Raggedy Ann with a fellow toy. Artist: George Kerr.


Original Medium: Toys
Produced by: Creator-produced
First Appeared: 1915
Creator: Johnny Gruelle
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Over the years, plenty of toy lines have become toons. He-Man and Care Bears only outline their range. But one of the most successful was also among the earliest — Raggedy Ann and (later) her brother Andy. Unlike the more recent ones, the Raggedys weren't …

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… conceived as a coordinated cross-media, cross-promoted product franchise — like Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, their origin lay in a toy loved by a real child. Cartoonist Johnny Gruelle (Quacky Doodles) made the first Raggedy Ann, who closely resembled the numberless hordes of Raggedy Ann rag dolls made in the following decades, for his daughter, Marcella, in 1914. He got the name by combining two poem titles by James Whitcomb Riley, "The Raggedy Man" and "Little Orphant (sic) Annie" (tenuous relation).

Marcella got so much pleasure out of Raggedy Ann that Gruelle (already known for newspaper features such as The New York Herald's Mr. Twee Deedle) shared stories starring Ann (and her owner, named after Marcella), illustrated by himself, with newspaper readers. Starting in 1915, he marketed Raggedy Ann dolls, hand-made by members of his family. In 1918, The P.F. Volland Company of Chicago published his first Raggedy Ann book (and sixth children's book altogether), Raggedy Ann Stories.

Marcella died at age 13. Authorities tried to pin the blame on a congenital heart condition, but Gruelle blamed a smallpox vaccination that had been given to her without his permission. Thereafter, Raggedy Ann became a spokestoon for a citizens' movement that opposed compulsory vaccination on grounds that forcing medication violates American freedom.

Opposition to coercive medical procedures was more popular then than it is now — in any case, it doesn't seem to have diminished the doll's popularity. Volland brought out the second Raggedy Ann book, Raggedy Andy Stories: Introducing the Little Rag Brother of Raggedy Ann, in 1920, and from then on, Andy was part of the cast. The books continued, introducing new toys such as The Camel with the Wrinkled Knees and The Paper Dragon, for the next decade and a half. Gruelle also did a newspaper comics version of the Raggedys from 1934 until his death in 1938,

Ann and Andy appeared in their first animated cartoon, Raggedy Ann & Raggedy Andy, on April 11, 1941. It was produced by the Max Fleischer studio as a two-reel color special, the format they'd used for Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936) and Betty Boop in Poor Cinderella (1934). Famous Studios continued the series with Suddenly It's Spring (1944) and The Enchanted Square (1947). Voices heard in these productions include Pinto Colvig (Goofy) and Jack Mercer (best known as Popeye, but also TV's Felix the Cat).

Dell Comics brought the Raggedys into comic books, with the 65th issue of New Funnies (July, 1942), which up until then had been titled The Funnies. That title had started out reprinting newspaper comics, but was branching out into more general licensed properties. It wound up specializing in characters licensed from Walter Lantz's studio. She stayed in that title until #111 (May, 1946). She was also in an occasional issue of Four Color Comics, and by 1946 had her own Dell title. She kept it until 1955, for a total of more than 40 issues, including a couple of specials. At Dell, she was usually drawn by George Kerr (The Brownies).

Dell revived the character for a handful of issues between 1964 and '66. Gold Key Comics reprinted six issues from 1971 to '73.

A few years later, animation producer/director Richard Williams (The Princess & the Cobbler) came out with a full-length feature, Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, released April 1, 1977. Main voices were Didi Conn (various voices in 1990s Flintstones productions) as Ann and Mark Baker (who has few other acting credits) as Andy.

The following year, Chuck Jones produced a holiday TV special, Raggedy Ann & Andy in the Great Santa Claus Caper, released November 30, 1978. He followed that up with Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile, released on Halloween Day, 1979. In those productions, June Foray (Rocky the Flying Squirrel) did Ann's voice, and Daws Butler (Chilly Willy) did Andy's. Les Tremayne (also heard in The Pirates of Darkwater) did Santa and the Pumpkin.

Then there was The Adventures of Raggedy Ann & Andy, a short-lived animated TV series that CBS produced and aired starting September 17, 1988. Christina Lange (Sister Bear) and Josh Rodine (Hamlet in Hagar the Horrible) were Ann and Andy, respectively. Tracy Rowe (Steff in Freakazoid! was Marcella.

As far as cartoons go, the Raggedy Ann property has been dormant recently. But it still retains a lot of name recognition with the public, and it's had lengthy gaps before. It'll undoubtedly surface again.


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Text ©2007-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Raggedy Ann's image is in the public domain. This image has been modified. Modified version © Donald D. Markstein.