When a new toy line becomes successful, there are usually a bunch of cheaper copies created
to look like the originals, and to sell like originals. This was no exception for the Jem dolls.
Jem was Hasbro's flagship, and there were all kinds of knock-offs and cheap imitations.
Some are obvious bootlegs and are mostly done by smaller companies,
while the bigger ones try to hide their attempts by making their own and a little different
version of the original idea without stepping on any copyrights and trademarks. Then of course there
are those dolls that just happen to be lookalikes, and sometimes it's hard to tell
which ones are what.
Too much competition is believed to be one of the reasons that eventually caused the Jem doll
line to be discontinued, since it prevented the sales of the Jem dolls. But Jem obviously made it's
mark and a lasting impression in the history of doll lines,
and even today you can find new dolls that are clearly inspired by Jem dolls.
Here are some dolls that have something in common with the Jem dolls in one way or
another, either they are direct bootlegs, just rockstars, have punk hair colors, were made by
the same company, were made in the 80's, or have some characteristics that reminds of Jem.
Barbie dolls by Mattel
The queen of all fashion dolls ever since she first arrived in 1959, invented by businesswoman
Ruth Handler, based directly on the German doll Bild Lilli. Barbie is a modern woman who
has all kinds of interests and jobs, she has a boyfriend named Ken and lots of friends.
Although there's been a number of attempts to put her off the throne by other toy companies,
several of which have practically succeeded, she has always worked her way back by creating new
competition and following trends. Having a worked in name and being backed by such a huge company,
has of course been an advantage.
Barbie and the Rockers, 1985
In 1985, Mattel learned that Hasbro was releasing the Jem dolls.
Barbie was Mattel's biggest brand, and Mattel apparently felt that the Jem
dolls, even with the differences in size and theme, and even before they were released,
posed a big threat. This was going to be the biggest
competition that Mattel had faced for their worldknown doll line Barbie.
Mattel was terrified of the competition and decided to give Barbie a rockband too,
"Barbie and the Rockers", or "Barbie and the Rockstars" as in Europe. This was a
completely new direction of the Barbie doll which had been pretty harmless in
her previous releases, usually as a princess or a ballerina or such.
The first set of Barbie and the Rockers dolls to arrive were Barbie,
Dana, Dee Dee and Derek. The dolls came with a fashion, a microphone, socks, shoes,
a sheet of cardboard prints, iron-on decal, and the females also had a hairpiece,
ring, bracelet, extra t-shirt
and a hairbrush. Barbie came with a
cassette which all included the songs "The Rockers Theme", "Dressin' Up",
"Born With A Mike", and "Stretchin' It", only two of which were included in the
The second edition of the doll band was called "Real Dancing Action" for the
females, and "Hot Rockin' Fun" for the males. Now there was one more male added to
the group: Ken of course. This edition of dolls would kinda move their arms when you
turned their body, they had new fashions but included no cassette.
The third set of dolls included the four female dolls:
Barbie, Diva, Dana, and Dee Dee, as
"Barbie and the Sensations"
and had a 50's look to them. They resembled what Barbie and the Rockers looked like when
they went back in time in the cartoon.
There were two sets of fashions released: Barbie and the Rockers fashions included 12
different fashions, two of which were for the male dolls. The second set of fashions
included 6 fashions, one of which was for the male dolls, and was called
"Concert Tour Fashions" or "Tour Fashions" in Europe.
There was a playset of a stage called "Hot Rockin' Stage", a pool called
"Rockin' Pool Party", furnitures set called Rockin' House Party, extra instruments set called "Live Concert Instruments" and
"Rock Concert", and other playsets like "Vanity Set",
"Hot Rockin' Van" and a remote controlled "Rockin' Cycle".
As mentioned, there was even a Barbie and the Rockers cartoon made, in two parts,
called "Out of this World" and "Rockin' Back to Earth", which featured
all the characters, and several of the outfits and playsets.
