December 03, 2022



POPPLES (1986)
(Syndication, September 13, 1986-May 9, 1987*)
Those Characters From Cleveland, Inc., DiC Enterprises, LBS Communications



Kamie Harper (film) & Barbara Redpath (season 1) – Bonnie Wagner
Brandon Bluhm (film) & Noam Zylberman (season 1) – Billy Wagner
Valri Bromfield (season 2) – Billy Wagner, Bonnie Wagner, Mike
Stevie Vallance (as Louise) – Party, Prize, Puffball, Punkity (season 2)
Hadley KayPretty Cool “PC” (season 1)
Len Carlson – Putter (season 1)
Jazzmin LusannePotato Chip (season 1)
Donna Christie (season 2) – Potato Chip, Pretty Bit
Dan Hennessy – Puzzle (season 1)
Maurice LaMarche – Puzzle (season 2), various
Linda Sorenson – Pretty Bit (season 1)
Pauline Rennie (season 1) & Sharon Noble (season 2) – Pancake
Jeannie EliasPenny (season 2)
Danny Mann (season 2) – Punkster, Putter, Pretty Cool “PC”


Popples is a toyline and media franchise developed by Those Characters From Cleveland (TCFC), a division of American Greetings, and produced by Mattel. Popples were plush dolls with a special feature: they could fold up into a pouch on their backs and turned inside-out to become a ball. And when you wanted the doll back, you just POPPED! them back out; hence the name. Susan Trentel, who helped turned Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears into popular toys, reportedly came up with the idea for the Popples while folding up a pair of socks. She and art director Thomas Schneider set to work creating the first prototype.

The Popples were first released in 1986 and featured 9 characters with alliterative names in its initial line-up: Pretty Cool (aka “PC”), Party, Pancake, Puzzle, Prize, Puffball, Pretty Bit, Potato Chip and Putter; each in a small, medium or large size with an activity booklet included in their packaging. Their bodies came in a variety of several colors with their ears and paw pads usually being mismatched, and tails ending in a poofy ball. Each subsequent wave would feature some kind of gimmick to make them different from the originals. The Rockstar Popples were Punkity, with a microphone and star on her belly, and Punkster, with a guitar and lightning bolt on his belly, who both had wild multicolor hair on their heads. The Baby Popples, Bibsy and Cribsy, wore bonnets and bibs and had rattles in their tails. The Pufflings, identified only by their body fur color, were nothing more than little balls with appendages and faces that could be “popped” inside-out and came with riddles and jokes on tags inside of them. The Sports Popples, designed to appeal to young boys, wore uniforms and changed into the respective balls of the sport they represented (Big Kick a soccer ball, Dunker a basketball, Pitcher a baseball, and Touch Down a football). Other variations included Popples that turned into flowers or fruit, came in costumes, resembled other animals, or even came in pocket sizes.  

Having found previous success with promoting their toylines with televised features, TCFC and Mattel commissioned the creation of a television film special introducing the world to the Popples. Popples: The Movie, also known as “It’s Popple Time”, was a live-action telefilm featuring puppet versions of the Popples designed and built by the Chiodo Brothers. Young Bonnie (Kamie Harper) and Billy Wagner (Brandon Bluhm) discovered the Popples (voiced by Terry Castillo, Bruce Lanoil and Louise Vallance) in their attic one day; their appearance explained as being “When you have all your favorite things in one place—like a toybox or a closet—and your imagination is running”. However, soon they’re scouring the city to find the Popples when their parents clean out the attic to give them a new playroom and donate everything to Goodwill. The film was made by Platypus Productions and written by Maryedith Burrell off of a story idea by Kim Cranston and Shelley Duvall. Duvall also produced the special, marking her first credit doing so. Lanoil, Castillo, Terri Hardin, Lee Mosier, Christine Papalexis, Trey Stokes and Ted Lamoureux were the puppeteers under the supervision of Greg Williams and Steve Sherman.

A guide to the Popples.

Following the film, TCFC partnered with DiC Entertainment to produce an animated series with the same basic premise. Bonnie (Barbara Redpath) and Billy (Noam Zylberman) found themselves living secretly with 9 different Popples: PC (Hadley Kay), the co-leader of the pack who was also the most sensible and had a magic finger snap that brought about different results; Party (Vallance, the only one from the film), the other leader who loved to (what else?) party and always had party hats and confetti at the ready; Pancake (Pauline Rennie), who was sweet and affectionate and always knew how to cheer someone up; Puzzle (Dan Hennessey), an intelligent bookworm with a great sense of humor and aptitude for swimming; Prize (with a Marilyn Monroe-esque voice), a very vain Popple with a small crush on PC and aspirations of stardom; Puffball (both Vallance), a meticulously clean Popple who could throw her voice around and do impressions; Pretty Bit (Linda Sorenson), a well-mannered and shy Popple that always spoke in rhyme; Potato Chip (Jazmin Lusanne), who loved to eat snacks all the time and could impersonate various sounds; and Putter (Len Carlson), a hyperactive practical joker with a knack for invention (although they rarely worked correctly).

