Riots. Stampedes. Beatings. Death and Destruction. No, I’m not describing a Mad Max movie, or about the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. This was the scene in malls and stores across the country around this time of year 27 years ago – at the height of the Cabbage Patch Craze.
The Cabbage Patch Kids were created by Debbie Morehead and Xavier Roberts in 1978 and originally called “Little People”. The original dolls were all cloth and sold at local craft shows. The dolls attracted the attention of toy manufacturer Coleco, who began mass-production in 1982. The dolls had large, round heads, and soft fabric bodies.
In 1983, the Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York City. By October, riots were occurring in stores around the country. The dolls made the cover of Newsweek before Christmas.
You did not just buy these dolls. You “adopted” them. Each doll had a adoption papers.
Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia is the “birthplace” of Cabbage Patch Kids. It is an old clinic that was converted into a retail unit and mini theme park where the dolls can be sold. Creepily, the “hospital” is presented as a birthing, nursery, and adoption center for premium Cabbage Patch Kids. Even more creepily, the employees dress and act the parts of the doctors and nurses caring for the dolls as if they are real babies. When the intercom announces that a Mother Cabbage is in labor, a nurse hurries to get ready for delivery of a new Cabbage Patch baby. With the nurse are the pink and blue bunnybees that pollinate the kids with crystals, determining if the newborn is a boy- blue crystal or girl- pink crystal. The nurse comments on how much the Tree is dilated and injects with “Imagicillin,” an “experimental but highly recommended” drug.
If the need arises, a “C-section” or “Cabbage section” may be administered. After the doll is successfully birthed, the audience is asked to provide suggestions for the its first two names, the third of which is always that of the adopter. Most of the time the children’s names are chosen by the youngest kid. These names are then recorded on its certificate and on a name tag, and the doll takes a place among the hundreds that inhabit the facility’s nurseries and play environments.
Although the fad has faded, Babyland General Hospital is still a big tourist attraction!
Along with the the success of the dolls came the breakfast cereal, a line of real children’s diapers, as well as a television show.The Cabbage Patch Kids Christmas Special was number one in its time slot on ABC when it was aired in 1985.
Of course, when there is something very successful, there can be backlash. In this case, the backlash came in the form of the awesome Garbage Pail Kids! I can write a whole article on these cards (in fact, I think I will!). The Garbage Pail Kids had pictures of Cabbage Patch looking kids on them doing all kinds of gross things, may have had some weird physical abnormality, or suffer a terrible fate.
However, Topps (the makers of the Garbage Pail Kids cards) was sued for trademark infringement by Xavier Roberts. But, by then both fads were fading.
In 1988 Coleco went bankrupt. So they sold the rights to the Cabbage Patch Kids to Hasbro. Hasbro then started making the dolls with some gimicks such as dolls that played kazoos. There was also the “Birthday Kids”, the “Splash ‘n’ Tan” Kids, and the “Pretty Crimp and Curl” Dolls. Hasbro was not very successful, so they sold the rights to Mattel. Mattel started making the dolls out of vinyl, which made them more durable.
In 2003, Toys “R” Us took over the Cabbage Patch Kids brand from Mattel, producing 20-inch ‘Kids and 18-inch Babies, both with cloth bodies and vinyl heads. They were packaged in cardboard cabbage leaf seats. In 2003, the 20-inch ‘Kids debuted in the Times Square flagship store. These dolls were created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the line, and were available both online and in stores around the US.
Does anybody have any war stories about getting their Cabbage Patch Kids? I am also curious about the Babyland General Hospital? Has anybody been there? Is it not as creepy as it sounds?