If you grew up in the 1980s, chances are you remember the My Buddy Doll. Most will remember this doll not necessarily because of the doll itself, but rather the fact that the commercials for them were everywhere.
They had an oddly eerie yet catchy jingle, and these My Buddy Doll (and also Kid Sister) commercials were a fixture amongst Saturday morning cartoons. If you were a kid in the 1980s, you definitely will remember this commercial:
The My Buddy Doll was interesting because it was really the first mainstream push for dolls for boys. Obviously girls were typically thought of as the gender that played with dolls, but Hasbro wanted to change all that in the 80s.
Girls always had their Barbie dolls, but dolls for boys did not become a reality really until the 1980s. When Hasbro debuted its My Buddy doll in 1985, it was a groundbreaking and transformative event in the toy business.
The My Buddy Doll Run In Toy History
In the 1980s there was a clear division between dolls for girls and the male-orientated toys for boys that had associations with violence, such as the “He-Man” toys. Earlier in the century, there had been a low key interest in dolls with young boys, but these dolls depicted adults and when the toy industry switched to making dolls that represented infants, the interest from boys dropped sharply.
In the 1980s, since dolls were generally associated with younger girls, the concept of a boy’s doll was groundbreaking and controversial.
The My Buddy doll line was a toy brand created by Hasbro in 1985, that was meant to appeal to young boys, while also teaching them about the need to care for their friends.
The line had a controversial, yet brief existence, since Hasbro dropped it at the beginning of the 1990s. Soon after Playskool took up manufacturing the doll again, altering the character’s appearance and wardrobe.
The marketing for the My Buddy doll was intentionally geared around climbing trees, riding bikes, and other masculine concepts, and they steered clear of anything that might appear feminine. The tagline was “A Little Boy’s Special Friend.”
While boys may have had no problem with playing with this doll if left to themselves, it was not uncommon for fathers to disapprove. Add this together with elements of the media, and the result was the My Buddy Doll being a hard sell.
Despite the fact that it had a relatively brief lifespan, My Buddy is reported to have served as the idea for the development of the carrot-topped killer doll Chucky in the 1988 film Child’s Play, directed by Don Mancini and written by and starring Tom Holland.
My Buddy may not have been a huge commercial success, but its efforts to dismantle some of the persisting preconceptions in the toy industry were well ahead of its time.
Regardless of what you thought about the idea of boys playing with dolls during the 1980s, we all remember My Buddy as a toy that was popular, yet kind of creepy, and probably a toy best left in the 1980s.