If you grew up in the ‘80s you know it was a time when manufacturers of dolls were trying to crossover and have them appeal to boys and vice versa.
My Buddy was a doll line made by Hasbro in 1985. This was controversial as marketing a doll specifically to boys was seen as a big risk. My Buddy was a success and wa considered as the inspiration behind Chucky from the Child’s Play movies.
I wrote an article about My Pet Monster and how it was seen as a plush doll marketed towards boys. Every kid has a stuffed animal at some point but boys tend to outgrow them. My Pet Monster was the attempt to crack back into that market by taking a stuffed animal and trying to “toughen” it by giving it fangs and handcuffs.
My Buddy was a
It was a memorable toy form the ‘80s with a pretty memorable commercial and song to go with it. This article is all about My Buddy and if it is, or isn’t the inspiration behind Chucky from Child’s Play.
What Was My Buddy?
My Buddy was a fairly large 21 inch doll that had the look of being around the age of a toddler. He had a few distinguishing features including a red hat and brown hair. He was dressed in a long sleeve shirt that had multi colored stripes of red, yellow, blue, and white.
Another distinguishing feature were his trademark red overalls that had the “My Buddy” logo right on the front, in case you forgot what you were playing with…
My Buddy also had blue shoes with white stripes (not the band) and they would vary between blue and brown eyes on him. He also had freckles, a button nose and a corn cob pipe. Wait, wrong thing.
The whole thing was stuffed with fabric so it would be pretty resilient to rougher play as it was meant to be an active use toy and not to just sit on a shelf. My Buddy was supposed to go everywhere you did and that would mean he might take some abuse along the way such as climbing a tree.
An interesting feature was the added smile on the dolls to give it a pleasant demeanor as opposed to just a blank expression which is usually on my face.
Was My Buddy Due To The Video Game Crash Of 1983?
If you’re not familiar with the video game crash of 1983 it’s when the whole industry came to pretty much a screeching halt. Atari had been ruling the roost for years but with a wide range of crappy games flooding the market quality was dropping and consumers were starting to take notice.
It all seemed to come to a front with the release of the E.T Atari video game in 1983. It was so bad that it was seen as the final nail in the coffin for video games. An industry that was making $2 billion a year dropped down to just $100 million seemingly overnight.
This may have paved the way for My Buddy.
Toy companies such as Mattel, Hasbro, Milton Bradley, and Irwin wanted nothing to do with video games after being crushed financially by them. It would still be a few years before Nintendo swooped in and saved the industry and this meant filling the market with non video game related new toys.
With video games not having a stranglehold on the toy
It really was the Cabbage Patch Kids that created all this as Coleco would have gone bankrupt if it wasn’t for their huge success. So a return to more simple vintage things such as dolls, teddy bears, trucks etc was underway. The big difference now is that these companies were not just releasing a “doll” they were releasing a Cabbage Patch Kid. They weren’t releasing a “teddy bear” they were releasing My Pet Monster or Teddy Ruxpin.
They knew to give these new toys specific names and not just that, a concept and a backstory. The one thing the toy companies learned from video games was the importance of a concept, history, and backstory. Atari was really good at this because due to the limited graphics they would create amazing packaging art and little comic books that told the story of what you were playing.
The toy companies were now taking this approach with simple things like dolls and bears that had never been done before. And it worked. The sale of dolls in 1985 reached $3.36 billion which was up 111% from 1983.
My Buddy was a big reason for this.
A Controversial Idea?
This seems crazy but there was the thought that making a doll for a boy was not a smart move by Hasbro. Not only that, the idea of teaching boys about caring for their friends was also seen as a controversial idea. What a time to be alive.
When you look at toys of the ‘80s they are pretty violent. They are usually based around battles and war specifically with the big four: Star Wars, GI Joe, Transformers (read my article all about Transformers!), and He-Man. Toys for boys in the’80s were all based on aggression and violence, and it worked.
Those four properties are some of the best selling toys in history and it seems like “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it situation” which is not only terrible grammar but a financial standpoint for toy manufacturers. This ultimately was a very innovative idea to stray from the run of the mill toys that had been dominating the 1980s.
It makes sense from the point of a manufacturer who makes toys specifically for girls that you’re missing out on 50% of the market. I think the Cabbage Patch Kids craze showed that there might be a market for this as even though girls were a primary target, boys still got in on the craze. I remember having one not because they were a doll but because they were hands down the hottest toy of 1983 and 1984.
I think this was the ultimate approach with My Buddy, create a big enough hype and kids, specifically boys, won’t give a crap that it’s a “doll”, they just want the hot new toy. G.I Joe had already been released and was a hit but the Transformers had not been out long – they were popular – but just starting their ascent as a monumental toy. He-Man was not quite out yet so there was no promise that these toys were going to become the icons that they would.
Putting out a doll for boys seemed like a promising idea at the time. Hasbro recognized that not all parents were on board with violence based action figures and they wouldn’t buy them if they ran counter to the way they were raising their children.
My Buddy was intended for boys 5 and under because it was seen that “little boys have a soft side just like little girls”. This was the statement of Stephen Schwartz who was senior vice president of marketing at Hasbro. The actually expanded and researched this concept before they went into full on production of My Buddy.
The interviewed parents – specifically fathers – to insure they did not reject the idea of boys playing with dolls.
An Iconic Theme Song
If you grew up in the ‘80s there’s NO way you don’t remember this commercial and song. This was pretty instrumental in launching My Buddy and making it a hit. In a decade with such monumental toy properties it was really hard to stand out.
