Synopsis of Toy
When confronted by an adorable puppy or a giggly toddler, those of us who partake regularly in the grin-n'-squeal routine will often exclaim, “Well now I could just eat him up!” And that kind of sentiment holds doubly true for Strawberry Shortcake dolls—not just because they’re visually appealing, but because they also seduce our olfactory senses. Please don’t actually try to eat one of them, but do take a step back and dare yourself not to be charmed. Strawberry Shortcake was made to be—and to smell—invitingly adorable. She was made to hug and to cuddle and to draw her up to your nose whenever you need a dose of familiar sweetness because your brother just did another sulfur-related experiment with his junior chemistry set and of course the house won’t smell normal again for a week.
Based on the best-selling line of American Greetings cards and stationery from the late 1970’s, the Kenner Toy Company licensed Strawberry Shortcake and, in conjunction with American Greeting’s Those Characters From Cleveland, issued a line of dolls in 1979. The original lineup consisted of Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie, Lemon Meringue, Orange Blossom, Raspberry Tart, and you guessed it, that perennial winner of the fictional Doll Geniality award, Miss Shortcake. The dolls were 5½ inches tall and had flat hands (a detail you’ll pay attention to if you ever start to collect). But flat hands down, the best thing of all was the fragrance that emanated from each doll, according to his or her fruity, flowery, or candied name.
There were also two miniature dolls in this first run—Apricot and Apple Dumplin’, who measured in at just over three inches tall and came with their very own little pets, Hopsalot and Teatime Turtle respectively. But it’s not always fun and games in Strawberryland…and so the dastardly Purple Pieman from Porcupine Peak was introduced as a foil to all the good dolls. Since Pieman was tall and gangly, his huggable quotient was substantially lower than that of the other dolls—which was perhaps the thing that drove him to villain status. Fittingly, Pieman’s pet was a creature called Cackles the Crow.
Kenner’s second round of dolls, in 1980, had curved hands, and now each one came with a little pet of his or her own (as did all the first series dolls that were made from there on out). There was the International Series (with worldly lovelies like Café Olé from Mexico and Crepe Suzette from France), another villain named Sour Grapes, and new additions to the original lineup, like Angel Cake (with her pet Soufflé) and Butter Cookie (with Jelly Bear).
By 1983, there were nineteen different dolls in all. And in later months, there was the Ragdoll line, which featured Strawberry and a few select friends in cuddly cloth incarnations. And for really little girls, there were the Blowing Kisses Dolls, who blew fruit-scented kisses, and the Berry Babies With Bottles line, which came with, you guessed it, plastic bottles which you could actually administer to your thirsty friends. In 1984, the ten Party Pleaser dolls (in dressy new outfits) and five Sweet Sleeper dolls (movable eyes and fruit-shaped sleeping Bags) also came out.
Like Holly Hobbie, Raggedy Ann and Barbie before her, a best-selling doll never rests on just her doll laurels—she throws herself into loads of other toy and merchandise forms. There was Strawberry Shortcake clothing, bedding, furniture, dollhouses, games and novelty items galore to grace the bedrooms of 80’s raised girls. And of course her very own series of cartoon specials beginning in 1980.
Production on the Shortcake products wound down in 1985, after the swan song doll line, the Berrykins, made their way into toy stores. The Berry Princess joined her friends the Berrykins, and this blonde enchantress came with a wand, a posing stand, and a palette filled with fruit-scented perfume for the doll owner to dab on. But in 1991, because you can never keep a good smelling doll down, Those Characters From Cleveland re-issued Strawberry Shortcake. Though these dolls were pet-less, they had two new outfits and modernized hairstyles.
Today, Strawberry is highly collectible and warmly remembered. And yes, plenty of the old dolls still smell fabulous. It turns out that there are a few good things that don’t fade—even if no one can figure out where that nice and resilient aroma really comes from.