On Thursday, Mattel unveiled curvy, petite and tall versions of its iconic fashion doll whose unrealistically thin shape has attracted criticism for decades. The three body types will also be sold in an assortment of skin tones, eye colors and hairstyles.
The move is about more than just making Barbie look different. While Barbie was once Mattel’s powerhouse brand, sales have plummeted in recent years as the doll has struggled to remain relevant to little girls who do not look like her and who play with toys other than dolls.
“This is about drawing a wider demographic that had turned away from Barbie back to Barbie,” said Jim Silver, the editor of TTPM, a toy review website.
Barbie’s latest makeover began in a big way last year, when Mattel released a broad assortment of dolls in a greater number of skin tones, eye colors and even facial structures as part of its Fashionistas line.
“I think today, frankly more so than any other time, Barbie is truly representing what girls see,” said Richard Dickson, who is Mattel’s president and chief operating officer and the executive in charge of Barbie’s reinvention.
“It’s hardly a bolt of genius to say let’s make dolls that look different,” said Sean McGowan, an analyst with Oppenheimer and Company. “It’s more like saying ‘Yeah, we stuck with that one single iconic image for too long, let’s try multiple ones.’ ”