Raggedy Ann was a series of storybooks, introduced by American writer and illustrator Johnny Gruelle in 1918, about the adventures of a living rag doll. Gruelle based the stories on a ragdoll he gave to his daughter, Marcella, who also became a character in the books as Raggedy Ann's owner. Seeing the possibilities with the character, the Gruelle family went on to market a line of Raggedy Ann rag dolls that have, arguably, become far better known than the books.
Following Gruelle's death in 1938, the book series continued under other authors and illustrators (though still credited to Gruelle) into the 1970s. Raggedy Ann and her adventures were also adapted into animation several times, including Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios animated shorts, Christmas and Halloween specials crafted by Chuck Jones, a little-known animated series from the late 1980s and early 1990s, and even a big-screen movie.
Raggedy Ann herself is a gentle but adventurous rag doll with a kind heart, literally. She actually has a candy heart, with the inscription I Love You sewn into her chest. Raggedy Ann is considered the leader of Marcella's toys, due to the fact that Marcella carries her everywhere, so Ann has seen more of the world than any of the other toys.
Raggedy Andy was introduced as Ann's brother in the second book and has been by her side ever since. He's a bold, adventurous type, and more mischievous and rash than his sister. Andy is fiercely loyal to Ann, and he is always there to look out for her.
Over the years, several other characters were introduced to round out the family. They included dogs, cats, a raggedy baby and even a camel with wrinkled knees.
Raggedy Ann contains examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The big-screen movie, Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure. It was made at the end of the 1970s and is seriously weird and trippy. Although, in a case of Older Than They Think, at least some of the weird and trippy elements are taken from the books!
- Adaptation Dye-Job: The Camel with Wrinkled Knees changed colors depending on what story he was in. (White in the book, brown in the Fleischer cartoon, blue in the movie and TV series.)
- Audience Participation: In the Christmas special, the Big Bad Wolf and all of Santa's toys became trapped in an unbreakable substance. Ann and Andy break the fourth wall and call upon the audience to use The Power of Love to fix everything.
- Bowdlerise: While her portrayal was positive, you'll never see the mammy doll, Beloved Belindy, in modern printings. The same goes for the black maid Dinah, who was rather racist in portrayal, and most modern reprints of the story she appears give a warning to parents to read the story first to see if it's appropriate for their child to read.
- Blackface-Style Caricature: one of the toys is a mammy doll, Beloved Belindy. While her portrayal was mostly positive with some subtler racist elements, her blatant blackface design makes the character ten times more uncomfortable, and modern editions of the books make no attempts to keep in.
- Darker and Edgier: The 1984 stage musical Rag Dolly (with Ivy Austin as Raggedy Ann) was initially going to be based on the animated movie, but ended up as a much darker take on the story, featuring Marcella as a dying girl with a mother who abandoned her and a father who's an alcoholic, and the fear of death is a prominent theme. Even the song I'm Just A Rag Dolly, one of the two songs reprised from the movie, had been given new lyrics and had gone from being a friendly welcoming song to a song about feeling lost and hopeless. The show was a big hit in Russia, but bombed on Broadway, closing down after only five performances.
- The Eeyore: The camel with the wrinkled knees, especially in the movie. He had a different personality in the book. There, he was described as absent-minded and strange, but sure of himself.
- Expy: In the Chuck Jones holiday special, Ann and Andy end up saving Christmas from the Wile E. Coyote-esque "Alexander Graham Wolf".
- Fiery Redhead:
- Raggedy Ann, though it's a downplayed case, since more emphasis is put on her sweet nature, but is quite adventurous and isn't afraid to take action when needed.
- Raggedy Andy is a straighter case.
- Living Toy: The whole point of the books. The stories are the adventures of a living rag doll, who is gentle yet adventurous.
- Sweet Sheep: In the 1944 cartoon "Suddenly, It's Spring", one of the sentient toys that are seeing crying over Nancy (Raggedy Ann's owner in the short) on the verge of death is an unnamed lamb stuffed animal.
- Talking Animal: Fido, Marcella's dog, is able to talk with the toys, but only to the toys.
- Team Mom: Raggedy Ann is this for all of the toys in Marcella's playroom, to the point she refuses to tell the playroom of where she went until one of the penny dolls has her hand glued back on.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Raggedy Ann and the French Dolly, at least compared to each other.
- The Power of Love: What Raggedy Ann uses in the holiday special to dissolve a seemingly unbreakable substance called "Goopstik".
- The musical has Raggedy Ann save Marcella's life by sacrificing her candy heart to Marcella in an act of love.