July 25, 2023 posted by Greg Ehrbar

“Barbie” Sings!

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Barbie-Mania” has gripped the United States – giving us a perfect excuse for another “summer rerun”: this time an Animation Spin Christmas in July post from 2013. Here Greg Ehrbar recounts several Barbie and Ken musical moments, captured on vinyl, that need to be remembered – and might be more relevant to current pop-culture trends than ever before. – Jerry Beck

Outside of some CG direct-to-video movies, Barbie really isn’t a cartoon star. But the Mattel fashion doll has been a fixture of Saturday morning and after school cartoon shows (mainly through commercials) since 1959. Is Barbie a human or a toy? Cel animated or CG? Floor wax or dessert topping? And how did she meet The Snow Queen? Here’s my exclusive report:


Read Along with 24-Page Book
Mattel #840 (Three 7” 45 rpm records with illustrated lyric book / Mono / 19 minutes)

Songs: Ken Darby, Eliot Daniel. Performers: Charlotte Austin (Barbie); Bill Cunningham (Ken), The Daniel-Darby Orchestra.
Songs: “Nobody Taught Me,” “Ken,” “Barbie,” “Recipe for Instant Love,” “My First Date,” The Busy Buzz.”

InstantLove-250Imagine if Barbie and Ken were guest stars on “The Alan Brady Show” and Rob, Sally and Buddy had to write songs for them. Well-written and performed wackiness ensues. That’s what this album is like. It’s very well done and sounds VERY 1961. Barbie’s doing sort of an Ann-Margret thing and Ken is her Steve Lawrence.

Barbie is played by, as the liner notes state, “the lovely Charlotte Austin,” whose father wrote the early standard tune, “My Blue Heaven,” which you heard at the end of the Tom and Jerry cartoon, Kitty Foiled (1948). Austin was a child actor who was signed to 20th Century Fox while in high school. Singing for Ken is the “handsome young Bill Cunningham,” a former High School track star whose credits included The Dinah Shore Show and The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show. The liner notes add, “Special note to girls: Bill is 5’11”, goes for surfing, tennis and Italian food. He really IS a doll.” Big deal—I’m 5’11” too, though I’ve probably loved ‘way too much Italian food.

Longtime collaborators Eliot Daniel and Ken Darby are both Hollywood legends. Darby was a two-time Oscar winning vocal arranger who worked on Song of the South, Make Mine Music, So Dear to My Heart, Melody Time, Finian’s Rainbow and wrote the musical version of “The Night Before Christmas” that was heard at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and the 1968 Playhouse Pictures TV special. For The Wizard of Oz (1939), he even arranged the Munchkin voices. Eliot Daniel composed the theme and incidental music for I Love Lucy, the Oscar nominated “Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly) for So Dear to My Heart, and the aforementioned Disney animated package films of the ‘40s.

Barbie’s full name, by the way, is Barbara Millicent Roberts, and her boyfriend name is Ken Carson—Barbie creator Ruth Handler’s children were named Barbara and Ken.

“Ken” / “Recipe for Instant Love”
Kitschy as the songs are, the music is top drawer. It has what I call the “Jetson Jazz” sound, with lots of great brass – just like a vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Kid Stuff Repertory Group
Kid Stuff Records KS-5009 (12” LP record / Mono / 1985)

Producer: John Braden. Music: John Braden, Victor Herbert.
Voices: Uncredited.
Running Time: 38 minutes
Songs: “Christmas With Barbie,” “Toyland Disco,” “You Look Just Someone I Love,” “Jingle Bells Disco,” “I’m the Snow Queen,” “Christmas with Barbie (Reprise)”

And now from the sublime of Barbie’s recording career to the well, not-so-sublime. This album was one of dozens that the once ubiquitous Kid’s Stuff produced in Hollywood…Florida. Professional actors from local children’s theaters were among those recruited to do the heavy lifting, though they were never credited as far as I am aware.

Songwriter/Producer John Braden’s movie credits include the 1979 sci-fi film, The Day It Came to Earth, notable because it not only was featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre, it co-starred comedian George Gobel as a astronomy professor(?). The accompaniment is sparse, but that’s to be expected in a low budget children’s LP. I just wish the album didn’t have such tinny sound and isn’t in stereo, odd for 1985.

The best I can say is it’s among the “best” of the in-house Kid Stuff records (they did a few sound tracks and a fine Chipmunks album). The story is crazy-go-nuts, but it’s imaginative. Barbie shrinks to the size of a toy and Captain Ken saves her from Tobor, a toy robot that malfunctions and tries to run her over. Meanwhile, on Side Two, the adventurous twosome fly in his rocket ship to the planet Arcticana, where the people wasted their fossil fuels “on large cars and buildings.” (Easy for you to say, Ken—you have plastic cars and buildings.) The planet was frozen and became the domain of The Snow Queen and her army of icicles. I won’t spoil the ending in case you chase this album down on eBay.

