Beloved Characters as Reimagined for the 21st Century

 

Strawberry Shortcake was having an identity crisis. The “it” doll and cartoon star of the 1980s was just not connecting with modern girls. Too candy-obsessed. Too ditzy. Too fond of wearing bloomers.

So her owner, American Greetings Properties, worked for a year on what it calls a “fruit-forward” makeover. Strawberry Shortcake, part of a line of scented dolls, now prefers fresh fruit to gumdrops, appears to wear just a dab of lipstick (but no rouge), and spends her time chatting on a cellphone instead of brushing her calico cat, Custard. Her new look was unveiled Tuesday, along with plans for a new line of toys from Hasbro.

She is not the only aging fictional star to get a facelift. An unusually large number of classic characters for children are being freshened up and reintroduced — on store shelves, on the Internet and on television screens — as their corporate owners try to cater to parents’ nostalgia and children’s YouTube-era sensibilities. Adding momentum is a retail sector hoping to find refuge from a rough economy in the tried and true.

Warner Brothers hopes to “reinvigorate and reimagine” Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo through a new virtual world on the Internet, where people will be able to dress up the characters pretty much any way they want. American Greetings is dusting off another of its lines, the Care Bears, which will return with a fresh look this fall (less belly fat, longer eyelashes).

And 4Kids Entertainment, which licenses the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will revive them next year in new video games, where they will have more muscles and less attitude.

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