Tag Archive: Mattel

To celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, Mattel previewed two new waves of Barbie dolls intended to inspire and educate kids.  Hinted at as forthcoming in the recent Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, the dolls celebrate three real-life heroines of the past in its entirely new “Inspiring Women” line, and 14 new women of the present have been designed as additions to Mattel’s “Shero” line.  The dolls aim to follow the vision behind the original toys’ creator, Ruth Handler, who once said, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be.  Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

The women reflected in the new dolls include heroines of the past: aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, artist Frida Kahlo, and NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson.  The 14 new heroines of the present include conservationist and animal rights activist Bindi Irwin, journalist and Seven Summits mountain climber Martyna Wojciechowska, designers Leyla Piedayesh and Vicky Martin Berrocal, athletes Chloe Kim, Çağla Kubat, Nicola Adams, Lorena Ochoa, Hui Ruoqi, and Sara Gama, Chef Héllène Darroze, movie director Patty Jenkins, ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan, and actor Xiaotong Guan.  The new line of Shero dolls adds to the line-up that began in 2015 and already includes actors Emmy Rossum and Kristin Chenoweth, journalist Eva Chen, ballerina Misty Copeland, singer Trisha Yearwood, movie director Ava Duvernay, gymnastics Olympian Gabby Douglas and fencing Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammed, and model Ashley Graham.  Only Douglas, Muhammed, and Graham were made available in wide release, making this new release of 14 figures the first truly expansive Barbie line inspired by real people.

Twelve of the 14 new figures include Vicky Martin Berrocal, Xiaotong Guan, Bindi Irwin, Sara Gama, Chloe Kim, Martyna Wojciechowska, Nicola Adams, Yuan Yuan Tan, Patty Jenkins, Hélène Darroze, Hui Ruoqi, and Leyla Piedayesh. Not shown: Çağla Kubat and Lorena Ochoa.

The dolls feature a broad array of clothing, accessories, hairstyles, size, skintone, and head sculpt detail.  The international selection of new dolls features representatives from Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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Netflix is now carrying a new documentary television series that delves into the creators behind some of our favorite toys from the recent, and not so recent past.  The Toys That Made Us features four episodes in its first season of streaming, each focused on a toy line that should bring in a good cross-section of fandom.  The choices for the first shows include Kenner’s vintage Star Wars action figures and playsets, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, with an emphasis on the 3 3/4″ line of action figures, Mattel’s Barbie, and the Mattel’s Masters of the Universe No doubt Barbie and G.I. Joe should pull in the older crowd, while the latter half of G.I. Joe and Star Wars will pull in the kids of the 1970s and early 1980s, and Masters of the Universe the kids of the 1980s.

Not a show for kids and not another show about toy collectors, the series devotes plenty of each hour to interviews with designers, marketing, other businessmen discussing the nuts and bolts of negotiating deals, like the lawyer for Kenner discussing the greatest toy deal negotiation ever, and the later not-so-great negotiation because of a loose-lipped CEO.  The Barbie episode features a Barbie expert continually bashing the character as a “hooker” as if she has some sort of love-hate relationship with the doll.  But the politics of toymaking is interesting fodder for the right audience.  Should it be a surprise that toymakers have the same ugly corporate politics, the downsizing, the layoffs, and the takeovers, like every other company?  Prepare yourself for several CEOs and designers as they tiptoe, or not, around decisions and employers they wrestled with in the past as toys and brands came and went.  The creators look back both with nostalgia and anger at the former toy companies that eventually terminated their employment.  So look for an unusual take on these toys and these companies.

The next four episodes will be launched on Netflix later this year, and include Hello Kitty, Transformers, Star Trek, and LEGO.  Sometimes what the show chooses to tell is as interesting as how the show tells it.  The eight toy lines chosen no doubt came from the producer’s own focus groups, like the ideas behind some of the toys they discuss.  If The Toys That Made Us really is a one-time thing, someone else should come along and continue the idea with all the other major brands and influences.

We want to see an episode on Marx toys, including little toy soldiers and the 12-inch action figure series.  We also want to see a history of the broad Mego line of figures, Hot Wheels, Stretch Armstrong, and Big Jim.  How about companies like Fisher Price, Playskool, Playmobil, and Radio Flyer?  A series like this needs to cover more “recent” but still classic toy lines, too, like My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, and figure out a way to capture famous classic toys like Spirograph, Tinker Toys, Play-Doh, Etch-A-Sketch, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, and the ultimate multi-license toy, Viewmaster.  How about a tour of the Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers factories of the past?  Who put out more great board games than these companies?  It’s easy to imagine entire episodes on the history of games like Clue/Cluedo and Monopoly.  And how about featuring a current game company that’s been around for decades, like Wizards of the Coast?

