Care Bears are multi-colored bears, originally painted in 1981 by artist Elena Kucharik to be used on greeting cards from American Greetings. In 1983, the characters were turned into plush teddy bears.
The characters headlined their own television series called Care Bears from 1985 to 1988. They also made three feature films: The Care Bears Movie (1985), Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (1986), and The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987).
Each Care Bear is a different color and has a special "belly badge" that represents its personality. Adding to the Care Bear family is the "Care Bear Cousins", which feature a lion, rabbit, penguin, raccoon, monkey, elephant, pig, lamb, dog, cat, and horse created in the same style as the Care Bears.
In 2002, new versions of the bears were manufactured by Play-Along Toys. These new Care Bears appeared in three computer animated films: Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot (2004), The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie (2005), and Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! (2007).
A revival TV series Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot premiered on The Hub on June 2, 2012 for one season. A continuation with the same characters, Care Bears and Cousins, was commissioned by Netflix and premiered in 2015. That year, toy company Just Play debuted a range of Care Bears toys (plush, figurines, and blind bag collectibles) based on the series.
The Care Bears were initially created in 1981 by Those Characters From Cleveland (TCFC), the licensing division of the greeting card company American Greetings. Jack Chojnacki, the co-president of TCFC, introduced the first Care Bear to businessmen from American Greeting Cards and from the toy company Kenner in February 1981. On the employees' reaction to the toy, Chojnacki recalled in early 1985: "It had a high aaaaaah factor."
Artist Muriel Fahrion, who helped create Strawberry Shortcake's look, was among the franchise's first concept artists. Working with TCFC Creative VP Ralph Shaffer, Fahrion designed the first six bears, creating greeting card themes for their belly graphics. Susan Trentel, Muriel's sister and doll designer of Strawberry Shortcake, designed the Care Bears plush. Once out of the concept stage, children's book illustrator Elena Kucharik became the primary artist for the Care Bears, creating hundreds of full color illustrations for cards, books and various licensed products. TCFC's team of artists and writers created many characters in the line in a joint development by Those Characters From Cleveland and MAD (Marketing and Design Service of the toy group of General Mills).: 53
American Greeting Cards kept the character program a secret until advertising was ready. At the start of the franchise, “Care Bears” was established as the project's working title.
On September 24, 1982, the Care Bears franchise was launched in New York City before members of the area's Society of Security Analysts. President Morry Weiss represented American Greetings; Jack Chojnacki and senior vice-president Henry Lowenthal from Cleveland represented Those Characters.
The characters were produced as a toyline by Parker Brothers and Kenner the following spring on a U.S. $5–6 million advertising budget and a wholesale commitment worth U.S. 122.5 million. American Greetings introduced the characters to the general public in February 1983, with an appearance at New York City's Toy Fair; 26 licensees were involved upon launch. Among them was General Mills, a food company which owned the board game manufacturer Parker Brothers. In early 1983, Parker Brothers released six books featuring the Care Bears as part of its publishing division's first offerings. On television, the original 10 Bears were featured in a syndicated special, Atkinson Film-Arts' The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings, produced and sponsored by Kenner.: 52
In December 1983, American Greetings and CPG Products lost a lawsuit against Easter Unlimited, importers of a line known as "Message Bears". According to New York City judge Leonard B. Sand, those toys lacked the "heart-shaped 'touché tags'" used to identify the Care Bears.
In 1984, AGC introduced a spin-off line, the Care Bear Cousins. Another syndicated special, The Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine, came out that same year. A miniseries based on the toys was distributed by Lexington Broadcast Services Company.: 52 A year later, the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins appeared in the Canadian-American animated film The Care Bears Movie, produced by Nelvana Limited and released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. It became the highest-grossing animated film made outside the Disney market at the time of its release. Later that autumn, DIC Audiovisuel released an 11-episode television series in syndication, which incorporated elements from the Atkinson Film-Arts specials (with the specials' villains Professor Coldheart and his sidekick Frostbite appearing regularly, and some of the music from the specials being featured in the series) and the Nelvana film (with the Forest of Feelings, the home of the Care Bear Cousins, being a regular setting in the series).
