Dolls have always happily provided companionship to little girls, acting as security blanket and trusted companion. But Chatty Cathy offered something more, something special. Not only could you talk to Chatty Cathy and share your woes but, thanks to the tug of a ring on a string, Cathy could talk back. And talk she did.
She could offer words of encouragement (“I love you!”), bark orders (“Take me with you!” or “Change my Dress!”) and even make helpful suggestions to alleviate boredom (“Let’s play house!”.) Her eleven (and later, 18) simple and random phrases were enough to satisfy the conversational needs of most girls and give them that special friend that they longed for after a harrowing day of preschool or a traumatic run-in with a sinister sibling.
From her inception in 1959, Chatty Cathy was an instant hit, a must-have on the ol’ Christmas list and Mattel Toys was more than happy to comply with those demands and deliver. Cathy was offered in a variety of styles, with various complexions, eye colors, and hairstyles available, along with a number of wardrobe choices ranging from average toddler attire to fur coats and other fashionable items.
But, of course, it was the voice that was music to the ears of many a youngster and a special voice it was – not to mention familiar. June Foray, who provided Chatty Cathy with vocal chords is also known as one of the most prolific female voices in the industry, having lent her pipes to such characters as Rocky the Squirrel of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame, Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella, Granny in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, and, in an ironic twist, even the sinister Talking Tina doll in the classic Twilight Zone episode. In the 70s, the torch would be handed to Maureen McCormick, best known as Marcia on The Brady Bunch.
The popularity of Chatty Cathy even spawned a few, equally talkative siblings, notably Charmin Chatty, the bespectacled older sister, as well as Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Baby and Tiny Chatty Brother. In 1984, Chatty Patty would make her debut and complete the collection of conversationalists. The simple yet ingenious pull string designed for Cathy would also later be incorporated into a number of other iconic talking toys including dolls such as Family Affair-inspired Mrs. Beasley and later, Talking Baby Tender Love. The tug string mechanism was also incorporated into the well-remembered learning toy known as the See and Say.
It is undetermined when the reign of Chatty Cathy will come to an end. As late as 2001, Mattel was issuing new versions of her and if future little girls are lucky, they will also have the privilege of having a Chatty Cathy by their side, offering words of love and encouragement when they are needed most. If Chatty Cathy has any say in the matter, she isn’t going anywhere – unless, you take her with you, of course.
Were you ever the proud owner of a Chatty Cathy doll? We’d love to hear your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to another iconic toy from yesteryear.