You never know where a Popple will...POP up.

The Popples were basically well-meaning menaces. They always wanted to help out Bonnie and Billy or to ensure they had fun, but the way they chose to do it always wound up making a disaster out of things. However, they would always help the kids clean it up before they wound up in too much trouble. Along with the ability to turn into bouncing balls, the Popples could reach inside their pouches to an infinite pocket dimension that could hold whatever item they wanted and pull out anything they needed in a given moment. Adult characters, whenever they factored into an episode, were never shown from the neck up and never seemed to notice the Popples (despite their very public antics).

Bonnie and Billy Wagner.

Popples debuted on September 13, 1986* as part of the DiC syndicated programming block Kideo TV. The series was written by Jina Bacarr, Sharman Divono, George Edwards, Elizabeth A. Gray, Sheree Guitar, Jack Hanrahan, Eleanor Burian-Mohr, Jack Olesker, Daniel Pitlik, Roger Scott, Michael D. Varnen, and Linda Woolverton, with Bob Logan serving as story editor. Each episode was comprised of two segments, and the Popples were generally rotated out for each one. PC and Party appeared the most, with Party also being featured in the show’s logo, and Pancake appeared the least at only 10 times. Rarely were all 9 featured at the same time. The characters were developed for TCFC by Marie Cisterino, Janet Jones, Fran Kariotakis, Jane Redding and Trentel, with supervision by Linda Edwards, David Polter, Ralph Shaffer and Schneider. They were adapted for animation by James A. Simon and Laureen Burger. Shuki Levy and Haim Saban composed the music, while animation duties were handled by Animation KK C&D Asia, Madhouse, Studio Korumi and Studio Shaft.

For the second season, new characters were introduced to help promote the newer toys and came with a new intro to match. Bonnie and Billy received new neighbors with two children of their own: Mike (Valri Bromfield) and Penny (Jeannie Elias). They learned that they weren’t the only kids who had Popples as Mike and Penny came with a group of their own: Punkster (Danny Mann) and Punkitty (Vallance), who were always ready to perform at any opportunity; Bibsy and Cribsy, two fun-loving babies; and the Pufflings, who liked to hop and bounce around and hand out joke tags to the other Popples. The Sports Popples also made a couple of appearances, joined by cartoon-exclusive members Net Set, with a tennis theme, and Cuester, with a billiard theme, although they weren’t connected to any specific kid or family. Additionally, all of the cast members except Vallance were replaced, with Bromfield taking over Bonnie and Billy; Mann taking over PC and Putter; Sharon Noble taking over Pancake; Maurice LaMarche taking over Puzzle (a role he despised); and Donna Christie taking over Potato Chip and Pretty Bit. This season was written by Burian-Mohr, Edwards, Logan, Jack Hanrahan, and Jody Miles Conner, with Jack Mendelsohn serving as story editor.

The extended Popples family of season 2.

The appeal of Popples didn’t quite have the staying power of their predecessors and fell out of fashion fairly quickly; leading to Mattel eventually ending their production in 1988. In 2001, Toymax acquired the license and produced a whole new group of Popples characters as well as merchandise with the classic ones. Another revival came in 2007 when Playmates Toys took up production, this time introducing electronic sound effects to the line. In 2015, Saban Brands acquired the rights and led another revival which included a new CGI animated series that aired on Netflix and later rerun on Discovery Family. Again called Popples, the series was set in a world of Popples where once again their good intentions often led to chaos and disaster. Spin Master was the merchandising licensor for this period. Hasbro acquired the brand along with the rest of Saban in 2018 and began releasing the classic characters as Funko POPs.

The Sport Popples.

Marvel Comics published four issues of a comic series based on the show through their all-ages Star Comics imprint. The series was written by Stan Kay and Tony Franco with art by John Costanza, Jacqueline Roettcher and Roberta Edelman, colors by Isabelle Bidwell and George Roussos, and letters by Carmel Brock and Rick Parker. Marvel UK also their own series of comics. The animated designs of the Popples would be used on various tie-in merchandise beyond the toyline. Several VHS tapes were released from Sony Home Entertainment and 3-G Home Video containing two or six segments each, broken up into their own individual episodes. Three segments were included on the compilation DVD Girls Rule! Volume 2 Featuring Popples in 2006 from Harmony Entertainment; along with episodes of Jem and She-Ra: Princess of Power. While the complete series has yet to be released in North America, internationally it was released onto DVD in several countries. Videos of the individual segments can be found online across various video-hosting sites.

*There are conflicting sources with the actual dates for the show. The most commonly seen ones are listed here and will be updated once a more authoritative source can be found.


