Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
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
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 Blytheand
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 Transformerspartner, 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.
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
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.
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.
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