In 1986, Nelvana returned to the franchise with a second film, Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation. Released by Columbia Pictures, the film featured a new villain, Dark Heart, and introduced more of the Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins: Harmony Bear, True Heart Bear, and Noble Heart Horse.
Later that year, the TV series The Care Bears Family (also from Nelvana) premiered in mid-1986 on the U.S. ABC network and Canada's Global. Lasting three seasons and consisting of over 70 episodes, this introduced the evil wizard No Heart and his sidekick Beastly. In the second season, No Heart's niece Shreeky was introduced. It also added more development to the Care Bear characters, with issues such as conflict and depression being addressed through the characters themselves in some episodes.
The Care Bears' third film, The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland, debuted in 1987. A TV special, Care Bears Nutcracker Suite, which also served as the series finale for The Care Bears Family premiered on the Disney Channel in 1988.
Over 40 million Care Bears were sold between 1983 and 1987, and American Greetings printed over 70 million of their cards during the decade. In whole, the sales of their merchandise reached over $2 million during the 1980s.
1991 relaunch (Caring About the Environment)
In 1991, Those Characters from Cleveland and Kenner embarked on a relaunch of the franchise, involving seven bears. One of the Care Bear Cousins, Proud Heart Cat, was released as a bear with white fur that sported the tummy symbol of a heart-shaped American flag. The publishing company Random House released two tie-in books: The Care Bears and the Big Cleanup (1991) by Bobbi Katz, and The Care Bears and the Whale Tale (1992) by Peggy Kahn.
In 1999, the rights to the Care Bears franchise were bought by Jay Foreman, the president of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Play Along Toys, for less than $1 million; he also planned to acquire fellow American Greeting Cards property Strawberry Shortcake. Three years later, Kenton Avery Frederick American Greetings relaunched the Care Bear brand as part of the Bears' 20th-anniversary celebration with a series of plush toys and films. The artwork and design of the bears were changed for the relaunch. Also, Champ Bear's colors were changed from tan to true blue, with his belly symbol changed to a winner's cup with a star, and Share Bear's belly symbol was changed from a milkshake with two straws to two lollipops crossed. The change to Share Bear's symbol stems from Play Along Toys' suggestion of the change because sharing a milkshake may spread germs. Apart from that, many other minor changes were made to the designs, mostly involving lightening the colors of the bears and minor redesigns to the belly symbols.
During this revival Play Along released brand new toys based on the newly redesigned Bears, sold at stores such as Walmart, Kmart, Toys "R" Us, Target, KB Toys, and Mervyns. The new merchandise included the Bears doing aerobics; Tenderheart Bear as a patient (casting the child that is playing with the toy as the doctor); Champ Bear as a fireman; and the Care Bears themselves as Cubs. Over 70 million 13-inch (330 mm) plush Bears have been sold since the re-launch.
New versions of the Care Bear Cousins were produced (with Proud Heart being changed back into a cat, in a different color and the same symbol she had in the 1980s franchise). Two of the Cousins, Treat Heart Pig and Noble Heart Horse, were never produced as 13-inch plush toys in the 2000s, and the Care Bear Cousins were not relaunched in the 2007 relaunch of the franchise.
In April 2003, it was announced that a new CGI-animated movie from Nelvana, The Care Bears in King Funshine the Great, was acquired by Artisan Entertainment for US distribution. The movie was eventually renamed Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot and was released on October 5, 2004 by Lions Gate Home Entertainment, as they had acquired Artisan by this point, with International distribution done through Universal Studios Home Video. Another CGI-animated movie The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie would be released a year later. Another CGI-animated movie from Nelvana was also planned but was scrapped.
In 2006, AG Properties announced that to coincide with the franchise's 25th-anniversary celebrations, the Care Bears would be given a new refreshed look with a new TV series and a feature-length movie titled Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! to be released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment during 2007, it was also announced that AG had acquired all of Nelvana's Care Bears projects along the way.
