Cabbagepatchkids: Coleco Industries introduced the Cabbage Patch Kids line of one-of-a-kind cloth dolls with plastic heads in 1982.
They were inspired by Xavier Roberts’ Little People soft sculptured dolls, which were sold as collectibles and registered as ‘The Little People’ at the United States copyright office in 1978.
When Roger L. Schlaifer bought the exclusive worldwide licencing rights to the brand in 1982, he rebranded it ‘Cabbage Patch Kids.’
For three years in a row, the new doll brand broke every toy industry sales record, was one of the most successful lines of children’s licenced items in the 1980s, and is now one of the United States’ longest-running doll brands.
Schlaifer’s figures and graphics were utilised on all Cabbage Patch products, from children’s attire, bedding, and newborns’ wear to record albums and board games, manufactured by his company, Schlaifer Nance & Company (SN&C).
Cabbagepatchkids Imagination and growth
According to court papers (OAA v Toy Loft), Roberts encountered Martha Nelson’s Doll Babies as a 21-year-old art student at a missionary school in North Georgia.
A birth certificate and adoption paperwork were included. He hand-stitched dolls called “The Little People” with the help of artist Debbie Moorehead.
Roberts cleverly altered the appearance of Nelson’s dolls, birth certificate, and adoption papers to obtain a copyright and told potential customers that his Little People weren’t for sale, but could be “adopted” for sums ranging from $60 to $1,000.
The Little People were first marketed at craft exhibitions, then at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia, where Roberts and his friends-turned-employees converted an old medical clinic into a toy store.
Roger L. Schlaifer, an Atlanta designer and licencing agent, approached Roberts in 1981, at the height of his fame, about licencing Little People.
Schlaifer came up with the name Cabbagepatchkids since he thought the name was boring and Fisher-Price owned it for the toy category. His ambition was to create the world’s first and largest mass-market children’s brand.
Schlaifer and his partner/wife wrote the Legend of the Cabbagepatchkids to attract potential doll producers and to launch the entertainment and publishing enterprises he envisioned.
Schlaifer created BunnyBees, bee-like creatures with bunny ears that fly around and pollinate cabbages with magical crystals, to explain how particular cabbages gave birth to Cabbage Patch Kids.
Schlaifer invented Roberts as a ten-year-old child who discovered the Cabbagepatchkids by following a BunnyBee behind a waterfall into a mystical Cabbage Patch, where he discovered the Cabbage Patch babies being born in a neglected garden.
Young Roberts sought to prevent them from being kidnapped and forced to work in the gold mines run by the villainous Lavender McDade and her two henchmen, Cabbage Jack and Beau Weasel, by finding loving parents who would adopt them and keep them safe in their homes.
In 1982, the Coleco design team, led by renowned doll designer Judy Albert, created an industry first: one-of-a-kind, plastic-headed Cabbagepatchkids dolls with nicer features, softer bodies, and normal toddler proportions rather than Roberts’ grossly obese bodies.
The public went crazy over the comparatively inexpensive—$18-$28 dolls, branded in Schlaifer’s packaging and produced in Coleco’s facilities in China—rioting to get their hands on one in stores across North America.
Coleco had to cancel all of its advertising in order to keep up with demand, shipping 3.2 million dolls, which was a record for the doll industry.
A big success, but nothing compared to the $2,000,000,000 in retail sales of Cabbage Patch dolls and Cabbage Patch branded stuff (children’s attire, bedding, sleepwear, books, and many other products) that occurred in 1984 across North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Coleco’s sales climbed steadily until 1986, when they allegedly over-shipped and lost ground in a lengthy court dispute with Schlaifer and Roberts over Schlaifer’s release of “Furskins Bears,” a collection of hillbilly bears that competed with Cabbage Patch dolls. Coleco’s sales plunged from nearly $800 million in 1986 to zero in 1988.
