Littlest Pet Shop (LPS) was introduced in 1992 by Kenner as a line of tiny collectible caricatures of animals. The pets came with accessories, like carriers and pet supplies, and individual gimmicks, such as motion or color changing with different temperatures. Shortly before the original line ended in 1996, Sunbow Entertainment, Créativité & Developpement and AB Productions adapted the toys into a syndicated animated series. It ran from October 16-December 8, 1995 over 40 episodes.
Hasbro, who had taken over Kenner in 1991, folded the company into its main operations in 2000. In 2005, they decided to revive the LPS line with new designs that made the animals look more cartoony, but kept a realistic color style. The pets came with symbols in their eyes that meant different things. They also gained a new caretaker: Blythe.
|The various Blythe dolls available in 1972.|
The Blythe doll was created in 1972 by designer Allison Katzman for Marvin Glass and Associates based on Betty Boop and the “Big Eyes” paintings of Margaret Keane. Kenner had purchased the rights and produced the doll in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. The big head and large eyes were deemed too scary for children, and the doll was pulled from shelves within the year.
|Gina Garan and some of her Blythe dolls.|
In 1997, video producer and doll collector Gina Garan was made aware of a doll that resembled her and was given her first Blythe doll from a friend. Becoming obsessed with the doll, she began to take hundreds of photos of her in various places. In 2000, after acquiring permission from Hasbro, she published her photos in the book This is Blythe and reintroduced the doll to the world. She also introduced it to her Japan-based agent Junko Wong, who decided to use it in an ad campaign they were working on for department store chain Parco. When demand for the doll rose in Japan, Hasbro granted the license to CWC Group and their Transformers partner, Takara, to produce new versions of it. As it was successful in Japan, Hasbro granted Ashton-Drake Galleries the license in 2004 to resurrect the doll in the US.
In 2010, Hasbro brought Blythe back in house by combining her with the LPS line and renaming it Blythe Loves Littlest Pet Shop. Another animated series was commissioned in 2010 to incorporate this change called Littlest Pet Shop Presents. It was comprised of seven Flash animated shorts by Cosmic Toast Studios that Hasbro released exclusively online. In the show, Blythe would be involved with something fashion or pet-related while the variety of animals in her care, resembling the current toys, would have conversations she couldn’t understand and adventures in their imagination. Although “pet shop” was in the name, the show took place anywhere but.
|A new look and a new logo. Promo image for Littlest Pet Shop.|
Margaret Loesch, then-CEO of The Hub, the television network jointly owned by Hasbro and Discovery Communications, commissioned the development of a new LPS series. Julie McNally-Cahill and Tim Cahill were put in charge of developing the show, which used the Cosmic Toast short as a springboard. Blythe was renamed Blythe Baxter, and instead of just having an interest in fashion she was made an aspiring fashion designer. She was also given the ability to communicate with animals, much like Dr. Dolittle. Blythe retained the scooter she had in the web series as her primary mode of transportation.
|Blythe with the pets: (from top) Sunil, Minka, Pepper, Vinnie, Zoe, Penny Ling and Russell.|
The setting of the show was a pastiche of New York called Downtown City, where Blythe (Ashleigh Ball) moved with her father, Roger (Michael Kopsa), after he was promoted in his work as an airline pilot. They ended up living in the building above Littlest Pet Shop, where an old dumbwaiter connected Blythe’s room to the daycare in the store. She befriended the shop’s regular campers: Russell Ferguson (Samuel Vincent), a hedgehog who took it upon himself to try and keep things orderly and organized; Minka Mark (Kira Tozer), a hyperactive spider monkey who loved to paint; Pepper Clark (Tabitha St. Germain), a skunk with ambitions of being a comedian; Sunil Nevla (Peter New), a mongoose with a passion for magic; Vinnie Terrio (Kyle Rideout), a gecko that loved to dance and Sunil’s best friend; Penny Ling (Jocelyne Loewen), a sensitive panda interested in rhythmic gymnastics; and Zoe Trent (Nicole Oliver), a diva show dog that could sing.
|Mrs. Twombly always generates strange looks in those that know her.|
The owner of LPS was Anna Twombly (Kathleen Barr), a kind and off-beat woman with a passion for doorknobs and who invented the martial art/sewing style of Kung-Fu Quilting. Blythe’s arrival was fortuitous as LPS found itself in dire straits due to the competition from Largest Ever Pet Shop, owned by ruthless businessman Fisher Biskit (Vincent). Blythe helped to save the store by marketing her pet fashions, known as Blythe Style (taken from the title of one of Garan’s books), in the store. Blythe also stayed on as a part-time employee in the store.
|LPS welcomes literally animals of all kinds. Even those that shouldn't really be pets...or in the city...|
Initially, Hasbro was reluctant to have the series set an actual pet store; feeling that audiences would find it disconcerting that the animal characters would change over frequently as they were sold. The Cahills reassured them that modern pet stores didn’t just sell pets, but also catered to them with grooming and day care services (in fact, Twombly’s phone greeting was “We don’t sell pets, we cater to them.”). That allowed for a wide variety of animals to cross paths with the main crew, including Buttercream Sundae (Cathy Weseluck), a hyperactive rabbit from the Sweet Delights candy store next door; Sugar Sprinkles (Kelly Metzger), a cat with sprinkles all over her that played the ukulele; Goldy (Brian Drummond), an adventurous goldfish forced to live a dull life in a bowl; Madame Pom (Barr impersonating Eva Gabor), a snobby Pomeranian show dog that was Zoe’s frenemy; Mr. Otto Von Fuzzlebutt (New), an energetic raccoon that was prone to intense, deep power naps, and countless others.
