Strawberry Shortcake was a character designed for American Greetings by Muriel Fahrion in 1977. The character was a bright and energetic six-year-old girl with a cat named Custard who was always ready to help her friends, which were created by Fahrion, Cindy Moyer Patton and Janet Jones. Each character in the series had a fruit or dessert-themed name with clothing and a pet to match, as well as lived in a pastry house in Strawberry Land. The story and personality of each character was developed by line editor Lynn Edwards. In 1979, Strawberry and her friends made their debut on a series of greeting cards and posters through American Greetings’ Those Characters From Cleveland division.
|The original line of Strawberry Shortcake dolls.|
When the character proved popular, Kenner licensed her and released the first doll; a rag doll designed by Fahrion and created by her sister, Susan Trentel. The doll’s signature feature was the fact that it smelled like strawberries. Each doll in the line would have its own scent representative of their name. Strawberry Shortcake quickly became a hit with young girls, sending American Greetings into full promotion of the line expanding beyond greeting cards and posters into video games, comic books and more.
Starting in early 1980 and running through 1985, an annual half-hour animated special featuring Strawberry and her friends was produced and released on television in first-run syndication. Murakami-Wolf-Swenson and Toei Doga animated the first and third, Perpetual Motion Pictures the second, and Nelvana the final three. Russi Taylor voiced Strawberry throughout all of them.
Like all fads, the Strawberry Shortcake one ran its course by 1985. In 1991, Toy Head-Quarters (better known as video game developer THQ) tried to revive it by updating five of the dolls and releasing them. The dolls resembled the Kenner line and came with two outfits: one from Strawberry Land, and a more realistic one to symbolize the characters being able to cross over into the real world. The line was only moderately successful and lasted just a single year. Another revival came about in 2002 with Bandai assuming the manufacturing rights to create new dolls and other merchandise. In 2003, a new animated series was produced by DiC Entertainment and 20th Century Fox featuring the changes Bandai made to the line. Sarah Heinke assumed the Strawberry role, and the show ran for four seasons.
|Strawberry Shortcake's evolution.|
In 2006, Strawberry changed hands as Playmates Toys picked up the licensing rights to the franchise. They introduced a new character, Frosty Puff, and shuffled around all the pets between the characters. That same year, DiC released their fourth theatrical film, The Sweet Dreams Movie, which brought the character into 3D computer animation with Heinke reprising her role.
|Hasbro's Strawberry Shortcake with pilot DVD.|
The Playmates toy line proved unsuccessful both with fans of the franchise and the general public. American Greetings transferred the rights over to Hasbro in 2009 and they began a complete reboot of the franchise. All of the characters were reimagined and redesigned, as was the world that surrounded them. To promote the new toys, Hasbro authorized the production of Strawberry’s third animated incarnation by the MoonScoop Group to be broadcast on their new network, The Hub.
|Lemon Meringue, Orange Blossom, Plum Pudding, Raspberry Torte, Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry Muffin and Cherry Jam.|
The CGI series was set in the small town of Berry Bitty City. The town, like its residents, were smaller than a bed of flowers and had buildings whose color schemes matched their respective owners. Amongst those residents were Strawberry Shortcake (Anna Cummer for speaking, Tracey Moore for singing), the owner of Berry Bitty Café who tried to help her friends when she could and brought enthusiastic optimism to various situations; Orange Blossom (Janyse Jaud), owner of Orange Mart who was sporty and adventurous; Lemon Meringue (Andrea Libman), owner of Lemon Beauty Salon and a very quick-thinker in sticky situations; Blueberry Muffin (Britt McKillip), owner of Blueberry Bookstore which fed her bookworm habits; Raspberry Torte (Ingrid Nilson), owner of Raspberry Boutique and incredibly fashion-forward; and Plum Pudding (Ashleigh Ball), quirky owner of Plum Dance Studio who believed there was always something to dance about. Each girl had a pet puppy, while Strawberry also had her traditional cat, Custard.
