10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Mattel’

Mattel, the multinational toy manufacturing company, is a household name, known for its high-end, spectacular toys that have been a part of our lives since childhood. Yet, there are many facts about this world-famous toy manufacturer that you probably don’t know about. Let us explore the top ten things you didn’t know about Mattel.

1. The Origin of the Mattel Name

The name Mattel might be a globally recognized brand name today, but its origin is humble and very personal. The company’s founders, Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler, derived the company name ‘Mattel’ from a combination of their names. Unfortunately, Matson had to sell his share due to health problems, but the name ‘Mattel’ remained.

Initially, Mattel started as a picture frame manufacturing company. The scrap material left from picture frames was used to make dollhouse furniture, which surprisingly sold better than the frames. This was the turning point that led the founders to shift the company’s focus solely to toy manufacturing.

2. The First Toy on TV

Mattel made history by being the first toy company to advertise on television. In 1955 Mattel became a sponsor of the “Mickey Mouse Club” TV show. This strategic move allowed them to introduce their toys directly to their target audience – children.

Their first televised advertisement was for a music box toy called “The Mattel Uke-a-Doodle”. This step revolutionized the industry by making television advertising the primary method of marketing toys, a strategy many toy companies still follow today.

3. Mattel’s Iconic Barbie

The iconic Barbie doll, which has become a symbol of Mattel, wasn’t received well when it first debuted in 1959. The concept of an adult-bodied doll was foreign and not well received. However, Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, was confident that little girls wanted dolls who looked like grown-ups.

Today Barbie has become a global icon with countless career pursuits, styles, and backgrounds over the decades. From astronauts to presidents, Barbie has proudly portrayed roles that inspire and motivate young girls around the world.

4. Hot Wheels Were a Direct Challenge

By the mid-1960s, Mattel decided to enter the boys’ toy market. They introduced Hot Wheels in 1968 to challenge the dominance of Matchbox. It was a direct challenge, as Matchbox produced small, grey die-cast vehicles, and Mattel’s Hot Wheels were brightly coloured, larger and more detailed.

The gamble worked amazingly well. Hot Wheels were immediately recognized for their speed, racing features, and vibrant designs, resulting in an explosive success that continues to this day, with the collection growing to more than 8000 models.

5. Mattel is Also a Game Developer

Beyond manufacturing toys, Mattel also entered the video game development space. In 1979, they launched a video game division called Mattel Electronics and released Intellivision, a home gaming console to compete with Atari. Despite initial success, the video game division was ultimately shut down in 1984 after the video game market crash.

However, Mattel hasn’t entirely left the digital gaming world. They’ve more recently developed mobile games including UNO and Friends, Monster High, and Hot Wheels: Race Off.

6. Mattel Once Owned a Recording Company

Mattel is known for its toys, but the company has had a short stint in the music industry. In 1965, Mattel purchased the “Chamberlain Music Company” and renamed it “Mattel Creations”. Their biggest hit was the Fisher-Price line of kids’ records, featuring characters like Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street.

However, the venture didn’t seem to fit into Mattel’s overall vision, and they sold the company just five years after purchasing it.

7. Mattel Filed a Lawsuit Against Disney

In 2016, Mattel filed a lawsuit against Disney for breach of contract related to the retail release of ‘Frozen’ dolls. The company claimed that Disney secretly struck a deal with their rival, Hasbro, BEFORE their contract with Mattel was set to expire.

However, the lawsuit ended in Disney’s favour, and Mattel lost the production rights for all Disney Princess and Frozen dolls to Hasbro.

8. Mattel Also Manufactured Radios

In a bid to diversify their product line, Mattel ventured into manufacturing radios in the late 1950s under the brand name “Rabbits”. The radios were designed ears that worked as simple AM radios. The product, however, was not a great success, and Mattel quickly returned to focusing solely on toys.

9. A Big Legal Battle with MGA Entertainment

Mattel and MGA Entertainment, another toy manufacturing giant, locked horns in one of the longest-running legal battles in toy history. The dispute was over the Bratz dolls, which Mattel claimed infringed on its Barbie copyright because the designer of the dolls used to work for Mattel. After numerous lawsuits and counter-lawsuits, both companies settled their differences in 2016.

10. Mattel Holds a Guinness World Record

Mattel made its way into the Guinness World Record in 2006, by building the longest toy train track. Their wooden train track stretched over 1,650 feet, approximately half a kilometre, breaking the previous record.

In conclusion, Mattel has had an interesting, broad, and multi-faceted journey. From creating iconic toys to tackling legal battles, from owning a recording company to venturing into game development, there’s more to Mattel than meets the eye.

Visit Mattel’s Official Website

Explore Barbie’s world on her official website

Learn more about Hot Wheels on their official website