Care Bear Wiki

The Care Bears are a set of characters created for American Greetings by its character development division, Those Characters from Cleveland.

Care BearHeart

The original ten bears



After they developed Strawberry Shortcake, American Greetings CEO Morry Weiss picked Jack Chojnacki and Ralph Shaffer to lead a separate character development subsidiary. They named it Those Characters from Cleveland. TCFC was chiefly responsible for the development of the Care Bears franchise. TCFC kept their production of the Care Bears a closely guarded secret. It was so closely guarded that they called their concept "Project II" during their two-year development ("Project I" being Strawberry Shortcake).[1]

American Greetings partnered with the toy manufacturer Kenner. At the time, Kenner was known for its Star Wars figurines and wanted to get into the plush business with a line of teddy bears.[1]

In a 2017 interview with Cleveland Magazine, Shaffer remembers his initial grievances trying to design the characters. "You need a lot of designs to launch a new card line. We could only think of so many symbols, and then we ran out of gas. We had done all this research, and I had all this artwork on symbolism lying on my desk. It'd been three months since our meeting with Kenner, and I was still trying to come up with something."[1]


Classic art featuring the original ten bears.

"I'm sitting here looking at a simple pencil sketch of a bear and thinking, 'What the hell am I going to do with the bears?' Something in my head just took those graphics and flopped them over on the bear's stomach. I drew that heart on that bear," Shaffer recalls.[1]

American Greetings contracted cartoonist Dave Polter and illustrator Elena Kucharik to help bring their idea to fruition. Once the team was assembled, the development of the new concept continued. "We had nine bears, each a different colour, representing nine different emotions - Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Funshine Bear, Good Luck Bear, Love-a-Lot Bear, Tenderheart Bear and Wish Bear," said Shaffer, but something wasn't quite right with the crew. "We need a relief in this bunch. Let's do a counter to all this sweetness. Let's do a Grumpy Bear.'" Shaffer's instinct was spot-on. Balancing out the cast, this irritable bear became a fan favourite and has appeared as a main character in nearly every iteration of the franchise.[1]


Art taken from the official Care Bears Instagram.

Polter mentions the diversity of the bears' charm. "They look really young, but at the same time, you could have them say almost anything. You could have them be funny. Bears are the ultimate anthropomorphic character."[1]

Shaffer also detailed the process of prototyping the bears. "We had a plush department with five expert designers all working on prototypes. We did hundreds of prototypes. They were working under a genius plush designer, Sue Trentel. You could give her a piece of artwork, and she could translate it into a three-dimensional plush design. She was just magic. The end result almost mirrored the original pencil sketch. We sort of copied the Steiff bear - [the first stuffed bear with movable arms and legs, which took its name from President Theodore Roosevelt] - by putting a heart-shaped button on the backside of the bears to make them official Care Bears. We also got a patent, which is rare and hard to do. The patent was for the application of putting graphics on a bear's stomach. Nobody had ever done that before."[1]

Once the bears had been designed and Kenner had shown their undeniable interest in the concept, they still required a marketing plan. Previously, American Greetings would release a new character and if it was popular with their target audience, other products and perhaps even a movie or television program would follow. With support from American Greetings CEO Morry Weiss, Chojnacki had a much more detailed scheme. Care Bears would launch simultaneously with thousands of licensed products, including books, bedding, children's clothing, housewares and more.[1]

Shaffer states that the team didn't just design the characters, they also meticulously lined up a range of big-name companies to licence the concept at the same time. It took them a total of two years in development to reach the launch date.[1]

Chojnacki details "There were 26 licensees that all went to market together and each of them had anywhere from 10 to a thousand products. Once the retailer saw that 26 of his leading suppliers were on board, he got pretty excited about it and committed space and advertising. We had Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Woolworth, Toys R Us and many more."[1]


The original plushies released at the New York City Toy Fair in 1983.

After two years and millions of dollars in development, Care Bears were privately introduced to investors in 1982 and then to the world at the 1983 New York City Toy Fair, where a Broadway-style play was planned to celebrate the launch. "Bernie Loomis, the president of Kenner, had his office up in New York, and he had these connections with the theatre. He proposed we mount a play. I think it cost a million dollars. Everything cost a million dollars. It was a one-shot deal. One night. The concept was that Strawberry Shortcake introduced the Care Bears to the world. We launched in March because we knew Easter is a good time for stuffed toys. We also did 16 running feet of Care Bear Cards in the stores. In the first year, we sold $40 million worth of greetings cards," Shaffer recalls.[1]


The toys were a hit, and American Greetings knew they had something special. The same year, a television special titled "The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings" aired on syndicated TV stations in the United States. The following year another special, "The Care Bears Battle the Freeze Machine" was aired along with a miniseries distributed by Lexington Broadcast Services Company.[1]

The franchise's growing popularity prompted them to further capitalize on the concept by releasing The Care Bears Movie in 1985, produced by the Canadian animation studio Nelvana, which grossed nearly $35 million worldwide. It told the story of how the Bears renewed a pair of siblings' trust in others after the sudden tragic death of their parents. Wildly popular, the movie connected with its young audience and received a Golden Reel Award, Canada's prize for the largest annual box office gross.[1] "At the same time that we were looking for new ideas, we were developing characters and plot lines for the movie. Dave was the best in the world to tackle that type of assignment. He was the wizard. When The Care Bears Movie came out, Disney people were talking about how they were beaten by people who were really new to this game." - Shaffer[1] This was a reference to the fact the movie overgrossed Disney's then-newest movie The Black Cauldron in the box-office.

