Toy of the Week: Rainbow Brite

As I’ve mentioned in a few of my previous articles, many popular toy franchises of the 1980’s originated as greeting card characters. Rainbow Brite is no exception. However, instead of being a member of the American Greetings stable, Ms. Brite and her friends appeared courtesy of another big greeting card company: Hallmark. 

When was this toy line produced? 

Rainbow Brite toys were available starting in 1984 and were produced by Mattel. The Rainbow Brite dolls had hard plastic heads, soft bodies and limbs, and rooted yarn hair. There was a small purple star painted beneath her right eye. 

Was there a cartoon? 

There was a television cartoon and a motion picture distributed through DiC. I have vague memories of watching the television cartoon because it aired on Sunday mornings, while we were getting ready to go to church and Sunday school. 

There were a number of cartoons where I vividly remembered the beginnings of the episode, but I don’t remember how they ended. I’m a little envious of some of my retro friends who had VCR’s earlier and were able to rewatch episodes of their favorite shows several times. 

By the time I had access to a VCR, I had already moved on to live action entertainment. I watched episodes of Saved by the Bell, Salute Your Shorts, and Hey Dude. I also watched the 25th Anniversary Beach Boys special, and movies like Dirty Dancing and Top Gun. 

Who was the villain? 

For the television cartoon, it was Murky Dismal, a green skinned guy with black hair with a white lightning streak in it and a black mustache. Peter (Optimus Prime) Cullen provided Murky’s voice. 

I remember thinking Murky was funny and his gray helmet reminded me of Super Grover’s. Murky also had something in common with other cartoon villains like The Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak: they both had mustaches. 

Murky’s sidekick was Lurky, whose brown fur and big nose reminded me of a cross between Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street. and Sweetums from The Muppet Show and movies. Murky and Lurky’s main goal was to drain Rainbow Brite’s home world of all of its color. 

There was also a full length Rainbow Brite movie, which I think I went to the theater to see. I don’t remember much of the movie, which means there was probably too much time between when the movie came out and when we finally got our first VCR. 

According to articles I read on Wikipedia and HuffPost, the Rainbow Brite movie aired frequently on the Disney Channel. After my parents cancelled it because it got too expensive. 

Where did I acquire this toy? 

The Easter of 1985, Rainbow Brite’s box was beside my basket on the mantle of our fireplace. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that particular basket because as I mentioned previously, my family hasn’t always been big on having our pictures taken. 

The Rainbow Brite doll I received that Easter was a special edition that also came with a nightgown and slippers. When I sorted my doll accessories last year, I found one of her slippers but didn’t recognize it as hers at first because of the wide variety of doll lines I’ve had over the years. 

I discarded the stray slipper because without the doll, I didn’t have a use for it. It didn’t even fit any of my other dolls. It was too small for my other rag dolls, but it was too big for Strawberry Shortcake, Herself the Elf, and Barbie. 

I did like putting Rainbow Brite’s nightgown and slippers on her at bedtime to cuddle until I fell asleep. Her head was plastic, but it wasn’t as hard as the plastic as the head of a Cabbage Patch Kid. RB’s body was soft and the top of her nightgown was fuzzy with a smooth skirt and an appliqué star.  

Rainbow’s regular blue dress had a velcro closure and could be removed to put on the pink and white nightgown. The fuzzy slippers went on over her multicolored boots. 

Do I still have this toy or any of its accessories? 

I haven’t had my Rainbow Brite doll for several years, but I do still have her companion Sprite in a bag with some of my other plush toys. His name was originally Twink, but for the reboot, he became Mr. Glitters.

I also have this very cute shirt I found online last year that features chibi versions of Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, She-Ra, and Jem. 

Did I have any other toys from this line? 

The only other toy I had from the Rainbow Brite line was Baby Brite. Baby Brite had rooted pink yarn hair and came with one of those magic bottles where the “milk” disappears when tipped into the doll’s mouth. There was a rainbow swirl printed on the bottle. 

In their rag doll format, it was difficult to play with the Rainbow Brite dolls in conjunction with the toys I had from other lines. Rainbow Brite towered over the residents of Berryland and she didn’t fit into Barbie’s world either. 

I also remember at one point having a box of Rainbow Brite’s cereal, which was a Ralston cereal. It had a pretty good taste from what I remember, but there were some other fruit flavored or licensed character cereals I enjoyed a little more than hers. 

Did anything surprise me while researching this line? 

I didn’t realize how many characters were introduced after the first wave. The line also went on for a little longer than I remembered. Also, I had either forgotten (or didn’t know) that in Rainbow Brite’s origin story, finding the Baby Brite character resulted in the change of a girl originally named Wisp into Rainbow Brite. 

I was also surprised to find that when the characters were originally designed, the Color Kids were all going to be girls. Red and Blue were both changed to boys, Red Butler and Buddy Blue.

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About Karen Flieger 61 Articles
I was born in the late 1970’s, spent my childhood in the 1980’s, and my pre-teen and teen years in the 1990’s. I graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2001 with a B.A. in English. I collect various forms of media (books, music, movies, and television shows) as well as plush toys, dolls, and Funko figures.

1 Comment

  1. Rainbow Brite, along with Strawberry Shortcake, is definitely one of the doll lines I remember well from the ’80s. Didn’t have any myself and didn’t really watch any of it personally, but knew a lot of girls who did. Definitely an iconic toy of the decade.

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