|Blythe with Youngmee, Sue and Jasper.|
Blythe and the main animals were determined by Hasbro for inclusion in the show, but the Cahills wanted to also expand the human roster including Twombly and the various pet parents. They gave Blythe a life away from the pet shop, showing her in school, fashion camp and other places. Blythe’s best friend was Youngmee Song (Shannon Chan-Kent), an intelligent (though spacey) girl whose Aunt Christie (Tozer) owned the Sweet Delights shop. Blythe’s other friends were Sue Patterson (Tozer), an athlete who was often envious about Blythe’s sense of fashion and creativity, and Jasper Jones (Barr), a humoristic and outgoing boy that was the first to greet Blythe at school. Then there was Josh Sharp (Vincent), Blythe’s crush that often left her tongue-tied in his presence. Blythe’s main enemies were the Biskit twins, Whittany and Brittany (both Chan-Kent). The daughters of Fisher Biskit, they were spoiled rotten and weren’t afraid to show it; constantly scheming on how to ruin Blythe’s efforts in anything she did and make themselves look good (which wasn’t helped by the fact that they weren’t all that intelligent). The characters were designed by Kora Kosicka and Amy He.
|The Biskits and their chinchillas.|
Littlest Pet Shop debuted on The Hub on November 10, 2012 with two episodes. Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews were the series composers, and Ingram also composed the series’ theme with Dan Kuby similar to the web series’ one with different lyrics performed by Ball. In keeping with the fashion theme, Blythe was depicted in at least two different outfits and hairstyles per episode; a rarity in cartoons, and a complication that added some time to the episode rendering. Each episode took about a year to complete, with four episodes being worked on simultaneously in Flash. The Cahills, who had a penchant for quirky comedy, were allowed by Hasbro to incorporate a lot of slapstick into the episodes. Much like The Hub’s earlier, successful My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, they sought to take what was largely considered a girls’ property and make it accessible to boys and adults as well. The show was also notable for sharing several cast members from Friendship is Magic and the 1990s LPS series.
|Blythe with her crush, Josh.|
The show ran for four seasons, along with two mini-seasons of animated shorts that aired online prior to the third and fourth season debuts. The shorts were written by the Cahills, as was the main seasons along with Roger Eschbacher, Mitch Larson, Evan Gore, Heather Lombard, Corey Powell, Cindy Morrow, Merriwether Williams, Adam Beechen, Tom Minton, Guy Toubes, F.M. DeMarco, David Shayne, Nick Confalone, and Eric Rogers. Dallas Parker served as the supervising director through season three, where he was succeeded by Joel Dickie after stepping down. Steven Garcia served as a director for the last two seasons, while Mike Myhre came on for the final. It was nominated for a Daytime Arts Emmy Award for the song “If You’re a Guy” in 2013. Oliver and New were both nominated for ACTRA and the Union of British Columbia Performers awards for their characters’ portrayals, which Oliver won. Ingram and Andrews were both nominated for Leo Awards for their work on “Lights, Camera, Mongoose!” Hasbro ultimately decided to end production on the show as it failed to achieve its primary objective: sell the toys. The LPS line was increasingly struggling through the show’s run, although the show itself did remarkably well.
|Eliza Biskit returns!|
The third season went on a four-month hiatus while the network was in the process of changing its ownership and name to Discovery Family. The Biskits’ antagonistic roles gradually began to be reduced, and Blythe and the pets spent more time having separate adventures. The fourth season had two ongoing subplots: Blythe was learning about her mother through a journal found in the possession of her mother’s childhood pet, an old tortoise named Speedy Shellberg (Vincent), and Twombly seeking to expand her business across the whole neighborhood as Littlest Pet Street. Throughout the course of the show, Blythe kept her abilities largely a secret due to her fear of how she would be treated once word got out. She was eventually forced to reveal her abilities to Youngmee, which helped Youngmee to understand a lot of the strange happenings the pair had been through, and to her father in the series finale, who had suspected as much as her mother also had that ability. The fourth season also saw the introduction of the Biskits’ mother, Eliza (Chan-Kent), who was the opposite of the others: cheerful, bubbly and constantly breaking into song. Her absence was explained by her having a bad headache and staying in another wing of their mansion the whole time.
|A page from the LPS comics.|
While the show was in production, the LPS toys were modified to closer resemble the featured characters beginning in 2013. Gameloft developed a mobile game based on the show, which saw players having to collect 150 pets and take care of them. In 2014, IDW Publishing published a five-issue mini-series written by Georgia Ball and Matt Anderson with art by Nicanor Pena and Antonio Campo. Hasbro wanted the comic to entertain readers and not really push a moral message. They also gave the creators free reign to incorporate things that may not necessarily have been established on the show. A one-shot, Spring Cleaning! was released in 2015 and the various parts of the books were collected into digest-sized hardcovers.
|LPS DVD cover.|
The entire series has yet to be released to home media. Between 2013 and 2015, Shout! Factory released 45 episodes from the first three seasons across 9 DVD collections in North America. Primal Screen released 11 episodes across 2 DVD collections in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Beyond Home Entertainment released 30 episodes across 6 DVDs in Australia. The complete series has been made available on streaming services, such as Amazon Video.