Last updated

Mattel, Inc.
Type Public
Industry Entertainment
FoundedJanuary 1945;76 years ago (1945-01)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Headquarters333 Continental Blvd, ,
Key people
  • Ynon Kreiz (Chairman and CEO)
  • Richard L. Dickson (President and COO)
RevenueIncrease2.svg US$4.58 billion (December 2020) [1]
Increase2.svg US$380.9 million (December 2020)
Increase2.svg US$126.6 million (December 2020)
Number of employees
32,100 (2020)
Footnotes /references
[2] [3]

Mattel, Inc. ( /məˈtɛl/ ) is an American multinational toy manufacturing and entertainment company founded in January, 1945 and headquartered in El Segundo, California. The products and brands it currently produces include Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, American Girl, UNO, Mega, Thomas & Friends, Polly Pocket, Masters of the Universe, Monster High and Enchantimals, with Ever After High also having been previously produced. In the early 1980s, Mattel produced video game systems, under its own brands and under license from Nintendo. The company has presence in 35 countries and territories and sells products in more than 150 countries. [4] The company operates through three business segments: North America, international, and American Girl. [5] It is the world's second largest toy maker in terms of revenue, after The Lego Group. [6] [7] In 2020, Barbie was named the top global toy property per The NPD Group, a global information research company. Hot Wheels was named the top-selling global toy of the year. [8] Richard L. Dickson has been the company's president since 2010, having previously held executive positions at the same company since he joined them a decade earlier. [9] Ynon Kreiz has been the company's chairman and CEO since April 26, 2018, [10] replacing former Google executive Margo Georgiadis who was previously announced as CEO on January 17, 2017, [11] but stepped down a year later on April 19 to take charge of Ancestry.


The name Mattel is a blend of the names of the "Matt" nickname of Harold Matson and El in Elliot Handler, two of the company's founders. [12]


Mattel logo (1969-2019) Mattel-brand.svg
Mattel logo (1969–2019)

Harold "Matt" Matson, Ruth Handler, and Elliot Handler founded the Mattel as Mattel Creations in January 1945 in a garage. [13] [14] The company began selling picture frames, and later dollhouse furniture out of sediments from those frames. Matson sold his share and stake to the Handlers due to poor health the following year, i.e. in 1946, which Handler's wife, Ruth took over. [15] In 1947, the company had its first hit toy, a ukulele called "Uke-A-Doodle". [14]

The company got incorporated in 1948 in Hawthorne, California. [15] In 1950, the Magic 8-Ball was invented by Albert C. Carter and Abe Bookman; the toy is now owned by Mattel. [16] Mattel started advertising on TV when it became the first sponsor of the Mickey Mouse Club TV series. [17] 1957 saw the release of the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, and the Xylophone. [18] [19]   Mattel ultimately acquired Fisher-Price on August 20, 1993. [20] The Barbie doll debuted on March 9, 1959, going on to become the company's best-selling toy in history. [21] In 1960, Mattel introduced Chatty Cathy, a talking doll that was voiced by June Foray and revolutionized the toy industry, leading to pull-string talking dolls and toys flooding the market throughout the 1960s and 1970s. [15] [22] In 1961, Mattel introduced the Ken doll. [23] The company went public in 1960, and the New York Stock Exchange listed them in 1963. Mattel also acquired a number of like-minded companies during the 1960s (see table below). [15]

The original Barbie Dreamhouse appeared in 1962, and was made with cardboard and paper. [24] In 1965, the company built on its success with the Chatty Cathy doll to introduce the See 'n Say talking toy, spawning a line of products. [25] That year also saw the release of Astronaut Barbie, the first of many space-themed Barbies. [26] Barbie traveled to the moon 4 years before Neil Armstrong. [27] In 1967, Mattel released Major Matt Mason, another toy astronaut. [28]

