My Buddy dolls: How a hot-selling toy inspired the design of demonic Chucky
Chucky is just one of those things that defined culture so profoundly. It changed how we viewed something that was considered innocent and wholesome -- dolls. (Yes, the killer doll trope existed before ‘Child’s Play’ but other films just don’t compare). Just like Stephen King made sure clowns would inspire nothing but horror, Tom Holland (not THAT Tom Holland) and Don Mancini made sure we’d never see toys that look like toddlers as anything but sentient murder-dolls.
The new ‘Chucky’ TV series looks promising in every way, especially with Mancini leading the project. And while the ‘Child’s Play’ film series is a modern horror classic with its tightrope balance between camp comedy and gory slasher, the films did have a detrimental effect (or perhaps more than one) on a line of toys that were being specifically marketed to boys at the time. Cue, Hasbro’s My Buddy dolls.
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My Buddy was an oversized doll first introduced by Hasbro in 1985 and it attempted to be a pioneer -- dolls for boys, in an era when dolls and masculinity mixed as nicely as water and oil. We are, of course, not talking about action figures. Rather, dolls that looked like infants, something that was strictly marketed to girls in that era.
As per Mental Floss, My Buddy was intended to be a companion for boys perceived as more active than girls. “My Buddy is positioned as macho,” Hasbro's senior vice president of marketing Stephen Schwartz had told The Boston Globe in 1985. “It’s soft macho, but it’s still macho. We show them climbing up trees, riding their bikes. We didn’t position it like a girl doll, soft and sweet.”
My Buddy and his various offshoots remained on store shelves for a few years. But its popularity diminished and ultimately died. Though it is unlikely to be ever evidenced, the My Buddy dolls were probably figuratively murdered by the knife-wielding evil Chucky, an idea that was born from the dolls themselves.
IMDb quotes Mancini stating how Chucky draws heavily from the My Buddy dolls: "In my original script, he was originally called Buddy, and we couldn't use it because of the 'My Buddy' doll. The director went out and got a 'My Buddy' doll, a Raggedy Ann, a Raggedy Andy, and one of those life-size baby infants. What I told [designer] Kevin Yagher was, I wanted something similar to a My Buddy doll. I described ‘Buddy’ in my original script, now ‘Chucky’, as wearing red-buttoned overalls, red sneakers, a striped sweater, with red hair, blue eyes, and freckles. Kevin went off and sketched many designs of Chucky until the final was picked. Yagher then built the first doll from those sketches and my details."
But there’s more. Mancini intended to satirize consumerism aimed at children. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Mancini explained, “And since we were doing a satire on marketing, the idea was that when you’re playing with the doll, if you played too rough with it the latex skin would break and then this blood would start to seep out, so you had to go out and buy official Good Guy band-aids to put on. It was just a way to sell products. … So the way that the doll came to life was that because Andy is a lonely kid — no dad around, his mom is a busy working mother -- in that classic rite of brotherhood he cuts his own thumb and the doll’s thumb so they’ll be best friends forever —‘friends ’til the end’ -- and after that, the murders start.”
Hasbro reportedly discontinued the line before the start of the 1990s. There may be more factors than one that led to this decision. But its proximity to 1988, the year ‘Child’s Play’ released does make one wonder, doesn’t it? If nothing else, basketball player Tyson Chandler offers some insight into the film's effect on the dolls.
In 2008, Chandler wrote in a blog, "I begged for the My Buddy doll, begged for the My Buddy doll. I kept asking, "Ma, get me the My Buddy. Ma, get me the My Buddy." But my mom couldn't really afford it, so she couldn't get it for me at that time." His uncle helped cure this demand, said Chandler. He said his uncle "came over with this video and pops it in the machine. I'm like, 'Ah, My Buddy!' And it turns out it was the Chucky movie. All the next week, I'm telling my mom, 'Please, don't get me My Buddy. Please, don't get me My Buddy'."