"I once dated a girl named Barbie.
Coincidentally she was mostly plastic too."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
a successful businesswoman, a member of a rock band and a Women's
World Cup Soccer player. Who is this superstar? It's none other than
the Barbie doll.
In the early 1950s, Handler saw that her
young daughter, Barbara, and her girlfriends enjoyed playing with
adult female dolls as much or more than with baby dolls. Handler
sensed that it was just as important for girls to imagine what they
themselves might grow up to become as it was for them to focus on
what caring for children might be like.
Because all the adult dolls then available
were made of paper or cardboard, Handler decided to create a three-dimensional
adult female doll, one lifelike enough to serve as an inspiration
for her daughter's dreams of her future. Handler took her idea to the
ad executives at Mattel Corp., the company that she and her husband,
Elliot, had founded in their garage some years before: the (all-male)
committee rejected the idea as too expensive, and with little
potential for wide market appeal.
Soon thereafter, Handler returned from a
trip to Europe with a "Lilli" doll, modeled after a
character in a German comic strip. Handler spent some time designing
a doll similar to Lilli, and even hired a designer to make realistic
doll clothes. The result was the Barbie doll (named in honor of the
Handlers' daughter), a pint-sized model of the "girl next door."
Mattel finally agreed to back Handler's
efforts; and the Barbie doll debuted at the American Toy Fair in New
York City in 1959. Girls clamored for the doll, and Barbie set a new
sales record for Mattel its first year on the market (351,000 dolls,
at $3 each). Since then, Barbie's popularity has rarely flagged; and
today, with over one billion dolls sold, the Barbie product line is
the most successful in the history of the toy industry.
The first Barbie doll sported a ponytail
hairstyle, black and white zebra-striped bathing suit, open-toed
shoes, sunglasses and earrings. A line of fashions and accessories
was also available. Buyers at the industrys annual Toy Fair in
New York were not impressed, but little girls certainly were and the
Barbie doll took retailers by storm. Mattel was so swamped with
orders that it took several years for supply to catch up with demand.
A Classic Commercial for Barbie's Dream House from the 1960s
The Barbie doll was introduced as a
teenage fashion model, but in the years that followed she has taken
on many aspirational roles. She has tackled almost every conceivable
profession, including dentist, doctor, firefighter, astronaut,
paleontologist, even Presidential candidate.
The Barbie doll has been joined by friends
and family over the years, including the Ken doll, named for the
Handlers son, in 1961, Midge in 1963, Skipper in 1965 and
Christie, an African-American doll and the first of many ethnic
friends, in 1968. More recently, in 1995, the Barbie doll gained a
little sister, Baby Sister Kelly, and, in 1997, a disabled friend in
a wheelchair, Share a Smile Becky. Barbie doll is further expanding
her versatile and limitless roles to inspire girls' dreams for years
The world of the Barbie® doll today is
a great deal more than a doll and accessories. Barbie doll is keeping
in step by allowing girls to use their computers to program and
personalize their Barbie doll and design, create, play and dream
using Barbie software. The Barbie line has also developed into
a broad array of exciting licensed products for girls, including
books, apparel, food, home furnishings and home electronics.
From the beginning, Barbie has also had
her critics: the major accusation, from feminists and others, has
been that she reinforces sexism, representing a young woman with
questionable intelligence and a near-impossible physique. The late
60s even saw the creation of the "Barbie Liberation
Organization," after Mattel introduced "Ken", as
Barbie's "handsome steady."
Despite such criticisms, playing with
Barbie dolls seems as a rule to enhance girls' self-image and expand
their sense of their potential rather than the opposite. This has
become more true over the years, as Barbie herself has expanded her
horizons: she has now appeared as a doctor, astronaut, business
woman, police officer, UNICEF volunteer, and athlete. Over the years,
Barbie has achieved the title of the most popular fashion doll ever created.
MY FIRST BARBIE WAS
in Germany, the inspiration for Americas most famous doll was
not originally intended for children. Her name was Lilli, a sexually
assertive, modern young woman created in 1952 by cartoonist Reinhard
Beuthien to fill an empty slot in the tabloid Bild-Zeitung. Beuthien
first drew a cute little baby, but his editor rejected the idea.