A good commercial was not enough and you had to be memorable. The My Buddy commercial song was exactly that and might be one of a handful of the most memorable themes from the 1980s.
It was the perfect combination of creating a an identity for a toy and allowing kids to picture themselves with it. It also made perfect use of referencing the doll’s name throughout the song so even a little kid would remember the name My Buddy when asking for a toy.
They call these songs “earworms” meaning they’re the type that get stuck in your head and are constantly playing. The brilliant move with this is the term “My Buddy” was used throughout it so often that it would be a key part of that earworm. This works because it was taking the place of most other toys at the time in a kids mind. So if it came to birthdays and Christmas requests My Buddy would be top of the list mainly because it was the one that a kid might think about it due to it being played on repeat in their head.
My Buddy was such a big hit and was connecting with kids so much that Hasbro decided to put out Kid Sister.
This might have been from jealous female siblings or Hasbro just wanted to see if they could increase their market share but the released Kid Sister with another catchy theme song.
Along with this, Hasbro would amp up things with Kid Sister by putting out a lot of extra accessories such as coloring books, regular books, and paper doll books.
The things that they didn’t think they could release with My Buddy they were able to do with Kid Sister. It was a time when they
Here Comes Chucky
In case you don’t know of the Child’s Play movies the first one came out in 1988 and was written and directed by Tom Holland. The movie is quite simply the story of a mother who gives her son a doll that ends up being possessed by the soul of a serial killer.
The movie was a pretty big hit opening at #1 and would end up grossing more than $44 million against a budget of just $9 million. Child’s Play would end up spawning a bunch of suquals and is leading up to a new reboot in 2019.
The cornerstone of the movie is the doll Chucky and he actually has a full name,Charles Lee Ray which is a combination of Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray.
Now, if you’re a fan of My Buddy you might think that Chucky looks a little bit similar. Or actually a lot bit similar. There were different versions of My Buddy that included blonde hair similar to Chucky. This always seemed that it was an obvious connection but there’s the idea that Chucky is based on Cabbage Patch Kids.
This idea had been confirmed by one of the writers, Don Mancini, who said that the Cabbage Patch Kids served as the inspiration. However, Tom Holland would later affirm that My Buddy served as inspiration for Chucky.
Seriously I don’t know how you can’t say Chucky isn’t straight up 100% based on My Buddy when you look at the striped shirt and the overalls.
Some Interesting Facts About Child’s Play
I never had picked up on this, obviously because I was stupid little kid, but there’s an interesting underlying theme to the original Child’s Play movie. Mancini said that the basis of the original script focused a bit more on a “whodunit” scenario and that the overall story dealt with the effect of advertising and television on children.
This makes for a more effective and interesting movie overall if you ask me. The final script would evolve more but some of that theme is there. It’s like how E.T is based on the effect of divorce on kids and I think Child’s Play could have been an even more effective movie if it had really pushed this idea.
The 1980s were a time of deregulation where restrictions on advertising to children had been lifted and it resulted in a flood of new programming and marketing towards children. All the research was already there saying how damaging it could be and that kids could not differentiate between ads and TV.
When Ronald Reagan had become president he appointed a new head of the FCC who lifted all these restrictions and it’s why you start seeing an avalanche of new toy properties such as GI Joe, Transformers, Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and on and on. It’s why you see all these cartoons because they were being used as 22-minute commercials to launch new toys.
With Child’s Play it makes for an interesting basis because in the late 80s there was another push to regulate all this onslaught of commercialism on children. The new bill passed almost unanimously in the house and senate and Reagan would veto it as one of his last acts as president.
Another interesting script development with Child’s Play involved letting the movie develop into everyone thinking Andy (the kid) was the actual killer and not Chucky.
Spielberg To The Rescue
So the first Child’s Play does pretty well and that leads to the inevitable sequel. They’re getting ready to make the second Child’s Play and they find out that MGM and United Artists (who made the first movie) had been bought. The new owner of the company said he didn’t want to make horror movies.
Since Child’s Play was a hit a bunch of other studios started calling to try and take over the series. Steven Spielberg would be one of those callers.
Spielberg knew there was something promising in the Child’s Play franchise so he told them to put a wish list of what they wanted and he would bring it to Universal. They didn’t think they would be able to make the movies the way they wanted and were going to have to sacrifice a lot of them in order to be signed by one of the 5 companies pursuing them.
If it wasn’t for Spielberg they wouldn’t have gone with Universal and have been able to continue the direction they wanted for the movies. This would lead to six sequels, a TV show, and the new upcoming movie in July, 2019. Basically all because of Spielberg.
Wrapping It Up
I bet you didn’t think this 21 inch doll with the catchy theme song lead to so much did you?
My Buddy is the story of making a change and going back to your roots when it came to toys. It was about taking a risk and thinking outside the box by offering a doll to boys. It was easy to get buried in the mountain of gigantically popular 1980s toys but My Buddy became a success and established itself as a significant toy of the ‘80s.
Hasbro would discontinue the whole line at the start of the 1990s but Playskool would take over the production. They would make changes to the doll and the clothing. I don’t know if you remember this but the new iterations of My Buddy and Kid Sister had clothes stitched right to them that couldn’t be removable. This was not a popular move as it did not allow for outfit changes.
This was all done so that they didn’t have to make separate outfits and could make the doll all on one assembly line.
So that’s the story of My Buddy and I apologize for the theme song which will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
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