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Not since the Marx Toys line of accessory-laden “Noble Knights” action figures in the late 1960s and early 1970s have we seen a toy line that looks this much fun.  It’s the new Mattel Barbie line of Wonder Woman collector line “dolls,” but let’s call them what they are, action figures that measure up to any mid-range price-point doll or action figure on the market.  Even more fun, these Amazon warriors will stand tall over your other 12-inch action figures.

Sure, Mattel is targeting this new line at the “adult collector” (although the figures are listed as recommended for 10 and up).  But what girl or boy isn’t going to appreciate the great armor designs, and the attention to detail in the shields and swords?  No doubt with the critical acclaim and popularity of the new film–already netting more than $103 million in its opening weekend in the U.S. and $223 million internationally–this series is poised to be the toy line of the summer.


Each individual figure–Diana, Antiope, and Hippolyta–includes headdress, boots, armored gauntlets, shield, and sword.  Diana and Hippolyta also include capes and Antiope includes bow, arrows, and quiver.  A two-pack is also available, featuring Diana in a different design and Steve Trevor.  Designer Bill Greening blended the face designs to keep the classic Barbie and Ken look while also reflecting the images of actors Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, and Chris Pine.  All figures include fully articulated sculpts.

Check out these images of the full designs, plus click on each image below for more information on each and to purchase these new Barbie figures while they are still available (Wonder Woman is sold out on many sites):

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he-man-2   he-man-1

Are you a fan of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats from the 1980s?  Were they a part of your afternoon cartoon line-up?  Did you pit your action figures of He-Man and Lion-O, in an epic battle against Skeletor and Mumm-Ra on your parents’ living room floor?  If so, a new series from DC Comics and Mattel may be your next favorite comic book.

An outgrowth of the Big Jim action figures and toy line, Masters of the Universe toys first appeared in 1981.  Four years later we met the ThunderCats in a Marvel Comics series and animated television series.  Flash forward thirty years and Mattel’s Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine have written a limited series bringing together the two worlds with interior artwork and covers supplied by Freddie E. Williams II.  The artist had a big year with another big crossover, his Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, a huge hit for fans of both franchises and for DC Comics.

Advance publicity for the series gives us a look at what’s to come: In his eternal desire to destroy the mighty ThunderCats, the evil Mumm-Ra quests for a weapon that can rival the legendary Sword of Omens: He-Man’s Sword of Power!  But his dimension-spanning scheme launches a cataclysmic crisis that will, for the first time ever, unite Lion-O, Cheetara, Tygra, Panthro, WilyKit and WilyKat with He-Man, Battlecat, Teela, Man-At-Arms and the rest of the Masters of the Universe.


This week the six-issue series begins.  We have a preview of the series below for readers.

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Max Steel

Not to be confused with Steel starring Shaquille O’Neil or Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman, Max Steel is a new “coming of age, family, superhero” movie due in theaters next month.  In a world of big budget superhero movies based on 75-year-old characters like Superman and Batman, how can a relatively unknown superhero compete?

With a new trailer that plays a bit like *batteries not included or Explorers, there may yet be room for a Max Steel.  Is there a young audience being missed by the violence and language of movies like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Deadpool?  Maybe a film for kids with a plot less complicated than Captain America: Civil War?  Or a movie for audiences looking for the next Sky High?

Max Steel is the combination of angsty teenager Max (not Mark) McGrath and Steel–a smart-alecky alien tech robot drone.  Does “organic armor” make Max Steel a new cyborg?  A plus for the character is its source in Mattel’s large-sized action figure line based on the format and marketing of the original, classic 12-inch G.I. Joe action figures, as well as an animated series.  Will that draw in viewers?  Max Steel apparently has a large following in Latin America: While Mattel’s Big Jim 12-inch action figure series died out in the U.S. in before the 1980s, it was thriving there.  Original Max Steel figures wore Big Jim clothes and were packaged with the same accessories.  In the 1970s Big Jim was sold in Latin American countries as Kid Acero, or “Kid Steel”.

