With the phenomenon called MTV (music television), Hasbro decided to capitalize on rock video revolution with a new fashion doll. The concept was brought to Hasbro by Bill Sanders, Barb and Joe Hyland. It sounds like the original concept was just Jem and her male band. It is unclear if this original concept for Jem included a secret identity or not.
Hasbro employed Griffin-Bacal Advertising as an advertising agency, and used their help with many of the 80’s Hasbro brands. Griffin-Bacal owned an animation studio called Sunbow Properties, Inc., and like most Hasbro properties Hasbro wanted an animated series to sell their new doll line. Jem was a little different, Hasbro had Sunbow release the cartoon first so it would appear that the doll line was based on the cartoon – most 80’s cartoons were based on toy lines, and by 1985 there was a backlash against the practice.
Christy Marx was employed by Sunbow Properties, Inc. as a writer, and was chosen to become the head writer for Jem when the concept of Jem needed to be developed. She took the concept of Jem, her band, a rival band, boyfriend, and secret identity created by a holographic computer, and created an outrageous world. So the story of Jem was born, with a young girl named Morgan, and later Misty who became a rock singer named “M” to capitalize on the MTV connection. Because Hasbro could not trademark a letter, they came up with the name JEM because they called M’s Jemstar earrings. Jem’s real identity became Jerrica, and Christy added the last name of Benton because Dr. Stephen A. Benton of Polaroid Corporation was a pioneer in developing holograms.
Christy’s story begins with Jerrica’s father Emmett Benton, recently passed away, who was the owner of Starlight Music. When Emmett passed he left Starlight Music to Jerrica and Eric Raymond (Emmett’s assistant) as co-owners. Jerrica soon found out Eric was misusing her father’s company and she knew she had to do something about it. Before Eric’s “rigged” Battle of the Bands, Jerrica got a mysterious package that included Jemstar earrings. The Jemstar earrings were remote micro projectors for the super computer named Synergy which Emmett had secretly built before he died. With the ability to disguise herself, Jerrica crashed Eric’s Battle of the Bands as Jem, with Jerrica’s sister Kimber and foster sisters Aja and Shana as the Holograms. Eric, with the Misfits who Eric was promoting, challenged Jerrica and her new band to another battle of the bands, but this time the winner would retain control of Starlight Music.
The magic of Jem was that Jem was written to sell the dolls to girls, but at the same time written to entertain boys so they wouldn’t want to change the channel. With a music video in every segment, a constant backing score, and at least two cliff hangers per episode it was the most exciting, musical and magical animated series at the time, or since.
Jerrica often became jealous of her other identity, and there was a constant struggle to deal with that jealous and keeping her secret identity a secret, especially since it was Eric and the Misfits mission in life to find out who Jem really was. To compound the drama Jerrica’s boyfriend Rio falls for Jem, and can’t really decide which personality was really his girlfriend.
Because store toy buyers, along with the general public, felt like Jem could not expand beyond a rock star, Hasbro came up with a “Hollywood Glamour” doll, which became 1987’s Glitter’n Gold Jem/Jerrica. Hasbro also gave Jem and fresh new look and smiling face with Flash’n Sizzle Jem/Jerrica. Flash’n Sizzle Jem and Jerrica were not featured in the series other than Jem’s new purple make-up. Because Jem dolls were higher priced than Barbie, Hasbro also came out with a pared-down version called Rock’n Curl Jem. To save cost and because of time restraints Hasbro’s Girls’ Hard (dolls) employed Hasbro’s Girls’ Soft (fashions) to create a budget minded fashion. Continuing the lower cost Jem dolls, Girls’ Hard developed Rockin’ Romance Jem and American Beauty Jem for a 1988 release. As a follow up to Glitter’n Gold Jem/Jerrica Hasbro was also developing a Hollywood Jem doll which would have been scented or come with a perfume, this Jem would have been the first without pink hair and completely divorced from the original rock singer concept. The description of Hollywood Jem was in the 1988 French Pre-Toy Fair catalog (but American Beauty Jem was pictured) Pictures of the Hollywood Jem doll were also sent to Sunbow to add into the series. Hollywood Jem should have had a fashion assortment just like Glitter’n Gold Jem/Jerrica, but because the 1987 Toy Fair sales did not hit expectations Hasbro suspended development on Jem and the assortment was never ordered.
