Care Bears: From the cover of a British Marvel comic book.


Original medium: Greeting cards
Produced by: American Greeting Cards
First appeared: 1981
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With names like Love-a-Lot Bear, Funshine Bear and Good Luck Bear, the Care Bears seem designed more for expressing simple, benign feelings, than for starring in adventure stories. And there's a good …

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… reason for that — their origins lie not in TV animation, not in toys, but in greeting cards. (Which probably explains why one of them is called Birthday Bear.)

American Greeting Cards, where Strawberry Shortcake and Ziggy were born, introduced the Care Bears line in 1981. They turned out to be extraordinarily popular, and within two years, were spun off into toys, clothing, books and other licensed merchandise. The animated version came in 1985. In it, the Care Bears lived in a cloud land up in the sky, called Care-A-Lot, and came to Earth in their Cloudmobile whenever boys and girls needed an emotional pick-up. They also had relatives on Earth, the Care Bear Cousins, who lived in the Forest of Feeling.

The first Care Bears movie was released on March 29, 1985. Production was done by Nelvana Ltd., a Canadian company that was also involved with Eek! the Cat, The Get Along Gang, and several animated Star Wars spin-offs, and no relation. Voices included Mickey Rooney (whose first toon-related role was Mickey (Himself) McGuire, in silent comedies based on Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Folks), Georgia Engel (also heard in Hey Arnold! and the TV version of Disney's Hercules) and Cree Summer (Susie in Rugrats, Elmyra in Tiny Toon Adventures).

The TV show started in September of that year, with production done by DiC Enterprises (He-Man, Captain Planet). Nelvana resumed production in 1986, when the title was changed to The Care Bears Family. (The title reverted in 1988.) Voices included Terri Hawks (Serena in Sailor Moon, several roles in Herself the Elf), Louise Vallance (Mouse in Reboot, Mom in the 1986 Dennis the Menace) and Billie Mae Richards (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). Under one name or the other, it remained in production for the rest of the '80s.

The comic book version, published by Marvel Comics under its Star Comics imprint, parallelled the TV show. It ran 20 issues, dated November, 1985 through January, 1989. The artist was Howard Post, whose credits, going back to the 1940s, range from Harvey Comics' Hot Stuff the Little Devil to DC's Anthro.

Nelvana produced two more movies about the Care Bears: Care Bears: A New Generation (1986) and Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987), in which they met up with some of Lewis Carroll's more famous characters. The last didn't do well at the box office, so the Big Screen portion of the Care Bears franchise fell into disuse.

The toys, greeting cards, etc. continued into the 1990s, but eventually faded from view. But — good news for Care Bears fans — everything old is new again. They're back on best-seller charts as of 2002, so it appears children who played with the original Care Bears toys will have an opportunity to buy the present-day equivalent for their own kids.


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Text ©2003-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © American Greetings