Continuing on from last week, here is part two of the best toys of the 80’s.
Rainbow Brite was introduced by Hallmark cards in 1983. Hallmark licensed Rainbow Brite to Mattel in 1984 for dolls and merchandise. The story of Rainbow Brite who was originally named Wisp tells us of an orphan little girl who is taken to a world where it is dark and gloomy. There is no color or light in this world because it was all destroyed by the King of shadows. Throughout the darkness Wisp discovers a white furry little creature with star antennas called a sprite. His name is Twist and he is the only white sprite and he becomes Wisp’s personal and very loyal sprite. She also finds Starlight who becomes Wisp’s faithful horse and friend who has a rainbow colored mane and tail with a gold star on his forehead. Together the three find the color belt which Wisp uses to defeat the King of shadows. By defeating the King of shadows, the color kids are released and together with Wisp who has now been given the name Rainbow Brite, they release color and happiness back into the world. It is now Rainbow Brite’s responsibility to be in charge of the color and light of the world and the color kids who all become her good friends help her with this. The color kids all represent a color of the Rainbow and each have their own Sprite who is the same color as well. They are Indigo, Red Butler, Buddy Blue, Shy Violet, Patty O’Green, Canary Yellow and Lala Orange. The first Rainbow Brite dolls made were ‘9 inches and came in a box that included a story with it. Each doll had a sprite that was attached to their hands with velcro. Mattel merchandised lots of other Rainbow Brite products and turned it into a billion dollar franchise that controlled the children’s market in the 80’s.
The Cabbage Patch Kids
A long time ago there was a boy named Xavier Roberts. Xavier was playing outside one day when he was distracted by a small flying creature. It looked like a bunny but flew and buzzed like a bee. It turned out to be a Bunnybee. Intrigued by the Bunny bee Xavier followed it to a waterfall. The Bunnybee went through the waterfall and Xavier followed, behind the waterfall was a tunnel which he followed untill he came out to a magical land where a Cabbage patch grew little children. He watched as more Bunnybee sprinkled magic crystal dust on the mother Cabbages and the magic caused the Cabbage Patch Kids to be born. Xavier was asked if he would like to help and he agreed to find loving homes for the Cabbage Patch Kids. He said he would build them a place where they could live there untill they were adopted. This of course is the story of how the Cabbage Patch Kids came to be. The real story of course is in 1978 Xavier Roberts created a doll line called “little people”. He sold the dolls at craft fairs across the Southern United States and was featured in a documentary called “Real People” in 1982. From there he licensed a deal with the toy manufacturer Coleco, Coleco decided to change the name to The Cabbage Patch Kids. By 1983, more than 3 million dolls had been adopted. Buyers could adopt their doll from the BabyLand General Hospital. Each doll had it’s own name and came with a birth certificate and adoption papers. They were ’16 inches in size with soft bodies, hard vinyl heads, yarn hair and came in a wide range of ethnic and races. Sales were more than 600 million by 1985. The Cabbage Patch Kids one of the most sought after dolls of the 80’s, even causing small riots when they were sold out of stores at Christmas time. Hasbro took over from Coleco in 1989 untill 1994 and then Mattel took over from then until today, however neither company could not bring the popularity of the dolls back to the way it was when they were first released. Today, there is still a BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Oregon. A few years ago a story came out that an artist from Kentucky named Martha Nelson Thomas actually invented the dolls in the early 70’s and she would adopt them out of her family and friends. Apparently the dolls caught the attention of Xavier Roberts who was running a gift shop at the time. He asked to sell her dolls in his shop but she denied him permission. Martha said he then stoled the design and began making his own version. Whoever did actually come up with the idea of the dolls, came up with an incredibly great idea. The Cabbage Patch Kids was one of the longest running doll franchise in America.
Transformers were first produced by the American company Hasbro and the Japanese company Takara. The toys were created by tiny toy molds mostly produced by the Japanese company. In 1984 Hasbro bought the distribution rights to the toy molds and rebranded them as Transformers. Transformers were more than meets the eye since the premise was a toy that parts could be shifted around to change it from a vehicle, an animal or a device to a robot action figure and then back again to its original self. There were two main types of Transformers, the good and heroic Autobots or the bad and evil opponents the Decepticons. The first line featured 28 characters, 18 Autobots and 10 Decepticons. The Autobots changed into cars, mini cars and one turned into a truck with tractor trailer. The Decepticons changed into planes, microcassettes, one turned into a microcassatte player and one into a gun. The Autobot who changed into the tractor trailer truck is Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots and the Decepticons that changes into 3 different types of guns is Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. Over the years several new characters were introduced into the line. Transformers were brought to the spotlight again when real life movies directed by Michael Bay were released over the past ten years.
Another character first created for American greeting cards was Strawberry Shortcake. The dolls were introduced in 1980 by Kenner and went on to make 100 million dollars the first year they came out. The Strawberry Shortcake doll was a strawberry scented doll with the other characters being scented by their own distinct scent as well. The doll line created each doll to also come with their own food named pet. Strawberry’s pet was a cat named Custard and together they lived in a magical world called Strawberry Land with her friends and their pets. Strawberry’s friends each had their own fruit or dessert themed name with clothing to match. These friends were Huckleberry Pie and his pup Pupcake, Blueberry muffin and her mouse Cheesecake, Apple Dumpling and her turtle Tea Time, Raspberry tart and her monkey Rhubarb, Plum Pudding who was originally a male character then changed to a female character in 1984 had a pet owl named Elderberry, Orange Blossom and her butterfly Marmalade and Lemon Meringue and her frog Frappe. Strawberry Shortcake and her friends also shared Strawberry Land with villians the Purple Pieman, Sour Grapes a old partner in crime of the Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes niece Raisin Cane. The Strawberry Shortcake fad died down in 1985 and Kenner did not produce any more dolls. Revised in 1991 by THQ, who released an updated line of Strawberry Shortcake dolls and five of her friends. The updated version did not catch on like the original version and was soon discontinued. The dolls were revied a very more times over the years and in 2015 the Iconix brand group took over rights from American Greetings for 105 million, only to then be acquired by DHX media in 2017 making them the current owner. Strawberry Shortcake might just seem like a little red-haired girl with freckles with lots of friends who has a great positive attitude but the dolls produced based on her sweet character dominated the doll franchise in the 80’s and are still being made today, 37 years later!
So there you go, the seven toys I just covered were by far some of the best ones of the 80’s. I really am just touching the surface here, for there are so many more awesome 80’s toys I didn’t even get to. If you were growing up in the 80’s then you know I am right and if you weren’t just be greatful that some of the 80’s toys are still around today just not quite the same as when they first came out. The 80’s truly were a lot of things but I think one thing, young or old that we can all agree on for sure is they had the best toys that ever came out to hit the shelves.
I forgot about Rainbow Brite. I loved those toys.