- This article refers to the series in general; for the title character, click here.
Strawberry Shortcake is a licensed character owned by American Greetings, originally used in greeting cards and expanded to include dolls, posters, and other products. The Strawberry Shortcake properties also include a toy line of the character's friends and pets.
The Strawberry Shortcake line has their own fruity/dessert-themed name to match their clothing, and they each had a dessert- or fruit-named pet. Like the Strawberry Shortcake doll, all the other characters' dolls had hair scented to match their dessert theme. The characters lived and played in a magical world known as Strawberryland.
After the idea was presented to Bernie Loomis of General Mills and became a licensing entity, Muriel then designed thirty-two more characters for Those Characters From Cleveland. Cindy Moyer Patton and Janet Jones designed the other later characters of the classic Strawberry Shortcake line. Lyn Edwards was the editor of the line and along with brainstorm group developed the personality profiles, the story line and philosophy. The first doll was a rag doll directed by Muriel Fahrion and created by Susan Trentel, Fahrion's sister.
During the 1980s, Strawberry Shortcake became a huge fad. At the time, there were several related products, such as sticker albums, clothes, a video game for the Atari 2600, and several other products. Several TV specials were made featuring the characters, one each year between 1980 and 1985, when the fad had apparently waned. Kenner produced no new dolls or toys thereafter.
In 1991, THQ tried reviving the franchise by producing an updated line of Strawberry Shortcake dolls. Strawberry and five of her classic friends each got a makeover, with new clothes, hair, and eyes. However, the line enjoyed at best a modest success, lasting just the one year.
In 2002, the franchise was revived again, this time with a revamped look by a different designer. Also, for the first time ever, a television series with new DVD and VHS (and in certain markets, Video CD) releases was made, with soundtracks for the episodes being put out on CDs at certain intervals, along with many strong licensing deals. Bandai (along with KellyToy) was granted the rights to manufacturing the dolls and toys. DiC Entertainment was granted rights in producing the TV series, who sub-licensed the production of videos, DVDs and Video CDs of the series to 20th Century Fox Home Videos (who subsequently licenses the production of the video outside the US to various other licensees). For the first time in almost two decades, new videogames were launched, produced by The Game Factory for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Educational CD-ROMs for the PC were also produced. The current revival is still running, with the most recent activity being the release of a CGI-animated feature film into the US market as well as games based on the feature film for various different gaming platforms.
In 2006, Playmates Toys picked up the rights to make Strawberry Shortcake figures. The line is named "A World Of Friends". The doll Frosty Puff was new to this line, but, although a good deal of shuffling and re-distribution was made concerning the pets of the re-launched characters, very few of the new dolls were actually merchandised with pets. The line was received with mixed reactions from the series' fans.
A criticism from long-time fans is the inconsistency and retconning of characters, pets, scents, etc. that exists between the vintage franchise from the 1980s and the current franchise. Some examples are:
Character names - Raspberry Tart's name was changed to Raspberry Torte. Almond Tea's name was changed to Tea Blossom.
Pets - Pupcake now belongs to Strawberry instead of Huck (who now has Shoofly Frog). Angel Cake no longer has Souffle skunk, but instead a lamb named Vanilla Icing. Lemon Meringue's pet frog, Frappe, is replaced by Sourball the skunk (possibly explained by the switching of Souffle skunk to Vanilla Icing for Angel Cake and switching of Pupcake to Shoofly Frog for Huck). Apple Dumplin's turtle, Teatime, is replaced by Apple Ducklin'. And maybe oddest of all is Rhubarb's (Raspberry's pet) change from a monkey to a raccoon. This might be explained by the existence of Banana Bongo (Tangerina Torta's monkey), although Banana Bongo himself was originally introduced as the leader of a monkey band on Seaberry Beach during the story introducing Coco Calypso and Seaberry Delight.
Relationships - Previously unmentioned sibling pairs keep popping up, such as Strawberry Shortcake and Apple Dumplin' and The Purple Pie Man and Sour Grapes. There is also some confusion about the relationship between Crepes Suzette and the younger, recently-introduced Cherry Cuddler. Both have cherry scents and early promotional materials indicated that they are sisters. However, the box for the Playmates doll set indicates they are merely friends.