When the company went out of business following a series of dubious acquisitions and after paying Roberts a reputed fortune for an extension to their CPK contract.
Years of Coleco
Schlaifer contacted all of the main doll manufactures in the country after persuading Roberts that the dolls’ name needed to be changed to Cabbagepatchkids.
They all rejected him down, with one exception: they said the look of Little People was too terrible to sell on the general market.
Schlaifer’s perseverance paid off when he located Coleco, a company known for its success with electronic toys at the time, and convinced them to become his Master Toy licensee, for which he negotiated a record-setting advertising promise.
The dolls were a must-have Christmas toy between 1983 and 1986, when they were at the height of their popularity.
Cabbage Patch riots erupted as parents fought tooth and nail to get their children the dolls.
Coleco later released variations on the original Cabbage Patch Kids, and derivatives of the original line of dolls were still sold.
Variations around the globe
Coleco gave technical help to other doll producers in Panama, Europe, Australia, and Japan who wanted to use their moulds when they were creating dolls for the North American market in the 1980s.
Years of Hasbro
After Coleco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1988, Hasbro took over the rights to produce Cabbage Patch dolls and continued to develop them with numerous gimmicks, including dolls that played kazoos.
The “Birthday Kids,” “Splash ‘n’ Tan Kids,” and “Pretty Crimp and Curl” doll lines were among the most popular Cabbagepatchkids doll lines.
Hasbro released a 10th anniversary doll that reintroduced Schlaifer’s original packaging, a strategy that other CPK doll manufacturers used to boost sales on special occasions.
Hasbro eventually began producing dolls for younger children, resulting in ever-smaller dolls.
Despite the fact that Cabbage Patch dolls were still the most popular toys, the craze was passed. There seemed to be no way to significantly revitalise them without a TV or movie presence.
Years of Mattel and Cabbagepatchkids
Mattel bought the dolls’ licence rights from Original Appalachian Artworks in 1994. In 1995, the first Cabbage Patch dolls were released.
Mattel Cabbage Patch dolls didn’t just have fabric bodies; they also had vinyl bodies, making for a more lasting play doll.
Most Mattel dolls are 14″ or smaller, and most varieties are individualised with a gimmick to increase collectibility, such as some dolls playing with water toys, swimming, eating meals, or brushing their teeth. [requires citation]
The updated Kids line of basic cloth dolls with birth certificates, the OlympiKids designed to conjunction with the 1996 Olympics, and the Cabbage Patch Fairies are all famous Mattel lines.
Mattel also designed a line of solely female dolls with reproduction face moulds, clothed in reproduction dresses evocative of the original line, and wrapped in a retro style box to commemorate the dolls’ 15th anniversary.
These were 16 inches tall, just like the original Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids. [requires citation]
Toys R Us Children | Cabbagepatchkids
With Mattel’s sales stagnating in 2001, Al Kahn, a veteran Coleco marketing guru, purchased Original Appalachian’s licencing rights and sold retailer Toys “R” Us on manufacturing 20-inch (50.8 cm) Kids dolls and 18-inch (45.7 cm) baby dolls with fabric bodies and vinyl heads.
They were wrapped in cabbage leaf seats made of cardboard. The 20-inch dolls first appeared in the Times Square flagship store in 2001.
These were produced to commemorate the line’s 20th anniversary and were available both online and in stores across the United States.
They didn’t stay long at the high-volume shop since they were expensive and too bulky for most small children to play with.
Toys to Play With
The Toys “R” Us line lasted until Play Along Toys got exclusive licencing rights to make the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.
In 2003, Play Along released a Cabbage Patch Kids 25th Anniversary collection using some of the original head sculpts from the initial Coleco editions, once again using Schlaifer’s original packaging.
