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Ooh-ooh that smell: 30 years of Strawberry Shortcake

By Katie McLaughlin, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This year is the 30th anniversary of Strawberry Shortcake
  • Hasbro has created classic replica dolls of Strawberry Shortcake and friends
  • While Strawberry Shortcake's look underwent some changes, she never lost her optimism
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(CNN) -- It's hard to believe it has been 30 years since Strawberry Shortcake wafted into our nostrils, rendering consumers permanently tantalized by her aroma.

But while most little girls who grew up with the scented dolls are now beginning to make facial serums part of their daily skin care regimen, Strawberry Shortcake doesn't have to worry about retaining a youthful, dewy glow -- she's still a little girl.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary, Hasbro has created (scented!) classic replica dolls of Strawberry Shortcake along with her friends Orange Blossom and Raspberry Tart. They're a regular walk down olfactory memory lane.

Strawberry Shortcake began as a drawing of a girl with a mop of red yarn curls that happened to catch the eye of the American Greetings card company's art director. In 1980, Strawberry Shortcake toys, games and books could be found on store shelves. Later that year, the franchise's first television special aired.

Also part of the 30th birthday celebration are an iPhone app set for release this week and a new TV show, "Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures," which debuted on The Hub network last month.

While Strawberry Shortcake's look underwent some changes throughout the decades, she never lost her optimism, sense of adventure or her berry sweet nature. She remains a fan favorite as mothers pass the Strawberry Shortcake tradition onto their daughters.

CNN interviewed two Strawberry Shortcake insiders about the character's history and longstanding appeal:

Gabrielle Oliff, marketing director for American Greetings Properties

CNN: It's been 30 years and Strawberry Shortcake is just as popular as ever. Why do you think her appeal remains enduring to this day?

Oliff: It's about teaching wholesome values, it's going on fantasy adventures and it's showing you that little girls can do big things. It's all about adventure, fun and friendship and those elements were true 30 years ago and they remain true to this day.

CNN: Can you tell us a little bit about the anniversary replica dolls?

Oliff: Hasbro is our toy partner for this, and we have a 30th anniversary box set which includes the original costumed, original look dolls of Orange Blossom, Strawberry Shortcake and Raspberry Tart, so it's in special packaging and there's a little card and they look exactly like you remember them looking 30 years ago.

CNN: Why was it decided to take the character from greeting cards to toys and TV specials?

Oliff: The cards had been designed and a couple of designers felt it'd make a great kids' property. We had successfully launched Holly Hobbie in the 1970s and we were looking for another brand to sort of bring out into a larger arena. I think they realized that Strawberry and her friends are a diverse bunch of characters with distinct personalities. Sales were great with the cards so we know that brand resonated with the consumer. One step led to the next. First came the toys, then there was a TV special and it grew from there.

CNN: What was behind the character's various redesigns through the years -- and what has the response from fans been?

Oliff: Every time you do a redesign there's going to be somebody that's just not happy with it, but we've kept her looking like a little girl first and foremost, which is very important to consumers -- both parents and kids. From that perspective I think everyone's been incredibly happy with it. I think moms remember the scent most of all. I think she was the only scented doll that was out there at the time and I think the only scented doll that's out there now.

CNN: Strawberry Shortcake's new television show premiered on the new Hub network on October 10. What is the premise of the new cartoon?

Oliff: Strawberry and her friends live in a place called Berry Bitty City, which is under the leaves of a garden and they each have their own distinct stores that reflect their personalities: One has a bookstore, another has a clothing store and one has a marketplace, and so on. So they operate in their own little world.

CNN: We hear Strawberry has an iPhone app launching this week -- can you give us the details on that?

Oliff: It is a game targeted to the 3- to 5-year-old set that [launched]on Friday, November 5. What you have to do is help Strawberry Shortcake make smoothies. You follow a recipe, e.g. three strawberries, two lemons. You catch the fruit pieces as they come down, put them in a blender and prepare the smoothie in the correct way in order to move on to the next level.

CNN: Why was Raspberry Tart's name changed to Raspberry Torte? Were people worried about the allusion to promiscuity?

