Who doesn’t love to get a hug from a loved one, the warm embrace and that feeling of being loved and safe is something special. Now think about getting a hug from a creepy troll faced doll with a cold dead stare that makes E.T. look normal and the Toxic Avenger look like Brad Pitt….you don’t like that image of hugging a troll faced doll, do you? Well the folks at Kenner and Hallmark Cards in 1985 thought that all kids would love to own a creepy faced doll to hug when they released the toy line called The Hugga Bunch. I am not sure why they designed them to look as weird and odd as they did, but I can remember these creepy little guys on the toy shelves at stores like Hills and Gold Circle, and the smaller ones were given at Taco Bell for a cheap price. The only Hugga Bunch I owned was one that I got from Taco Bell that my aunt got me when she worked there, and on the playground Hugga Bunch was ice cold. To be honest, I don’t even remember one person talking about them and only think one girl I knew owned any. Below is a quick look at the creepy dolls, and you can be the judge on if you would want to hug one of them.
1985 also saw a made for TV movie about the dolls by FilmFaor Communications that was made for over a million dollars and was the most expensive special at the time! The film was a live action family film about a young girl who travels to a magical land called Huggaland to find a way to slow down the aging of her grandmother, but while on this visit she also comes across an evil Queen who wants to spoil the fun and hugs. The special did fair with getting viewers, and it was later released on Beta and VHS, where it gained cult status for being so strange. And if you thought the dolls are creepy, get a look at the Hugga Bunch in this movie.
Besides the dolls, more merchandise was released that included a board game, books, lunch box, stickers, View Master slides, Hallmark miniature figures and much more. This shows that Kenner and Hallmark really wanted these dolls to catch on and take the place of Cabbage Patch Kids that, at the time, were the premiere stuffed dolls. And they were smart for getting the smaller dolls into Taco Bell because in the 80’s and 90’s fast food toys were very popular and could help push a toy line, movie or kids’ book series up a few notches on the must have factor.
Now as I have stated, I only had one of these dolls and it was one of the Taco Bell ones so I have very little connection to these dolls. So I looked high and low and found one of my female friends who grew up owning one of these dead eyed little creepers so I asked her to give us a look at what it was like to be a female and the target audience for these dolls. Her name is Jesy Anderson, and I have known her since high school. She is an amazing person who is super sweet and super smart. She is co-owner of a local store called Sew Dayton that custom makes clothes and sells other sewing notions as well as teaches classes. She is married to a fellow geek guy like myself who loves horror and kung-fu films as well as comics named Jermie, who I also went to school with and as well is a great guy. So with that I am going to briefly turn Rotten Ink over to Jesy so that she can give you her opinions on The Hugga Bunch creepers.
“Yes!”, is what 6 year old me said, when my dad handed me my Taco Bell kids meal. The awesomeness of what Taco Bell used to put in their kids meals in 1985, The Huglets! I had Hug-A-Bye. I thought it was so rad, Hallmark marketed it perfectly to my age bracket. Give Hugs! Hug everyone… Everyone… even that creepy neighbor. The Hug A Bunch Gang was flat out disturbing. From a cartoon on a Hallmark card, to plushie, and finally to movie! In 1985 “The Hugga Bunch”. It even won a Prime Time Emmy for Outstanding Visual Effects. Once you watch the movie, (you will because I know you are super curious now), you will leave with two realizations. 1. This movie is possibly the ONLY movie creepier than “The Strangers” and 2. WHAT THE *@&$ was the 6 yr old me thinking! I have great memories of being excited to get my own plush Huglet from inside my Taco Bell kids meal and watching the best made for tv movie of the summer. It’s strange how amazing awesome something is while you are a child; such an innocence. Aside from not understanding exactly how my parents pulled off saying the charaters names and still able to keep a straight face is beyond me! These Huglets are CLEARLY the result of too much “hugging” and inbreeding. All in all, the Hug A Bunch gang really worth a watch for those who haven’t and watch it again for those who haven’t seen it since the 80’s. Just remember to bring the popcorn and get ready for a disturbing movie~
Thanks, Jesy, for filling me and my readers in on your Hugga Bunch thoughts. As you can see, she had a Taco Bell one as well and this makes me wonder who were the kids that went to a toy store and picked one of these dead eyed dolls out as a must have over all the other toys and dolls on the shelf. I mean what was the draw of these things? One funny thing that I have to point out before we move on to the comic reviews, is that one of the Huglets’ name is Fluffer…for those of you who don’t know what that name means, it’s a person’s title who works in the adult film industry that keeps a male star “happy” in between takes. So why in the holy hell would someone who named these creepy dolls name one after a person who has a job like that?! So below is the Huglet named Fluffer, and next to it is a picture of adult film star Tory Lane. While she is no “fluffer” I want you to look at the two and tell me if you see any similarities between the two…cause I sure don’t….go on and look will ya.
