TULSA, Okla. — A toy that brought smiles and laughter to thousands of children all over the world in the 80s is making a major comeback.
You can find the colorful, ragdoll affectionately named, Strawberry Shortcake in local toy stores like Ida Red. It started as a carefully, crafted sketch and later became a multi-million-dollar licensing deal and the designer of the doll lives in Tulsa.
Muriel Fahrion worked as a greeting card artist in 1977 when her art director came to her and said he needed a rag doll. He wanted the colors to be pink, red, and green and he requested that the doll feature a specific fruit.
With that direction, Strawberry Shortcake was born.
Fahrion says she loves it when people are surprised to learn who she is and what she has created.
“I love when they come up and there’s like sophisticated women, businesswomen or whatever and if there is a lull in the conversation I will say, 'do you want to know why I’m famous, but not rich? I will say, I will give you some hints, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears and Get A Long Gang, and they go 'no way?' And I say way,'" she says with a smile.
With her cheerful demeanor and magnetic smile, it's easy to see how Fahrion designed a doll that brought so much comfort and joy to thousands of children all over the world.
“It was just going to be a line of cards but then the man who made Star Wars a big licensing deal, Bernie Loomis, came to the company and said do you have anything that could be just as big for girls? Strawberry Shortcake was the 5th one that he pulled out of the suitcase and Bernie Loomis said, 'that’s it. It’s going to be toys, decor, it’s going to be animation and it’s going to be an amusement park,'" she says.
The doll never became an amusement park, but it did become everything else, including landing a licensing deal.
“In the first 2 years, it made a half-billion dollars back then, back in the 80s. So, it came out that my first drawing was in 77 and it came out the end of 79, and then 80 was the big intro year," says Fahrion.
Although she designed Strawberry Shortcake and other popular characters like the Care Bears and the Get-A-Long Gang, she is quick to point something out, "I do not own the copyrights to that or the Care Bears or the Get A Long Gang. The copyright owners own it. I was paid and I was working for hire and I worked in the corporation, and I was paid a good wage," she says.
Fahrion says life is too short for litigation and she is focused on running her own studio and headlining pop culture events. She will be the featured guest at SoonerCon 30: Heroes Homecoming, in Norman, Oklahoma June 24 to 26.
“I love my followers and I call them my Care Berries, because of Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake and they’re just… I have the best followers ever," she says.
The rebounding, popularity of the doll doesn't surprise local, store owner, Angeline Wright.
“Kids today are finding out about Strawberry Shortcake all over again which is really fun for someone who grew up in the 80s," says Wright.
The owner of Ida Red says she struggled to keep the doll on her shelves during the holidays.
“She smells great, and I find that lot of parents are buying it for their kids and it’s the same reason that I’m loving it because it reminds them of good times," says Wright.
The Strawberry Shortcake dolls initially released in 1979 were scented, and all had unique names related to food like Apple Dumplin, Blueberry Muffin, and Lemon Meringue. Fahrion says she is proud to have designed a doll that continues to foster imagination and good values all over the world.
"The classic is back because the mothers had them and the grandmothers had them and so they want their children to enjoy the play they enjoyed," she says.
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