A Cinderella Story
This coming weekend, a new line of toys will hit the shelves for Mattel (MAT). But it’s really a return to form for the iconic toy maker behind the Barbie and Hot Wheels brands, coming almost ten years after it lost the Disney (DIS) princess contract to rival Hasbro (HAS). Now, Mattel is back in the entertainment goliath’s good graces, and set to unveil a new line of 17 Disney dolls.
The new princess line will include Cinderella, Moana, and Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Mattel executives say this is part of a comeback that follows a period of financial and creative struggle. The company’s gameplan leans heavily on the return of the iconic princesses, as well as toy redesigns, character makeovers, and even the creation of big-budget films.
The relationship between Mattel and Disney goes back 70 years. During the 1950s, the company advertised its toys on The Mickey Mouse Club. So, many employees considered it a true low point for the company when Mattel lost the Disney princess contract.
During the ten years that Hasbro was making Disney princess toys, Mattel went through three CEOs. But Ynon Kreiz took over in 2018 and immediately went to work on making things more efficient, closing factories and laying off around 5,000 employees.
With a renewed emphasis on making high quality toys, Mattel won back the rights to produce the Disney dolls a year ago. Now, the company has refocused from manufacturing toys to managing franchises, with the first live-action Barbie film slated for release later this year.
Different Disney Dolls
Mattel says this new line of Disney princess dolls features a new facial design. During development, designers used digital sculpting and hand-painted faces on prototypes to recreate the actual look of the characters. The goal was to make designs more lifelike, with new knitted fibers used to create a more diverse array of hair types.
Executives listened to focus groups and feedback from children who explained how they think the toys should look. Mattel describes the Disney princess line as one of the toy businesses’ “crown jewels”. This weekend, in true dynastic tradition, those products will once again go on display.
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