Beuthien then decided to keep the face and add just a ponytail and a
curvy feminine body. Beuthien made Lilli a sex-kitten, uninhibited,
witty, and independent. She supported herself as a secretary, but
often dated older men for their money, so obviously some would label
her a prostitute.
The Bild Lilli cartoon character became so
popular that in 1953, the newspaper decided to market a
three-dimensional version which was sold as an adult novelty toy,
available to buy from bars, tobacco kiosks and adult toy stores. They
were often given out as bachelor party gag gifts and dangled from a
cars rearview mirror.
Parents considered the doll inappropriate
for children. A German brochure from the 1950s described Lilli as
"always discreet," and with her impressive wardrobe, she
was 'the star of every bar". While toy factories tried to cash
in on her popularity with children, Lilli still remained mostly an
adult novelty, especially outside of Germany. A journalist for The
New Yorker magazine, Ariel Levy, even referred to Lilli as a "sex
The original Bild Lilli was available in
two sizes: 30 cm (12 in) and 19 cm (7.5 in) and was manufactured by
the toy company O&M Hausser in Neustadt bei Coburg. Lilli held
three patents absolutely new in doll-making: The head and neck were
not one form connected with a seam at the shoulders, but rather the
seam was mid-neck, behind the chin; the hair was not rooted, but a
cut-out scalp that was attached by a hidden metal screw; the legs did
not sprawl open when she was sitting. The doll was made of plastic
and had molded eyelashes, pale skin and a painted face with side
glancing eyes, high narrow eyebrows and red lips. Her fingernails
were painted red, too. She wore her hair in a ponytail with one curl
kissing the forehead. Her shoes and earrings were molded on. Her
limbs were attached inside by coated rubber bands. The cartoon Lilli
was blonde, but a few of the dolls had other hair colours. Each Lilli
doll carried a miniature copy of Bild and was sold in a clear plastic
tube, with the doll's feet fitted into the base of a stand labelled
"Bild-Lilli" that formed the bottom of the tube; the
packaging was designed by E. Martha Maar, the mother-in-law of the
Hausser company owner. A total of 130,000 were made.
her racy background, German girls fell in love with shapely Lilli
and soon a high quality wardrobe was being produced featuring the
fashion trends of the 50's; tight sweaters, capri pants, sexy pencil
skirts, outfits for parties, the beach and tennis as well as cotton
swing skirts, nighties and traditional German Dirndl dresses. Some of
Lillis wardrobe were low-cut, very short and revealing, which
didn't help with her reputation. Dollhouses, room settings,
furniture, and other toy accessories to scale with the small Lilli
were also produced by German toy factories to cash in on her
popularity amongst children and parents.
The smaller version of Lilli was just shy
of a foot tall, with bulging breasts and a platinum-blonde ponytail,
made up for a night on the town with red puckered lips and blue eye
shadow. Although Barbies curvy proportions are modeled after
Lillis, the German dolls heavy makeup and suggestively
arched eyebrows didnt carry over to the American version. The
dolls also have different feet. Unlike Barbie, Lilli doesnt
have an arched foot with itty-bitty toes. She doesnt even have
a foot, the end of her leg is cast in the shape of a stiletto-heeled
pump and painted a glossy black.
By 1958 Lilli had become so popular in
Germany that a feature film was produced called Lilli - A Girl From
the Big City. Portraying Lilli was a coveted role, so much so that a
contest was held by BILD, who instructed it's female readers to send
in their photos to compete for the role! Women from all over Germany
entered the contest and BILD's offices were flooded with thousands of
entries. In the end Danish actress Ann Smyrner was chosen as the
winner. Which makes us wonder, if Max Schreck can play Dracula for
the first time (but be called Count Orlok) can Ann Smyrner be the
first person to play Barbie on screen (but be named Lilli)?
Ann Smyrner (1934 - 2016) was active in
the 1960s in Italy, the United States, Austria and West Germany. She
played in adventure, comedy, science fiction, crime, and horror
movies, among which are the Sidney Pink science fiction movies
Reptilicus and Journey to the Seventh Planet (both 1962). She trained
at the Aarhus Theatre Schoolwas and was the daughter of Danish stage
actor Poul Smyrner. Smyrner spent most of her screen career in
Germany. She retired from acting in 1971 due to illness and moved to
Spain. She also wrote philosophy articles about life, death, family
and faith for various newspapers as well as publishing a book of
devotions. She also allegedly practiced witchcraft for 17 years until
renouncing it in 1970.