In the cartoon, Barbie and the Rockers were the only band around and
loved by everyone in the whole world.
There was certainly no competition from a band like the Misfits.
Alot of the cartoon was about being friends and having a good time. At their worst,
the Barbie and the Rockers characters were tired or disappointed for second, then it
was time to sing and dance again. They even went into space to perform.
Similarities to Jem, other than colorful rockstar dolls,
were that the Barbie and the Rockers
dolls had an edition of the leadsinger with star earrings,
there was a male doll with combable hair, the group
had one black and one asian member, the dolls came with a cassette
with songs, and there was a Stage playset and a car. While the Jem dolls had more
realistic and more bendable bodies, Barbie and the Rockers had their
"Real Dancing Action" edition of dolls.
Both of the cartoons had music videos
that were blended with the action.
The cartoon included some similar storylines as
in the Jem cartoon, like time traveling and a fifties theme.
With all the similarities, Barbie and the Rockers were
still apparantly of lower quality, as could be expected
since they were made in a hurry and rushed out to compete with the Jem dolls. Half of the about
10 songs sang by Barbie and the Rockers in the cartoon were covers of
old songs, some by the Beatles. While the Jem cartoon contained over a
hundred songs, with no covers.
Mattel didn't seem to care at all about Barbie and the Rockers once they
managed to silence Jem.
Today however there is no question about which of
these 80's rockstar cartoons and dolls are more remembered and
popular. Try to search for a better site about Barbie and the Rockers than this one for example.
And take a look at the auction site eBay, Barbie and the Rockers dolls are barely selling.
While Jem dolls are selling better than ever. This is probably also how the sales would look
today if Jem made a comeback into the toystores, even if Barbie and the
Rockers made a copy-comeback (infact Mattel re-released an anniversary issue of Barbie from
Barbie and the Rockers in 2008). Especially since the only thing
that speaks in Barbie's advantage is that it's a wellknown brand and
that Barbie has set the standard of doll fashion sizes, so that they won't
fit dolls in bigger sizes like the Jem dolls. But those are easy fixes for Hasbro.
Offsite link: More info about Barbie and the Rockers on this page.
Barbie and the Beat, 1990
To make sure Jem was really dead, Mattel put out another band for Barbie, consisting of
Barbie, Midge and Christie. This time they
had glow in the dark fashions, and again came with a cassette tape, with songs written by
Jerry and Cheryl Caglese and co-produced by Carlos Rios. There was also a fashion line with
glow in the dark fashions.
When the rights to Disney's "Little Mermaid" went to
Tyco, Mattel did the same thing as always, their own
version, but with pink hair? This might have been the very first time Barbie actually appeared in
completely pink hair. It only goes to confirm how much Mattel really feared Jem back in the 80's and
wish they had made her. And about 8 years later it was time to release
another pink-haird mermaid called "Mermaid Fantasy".
Foam 'n Color Barbie, 1995
Here is a Barbie with pink or blue hair streaks. Came with some kind of color to wash Barbie's
hair with so it would go pink or blue.
Beyond Pink Barbie, 1998
In the late 90's as a response to the Spice Girls which had their big breakthrough a year
earlier, and with Jem and the Holograms in memory, Mattel did
it again, they responded with a rockband for
Barbie, named "Beyond Pink". Beyond Pink consisted of
Barbie and her friends Teresa and Christie.
Barbie got a dress that reminded more of Jem's than ever, the dolls now had wild hair color
strands, glow-in-the-dark accents in their hair, Jem style instruments, and came with a
cassette again, this time with a song called "Think Pink".
Happenin' Hair Barbie, 1998
If you dip this Barbie's styling tools in cold water,
you can stamp or stencil pink and purple hair
tattoos. As usual there's a Teresa and Christie
version also with punk hair colors.
