Blog Post #13: Updating 80s Cartoons: Rainbow Brite

I recently found out that my favorite childhood animated TV show is being revamped to make its way back for girls in this generation. This favorite show of mine was Rainbow Brite (make fun of me all you want but it was a good show!). The main character, Rainbow Brite originally named Wisp, brought color to the world that the Dark Lord had taken away. She saved the seven Color Kids, and made her mission to keep color in the world forever. This post will discuss the original show from the 1980s and talk about the changes made in the revamped version and the implications thereof.

Hallmark Cards introduced Rainbow Brite in 1983. The TV show aired on June 27th, 1984. The show only had 13 episodes and ran until 1986. Reruns ran on TV for quite a awhile after the show ended which suggests it was still very popular among kids. As well there were two popular Rainbow Brite movies named “Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer” (1985) and “Rainbow Brite: San Diego Zoo Adventure” (1986) that did fairly well. Overall Rainbow Brite generated over a billion dollars in sales of toys, coloring books, and other products. This is very impressive for a show that only ran for two years.

Playmates Toys worked with United Media on updating Rainbow Brite’s image. United Media was the original creator of the animated show while Mattel was the original creator of the Rainbow Brite toy products in the 1980s. Below is a picture of the original Rainbow Brite animated character versus the new and improved one.

I do not like the newer character at all. She looks too much like Barbie which is funny because Mattel (the creator of Barbie and the original creator of the Rainbow Brite toys) did not have her look that way in the 80s. I also do not like the newer computer-animated look of the show which is common now. I always appreciated the hand-drawn look of 1980s cartoons such as “The Care Bears” and “My Little Pony.” I feel that in this generation and animation today, that niche has been lost. Rainbow Brite was supposed to not be so pretty pretty, she rather was cute and a small force to deal with. United Media has decided to age the characters in order to aim the show towards preteens instead of an audience of 6-10 year olds which explains the new more adult appearance of Rainbow Brite. This aging could have been less sexualized though. Many preteens do not look anything like this and really should not be worried about looking like this.

The newer animated characters and the accompanying dolls even look like Barbie dolls which I find incredibly disappointing. The original Rainbow Brite dolls were plush with plastic faces. (Seen below)

While the new ones look like this:
The dolls are a good recreation of how each animation looks like. The original Rainbow Brite was a cute, short, chubby little girl and the doll was plush and full-bodied with a plastic face and a yarn material for hair. She was not the typical skinny model looking doll which Playmates is making her into to be now. The newer Rainbow Brite now looks exactly like a plastic Barbie doll. This is incredibly unoriginal. I think it would have been better for girls to see the original character come back with a revamped story line rather than something so generic.

I think the animations overall in this generation look too generic and too much alike. An example of other recreated 80s animations can be seen on this web page. They all have been turned into computer animated cartoons which do not look very distinct from each other. I feel that newer cartoons have lost the hand-drawn, artistic look to them which made them so interesting and unique to watch. I think it is unfortunate for younger girls to be subject to looking at characters who are so skinny just like models in magazines. It sets up an unrealistic image to strive for. The original Rainbow Brite character was a chubby, little girl who could always save the day despite being so small.

I think hand-drawn animations have lost their popularity because they are harder to make and have not been as successful as computer-animated shows and movies. This was seen with the recent hand-drawn Disney “Princess and the Pea” movie which did not do as well as hoped for. I hope the new Rainbow Brite show will be successful as it is a great idea but it is unfortunate the show has to look so generic. The character was supposed to be unique and not super skinny like a Barbie doll. Despite this, a heroine for girls to look up to is something we could see more of.

I responded to Samantha Francis and Andrew Steward.

(Sources: Information, Image of new Rainbow Brite dolls , Image of older Rainbow Brite dolls.)


8 thoughts on “Blog Post #13: Updating 80s Cartoons: Rainbow Brite

  1. This makes me sad to see that they are completely revamping the character of Rainbow Bright in an attempt to bring her back. I agree that the changes that are made to Rainbow Bright are just giving into the standards that have been set by our culture to fit into this mold. I would have loved to see the original Rainbow Bright character in this culture now, yes she probably gone for a little change, but it would be awesome to have a lead female character who isn’t the Barbie type.

  2. I agrre that the new design is rather dull. I find most 3d animation to be quite bland, as they oftentimes seem to lack any dinstinctive artistic style. (though I doesn’t have to be that way). The new design also does seem to be moving towards promoting a negative body image which isn’t a good thing at all. I am at least hoping such changes won’t effect the writing, though I have never seen the show, so I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in that regard.

  3. While I agree the new Rainbow Brite is clearly a cheap attempt to mooch off Barbie, I think you get a little melodramatic. She isn’t horribly skinny like the original barbies (I believe Matel has since responded to such criticism and changed Barbie’s entire makeup). You said it yourself, original Rainbow Brite was for 6-10 who are themselves a little chubby (baby fat and all) where as new Rainbow Brite is marketed to preteens who are not so chubby as the 6-10 year old range. Granted I still think this new Rainbow Brite is a bastardization of something that did not need to be “revamped” so to speak. Perhaps they should have left well enough alone.

  4. Ha, I’m not surprised at all that Rainbow Brite is getting a makeover. It seems that these animators feel the need to make their characters “more sexy” to attract today’s young girls. I couldn’t disagree more! Our society is all about sex, so like I said before, it’s not a shock that they’re re-creating her. I was about to mention the same can be said for Dora the Explorer. Re-vamping just means adding glitz and glam..

  5. I agree with you in liking the old design better.
    The new Rainbow Brite has more defined features such as her lips and thin legs. Her make up is much more noticeable including her blush and heavy mascara and eyeshadow. She almost looks like a Bratz doll or a Barbie doll as you said above. It seems like so many children’s characters are becoming more like the people magazines like to portray. And, it is a bad message to be sending to little girls as they grow up.
    The old Rainbow Brite was just a normal size girl wore a little make up and acted as herself.

  6. I agree…why change Rainbow Brite in order to make her more sexy or more appealing for today’s viewers. I do agree that she needs some updates…but making her a sex kitten is not the way to go.

  7. Pingback: Final Blog Specimens (Coming Soon!) « Bonnie's Blog

  8. This is quite late, I just happen to be looking around researching Rainbow Brite for a project campaign I’m working on for school. I was born just after Rainbow Brite finished airing, but I still managed to see it and I loved it! Anyway, as you may already know, the new Rainbow Brite bombed, mostly due to the probable fact that they hardly advertised the thing and it was only really viewable on their website. I’m working on a re-branding campaign for Rainbow Brite and Agree that what they did with her and her entire story was not a good thing, and would probably have failed even if it did get out. As I was reading these comments I felt a little stabbed as I am an animator and the way I’ve been working my updated character designs were merely “stretched out” versions of the original designs, to get rid of some of the stockiness. I’m going for more of a cartoony look, if you will, and trying to keep her and the color kids looking like cute kids without them looking like toddlers.

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