In the comics, Lilli was witty, irreverent
and sexually uninhibited. One comic shows Lilli covering her naked
body with a newspaper and explaining to a friend, "We had a
fight and he took back all the presents he gave me." Another
shows Lilli in a bikini; when a policeman tells her that two-piece
swimsuits are illegal, she says, 'Oh, and in your opinion, which part
should I take off?"
Lilli dolls (above left) were soon coveted
by children as well as adults. They caught the eye of 15-year-old
Barbara Handler on a 1956 vacation in Switzerland with her mother,
Ruth, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. Ruth Handler brought
three of the dolls home with her to California and introduced her own
version at the 1959 American International Toy Fair in New York. The
new doll was named Barbie (above right), after Handlers
daughter. Mattel acquired the rights to Bild Lilli in 1964, and
production of the German doll ceased.
Changes to the original Lilli included the
removing of her asterisk-shaped flower earrings from the mould as
well as the removal of the moulded-on shoes, and the painting of the
lips. The original head, made in two pieces in order to insert from
the back the mohair ponytail and spit curl, would be transformed into
a single piece head in heavy vinyl material as the hair on Barbie
Doll was rooted and without a spit curl but with a full set of curly
bangs. Everything else was kept the same since Lilli dolls
construction was ultimately the best way to form the doll. Barbie,
however, was injection-moulded high-quality vinyl which did not
require stringing as Lilli did.
The success of Lilli and later Barbie
inspired a number of knock offs. The self-proclaimed "Queen of
Fashion", Babs showed up made from old Lilli moulds minus the
earrings. Babs had a boyfriend and a sister Randy which was a copy of
the Tammy doll by Ideal Toys. The Randy shown in the catalogue was
actually a real Tammy doll with an ink spot on her cheek in an
attempt to avoid a lawsuit from Ideal. It didn't work. All of these
dolls wardrobes were identical copies of German Lillis,
Barbies, Kens, Ideals Tammy doll clothing but very
Several toy companies (mainly in Hong
Kong) produced dolls resembling Bild Lilli, some from purchased
original molds. A company in Spain also copied the molds and made a
very similar doll, but with darker skin, white earrings and
articulated waist. At the time Spanish society was extremely
conservative and was not ready for such an "offensive"
dolls. Mothers were not buying them for their daughters and the
manufacturer had to retire them from the market.
In 1961 Hausser sold Louis Marx and
Company the rights to make Lilli in Hong Kong for the American and
Asian markets. This resulted in an official Hong Kong-made (no longer
Bild) Lilli doll by Marx Toys. The Marx version of the dolls were
available in and sold as a 12" Bonnie and a 15" Miss
Seventeen(above left and middle). Marx, thinking they had the
"Official" license to the Lilli doll, unsuccessfully
attempted to sue Mattel for patent infringement. Mattel had been
selling Barbie already for three years and had an agreement with
Hausser as well. Also by this time the market was already flooded
with all the other Hong Kong Lilli copies. Marx eventually dropped
the suit and the dolls. Though, she was reincarnated a year later as
a Miss Marlene (above right).
Barbie was originally
marketed as a "Teenage Fashion Model" and around 350,000
dolls were sold during the first year.
Barbie was available as
either a blonde or a brunette from the start, but the blonde dolls
have always sold more.
Mattel, Inc. is an American multinational
toy manufacturing company founded in 1945 with headquarters in El
Segundo, California. The products and brands it produces include
Fisher-Price, Barbie, Monster High, Ever After High, Polly Pocket,
Enchantimals, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Masters of the Universe, American
Girl, and Thomas & Friends. In the early 1980s, Mattel produced
video game systems, under its own brands and under license from
Nintendo. The company has presence in 40 countries and territories
and sells products in more than 150 countries. It is the world's
second largest toy maker in terms of revenue, after The Lego Group.
Elliot and Ruth Handler met as teens in
1932 at a dance in their mutual home town of Denver, Colorado, and
later moved to California, where they married in June 1938.
