Following the success of their first big franchise (Strawberry Shortcake) back in 1979, American Greetings introduced the Care Bear characters in late 1981 through a line of greeting cards. Children's book illustrator Elena Kucharik did the original artwork for the cards.
In 1982, the Care Bears were announced as a toy line for production by Parker Brothers and Kenner the following spring, as well as pre-licensed characters and media stars. In 1983, they were introduced to the general public, and starred in their first television special, The Land Without Feelings, which Kenner produced and sponsored. In 1985, the Bears and Cousins starred in their first movie, The Care Bears Movie; later that autumn, a television series from DiC Entertainment based on the characters was produced, and it ran for 22 episodes in syndication.
As with many other animated franchises of the 1980's, the Care Bears movies and TV shows were designed and created only to sell the pre-licensed characters and related merchandise.
The ten original Care Bears consisted of Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Funshine Bear, Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Love-A-Lot Bear, Tenderheart Bear, and Wish Bear. Later on, additional bears joined them, as well as the Cousins.
Over 40 million Care Bears were sold between 1983 and 1987, and during the decade, American Greetings printed over 70 million of their cards. In whole, the sales of their merchandise reached over $2 billion during the 1980s. This made them one of the most successful toy lines of its time, alongside My Little Pony and Transformers.