Barbie is Perplexed / Barbie & Ken Meet The Snow Queen
Barbie has a Kafkaesque moment in which she insists she is human after meeting a jack-in-a-box. She gets perplexed:

This other excerpt has shades of Captain EO when The Snow Queen calls Barbie and Ken “infidels.” Ken sucks up to The Snow Queen (you’ve probably had co-workers like him) and she sings a Rocky Horror-ish number.

Mattel 371170318258 (CD / Stereo / 28 minutes)

Released in 2008. Executive Producer: Rob Hudnut. Music Producers: Arnie Roth, Leslie Mills, Chris Pelcer, Gabriel Mann. Associate Producer: Carrie Wilksen. Original Songs and Lyrics: Leslie Mills, Chris Pelcer, Rob Hudnut, Jeannie Lurie, Gabriel Mann. Arrangers: Arnie Roth, Eric Roth, Leslie Mills, Chris Pelcer.

Performers: Melissa Lyons (Barbie, Eden Starling, Christmas Past); LeAnne Araya (Young Eden, Ann, Nan); Shauntia Fleming (Catherine), Kathleen Barr (Chuzzlewit); Lisa Roth (Christmas Present); Kelly Bixby (Christmas Future); Michael An Angonge (Tammy); Timothy Fett (Maurice); Anthony Fett (Freddy); Chicago Children’s Choir; Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

Songs & Carols: “O Christmas Tree,” “Deck the Halls,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” “Joy to the World,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night! Holy Night!,” “A Barbie 12 Days of Christmas,” “I Love This Christmas,” “California Christmas.”

The production values are kicked up from Kid’s Stuff in this soundtrack to Barbie’s direct-to-video CG version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Barbie tells the story and appears as Scrooge-like “Eden,” a narcissistic stage star who abuses her staff in a Devil Wears Prada style. It’s probably the only time Barbie played a villain, albeit a soon-to-be redeemed one, and she’s truly the Streep of Toys ‘R Us. Eden is so much a cheapskate as she has been taught by her Aunt to look out for number one and, as Fred Flintstone once thought, “Nice guys finish last.”

SPOILER: What’s significant about this adaptation is that Eden is abused by her Aunt, and as often happens, she grows up to be an abuser of others. The Ghost of Christmas Future does not suggest her death, but an almost worse fate: that she has passed her abusive ways on to a once-goodhearted young protégé. Good thing this doesn’t happen in real life, right kids?

“A Barbie 12 Days of Christmas”

The soundtrack album is primarily a collection of Christmas carols and songs, but this is a reworking of “12 Days” with Barbie-centric lyrics. It’s not only a checklist of Mattel products, it’s more than a little shallow. I like to think that in this case, Barbie has enough of a sense of humor to do a little bit of self-parody. You be the judge.

And finally, as a special Christmas treat, I am now going to share a truth that I have never publicly revealed: I actually met Barbie. We really hit it off because we have so much in common. I love vinyl records and she loves vinyl cars, houses and fashion accessories.

barbieWDW-comicAnyway, Barbie and I crossed paths when she was starring in the 1994 musical extravaganza, The Magical World of Barbie at Epcot. Through her phenomenal cosmic powers, what is now the America Gardens Theatre was built for her. Millions of Walt Disney World Guests have Barbie to thank for turning an unsheltered stage (that was at the mercy of weather) to an impressive permanent structure where pop music concerts and the “Candlelight Processional” are performed to this day.

In a rare interview, Barbie was asked how she spends a typical day:

“I like to wake up real early in the morning and get a really good breakfast and then I like to have enough time that I can take a nice bubble bath before I start the shows ‘cause we have such a long day, that I just like to sit in the bubble bath for a while. Sometimes I doze off and Skipper has to wake me up (laughs).”

I’m not making any of this up. For some reason, I’ve aged 20 years while Barbie is still fresh as a daisy. (Between you and me, I think she’s had some plastic work done.)


  • Interesting that Charlotte Austin (according to IMDB) acted in the Hollywood musical “Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” but her singing was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer. I guess she was a good enough singer for a Barbie record but not for a feature film? Many people will recognise her name from her roles in horror movies like “The Bride and the Beast,” “Frankenstein 1970,” and “The Man Who Turned to Stone.”

  • The Jerry Bugs Bunny Show is currently on hiatus, and we are in summer reruns.

    Tomorrow Cartoon Corner photo of Jerry returns with “The Merry Melodies Show”

    (Yes I know the reason for the reruns – Jerry went to a place where Bill Maher wouldn’t dare)

    • Part of the reasons for the “reruns” is that this IS the perfect time to highlight these past posts – wouldn’t you agree?

      The other reasons are more serious. With Jim Korkis in the hospital, with Greg Ehrbar himself taking a hiatus to write a book, my pool of regular contributors has lightened considerably. No one gets paid to create a post for this website. It’s all volunteer. And blogs are not as popular as they were ten years ago.

      Re-runs or less-posting may be the future of this site. I’m open to recruiting new writers who meet the Cartoon Research standards. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep this going on a daily basis – even if that means reposting choice material from ten years ago.