Elliot, then a student at Art Center
School of Design in Los Angeles (now ArtCenter College of Design in
Pasadena) and a born tinkerer, began working with a new plastic
substance, lucite. He crafted light fixtures, mirrors, candelabras
and figurines from it in the garage of the couples Hollywood apartment.
Ruth became convinced she could sell her
husbands designs, and her success at doing so led to the
formation in 1939 of Elliot Handler Plastics at 3030 W. Olympic Blvd.
in Los Angeles.
In 1941, the same year their daughter,
Barbara, was born, the pair formed Elzac Jewelry, a jewelry-making
venture with businessman Zachary Zemby. Elliot created the pieces,
and his friend, Howard "Matt" Matson, was put in charge of
manufacturing. The companys distinctive lucite designs were
popular, and it became a million-dollar enterprise in the early 1940s.
Handlers and Matson became disenchanted with Zemby when he brought
in new business partners they didnt approve of, and they began
thinking about forming their own firm in 1944.
The name "Mattel" comes from
combining two names, the "Matt" of Harold "Matt"
Matson and the "El" of Eliiot Handler. Mattels empire
actually began in 1945 with picture frames. Elliot crafted them out
of flocked wood, and they had no trouble selling them.
Soon, the new company branched out into
dollhouse furniture made from lucite and the wood scraps left over
from picture-frame production at their plant at 6058 Western Ave. in
South Los Angeles. They sold briskly, and toys became Mattels
focus. Other toy products followed, including a line of musical toys
beginning with the Uke-a-Doodle in 1947, and the company moved again
to larger quarters at 5432 W. 102nd St. in Los Angeles, in the
industrial area just east of Los Angeles International Airport.
Mattel is incorporated in 1948.
Poor health forced Matson to step aside,
selling his shares in the private company to the Handlers who became
its sole owners.
The Companys first big hit is the Uke-A-Doodle,
a child-sized instrument designed to make music more interactive and accessible.
Mattel begins television advertising
through the Mickey Mouse Club, revolutionizing the way toys are marketed.
Barbie doll debuted in 1959, the creation of Ruth Handler, who named
the doll after her daughter, Barbara. Handler had observed that
Barbara and her friends preferred to play with paper dolls rather
than real ones, because they enjoyed being able to change the
dolls outfits. Handler got the idea to make a more realistic
doll, with real clothes and different, changeable outfits, that could
assume a variety of roles. Inspired by the racy German-made Bild
Lilli doll she saw on while on vacation in Switzerland in 1956, she
pushed the idea for a cleaned-up version that would become the Barbie
doll. She presented the idea to the (all-male) Mattel executive
committee, who rejected the idea as too expensive, and with little
potential for wide market appeal. She persisted and eventually the
board gave the go ahead. Barbie was introduced at the annual New York
toy fair in March 1959. Sales were slow at first, but television
advertising helped build Barbie into a best-seller. Barbies
boyfriend, Ken, named for the Handlers son, was added in 1961.
Barbies friend Midge arrived in 1963, and her younger sister,
Skipper, became available in 1965. In 1998 Barbie is inducted into
the National Toy Hall of Fame.
In 2019 Barbie celebrates her 60th
anniversary by honoring global role models and lighting up major
landmarks in pink.
becomes a publicly traded company
and creates Chatty
Mattel also acquired a number of companies
during the 1960s. In 1965, the company built on its success with the
Chatty Cathy doll to introduce the See 'n Say talking toy, spawning a
new line of products. They released Hot Wheels to the market on May
18th, 1968. In May 1970, Mattel formed a joint venture film
production company Radnitz/Mattel Productions with producer Robert B.
Radnitz, and later entered a multimillion-dollar partnership with
Mehra Entertainment, whose CEO, Dr. Nishpeksh Padmamohan Mehra, is
one of Mattel's Inc.'s main directors for Barbie (film series).
In 1960, Mattel introduced Chatty Cathy, a
talking doll revolutionizing the toy industry, which led to
pull-string talking dolls and toys flooding the market throughout the
1960s and 1970s.
The company went public in 1960, and the
New York Stock Exchange listed them in 1963.
