The Cultural Evolution of Candy Land

My son Graeme, who’s almost 4, is very into Candy Land lately. He’ll play it all by himself, or with his brother, or with me, and he cheats a lot, but whatever; he’s so cute.

Anyway, they were given this new set (dated 2010, Made in China) and I remembered I still had my old Candy Land put away somewhere (dated 1984, Made in USA) and so I pulled them out for a comparison, and was really surprised by what I found.

1984 on the left; 2010 on the right.

2010’s game is so much BUSIER and full of candy than 1984’s. In fact, I find 2010 a bit overwhelming visually, whereas 1984’s seems like a relaxed stroll through villages with distinct characteristics. But okay.

Here’s where things are notably different, right at the beginning–the kids:



Okay, so obviously we’ve had diversity training, but look what else! 1984’s kids are pleasantly rounded, 2010’s kids have clearly taken “Let’s Move!” to heart. Amazing, considering that both the fruits and the nuts of the 1984 game board are a thing of the past, and there’s like 250% more candy portrayed on the 2010 board.

Plumpy (PLUMS! FRUIT! 5-a-day!) has no 2010 counterpart.

Likewise, the Grandma of 1984 had a peanut plantation in her front yard (granted, she turned them into peanut brittle for her siding, but work with me here) whilst Grandma 2010 makes fudge (and she has lost weight):

Grandma 1984

Grandma 2010

Friendly Mr. Candy Cane is gone, replaced by a reminder that men, too, have an idealized muscular form to which they should aspire:


2010. Note how his ice-cream is twice the size of his not insubstantial head.

Even the King has had to slim down:

King, 1984

King, 2010

As have the game pieces:

any guesses which pieces are from 1984, and which from 2010?

The Lollipop Lady has gone from Shirley Temple-esque to otherworldly and waifish:


2010 (look how much longer and thinner she is!)

But the pièce de résistance has to be Frostine, who has been demoted from Queen (1984) to Princess (2010), and has been majorly slimmed down and sexed up in the meantime:



So let’s get this right: portions are doubled, there’s no more fruit or nuts, and yet everyone and everything–even the game pieces!–is/are much, much thinner, while the number of actual Americans who are obese has at least quadrupled since 1984?

Good thing I’m still working on my book revisions. I’m going to have to add a whole chapter on the cultural history of Candy Land.  

(or at least talk about it in my book.)

36 thoughts on “The Cultural Evolution of Candy Land

  1. The 2010 Grandma is kind of scary. I mean there’s happy, and there’s too happy. In my professional opinion (as both cartoonist and counselor), that old gal is ON something, and it isn’t just sugar.

    In addition one cannot help wondering whatever happened to the people who made your 1984 version when their factory closed.

    Happy days are here again…

  2. Love this walk down Memory (and Candyland) Lane, Rachel.

    We’ve got the 1984 version at home too. I’d never noticed that the people in it tended to look like they actually ate candy (except for Mr. Candy cane who looks like … well … like a candy cane). No one in the 2010 version looks like they eat candy ever, unless they couple it with some amazingly high metabolisms (or worse).

    And Rachel I see what you mean about how busy the board looks. I might be more worried about my kids having to deal with all that detail than the contradicting images of candy and svelteness. On the other hand, coming from a multi-racial family and community I will say that the diversity in the kids this time around is refreshing. Too bad all of the Candyland characters are about as pasty-skinned as I am, though.


  3. Someone gave my daughter the Candyland Dora version. Talk about crazy. I HATE that board games take cartoon characters and make new versions.

  4. Rachel-
    You should compare the 2012 version. There are differences even from the 2010 version. They must have made some changes (and I’m not sitting in front of Candyland at the moment-only remembering from playing every night with my daughter).

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  12. I still have my board from … gasp!… the late 50’s. We drove our parents nuts asking to play this game. And they were happy to oblige because that meant we were not watching television. Parents get so smart as we get older.

  13. I’m getting ADD just loooking at that new board. My three year old certainly doesn’t need alll that insane visual stimulation from what is supposed to be a simplistic early learning board game. I’ll be seeking out an older used version for him.

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  23. Clearly this artical is pretty old and I have no idea if you are still active but here is goes. This change is intense, yes, but it has absolutely nothing on the current Candyland board game that is sold at target! I about fell over when I went to buy the game!! It hardly looks the same! There is a spinner instead of the cards and… here is the link to the Hasbro site so you can take a look at it. It’s not a very big image but at least you can see the cover art… //
    It’s petty shocking to say the least.

    • I was going to write just this – my son was given candyland for Christmas and I couldn’t believe how different it looked. You think your update is bad, you should see the one Kenne links to (which is the version we have.) The girls are very “Bratz” like, which I find unnecessary. If you can get your hands on a copy I’d love to see an update with it next to the other two.

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  25. The children stepping into the candy land world in the 2010 version seem to be walking over a border that represents a blur between reality and delusion whereas the 1984 version is just a couple of kids using their imagination.

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