On May 18, 1968, Hot Wheels was released to the market. [15] Hot Wheels was invented by a team of Mattel inventors, which included a rocket scientist and a car designer. [29] [30] That year also saw another doll release, this time, Christie, Barbie's friend and the first Black doll, [31] which in the following years and decades would spawn an endless line of Barbie-themed and branded family and friends. In 1969, Mattel changed their Mattel Creations and the "Mattel, Inc. – Toymakers" marketing brands to just Mattel and launched the iconic "red sun" logo with the Mattel wordmark in all capitals for better identity. In 1970, Hot Wheels forged a sponsorship agreement with Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. [32]  In addition to other marketing measures, the two racers’ cars, a yellow Barracuda and a red Duster, were reproduced as Hot Wheels toys. [32]

In May 1970, Mattel formed a joint venture film production company "Radnitz/Mattel Productions" with producer Robert B. Radnitz. [33]

The card game Uno (now stylized as UNO) was invented by Merle Robbins that same year, i.e. 1970, [34] and got acquired by Mattel more 2½ decades later, i.e. in 1996. [35]

AcquisitionsYear [15]
Dee & Cee Toy Co. Ltd.1962
Standard Plastic Products, Inc.1966
Hong Kong Industrial Co., Ltd.
Precision Moulds, Ltd.
Rosebud Dolls Ltd.1967
Monogram Models, Inc.1968
A&A Die Casting Company
Ratti Vallensasca, Mebetoys, Ebiex S.A.1969
H&H Plastics Co., Inc.
Meta frame Corp.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
/Feld Productions
Ice Follies 1979–1982
Holiday on Ice
Western Publishing 1979
Corgi Toys, Ltd.1989 [36]
International Games1992 [37]
Fisher-Price, Inc. 1993
Tyco Toys, Inc. 1997
Pleasant Company1998 [15]
The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey)1999–2001 [15]
HiT Entertainment 2012 [38]
Mega Brands 2014 [39]

Mattel purchased The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1971 for $40 million from the Feld family, whom Mattel kept as management. [40] Mattel sold the circus corporation by December 1973, despite its profit contributions, as Mattel showed a $29.9 million loss in 1972. [41]

In 1974, an investigation found Mattel guilty of issuing false and misleading financial reports, which lead to the banishing of Elliot and Ruth Handler from their own company. [15]

Post Handlers

Arthur S. Spear, a then-Mattel vice president, took control of the company in 1975 and returned the company to profitability in two years. [42] In 1978, the Mattel Children’s Foundation was founded. Ruth Handler sold her stock in 1980 and finally let loose of the company she co-founded. [15]

The Mattel Electronics line debuted in 1977 with an all-electronic handheld game. The success of the handheld led to the expansion of the line with game console then the line becoming its own corporation in 1982. [43] Mattel Electronics forced Mattel to take a $394 million loss in 1983 and almost filed for bankruptcy. [15]

In 1979, through Feld Productions, Mattel purchased the Holiday on Ice and Ice Follies for $12 million. [44] Also acquired that year was Western Publishing for $120 million in cash and stock. [45] In 1980, Mattel introduced the first diverse line of Barbie dolls with a Hispanic doll and the first African-American Barbie (different from Christie who was Barbie’s friend). [46] [47] The line will eventually include Barbies from more than 40 countries. [47]

The Felds bought the circus (and related companies) in 1982 for $22.8 million. [48]

New York City-based venture capital firms E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Co. and Drexel Burnham Lambert invested a couple hundred million dollars in Mattel in 1984 to help the company survive. However, the Masters of the Universe action figure line sales dropped, causing a $115 million loss in 1987. Chairman John W. Amerman improved the company's financial performance in 1987 by focusing on core brands. Mattel returned to working with Disney the following year. [15] In 1991, Mattel moved its headquarters from Hawthorne to its current El Segundo site, in the Los Angeles County. [49]

Mattel entered the game business in 1992 with the purchase of International Games, creators of UNO and Skip-Bo. [37] Mattel purchased Fisher-Price, Inc. on August 20, 1993, Tyco Toys, Inc. (owners of the Matchbox and Dinky Toys brands) in 1997, and Pleasant Company (creators of the American Girl brand) in 1998. [15] Mattel purchased The Learning Company (formerly SoftKey) in 1999 for $3.5 billion, but sold it the following year at a loss. The company had a $430.9 million net loss that year. [15]