The new look was done by the American Greetings Properties illustration team, alongside a new logo. Fifteen of the thirty-nine bears were represented in this new look, while five of them were chosen to be the focus of the franchise: Cheer Bear, Funshine Bear, Grumpy Bear, Share Bear, and new-addition Oopsy Bear. In August 2007, Oopsy Does It! was given a limited theatrical release by Kidtoon Films The movie was essentially a pilot to the traditionally-animated television series Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot, made to introduce the new look to the public audience. The TV series itself would premiere on CBS on September 15, 2007, as part of the block KEWLopolis, a joint-run block by AG and DIC Entertainment, with both the movie and series being produced by SD Entertainment. A new theme song was also created, known as We Are the Care Bears - performed by former Letters to Cleo member, Kay Hanley, and the music video premiered on Fox and Nickelodeon.
As the 2007 era was a reboot, Prior plot devices like the Cloudmobiles, the Caring Meter, the Cloud Keeper, and Care-a-Lot Castle were not referred to or mentioned in the new series. In its place is the Gathering Tree, which is where the Care Bears now gather to meet or hold festivities. Also, the Care Bears have, never had humans visit Care-a-lot, and a new villain named Grizzle (who seeks to conquer Care-a-Lot and nothing else) was introduced. A February 2007 article in The Wall Street Journal states that in the new version, "they live in a village, centered on a big tree; with no castle in sight".
In mid-2008, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released two DVDs, Grizzle-y Adventures and Ups and Downs. These DVDs each contained two special DVD-exclusive episodes, which brought back Humans and the Care-O-Meter. The latter also included a passing remark regarding the Forest of Feelings. Care-a-Lot Castle also reappeared in the educational video game Care Bears: Play Day, for the V-Smile Baby.
On July 23, 2008, American Greetings announced that the Care Bears (along with Strawberry Shortcake and Sushi Pack) would be sold to Cookie Jar Entertainment in an acquisition due to take place on September 30, 2008. By April 2009, it was announced that Cookie Jar Entertainment had problems in financing the acquisition and that a French company called MoonScoop has also expressed interest in the franchise. The deadline for Cookie Jar's acquisition was April 30, and MoonScoop's attempt June 7. In mid-August 2009, MoonScoop sued American Greetings, claiming the latter backed out of the planned US$95 million deal; AGC and Cookie Jar sued each other in the process as well. In late April 2010, the Cleveland company "won summary judgment on MoonScoop SAS' contract", as well as "promissory estoppel claims" in the case; MoonScoop filed for an appeal the following month. At the end of November 2012, the U.S. District Court in Cleveland ruled in favor of American Greetings over MoonScoop.
In late 2009, American Greetings announced that the Care Bears will be re-imagined with the launch of a new series, Care Power Team. has the bears' sport "enhanced belly badges", and sees the bears taking on emergencies. Although such a series never occurred, the Care Power Team format was used for three new CGI-animated movies - Care Bears: Share Bear Shines, Care Bears: The Giving Festival, and Care Bears: To the Rescue, which were released in 2010.
In the same year, it was announced that the master rights to the toys for the Care Bears have changed hands from Play Along Toys to Hasbro.
In July 2011, American Greetings announced that another brand refresh and a new television series was in development to coincide with the franchise's 30th anniversary, and would be the first to be animated in CGI animation. The central cast of Bears has changed again, this time focusing on Tenderheart Bear, Cheer Bear, Share Bear, Grumpy Bear, Funshine Bear, Harmony Bear, and new addition Wonderheart Bear.
In December 2013, AG Properties and Mindworks Entertainment announced they will collaborate with Sanrio for a co-branding with the character franchise Little Twin Stars. An expanded rollout is expected in March 2014.
On January 15, 2015, Netflix commissioned a new TV series called Care Bears & Cousins after The Hub cancelled Welcome to Care-a-Lot. This series was basically a continuation of Welcome to Care-a-Lot, but with the reintroduction of four of the Care Bear Cousins - Brave Heart Lion, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Cosy Heart Penguin and Bright Heart Raccoon. The series was originally expected to premiere in 2016, but the release was pushed forward to November 2015 and it premiered with six episodes. It was followed by another six episodes. As with Welcome to Care-a-Lot, then-renamed Splash Entertainment did the animation for this series.