In a co-branding effort, Play Along teamed up with Carvel Ice Cream. Cabbagepatchkids were packed with a Carvel-branded ice cream cone as a result of the collaboration. [requires citation]
JAKKS Pacific bought Play Along Toys in 2011 and becme the Cabbage Patch Kids’ master toy licensee. Cabbage Patch Kids Fashionality, a 14-inch (35.6 cm) line, and other Cabbage Patch Kid goods were introduced by Jakks.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the licenced Cabbage Patch Kids, Jakks Pacific launched the Celebration edition in 2013. [requires citation]
Toys That Are Wicked Cool and Cabbagepatchkids
Cabbagepatchkids current master toy licensee is Wicked Cool Toys (owned by Jazwares).
WCT introduced new products in this range, including Little Sprouts, a line of tiny collectible dolls, and Adoptimals, plush creatures that interact with the Kids.
Cabbage Patch Kids is a brand of children’s clothing
Roger L. Schlaifer, doing business as Schlaifer Nance & Company (SN&C), the sole worldwide licensor for Initial Appalachian Artworks, Roberts’ company at the time, negotiated the original 1982 Cabbage Patch Kids licence arrangement with Coleco Industries.
Following the signing of Coleco Industries by Schlaifer Nance & Company, SN&C planned and/or oversaw the design and quality of nearly all CPK branded items produced by its over 150 CPK licenced manufacturers, including Coleco.
The first children’s licenced character diapers and low-sugar cereal, as well as children’s fashion, bedding, stationery products, novels, backyard pools, and thousands of other children’s products, generated nearly $2 billion in retail sales in 1984 alone.
The Schlaifer’s six-year term resulted in overall sales of $4.5 billion, more than ten times the total revenues of Cabbage Patch Kids products and entertainment in the thirty years since–the latter of which never had the impact Roberts predicted in the November 1983 issue of Esquire magazine.
Despite the fact that sales of the dolls and other licenced products plummeted in the late 1980s, the dolls have since become a toy industry mainstay and one of the few long-running doll brands in history.
Cabbage Patch Kids in Porcelain
These limited edition dolls were first offered from Applause Gifts and then from the Danbury Mint via direct mail. Their body is made of stiff cloth, with porcelain legs, arms, and head. [requires citation]
Cabbagepatchkids are a group of children who talk about cabbage patches.
Coleco’s “Talking Cabbage Patch Kids” was one of the last new CPK lines released. They had a voice chip, touch sensors, a microphone, and a short-range 49 MHz AM transmitter and receiver for interacting with other dolls.
In reaction to its vocalisations, touch sensors in the hands allowed the toy to recognise when and how it was being played with.
When the touch sensor in either hand detects pressure, the doll might say “hold my hand” and respond with suitable speech.
It also contained a movement detector that displayed the doll’s position, whether it was on its tummy, back, or even upside down.
A customised plastic ‘drinking’ cup with a hidden magnet that could be detected using a small reed relay fitted into the toy’s head above the m
outh to indicate when it should be perceived to be ‘drinking.’ A more amazing outcome occurred when one doll used its 49 MHz AM transmitter/receiver to detect the presence of another.
The dolls were programmed to use a short sentence to convey their “knowledge” of each other, such as “I think there’s someone else to play with here!” and then to start small dialogues between themselves with enough unpredictability to sound real.
The synchronised singing of ’rounds’ by all of the participants was particularly stunning. When ambient noise exceeded a specific threshold, the microphone was included to postpone the search and communication with another of its kind. [requires citation]
General Hospital of Babyland
Babyland General Hospital, in Cleveland, Georgia, is the “birthplace” of Little People. Roberts turned an old doctor’s clinic into a general store/souvenir shop and “doll hospital” with the help of local acquaintances, from where he sold his original “Little People.
The Cabbage Patch Kids use the facility as a birthing, nursery, and adoption centre. Employees dressed up as physicians and nurses and pretended to care for the dolls as if they were real, in keeping with the theme.
Babyland General relocated to a new site on the outskirts of Cleveland, Georgia in 2010 and was named one of the Travel Channel’s top ten toylands, however its exact ranking and the identities of the other toylands on the list remain unknown.