Hula Hair Teresa, 1998
Barbie got pink hair once more. There's also Barbie and Christie, both with the
haircolors pink, orange and yellow. But Teresa was
the most interesting of them. Teresa has light brown
hair, plus the "hula hair" with the three punk
colors, red, blue and purple. The same three colors
as the Holograms dolls, Kimber (red), Aja (blue),
Barbie Jam'n Glam, 2001
It was a new century, and Mattel still hadn't gotten over Jem. This was perhaps one of their
closest attempts to make dolls that looked like Jem. To begin with, the name "Jam", and to
use it the same way the Jem line did "Jam'n Glam" (like "Glitter 'n Gold Jem" or "Rock 'n Curl Jem"...).
Then there's the
haircolors, you could switch between normal hair colors into wild hair colors. There were
playsets like instruments and a tourbus that turned into a stage.
Mattel covered all kinds of themes, whether it was female action
figures, princesses, aliens, or now recently monsters.
Princess of Power, 1985
She-Ra the heroine of the planet Etheria, is the alter ego of Princess Adora, who is He-Man's lost
She-Ra is the leader of the Great Rebellion who are fighting against the evil Hordak to protect
the planet. There was a 93 episodes long cartoon created by Filmation.
This line arrived at almost the same time as Jem and although it had figures with punk hair colors,
it wasn't a direct competition for Jem.
She-Ra was Mattel's way of making a female version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,
as well as cashing in on the Golden Girl line by Galoob. The line wasn't a big success
outside the US, and that might not be such a big surprise considering the
quality of the dolls, and character names like "Buttina", "Perfuma" and "Peekablue".
Lady Lovely Locks is a princess, who togheter with her friends Maiden FairHair,
Maiden CurlyCrown and the flying animals called Pixietails, defends the kingdom of
Lovelylocks against Duchess Ravenwaves. There was a 20 episodes long cartoon series by Dic.
This was another line of 80's dolls with colorful hair, although not much direct competiton
These alien dolls from the planet "Shimmeron" had chrome bodies and
sparkling strands in their hair.
A line that was created by Mattel and while Barbie and the Rockers covered the rockstar part about
Jem, this line covered the wild hair colors. But the reason they had chrome bodies was to compete
with another doll, by Tonka, called Aurora. The main character of course had bright pink hair, and
of course the male character had combable purple hair, and the black female member of course
had bright purple hair. There was also a line of fashions available and playsets. This line
wasn't a big success across the world.
Fashionable monster creatures who are said to be relatives of the famous old monsters like
Dracula, Medusa, Frankenstein's monster, Zombies, Werewolves and so on. This is definitely
Mattel's best attempt at competing against the Bratz and Moxie Girlz.
Perhaps the highest-quality, most detailed, most inventive and most daring dolls Mattel has
ever put out. This is a great example of what could be done with Jem and the Holograms if they
returned as a new line.
Hasbro has put out a number of fashion dolls, most noticably Sindy, which has been
their longest lasting attempt, although the doll was more popular in Europe than in
the US. Then there's been several short-lived doll lines, often based on real life
singers, or even disney characters. After the Jem doll line was discontinued, Hasbro
continued to use accessories from the Jem dolls, like
bracelets and necklaces, on their other and new doll
lines. It's possible there are even more similarities
of Jem and other Hasbro dolls. These dolls are the
closest that other dolls can truly come to the Jem dolls,
since they're made by the same company.
Space Fantasy Sindy, 1985 by Pedigree
An older version of Sindy, with the bigger head. From before Hasbro bought the rights to Sindy from Pedigree.
It's supposed to be a space doll, with the pink
hair, silver top, a silver/pink cummerband, pink skirt and sandals. There were also a couple of Sindy dolls called "Starlight".
Now Hasbro had taken over the line and changed the head mold, made it a little smaller, but not
as small as it was going to be. This doll, although it was made by the same company as Jem,
seems to have been inspired by Jem, and the earring color and mold are the same as the Jem doll
Raya came with. Also included a microphone.
