Paramount Pictures working on a live-action Magic 8 Ball movie

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010


All signs point to yes. That's the answer when the question is: Will Hollywood continue to raid the toy chest for ideas? The latest in a rash of toy-to-movie deals comes from Paramount, which has optioned Mattel's Magic 8 Ball for a live-action feature, according to The studio has already had a money-gushing run with action-movie versions of Hasbro's Transformers (which has become a billion-dollar franchise) and G.I. Joe. Next up is a Paramount/Mattel collaboration on Max Steel, starring Twilight's shapeshifting hunk Taylor Lautner. Others in the plastic-to-celluloid pipeline include Mattel's View-Master (at DreamWorks, probably in 3D!), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (at Warner Bros.) and the vintage action figure Major Matt Mason (at Universal). Hasbro's Oiuja board, Monopoly and Battleship games are set for big-screen treatment, too. What, no My Little Pony? Just give them time.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Tech women spam Barbie's career contest, turn her into a geek

Posted on Wed Apr 14 2010


Barbie got her geek on recently, complete with nerdy glasses and a laptop, but don't think little girls across the country were responsible for turning the iconic job-hopping doll into a computer engineer. They would've rather seen her become an anchorwoman, according to the results of Mattel's online voting for Barbie's new job. So, who picked the techy career? Not Barbie's fans of today, but as we'll kindly call them, her fans of yesterday. The contest, open to anyone, kicked off in January and gave fans five career choices, including environmentalist and surgeon. During its four-week run, some 600,000 votes were cast, and according to The Wall Street Journal, adult women in tech fields got way into it. They were so passionate about turning Barbie—former fashion model, stewardess, pop singer—into a tech geel that they sent out a collective 1,840 Tweets about it. Groups like the Society of Women Engineers got involved, as did female academics and scientists. In the end, they won the popular vote and even had a say in how computer engineer Barbie would be designed. (That's her on the left in the photo. No drab lab coats, please!) But since kids always get what kids want, there's an anchorwoman Barbie coming, too. (She's on the right.) Check for the anchorwoman this fall and the computer engineer during the winter. And read the fascinating Journal story to see how it all happened.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Pretend to get drunk, have affairs with Mad Men dolls

Posted on Wed Mar 10 2010

Madmen-dolls Mattel, in partnership with Lionsgate and AMC, today unveiled Mad Men Barbie dolls. Having watched the series, I'd say the dolls are not intended for children. In fact, the Mad Men replicas are meant for collectors, who would appreciate their couture clothing and accessories. The action figures, which retail for $74.95, are modeled after four of the show's characters:  Don Draper, Betty Draper, Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway (now Harris). While the Barbies don't look exactly like the characters, I can see the resemblance and the 1960s fashion they represent. Ironically, this is pretty good advertising for a show that's about advertising. Don Draper would be proud.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

She sure gets around: Fans asked to pick Barbie's 125th career

Posted on Wed Feb 10 2010


I'd long since stopped playing with Barbie by the time she uttered the infamous phrase "Math class is tough!" in the early '90s. I agreed with her, though, and realized that with that attitude, neither of us would ever be a scientist. Barbie did go on to have illustrious, short-term careers as an astronaut, a dentist, a paratrooper and, on the other end of the spectrum, a secretary, a "stewardess," a pop singer and a pet stylist, among scores of others. It's time now to pick her 125th job, and Mattel has turned to the public to decide if she'll be an architect, computer engineer, environmentalist, news anchor or surgeon. She's highly marketable, I know, but those are heavy-hitting professions in this economy. (And the blonde bombshell won't even have to pound the pavement or earn any degrees to land the gig.) The program, which coincides with next week's annual Toy Fair in New York, will be promoted with bus and subway ads, billboards at the Jacob Javits convention site, wild postings and de rigeur Twitter and Facebook campaigns. I'm voting to make her an environmentalist, since that's vague enough to be benign and probably doesn't call for the mastery of fractions. Say, Barbie's just given me an idea …

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


Barbie continues to celebrate her 50th birthday in very high style

Posted on Mon Nov 23 2009


Mattel's iconic Barbie doll turned 50 this year (not that you'd know it, with those legs and tummy still smooth as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and is celebrating with about as many branding gambits. We've already written about Hotel Chocolat's "Barbie Box," as well as Barbie's newfound interest in retail stores and feature films. But it turns out that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Assouline Publishing released Barbie, a limited-edition book of Barbie photographs and artwork that reprises the anglaise technique of hand-applied "color tipping." Shipped in a pink, cloth-bound slipcase, the 128-page book retails for $500.
  • French designer Christian Louboutin designed a special pair of not-so-sensible shoes modeled after Barbie's high-altitude pumps. Rendered in shocking Pantone No. 219 pink (you didn't expect them to match anything, did you?), the haute cobbler's creations debuted at a Mattel-sponsored runway show this past February, at which a who's who of high-end designers showed off their Barbie-inspired couture. (We couldn't find the retail price for the pink pumps, but Louboutin's average footwear goes for $800 a pair, so you get the idea.)
  • The Palms hotel in Las Vegas threw open the doors of the Barbie Suite this year—a 2,350 square-foot warren of rooms covered in pink chintz and stuffed with Barbie-like furnishings such as white-wire chairs and mirrored dressers. Too bad that few people heading to Vegas these days have the chips for the $4,000 a night it costs to bed down in this fantasy suite. At least the maids won't have to work too hard to keep the Jonathan Adler-designed rooms clean.
  What's most amazing about these brand extensions is that they stem from a doll that cost $3 when it debuted in 1959 and can still be picked up at Walmart for about $35—evidence of just how far a successful brand can go. Meanwhile, at 50, Barbie has learned to diversify. For Christmas this year, her label is also selling a Twilight Edward and Bella doll set. No word on the vampire suite in Vegas as yet.

