This Feature Story appeared in the Keeping Ken Ken News! on April 28, 2002.
Keeping Ken Ken News Feature Archive
& the Rockers (Rock Stars) Videos!
Sources: M.G. Lord at Salon.com Oct. 27, 2000, Out of the Garden; Toyland; Fashion and Merchandising Fads and the "Universal Appeal Jem" site at http://www.angelfire.com/la/Holograms/index.html.
Special thanks to Jon C. in the UK for additional text, research, video captures and the inspiration for this feature!
Rockers Ken, Barbie, Derek, Dana, Diva and Dee Dee are registered trademarks of Mattel, Inc. This feature story is neither affiliated with, nor a representative of Mattel, Inc. Material provided on these pages do not in any way reflect the opinions of Mattel, Inc.
Jem is a registered trademark of Hasbro.
1986 brought a real-life "battle of the bands" competition that was driven by America's appetite for a cable television program dedicated to music videos called "MTV". After twenty years as a top seller, Barbie's sales started to wane in the mid-eighties, largely due to the lack of a comprehensive promotional strategy. Her creators, Ruth and Elliot Handler of Mattel, didn't want to specify Barbie doll's personality, because this might limit the imagination of girls who play with the dolls. Without a comprehensive TV marketing plan, her own show, and hundreds of coordinated licensing arrangements, Barbie was losing market share, mostly to a new character doll named "Jem".
|Left: The competition.
Jem--Barbie's first serious rival in a market flooded with imitators--was launched in 1986, complete with a television show, books, posters, T-shirts, and tape recorders. Every detail related to her character, every bit of narrative, was carefully calculated, targeted, screened, and analyzed. After extensive market research and planning, Jem was born: crusader for orphaned girls by day, rock star by night. As Jerrica Benton, she ran the Starlight Home for Girls (inherited from her father) and communicated with a special computer via her earring . . . which somehow would transform Jerrica and her friends into Jem and the Holograms, pink rock band, forever to battle rival rockers the Misfits and their greedy punk rock manager. A typical commercial for Jem went like this:
Chorus: (over animation from the series) Jem.
Female voice: Battling the Misfits, battling, battling the Misfits.
Girl 1: (watching Gem) Your clothes are outrageous.
Girl 2: Truly outrageous.
Misfits: We are the Misfits, we are better. Our music is better, and we are taking it all. Taking it, taking it, taking it all.
Girl 2: It's Jem and the Holograms.
Girl 1: The Misfits are better.
Girl 2: We'll let our fans decide.
Female Voice: Flash 'n' sizzle Jem, the Holograms, and the Misfits, each sold separately with cassette.
The Mattel camp responded to all this by fighting fire with fire. Come 1987, Barbie had both a rock band and a TV show. Right after the Jem dolls were released in 1985, Mattel decided to give Barbie a rock band too, named "Barbie and the Rockers", or "Barbie and the Rockstars" in Europe. Just like the Jem dolls, the Barbie and the Rockers dolls had an edition of the lead singer with star earrings, there was a male doll with combable hair (later when Ken doll was introduced into the band in 1987), and the group had one Black and one Asian member. The dolls came with a cassette with songs, and there was a play set in form of a Stage. The Jem dolls had more realistic and more bendable bodies, which Barbie and the Rockers partly challenged by their "Real Dancing Action" second edition of dolls.
Above and Below: These separate fashions pictured in the German "Barbie Journal" magazine are produced for the Barbie and the Rock Stars band members. Barbie had two fashions in each series. Left to right Dana, Barbie, Derek, Diva, Barbie (again) and Dee Dee.
Jem's cartoon series was introduced in 1985 as a half-hour block of Marvel's "Super Sunday, " then became so popular that it went into syndication in 1986. Later, Mattel will respond with two Barbie and the Rockers cartoons which includes stories with time traveling and fifties style themes, just like the Jem cartoons. Both of the cartoons had music videos that were blended with the action. The video outraged Hasbro Jem fans, who had faithfully watched Jem and her friends in her animated cartoon series that ran from 1985-1988. With all the similarities, the Barbie and the Rockers cartoons are apparently of lower quality. The 10 songs sang by Barbie and the Rockers in the cartoon, weren't presented with a title until the ending credits, and half were covers of old songs. Barbie manages to sing one song twice in the two episodes. Jem and the Holograms sing almost a hundred songs in the 65 episode run of the series. Some of the songs in the Jem cartoon were reused in later episodes, but with new music videos.
Luckily for Mattel, Barbie and the Rockers were enough alike Jem and the Holograms to sell very well. And for the many shortcomings the Barbie and the Rockers videos may have, they are still hold the charm and history that are important to collectors. With the history leading up to the videos covered, it's time now to unlock the charm.
In 1987, Mattel will release the first of two fully animated videos. The first video is "Barbie and the Rockers Out of this World" (Volume 1) ©1987 by Hi-Topps Video (Barbie and the Rock Stars in Europe, Australia, Canada, etc.)
