Synopsis of Toy
"Caring is what counts."
Boys smash their Tonka Trucks. Girls compete for “Best Dressed” honors with their Barbies and poke fun at even their closest friends’ misguided doll ensembles. Admittedly, these aren’t the most virtuous of toy pursuits. So when a kid needs some playtime soul-cleansing, a back-to-basics, we’re-all-brothers-in-this-playground-we-call-the-world type of character polish, he or she picked up a Care Bear. These cuties made their first appearance in greeting cards—a telling pedigree, because when the Bears evolved into a plush toy line from Kenner in the mid-1980’s, they still acted like greeting cards. They wished you well, they celebrated your birthday with you, they picked you up when you were feeling down…never before has touchy-feeliness had such an ally in a toy.
The original Care Bears were twelve-inch plush animals, each a different color, and each with a different embroidered symbol on its belly—symbolizing the sentiment that the particular Bear was named after. There were the Tenderheart, Cheer, Funshine, Good Luck, Birthday, Wish, Friend, Grumpy, Love-a-Lot and Bedtime Bears. And in Britain, Australia and Canada, there were Sea Friend and Forest Friend bears. All the bears’ rear ends (American and British rear ends alike) had plastic hearts imbedded within the fur—a plush animal equivalent to a birthmark, if you will, just to make sure nobody fell victim to any seemingly caring imposters.
According to the fiction that surrounded them, the Care Bears lived in the land called Care-a-Lot, where they chased the blues away and matched wits against depressive bad guys like Professor Coldheart and No-Heart. And when they needed to pull out the big guns, they used their patented “Care Bear Stare”—standing side by side and focusing their kindly power into a rainbow of Care-power at whatever foul emotional state stood in their way. And there’s not a bad mood out there that can stand up to a weapon like that.
Kenner soon released more Care Bear characters, and all the Bears were issued in more sizes—there were six-, thirteen-, eighteen- and thirty-six-inchers. There were also Care Bear patterns that allowed the more domestically-savvy toy lovers out there to create a little Caring magic at home; there were bed linens, books, puzzles, novelty kid items and periphery merchandise galore; there were plastic Bears and special ceramic and porcelain Bears. There were also the Care Bear Cousins, which were animals besides bears. And lest you think the Bears didn’t know what topical issues of the day were, there were ecologically-themed Bears in the early 1990’s. Then, to try and grab a piece of that late 90’s Beanie Baby pie o’ hype, Kenner issued six Beanlings: Tenderheart, Friend, Cheer, Share, Bedtime and Good-Luck bears.
In the mid-to-late 1980’s, the Care Bears frolicked up on the silver screen, first in the The Care Bears Movie—featuring the voice of Mickey Rooney and songs by Carole King and John Sebastian—and then in two sequels after that. The Bears got two of their own animated series also: The Care Bears and The Care Bear Family. The notorious 80's Brat Pack actors didn’t have that many starring turns, now did they? It just goes to show you, decency pays.
Release History of Toymid-1980's - The Care Bears
late 1990's - The Beanlings