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Jem, Pee-Wee, Mr. Rembrandt & Care Bears - Tom Ray's Pop-Culture Roadshow May 23, 2020

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Another episode of my "Tom Ray's Pop-Culture Roadshow", where I look at toys that I've collected and try to find out a little history or interesting facts about them.

This time on the show I look for the story behind three books I have from the 1980s: Jem and the Holograms, Big Top Pee-Wee & The Care Bears. Plus, an artistic robot toy from the 1970s called Mr. Rembrandt by Ideal Toys.

In this video:

Jem and the Holograms

vintage kids book on white background
Jem Night of a Thousand Earrings book - 1986

I have this book here called Jem night of a thousand earrings. Looking up the history of Jem and actually watching the show I forgot how utterly absurd the storyline is. 

Jerrica who lives a double life as Jem. Synergy is a synthesizer that was created by Jerrica’s father to be the ultimate audio-visual entertainment synthesizer and it was bequeathed to her at his death. So her dad ran a record company, he died but he had created this thing Synergy to make the best songs in the world. And it had these earrings to turn anyone who wore them into a different person by projecting holograms. Also, the band started an orphanage. 

I don't know why she couldn't be both Jerrica and Jem? So that's the concept.

The series was during the time period when they were making cartoons like GI Joe, The Transformers, which when I was a kid I didn't realize that they were specifically just made to sell products. Like they literally would go make a cartoon then make a toy out of each thing they put in that cartoon. 

One of the people who worked on Jem also worked on the series GI Joe and the Transformers Chrissy Marx. The show ran from 1985 to 1988 and had 65 episodes.

The creators of the cartoon hired an advertising agency to run and create the 65 episodes that they did. One of the people in that advertising agency who wrote jingles, his daughter auditioned for the voice of Jerrica and Jem and her name was Samantha Newark. The funny thing is Samantha was actually a child singing star when they lived in Africa. So even though she voiced Jem the singing parts were done by a woman named Britta Phillips. 

They made a music video in each episode, they were trying to make the cartoons more like MTV at the time. They wrote at least one new song for each episode but there were never any official releases of Jem songs. Then they started releasing the dolls for the show and each one of those characters came with a cassette single. And that was the only stuff that you could get as far as the music from the program Jem. 

Christy Marx who wrote the series actually, later on, said that the whole storyline concept was a soap opera for kids.

Big Top Pee-Wee

Yellow vintage book on white background
Big Top Pee-Wee Movie Storybook - 1988

Next up I have another book that I was hoping to find out more about. It's a movie storybook from Big Top Pee-Wee starring Pee-Wee Herman of course. 

This was the follow-up to the Pee-Wee's Big Adventure movie that was wildly successful. This book has stills from the Big Top Pee-Wee movie. 

I didn't even remember the concept of Big Top Pee-Wee, he ran a farm in a small town where everybody kind of hated him. Then a twister comes through town and it blows a circus onto his land. 

I was hoping to find out more about the making of the movie. Why it was made? But really the only thing I can find online is that everybody hated the movie

The one thing that I did find out is that this movie was not released by the same picture company Warner Brothers it was produced by Paramount Pictures. So Danny Elfman who did the Pee-Wee's Big Adventure soundtrack could not use any of the themes or make any sort of connection musically to the other one because it was produced by different companies 

The other thing instead of Tim Burton, it was directed by Randal Kleiser and he is the person who directed the first Grease movie

And another thing that was of note that I found is, Duke the dog-faced boy is played by Benicio del Toro, and apparently it is his very first major motion picture on-screen role. 

Mr. Rembrandt Toy

Vintage toy box with kids playing
Mr. Rembrandt by Ideal - 1970

Here's another thing that I was hoping to find more about because it's durn interesting, Mr. Rembrandt: The world's most unusual artist. 

It's a toy from the 70s from the company Ideal and again the only thing I could find out about it aside from what I know from just looking at the box it’s an automated robot spirograph. 

It's this robot that is battery-powered and it has these different sort of sprockets but when you put them in the robot drives around in different directions and actually draws patterns with these markers that go into it. 

It actually draws perfect circles and different designs and stuff like that on a large piece of paper that comes with the toy called Rembrandt themed drawing paper. 

But I couldn't find out anything else about it. So I ended up looking up the company that made it, Ideal

They made Kerplunk which is also a gigantic gigantic toy that the box is bigger than it needs to be like this one. 

Their biggest toy to date was the Betsy Wetsy doll. The company started by making teddy bears back in 1907 and they also advertised their dolls as unbreakable since they were made of a composition of sawdust and glue. 

Betsy Wetsy they had introduced in 1934 and they made that for like 50 years. They also started making hobby toys and they shifted to games like the game Mouse Trap which also is a giant box game and they did a game called Hands Down. They also made a line of Evel Knievel toys. 

Before they collapsed they made their most wildly successful toy which was something that they had originally only released in Hungary then they imported it from Hungary in 1980 and renamed it the Rubik's Cube. That was actually a very small toy so it was one of the last things that they released.

Care Bears

pink vintage children's book on white background
Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine Book - 1984

I have this book here called the Care Bears: Battle The Freeze Machine based upon the TV special. 

The Care Bears were created by The American Greeting Card Company. So you know how people joke and say Valentine's Day is a fabrication of the greeting card company? Well, Care Bears actually are! 

They were made after the success of the American Greeting Card company's first big franchise which was Strawberry Shortcake which was made in 1979. 

They introduced the Care Bears in 1981 through a line of greeting cards it was specifically just a theme and then it kind of grew into a bigger thing, much like Strawberry Shortcake. 

Here's the weird thing too, when they created these things they kept it a secret. So they gave them project names, like secret code names. 

The code names weren't as impressive as the idea that they're doing that. Strawberry Shortcake was referred to as "Project I" and then they called the Care Bears franchise "Project II". They did that so they could keep it secret until the advertising was ready. 

in 1982 the Care Bears were announced as a toy line. They starred in the first TV special called "The land without feelings". 

Then to follow up on the success of that they followed up with a story called the Care Bears: Battle The Freeze Machine

The franchise was based on King Arthur and the round table so, for example, the place that they lived was called Care-a-lot kind of like Camelot. The Care Bear family sits around a heart-shaped table like the knights of the round table. And Sir Lancelot's name inspired the name of Love-a-lot which I just happen to have here.

pink bear doll on white background
Care Bears Love-a-lot bear

That's all that I have for today just learned a little bit about different backgrounds and artwork and things about some of the pop-culture items I collect from the 1950s - 1990s.

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