they get a load
Stuffed Animals of the 80's
Stuffed animals are major part of every child’s bedroom. Whether it’s a single cloth creature you’ve loved the stuffing out of, enjoying the coveted spot on your bed, or a pile of miscellaneous poof balls piled in the corner waiting for a tea party, each kid has their favorite and for different reasons. So let’s take a look at some of the awesome plush toys that the 1980’s and early 90's had to offer!
Pound Puppies were a sensation that crossed all gender boundaries, every kid in my pre-school had to have one and it’s pretty obvious to see why. These humble looking puppies needed a home and some love that only we could provide. Were your miserly parents going to doom a doggy to a life of despair just to save a few bucks? Perish the thought! The line had a great variety of colors and markings for the dogs, so children could choose their favorite color and siblings wouldn’t fight over their stuffed pets. Soon after came the Pound Purries, but let’s be honest, most cats don’t demand your affection like their canine counterparts. As I recall, many stuffed cats went un-adopted on store shelves. I actually had a whole Pound Puppies bed set at one point and enjoyed a few episodes of the cartoon on Saturday Mornings. Hey, put a dog in a cool jacket and I’ll be there.
Appearing in 1985, My Buddy by Hasbro garnered the attention of kids worldwide with his catchy jingle playing between Saturday morning cartoons. A generic boy in striped shirt and overalls that could be purchased in various ethnicities and hair colors, My Buddy also had a female counterpart called Kid Sister. For as often as I sang along with the commercials, I found it odd that I never knew anybody that owned a My Buddy/Kid Sister doll. I have to believe that freckle faced serial killer, Chucky was to blame for this.
I was 6 when Child’s Play came out in 1988 and I remember being scared to death by a feature on Entertainment Tonight showing the making of the movie. They showed the creepy walking animatronic doll without skin and I just about lost it. But I wanted to seem like a tough guy so I was just screaming on the inside at night, imagining my stuffed animals coming alive to get me. There’s a good chance the other kids in my neighborhood saw this too which meant that the answer to the “Good Guy’s” famous question, “Wanna plaaaay?” was definitely, “Noooooo!” My Pet Monster on the other hand, somehow made terror fun.
With no pretention about being a hideous monster, in 1986 My Pet Monster came at you with a bulbous, wart-covered nose, bloodshot eyes and inch-long fangs while being restrained by neon orange handcuffs. Yet, somehow his vibrant color scheme instantly let us know that this was the fun kind of scary. My buddy, Erik had one of these guys and they were pretty awesome looking, but so big you couldn’t really carry them around as a security blanket type doll. I think he even had the My Football Monster variant, if I’m not mistaken.
For me the best part were the shackles that you could put on and demonstrate your immense strength by snapping them in half with the break-away action of the chain. It was much more fun to play the monster, than the zookeeper. My Pet Monster actually had a cartoon show, but the only time I saw it was when somebody threw on a VHS copy before a “summer fun night” screening of Ghost Dad starring Bill Cosby at our neighborhood community center. Can you guess which program I enjoyed more?
Speaking of Erik’s collection, he did have a 2 very odd plush dolls that I don’t see on these lists very often. If you ever visited Disneyland between 1986 and 1996, you might have had a chance to experience the 3-D musical adventure of Michael Jackson in Captain EO. It was pretty funky, mainly because of the creatures that made up the good captain’s space-faring crew. My pal must have demanded the stuffed versions of the characters from the The Star Trader in Tomorrowland after a seeing the 15 minute space epic in all its glory. I say this because I can’t imagine how else he ended up with the colorful Cat-Monkey-Butterfly hybrid Fuzzball and Siamese Twin Bird-Ape navigators Idey and Odey as part of his stuffed toy stockpile. They were just so weird.
There was a variation from the standard cotton fluff filled variety of stuffed animals that I always found fascinating and the forerunner was Pillow People. Stitching arms and feet on a pillow and calling it a toy seems like kind of a cop-out, but the designs they came up with were pretty memorable. I remember my friend Christina had the window-faced one, but the bruised up boxer was probably the most distinct. How many toys with swollen, black eyes were being marketed to kids? He was practically begging to be punched in the face. Speaking of violence against pillow type pugilists, the World Wrestling Federation made sure to get in on that action in a big way.
