In 1978, Xavier Roberts started marketing a set of cloth dolls with exaggerated features of a baby under the name of Little People. Initially sold at craft shows, the dolls took off and in 1982, he rebranded them as "Cabbage Patch Kids" and created a backstory involving a young boy named Xavier Roberts following a BunnyBee and discovering the world of the eponymous kids. The dolls became a big hit, inspiring books and an animated Christmas special, but the craze peaked and fell around 1988. The line continued in a smaller vein, going through a series of companies, from Colēco to Hasbro to Mattel, but have largely become a historical footnote. Despite this, the toys eventually saw a revival and maintain a devoted following to this day.
The dolls had a number of interesting gimmicks. All Cabbage Patch Kids are "born" in Babyland General Hospital, a converted medical clinic located in Xavier Roberts' hometown of Cleveland, Georgianote , and are ostensibly "adopted" by new owners, not bought (they came with birth certificates). Another is that each doll was slightly different, having been manufactured through a process that would change a variable each time. This helped keep up the "real baby, not a doll" illusion. Additional lines of the dolls were added, including twins and "preemies" (baby dolls).
Perhaps because of the general cuteness of it all (and the dolls' wild popularity), two disturbing Urban Legends sprang up concerning them. One is that dolls returned to the factory for repairs would be returned in coffin-shaped boxes — or not returned at all — with a Death Certificate for the bereaved owner. The other is that the dolls' features (close-set eyes and a somewhat pinched face) was all part of a campaign to acclimatize kids to a world in which those features would be common: as a mutation caused by nuclear war. Needless to say, Snopes found no substance in either of these rumors.
Following their first animated appearance in a film, The Cabbage Patch Kids' First Christmas in 1984, additional specials created in Stop Motion and produced by Goldhill Entertainment were released throughout the mid-to-late 90s:
- Cabbage Patch Kids: The New Kid (1995)
- Cabbage Patch Kids: The Clubhouse (1996)
- Cabbage Patch Kids: The Screen Test (1997)
- Cabbage Patch Kids: Saturday Night (1998)
- Cabbage Patch Kids: Vernon's Christmas (1999)
The television series is currently available on demand on some cable/satellite providers on Kabillion through a service called "Girls Rule!"
This product exhibits the following tropes:
- Alpha Bitch: Missy and Prissy from the stop motion specials.
- Animated Adaptation: There was a cartoon series and a Christmas Special.
- Author Avatar: Xavier Roberts
- Bald Black Leader Guy: Otis Lee
- The Bet: Barry and Mary Beth settle one in "The Clubhouse"; whichever team builds the best clubhouse will buy a pizza for their team. The girls win, but they decide to order pizzas for both teams since there's enough for such, and they decide to hold the party in the boys' clubhouse after they win a coin toss.
- Big Damn Heroes: In the climax of "The New Kid", Mary Beth is unable to sing her song in the show due to catching a bad case of hiccups; Norma, the only one who knows her song (and apparently the whole show), volunteers to stand in for her, and gives quite a showstopper.
- Big Little Brother: Vernon is much taller than his older brother Myles, who is about half a head shorter.
- Born from Plants: Cabbage Patch Kids are born in cabbage patches.
- Christmas Special: "Vernon's Christmas".
- Delivery Stork: Colonel Casey of the Animated Adaptation.
- Girls vs. Boys Plot: "The Clubhouse" has the boys being pitted against the girls to see who can build the best clubhouse.
- Greed: All three of the villains are motivated by greed—Lavender and Beau Weasel by the promise of gold, and Cabbage Jack by all the cabbages he can eat.
- Guilt-Based Gaming: According to the backstory, every Cabbage Patch Kid was in danger of being enslaved by the evil Lavender McDade to work in her gold mine, and only adopting them could set them free—so if your parents couldn't adopt a Kid, they'd suffer forever.
- Hair-Raising Hare: Cabbage Jack is an anthropomorphic jackrabbit who helps Lavender kidnap the kids.
- Intimate Marks: The toys have the signature of Xavier Roberts on their buttocks.
- Limited Social Circle: The stop motion specials normally consist of a single group of friends: Barry, Mary Beth, Travis, Vernon, Myles, Norma Jean, Melanie, Nick, Sheerena and Billy.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The BunnyBees have the striped body of a bee and the head of a bunny. They fly by flapping their ears.
- Money Fetish: Beau Weasel is all about the money; he loves the clink of nickels, dimes, and quarters, but gold is even better.
- Similar Squad: The Christmas special starts with the kids escaping the evil Lavender McDade, Cabbage Jack, and Beau Weasel on their way to the big city, where they run into a trio of gangsters that fill the same basic roles and share the other villains' voice actors. It's lampshaded when one of the kids comments how much they remind them of their usual villains.
- There Are No Adults: Adults were nowhere to be seen in the 90s specials, apart from mentions.
- Token Black Friend: The stop motion specials give us Travis for the boys and Sheerena for the girls.
- Villain Song: The record has "Villains Three," showcasing how Lavender met her henchmen and the grudge they all have against Cabbage Patch Kids.
- Villainous Glutton: Cabbage Jack eats cabbages constantly and hates the Cabbage Patch Kids because more kids means less cabbage to eat.
- Wicked Weasel: Lavender's other henchman, Beau Weasel, is a smooth-talking, slippery swamp weasel who helps her kidnap the kids.
- Would Hurt a Child: Lavender McDade constantly seeks to enslave the Cabbage Patch Kids to work in her gold mine.