Licensing Diary: Cabbage Patch Kids

Whatever you do, do not call them dolls....
January 1, 1997

Whatever you do, do not call them dolls.

Call a Cabbage Patch Kid a doll around the folks who run Original Appalachian Artworks (OAA), the company that created the best-selling toy, and they’ll quickly correct you-they are kids.

That may sound a little strange, but what is not strange is the fact that over 85 million Cabbage Patch Kids have been ‘adopted’ since they were first created nearly 20 years ago by Xavier Roberts. The must-have toy of the early ’80s continues to flourish as one of the top-selling dolls-sorry, kids-of the ’90s.

‘Cabbage Patch Kids are all about reality,’ says Della Tolhurst, OAA’s president, about her children. ‘They are not perfect. They are more like real children. Each one is unique.’

Operating out of Cleveland, Georgia, a small town some 75 miles northeast of Atlanta, OAA has had a very restrictive licensing program because, like many parents, it is overprotective of how its offspring are treated. Most recently, it has entered into an agreement with BMG Video to distribute a series of Cabbage Patch Kids stop-motion animation videos that debuted in November.

The videos mark the Kids’ second foray into animation. A holiday special was produced just after the craze of the mid-’80s. At the time, the company was pursued aggressively to do a Saturday morning kids program. OAA declined, because it felt that it wouldn’t be acting in the best interest of the property if it couldn’t retain final control over the program’s content.

OAA has decided to fund the production of the new BMG videos itself, which will allow it to retain control of the story. A total of six videos are planned. Future activities include interactive projects and audio recordings.

The Cabbage Patch Kids home at Babyland General Hospital ranks as one of the top 10 tourist attractions in Georgia. Here’s how the Cabbage Patch Kids have sprouted over the years:

- 1977: Xavier Roberts, an art student, develops ‘The Little People,’ adoptable baby dolls who come with their own birth certificates.

- 1980: The original babies gain national attention when they appear on NBC’s Real People.

- 1982: Original Appalachian Artworks enters into a licensing agreement with Coleco to mass-market the babies. The name changes from Little People to Cabbage Patch Kids.

-1983: Cabbage Patch Kids hysteria sweeps retail, making them the must-have toy of the Christmas season. They become one of the most successful new dolls in the history of the toy industry.

- 1992: Nearly 10 years after the original craze, the Kids still rank as the top-selling large baby doll brand in the toy industry. The Kids serve as official mascots of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team (and again in 1996).

- 1994: OAA enters into a licensing agreement with Mattel to extend the brand into other areas, including games and interactive toys.

-1996: The first of a series of stop-motion animation videos, produced in association with BMG Video, hits stores.

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