Mattel launches the first Barbie
Dreamhouse. Barbie represents women in new ways, becoming a symbol of
independence and empowerment. With its mid-century modern decor,
girls can imagine entertaining friends or relaxing in their stylish
Barbie Astronaut goes to the moon.
She gets there four years before Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first people to land on the moon.
Major Matt Mason is introduced. His
spacesuit is inspired by NASA prototypes released in the 1960s.
Mattel introduces Christie, the first
Black doll, to the Barbie world.
Wheels is invented by a team of Mattel creators, which included a
rocket scientist and a car designer. Sparked by Elliots idea
for miniature die-cast vehicles that paired cool designs with speed,
power and performance, Hot Wheels launches with a focus on igniting
the challenger spirit in every child. In 1970 Hot Wheels brings drag
racing back into pop culture with Snake & Mongoose. The
re-creations of the rivalry between racecar drivers Don "The
Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen
encouraged kids to act out their own side-by-side racing battles.
In 1997 Hot Wheels partners with NASCAR to
bring racing legends Kyle Petty and Jack Baldwin to the brand and
putting NASCAR-themed vehicles into kids hands for the first
time. The Hot Wheels-NASCAR partnership endured for the next decade.
In 2001 the first life-sized Hot Wheels
car, the Twin Mill, is unveiled at the SEMA custom auto show in Las
Vegas. Over 20 life-sized Hot Wheels are now in the Hot Wheels Garage
In 2011, Hot Wheels smashes the world
record for longest ramp-to-ramp distance jump at the 100th
Anniversary of at the Indy 500, at a length of 332 feet.
In 2018 Hot Wheels turns 50 and celebrates
its continued status as the #1 selling toy in the world with the Hot
Wheels Legends Tour. 2020 would see Hot Wheels mark two major
milestones, producing its 8 billionth die-cast vehicle and topping $1
billion in annual revenue.
Ruth Handler was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 1970. She had a modified radical mastectomy, which was
often used at the time to combat the disease, and because of
difficulties in finding a good breast prosthesis, she decided to make
her own. With Peyton Massey, Ruth founded, Ruthton Corp., which
manufactured a more realistic version of a woman's breast, called
"Nearly Me" (above). She personally fitted one for the then
first lady, Betty Ford.
Mattel buys a Circus
Mattel purchased The Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1971 for $40 million from the Feld
family, whom Mattel kept as management. Mattel sold the circus
corporation by December 1973, despite its profit contributions, as
Mattel showed a $29.9 million loss in 1972.
1972 Big Jim
Big Jim was a line of action figure toys
produced from 1972 through 1986 by Mattel for the North American and
European markets. He was renamed Kid Acero in Latin America and, for
a short period of time, Mark Strong in Europe. Originally inspired by
G.I. Joe, the Big Jim line was smaller in size (closer to 10 inches
in height compared to Joe's 12) and each figure included a push
button in the back that made the character execute a karate chop
action. The action figure's arms were made of a soft plastic/vinyl
material and contained a mechanism that simulated the bulge of a
biceps when the elbow was bent. Big Jim was less military-oriented
than the G.I. Joe line, having more of a secret agent motif, but also
had a large variety of outfits and situations available including
sports, space exploration, martial arts, hunting, western, camping,
fishing, and photography.
In 1974, an investigation found Mattel
guilty of issuing false and misleading financial reports, which lead
to the banishing of Elliot and Ruth Handler from their own company.
Handler was charged with fraud and false reporting to the Securities
and Exchange Commission. She pleaded no contest, was fined $57,000
and sentenced to 2,500 hours of community service. Ruth blamed her
illness for making her being "unfocused" on her business.
Ruth Handler sold her stock in 1980.
Though the Handlers took a more hands-off
approach to their company's business practice after resigning, they
continued to create new ideas. One project Ruth Handler took in the
1980s was Barbie and the Rockers. She was credited as a writer of the
1987 film Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World. Handler was
inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in
1997. Barbie is still alive and prominent in today's youth as
children around the US adore the set of dolls. Advertisements are
still played by channels with a younger audience and the impact
Barbie has had is immeasurable. Both Ruth and Elliot Handler were the
first living people inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame 1989.