In 2017, the franchise celebrated its 35th Anniversary.
In May 2018, an advert showcased at the Licensing Expo showcased new redesigns of the Care Bears. Eventually, this was confirmed by the then-rebranded Cloudco Entertainment in September 2018 they would be making a new television series, titled Care Bears: Unlock the Magic. For the first time in a Care Bears series, the setting is set outside of Care-a-Lot, in a mysterious world known as the Silver Lining, populated by creatures known as the Whiffles. The main 5 Bears for this incarnation were Grumpy, Cheer, Share, Funshine and Good Luck, with the series also featuring the main Whiffle character known as Dibble, serving as "the team's newest pet and companion".
The series premiered on the Boomerang premium streaming service on February 1, 2019, however the first episode was released on January 28, 2019. The series order includes 48 11-minute regular episodes, two 22-minute specials and 20 shorts.
For the 2019 International Day of the Girl, humanitarian organization CARE had celebrities design one-of-a-kind Care Bears and place them up for auction to benefit the charity. Sophia Bush based Justice Bear on Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In 2020, Basic Fun! released a new Care Bears toyline in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
The franchise consists mainly of the Care Bears themselves, as well as the later additions the Care Bear Cousins. Both of them live in the Kingdom of Caring, which is made up of Care-a-lot (the home of the Care Bears proper) and the Forest of Feelings (the home of the Care Bear Cousins). In 1989, Carole Ashkinaze of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution referred to them as "the whimsical, late 20th-century descendents [sic] of what we used to know as guardian angels: furry, friendly, adorable creatures whose mission is to guide small children and protect them from bogeymen".
Accompanying them are the Star and Heart Buddies, who look out for the Bears and Cousins whenever they are on missions in caring; and the Birds, who are usually seen in the Forest of Feelings with the Care Bear Cousins and watch over them. A less recurring character is The Cloud Keeper, the portly gentleman who maintains Care-a-lot.
The 10 original Care Bears consisted of Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Funshine Bear, Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Love-a-lot Bear, Tenderheart Bear, and Wish Bear. Later on, additional bears joined them, as well as the Cousins.
For the 2007 TV series, Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot, five of the Care Bears were chosen to be the main characters of the TV series. As seen on the Care Bears website, they are Share Bear, Cheer Bear, Funshine Bear, Grumpy Bear, and the new bear introduced in the film, Oopsy Bear, a Care Bear who would frequently make a mess of things. However, the other Care Bears still make appearances in the series. The unofficial role of leader of the bears, as of the new series, was transferred from Tenderheart Bear to Cheer Bear. The Cousins were not relaunched in the 2007 series.
Some elements of the Care Bears franchise pay homage to the legend of King Arthur. For example, the name of the main characters' residence, Care-a-lot, is a play on King Arthur's legendary Camelot castle. The Care Bear Family sits around a heart-shaped table, similar to the Round Table used by Arthur and his knights. In addition, Sir Lancelot's name inspired that of Love-a-lot Bear.
Throughout the films and various TV series, various villains have tried to stop the Bears and Cousins in the background on their missions. On the first two specials and DiC TV series, they battled against Professor Coldheart, his assistant Frostbite, and occasionally Auntie Freeze; in Nelvana's version, they faced the wizard No Heart, his bumbling assistant Beastly, and his ill-tempered niece Shreeky, and minor villains such as Dr. Fright and Sour Sam. In the films, they went up against Nicholas and the Evil Spirit in The Care Bears Movie, Dark Heart in Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, The Wizard of Wonderland and his assistants Dim and Dum in The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland, and the Rat King and the Evil Vizier in Care Bears Nutcracker Suite. Following the 2002 revival, Sir Funnybone the rat was introduced as a villain in the film Care Bears Journey to Joke-a-lot, while The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie broke from tradition in that it did not have a villain. For the 2007 revival, the new film Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! introduced new villains, Grizzle and WingNut, who persist into the TV series, Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot.