Sindy Paint-a-Picture, 1989 by Hasbro
This is an example of the newest version of Sindy's
head, which was more in size of Barbie's head. These dolls provided Barbie with a lot of
competition in Europe. This particular doll is interesting because it came with three
bracelets, a pink, a yellow, and a black which have the exact same shape as the bracelets that
came with the Jem dolls Glitter 'n Gold, Rock 'n Curl and Clash.
Maxie, 1988 by Hasbro
It seemed that Hasbro thought a rockstar doll like Jem was too hard for
girls to identify with. And instead of changing Jem, Hasbro threw
Jem away and started over.
Still, Maxie inherited several things from the Jem dolls, as Hasbro
re-used some molds for dolls and accessories, and used
some of the ideas that were supposed to be used on the Jem dolls before the line
Maxie also had her own 32 episodes long cartoon called Maxie's World,
in which she was a blonde high school girl with her own tv show. Like Jem, it also
included some songs. The dolls were more similar to Barbie in size. The line
only lasted three years though, and before it ended Maxie was even
planned to get her own rockband, much like Jem.
The ponies in all kinds of colors, that each had a special marking on the side of their flanks.
Hundreds or thousands of different ponies have been
made since the 80's. There are regular horses, seahorses, pegasus, unicorns, and other animals even.
And they keep returning in new shapes. Their first comeback was in 1997,
the second was in 2003, and they're still around. There were lots of
fashions and playsets aswell. There were cartoon episodes and a movie made in the 80's, and in
later years new shows have appeared aswell.
These ponies were made by Hasbro and shared the same molds for certain items, like the
"Get Into The Groove" fashion in 1987 which included a green boom box in the same shape
as the Jem doll Danse has in orange.
Made by Kenner, a company that Hasbro bought in 1991. The body shape is similar to Jem.
There were no punk hair colors, and the fashions were more elegant and 70's like than
rockstar-like. There was also a fashion line, and a disco playset.
Golden Girls, 1984 by Galoob
Golden Girl and the Guardians of the Gemstone is a line of female actionfigures (as well
as two males) who battle against the evil forces of Dragon Queen. Female action figures are not
the most common toys, and these pre-dated Mattel's She-ra, and were of superior quality. They
were very detailed, had combable hair in punk hair colors, came with a cape, shield (in metal!),
weapons and a comb. There was a line of fashions and playsets which included a couple of horses and
a castle. There's no connection to Jem, but this was a cool line worth mentioning.
About Rose Petal and her friends Lily Fair, Daffodil, Orchid, Sunny Sunflower, and Iris, which
was available as a movie.
Came out before the Jem line, and other than the colorful fashions, the only connection to
Jem is that they share some of the fabrics of the Jem doll line. The fashion "Painting Posies"
had a fabric that was going to be used on the Music Is Magic Jem fashion Splashes of Sounds,
and was featured on the fashion box, although they for some reason went with another fabric.
Aurora, 1987 by Tonka
The boxes said "The ultimate poseable fashion doll!" and "The future looks beautiful". This was
apparently a futuristic line of dolls. Aurora, Mirra and Lustra came with chrome bodies and wild
hair colors, like pink, blue and purple.
Lace, by Creata
This doll is from the late 80's, perhaps around 1987, after the Jem
dolls were released, and is an obvious copycat of Jem.
The box says "The Celebrity Rock
Star with Fashion & Fame", which is partly the same
as in the Jem theme song. Other versions are a black
doll with black hair and blonde bangs, and a blonde doll. It even had a line of
fashions. Creata also copied other
doll lines of the time, like Lady Lovely Locks.
This is one of atleast four dolls called "Popstar/Popstyle styling heads".
This is the most interesting of the dolls, it very
much resembles Stormer. The flower in the blue curly
hair, and that makeup. The other three have white hair and are called "Princess" or
New Kids On The Block, 1990 by Hasbro
One of the first boybands. They consisted of five members: Jordan, Jonathan, Joe, Danny, Donnie,
and was formed in 1984. They became world famous in the 80's and early 90's,
with hits like "Step by Step", "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" and "Hangin' Tough". There was even
a cartoon about them that featured their music, in around 18 episodes.