"Barbie and the Rockers Out of this World"
After her successful worldwide concert tour ends, Barbie® (voiced by Sharon Lewis) reveals to the Rockers her greatest tour ever-a concert in outer space! This half-hour special was based on the popular Rocker Barbie doll created by Mattel. A DIC Enterprises Production in association with Mattel. Syndicated: Fall 1987.
(From the back of video jacket): "Hi, I'm Barbie®. My band The Rockers, and I, are taking off for excitement in our very first video! Ken, Dana, Diva, Dee Dee, Derek and I are going where no band has gone before...into space! Now our music is rocking the outer limits because we've launched into an adventure that's totally "Out Of This World". So strap yourself in for action, because the countdown to fun has begun!"
|Synopsis: The "Barbie
and the Rockers Out of this World" video opens with the Rockers
band finishing their world tour with a concert in front of thousands
of screaming fans. They are performing the last part of the song
Barbie And The Rockers. There are some great shots of Ken
and Derek playing their electric guitars. During the musical
number, scenes of Barbie collecting some awards phase in and
out. She wins ALL of the awards at the "World Music
Awards" and the group reaches "triple platinum" status.
She travels to the White House to be named the "First Ambassador
for World Peace". Suddenly the video jumps back to the
concert as the Rockers group are leaving. When asked
"What's next?" by reporters, she mysteriously answers that
it will be "out of this world!"
Right: Rocker band mates.
The group departs in a pink color "Rockers" van. While in the van, Ken exclaims "I'm starved", which prompts the group to drive to the "Clouds In The Sky" restaurant. The restaurant must be reached by taking a long elevator ride which reveals a large room with glass ceilings. Once there, Derek comments "Awesome view," as Dee Dee laments about the fact that the Rockers world tour is over. This is a perfect sedge way to the song Best Friends, sung by Barbie which turns into a fantasy music video. She starts the number by leaping atop the restaurant patrons tables and is soon joined by the rest of the band in a dance number to the song. The restaurant walls and floors magically disappear and it appears that the dance number is now being performed in the starry night sky with clouds as the floor. This number truly makes the video worth every penny...and who knew that Ken and Derek were such great dancers! The fantasy number ends with the group back in the restaurant with the patrons wildly applauding. Now knowing that Barbie considers the other band members her "best friends," Diva says, "Gee Barbie, you always know how to cheer us up!"
The next scene takes place in Barbie's penthouse apartment in the morning. Barbie makes a reference that the group has been out all night dancing, and the whole band is still with her the next morning. The door bell rings and a deliver man delivers an invitation for Barbie to the "World Peace Organization" Ball. Demurely she asks, "Ken, will you be my Price Charming?" Of course Ken agrees, but this puts Barbie in a quandary about what to wear. With the help of Dee Dee, Dana and Diva, she gets ready for the ball in a music video fashion expo format to the song I'm Happy To Dance With You. This leads to my favorite part of the video as Barbie descends the stairs in her pink ball gown. At the bottom of the stairs is Ken in a tuxedo. He says, "I don't think you've ever been so gorgeous".
At the ball, the patrons exclaim "She is beautiful" and "fantastic". The dance number (waltz) between Barbie and Ken at the ball is another great moment in the video. At the end of the dance Ken comments, "I think you just made another conquest Barbie". The fabulous waltz is cut short by Barbie's announcement about where the Rockers will perform next. "One place we haven't performed will go down in the history books. Our next concert will be dedicated to world peace. It will be performed in outer space".
|The next scene is back in
the penthouse with he band members completely baffled about how Barbie
intends to pull this outer space concert off. The most hesitant
member is Derek because "It's just too much to do so
quickly". Eventually he agrees and all the band members
stack the hands on top of each other in agreement. Barbie
exclaims, "but with hard work and a little bit of magic" the
band can achieve their goal. This leads into a song Do You
Believe In Magic that starts in Barbie's penthouse, but continues
into scenes showing the band going through space training. The most
memorable scene during this number is one between Ken and Derek as
they set up speakers. Obviously Derek sets the sound level is
set to high and it throws Ken off the speaker he is sitting on.
Left: All aboard! Derek on the spaceship.
|After this number it is time to board the completely pink space ship. Once on board in front of the controls before lift-off Barbie says to Ken, "I can't believe it's real, can you?" Ken nods "no". After lift-off the group are in awe of the view from the spaceship windows. This (of course) leads into another moment for a song. The song is Reachin' For The Stars. After the number is finished, they are given clearance to land on the space station by Dr. Leonard. There is no time to waste as the concert will commence in a few minutes. He leads the girls to the "Starlight Dressing Room" where the "girls get ready". Getting ready gives another opportunity for another fashion related music video between the girls which is accompanied by the Barbie And The Rockers music again. After the girls get dressed for the video they vamp in front of a full length mirror. Barbie says, "Are we hot or what?"||
Above: Space bound Rocker Ken.