So after looking at the two, I am sure Tory will give you sweet dreams while good old Fluffer will be haunting your nightmares for weeks. So as you can see, at this point I have no connection to these dolls at all, and I am not sure what I am getting into as I am about to read these six issues based on these characters from the mighty Star Comics. While a part of me wants these to be bad so I can really make fun of them, there is a side that is saying these might not be as bad as you think. So to ease my mind and to get this look at Hugga Bunch over, let’s move onto the wonderful comic reviews. Remember I grade these comics on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, and its art and story. So let’s stare these soulless happy little boogers in the eye and travel to Huggaland!
Hugga Bunch # 1 **1/2
Released in 1986 Cover Price .75 Star Comics #1 of 6
The Hugga Bunch go on an adventure down a path called “Road To Riches”, but Huggins and her Huglet Hug-A-Bye get left behind when they hear that someone needs help. Homer is a boy who is alone and has moved to a new town because of his fathers work, and is very sad that he has moved away from his friends and is feeling lonely. His wishes for a new friend comes true when Huggins pops out of his mirror and takes him to Huggaland where they both are captured by the Pirate Captain Snake and become his slaves on his mighty ship. While at sea, Captain Snake attacks another ship and on board is a Princess who he wants to kidnap, but Homer comes to her aid and to everyone’s shock the Princess can also defend herself and with the help of a whale they run off Captain Snake and The Hugga Bunch return Homer to his room, and he finds the inner power to make friends.
This is a comic that is 100% for young girls of the 80’s as the story is so cheesy and silly that most boys would have walked away from the adventure a few pages into it. With all that said, I still would like to say that for what it is, the message and story are very positive and I am sure roped in a few young female readers and a few male ones as well. The Hugga Bunch live in a perfect fun filled world that is laced with some negative places, and these places are what make it an interesting place. Huggins seems to be the ring leader of the fun loving group and seems to be the one who oozes more positive energy. Captain Snake is the “bad” guy in the issue who uses the Hugga Bunch as kid slave labor on his ship, and they are so fun loving they don’t even pay attention to the fact they are being used. Homer is a kid that anyone who moved into a new town can identify with as he has no friends and doesn’t know how to make new ones. Of course in the end Homer finds he does have friends and even made some with the creepy little freaks that live beyond his mirror known as the Hugga Bunch. Warren Kremer is the artist on this issue and it’s pretty much your standard kids comic fluff and looks all right. The cover is okay, but not one I would have for a first issue as it should be more eye catching. Well let’s move onto issue 2.
Hugga Bunch # 2 **1/2
Released in 1986 Cover Price .75 Star Comics #2 of 6
Huggins once more gets the feeling that someone needs help and comes through a mirror in a school locker to meet Susan, who all her classmates don’t like and tease her for being too serious. Susan goes to Huggaland with Huggins, and while there they meet a young boy who is frozen in a block of ice by the Ice Queen who runs a frozen kingdom! The boy’s name is Chipper, and he is in love with the Ice Princess who is being held captive and is not allowed to see friends or boys! The Hugga Bunch, Susan and Chipper head to the ice castle and do battle with the Ice Queen to save the Princess. After many ice block cubes and rescues, they save the Princess who when free from her ice prison grows up before their eyes and finds that she is in fact the true Queen of the ice land. She uses her new power to melt the ice and boots the old Ice Queen from the land. Susan returns back to her school and finds time to have fun and goes to one popular girl’s party, showing she is no square.
Well another issue with a message, and this time it’s that while hard work and school are very important, you should also spend some time, have fun and live a little. Huggins once more is the main Hugga Bunch member who once more comes from the mirror to bring a young child to her world to teach some sort of underlying message. Wait are the Hugga Bunch like Candyman? Do they come out of mirrors to kill….wait they help…right? The Ice Queen is the main “bad” woman, and she is 100% a generic version of any Disney Princess’s evil Queen, who uses freeze and ice as her tools of evil deeds. This issue like the first is 100% geared at girls and even throws in a generic love story between a Princess and a common boy for good cheesy measure. The artwork this time is done by Anna-Maria Coleman and is slightly better than Kremer’s work in the first issue. Over all just another average issue in a comic series based on creepy eyed dolls. Let’s get onto issue 3 shall we.
Hugga Bunch # 3 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price .75 Star Comics #3 of 6
Hugsy is bored in Huggaland and wants something new besides playing and being happy all day long. So when he hears a young girl named Bonnie crying through the mirror he comes and takes her to Huggaland as she tells the sad tale of her dog running away, but it’s because the dog is sad because she makes no time to play with him. But while they all play and talk Mr. Grabby shows up with his net, and he takes away unwanted things. He wants Huglets and takes Hugsy’s away!! The Hugga Bunch alongside Bonnie head out to get him back and find that Mr. Grabby himself is a lonely man and after he learns his sidekick that he mistreats thinks of him as a friend, he sets all the pets and huglets free and all the pets get to go home with their owners. When Bonnie comes back to the real world she finds her dog and learns that she must find time to pay attention to her animal because they have feelings too.
