Strawberry Shortcut: the contemporary look.


Original Medium: Greeting cards
Produced by: American Greetings
First Appeared: 1979
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Strawberry Shortcake had her heyday during the 1980s, and that meant she had a very good chance of being too sweet and syrupy to be tolerated by many adults. But she also, like Rainbow Brite, Care Bears and a few others, belonged to a genre more sweet and syrupy yet — toons so sweet and syrupy …

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… they could have originated only in greeting cards. Strawberry and her friends first appeared in that medium, and in a line of stationery aimed at little girls.

The manufacturer was American Greetings, the Cleveland-based company that also launched Ziggy, Popples and other familiar cartoon properties. Strawberry Shortcake came with a complement of friends and supporting characters, such as Blueberry Muffin, Raspberry Tart and, lest anyone accuse them of gender discrimination, a boy named Huckleberry Pie. The cards and stationery first appeared in 1979. The following year, Kenner Toys (Real Ghostbusters, Batman) brought them out as a set of old-fashioned rag dolls. But they had a modern twist — these dolls were the first to be scented. Each was made to smell like the food suggested by her (his, in the case of Huck) name. From there, they went on to multimedia success — books, clothing, and just about anything else that can be merchandised.

Strawberry Shortcake and her friends were first animated in 1980, when The World of Strawberry Shortcake was syndicated as a half-hour TV Easter special. By this time, the cast included The Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak, who, being a villain, made it easier to use the gang in stories. Strawberry's voice was done by Russi Taylor (who has played Mickey Mouse's girlfriend and Donald Duck's Nephews in more recent animation), and Purple's by Bob Ridgely (also heard in TaleSpin, Mighty Orbots, Snorks and elsewhere). Five more were made between then and 1985. They featured an ever-expanding cast, including international sweeties such as their Asian friend Almond Tea (with her pet, Marzy Panda), and a female villain, Sour Grapes.

Unlike many popular toy franchises, Strawberry and company never had a daily or weekly TV show. They were, however, picked up by Marvel Comics in 1985, as part of the opening lineup of its Star Comics imprint, aimed at children, which also included Heathcliff and Planet Terry. The Strawberry Shortcake comic book ran six issues, all of which featured artwork by Howard Post (Jimminy & the Magic Book).

The franchise eventually ran out of steam, and was mostly dormant during the 1990s. However, the character was relaunched, with a new look, in 2002. The gang is mostly back with her (tho Raspberry Tart, possibly because of an unfortunate confluence of her name with the Cockney rhyming slang term for a bodily function, is de-emphasized). They no longer look like stuffed dolls, wearing the sort of clothing even Raggedy Ann might consider retro, but are designed to look like 21st century children who simply dress a little oddly. This time, American Greetings is partnered with DiC Entertainment (Captain Planet, Kissyfur), which has already produced more than a half-dozen new animated specials. Books, videos, toys, cosmetics, etc. are also lining store shelves.

Last time around, Strawberry Shortcake sold about 25 million dolls. This time — we'll see.


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Text ©2005-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © American Greetings.