, so the dolls definitely stood out in toy stores (in more ways than one).

And who were some of Strawberry Shortcake’s friends?  I managed to find a short list below.  Some of the characters have changed looks (and even genders) over the years, but the names and scents remained largely unchanged.  The list includes...

Huckleberry Pie (pet dog named Pupcake)
Blueberry Muffin (pet mouse named Cheesecake)
Apple Dumplin’ (pet turtle named Tea Time Turtle)

Raspberry Tart (pet monkey named Rhubarb)

Plum Puddin’ (pet owl named Elderberry)
Orange Blossom (pet butterfly named Marmalade)

Lemon Meringue (pet frog named Frappe)
Apricot (pet bunny named Hopsalot)

Lime Chiffon (pet parrot named Parfait)
Cherry Cuddler (pet goose named Gooseberry)

(Hmmm...for some reason, I’m beginning to get hungry now.)

1980 was the year in which Strawberry Shortcake really exploded in popularity.  That was the year that the toys first began appearing on store shelves.  It was also the year that the first of six animated Strawberry Shortcake specials debuted in syndication.  If you click HERE, you can watch a little snippet of the first Strawberry Shortcake special, but I warn you...this cartoon is so sugary sweet it makes an episode of Full House look like South Park in comparison.

The dolls sold so well that playsets began to be manufactured beginning in early 1981.  These playsets included the Berry Bake Shop, a carousel, the Big Berry Trolley, and Berry Happy Home.  Thousands of young girls snapped up almost everything that had to do with Strawberry Shortcake between 1980 and 1985.  And back in the early 1980s, there was certainly a lot of Strawberry Shortcake merchandise to be found.  There were scratch and sniff stickers, clothing items, bath items, and even a Strawberry Shortcake video game for the Atari 2600! 

Of course, no fad lasts forever, and by 1986, Strawberry Shortcake had passed her best before date, and the toys soon faded into obscurity.  There was a short renaissance for the Strawberry Shortcake toy line in the early 1990s, which sold modestly, but the second coming of Strawberry Shortcake only lasted until 1992.  Ten more years would pass before Strawberry Shortcake made another comeback in the world of television and toys.

In 2003, a brand new version of Strawberry Shortcake was introduced.  Because a new team of designers were responsible for the revamp, Strawberry Shortcake looked significantly different from her late 1970’s appearance.

But with the reappearance of Strawberry Shortcake came a new television series, as well as a new line of toys.  CD’s and DVD’s were made, and video games were produced for both the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS.  Unlike the original version, the 2003 version of Strawberry Shortcake was more of an educational program.  In 2006, Playmates Toys took over the merchandising and manufacturing of the Strawberry Shortcake line, but after poor reviews and dismal sales, Hasbro ended up winning the rights to the Strawberry Shortcake line.  Hasbro then teamed up with American Greetings to relaunch the Strawberry Shortcake name for a fourth time!

You know, for a cartoon character, Strawberry Shortcake seems to have almost as many lives as her cat, Custard!  But, as much as I can’t claim to be a fan of Strawberry Shortcake, I have to admit that it is really cool to see former classics get a second wind.  Or, in this case, a third or even a fourth wind!

I’m sure that you’ve heard the saying that “everything old can be new again”.  I think that’s very much true for this blog.  I take various subjects from the past, and try to look at them through different angles so that I can find a way to appreciate them more.  I think that in the case of Strawberry Shortcake, she’s adapted with the times, and in turn has delighted generations of girls for the last thirty-five years.  And while the popularity of Strawberry Shortcake has had its peaks and valleys over those thirty-five years, she’s still got the staying power and sweetness that attracts fans.

Hey, even I’ll admit that after writing this blog entry, I have found a whole new appreciation for Strawberry Shortcake.

(But I still can’t eat a slice of strawberry shortcake.  I’d break out in hives.)

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