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Monday, January 20 2014 10:20

Mattel's BARBIE AND THE ROCKERS - Bringing 1985 into 2014 with the HOT ROCKIN' STAGE!

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If my math is correct, next year will mark the 30th Anniversary of BARBIE AND THE ROCKERS, a line of fashion dolls released by Mattel in 1985 as a direct response to Hasbro's JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS. "Who came first?" has always been something of debate and folklore over the years, but the general story is that when Mattel found out that Jem was on the way, all of a sudden, Barbie had a band. Growing up in the 1980s, we had both bands in our house, but I tend to remember The Rockers having the better toys at the time (though JEM had the awesome show). I, playing as "Derek," spent a lot of time jammin' out with my sister as we enjoyed her "Hot Rockin' Stage" playset. Turns out, my wife and her sister had one, too.  Long-gone like most of our now-prized childhood possessions, something interesting happened last month... when my oldest daughter found a brand-new Hot Rockin' Stage awaiting her under the Christmas tree. BARBIE AND THE ROCKERS hadn't just resurfaced in 2013, but were awaiting a "rebirth" of sorts right here at Rock Father HQ for 2014.

BARBIE and THE ROCKERS arrive at Rock Father HQ...If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (and it would be very cool if you do), then you already saw a preview of this way back in September. You see, thanks to eBay and "new old stock," I was able to find Addie a Hot Rockin' Stage that had never been used, despite the box being pretty beat-up. The reason for the purchase was as much practical as it is nostalgic: Mattel doesn't manufacture a Barbie stage these days, nor has there been a really good, comparable doll stage done in many years. Oddly enough, it was MEGA Bloks that really lit the fire under me to make this happen, and by the time I reviewed their licensed "Barbie Build 'N Play Super Star Stage" last year, the seeds had been planted for what I needed to do. Couple a musical household with an emerging knack for "performance" along with the 2012 Barbie line "The Princess and The Popstar," and you have a little girl that's been asking for "a real Barbie stage" for almost two years... an itch I tried to scratch by picking up a Winx Club stage on clearance at Target, but that just didn't do it.

Barbie and the Rockers: For Christmas 2013When Christmas morning arrived, Addie was pretty excited to see that a Barbie stage had arrived, not knowing the nostalgia factor that it was holding for Mommy and Daddy. Cracking this open for assembly nearly 30 years after it was produced was a trip.

Rock Fact: The Barbie and The Rockers Hot Rockin' Stage was produced largely from repurposed parts/molds from a 1976 DONNY AND MARIE OSMOND "TV Show" playset.

As I started separating the plastic pieces from each other (they arrived much like the way model kits are produced), I couldn't help thinking how much packaging has changed in thirty years. In 2014, you wouldn't find a "sheet" of parts that need to be twisted or cut apart by grownups, leaving the potential for sharp and/or imperfect edges out in the open. I used as much care as possible, approaching this as if I were some kind of "toy archaeologist."

The Rockers at Rock Father HQ...

Rock Fact: Barbie and The Rockers' music was written by Richard "Dick" Halligan, formerly of the band BLOOD, SWEAT, & TEARS (yes, I'm listening to "Spinning Wheel" as I type this)

As a whole, Addie's new playset went together perfectly, but I did have to get creative with the decals. Honestly, I love putting toys together- but the stickers/decals are sorta my Kryptonite, and while they don't kill me... they annoy. Stickers that are thirty years old apparently don't hold adhesive well, and they just weren't sticking well. I broke out a bottle of the Elmer's Clear School Glue, and put a bit on my finger, this allowing me to rub just a thin layer on each sticker. Seems to have worked well.

And here's the end result:

BARBIE AND THE ROCKERS: 2014

While we don't have the actual "Rockers" dolls, we've got a "Rock Star" Barbie, a Kenya doll, a member of the Winx Club and Barbie and Keira from The Princess and The Popstar (Addie's actually wearing a Keira dress in these pictures) rounding out our 2014 "Rockers" band.

Flashback to 1985 with this original commercial:

Pretty cool, right? Oh, and there's this...

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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