Chatty Cathy

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Chatty Cathy
TypeDoll
CompanyMattel
CountryUnited States
Availability1959–1965

Chatty Cathy is a pull string "talking" doll originally created by Ruth and Elliot Handler and manufactured by the Mattel toy company from 1959 to 1965. The doll was first released in stores and appeared in television commercials beginning in 1960, with a suggested retail price of $18.00, but catalog advertisements usually priced the doll under $10.00. Chatty Cathy was on the market for six years and was the second most popular doll of the 1960s after Barbie (also made by Mattel).[citation needed]

After the success of Chatty Cathy, Mattel introduced Chatty Baby in 1962 and Tiny Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, and Charmin' Chatty in 1963. The last doll to have the word "chatty" in its name in the 1960s was Singin' Chatty in 1965. Mattel trademarked the name "chatty" in the 1960s, and the boxes for Mattel talking dolls such as Drowsy, Baby Cheryl, and Tatters each have the tag-line "A Chatty Doll by Mattel".

Physical look[edit]

Like Barbie, Chatty Cathy was a fanciful depiction of a human, in this case a five year old Caucasian girl. Originally, Chatty Cathy had blonde hair in a short bobbed style and blue eyes. Brunette and auburn haired versions of the doll were introduced in 1962 and 1963 respectively. An African American version of the doll with a brown skin tone was produced in those same years.

In 1963, Chatty Cathy's hair was re-styled into what Mattel called "long twin ponytails". Mattel catalogs stated that Chatty Cathy and all the other Chatty dolls had to go to sleep, "life like decal eyes".[clarification needed]

Voice[edit]

Although its mouth did not move (although it was designed with lips slightly parted), Chatty Cathy "spoke" one of eleven phrases at random when the "chatty ring" protruding from its upper back was pulled. The ring was attached to a string connected to a simple phonograph record inside the cavity behind the doll's abdomen. The record was driven by a metal coil wound by pulling the toy's string. The voice unit was designed by Jack Ryan, Mattel's head of research and development.

The doll had eleven phrases when it came on the market in 1960 such as "I love you", "I hurt myself!" or "Please take me with you". Seven more phrases such as, "Let's play school" or "May I have a cookie?" were added to the doll's repertoire in 1963 for a total of 18 phrases. Legendary cartoon voice actress June Foray, who provided the voices for Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel in the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series and other well-known cartoon characters throughout the 1940s to the mid 2000s, recorded those phrases for the 1960s version of Chatty Cathy.

Clothing[edit]

In 1960, a child had the choice of one of two outfits for their doll. One outfit had a blue dress with a white eyelet overblouse, panties, crinoline, blue shoes and white socks, and the other dress had a red velvet headband, red sunsuit with a red pinafore with an overskirt of white voile, red shoes and white socks. Other accessories accompanying the doll were a story and comic book, shoehorn, and a paper wrist tag that was also a numbered warranty card. The doll and its accompanying accessories were advertised at less than $20.

In 1961, the red dress was discontinued, replaced by a pink and white striped dress with a white pinafore called "Pink Peppermint Stick". This dress was available until 1964. 1961 also saw the introduction of six extra outfits available separately for Chatty Cathy with names like "Party Dress", "Nursery School Dress", "Sleepytime Pajamas", "Playtime Shorts set", and "Party Coat". The outfits "Sunday Visit Dress" and "Sunny Day Capri Short set" came out in 1963.

Production history[edit]

In 1962, Mattel licensed their proprietary voice mechanism and licensed the Chatty Cathy doll to the Dee & Cee Toy Company of Canada. Dee and Cee company produced several Canadian versions using the Chatty dolls. (By 1964 the company was known as Mattel Canada.) The dolls were made from the original American molds, but there was a notable difference in the materials: the vinyl used on the Canadian doll had a slight glossier look, its eyebrows had a higher/thinner arch on her forehead, and a different type of eye was used. These differences account for the higher prices of some Canadian Chattys among collectors. Some of the doll's phrases were different, reflecting cultural differences between Canada and the United States.[citation needed] These differences also made the doll suitable for export to other English speaking countries.[citation needed] The Dee and Cee Company's models said the same 11-18 phrases that the American Chatty Cathy's spoke. It is rumored to have sold a French speaking Chatty Cathy however the doll that speaks French says her name is "Carola" not Cathy. There has been alterations made to original Canadian Chattys to the point it is very difficult to know which if any original Canadian Chatty Cathy's are original French speaking "Carola" Chatty dolls. (Correction citatation by Kathy Scott, Chatty expert and owner of Kathys Chatty Cathys & Mattel Talking Toys).

Chatty Cathy, as well as Chatty Baby and Tiny Chatty Baby, were redesigned and reissued by Mattel in 1970. These dolls were completely different in appearance from the earlier Chatty dolls. Maureen McCormick, who had appeared in Chatty Cathy television commercials with her future The Brady Bunch co-star Eve Plumb in the 1960s, provided the voice of the new Chatty Cathy,[citation needed] which was on the market for two years. These three dolls had painted eyes, not the go-to-sleep version.

