"MTV" (Music Television) premiered August 1st, 1981 and was the brainchild of Robert W. Pittman. His idea was to have music stars make elaborate video clips of their hit songs and play them for a combination of sight and sound. By 1985 "MTV" was a household commodity and it was making a new era of music with an emphasis on fashion.

About this time, the Jem Project, as it was referred to at Hasbro, was being launched. It was a brilliant idea. Have a line of rock star dolls to cash in on the "MTV"/music video craze. Orginally, Jem was to be called "M", for a tie-in with "MTV", but corporate lawyers cancelled that when they learned a letter cannot be copyrighted. The plans had gone so far that Kimber's keyboard had already been made in the shape of an "M" so a name with "M" had to be used and the name Jem evolved. In the early planning stages, The Holograms were to be all male but Hasbro wisely made them all female.

Shown at Toy Fair in 1986, Jem was everything anyone could want in a fashion doll. By June, trade papers were touting amazing statistics about her creation. Her size of 121/2 inches, and her high quality, high fashion wardrobe and her flashing LED Jemstar earings made her spectacular!

Hasbro Inc. announced that Jem would be introduced simultaneously around the world. 21 licensees with an emphasis on apparel, accessories and personal care items were granted.

Jem was introduced through a weekly half-hour television series of well-written beautifully animated almost adult themed shows. The Jem television show combined adventure and fashion with music videos with captions exactly like on "MTV". Hasbro scheduled a $10 million advertisement campain for Jem that included highly sophisticated television commercials developed by Charlex, a company that produces award-winning music videos. A joint promotion was carried out with "MTV" including doll-sized black "MTV" jackets for Jem and The Holograms, and a singing contest called "Jem's Truly Outrageous Audition Contest". Included with each doll were fabulous posters of Jem, The Holograms or The Misfits!

It's the truly outrageous...M?! Yes, this is a character 
sketch of M for development on the cartoon. Notice her 
"M" shapped earrings.

Beautifully coordinated, the promotion included dolls with cassette tapes of professionally recorded songs sung by the dolls character. The songs coordinated to names of stunningly made outfits, and the whole package of doll, song and costume tied into the television show! It was not only truly outrageous, but truly brilliant.

By fall of 1987, despite the television show often placing number one in children's shows it was clear that Jem was just not moving. At Toys R Us, stock was pilled hight to the celing. At independent stores such as F.A.O Schwarz (which earlier in the year devoted an entire corner to Jem, complete with continuous showings of her music videos), sales were sluggish. To move the stock, some stores marked Jem down 50 percent!

These are fashion designs for Jerrica and Jem that never got past the drawing board. Notice Jem's earings are "J" shaped.

In November, rumor hit that Jem would be discontinued, and that Hasbro, which had already designed a 1988 line by this time, would not be offering it next year. The contributing factor to the demise of Jem was her size. No doll that has not been Barbie size has ever made it past the two-year mark. Parents simply view toys differently than collectors do. They do not want to shell out a small fortune for doll clothing that was not interchangeable with dolls already at home. Hasbro was gambling that the doll and clothing would be so appealing that this would happen. It did not and spelled the demise of the most creative and beautifully designed fashion doll in 30 years!

The irony is that once the dolls and clothing were half price, children and parents were buying them like crazy. Sales of her videocassettes increased. Having now owned them, the public seemed eager for more. Perhaps if Hasbro had given it one more year...

This is a workroom sketch of M's jet, which transformed into her stage!

Parts taken from Contemporary Doll Stars by A. Glenn Mandeville. Published by Hobby House Press, 1992.

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