Cover of one of Rainbow Brite's books.


Original Medium: Greeting cards
Published by: Hallmark Cards
First Appeared: 1983
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Following just a couple of years after Care Bears, a set of greeting card characters that became toys, movies and TV cartoons, Hallmark introduced Rainbow Brite, which …

continued below

… did the same. In contrast to American Greetings, which in addition to Care Bears also launched Popples, The Get Along Gang and Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite was the only such cross-media phenomenon Hallmark ever did.

Rainbow Brite started out as a little girl named Wisp, who was magically carried off to the Rainbow Land. There, she found everything had become dull and dreary, a result of that entire world having been taken over by The Dark One. Despite cowardly advice from a sprite named Twink (who became her closest friend in that realm), she made it her business to find The Color Belt and The Sphere of Light, and restore the Rainbow Land's natural beauty. This she did, with the help of a flying horse named Starlite and her seven friends, The Color Kids (Red Butler, Lala Orange, Canary Yellow, Patty O'Green, Buddy Blue, Indigo and Shy Violet). After that, she remained to rule the Rainbow Land, with her friends in charge of their respective bands of it. Her special mission was to maintain bright colors throughout the universe. Her worst foes were Murky Dismal and his sidekick, Lurky.

What Wisp's mom and dad thought of her mysterious disappearance, and whether or not her picture was printed on milk cartons while she was off having wonderful adventures, weren't mentioned. But the story was aimed at very young children, who tend not to ascribe much weight to such considerations.

Rainbow and her friends started appearing on Hallmark cards in 1983. That same year, Mattel began marketing toys based on them, and they also began appearing in children's books. There was even a straight-to-video live-action movie about them, Rainbow Brite: San Diego Zoo Adventure, which mostly consisted of Lucille Bliss (Crusader Rabbit, Smurfette) narrating fun facts about animals, some of which (like flamingos being pink because they eat pink shrimp), while no-doubt amusing to children, were less than wholly accurate.

The first TV special about her and her friends (Rainbow Brite: Peril in the Pits) was produced by DiC Enterprises (Captain Planet, He-Man & the Masters of the Universe) and aired during June, 1984. The second (Rainbow Brite: The Mighty Monstromurk Menace) aired during December of that year. Both (as well as all subsequent TV shows about her) were distributed through syndication. They seem to have done well, as the first was a mere half-hour long and the second twice that.

The Rainbow Land's history was explored in a two-part special, a half-hour each, aired successive nights during April, 1985, titled Rainbow Brite: The Beginning of the Rainbow Land. A feature-length movie about her, Rainbow Brite & the Star Stealer, was released to theatres on November 15 of that year, and DC Comics adapted the movie into comic book form. The weekly TV cartoon, syndicated as part of DiC's Kideo TV (an early example of a kids' programming block, like The Disney Afternoon), began during September, 1986.

In all these animated incarnations, Rainbow's voice was done by Bettina Bush, who also did Alisa in Rugrats, Lucy in Here Come the Littles and several other roles. Voices of her friends and enemies included Mona Marshall (Wendy and Sheila in South Park), Pat Fraley (Wildcat in TaleSpin), Scott Menville (Robin in Teen Titans), Andre Stojka (Owl in recent versions of Winnie the Pooh) and Peter Cullen (Captain Crabnasty in My Little Pony).

The franchise pretty much ran out of steam by the end of the '80s. There was an attempt to revive it in 1996, with Mattel bringing out new, ethnically-diverse versions of the various characters, but it fell flat on its face. Rainbow Brite is, and probably will remain, an artifact of the 1980s.


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Text ©2003-05 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hallmark Cards.