Goodbye, Strawberry Shortcake

I’ll admit it. My aunt Sarah (three years my senior) had a pretty vast collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls (I mean action figures.) If I had to count how many times I begged her to play with them, I’d surely be up in the millions.

They were so cute…so colorful…so smelly (in a completely irresistible sort of way.)

And now American Greetings has decided to ruin Strawberry Shortcake and her sweet-smelling pals forever. In the old “Hey, let’s give this classic character a face lift to appeal to the young kids” saw, Strawberry Shortcake now wears makeup, prefers fresh fruit to gumdrops, and has ditched her cuddly cat Custard for a — wait for it — cell phone.

Another classic character ruined by marketing folks trying to simultaneously appeal to kids (as if the only toys they can possibly enjoy must wear trendy clothes and chat on cell phones) and their nostalgic parents (as if any parent would feel nostalgic over a character that looks nothing like the one they grew to love.)

According to the New York Times story, even more carnage is on the way. Stay tuned for Care Bears with less belly fat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with more muscles, and maybe even a dark, Goth version of Tweety Bird.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I hate it when companies do this sort of thing. The new version never seems to be as good as the old one. And I think they undervalue a child’s openness for fantasty and imaginary worlds. Not everything has to be “modern” to interest them. He-Man was a huge hit in our house growing up, and he dressed like a fashion-forward caveman. Come to think of it, when Strawberry Shortcake was popular in the 80s, it wasn’t like society was populated with people wearing bloomers with green and white stockings. She didn’t look like Cyndi Lauper or the Material Girl, and yet little girls (and at least one little boy who is secure enough in his masculinity to admit it) liked Strawberry Shortcake just fine.

What say you? Am I getting crotchety in my old age?

What do you think about makeovers for classic characters?
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  1. *sigh* What will be next? I cringe at the thought of the adorable Carebears with less tummy. Come on people they are BEARS that are cartoons! Seriously it has gone too far ruining good things. First they kill He-Man and make him look like a freak with a hunch in his back, and now poor Strawberry Shortcake. Sure the new one is “cute” in a teen star a la Disney Channel kind of way. That is now what Strawberry Shortcake is all about. She is supposed to be a wholesome character.

  2. While the new design is cute, TheAngelForever is spot-on in the “Disney Channel” comment. For a moment, I thought I was looking at a younger Kim Possible with pink hair. What gets me from the article is the quote, “It’s also about creating a cohesive line. We’re downplaying characters that were part of Strawberry’s world but who didn’t immediately shout out fruit.” Why not start a new line of characters? Granted, the article covers the uncertainty of new characters, but if you’re changing who old characters are, and will probably replace Angel Cake with a “Cinnamon Persimmon” (with emphasis on the fruit), then how does this differ from making a new line of characters? Why not introduce a new line of characters who live in the same world, or live nearby, so crossovers can be used?

    I don’t know anything about Strawberry Shortcake (Wikipedia is my friend), but this set up of characters seems just ripe for a slice-of-life series. There’ve been a number of popular slice-of-life animations in Japan, and when done right, they can appeal to both children and adults (or at least parents, and adults who are children at heart!) Using either the 1980 look or the 200X look, but not the new look shown in the article, the right animation company could pull it off. And with good writing and artwork, a line of comics (again, I’m looking at the popular Japanese slice-of-life comics, which resulted in most of the aforementioned popular slice-of-life animations) could even lead to an increased desire to read (rather than simply watch) Miss Shortcake and her friends.

    Again, I don’t know anything about the Shortcake characters and mythos, but the idea of adding in cell phones and such sounds like the plan is to throw out the original concepts, but continue to use the character names (so long as they’re fruit-friendly). American Greetings should look at what made the “Little Nemo” movie great (well, until they look at its movie theatre flop…), being an adaptation from a comic strip from the early 1900’s. There are ways to stay relevant today without whitewashing and re-branding.

    Sorry, I think I may have rambled incoherently =P

  3. Minette says:

    **Double sigh** When will grown-ups leave some of this stuff alone? How in the world do you create a Goth Tweety-Bird??? I shudder just to think of it – I always like to quote “I taught I taw a puddy tat” at my nephews but I sometimes change it to something like “I taught I taw a widdle boy” just for kicks. Kids have enough problems today, let’s leave the toys alone!

  4. cheri says:

    Showing off your website to coworkers recently, the lemonade stand and all the cool stuff… a girl in the office pointed at “gumby” and said what is that? We told her about gumby & pokey, how cool they are and what fun we had with them. She said “but what do you do with them?”. We were floored.
    Not only has the marketing companies & media remade lovable childrens toys – they have produced a generation that expect the toys to “do something” to entertain them.
    Glad there are many young at heart people out there who still look at life with true childlike joy & imagination. Thank you Jason & Kim for this website..

  5. What on earth? Where will the madness stop?
    Cell phones…sheesh!

  6. Oh God. I was still in mourning over Holly Hobbie and now THIS?! I need a gumdrop.

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