The main similarities to Jem is that they're a music group, with dolls made by Hasbro.
The bodymold may be similar to Rio's. They also came with a mike (looks like the same shape
as the Jem mikes), and there was a stage playset. Two issues were available
"Hangin' Loose" and "In Concert" which came with a cassette.
Spice Girls, 1997 by Galoob
The Spice Girls was a girlgroup of five members from the United Kingdom, who formed in 1994 and
had their breakthrough in 1996 with the song "Wannabe". For a few years they gained success by
marketing themselves almost as specific characters with nicknames, using the key phrase
"Girl Power" and cashing in on all kinds of merchandise with their name and pictures on it. A doll
line was one of the things that was released, and it consisted of 11 editions and lasted for
about three years.
The girlgroup had several similarities to Jem and the Misfits, by the way they chose to market
themselves, their looks and music videos. And the doll line only added to it all.
Some of the dolls had punk haircolor strands, and their fashions had alot in common fabrics-wise.
The first edition Emma doll resembled the first edition Jem doll alot, with it's metallic pink
minidress. But the big deal was the Jem line's trademarked phrases which the Spice Girls dolls
used without permission, like "Smashin' Fashions" and "Truly Outrageous". And there were rumors
of a cartoon for a while, which never happended. Eventually Hasbro bought Galoob, and started
making their own version of the Spice Girls dolls.
These dolls, which first appeared in 1992 in Japan, are based on an anime show in which these
characters are superheroes, dressed in sailor outfits, fighting against evil villains.
It seems that many fans of Sailor Moon are also fans of Jem. But are the shows really that
alike? The main character has a secret identity and then there are some punk
haircolors on some of the characters, two with pink hair: Sailor Mini-Moon and Wicked Lady. And
one of the main characters, Sailor Mars, has red star earrings.
The blue-haired doll pictured is Sailor Mercury.
Soon upon their arrival they provided Mattel's biggest
threat since the Jem dolls, infact they practically erased Barbie from the doll shelves.
Mattel even took them to court over the similarities with Barbie, and stopped their takeover of
the doll market for a while.
Similarities to the Jem dolls, are large heads and some releases with punk hair colors or
rockstar themes. There's a series of rocker dolls "Girlz Rock" which
came with instruments and one of the dolls had pink hairstrands. The "On the Mic" series had a
music theme and came with wild hair color strands and instruments.
The recent "Masquerade" dolls have wild hair
colors like all pink hair (three dolls) and other colors, but were likely made to
compete with Mattel's new "Monster High" dolls.
Moxie Girlz Jammaz, by MGA Entertainment 2009
The Moxie Girlz was MGA's new line of dolls that were created during Mattel's lawsuit
against the Bratz dolls. They are slightly larger than the Bratz dolls, but have a similar shape.
The dolls in this set came with an instrument, a mike, and a
wig of wild hair colors to change into.
Some lower quality dolls, which weren't marketed in an organized way, but worth mentioning
because of their similarities to Jem.
Steffie Love, by Simba
Part of the fabrics very much resembles Roxy's pants.
I haven't been able to confirm whether this dress belongs to this doll, but it's likely.
[Thanks to Diana for identifying the doll]
Donna, 1997 by Tai Kee Company
A 11½" doll made in Hong Kong which is an obvious Jem copycat, with the artwork, the colorful
hair, and even unusual set of instruments. Apparently came carded or boxed. Donna wasn't just
the name of a rock and roll doll though, this company released all kinds of dolls under this name.
Diana, 1997 by Kee Fung Plastic World Ltd.
There were several of these released, and this particular one had a dress with a fabric
from the Jem Glitter 'n Gold fashion "Fire & Ice", and they even used red fabrics under,
and it was cut the same way, and came with white net tights and red shoes, and the top
was of metallic fabric but not golden though.