The same year, an animated television series produced by DIC Entertainment and LBS Communications aired on syndicated TV stations, like with the specials. Combining cuteness with lessons surrounding emotional intelligence, The Care Bears won over young fans as the ultimate emotional pick-me-up.[1]

By 1986, a sequel to The Care Bears Movie was released - Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation. This movie told the origin story of the Bears and Cousins, and introduced True Heart Bear and Noble Heart Horse. The movie grossed $12 million in the box-office, but was completely lambasted by critics, with critics like The New York Times' Vincent Canby proclaiming, "Product merchandising marches on."[2] Even with the negative reception of the second movie, the bears' popularity kept going. In the first five years, Care Bears merchandise racked up $2 billion in retail sales. That same year, Nelvana produced a new TV series titled The Care Bears Family, which lasted three seasons on ABC in the United States and Global in Canada.

In 1987, another film - The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland was given a limited release in the United States and Canada. The movie was given a smaller release due to the very negative reception of A New Generation, leading to this one becoming a box-office bomb, grossing only $6 Million within a $5 Million budget.

In 1988, The last original series movie - Care Bears Nutcracker Suite aired on Global and The Disney Channel in Canada and the United States respectively, and functioned as the series finale to The Care Bears Family. The movie was originally planned to release theatrically but the bombing of Adventure in Wonderland led to the movie airing on TV and directly-to-video.

The first Relaunch

Care Bears Care About the Environment

In order to cash-in the success of eco-friendly craze, Kenner came up with a redesigned range of Bears called "Care Bears Care the Environment".

In 1991, television shows like Captain Planet had reached on the height of their popularity, and with this, Kenner produced a new range of environmentally-friendly Care Bears. Bedtime Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Love-a-lot Bear, Share Bear, and Tenderheart Bear all got redesigns that featured belly-badges that represented something good about our world. A new addition to the range - Proud Heart Bear was also introduced, representing what makes America so great. The range only lasted a year, and have been criticised for their odd appearances.

After this relaunch, the Bears faded into obscurity, with only slight minor new releases coming in-between 1993 and 2001.

The 2000's Relaunch

In 2002, Play Along Toys acquired the toy master rights to the Care Bears franchise and planned to give the Bears a new life.[1]

"They have retro appeal. Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake became the cool things to wear. They had a huge second life that is still ongoing." says Polter.[1]

the franchise was rebooted with revamped toys featuring illuminated bellies and updated colours in the 2000s, along with the computer-animated films Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-Lot (2004) and The Care Bears Big Wish Movie (2005). A new version of the TV animated series was also created in 2011 called Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot and in 2015, Netflix produced the show Care Bears and Cousins.[1]

The most recent iteration of the television series is Care Bears: Unlock the Magic and was first aired in 2019.

"American Greetings probably backed this one more than any other property. They supported it with consumer advertising, something they rarely did - a million dollars of advertising." - Polter[1]

General Appeal

Each Care Bear comes in a different color and has a specialized insignia on its belly that represents its duty and personality. This symbol was known as their "tummy symbol". However, the movie Care Bears: Oopsy Does It! renamed them "belly badges". Adding to the Care Bear family are the "Care Bear Cousins", which feature a lion, rabbit, penguin, raccoon, monkey, elephant, pig, dog, cat, and other such animals created in the same style as the Bears.

In 2002, the bears were reintroduced with new toys. Made by Play-Along Toys, the new toys offered features such as illuminated bellies upon touch, aerobic bears, and glow-in-the-dark bears.

In 2007, the franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary, and another relaunch took place with the launch of the movie Care Bears: Oopsy Does It!. This was then followed by another series, Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-LotThis series ran until 2008, and was followed by three more direct-to-DVD movies in the same style.

In mid-2011, American Greetings announced a revival TV animated series titled Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot. The premiere of the series capitalized off of "30 years of caring". It premiered on The Hub (Now Discovery Family) on June 2, 2012. Though Welcome to Care-a-Lot lasted one season, a continuation of the series, "Care Bears and Cousins," was commissioned by Netflix and premiered November 6, 2015.  Toy company Just Play debuted a range of Care Bears toys (plush, figures & blind bag collectibles) based on the Welcome to Care-a-Lot characters and style guide in Spring 2015.

Since February 2019, a reboot of the series, Care Bears: Unlock the Magic, has aired on both cable TV and streaming services.


See Also