Max Steel figure

Will Max Steel usher in the eagerly awaited return of Hasbro’s Mike Power, the Atomic Man?  That would be a fun blast from the past.

Check out this trailer for Mattel’s theatrical release of Max Steel:

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He-Man print in limited edition of The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Review by C.J. Bunce

Next month Dark Horse Comics releases a must-read for fans of He-Man, She-Ra “Princess of Power,” and the Masters of the Universe world of toys, animated series, magazines, chapter books, posters, comic strips, and comic books.  The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover includes more than 300 pages full-color art, a portfolio featuring an exclusive print by Gerald Parel, a foil-embossed cover, and a die-cut two-piece Castle Greyskull slipcase.  A standard edition of the book will also be available.  Many well-known creators worked with these characters since its inception in the early 1980s, including Ralph McQuarrie, Drew Struzan, Dick Giordano, J. Michael Straczynski, George Tuska, Klaus Janson, Boris Vallejo, Tony Moore, Darwyn Cooke, Geoff Johns, and Tommy Lee Edwards.

Designers from every stage of the creation of He-Man, She-Ra, Skeletor, and the large cast of sword and sorcery heroes and villains, offer insight into character development, decision-making, and the impact on 1980s kids.  The best feature is the inclusion of hundred of pieces of full-color art, concept artwork, page layouts, sketches, storyboards, packaging art, prototypes, never before seen and unused imagery, advertising art, original comic art, and final comic book pages, covers, and animation cels.  It features restored art from master illustrator Earl Norem, as well as interviews with Dolph Lundgren, who played He-Man in the 1987 movie, director Gary Goddard, well-known TV producer/comic book writer Paul Dini, and voice actress Erika Scheimer, among many others.  Captions for photos were written by comic book creators Tim Seeley and Steve Seeley.

The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Limited Edition Hardcover slipcase edition

Particularly of interest to toy collectors are the original notes from the development stage of the toy line at Mattel.  Mattel, which had passed on the ground-breaking Star Wars action figure line, developed He-Man as a direct competitor to that toy line.  Mattel drove the look of the characters–this was first and foremost a toy line, inspired in part by the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta.  But it grew beyond that.  Artists and writers and other creators remark with pride about the focus on the stories that went beyond the toy line.

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New View-Master 2015

More than one billion View-Master reels reflecting at least 10,000 different topics had been put into circulation since the first mass-produced 3D viewers were manufactured in Portland, Oregon back in 1939.  We spent many hours with our standard black “Model-C” 1946 Sawyer reel viewer–the original version of what is still sold today–and the 1952 View-Master personal stereo camera that allowed anyone to create their own photographic reels.  What kid didn’t own the 1970s classic red, complete with reels of vacation destinations like Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore, movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron, The Muppet Movie, and Harry Potter films, and TV shows like Doctor Who, M*A*S*H, and Popeye?

This weekend Mattel, the current owner of the View-Master brand, is announcing at Toy Fair 2015 in New York City the next stage in 3D viewing with its 2015 View-Master virtual reality digital viewer.  Using Google Cardboard virtual reality technology, the new viewers will sport a similar design to the classic viewers, this time allowing a smart phone to slip into the case instead of their trademark reels.  Only a prototype is being shown at Toy Fair, however the Google Cardboard technology will demonstrate how newly designed reels in the new plastic viewer will allow anyone to have a 360 degree, immersive 3D experience.

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John Carpenter Christine Plymouth Fury

Director John Carpenter announced this week that Hot Wheels will be issuing a die cast metal version of his famous car Christine, the 1958 Plymouth Fury from his horror film based on Stephen King’s novel.  It doesn’t have a sound chip for playing Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin'” but it’s still going to be a cool mini-ride.  Other new releases include Richard Dreyfuss’s truck from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Emergency! red rapid response truck from the 1970s TV series.  Not familiar with the retro entertainment line from Hot Wheels?  It gets better.

Stripes Urban Assault Vehicle    Electric Mayhem School Bus

So far the Hot Wheels plant has rolled out something for everyone, coming up with a pretty broad array of vehicles.  Remember the green GMC mobile home “Urban Assault Vehicle” from Stripes?  It’s coming in 2015.  Remember Mr. Miyagi’s yellow 1948 Ford–the one he gives as a gift to Daniel-san for finishing his karate training in The Karate Kid?  They’ve got that, too.

Dreyfuss Close Encounters of the Third Kind truck

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