After I let the theme song to Strawberry Shortcake play on the DVD menu for about the fourth guilty time (with the headphones on, so as not tip off anyone), I skipped to the opening credits and saw that it was composed and performed by none other than Flo and Eddie of The Turtles - no wonder it's so cool! Okay, with that embarrassing admission out of the way, let's talk about the DVD release of Strawberry Shortcake: The World of Strawberry Shortcake & Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City. Having never been what you would call a "fan" of Strawberry Shortcake (I was 11 and a guy when the character was introduced in 1977), I can tell you this: by the early 1980s, girls were crazy about her. I remember 18 year old girls in high school who thought it was funny and ironic to have Strawberry Shortcake folders, notebook paper, pencils, even backpacks. Introduced as a greeting card character, the imaginary world of Strawberry Land expanded into toys and numerous other merchandising lines, with many more fruit-filled friends created to keep Strawberry company - and cash registers ringing.
The release of the Strawberry Shortcake: The World of Strawberry Shortcake & Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City DVD is apparently a very important milestone in the Strawberry Shortcake timeline. These two features are the very first animated adventures of the little girl who lives in a shortcake, and they've never appeared on DVD before. Airing in 1980 and 1981 respectively, Strawberry Shortcake: The World of Strawberry Shortcake & Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City were prime-time TV specials that drew quite respectable ratings, and further fueled the huge Shortcake fad. Romeo Muller, the legendary writer of such Rankin-Bass classics as Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, and Here Comes Peter Cottontail, produced The World of Strawberry Shortcake, and produced and wrote Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City. Animation veterans Fred Wolf, as producer, and Charles Swenson, as director of the first feature, contributed to the quality pedigree of these charming little cartoons.
The World of Strawberry Shortcake introduces us to Strawberry, the little girl who, along with her calico cat Custard, lives in a shortcake, and who owns Strawberry Lands, where hundreds of the best berries are grown. Her friends live there, too, including Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie, Apple Dumplin', Raspberry Tart (who, I kid you not, is voiced by the Pamela Anderson -- what an ironic match, eh?), and Plum Pudding. The Sun serves as our narrator, as well as protector and friend to Strawberry. And he's needed in such a role because looking down on Strawberry Land is the evil, mean Peculiar Purple Pie Man of Porcupine Peak, who envies Strawberry's superior baking abilities, and who uses his Berry Birds to steal Strawberry's crops. For this cartoon adventure, Strawberry's friends arrange a secret birthday party for her in Lilac Park, but by keeping it a secret, they make Strawberry sad because they don't have time to play with her. Of course, all is righted in the end, and they even manage to make friends with the Pie Man. In Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City, Strawberry is one of two finalists for a big televised bake-off in Big Apple City - and guess who the other contestant is? That's right; the Pie Man. Strawberry explores the big city, and meets some new friends, including Orange Blossom, who lives in the bohemian, artists colony of Spinach Village, along with Lemon Meringue, T.N. Honey, who hails from England, baby Apricot, and Tamale the Mole. Naturally, the Pie Man plots Strawberry's downfall, including wrecking her stove and stealing her ingredients, but of course, Strawberry comes out on top at the end.
Strawberry Shortcake: The World of Strawberry Shortcake & Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City are very laid-back, almost quaint little cartoons from the early 80s, before cartoons got crazy with MTV-style pacing and music. They're charming little stories; certainly not educational in any way, but merely there for entertainment purposes. The songs, provided by Flo and Eddie, are fun and bouncy, and the shows are over before you know it (they're both about 23 minutes long). Some critics grumble about the mercenary origins of such a character as Strawberry Shortcake, who was designed out of whole cloth to sell first greeting cards, and then all manner of toys and other items. And they may be right - up to a point. Some parents do get upset with the often times relentless marketing strategies that get their kids caught up in buying things just because "everyone else has one." And certainly, Strawberry Shortcake was created for one purpose only: to make money. But kids will always want toys to play with, regardless of the so-called "validity" of the toy's origin. And Strawberry Shortcake is such a sweet, gentle character, what harm can there be if your child finds a little bit of fun and joy in pretending to play along with little Strawberry Shortcake, or experience her colorful adventures in Strawberry Shortcake: The World of Strawberry Shortcake & Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City?
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.