Ruth Handler died in California from
complications of surgery for colon cancer on April 27th, 2002, aged
85. In April 2008, Mattel honored Elliot Handler with a 90th birthday
party at its headquarters in El Segundo, California. Guests included
his daughter Barbara Segal, the namesake of the Barbie doll. Elliot
Handler died of heart failure at home in Century City, a district of
Los Angeles, California, at age 95 on July 21st, 2011.
Mattel releases it's Space 1999 action
figures. Arthur S. Spear, a Mattel vice president, takes control of
the company in 1975, who returned the company to profitability in 1977.
The Mattel Electronics line debuted in
1977 with an all-electronic handheld game. The success of the
handheld led to the expansion of the line with game console then the
line becoming its own corporation in 1982. Mattel Electronics forced
Mattel to take a $394 million loss in 1983 and almost filed for bankruptcy.
Mattel Children's Foundation is created,
with a vision of making a difference in the lives of children in need
around the world. Since then, the Foundation has supported thousands
of organizations and millions of children.
Through Feld Productions, Mattel purchased
the Holiday on Ice and Ice Follies for $12 million.
Mattel introduces the first diverse line
of dolls carrying the Barbie name.
and Masters of the Universe
The first He-Man and the Masters of the
Universe line of action figures is released. The Masters of the
Universe franchise would become a $2 billion cultural phenomenon
throughout the 1980s across toys and licensed products.
New York venture capital firms E.M.
Warburg, Pincus & Co., and Drexel Burnham Lambert invested a
couple hundred million in Mattel in 1984 to help the company survive.
However, the Master of the Universe action figure line sales dropped,
causing a $115 million loss in 1987. Chairman John W. Amerman
improved the company's financial performance in 1987 by focusing on
core brands. Mattel returned to working with the Disney company in
1988. In 1991, Mattel moved its headquarters from Hawthorne,
California to El Segundo, California.
Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr joins Thomas
& Friends series as narrator, the first of many famous
storytellers that included George Carlin and Alec Baldwin.
"We Girls Can Do Anything"
campaign is launched. Girls everywhere hear "We can dream dreams
and make them come true because nothings worth doing that we
girls cant do, your moms know it too. We girls can do anything,
Also in 1985, Day-to-Night Barbie breaks
the glass ceiling as a CEO.
Barbie joins an esteemed list of American
icons painted by Andy Warhol. The first Barbie portrait was
reportedly inspired by Warhols muse, Billy Boy, a jewelry
designer and member of New Yorks downtown scene in the 1980s,
who owned a vast collection of Barbie dolls.
The world meets Polly Pocket. At 1-inch
tall she lives in a miniature world all her own. Inside each small
case an entire world waits to be discovered a world that can
fit right in your pocket!
Polly was first designed by
Chris Wiggs in 1983 for his daughter Kate. Using a powder compact, he
created a small house for the very small doll. Bluebird Toys of
Swindon, England licensed the idea. The first Polly Pocket were sold
in stores in 1989. Mattel held a distribution agreement with Bluebird
Toys for Polly Pocket items and would later buy the company outright
1992 If you
can beat 'em... buy them!
Mattel entered the game business in 1992
with the purchase of International Games, maker of Uno and Skip-Bo.
In 1993 Fisher-Price is acquired by
Mattel, adding the brands incredible catalog of pre-school toys
to Mattels portfolio.
Tyco Toys, Inc. (owners of the Matchbox
and Dinky Toys brands) was purchased in 1997, and after delighting
parents and kids alike for almost 60 years, Mattel welcomed
View-Master into the fold in same year.
Pleasant Company (maker of the American
Girl brand) was bought in 1998.
Mattel purchased The Learning Company
(formerly SoftKey) in 1999 for $3.5 billion, but sold it in 2000 at a
loss. The company had a $430.9 million net loss that year.
In 2011 HIT Entertainment is acquired by
Mattel, adding Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, Bob the Builder,
Wishbone and many more to Mattels catalog of brands.
In 2014, Mattel acquires MEGA Brands. It's
the number 2 player in the overall construction building sets
category and the number one player within the pre-school construction category.
Princesses, Wizards and Superheros
In 2000 Mattel earned the first grant for
Disney Princess doll licenses and signed a deal with Warner Bros to
become the master licensee for Harry Potter-branded toys. In 2002,
the companies extended their partnership, with Mattel becoming master
licensee for Batman, Superman, Justice League and the Looney Tunes
toys for all markets except Asia.