|Princess Berrykin and two of her Berrykin subjects.|
Other residents included the Berrykins; even smaller people who had berry-like heads and came in a variety of colors. The Berrykins were responsible for the creation and maintenance of Berry Bitty City, with the exception of the city’s ruler Princess Berrykin (Libman using a British accent). Notable Berrykins included Berrykin Bloom (Paul Dobson), the eldest Berrykin who enjoyed gardening and inventing; Berrykin Ed (Scott McNeil) and Berrykin Earl (Sam Vincent), two maintenance Berrykins that often worked together; and Berrykin Bruce (Vincent), who specialized in mechanism engineering and inventing complex apparatuses. Other residents included Postmaster Bumblebee (McNeil), a bumblebee who ran the post office; Mr. Longface (Dobson), a caterpillar who ran the Berry Bitty Mini Golf Course; Jadeybug (Nicole Oliver), a ladybug who worked at the post office; and Doctor Hazel Nutby (Oliver), a squirrel doctor who traveled between Berry Bitty City and the neighboring Berry Big City.
|Lemon's attempt at a new hairstyle goes a bit wrong.|
A 15-minute pilot episode was produced, introducing Strawberry and her world as she opened her café. The episode, titled “A Berry Grand Opening”, was never aired on TV; rather, it was made available for viewing on American Greetings’ website and later included on a DVD with a Strawberry Shortcake doll. Shortly after that, a direct-to-video movie called The Sky’s The Limit was released, showcasing the first full adventure and widely introducing the series to general audiences. Finally, in 2010, Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures made its debut as one of the launch programs on The Hub on October 10, 2010 after airing a few months earlier on Canada’s Family Channel.
The series largely followed the daily lives of Strawberry and her friends as they, and the audience, learned important life lessons as they dealt with the various problems or situations that would arise. One of the quirks of the show was the use of “berry” as a replacement for “very” whenever characters would speak. The series’ theme was composed by Chip Whitewood and Ashley Saunig, while Whitewood and Marco Luciani composed the series’ music.
|Sweet and Sour Grapes.|
As the series progressed, improvements in technology allowed animators to update the designs of the show and introduce more fluid movements and renderings. New characters were also introduced, including musician Cherry Jam (Shannon Chan-Kent speaking, Victoria Duffield singing), Huckleberry Pie (Aidan Drummond) who ran a pet adoption service, Strawberry’s adventurous cousin Apple Dumplin’ (Rebecca Shoichet) and perennially arguing sisters Sweet (Libman) and Sour (Diana Kaarina) Grapes.
|Blueberry attempts to juggle the legalities of their franchise.|
While the show was in production, Hasbro lost the manufacturing rights to the franchise to The Bridge Direct (now Basic Fun!) in 2014. The Bridge Direct continued on with the designs from the 2009 reboot for their own series of toys, as well as resurrected the classic designs. American Greetings had previously attempted to sell off the franchise back in 2008, with Cookie Jar Entertainment, the successor to DiC, and MoonScoop competing against each other for the property. American Greetings ultimately retained the rights until putting the franchise up for sale once again, with Iconix Brand Group acquiring the rights in 2015. As a result of these changes, after Berry Bitty Adventures reached four seasons and the 65 episodes needed for syndication rights, the show came to an end on September 12, 2015. Iconix announced in 2016 that it will oversee production of a new series with DHX Media (now WildBrain), the successor to Cookie Jar and production company behind several other Hasbro properties.
|Strawberry on DVD.|
20th Century Fox released a series of DVD collections featuring several episodes put together, as well as two-packs collecting the individual releases. No complete season sets have yet been made available. In 2011, Ape Entertainment began publication of a Strawberry Shortcake comic based on Berry Bitty Adventures. The series ran for two volumes and were direct adaptations of episodes. In 2016, IDW Publishing picked up the publication rights and began an all-new series, this time focusing on original adventures picking up from the show’s 4th season. Each issue is typically comprised of one long adventure and a shorter, unrelated back-up story. The comics also introduced classic characters that hadn’t made it onto the show, including villains The Purple Pie Man and Raisin Cane.