June 12, 2008

We'll Wrap Up Our Own Nostalgia, Thanks, Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry_shortcake_2000.jpgSo there was a big licensing expo in New York this week, which apparently resulted in a phony trend story in the NY Times about companies redesigning their old licensed character properties to milk a new generation of nostalgic parents: American Greetings, Inc.'s strategic goal to goose Strawberry Shortcake's license-rich world by making it more "fruit-forward," or the fact that, even without the upfruiting, Shortcake has still generated $2.5 billion of revenue since 2003. [Hmm, it has to be A. Because if the revenues weren't in steep decline, wouldn't they have said, "$650 million/year"?]

Then there's the quote from the Pokemon guy:

For parents, nostalgia is considered a bigger sales hook than ever because of the increasingly violent and hyper-sexualized media landscape.

“It’s a terrible world, and modern parents are trying to cocoon their kids as much as possible,” said Alfred R. Kahn, chairman of 4Kids Entertainment, which also manages franchises like Pokémon and the Cabbage Patch Kids. “What better way to protect them than wrapping them in nostalgic brands?”

But does it help with out-of-control, manipulative consumerism? No comment?

In addition to the looming cultural apocalypse above, the article tries to position character reinvention as a cautious response to the recession. Never mind that companies have been doing this for. ever, through thick and thin.

Warner Brothers has been screwing up classic Bugs and friends since before that Michael Jordan movie. And Bob Iger talks about reconnecting kids to Mickey Mouse as if there weren't a two-year-old strategy to reposition Mickey & co. for preschoolers. And considering all the American Greetings coverage, there's no mention of the company's reinvention of Holly Hobbie as a third-generation teen mom. [seriously.] And didn't the Teletubbies just relaunch as a pothead hipster brand? It's enough to send me--and the kid--running into the warm, cocooning embrace of entirely new intellectual properties.

Beloved Characters as Reimagined for the 21st Century [nyt]


This can't be true, can it? Strawberry Fricking Shortcake sells three times as much product as Design Within Reach? Strawberry Shortcake? That's no kind of world I want my kid to grow up in.

You know, I wouldn't be particularly bothered one way or the other if my child decided to latch on to the Strawberry Shortcake of my youth. I played with my share of fruit smelling dolls and still grew up to seek good design and creativity. What bothers me about this nostalgic re-branding are the stupid updates like giving SSC a cell phone and trendy clothing. We're talking about a character who is presumably aimed at toddlers through young elementary school. Maybe my memory is skewed, but I don't recall the SSC I played with back in 1981 being particularly "hip" for her time. She was basically sort of a raggedy-ann character, complete with "mitten hands". This new SSC, and the other characters like her, have little in common with their predecessors aside from their names. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will fall for this, but to me it's just another way to push the same junk little girls swallow with Bratz dolls. Though we're no better off from a branding perspective, I'm glad our daughter seems to have latched onto trains (thought it would interesting to see if they try to sex Thomas up at some point down the line...).

[yeah, thomas only has like two expressions. now that his designer's dead, thet can make him, you know, more *dynamic*. Interactive. -ed.]

Kid-friendly shows are becoming---obsolete? It scares me to see more shows that are mainly for the cause to generate more friggin' sales. Gone are the days when I use to watch Sesame Street.

I mean I have high respect for animation, but they really have to categorize it in a way that this one is for kids and this one is for adults. :/

These brands are popular because the modern ones are "too sexualized?" That must be why the redrawn Strawberry Shortcake in the illustration is sitting like a flirting teenager, right?

Time to program the TV to show only PBS. *sigh*

The flirtatious Strawberry with the long flowing locks is creepy, but not nearly as horrifying as the 2006 Holly Hobbie, whom I only discovered just now via the link to your previous post. A Holly Hobbie who's not from frontier days and doesn't wear a long dress or a bonnet or high-button shoes. Brilliant. Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting because I loved my Holly Hobbie lunch box, longed for high-button shoes, and constantly drew girls with bonnets when I was 10.(The comments on that post were hysterical, though).

Oh, and "wrapping them in nostalgic brands"?? Grrross.

I want to buy toys from someone who believes "it's a terrible world".

OK, this is just barely on-subject, but where the hell is the Purple Pieman? There used to be villains for a lot of these "nostalgic" characters, and now all they seem to do is talk about fashion and dress in tight clothing. What happened? This makes me feel all old and crotchety, talking about Strawberry Shortcake as vintage.

[guess he wasn't fruity enough to make the cut. -ed.]

I don't particularly care about Ms. Shortcake, but it's pretty sad that they best they can do with the distinctive original character design is reimagine her as a generic disney princess with pink hair and a goofy hat.

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