The Care Bears' ultimate weapon is the "Care Bear Stare", in which the collected Bears stand together and radiate light from their respective tummy symbols. These combine to form a ray of love and good cheer which could bring care and joy into the target's heart. The Care Bear Stare has several different looks. One has a beam coming from the tummy being made up of several replicated images of the symbol. Another variation forms a rainbow when multiple Care Bears and/or Care Bear Cousins are involved. A yellow beam with red hearts is sometimes seen as well. The films Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot and The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie do not feature the Care Bear Stare, but it does return in Care Bears: Oopsy Does It!. In the new TV series, Care Bears Adventures in Care-a-lot, the Care Bear Stare appears as a beam of light in the color of the bear from which it originates.
In the original animated specials and the DiC TV series, the Care Bear Stare is initiated by the phrase "Care Bears...prepare to stare!" while in the Nelvana series and later versions it is initiated by the phrase "Care Bears Countdown!"
Although commonly used on villains, the stare and call have been also been used on humans and the Care Bears themselves. It was occasionally used in the DiC TV series to cure Care Bears and humans who were under the effects of Professor Coldheart's uncaring magic. It also occurred once in Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot, when it was used to temporarily cheer up Grumpy Bear in the episode "Tell-Tale Tummy".
In addition to the Care Bear Stare, the Care Bears can also use their tummy symbols to summon other assistance such as heart-shaped balloons, cloud cars, rainbow bridges, and sending out a distress signal.
Usually, a tummy symbol's power is initiated by will, but in Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-lot, a Care Bear has to rub their tummy to activate it. By Welcome to Care-a-lot, the belly badges activate by will once again, though the bears may rub their belly to activate it on occasion.
Shown prominently in most of the Care Bears films and original TV series, the Caring Meter (renamed the Care-O-Meter in The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie) is typically in the center of Care-a-lot inside the Care Bears' main meeting hall. This meter shows how much caring there is both in Care-a-lot and on Earth. In the films and original TV series, it is shown as an unnumbered clock-like meter. In The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie, the meter is shown with a rain cloud (less caring) side and a rainbow (more caring) side. Ideally, the Caring Meter should be all the way towards the rainbow side. Whenever the Care Bears or Care Bear Cousins see the meter drop towards the rain cloud side, they try to prevent it from getting worse by going on "caring missions" to try to get more people to care or for the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins themselves to do caring deeds. If the meter drops to near zero, Care-a-lot will suffer disasters, such as thunderstorms, buildings and rainbows crumbling, or the bright colors of Care-a-lot gradually turning into black and white. If the meter were to reach all the way to zero, then Care-a-lot would be gone, along with everyone and everything in it.
Apart from toys, books, greeting cards, and animated media, the Care Bears have been prominently featured in merchandising as well, some of which includes gummy bears, party goods, cell phone covers, interior decoration sets, stationery, school supplies, stickers, clothing, accessories and many other goods. During the early 2000s relaunch, the classic Care Bear toys were available at stores such as Carlton Cards, Claire's, and Spencer Gifts.
When the franchise was introduced in the 1980s, a mistake was made while manufacturing the stuffed animals causing Bedtime Bear (blue) and Wish Bear (aqua) to swap colors. As soon as the mistake was discovered, the two Care Bears returned into their appropriate colors. Later, a children's story was written explaining why the bears had switched colors.
In his 1986 essay, The Shortcake Strategy, Tom Englehardt referred to the Care Bears dolls as "highly specialized" toys. "So specialized [are they] that instead of being complex individual personalities, they are no more than carefully labeled fragments of a personality", he stated. "Together, they must engage in a series of specialized interventions as complex as those of any real-life medical unit."