Treat your animals right! Is the message of this issue and make sure to make time for them and friends because by paying no attention to them, it just might make you lose them. Hugsy is the main Hugga in this issue, and he is kind of a turd who is spoiled. Although he learns his lesson, I was not a fan of him. Mr. Grabby is one mean man who gets joy out of taking lost and unwanted pets in his weird nets. While he turns good and has a change of heart at the end I still would not trust him. Over all this is another average issue that holds the same mood and formula of the other two, and I am starting to see that this series will all have the same idea of a Hugga member pulling a kid into their world where he or she will learn a lesson that they will take with them when the return to the real world. If it’s all like this I think soon it will go into yawnville! Art once more was done by Anna-Maria Coleman and looks good. So let’s move on shall we?
Hugga Bunch # 4 **
Released in 1987 Cover Price .75 Star Comics #4 of 6
Huggins comes from the mirror and takes a chubby kid named Jackie, who overeats and is tired of hearing his parents argue, to Huggaland. While there they meet a young cloud named Howie who wants to tell off his creator for making clouds have to do rain and thunderstorms! The Hugga Bunch and Jackie go on the adventure, and in the end with the help of Mother Nature, Howie and the rest learn why it’s important that it rains! When Jackie gets back home, he gets his parents to stop fighting and finds he has the power to have self control.
Yep, yet another lesson issue this one is to have faith in yourself and to get things done, team work is important. Huggins is the star again and is the same Huggins for the past issues, as Jackie is your typical chubby kid who doubts himself and is ashamed of his weight. While he learns a lesson of not overeating, it’s still a bland issue. The other clouds are the bad guy, and Howie is just a character to add a little more to the already so-so story. John Costanza does the art, and it looks pretty good and has that classic Harvey Comic feel to it. Over all this is just an okay issue and is nothing special, I really wish they would spice up the formula because by issue 4, I am bored with it. Let’s move on.
Hugga Bunch # 5 **
Released in 1987 Cover Price .75 Star Comics #5 of 6
Huggins and Hugsly go through the mirror and find Alan, a young man who is super negative and looks at the downside of everything even though he has a wonderful friendship with a young lady named Doris. While is Huggaland, Alan is still negative and after kicking a tree stump he wakes up a bird named Grouse who is as negative as he is. This little bird changes the moods of everyone he is around and is a full on mood killer! Alan gets to see how he acts towards others, and this makes him want to change as Grouse changes when he gets a massive hug from the Hugga Bunch. When Alan get back in the real world, he goes out of his way to see the positive in things and this brings he and Doris closer.
Don’t be a negative mood killer, also known as a Mood Vampire, and try to look at the good things in life as well is the message in this issue. Alan is an annoying kid who shouldn’t have any friends for acting the way he does, but changes when he sees something else act the way he does. People like this don’t change most of the time, so this one is a little lame. Huggins and Hugsly team up to bring this negative turd to their world and both are as happy and cheerful as they have been in the past 4 issues. Grouse is much like Alan and is annoying with his negative bull stuff as well. Same old, same old stuff..different kid with a different issue but it’s all stale at this point. I am so ready to move onto the last issue.
Hugga Bunch # 6 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price .75 Star Comics #6 of 6
Hugsly and Hugs go through the mirror and meet Danny, a young man on a baseball team that has one of the biggest egos ever! He is taken to Huggaland to enjoy the landscape, but someone is stealing the land. Panic sets in, and Danny thinks of ideas to try and find who is stealing the land. The thief is a gnome named Satchel who uses a magic bag to suck in whatever he wants. With team work, they beat the gnome and break his bag that frees Huggaland and returns it to normal! Danny learns that there is no I in team and returns to the real world a new man and a total team player.
I need to start by saying I am so glad to be done with the Hugga Bunch series. While not terrible, these were not something I will ever read again. This one’s main focus is the entire Huga Bunch as they must team up to clean Huggaland and later save it. They use the power of friendship and hugs to set all right, and they let everyone know that people make the places and not the opposite. Danny is like Lex Luger when he was in the WWF and known as The Narcissist, as he likes to look at himself in the mirror. But after some good old fashion teamwork he finds that working with others gets stuff done. Satchel is a greedy gnome who seems to be stealing the land just to be an ass, and when he gets beat, he takes his broken bag and heads right out of town. So the lesson is don’t be an ego driven ass and work with others to reach your goal as a team. Artwork is done by John Costanza again, and it looks good. So yeah, we are done. Below is some art from issue one to show you the style of art used in this series.
One thing that I must question is how this series got a total of six issues while better comics like Defenders of Earth and Inhumanoids got less! I did notice though that Star once more did not even give this series a full fledged final issue. Oh Star, why would you never give fans closure to the series they were reading…well most of the time we didn’t get it. As I have said before besides like one girl I knew and my Aunt, no one I knew had these dolls and no one besides them even spoke of them! The thing that made this series bland and average is the fact they really did follow the same formula and like clockwork you knew at what point the troubled kid would see the light and figure out what they needed to learn. But I am so done with the Hugga Bunch, and I am going to move onto telling you what our next update is. It’s one I have been working on all last year, my look at the films of 2013! So come back and spend some time with me at the Rotten Ink Theater as we eat some popcorn and talk about films. Until then enjoy a comic or two, and look under your bed to make sure a Hugga Bunch is not under there waiting for you!