Dr. Leonard leads the band to a control room and shows them the stage. They seem disappointed about how plain it looks. That problem is solved as Dr. Leonard pushes a button and the stage rises and the ceiling unfolds to reveal the starry sky. Truly the most outrageous moment of the video, when the stage is being changed, it looks like a huge pink flower that is blooming.
Barbie and the Rockers are now ready to perform their live concert for world peace. Before the concert begins Barbie says into the microphone "I know you want peace as much as I do!" The scene cuts away to show the concert being broadcast around the world as people watch on television monitors. Barbie greets each country in different foreign languages. Then they perform my personal favorite song Everybody Rock. Listen to it once and you'll never forget it..."Everybody rock, everybody rock/Who's got it? We got it!/Let's rock, let's rock!!" And of course Barbie asks everyone to join in to "sing for peace everywhere. This is the first day for world peace. If we wand it enough, it won't be the last".
After she exclaims these words, her full screen face fades only leaving her pink color lips, which is VERY Rocky Horror Picture Show inspired.
"Barbie Sensations Rockin' Back To Earth"
The following year in 1988, "Barbie® Sensations, Rockin' Back To Earth" (Volume 2) ©1988 by Hi-Topps Video is released. Approximately 55 minutes long, it contains the original video ("Out of this World", Volume 1) and a new story. The new story line is an important factor in trying to figure out the entire "Sensations" doll line.
Barbie® and her band, the "Rockers", rocket into outer space and star in their very own magical musical adventures having "the time of their lives". Then they travel back to the 1959, where they are inspired by the musical styles of the time. This new part of "Barbie® Sensations, Rockin' Back To Earth" continues the life of the Rockers band. It does not introduce the new members of Barbie® doll's band the "Sensations". Another Mattel mystery goes on the record. Why didn't Mattel use the "Rockers" name on the video since they were the band featured in the video traveling back into the fifties? Whatever the reason, the fifties theme is adopted (or copied) from the "Rockers" for the "Sensations". The "Sensations" carry all the themes in the actual doll line that the video provided.
Left: Video Jacket of "Barbie Sensations Rockin' Back To Earth"
Synopsis: Ok, assuming you know that the "Out of this World" cartoon ends up with the six members of the group playing on a space station that looks like a giant (pink!) flower... So, Barbie and the gang finish the "First World Peace" concert and wave bye-bye to the stations' staff, leaving in the pink Space Shuttle.. During the trip back to Earth, Dee Dee tells the others that she "Can't find the words to describe space" (as she's floating around). Diva says, "What a thrill" and Dee Dee says "It's hard to explain". Ken replies, "Except in music!" Ken just has to start a song. Seconds later the rest join in; not noticing that a "time tunnel" is forming in front of the Shuttle. Suddenly the chart starts shaking and the group look in amazement as clocks go backwards.
Below: Uh, oh, the band enters a time warp!
Above: Ken replies, "Except in music!" Ken just has to start a song.
As soon as the tunnel had started it finishes, and to their amazement they find themselves back at Earth a lot sooner than expected. Barbie calls for "Ground Control" only to get a sarcastic message back over the radio asking about little green men. Landing the Shuttle anyway, they think they're landed at the wrong airport...
A little girl called Kim sees the Pink Shuttle landing and runs to get her father Dr. Merrishaw. The group meanwhile exit the chart to be greeted by Kim and her father, only to find that they're in 1959. Wondering how they're going to return to their present time, Kim's father is revealed to be a rocket scientist (strange that, eh?!). Whilst Kim's father goes away to work out how the group is going to return, Kim shows the group around the 1950's town.
When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping, which is just what the group does. In a thinly veiled advert for extra clothes for Barbie (again), a 1980's style pop video starts to show the group in various clothes to the song Dressin' Up, and before long Barbie and the others look like 50's teenagers. Ken and Derek venture out on their own to get hair cuts, leaving the girls behind. They meet together again in time for Ken to purchase a convertible pink Cadillac (where did he get the money from?!) and the group head to the nearest malt shop.
Right: The whole gang on the way to the malt shop in Ken's new pink Cadillac.
The group are asked by the US President to play a concert at the newly formed Cape Canaveral space center for a "Rock To The Stars Concert". Then Kim and her father tell the group that "the position of the planets and the chords of music" had caused the time tunnel. And guess what - the time they could try to return to their present time is on the day of the concert!
Left: Barbie Ken and Derek with their new '50's look!
the concert Kim and her father say their goodbyes to the group, and
Barbie takes off a golden heart-shaped necklace around her neck and puts
it around Kim's. Then she and the group goes on stage (with the pink
space shuttle in the background) and starts playing Blue Jean Boy.
Kim's father pulls a few levers, the whole stage lights up and the group
gets on board and disappears down the time tunnel again..
Back in the present, the group perform another concert (the "Welcome Home" concert) by playing my favorite Everybody Rock. During this scene there are some great moves by Ken as he plays the electric guitar! Standing in the front row is Kim, all grown up and with a daughter of her own...
Right: Ken gives the thumb-up! The Rockers are on the way back to the present time!
Rock ON! Listen to Barbie and the Rockers sing HERE!