Many children's books have been based on, and featured, the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins. Some early publications include Meet the Care Bear Cousins, Sweet Dreams for Sally, The Witch Down the Street, The Trouble with Timothy, and A Sister for Sam. All of these titles were published by toymakers Parker Brothers, who was a licensee of the characters. Over 45 million Care Bears books were sold during the 1980s. As of 2006, Scholastic Press has published books based on the Bears' first two CGI films, as well as the new toys, while Modern Publishing publishes a small number of activity and baby books featuring the Bears for the toddler market. Publications International and Penny Candy Press are also known to have published a few sound books featuring the Bears in the past.
In Playing by Different Rules, a 1988 book chronicling the Parker Brothers/General Mills merger, Ellen Wojahn wrote that Parker's Care Bears books (along with those based on sister property Strawberry Shortcake) "were, in fact, little more than illustrated brochures for Kenner's projects—and who knew [by 1984] how long the likes of these characters would remain popular?"
Between November 1985 and January 1989, the Care Bears appeared in a 20-issue comic book series published by Marvel's Star Comics; the books were drawn by DC Comics artist Howard Post. Issue #13 (from November 13, 1986) featured a crossover with another American Greetings property, the Madballs.
During the same period, over in Great Britain, the Care Bears also appeared in a comic book series published by Marvel UK with artwork by Mario Capaldi. The periodic comics were later bundled into hardcover Care Bear Annual books. Some of these U.K. comic book issues also had stories and art from the U.S. comic series.
During the 1980s, Kid Stuff Records released several LPs based on the franchise. In 1983 five LPs were introduced: Introducing the Care Bears, The Care Bears Care For You, Adventures in Care-a-lot, The Care Bears' Birthday Party, and The Care Bears' Christmas. In 1986 Friends Make Everything Better was released as a promotion with Trianimic cough medicine. They also released the soundtrack albums for the first films. The albums based on the toys were best sellers in children's music during this time.
All of the albums from 1983 (except for Birthday Party) featured writing, production, and performance credits from Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. The soundtrack album from The Care Bears Movie featured songs by Carole King and John Sebastian.
In the 2002 revival, Madacy Kids released new Care Bear CDs. In 2004, Meet the Care Bears, Care Bears Holiday Hugs, Care Bears Christmas Eve, and the Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot soundtrack album was released. In 2005, Care Bears Nighty-Night was also released. Music students at Roger Williams University were invited to submit to the soundtrack but ultimately were not included.
A Care Bears video game was planned for the Atari 2600 in 1983. It was preliminarily completed and ready for beta testing, but the project was canceled before testing could begin - largely due to the uninteresting gameplay and the diminishing video game market, which resulted in the video game crash of 1983. The beta prototype subsequently disappeared into obscurity and the only known existing prototype to date is an early alpha of the video game. No other video games featuring the Care Bears were made during this period.
In 2004, the Care Bears starred in their first official game, Care-a-lot Jamboree, for the PC. A few months later, another game featuring the Care Bears for the PC, Let's Have a Ball! was released. In the same year, they were featured in Care Bears A Lesson in Caring for the V. Smile educational game console.
In August 2008 a new game, Care Bears Play Day, was released for the V.Smile Baby Infant Development System.
A new interactive toy, Care Bears Share-A-Story, was introduced by Play Along in July 2005. The toy is based upon the same basic idea as Teddy Ruxpin. The head, mouth and eyes of the Care Bear move around as a cartridge plays fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Three Little Pigs. A hardback book version of the story comes with it so the parent and child can read along as the story plays. The toy ships with the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and additional story cartridges and books are to be purchased separately.
Care Bears Sing-Along pals were also introduced. This Care Bears plush toys sing three different songs while their heads rock back and forth and could synchronize wirelessly with other singing Care Bears of the series to sing together in a group. While initially introduced in a rather large variety of designs, at the moment only the Share Bear, Cheer Bear, and Funshine Bear models are still being made, with the physical appearance of the bears redesigned to match the 25th anniversary looks.
- Berenstain Bears
- Holly Hobbie
- My Little Pony
- Pound Puppies
- Rainbow Brite
- Strawberry Shortcake
- The Get Along Gang
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