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Official Article

Barbie Magazine 1988

I've been on a bit of a Barbie Odyssey lately. Between the Barbie episode of The Toys That Made Us on Netflix and the Hulu documentary Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, I have been immersed heavily in the history of the world's most famous fashion doll. Of course I also many memories of her TV commercials which were in heavy rotation during Saturday Morning Cartoons in the 80s and may have even met the icon in person when managing a KB Toy Store (read about that adventure here).

It may be strange to imagine my excitement when I encountered a $5 Barbie "surprise pack" at an antique store that displayed an issue of Barbie Magazine on one side and a 1991 Barbie catalog on the other, but read on. You see, these vintage books were sandwiching unseen documents within and I had to unlock the neon pink mystery. What I found was an absolute gold mine of nostalgia I was not expecting. 

While I'm only walking you through 3 issues of Barbie Magazine from 1988, I promise you that there is more than enough here to hit your nostalgia button, even if you preferred Mattel's more action based offerings as a child. I'll be pulling amazing images from all over the pages of the magazine so don't expect a tight chronological presentation. Now let's get into the world of Barbie!

As you would imagine, each issue of Barbie magazine featured the doll in various situations to mimic the playtime fantasies of her target audience. She not only welcomes readers to the pretty pages but later takes part in a photo comic that sends her band, Barbie and The Rockers to Brazil for Carnivale. I lived in Brazil for a few years and the wannabe Jem and The Holograms version of Barbie has always been my favorite, so this was right up my alley.

I'll say it right now, the most amazing part of this magazine are the ads and I'll be highlighitng them in between the main feature articles for your enjoyment. We have to start with this awesome Archie cross-promotion with...Sunkist Fun Fruits Dinosaurs fruit snacks! My love of fun fruits was the subject of this article, but I never knew they created comic strips like this one to promote their delicious treats. Jughead and Betty are along for the ride to seek out the "Fruitasaurus" and a cameo by the laughing Fun Fruit "Tickle Trees" only adds to the wackiness. 

Back to Barbie, each issue also featured a prose story with some fun illustrations that expanded the Barbie lore. This one titled, "Let's Go To The Hop" is the perfect example of the 1980's fascination with the 1950's. In it, Barbie has a singing group called The Sensations that is trying to find a 50's style location to shoot a music video. "A 50's look with an 80's feeling", double your retro, double your fun.

This ad with a form to join Club Smooshees features a glorious Saved By The Bell style background with a pink, aqua and yellow colorscape that was very of its time. The only thing is, I didn't remember Smooshees until I looked up this commercial here. Then the memories came flooding back. I had many girl classmates who enjoyed these little animals that were like mini Puffalumps you could "smoosh" into a fishbowl, doghouse, etc., but they always seemed to cross clearly defined gender toy lines of the time, so I never had 'em myself.

Barbie was always chasing the latest trends of whatever decade the dolls were being manufactured in, so this article about the fads of 1988 is super appropriate. From LeChic cameras to a colorful SONY Walkman and even Paul Mitchell hair products, this was every 4th grade girl's style guide. Personally, my eye was immediately drawn to the brightly colored Leclic VHS tapes. The opportunity to record Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a green video cassette would have been a real thrill to me as a kid. 

Fun Fact: the model in this ad is Jessica Prunell. Why do I know that? Because she played Stacey on The Babysitter's Club TV series from 1990 and I was really into the books and show for about a year. Nicolle Rochelle who played Jessi on the show actually appear modeling some clothes on a later page as well. BSC fans unite!

These 2 ads for Mattel's Lady Lovely Locks are interesting because while promoting the toy line, they don't actually feature any pictures of the actual dolls. The one on the left is a fascinating offer to insert a photo of your child into a custom VHS tape containing what I assume was an episode of the animated series by DiC. The one on the right is literally just text setting up the premise of Lady Lovely Locks and inviting kids to find 10 hidden Pixietails in the illustration at the bottom. Pretty unique marketing ideas here.

The summer issue featured a photo story of 2 girls exploring California. The hilarious caption for the girls thrashin' for fashion reads, "You look stoked on your skateboard (Now I know that means "happy" in skateboard slang)". But the real treasure is the girls meeting Danica McKellar aka Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years while she was being driven around Beverly Hills in a Rolls Royce. Remember this was the 80's, when everybody was dreaming about living their own Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

How can you call your publication "the magazine for girls" and not have a Lisa Frank ad? Answer: you can't. So here we have a selection of Mix N' Match wristwatches in the wildy colorful Lisa Frank style so that my female classmates could coordinate with their Trapper Keepers. In addition to 100 different style combinations, you also got "12 all new Lisa Frank stickers" to brighten up your boring old black and white notebook with a burst of color.

