Barbie is one of the most renowned franchises when it comes to toys, and the idea behind it was rather simple. Looking back to nineteen fifties, one must ask himself:”How come that no one had thought of this earlier”? Well, someone did, but it wasn’t that long before Barbie first appeared in the U.S.A. Ruth Handler is considered a creator of Barbie, easily one of the most successful toys ever made, and after being rejected, at first, she had finally gotten her husband Elliot Handler, a co-founder of Mattel toy company on her own side in 1959. She was initially inspired by the German predecessor doll Bild Lilli a few years earlier on her trip to Europe. Still, Bild Lilli wasn’t that much older than the Barbie franchise, being introduced in 1955, and it sadly didn’t survive for long either with its production coming to an end in 1964. Of course, the fact is that Mattel had bought the rights off of their biggest competitors and opened themselves a pathway to the worldwide market and monopoly over it.
Barbie dolls evolved over the years, just as fashion did. There were quite a few significant changes to them, but some things have remained the same. The size of a Barbie doll, for instance never changed and its length or height, if you please, had remained at steady eleven and a half inches. One of the most notable changes to the doll was introduced in 1971 when Barbie had gotten a new look, literally. Barbie’s eyes were then adjusted to look forward, rather than looking sideways in an unassuming manner. Other features were being moved back and forth, and Barbie was blonde, brunette, redhead, you name it. Different markets also received corresponding dolls which reflect their own culture at much more precise way. Needless to say, Barbie’s gear closely followed and even set its own trends at times, such was the importance of this toy.
In order for Barbie’s owners to relate to their toy on a larger scale and in much easier way, Mattel had carefully put all pieces of a puzzle and created Barbie’s very own history. Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts and she lives in the fictional town of Willows in Wisconsin. Throughout the years, Barbie was joined by other Mattel dolls which created something of a virtual Barbie world. Apart from her boyfriend Ken Carson which made his first appearance in 1961, Barbie’s world includes characters such as Teresa, Midge and Christie which are Barbie’s friends, and also parts of her family.
Barbie owned many pets through the years, and she was also linked with plenty of cars as well. There were many special editions of this doll which were closely intertwined with some professions such as flight attendant, doctor or a lawyer. This, in fact, is one of the most important aspects according to the company as it clearly states that modern-day women can choose and be successful in any given profession. It is easy to imagine how little girls which are also proud Barbie doll owners can be positively influenced in their early years and later become exactly what their toys were years before.
Barbie houses were and still are some of the most important accessories that came together with dolls and came fast as well, as early as 1960. The first dream house was made of cardboard, but nowadays they are made out of plastic, mostly. Houses also grew in size as time passed by, but smaller ones were always available at a lower price. Modern Barbie doll houses are constructed with a help from the American Institute of Architects and other independent designers.
Over the years, Barbie has gone through more than a hundred career choices, most of which are still available now. This makes the toy as one of the most diversified options in the market. Pets have always had an important role in Barbie’s world and apart from regular choices which include cat, dog, and a pony, Barbie has owned a zebra or a giraffe, for instance. There were also some awkward choices like unicorn Barbies too. The toy industry has to keep up with contemporary trends which are showing that many kids switch from classic toys in which dolls are counted too, to modern options such as social networks (not technically a toy, but still…) and interactive toys as well. That’s why current Mattel’s products include many things that can’t really be counted as toys. There’s an abundance of mobile phone apps with the Barbie theme at their base, and eBooks are popular articles on Mattel’s website as well. The special edition called Secret door plunges Barbie into a fantasy world where all dolls are mermaids or fairies among else.
With such a long tradition comes great responsibility as well. There have been many controversies regarding Barbie dolls throughout the years. Some of them even ended with lawsuits. Moreover, such a popular toy was always going to be a good parody material which was proved by many including Aqua and Jay Leno among others. These, however, might not seem as the most immediate and important issues that come with this toy. Arguably the biggest issue with Barbie is the fact that it promotes an unrealistic idea of both body image and a role model (in some cases) for a young woman.
Still, with all of its advantages and disadvantages, Barbie is considered as one of the biggest brands in the world, let alone in the toy industry. Mattel claims that three Barbie dolls are sold every second. However far-fetched it might seem, the fact is that Barbie doll has a huge worldwide following in both children and collectors alike. Later ones spend more and more money every year in hope to enrich their own collections. Some dolls have been sold for as much as $15,000. Of course, Mattel recognized a potential for a new market and had started producing special versions of Barbie dolls, aimed especially at collectors. Simple idea and quality product were the main reasons for Barbie’s success. After the brand was born, the only thing that needed to be done was to maintain the pace and remain inventive, which Mattel had done admirably, hence Barbie is what it is today.