Adaptations of Cabbagepatchkids
The Cabbage Patch Kids’ First Christmas, directed by Squire Rushnell, and produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions with music by Joe Raposo (of Sesame Street and Frank Sinatra fame), aired on ABC on December 7, 1984, and was the top-rated show in its time slot. Cabbage Patch Kids:
The New Kid, a stop-motion animated special created by Goldhill Entertainment that debuted on the FOX Kids Network programming block on August 26, 1995, is an example of additional shows.
Cabbage Patch Kids: The Club House debuted in 1996, and was followed by Cabbage Patch Kids: The Screen Test in 1997, Cabbage Patch Kids: Saturday Night in 1998, and Cabbage Patch Kids: Vernon’s Christmas in 1999.
ABC offered Roberts an hour Saturday show combining Cabbage Patch Kids and Furskins Bears, but he turned it down. There hasn’t been another opportunity like it since.
Lawsuits | Cabbagepatchkids
Though Xavier Roberts claimed to have created the Little People appearance, many of the dolls’ distinguishing features, such as their abnormally round faces and the fact that they came with an adoption certificate, were inspired by Martha Nelson Thomas, a Kentucky-based American folk artist.
Thomas had produced and marketed her own line of dolls, called Doll Babies, which she sold at local arts and craft festivals and markets before Roberts got into the toy business.
At 1976, the two met at a state fair, and Roberts began buying Thomas’ dolls to sell at a profit in his own store in Georgia.
When Thomas confronted Roberts about his unethical business practises, he stopped selling more dolls to him, causing him to turn to a Hong Kong manufacturing company to mass create dolls that looked identical to Thomas’ at a lower cost.
In 1985, Thomas filed a lawsuit against Roberts and reached an out-of-court settlement with him for an unknown sum. She and her husband, Tucker Thomas, informed the press that the tampering with her dolls, which she treasured, was more upsetting than the money she’d lost as a result of Roberts’ activities.
Thomas died in 2013, at the age of 62, and her burial was attended by her favourite dolls, as well as relatives and friends.
Roberts’ company, Original Appalachian Artworks, later filed a $30 million copyright infringement case against Topps, the corporation that created horrific trading cards parodying his company’s Garbage Pail Kids dolls.
Topps agreed to a $7 million settlement with OAA in exchange for the right to continue making the Garbage Pail Kids cards after selling over $70 million worth of them.
Roberts worked out a side deal with Coleco for tens of millions of dollars to renew Schlaifer’s Cabbage Patch agreement and jointly litigate with SN&C over whether OAA had violated their licencing agreement with SN&C and Coleco’s exclusivity by producing a Cabbage Patch bear as a line of “Furskins Bears.
Failing to pay SN&C its share of the Topps settlement, and refusing to allow ABC TV to do a Saturday morning In 1988, OAA and Coleco settled the case by paying SN&C an unknown sum of money.
In addition, until Roberts worked out the arrangement with Coleco, Paula Osborne, the president of OAA, sued him for the portion she was entitled to as an OAA investor and got a seven-figure settlement. [requires citation] Coleco went out of business six months after reaching an agreement with SN&C.
Product security | Cabbagepatchkids
The Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids, one of Mattel’s Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, was meant to “consume” plastic food. A pair of one-way smooth metal rollers hidden below plastic lips enabled this. The food would “magically” emerge in a backpack after exiting the doll’s back. By releasing the backpack, the mechanism could be turned off.
During the Christmas season of 1996, they were immensely popular. Following an agreement between Mattel and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in January 1997, the line was voluntarily withdrawn from the market following several incidents in which children got their fingers or hair stuck in the dolls’ mouths, prompting safety warnings from Connecticut’s consumer protection commissioner, Mark Shiffrin.
Timeline of Cabbagepatchkids
• 1977: Martha Nelson Thomas’ “Doll Babies” concept is introduced to Xavier Roberts.