Barbie also liked to keep kids informed about what was going on in the world of entertainment. In this case we're reading about Rudy from The Cosby Show starring in her own TV movie called The Little Match Girl. Also a hip new Disney special called Totally Minnie, which featured Robert Carradine from Revenge of the Nerds getting a makeover (click here to see it for yourself) There was also Muppet Christmas Special where Fozzy went home to visit his Mom airing on ABC that year. 

But who are we kidding the Barbie and The Rockers VHS tape is the real star here. I actually rented that tape from the local video store back in the day and frankly, it was no Jem. But I just love the aesthetic of this line. In fact, I almost bought an empty Barbie and The Rockers carrying case at an antique store a little while back, but decided to pass. If you're curious, this cartoon is available on YouTube and was recently reviewed on a fun podcast called Cancelled Too Soon, that you should check out.

Another fun feature of this peppy periodical were the subscription forms for other kids magazines. You might remember National Geographic World as the kid-friendly nature magazine you only picked up when someone else had already grabbed the latest Ranger Rick. But I know I thumbed through that issue with the Koala's back in the day. I wouldn't have given Mickey Mouse magazine a second thought if it was the 1988 Mickey decked out in his stylish blazer and sneakers. If you've read my past articles, you know I can't get enough of this short-lived redesign of The Mouse.

Of course Barbie is all about fashion and these magazines have many, many pages devoted to girl's clothing lines. It's a like a pre-teen Vogue. This ad really reminded me of picture day at my elementary school. Girls wearing these long t-shirts with ruffle skirts attached was a major fashion statement, but I don't know about those striped shirts and polka dot combos. Wild, man.

These Archie ads are too good to include just one and the fact that they promoted multiple products is awesome. In this case The Archies band is playing a tune to get people to dance called "The Mush" an unappealing jig tied into a frozen treat from Wyler's called FruitSlush. Anybody out there pull those from the freezer as a kid? I'm drawing a blank. Still, if it's good enough for Veronica and Reggie, I'm game.

So I've shown you the front covers, but the inside and back covers of the magazine were constantly promoting upcoming movies with kid appeal. We've got all the stars, Pee-wee Herman in his disappointing follow-up to Big Adventure, Johnny 5 back for more in a sequel I like better than the original, Pippi Longstocking in a film I remember catching on TV back in the day and The Chipmunks, baby! These full color ads are just beautiful and paint of picture of family friendly cinema from 1988.

The most impressive media ad for me though was this promo image for Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, the interactive live action show that tied into the Mattel action figure line of the same name. It would be wrong to say that girls didn't enjoy sci-fi, but this ad does seem really out of place for this magazine, still it's a visually striking image that I can;t get enough of.

Though not from this magazine, my surprise pack contained some pages of a catalog in which this Barbie spin-off line was promoted. Jazzie "Cool Teen Cousin of Barbie" appears to be appealing to pre-teen girls who weren't thinking about owning Malibu beach houses or play-acting their future careers, instead just looking for that next life step to becoming high school mallrats. My favorite part of this ad is that all the girls have names like Chelsea, Jazzie and Stacey, but their male friend is literally named "Dude". I guess it was time to turn the tables and objectify men for a change. That or this was a very long game play to introduce Jeff Bridges character from The Big Lebowski to a generation of future female moviegoers.

As we close I wanted to share a few other Barbie odds and ends I have picked up in my thrift store travels. This VHS tape was just too darn bright to pass up and the fact that it was filmed at Disney World in the 90s to celebrate Barbie's birthday was a fun premise. It's full of overly peppy girls shouting at the camera, but also gives a look at the live action Barbie stage show which ran at the theme park in 1994.

I picked up this CD-Rom game at a thrift store and popped it into my wife's ancient laptop to give it a whirl. My daughter wasn't quite old enough to understand the mechanics of creating an animated video featuring Barbie against various backdrops, so my son and I tinkered around with it for a while and had a good time bringing her world to life. The early 90's music options for the scenes were pretty hilarious.

So there you have it, a guy in his 30's talking about a 30 year old magazine for little girls that ended up having something for everybody. As I mentioned my Barbie surprise pack was filled with more issues of this magazine from the early 90's and lots of catalog pages, so who knows when we'll fall down the Barbie rabbit hole again.

So what are your Barbie memories? Was there a particular version of the doll that has always stuck out in your mind?

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jkatz Posted on Jul 23, 2018 at 05:15 AM

What can I say? Growing up, my little sister was never that much into Barbie. She much rather preferred my toys...to my chagrin.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Jul 22, 2018 at 09:36 PM

@jkatz What, you didn't have a Barbie twins calendar or comic book? They exist, look 'em up. I have more Barbie related experiences than I would care to admit.

jkatz Posted on Jul 22, 2018 at 07:10 PM

The only Barbie-related memories I have involve jamming out to the song by Aqua in the mid 2000s.

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