The Cabbage Patch Kids: First Christmas (1984)

I can't find much background information on this, but reading between the lines, I assume it was intended to double as a special and a pilot for a planned Cabbage Patch Kids series that never got greenlit. I'm almost surprised it wasn't picked up, not because this is any good (spoiler: it is not), but because that rarely prevented stuff like this from being made in the '80s, particularly when anchored to an IP as well-known as the Cabbage Patch Kids.

This was created by Ruby-Spears Productions, which was founded by a couple former Hanna-Barbera employees. Having recently seen a boatload of Hanna-Barbera Christmas specials, you can see the influence. And not just because the premise of this revolves around characters learning about and experiencing Christmas for the first time. 

It opens with a stork traveling to the bleak, snowy landscape that is (checks notes) northern Georgia (you know, where the dolls were invented). Within the wintery expanse, there's a magical oasis where it's always summer. Here, bunny bees sprinkle their magical bunny bee dust on cabbages to make them grow Cabbage Patch Kids, and a new one is born. The Cabbage Patch Kids live here with only two friends from the outside world, a boy named Xavier Roberts (which is the name of the guy who owned the company that made the dolls) and the aforementioned stork. Be sure you remember all this lore, because IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PLOT AND DOES NOT COME UP AGAIN.

Anyway, the boy tells them about Christmas, so the Cabbage Patch Kids decide they want to go into the city and see the Christmas Spirit for themselves, thinking it's a tangible (or at least visible) thing. Neither the older boy nor the stork try to stop them, though the stork looks after the newborn while they're gone.

They leave, immediately attracting the attention of Lavender McDade (an evil elderly woman who wants to enslave them to work in a mine) and her two henchmen, Beau Weasel and Cabbage Jack (a six-foot-tall anthropomorphic weasel and rabbit, respectively, each wearing anachronistic southern gentlemen outfits). They chase the kids, who escape by climbing into a tree, which is cut down by oblivious lumberjacks then driven to the city.

We do not see Lavender or her goons again.

The kids get to the city and immediately meet a kind-hearted couple who desperately want to adopt a child who looks as much like the red-headed Cabbage Patch Kid with freckles as possible. To be clear, they stand in front of the group of kids, talk about how much they wish they had a child, then specifically say they'd like one that looks exactly like that particular Cabbage Patch Kid.

The couple then leaves, dropping a wallet. The kids find the wallet but also draw the attention of an old woman who looks and sounds like Lavender (but isn't) and her two helpers voiced by the same actors as Beau Weasel and Cabbage Jack. They're thieves who want to steal the wallet and also force the kids to pick pockets for them.

The thieves chase the kids, who hide in an orphanage. Okay, they don't use the word "orphanage" (they call it a children's home), but it's basically a typical cartoon orphanage. Inside, they meet a human child with red hair and freckles who dreams of being adopted but fears no one will want her because she has a leg brace. The Cabbage Patch Kids assure her that being different is what makes her special, and every kid is unique...

Ah. How sweet. Did I mention that Cabbage Patch Kids were originally made and sold as unique dolls (i.e.: no two are exactly alike)? Just so we're clear on the actual theme here.

Reasoning the couple will want her (because she looks like the one the couple picked out), they leave with her and are chased by the thieves again. They go to a hotel where the couple is randomly staying, but get thrown out before they get their attention. The thieves chase them into a park and eventually catch them, but the kids get the attention of the cops and help apprehend the criminals. They then randomly run into the couple, who are still creepily fixated on wanting to adopt a kid with red hair and freckles. The Cabbage Patch Kids introduce them to the one they found, and the couple is naturally ready to sign the adoption paperwork immediately. The orphanage is likewise willing to send the girl home with them at once, despite not having had time to conduct any kind of background check on the people obsessed with getting a kid who meets their exact specifications. They also decide to take the similar-looking Cabbage Patch Kid, too, so she goes with them, as well. Seeing as her mother was greenery, her father was a bunny bee, and there's literally no way she could have a birth certificate, I have no idea how that works. But this is a half-hour toy commercial, so let's just roll with it. The other Cabbage Patch Kids return to the patch, wondering if maybe someday they, too, will be adopted or at the very least purchased at a Toys R Us after being wrenched from the hands of a terrified clerk. The end.

Obviously, this is bad. It's trying to simultaneously tell a standalone story and establish foundational lore for what I'm guessing was supposed to be a follow-up series. It works out about as well here as it did when Universal tried the same thing with their Dark Universe. No, sorry. That's not fair. I actually kind of like the Tom Cruise Mummy reboot: this was way more awkward.

I know virtually every cartoon in the '80s was made to sell toys, but the theme of GI Joe or Care Bears episodes weren't that those toys are special and unique and deserving of love. I actually have seen similar themes in some Elf on the Shelf specials, but I'd have expected better from Cabbage Patch Dolls. Slightly better. You know, I'd at least think they'd try and be subtle about it.

That doesn't mean it's not entertaining. The shameless capitalistic nonsense is unintentionally funny, as are all the nonsensical and random details. The snowy December in Georgia, the underdeveloped villains at the beginning, the fact Optimus Prime voices one of the cops: there's a lot in here, and I've barely scratched the surface. We enjoyed laughing at this, and that ain't nothing. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, there was a good joke or two.

The animation is bad, but that's par for the course for the '80s. A good rule of thumb is if you haven't heard about it and it was made for television in that decade, the animation is almost certainly garbage. There's also one song. Like the rest of the special, it conveys the message that you should buy the special, one-of-a-kind doll only they offer. So... not great.

This is bizarre enough to be worth a watch if and only if you find things like this funny, rather than depressing. I'm not sure it really rises to the level of something I'd consider "so bad it's good," but it comes damn close.


  1. Cleveland, "City of Mountain Breezes" and home of the Cabbage Patch Kids, is in the North Georgia mountains, and it definitely snows there! Might be unusual to have a blizzard in December, but it's certainly possible.

    1. Fair enough! I hereby rescind one of the seven hundred and forty-eight negative things I said about this special.

    2. However, as I recall the kids specifically said they went to Atlanta, where I think things are traditionally a bit less wintry ;)

    3. In that case, not much snow in Atlanta in December. I remember one white Christmas, but it was a mere dusting, alas.

      Glad this one's not on my Christmas watchlist this year :D


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