Scents - Playmates' introduction of the 2006 toy line is very loose with the linked scents that have been traditional in this franchise. Examples include cherry used for Crepes Suzette, Grape used for Tea Blossom, etc. While some consider the scent mixing and blending to be part of the fun, it is also criticized for taking some of the unique and distinct personalities and associations away from each individual character.
Fillies/Ponies - In early 2007, Playmates introduced three new ponies, but these are different from the previous Strawberryland Fillies. The ponies belong to Strawberry Shortcake, Angel Cake, and Crepes Suzette, and are aligned with the Berries to Blossoms doll line. The Honey Pie Pony and Milkshake names are not used and neither pony looks like the fillies previously linked to Strawberry and Angel. The new ponies are not given names of their own. In June 2007, three new ponies were introduced - two are new remakes of Strawberry's and Crepes' ponies (even more inconsistencies) and the third is Apricot's. Still no individual names for these ponies, but the series is called Sugar Sweet ponies.
Character designs - Many feel that the Playmates line of dolls does not look anything like the characters on TV or the other materials at all. The Playmates dolls are all looking increasingly alike (same expressions, hairstyles, outfits) with just differing colors. Also, changes to hair colors in the dolls for Blueberry Muffin, Lemon Meringue, Angel Cake, Seaberry Delight, and even Strawberry Shortcake herself make the dolls look even less like their contemporary TV/Book/movie versions. Likewise, some eBay-savvy fans recently found a line of Baby Strawberry Shortcake dolls from South America that not only look nothing like the other Baby Strawberry Shortcake materials or the episode "Baby Takes the Cake", but even remind some fans of Psygnosis' Lemmings games
The TV show and the movie
Some people were disappointed with the absence of The Purple Pie Man in the TV series. However, others applauded the removal of villains from the series with the latter preferring that the series being kept in its current format: an educational, real-life adventure program similar to Arthur or Caillou. Two camps clearly exist on this issue: There are fans (adults and children alike) that love the inclusion of antagonists such as Purple Pie Man, Sour Grapes and Licorice Whip. These fans want to continue to see more of them in movies, books, and toys. However, there are others who feel that the inclusion (or re-inclusion) of villains in the show take away from the primary focus on Strawberry and her friends as well as erode the educational content of the show, and would prefer the show and franchise be kept villain-free. These people include, but may not be limited to those who:
- are non-fans
- are unfamiliar with the franchise
- are fans of "educational real-life adventure" programs who've taken a liking to the new version of the franchise
- are only familiar with the current version of the franchise
- disliked the original franchise for various reasons (including presence of villains), but found redemption in the new version of the franchise
The 2009 Relaunch
As of June 2008, Playmates has lost the rights to the franchise to Hasbro. American Greetings plans to end the current franchise in Spring 2009, and wait six months before relaunching the series in Fall 2009. However, it has plans to stretch the current DVD releases until late 2010/early 2011, allowing the current DVD franchise to run along DVDs featuring the new redesigned characters (a similar tactic is also currently being employed by American Greetings to market Care Bears DVDs).
However, the decision to redesign the entire franchise again has put off some fans, who would prefer that it be reverted to the 2003 series design instead. American Greetings also announced that the franchise would be truer to the original 80s franchise, which worries the "Real Life Adventure" fans that the show will be taken back to its good-versus-evil format that was promenent in the 80s specials.
Furthermore, the characters are now said to be fairy sized. This news did not go well with some fans who preferred that the characters be kept human in nature.
Lastly, it has been suggested that the removal of various characters will be inevitable, further upsetting fans. A reporter for the New York Times who was given a sneak peek at the relaunch plans has hinted that Custard, along with many other characters whose names do not directly suggest a fruit, may be removed from the series. Additionally, each of the characters will be equipped with cell phones. This resulted in fans voicing their dislike for the idea of the removal of any characters as well as questions and concerns of the practicality of equipping the characters with cellphones, given the target audience of the franchise.