Toy popularity tends to by cyclical. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures and accessories were a phenomenon in the early 1990s. As a former Toys R Us employee (Yes, I worked there that long ago!) I recall it was hard to keep them in stock. Every young boy seemed to want one. Yet, as with all trends, the TMNT craze eventually died out and Toys R Us stopped selling these products. Since 2009, however, the Turtles had a resurgence and the line sold $475 million worldwide in toys between 2009-2013 (Szalai). Furbies were another huge hit in the 1990s, albeit late 90s, where interest eventually died out and then reemerged some years later. There are probably dozens of other examples of popular toys booming, disappearing and then coming back with a vengeance. There is one line of products, however, that never seemed to falter in the 1990s and that was Barbie.
The Barbie dolls and accessories sold consistently well throughout the decade. In fact, her popularity grew as time went on. The Barbie line was once displayed in one aisle and suddenly these toys took up close to three aisles worth. It consumed half of what was considered the girls section. In order to make room for the fashion icon, the section displaying toy vacuums, brooms and ovens shrunk. The baby doll area was condensed. It might have appeared to be a victory for feminism as toys associated with housework dwindled. As the Barbie section grew at Toys R Us, perhaps it was a reflection of the modern, independent woman. After all, Barbie was not subjected just to home life. She had endless possibilities. She was a doctor, a pilot, an equestrian and the list goes on. Barbie was in demand and there was no stopping her. That is, until recently.
It has been reported that Mattel’s Barbie sales have dropped consistently in the last three years (Kell). One can blame the popularity of Disney’s Frozen toys for causing Barbie’s downward slope. Maybe it was the allure of American Girl dolls that affected Barbie sales as well. I personally do not believe either is true. I simply think people have fallen out of love with Barbie. Judging from my facebook newsfeed, many people are tired of unachievable body standards for women. I find posts complaining about photoshopped images in fashion magazines or touting how wonderful the tree change girls are. (See http://treechangedolls.tumblr.com/ if you are unfamiliar.) There is this demand that people want realistic images of females whether it is in a magazine or as a doll. So, the idea that a girl can grow up and be a doctor or a pilot is a realistic one. The notion that a girl will become an adult with a sixteen inch waist, not so much. While it looked like the popularity of Barbie in the 1990s was never-ending, it appears even the queen of toys has a shelf life too. Maybe she will have a resurgence just like TMNT or Furby, but I have a feeling she will need a makeover for that. Only time will tell.
Gray, Emma. Photo. “Barbie Body Would Be Pretty Odd Looking in Real Life.” Huffington Post. 13 Apr. 2013. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/10/barbie-body-real-life-infographic_n_3057690.html>
Kell, John. “Mattel’s Barbie Sales Down for a Third Consecutive Year.” Forbes. 30 Jan. 2015. 12 Mar. 2015. < http://fortune.com/2015/01/30/mattels-barbie-sales-drop-third-year/>
Szalai Georg.”London Expo: Nickelodeon Touts $474 Million in Retail Sales for Relaunched Turtles Franchise.” The Hollywood Reporter. 18 Oct. 2013. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/london-expo-nickelodeon-touts-475-649396>
Vieira, Anthony. Photo. “TMNT Character Design Details: Traditional Turtles and Comical Shredder?”4 Jan. 2014. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://screenrant.com/tmnt-movie-reboot-character-design-details/>