—Posted by Robert Klara

Can you spare $95 in change for American Girl's homeless doll?

Posted on Wed Oct 7 2009


Gwen Thompson, a new American Girl doll, comes with an unusual backstory. See, Daddy walked out, Mommy lost her job and then the roof over their heads. She and Gwen are now living in a car. Yes, they're homeless. Is this good for role play? Gwen, like the rest of the Mattel-marketed American Girl line, goes for the unemployment-unfriendly price of $95. Critics have set upon this piece of plastic, saying her tale paints men as evil and women as helpless. And anyway, they're not sure they want to expose their little princesses to the harsh reality that some people get tossed onto the streets. For an added kick, Gwen has no friends at her new school, where the mean girls taunt her and call her a loser. (Mattel, obviously asleep at the wheel on this one, says Gwen's plight is supposed to provide an anti-bullying, stand-up-for-yourself lesson). But if folks today are so upset about Gwen, imagine what they would've thought about Little Miss No Name, a Hasbro doll launched in 1965. Those were much less politically correct times, obviously, that gave birth to a barefoot, burlap-dress-wearing, tear-streaked ragamuffin with giant Keane-esque eyes. She had one hand outstretched in a panhandling pose. She didn't last long, though—she's a collector's item on eBay now, fetching hundreds of dollars (more if the plastic tear is still on her cheek). Since Little Miss No Name didn't have a Dream House or a Corvette, her franchise prospects were limited from the start. Not so for Gwen, who's remarkably sunny and fresh despite her unfortunate situation and has an array of add-ons for moms to buy. And if her hair gets mussed from sleeping on the floorboards, she can get a fancy 'do at the American Girl salon. Only $20.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

At 50, Barbie's headed for the big screen and the Mall of America

Posted on Thu Sep 24 2009


Barbie is about to get her close-up in Hollywood, but she's not ignoring the heartland. The iconic Mattel doll, who has been celebrating her 50th birthday looking no worse for wear, will star in her first live-action feature film, via a just-brokered deal between Universal Pictures and Mattel's rep, Creative Artists Agency. She's been a holdout for the big screen, though she's had a line of successful animated direct-to-DVDs. No word on whether she'll play an astronaut or a Heidi Montag clone, though there's reason to be optimistic about the in-development story: Laurence Mark (Jerry Maguire, Julie & Julia) is producing. And coming next month: the Barbie Shop at the Mall of America, the brand's first dedicated retail store in the U.S. Among the offerings will be Twilight-themed dolls (shown here), "I Want My Dream House" T-shirts and updated Barbie campers with chandeliers and "flushing" toilets. (All mine had was a pup tent!) The store, launching in time for holiday shopping, will be in place until next spring, unless Mattel decides to make it permanent.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Barbie's 'unapologetic glam' inspires a new line of chocolates

Posted on Fri Feb 27 2009

Barbie-chocolate copy

Luxury chocolatier Hotel Chocolat said today it has created "The Barbie Box" to celebrate the Mattel doll's 50th anniversary. The limited-time "Love Barbie" and "Luxe" boxes honor Barbie's "unapologetic glam of a style-superstar extraordinaire," the company says in a very giddy statement. Brand director Fredrik Ahlin says, "She is a constant inspiration, and is up there with all of the timeless icons of fashion and beauty. When I worked on this dream project, I tried to work out who she would be if she were a living person. I couldn't, there is only one Barbie. Happy birthday darling!" While Ahlin sounds completely insane, there is some rational logic to Barbie-branded chocolate—after all, candy is one thing women never outgrow. Let's just hope Barbie doesn't consume too much of it.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Soon, playing board games will be the only thing you can afford

Posted on Fri Feb 13 2009


Those who have lost money in the stock market may be newly risk-averse, but Mattel and Hasbro are betting that those same people will be willing to roll the dice on … rolling the dice. Yes, in the latest sign that we are heading back to the 1930s, sales of board games rose 6 percent last year, according to the Toy Industry Association. That has prompted the industry's Big Two to introduce a raft of new low-tech games at next week's Toy Fair and to retool older games like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Candy Land. Hasbro even plans to promote a "family game night" to spur inter-generational fun. Neil Friedman, president of Mattel brands, tells Bloomberg: "When you get into this type of economy, where the consumer does not have the kind of spendable income that they had previously, they tend to do more things as a family. That tends to be games."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

And the worst toy of the year is … Cowboy Cheerleader Barbie

Posted on Thu Feb 12 2009

Cowboybarbie copy

After great anticipation, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has named the worst toy the year. And the winner/loser of the group's inaugural TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award is: Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Barbie, who got an impressive 6,000 votes. CCFC director Dr. Susan Linn says in a statement: "The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll comes with the shortest of short shorts, stiletto boots, and a revealing halter top. The preposterously skimpy outfit allows children to get a better view of Barbie's impossibly long legs and dangerously thin body. It embodies a host of harmful expectations about what girls are supposed to be like." It's not a great birthday present for Barbie, who turns 50 this year. She beat out Baby Alive Learns to Potty, the Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade and other toys to achieve the dishonor.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein



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