Strawberry Shortcake was conceptualized and designed in 1977 by employees at American Greetings Corporation, one of the world’s largest greeting card companies. Kenner licensed the character and released the first Strawberry Shortcake doll in 1979. At the time, Strawberry Shortcake resembled a typical rag doll, complete with freckles, a mop of red yarn curls, and a bonnet with strawberry prints on it.
The character lived with her cat, Custard, in a in a plastic molded strawberry shortcake house. Hers was a life of leisure, primarily spent tending to her garden of strawberry vines (naturally), exploring nearby lands, and snacking on sweets while visiting friends with similarly scrumptious names, like Blueberry Muffin and Huckleberry Pie.
By 1980, Kenner had a hit on its hands as Strawberry Shortcake became enormously popular with girls all over the world, aided in part by the exposure gained through The World of Strawberry Shortcake, the first of her many animated TV specials.
Just a few years later, however, interest in Strawberry Shortcake had dwindled and Kenner stopped producing new items for the line. Since then, the character license has changed hands several times. It moved from Kenner to Toy Head-Quarters (THQ), then to Bandai, Playmates Toys, Hasbro, and a company called The Bridge Direct.
With each change of hands came attempts to revive the franchise, including updated lines of dolls & toys with and without video tie-ins. These various transitions have resulted in changes in the doll’s appearance and attitude. Each version has been made progressively thinner, for example. Her bloomers have been swapped for more fashion-forward couture, and the most recent versions came equipped with a cell phone.
Even the emphasis on carb-laden desserts has also been downplayed over time. For example, in 2009, Hasbro performed a “fruit-forward makeover” on the entire Strawberry Shortcake product line, focusing more on healthy fruits and smoothies served up from Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Café.
This month, Canadian-based entertainment company, WildBrain (formerly DHX Media), announced that Strawberry Shortcake is once again being refreshed. Tapping into the wave of ‘80s nostalgia, the company’s planned global rollout for the remainder of 2021 includes a new animated YouTube series, Berry in the Big City, and a 3D digital game on the Robolox platform, Baking with Strawberry Shortcake.
WildBrain has also selected Moose Toys as their Master Toy Partner, with the promise of a new line of Strawberry Shortcake toys and playsets slated to hit store shelves in early 2022. Beyond media and toys, the company has also secured partnerships with several other retailers, hoping to expand the Strawberry Shortcake universe to vendors of fruit, ice cream, and even kids’ hair salons.
Time will tell if Strawberry Shortcake has a bright future among ‘80s nostalgia buffs and parents wanting to share this toy’s sweetness with their offspring.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.