Focused on ‘good toys,’ Mattel introduces new line of Disney princess dolls after winning back contract

Toy manufacturer Mattel is releasing a new line of Disney princess dolls that more realistically represent 17 different characters from children’s movies after losing the contract to its competitor Hasbro nearly a decade ago.

Mattel has been experiencing financial woes ostensibly due to wokeness and a lack of creative inspiration over a number of years, according to the Daily Mail.

The company’s CEO, Ynon Kreiz, is restructuring the company in an attempt to boost market share. He closed factories and significantly reduced the number of employees from 13,500 to 8,500 in an effort to cut costs. He went on to reorganize the company’s creative divisions by separating them into teams that design dolls, vehicles, and toys for young children.

Sales have once again begun to increase after a $343 million loss in 2017. Mattel was also profitable in the first three quarters of 2022. The company reportedly turned a profit of $730 million in 2021. Mattel is still attempting to reach annual sales of over $6 billion which it achieved years ago before taking a downturn.

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“When we lost Disney Princess, there was a fixation on the numbers — the culture was being driven by spreadsheets and checklists and how to grow through cost-cutting,” Ted Wu, who is the head of design for Mattel’s vehicles, told the Wall Street Journal. “We weren’t really asking ourselves, ‘Are we making good toys?'”

Mattel had a deal with Disney for dolls that reached back 70 years, starting in the 1950s, until Hasbro beat them out for the contract in 2012. When that happened, the company’s share price plummeted 25 percent and three different CEOs came and went.

The breaking point came when Mattel introduced “Ever After High,” which was a line of dolls that competed with the Disney Princess brand in 2013. Since the dolls were based on fairy tale characters, they did not have to pay licensing fees to Disney and it caused the two companies to part ways.

Disney then approached Hasbro to portray the princess line as heroines rather than damsels in distress. The dolls were presented as individual characters with slightly different heights, waist sizes, and features modeled after their animated versions.

After winning back the contract, Mattel employed fine-art creators who personalized the dolls in order to make toys children actually want to play with.

The new line of dolls more closely resembles how children imagined they should look based on feedback from focus groups. Digital designers sculpted features and hand-painted faces on prototypes that were based on the characters’ appearance in films. They used knitted fibers for a more diverse range of hair types to make the dolls more realistic.

Even the packaging is being used as a marketing push. Some of the dolls come with packaging that can be cut out and turned into backgrounds which enhances play options for children. But the wokeness still goes on.

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Kreiz is a former television studio executive who worked briefly for Disney before becoming Mattel’s CEO in 2018.

“You would come into this building and you wouldn’t think it was a toy company. It felt like an insurance company in the Midwest,” Kreiz told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.

Kreiz immediately hired Robbie Brenner, who is the producer behind the Oscar-nominated film “Dallas Buyers Club” to head up a new film unit for the firm to expand brand recognition through movies and live events.

Mattel has 15 feature films in some stage of development. They include a Barbie film that will come out this summer.

“We’ve shifted from being a toy company that is manufacturing items to an intellectual-property company that is managing franchises,” Kreiz noted.

Chief Operating Officer Richard Dickson has launched Mattel Creations, which produces higher-priced, limited edition collectors’ versions of toys from a number of product lines, in collaboration with various artists as well.

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