When it finally came time for a JEM live action movie in 2015, most of what made Jem was no longer relevant. MTV, while not gone, hasn’t had music videos in decades. Youtube has become the new MTV, allowing anyone and everyone to upload videos of self-expression. Rock/pop stars release their music video on Youtube, just as they had in 80’s with MTV. The movie also took the focus off of Starlight Music, because mega recording companies are less significant/relevant in today’s music business – with digital store fronts, artist don’t have to find a record company, get a recording deal, etc., to release music. Records, cassettes (sold with the 1980’s Jem dolls), and even CDs are outdated formats. Even the super computer Synergy is a thing of the past, other than creating holograms, the cell phone in your pocket can do just about anything else Synergy did in the series, and much more.
1985 as part of Super Sunday / Super Saturday
|5205-08 thru 5205-12 "Truly
|5205-01 thru 5205-03 "Starbright"
|5205-30 and 5205-31 "The
|Each doll was given a model number, consisting
of the date and the order it was recorded in for that
day. Polaroids were used to show the model, and any additional
Polaroids showed changed after from the original. They
also created an official “confidential” rendering
(illustration) approved by the designer and their supervisor.
A second larger presentation art illustration was created
to get final approval from the board. There was along
process of created the head molds, and once the doll was
ready to produce a Deco Guide/Paintmaster and for some
dolls Rooting Guide were sent to the factor(s) to show
exactly how the make-up and hair should look. Hasbro also
sent slides to the factor(s) to show what the final doll
should look like.
produced doll boxes
and Licensing Kit
|Deco Guide / Paintmaster
example is "Ruby
Red Jem"/Glitter'n Gold Jem/Jerrica
example is "1987 Jem/Jerrica"/Flash'n
(see more here)
(by Sharon Knettell*)
|* = for prototypes, the designer
and prototype creator are not always the same person //
only known artist, but other artist may have been used.
Sharon Knettell was the exclusive artist box art for the
1986 dolls and playsets, Hasbro had other artist manipulating
and copying her style for the 1987 boxes to save money,
so it is unclear which are specifically her designs. There
is no sign of box art being included in one the 1988 doll
|Besides developing the doll line, having
Sunbow develop the cartoon to sell the line, Hasbro also
had to develop licensing and promotional material to promote
the doll line. The Licensing Kit was developed to give
licensees a guide to follow when packaging their licensed
Jem product to have a constant look across all categories.
The Hasbro Toy Catalogs were produced to show the available
products each year to stores and the stores' toy buyers.
The doll posters were produced and sold in the packages
to show the consumer the other offerings available at
|The French 1988 Pre-Toy Fair Catalog describes
4009 Hollywood Jem, but had
American Beauty Jem's pictured
World inventory list listed a 4010
Jem as a new item as of 6-01-1988. If this is
correct, than Hasbro Truly was replacing the Misfits
|Because of the demand and the chance for international trade conflicts, Hasbro employed multiple factories to produce the 1986 line. Two factories were responsible for the exact same doll and fashion, which gave us mold and fabric variations between the two factories. Because of less demand in 1987, each doll was only produced in a single factory limiting these variations. Of the 1988 line, the only known doll to be produced was Rockin’ Romance JEM® in very small numbers.
|In 2012 Integrity Toys, Inc. released a
Hasbro licensed adult collector line called “The
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS™ Collection” The collection
was launched with the 2012 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive
Basic Hollywood Jem™, a first wave of dolls came
out in December with Classic Jem™, Jerrica Benton™,
Synergy™, Rio Pacheco™. With success of the
first wave and 3 more waves which included the original
band members for the Holograms, the Misfits and the Stingers
in 2013, the licensed deal was expanded to include more
exclusive dolls, along with additional band members and
friends based on the Hasbro dolls. The collection has
grown into included characters that were developed Christy
Marx as secondary characters in the cartoon.