Monday, July 19, 2004

Cabbage Patch Kids: The next generation

Florida company hopes Gen Xers
will adopt an old habit

By Lauren Bishop / Enquirer staff writer

Following in the plush and plastic footsteps of Care Bears, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Pony, another toy from the 1980s - the Cabbage Patch Kid - is poised to make a comeback.

Kendra Hull, a huge fan as a child of Cabbage Patch Dolls poses with the dolls she shared with her sister as a child in her mother's West Chester home.
(The Enquirer/Craig Ruttle)
The doll that drove parents to stand in long lines outside toy stores and caused fights to break out in malls 20 years ago will sprout on store shelves on Aug. 2.

Unlike late '80s and '90s Cabbage Patch Kids and other relaunched '80s toys - which have become hipper, edgier and more technologically advanced than their ancestors - the new Cabbage Patch Kids will again have the familiar pudgy bodies, yarn hair, baby-powder scent, adoption papers, unusual names and creator Xavier Roberts' signature on the bottom. And thanks to random computer generation, no two will be alike.

"The point was to make them look like they did originally," says Scott Goldberg, a youth marketing consultant for Play Along, the Deerfield Beach, Fla., company that now manufactures the toys. The "adoption fee" will even be the same: about $30.

Like other retro toys, Cabbage Patch Kids' relaunch is aimed at Gen-X'ers who played with them as children and who are now parents themselves.

"The generation which owned them originally is coming of age and looking for nostalgia, and also to expose their children to toys which they themselves enjoyed," says George Sarofeen of Clifton, a fashion doll and theatrical costume designer.

If the first generation who had them is any indication, Cabbage Patch Kids will again inspire the kind of adoration that won't abate as their owners age.

West Chester Township resident Kendra Hull, 25, and her sister had about a dozen Cabbage Patch Kids, plus two Koosas (animal versions of Cabbage Patch Kids). Their mother packed the dolls in plastic tubs with their clothes and accessories, even a card that original manufacturer Coleco sent for the first birthday of Selma Wilma, Hull's first Kid. Hull says she refuses to throw any out.

"They were like my livelihood for the years that I played with them," says Hull.

Sarah Elam-Schenz, 27, of Lockland planned to hold onto her Cabbage Patch Kids for her own children. But when her now 4-year-old son, Vaughn, wanted to play with Artie Spencer, a bald, blue-eyed baby boy, a year ago, she resisted.

"A 3-year-old just doesn't have much reverence for a Cabbage Patch Kid," she says.

Elam-Schenz says that she bought Vaughn some of the new Care Bears, and that she'd probably buy him a new Kid if he wanted one.

"I obviously saved my Cabbage Patch Kids for myself, not for my kids," she says.

Play Along expects to sell 1 million to 2 million of the relaunched Cabbage Patch Kids. Starting today, the company and the Radio Disney network will hold events around the country to promote the Kids' comeback. (No events are scheduled for Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky.) Play Along also plans spots on Nickelodeon and in magazines and movie theaters.

"The way it's going to be is everywhere you look, you're going to see Cabbage Patch Kids if we do it right," says Goldberg, of Play Along.

But the long lines and mall melees that marked the early '80s may not recur. Anderson Township resident Teresa Edgington remembers standing outside the Toys "R" Us in Eastgate in the early '80s waiting for a shipment of Cabbage Patch Kids.

She estimates she bought more than a dozen over the years for the three children she had with her first husband. Now remarried, she has 6-year-old twins who play with the older children's Kids.

She says she'll probably buy the new Kids for her twins, but she won't stand in line. Thanks to eBay, "I don't wait around for much of anything," she says.

Christina Amrheinof Mount Washington is also holding onto her Cabbage Patch Kids for the children she may have someday. But the 28-year-old, who teaches at Our Lady of Victory in Delhi Township, wonders how popular the new Cabbage Patch Kids will be.

"Just from what I've seen being a teacher, it doesn't seem like they play with a lot of dolls anymore," she says.

But many kids do. Nancy Carolan of Elgin, Ill., runs a Web site for abandoned Cabbage Patch Kids called Second Chance Orphanage.

Since 1996, she's rescued old Kids from thrift stores, cleaned them and sold them for $8 to $20, wanting to make them affordable enough for children to "adopt" themselves. About 300 dolls find new homes every year, she says.

A collector herself, Carolan says she's excited about the Kids' return - even though she expects it will slow her business.

"The Cabbage Patch dolls send out the message that you don't have to be beautiful to be loved," she says. "And I think that's really wonderful."


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