Some of the most popular toys and cartoons of the 80's started out in unusual ways. Like Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite made her first appearance not on the shelves of toy stores, but on the racks of greeting card shops. Following American Greetings' widespread success of the Care Bears, Hallmark came out with a series of cards and stationery featuring a colorful little girl and her friends. This was the only card-turned-cartoon production by Hallmark, though American Greetings enjoyed this kind of success with various lines.
This story of Rainbow Brite starts out with a little girl named Wisp who was taken to Rainbowland, a faraway place in much distress due to its darkened, dismal state. Wisp was determined to restore Rainbowland to its once vivid, colorful splendor, so she embarked on a journey to find the elusive Color Belt and Sphere of Light. Along the way, she met up with a white "sprite" called Twink. Twink joined Wisp on her adventure and soon they discovered a beautiful horse named Starlite, who was frozen in a block of ice. Wisp and Twink managed to free Starlite, and he, too, joined them in their quest. So, the three went on their way, overcoming many obstacles and eventually discovering a baby who was all alone. Not wanting to leave the baby behind, Wisp decided to take her along on their journey. They entered a cave to seek shelter, and much to their surprise Wisp found the Color Belt there and that the baby she had rescued was actually the Sphere of Light! She was then able to free the Color Kids (Red Butler, Lala Orange, Canary Yellow, Patty O'Green, Buddy Blue, Indigo, and Shy Violet) from captivity and with their help, defeated the Dark One, who was the mastermind behind the disappearance of color throughout the land. Because of her valiant efforts, Wisp was given the name "Rainbow Brite" and was put in charge of all colors everywhere. Although she has to contend with villains Murky Dismal and Lurky, she always manages to keep the colors bright and cheery.
In 1983, shortly after Hallmark introduced the characters on greeting cards, Mattel began producing a line of Rainbow Brite dolls. Soon, other Rainbow Brite paraphernalia began popping up, such as storybooks, coloring books, stickers, pens, clothing, patches, and bedroom sets, just to name a few. Rainbow and the gang appeared in a live-action video called Rainbow Brite: San Diego Zoo Adventure, and in 1984, two TV specials, Rainbow Brite: Peril in the Pits and Rainbow Brite: The Mighty Monstromurk Menace, debuted. The specials were well-received by audiences and the toys continued to be a favorite among little girls. In 1985, another TV special aired called Rainbow Brite: The Beginning of Rainbow Land, which told the story of the magical world Rainbow Brite lives in. Additions to the toy line were also made, including characters such as Tickled Pink and Stormy.
Like many cartoons of the time, Rainbow Brite soon made it to the big screen. On November 15, 1985, Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer hit theatres everywhere. This time Rainbow Brite not only had her rivals Murky and Lurky to deal with, but also a selfish, evil princess who is set on destroying the world. Soon, new dolls were produced in conjunction with the characters in the movie, and the following year, Rainbow Brite got her own cartoon series as part of Kideo TV, a block of children's programming.
The toy line phased out near the latter part of the 80's, though an attempt was made to bring them back in 1996. This time, however, they made many changes to the line and it didn't take off nearly as well as the originals did. Still, Rainbow Brite remains a favorite among children of the 80's, and with the 2004 release of Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer on DVD, she can continue to be shared with generations to come.