Also in December 2000, Mattel sued the
band Aqua, saying their song "Barbie Girl" violated the
Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object (does no one
remember Lilli?), referring to her as a "blonde bimbo." The
lawsuit was rejected in 2002.
Mattel would add a princess-themed Barbie
line in 2010, and the fair and fantasy store-based Ever After High
line in 2013. Barbie sales began plummeting in 2012, thus removing
focus from the Disney Princess line and Disney wasn't very happy with
Mattel's Ever After Line either. With these competing lines and an
expiration of the brand license at the end of 2015, Disney gave
Hasbro a chance to gain the license given their work on Star Wars,
which led to a Descendants license. Disney Consumer Products also
made an attempt to evolve the brand from "damsels" to
"heroines." Their shared vision will have each Princess
seem more like an individual character, with slightly different
heights and waist sizes and features modelled on their animated
versions, rather than identical Barbie-ish figurine with painted-on
faces and different color dresses. In September 2014, Disney
announced Hasbro would be the licensed doll maker for the Disney
Princess line starting on January 1st, 2016.
The Last Factory
In 2002, Mattel closed its last factory in
the United States, originally part of the Fisher-Price division,
outsourcing production to China, which began a chain of events that
led to a lead contamination scandal. On August 14th, 2007, Mattel
recalled over 18 million products. The New York Times closely covered
Mattel's multiple recalls. Many of the products had exceeded the US
limits set on surface coatings that contain lead. Surface coatings
cannot exceed .06% lead by weight. Additional recalls were because it
was possible that some toys could pose a danger to children due to
the use of strong magnets that could detach. Mattel re-wrote its
policy on magnets, finally issuing a recall in August 2007. The
recall included 7.1 million Polly Pocket toys produced before
November 2006, 600,000 Barbie and Tanner Playsets, 1 million Doggie
Daycare, Shonen Jump's One Piece and thousands of Batman Manga toys
due to exposed magnets. In 2009, Mattel would pay a $2.9 million fine
to the Consumer Products Safety Commission for marketing, importing,
and selling non-compliant toys. Mattel was noted for its crisis
response by several publications.
The Mattel Childrens Foundation
partners with Barbie to create Ella, Friend of Barbie dolls to donate
to organizations working with children experiencing hair loss from
cancer, alopecia or any other medical condition.
Fortune Magazine named Mattel one of the
top 100 companies to work for in 2013, noting only 1,292 positions
were full, out of 164,045 job applications during the previous year,
as well as more than 1,000 employees had been with the company longer
than 15 years.
Barbie Introduces New Body Types to better
reflect the world girls see today, Barbie introduces three new body
types: curvy, petite, and tall. The launch of the new body types
lands Barbie on the cover of Time magazine.
Mattel acquires Fuhu, makers of Nabi
tablets and other technology-driven hardware, in a bankruptcy
proceeding for a sum worth $21 million. Mattel formed a new division
formed over HIT, Playground Productions and the American Girl called
Mattel Creations in March 2016. In July 2016, NBCUniversal announced
Mattel acquired the license to produce toys based on the Jurassic
Park franchise after Hasbro's rights expire in 2017.
The Wall Street Journal reported that
Hasbro had made a takeover offer for Mattel. At the time, Mattel
worth was $5 billion, while Hasbro was about $11 billion. On November
15th, 2017, Reuters reported that Mattel rejected the offer.
Ynon Kreiz was named company Chairman and
CEO in April 2018. In June 2018, the company laid off 2,200 employees
partially due to Toys R Us' liquidation. Kreiz started reorganizing
which included new board directors added that have entertainment
backgrounds and a global franchise management group charged with
finding new opportunities in existing markets. On September 6th,
2018, Mattel announced the launch of a film division, Mattel Films,
that will make movies based on the company's toy brands.
Arts Music arranged to become the
distributor of Mattel's music catalog in May 2020. Art Music planned
to make available hundreds of never-before-released songs and new
songs for existing properties with first up the digital launch on May
8th of Thomas & Friends birthday album.
Play it Forward is launched as a response
to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its first campaign "Thank you
Heroes" pays homage to the front line and medical workers that
carried on bravely for the duration of the crisis.