The good, the bad and the Ken: Barbie through the ages

The first live-action Barbie movie is scheduled for release in July this year

The live-action adaptation of Barbie is set to hit cinema screens this summer, and the manufacturer of the iconic doll is hoping it will signal a turn in fortunes.

Toy company Mattel had expected “2023 to be a key step in its revival” after a “turbulent decade”, said The Times. But after “profits and revenue had fallen short of forecasts in the past quarter” the investor optimism in Mattel’s outlook has been “sorely tested”.

Winning back the contract to produce Disney’s princesses dolls was the start of “patching up its toy business”, but the American company is hoping for greater success by finding “expansion into new areas” for its own ranges.

That begins with the release of the Warner Bros.-produced Barbie movie in July, which it hopes will do the same as the movies that “turbocharged toy franchises from Transformers to Lego”. However, “analysts are reserving judgment” after the difficult start to the year, said The Times.

Even if Mattel is banking on the movie to deliver a boost to the franchise in its current form, Barbie will remain “one of the most iconic playthings in history”, said History.

Created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel with her husband Elliot Handler, Barbie was inspired by “watching their daughter play with make-believe paper dolls of adult women”.

An instant hit, Barbie, along with her boyfriend Ken who was introduced in 1961, has had to “evolve with the changing times” to remain relevant. This included adding a new line that included “four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hairstyles” to represent a broader range of women.

Barbie remains a “cultural phenomenon” and to date “over a billion dolls have been sold as new models”, said auction group Barnebys.

The Week takes a look at how Barbie has changed through the years.

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