What Is The History Behind Barbie Dolls?
A doll that has adorned the shelves of every little girl all over the world has got to be the Barbie. Produced by Mattel Inc, these dolls are a major source of revenue for the company.
An American business woman, Ruth Handler (1916-2002), is said to be the creator of Barbie and the design of the doll was inspired from a German doll called Bild Lilli.
The idea of an adult bodied doll came to Ruth Handler as she watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls and often giving some of them adult roles. At the time, children's toys were replicas of infants.
Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Ruth suggested the idea to her husband Elliot, co-founder of the Mattel toy company. But he, as well as the other director of Mattel did not show much enthusiasm with the idea.
In 1956, during a trip to Europe with her children, Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth found a German doll called Bild Lilli, which was exactly the kind of doll she had in mind. She purchased three of them, gave one to her daughter and took the other two back to Mattel. This German doll was based on a popular character that appeared in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper Die Bild-Zeitung.
Lilli was a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to attain her goals. The doll was first sold in Germany in 1955 mainly for adults. But it soon became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits which were available separately.
After her return to the United States, Handler, with some assistance from engineer Jack Ryan, worked on the design of the doll, which was given a new name, Barbie after Handler’s daughter Barbara. The doll made its debut in the American International Toy Fair in New York in 1959.
This date is used as the birthday of Barbie. In 1964, Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll and the production of these dolls stopped. The first Barbie wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and what was later to become its signature topknot ponytail and was available as either a blond or a brunette.
Barbie was marketed as Teenage Fashion Model, her clothes having been designed by Mattel's designer Charlotte Johnson. The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan and their clothes were stitched by Japanese home workers. Almost 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of its production.
Ruth Handler believed that Barbie should have an adult like appearance. But market research shows that many parents were unhappy with the features of Barbie, especially at the fact that she had a distinct breast.
The appearance of the doll has undergone many changes since its creation. It underwent a notable change in 1971, when its eyes were adjusted to look forward rather than the demure side ways glance that the original Barbie had.
Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising. This is a strategy that was later copied by many other toy companies. It has been estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have sold world wide in over 150 countries. Mattel claims that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.
The standard range of Barbie dolls and related accessories are manufactured approximately to 1/6th scale which is also known as the play scale. Barbie products include not only the range of dolls and accessories, but also books, video games and fashion items. Barbie has featured in a series of animation films and made a brief guest appearance in the 1999 film Toy Story 2.
Barbie has almost become a cultural icon and uniquely so. It has been given honors that are rare in the world of toys. In 1974, a section of Times Square in New York was named Barbie Boulevard for a week. In 1985, the famous artist Andy Warhol created a painting of Barbie.
Over fifty years after its creation, Barbie remains an important part of the fashion market in the world of toys. It has given birth to many controversies and lawsuits, often involving parodies about the doll and her lifestyle. This immensely popular doll has recently started to face tough competition from the Bratz range of dolls.