Wrestling Buddies by Tonka were the safest way for a kid to act out their violent tendencies on someone smaller, who wouldn’t go crying to Mom. Taking the form of the top WWF superstars of the day, you could re-enact all your favorite moves from the latest pay-per-view without being told, “No flying elbow drops to your sister, please.” Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan were definitely the top sellers, but the idea that you could buy tag team sets like the Legion of Doom or Demolition was fantastic. While I never personally had a Randy “Macho Man” Savage to administer daily piledrivers to, I did pal around with a little Russian mouse named Fievel.
When An American Tail came out in 1986, I was 4 and became enamored with the pop ballad cover by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram of “Somewhere Out There” from the animated film. I used to serenade my Mom all the time in my falsetto crooner voice, which is probably why on one trip May Company or some such department store she picked up this film accurate stuffed animal of the film’s star. I remember how soft and poofy Fievel was when we cuddled and I was always trying to figure out how to detach his hat, which was lightly stitched to his head. Though the 1st movie has kind of slipped away as a distant memory to most people (though straight to video sequels continue on), Fievel will always have a special place in my heart, based solely for the joy this doll brought me.
One oddball group of stuffed animals I think deserves a mention is the Chubbles. They were like android Ewoks or those Berbil bear creatures from Thundercats. A light activated sensor made the eyes and nose flash while a high pitched purring sound played. Flashing lights added 10 cool points to any toy growing up and though Chubbles weren’t a widespread phenomenon, I do recall seeing quite a few sitting on dressers of friends I went to visit. The lack of iconic status may have had to do with the slight creepiness of their box description which states, “Chubbles come to you directly from Chase-A-Tail Dale, near Firefly Forest (Okay)…Changes in the light around them make…the firefly in their nose light up and chiggle (Huh?). This is an amusing sound that is something like a giggle (If you say so). So, tell your troubles to a Chubble. They have no mouths so they can never, never tell (Who stole their mouth so they wouldn’t squeal? Ahhhh!)” Fireflies in their nose? “Chiggling”, which just sounds dirty? At least a Chubble don’t fink on soul brother.
Confession time: I owned a Cabbage Patch Kid doll in my youth. While the fuzzy friends listed above were passable for a boy to own until about age 5 or 6, having a Cabbage Patch Kid doll at 8 or 9 was definitely outside the norm…but so was I. Most girls want to be Mother’s when they are young so they get baby dolls, makes sense. I always wanted to be a Dad and loved taking care of my infant nieces and nephews, so I got a newborn Cabbage Patch Kid baby named Grover, this also makes sense. Now hear me out. I knew I wanted to be a Dad eventually and aside from teaching my kid how to stand up to bullies, my play battles with G.I. Joes weren’t going to do me much good. So "logically" I wanted to see what it was like to take care of a baby for an extended period of time.
I can only imagine the embarrassment my own father endured as his son carried a baby doll around with him, feeding it, putting it to bed and changing fake diapers. I remember one road trip to visit my sister where I actually made a bassinet out of cardboard and stuffed it with blankets to transport my “son” around in. Grover also had the permanent scent of baby powder, which endeared him to me all the more. I grew out of this “experiment” after about 6 months and gave Grover to my 3 year old niece, where he continues to be loved to this day. Although she just had a son of her own…so what will become of the little guy? Only time will tell.
One stuffed toy I definitely left for the girls was the Hugga Bunch by Kenner. Riding on the heels of the Cabbage Patch Kids, Hugga Bunch characters had a very distinct look and design, with their chubby cheeks, brightly colored perms and shimmery clothing. I never wanted a doll, but I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued by The Hugga Bunch TV movie from 1985. Heck, I still have a copy on VHS that I taped from the original broadcast! It’s a sweet and disturbing story of a little girl with a BIG southern accent whose Grandma aka “Grams” is going senile and about to be put in a nursing home by her evil Aunt Ruth.
Bridget travels to Huggaland “through the looking glass” with a living doll named Huggins who says, “we’ve been watching you for a while…” (shudder). Her quest is to steal a magical fruit called Young-Berries that a vain and evil sorceress uses to stay youthful in hopes of keeping “Grams” from being “put out to pasture”, as Bridget’s older brother so delicately puts it. The climax is actually quite frightening as the raspy screech of the sorceress is combined with her decay into an ugly hag. The production values were actually pretty high for a TV film and the wacky-factor makes it a good watch. You can see it for yourself at this link.
There are so many more I didn’t mention. I know I left off the biggies like Care Bears and Popples, but I’m sure enough has been written about those lines to fill entire websites. So tell me, how many of the cuddly friends above did you own? Who was your stuffed sidekick through your childhood adventures?