• 1978: Xavier Roberts, who founded Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc., delivered the first “Little People Originals.”
• Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and Atlanta Weekly all covered the dolls’ popularity in 1981.
• 1982: In order to appease home sewers who were making Little People knockoffs, OAA licenced Paid Enterprises to produce a low-cost Little People replica known as a Little People Pal. The idea perished with the release of Coleco’s Cabbage Patch Kids.
• 1982: Roger Schlaifer advises OAA to rename his idea Cabbage Patch Kids and use his new visuals to create a major children’s brand.
• On March 1, 1982, OAA forms an exclusive worldwide deal with Schlaifer Nance & Company to licence Little People as Cabbage Patch Kids and places Schlaifer on a monthly retainer to do so.
• August 9, 1982: Schlaifer Nance & Company, Inc. inked a long-term licencing arrangement with Coleco Industries as its Master Toy licensee, providing them the worldwide rights to produce the dolls and other CPK branded toys, after being rejected by most US doll makers.’
• Xavier Roberts approves the first prototypes of Coleco Industries’ Cabbage Patch Kids for manufacturing in 1982. Before delivery in 1983, they were made cuter, making an international sensation.
• 1983: At the International Toy Fair in New York City, the Cabbage Patch Kids were unveiled to much acclaim. By October, riots had broken out in stores across the country and were shown in newspaper cartoons.
• December 1983: A photo of Cabbage Patch Kid holding a little girl on the cover of Newsweek magazine and was the focus of practically every night’s jokes on Johnny Carson.
• 1984: Cabbage Patch Kids branded products, ranging from toys to children’s apparel, set a $2 billion children’s merchandising record.
Cabbage Patch Dreams, a CPK album made by the Chapin Brothers for Parker Brothers’ music, reached Platinum, and Parker Publishing’s Cabbage Patch Kids line of books became top sellers. Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park is a video game that was released.
• 1985: After selling $10,000 worth of cereal, the Cabbage Patch Kids low-sugar breakfast cereal, an idealist attempt to convince youngsters to eat healthier foods, was discontinued.
Diapers with real children’s character drawings were introduced. The animated spectacular The Cabbage Patch Kids’ First Christmas, which featured music by renowned composer Joe Raposo, ranked first in its time slot on ABC.
• 1985: Yul Brynner died a month after Susanne Schlaifer sent him a bald, King & I dressed Cabbage Patch Kid. Though it’s bad luck to recreate a Broadway show, no further link to the star’s death has ever been uncovered.
• The first talking Cabbage Patch Kids debuted in 1986. Schlaifer Nance was sued by the OAA over the right to mass-produce a range of Cabbage Patch Bears known as Furskins.
Despite the fact that they had over half a million unsold bears in storage, Coleco bailed out Roberts and handed him a multi-million dollar bonus under the ruse that it was for Judy Albert’s innovative advances!
• 1988: Coleco Industries went bankrupt, but the dolls were still created, with licence rights provided to Hasbro Industries, Mattel, and a number of other firms mentioned above; however, despite their popularity, they never regained the attraction they had when Schlaifer Nance was in charge.
• 1992: The Cabbage Patch Kids were appointed the official mascot of the United States Olympic team, and members of the team were given their own dolls to bring to the games.
• The Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids debuted in 1996.
• 1999: The dolls were chosen as one of 15 commemorative US postage stamps representing the 1980s by popular voting.
They came in fifth place, after E.T., the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and video games.
• In 2008, both the Democratic and Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates in the United States had Cabbage Patch Kids of their own.
A blue outfit was used to depict Barack Obama. McCain was dressed in a suit and had grey hair. Joe Biden was similarly portrayed in a suit, his hair slicked back.
Sarah Palin was dressed in her signature suit and skirt, complete with high-heeled heels. Palin’s trademark hair and eyeglasses were also highlighted.