Oliff: As a precautionary measure we changed it to Torte because [as the saying goes], "the squeaky wheel gets a lot of attention." And I don't know if it's because I cook a lot, but I feel like people are referring to tarts as tortes (the French word for tart) more often.

Dave Polter, a writer for the early Strawberry Shortcake TV specials and the newest incarnation.

CNN: Did you name any of the characters yourself?

Polter: The individual characters were usually put together by a number of different people by brainstorming, but I did come up with the name Elderberry Owl (the pet owl of Plum Puddin'). The characters sort of came in waves. We had several humor writers on our staff looking to get some humor in there [e.g. there was a villain named Raisin Cane]. We often used cookbooks and thesauruses for inspiration.

CNN: If you were coming up with a fun, new CNN anchor, what would the character's name be (e.g. Berry King, Candyson Cooper)?

Polter: Cherry Berrybright and Scoop Sorbet (co-anchor team or pick a favorite), Gogi Newsberry, Coco Newsnut, (There actually was a Classic Shortcake character named Coco Nutwork who was a news anchor.) Coco Netnews, Cherrycake Newsbreak, Blueberry Newstrudel, Cookie Crumbles ("Cookie Crumbles here with late-breaking news"), Éclair Chipman. (Oops! wrong network!)

CNN: What were some of your creations for the Care Bears and Popples?

Polter: I was in on the Care Bears from the ground floor. I was on the team that created the characters. One thing that I came up with that I'm half proud, half ashamed of is the Care Bear Stare.

In the newer version that we brought out in 2002, we tried to increase the level of humor. I'm not sure if 2002's kids were more sophisticated, but by then it had been proven by marketers that kids wanted to be entertained and that they could handle things that people didn't think they could before. Plus, we were more knowledgeable the second time through being very intentional in creating educational, informational content, so we were aware of what developmental levels we were going after rather than lumping kids together as a group.

Looking back, the 1980s property took itself very seriously and that wasn't just a product of the times. That was done intentionally and I always felt it could have been a lighter property than it was and still have done the job of sort of being the ambassadors of caring.

With Popples, one of my creations was the character Puffball. She was the white Popple with one blue ear and one magenta ear. I loved the color combination on the character and it turned out to be a popular character and the best seller in the line.

CNN: Do you know why Raspberry Tart's name was changed? Were people worried that the word Tart sent the wrong message to girls?

Polter: Maybe we were being overly sensitive because young kids wouldn't take it in that direction, but when we brought her back we opted to change the name. We had a secondary market for teen clothing and the name would have only helped her there.

CNN: Are you involved in the new TV show on the Hub Network?

Polter: I was involved through the script stage and the recordings for most of the episodes. I also came up with the place name -- with Care Bears I had Care a Lot and here I had Berry Bitty City. I worked quite a bit in the development of those characters. The new version is more reminiscent of the original 1980s Strawberry Shortcake as opposed to the 2003 version. The small scale offered a lot of fun design challenges. We often found ourselves asking, "Just how small is she?" Because we were making such a big deal about her being little, we had to find ways to visually establish that in almost every shot. We really brought the magic of the original property back. It was almost like taking cute and squaring it. It's like cute on top of cute.

CNN: Was Strawberry Shortcake always super tiny, or was she ever represented as being the size of a human girl?

Polter: The world in the 1980s version of her was really kind of ambiguous. She lived inside a strawberry, but she did about anything that anybody else would do. When she went to Big Apple City, she flew in an airliner that was on the back of a butterfly, which implied that she was small, but there was no real world to speak of. Whenever she visited someplace, it was always in the greater Strawberry Land universe.

But in the 2003 version of the show, she was much more of a real girl in a real world with some fantasy elements mixed in -- except she didn't have parents, which I always thought was part of Strawberry Shortcake's appeal.

She was completely independent. She functioned in most respects like a little girl yet had the freedom of an adult, which was always a psychological underpinning of the property and something that made it strong.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts on Strawberry Shortcake's lasting appeal?

Polter: I think it's a wonderful thing that she's lasted 30 years. The greatest thing a doll or character can aspire to is to become a part of somebody's real life, almost like a trusted friend -- a true treasured childhood memory. I wish Strawberry a happy 30th and berry many more.

 
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