In 1984, Mattel introduced Chatty Patty, which also had a different look from the other Chatty dolls, and it too had painted eyes. Mattel Classics released special reproduction editions of Chatty Cathy from 1998 to 2001. These special reproductions were made to resemble the 1960 version of Chatty Cathy with go to sleep "life like decal eyes", along with her most memorable outfits, cartoon box with a Chatty Cathy story book, wrist tag, and shoe horn all faithfully reproduced. The 1998 models spoke to with her original eleven 1960s phrases in her original 1960s voice that was provided by June Foray (voice of the original 1960 version of Chatty Cathy), the special package also included a numbered certificate of authenticity and added to the wrist tag a picture of Ruth and Elliot Handler the creators of Chatty Cathy along with a special letter from Ruth Handler. These special reproduction editions were sold exclusively at JC Penny Stores (later into the present, sold at specialty doll and toy stores). This model was priced starting at $98.99. These models came in three well-remembered outfits. One of the three models produced had brown eyes. All the original 1998 models had blonde bob hair styles. Mattel also made a “Holiday” Chatty Cathy which came in a holiday themed cartoon box and included a tree ornament on her wrist. She came with a complete newly designed holiday dress. This model says some original Chatty Cathy phrases but also says holiday themed phrases. This latter model came with long curled brown hair with brown “pinwheel” type eyes. The Holiday version is the only one from 1998/99 that had long brown hair and “pinwheel” looking eyes. All the 1998/99 Chatty Cathy’s sold out immediately, most purchased by avid Chatty Cathy collectors, re-sellers and fans of the original Chatty Cathy dolls.

Mattel licensed their proprietary voice box/mechanism to the Rosebud Doll Company in England in 1965 and made a British “Chatty Cathy” (doll doesn’t say her name is Cathy). These dolls were on the market to about 1970. They came with either sandy blonde with tight short curls model, a platinum blonde with long straight hair, and a model that was a bit stubbier and is 18 inches tall with long straight brown hair. (citation by Chatty doll expert Kathy Scott and owner of Kathys Chatty Cathy Dolls & Mattel Talking Toys). These dolls were made from completely different moulds, and do not resemble any of the dolls made by Mattel in North America. The Rosebud talking “Chatty’ doll said different phrases and spoke with a British accent.

In popular culture[edit]

The popularity of Chatty Cathy led to many pull string talking dolls flooding the toy industry. The same basic pull string talking mechanisms were used in all other Mattel talking dolls and toys of the 1960s and 1970s. These included favorites like talking Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Mrs. Beasley, Drowsy, Herman Munster, Dr. Seuss characters, and all the See 'n Say toys. When Mattel introduced Baby First Step ("the world's first walking doll") in 1965, and the doll sold well, a talking version was released the following year.

Other Mattel dolls which "learned to talk" were the Baby Tender Love line (1970), which eventually included Talking Baby Tender Love, and the Baby Beans line (1971), which spawned a Talking Baby Beans. Barbie and her many friends and relatives appeared in pull-string talking versions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"Corey's Remix", an episode of That '80s Show (spin-off of That '70s Show) features a breakfast table scene that shows series characters Corey Howard (played by Glenn Howerton) his sister Katie Howard (played by Tinsley Grimes) and their father R. T. Howard (played by Geoff Pierson). After Corey records a song about his breakup from his girlfriend, Katie decides mix it into a dance song and plays the tape at the local night club later that evening, much to Corey's chagrin. The next day the two are sitting at the kitchen table with their father R. T. eating breakfast, Cory confronts Katie about messing with his song and to please not touch his stuff again, to which Katie responds by demanding an apology from Cory for cutting the string from her Chatty Cathy doll when they were kids thus making her just plain Cathy. Cory informs Katie he didn't do it, Katie yells back at Cory not to deny he did it, Cory then reluctantly apologizes to Katie for cutting the strings off her stupid doll. R. T. looks up from his newspaper and responds by saying to Katie that he was actually the one who cut off the string from her Chatty Cathy doll, explaining that he had to much to drink one night and thought the doll was judging him.

"Living Doll", a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone, features a murderous talking doll named "Talky Tina" modeled after Chatty Cathy and voiced by June Foray (the original voice of Chatty Cathy); the doll used for Talky Tina was produced by the Vogue Doll Company between 1959 and 1961 and marketed under the name "Brikette".

The term "Chatty Cathy" can be used to refer to a particularly talkative person. In the 1987 John Hughes movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Steve Martin scolds John Candy: "It's like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest, you know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except I wouldn't pull it out and snap it back - you would. Agh! Agh! Agh! Agh!"[1]

The How I Met Your Mother episode titled "Spoiler Alert" shows the main character Ted dating a very talkative woman named Cathy.

In 2007 and 2010, Hallmark released the Chatty Cathy keepsake ornament.[2] A GEICO commercial from 2007 parodied the Chatty Cathy commercial with the dolls saying phrases about their car insurance rates.

In 2007, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim program Robot Chicken featured a sketch entitled "Girl Toys" in the Season 3 episode Moesha Poppins, in which filmmaker Michael Moore (voiced by series co-creator Seth Green) shows viewers the fates and/or current whereabouts of toys for girls that faded into obscurity. The last of the toys featured is Chatty Cathy (also voiced by Green), whose tongue was cut out by the mafia after she bore witness to a mob crime. Despite this attempt by the mob to silence her, she claims to have testified against them in court anyway, adding that she wishes she were dead. At the end of the sketch, she is heard performing fellatio on Moore offscreen.

The character of Gabby Gabby in the 2019 film Toy Story 4 is inspired by Chatty Cathy and "Talky Tina", according to director Josh Cooley.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Quotes from "Planes, Trains & Automobiles"" – via www.imdb.com.
  2. ^ "Chatty Cathy Series Hallmark Ornaments | The Ornament Shop". www.ornament-shop.com. Archived from the original on November 11, 2013.
  3. ^ Snetiker, Marc (March 28, 2019). "Meet Christina Hendricks' 'cold, terrifying' Toy Story 4 villain". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  • Kettelkamp, Sean, Chatty Cathy and Her Talking Friends, Schiffer Publishing (1998)

External links[edit]