“It’s Popple Time” (9/6/86) – Shortly after discovering the Popples in their attic, Bonnie and Billy’s parents donate them to Goodwill when they clean it out.  
Season 1:
“Popples Panic at the Library / Cooking Up a Storm” (9/13/86) – The Popples go to the library with Bonnie and help her pick out a book. / The Popples make breakfast for Bonnie and Billy when they’re running late for their activities.
“Molars, Bicuspids and Popples / The Treasure of Popple Beach” (9/20/86) – The Popples go with Billy to the dentist to show him there’s nothing to be afraid of. / The Popples find an old map while at the beach and think it leads to treasure.
“Popping at the Car Wash / Springtime’s a Poppin” (9/27/86) – Puffball ends up sucked into a vacuum at the car wash. / The Popples get involved in helping Bonnie plant her garden.  
“Popples Play Pee Wee Golf / Popples Flood the Fluff ‘n’ Fold” (10/4/86) – The kids and Popples play Pee Wee Golf to win $25 for a present for their mother. / Things get wet when Billy takes the Popples to the laundromat as he cleans his costume for the school play.
“Clean Sweep of Things / Poppin’ Wheelies” (10/11/86) – The Popples help make cleaning Billy’s room fun. / The Popples tag along when the kids go to the rink to try out their new roller skates.
“Bonnie’s Popple Party / Aisles of Trouble” (10/18/86) – When an emergency cancels Bonnie’s birthday party, Billy and the Popples throw her own of their own. / When the kids complain they are too hungry to play, the Popples head to the supermarket to get them some.
“Popples’ Paint Party / Pop-Paring for Bed” (10/25/86) – Seeing the other kids’ art projects makes Billy self-conscious about his, so the Popples attempt to help him jazz it up. / The bathroom ends up a disaster when the Popples help the kids get ready for bed.
“Popolympics / Sports Shop Pop” (11/1/86) – The Popples decide to hold their own Olympics when the kids go off to the junior one. / The Popples’ mischief at the sports shop ends up helping the kids win a prize.
“Takin’ Out the Trash / A Hair Raising Experience” (11/8/86) – The Popples’ plans to help Billy take out the trash results in ever-increasing messes. / Prize convinces Bonnie to get a new hair style to impress a boy she likes.
“Pop Goes the Radio / Poppin’ Pillow Talk” (11/15/86) – Putter pilots Billy’s RC plane to help him beat his rival in a race, but no one realizes Party’s radio messes up all of the planes’ controls. / The girl Popples help Bonnie salvage her cancelled slumber party, but Billy and PC are intent on crashing it.
“Popples’ Alley / Where the Pop Flies” (11/22/86) – To show some boys girls can bowl, the Popples convince Bonnie to challenge them to a match that they’ll help her win. / When Billy strikes out and loses the ball game, the Popples try to help him improve his swing.
“Hooray for Hollywood Popples! / Backyard Bigtop” (11/29/86) – A trip to Hollywood inspires the Popples to make their own movie. / With the kids too sick to go to the circus, the Popples decide to hold one for them at home.
“Backyard Adventure / Poppin’ at the Drive In” (12/6/86) – A gusty day threatens the backyard camping expedition. / The Popples tag along with the family to the drive-in and chaos ensues.
Season 2:
“Poppin’ Around the Block / Moving Day” (3/7/87) – While the kids are out biking, the Popples take their new neighbors out for a tour of the neighborhood. / New kids move in next door, and they have their own group of Popples with them!
“Treehouse Capers / No Bizness Like Popple Bizness” (3/17/87) – As the kids argue over building a treehouse, the Popples decide to build it for them. / While the kids are away, PC decides to direct the others in a rock video.
“Museum Peace / Lemonade Stand-Off” (3/21/87) – The Popples go into a closed museum to retrieve Bonnie’s coat. / Billy and Mike end up running competing lemonade stands.
“Popple Post Office / Funhouse Folly” (3/28/87) – The Popples invade the post office to find a present Billy’s aunt was supposed to be sending him for a good grade. / The funhouse being closed won’t stop the Popples from enjoying it.
“Fixer-Upper Popples / Rock Around the Popples” (4/4/87) – While the kids are away the Popples decide to fix some things around the house. / The Popples attempt to fix Mike’s tuba so he can stay in the school band.
“The College of Popple Knowledge / Popple Cheer” (4/11/87) – When Cribsy and Bibsy want to go to school, the other Popples set one up for them. / Bonnie meets the Sports Popples who help her practice her cheerleading.
“Barn Hoopla / The Jellybean Jamboree” (4/18/87) – The Popples try to help keep Bonnie’s grandparents from selling their beloved cows. / The Popples follow Billy and Mike on a field trip to a candy factory.
“Private Eye Popples / The Repair Shop” (4/25/87) – The Popples investigate who stole the wagon out of the garage. / Bonnie takes her doll to get repaired before an exhibit at school tomorrow, but as it may not be finished in time the Popples take it upon themselves to do it for her.
“Decatha-Pop-a-Lon Popples / Cuckoo Choo Choo” (5/2/87) – The Sports Popples decide to take advantage of a perfect day to do some sporting activities. / Finding an old train set in Mike and Penny’s attic, the Popples decide to set it up and surprise them.
“The Popple Fashion Parade / Poppin’ at the Zoo” (5/9/87) – When Bonnie decides not to go to a party because she doesn’t like any of her outfits, the Popples help her become fashionable. / The Popples follow Penny to the zoo to help her with her homework assignment.

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