  • It’s been a long time since we’ve had a new Animation Spin post — too long — so I’ve been going back through the archives and was delighted to find a write-up of the Jungle Book album I loved as a child. But I hadn’t yet gone back far enough for the 2013 Barbie post. That “Barbie Swings” album…. Swing it, Daddy-O!

    I can do you one better. I’ve actually performed in concert with not one, but two Barbies. About 25 years ago my orchestra did a new “pop cantata” by American composer Michael Daugherty called “What’s That Spell?”, scored for two “Barbie-sopranos” with rock and roll chamber orchestra. The title alludes to cheerleading (i.e., gimme a B, gimme an A, gimme an R, and so forth) as well as the spell of enchantment that Barbie has cast on generations of children. The soloists were dressed in pink cheerleader outfits and gigantic blond wigs with pink bows, which was quite a good look for them, and I heartily recommend it to girls planning a concert career. Some of the orchestra musicians thought it was the worst piece of music we had ever played, but I thought it was great fun. If Barbie hasn’t made her Carnegie Hall debut yet, it’s only a matter of time before she does. Bravissima, Barbie bella!

  • Back before Barbie became enlightened and revealed that men are either inconsequential eunuchs or toxic predators. And Weird Barbie showed us the strength and wisdom that comes from having been abused.

  • I think one of the reasons the Barbie movie got so much attention from generations of her fans is that Barbie media was mostly done in medium that didn’t get a lot of life beyond their initial pressings. There was no TV series. These tracks were mostly freebies included with dolls or produced by Peter Pan Records or similar companies. There were a variety of CGI straight-to-video(DVD) movies made in the past few years, but outside of international distribution were not played on American TV. And almost all of those releases are just Barbie playing a character from an existing story playing in stories like the Nutcracker and the like or it is Barbie just generically doing girl stuff (slumber parties or starting a band) as an adult.

    Being that Barbie is primarily a toy without a particular narrative, canon, or continuing story line outside of her relationships with a oddly small number of family members, friends, and boyfriends. There is a narrative gap covering a period of time that is almost approaching retirement age. It is nice to watch generations of women and girls finally get to watch a Barbie story about Barbie that isn’t generic and isn’t plugging her into fairy tales or derivatives.

    • The CGI direct to DVD Barbie movies have aired on American TV before, most of them were shown on Nickelodeon. Then again, Nick only reserves just one airing for them and the network almost RARELY ever air movies at all.

  • Since we’re discussing Barbie’s history as a recording artist, it might be an opportune time to mention a guilty pleasure of the ’80s that has hitherto been overlooked on Cartoon Research. “Jem” was Hasbro’s attempt to horn in on Mattel’s juggernaut of a toy franchise through the media of animation and pop music. While separate toy lines for boys and girls have always existed, animation had been an rather exclusive boys’ club from its beginning. But in 1985 changes to the FCC regulations governing advertising in children’s programming meant that toy companies could produce cartoons themselves. “Jem”, like “My Little Pony”, was one of the first animated series that specifically targeted a female demographic. But while “My Little Pony” is still going strong, with a lucrative entertainment franchise and a vast fan base, “Jem” is a mostly-forgotten ’80s period piece, all big hair, mammoth earrings and turquoise eye shadow.

    Jem was the holographic alter-ego of Jerrica Benton, leader of the all-girl group Jem and the Holograms. (Jem was a hologram, but the Holograms were flesh-and-blood people. All clear?) Because of a loophole in her late father’s will, Jerrica found herself half-owner of Starlight Music with the nefarious Eric Raymond, manager of the rival girl band The Misfits. Drama, intrigue and romance ensue, though very little in the way of hijinks. It’s one of the least humorous cartoons I’ve ever seen.

    Like some other syndicated cartoons of the ’80s, such as “Thundercats”, “Jem” apparently blew most of its animation budget on its promos and opening title, which were impressive enough to lure me into watching the show despite my distaste for the pop music of the ’80s. Mattel responded by introducing a toy line and direct-to-video movie called Barbie and the Rockers, which, like “Jem” itself, failed to make a lasting impression. The songs recorded for “Jem” were never officially released, only heard on the show and included as bonus cassettes with the toys. Years later, a live-action “Jem and the Holograms” movie was unable to capitalise on Gen X nostalgia and bombed at the box office.

    Moral: When you go up against Barbie, be prepared for defeat. Also, when you’re creating a fictional band for a cartoon, try not to give it the same name as a band in real life, like The Misfits. And above all, if you want to come up with a sinister cartoon villain who’s the living embodiment of all evil, please, please don’t saddle him with a lame name like “Eric Raymond”.

    • A most likely reason why the Jem movie flopped badly was because the movie was trying hard to appeal to kids who most likely don’t even know who or what Jem and the Holograms is as the show/doll line is almost virtually unheard of other than those reruns that aired on Discovery Family/The Hub — a network that not everyone and their mothers have, which were eventually taken off the schedule entirely partly due to the movie flopping.

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