Sometimes a popular kids character can teach an adult lesson.
When the American Greetings company saw a chance to stick it to competitor Hallmark, they licensed their Strawberry Shortcake character to the Kenner toy company, who produced a popular line of dolls beginning in 1979.
But they wanted brand awareness, so they explored producing a Strawberry Shortcake Saturday morning cartoon, but the networks weren’t interested.
Why? In 1969, a popular kids’ cartoon, “Hot Wheels,” based on the Mattel die-cast toy cars, was pulled from network TV after parent groups harassed the network and the FCC about cartoons being nothing more than advertisements to sell toys to kids. 10 years later, the networks still didn’t want to deal with that headache and passed on Shortcake, since it now would be supporting a line of Kenner dolls.
So, the producers tried something unprecedented – they took their idea to the syndication market, which at the time was hungry for any new programming it could get its hands on (there were many unaffiliated independent stations at this time, most of which became FOX affiliates in the late 80s).
And so it was, in 1980, that Strawberry Shortcake aired the first of six specials in syndication, carried across the country on many stations without running amok of sensitive network censors. This turned into a boon for 80s kids, toy companies, and cartoon producers; soon after, the syndication market exploded with such network Saturday morning-rejected shows such as “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” “G.I. Joe” and “The Transformers,” most of them airing daily and garnering higher ratings than their Saturday morning network counterparts.
It also signaled the beginning of the end for Saturday morning toons on network TV (they all but vanished by the early 2000s).
The point of this story? We’re always faced with either/or situations…with two options. And that’s where we go wrong. There’s ALWAYS a third option; there’s always a different way of getting the job done.
So remember, when times are a-suckin’, always look for that third option, just like Strawberry Shortcake.