On first glance, you'll be forgiven for thinking Strawberry Shortcake and her chums were just another line of dolls out to flog parents for all their worth. But, come a little closer and you'll see - no, smell - the difference...
I suppose the clue's in the name really, and that of Strawberry's closest doll friends - Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie, Lemon Meringue, Plush Custard the Cat, Orange Blossom and Raspberry Tart - because the genius of this line of toys was that they smelled exactly how they sounded. While it's perhaps a saving grace that the Cabbage Patch Dolls and Pound Puppies of our childhood didn't go down this exact route in terms of marketing, Ideal Toys really did spot a gap in the doll market. What little girl could resist the sweet smell of her favourite pudding? Indeed, the only downside to Strawberry Shortcake was that the rest of the merchandise didn't emit the same sweet smell, from lunchboxes and porcelain trinkets to games for the Atari 2600 and the obligatory 80s kids' cartoon.
What many don't know, is that Strawberry started her life as a character on greetings cards, and it wasn't until Kenner toys spotted her cutesy potential in 1979 that she was snapped so mass production could begin. Soon, all 5.5 inches of Strawberry Shortcake was filling the toy store shelves, her delicious scent wafting through the doors and out onto the pavement where little girls would fall under its spell instantly. Smaller characters were also available, including Apple Dumplin which came with its own pet, Teatime Turtle (which didn't smell of turtles). Together, the entire range of toys lived in the idyll that was known as Strawberryland, which was later divided into districts including Cake Walk and Cookie Corners.
However, being as lovely and sweet as Strawberry and her gang came with a price. And that came in the form of The Peculiar Purple Pie Man and Sour Grapes - Strawberryland's nemises who lived over the hillside and embodied everything that was dark and evil. But it looks like goodness has prevailed - well, American Greeting's saw fit to protect Strawberry's goody-two-shoes image by suing webcomic Penny Arcade for a dark parody portrayal of the toy - and the Strawberry Shortcake franchise is still going strong.
By 1983, the collection had grown to 19 different dolls, including new Ragdoll cloth versions of Strawberry and couple of her companions. For younger kids, the Blowing Kisses Dolls were introduced, each with the ability to blow a fruit-scented kiss, and the Berry Babies. Better still, five Sweet Sleeper dolls (complete with fruit-shaped sleeping bags) and 10 Party Pleaser dolls added to the aroma.
In 1985, one more line of new products were introduced – the Berrykins, led by none other than the Berry Princess, complete with wand, stand, and perfume for her owner.
In 2002 the range of dolls underwent a noticeable makeover, complete with a new TV series, DVD releases and even new games for the Nintendo. In 2006, the line fell into the hands of Playmates Toys, and since then have been referred to as 'A World Of Friends'. New character additions included Frosty Puff, and in 2006 the friends all appeared in the Strawberry Shortcake: The Sweeet Dreams Movie. For those of you it passed by, it's now available on DVD. Unfortunately, Playmates has been heavily criticised for its approach to the range by fans of the original toys, and this has led to Hasbro now taking over and is set to release its revamped line up soon.
Rumours are rife about the changes that are to be made. Some say each character comes with a obile phone, and even that any character whose name is not directly related to fruit may be culled! Maybe, though, Hasbro will breathe life into some of those old characters who never got a shot at being toys and instead were relegated to the TV series - Raisin Cane and TN Honey, for example?
Despite all the rumours, one things for sure, Strawberry Shortcake hasn't gone off yet, despite being in the grubby hands of collectors worldwide for over two decades now. Now that's staying power!