Mattel earned the first grant for the Disney Princess doll license in 2000. [50] In December 2000, Mattel sued the band Aqua, saying their song "Barbie Girl" violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a "blonde bimbo"; in a lawsuit which was rejected in two years later. [51]

In 2000, Mattel signed a deal with Warner Bros. to become the master licensee for Harry Potter-branded toys. [52] Two years later, the companies extended their partnership, with Mattel becoming master licensee for Batman, Superman, Justice League and the Looney Tunes toys for all markets except Asia. [53]

In 2002, Mattel closed its last factory in the United States, originally part of the Fisher-Price division, outsourcing production to China, which began a chain of events that led to a lead contamination scandal. [54] On August 14, 2007, Mattel recalled over 18 million products with multiple-Pulitzer prize-winning newspaper publication, The New York Times , closely covering its multiple recalls. [55] [56] [57] Many of the products had exceeded the US limits set on surface coatings that contain lead. Surface coatings cannot exceed .06% lead by weight. [57] Additional recalls were because it was possible that some toys could pose a danger to children due to the use of strong magnets that could detach. Mattel re-wrote its policy on magnets, finally issuing a recall in August 2007. [58] The recall included 7.1 million Polly Pocket toys produced before November 2006, 600,000 Barbie and Tanner Playsets, 1 million Doggie Daycare, Shonen Jump's One Piece and thousands of Batman Manga toys due to exposed magnets. [58] In 2009, Mattel would pay a $2.9 million fine to the Consumer Products Safety Commission for marketing, importing, and selling non-compliant toys. [59] Mattel was noted for its crisis response by several newspaper publications, including PRWeek , the Los Angeles Times , Fortune and Business Management. [60] [61] [62]

More Acquisitions and Brand Portfolio Expansion: 2010–2016

On June 11, 2010, Mattel released Monster High, a fashion doll line featuring the teenage children of famous and well-known monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, Cleopatra, Gorgon, Werewolf and The Mummy. [63] [64] It lead to popularity and cult following success which Mattel translated into two spin-offs, each with a different focus than Monster High; Ever After High in 2013 [65] [66] and Enchantimals 4 years later.

In early 2010, HiT Entertainment licensed Thomas & Friends to Mattel for toys. [67] Mattel agreed to purchase HiT Entertainment from Apax Partners on October 24, 2011, for $680 million, excluding its share of PBS Kids Sprout (now Universal Kids). The purchase was completed on February 1, 2012, and HIT Entertainment became a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel, [68] which would be managed under its Fisher-Price unit. [69] On October 16, 2013, with reports of high profitability, Mattel launched an in-house film studio, Mattel Playground Productions. [70] [71]

Fortune Magazine named Mattel one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2013, noting only 1,292 positions were full, out of 164,045 job applications during the previous year, as well as more than 1,000 employees had been with the company longer than 15 years. [72]

On February 28, 2014, Mattel acquired Mega Brands. [39] On April 16, 2015, Mattel announced a partnership with invention platform Quirky to crowd-source a number of products. [73]

Mattel added a princess-themed Barbie line in 2010 and the fair and fantasy store-based Ever After High line in 2013, the latter which was claimed by the company to be a spin-off of Monster High, as a result of its success. Barbie sales began plummeting in 2012, thus removing focus from the Disney Princess line. Mattel had only sold Cinderella, Ariel, Belle and the two Frozen princesses (Ana and Elsa) during the last year or so of its license. With these competing lines and an expiration of the brand license at the end of 2015, Disney gave Hasbro a chance to gain the license given their work on Star Wars, which led to a Descendants license. Disney Consumer Products also made an attempt to evolve the brand from "damsels" to "heroines." In September 2014, Disney announced Hasbro would be the licensed doll maker for the Disney Princess line starting on January 1, 2016. [50]

In January 2015, board member Christopher Sinclair replaced CEO Bryan Stockton, following with 2/3 of senior executives resigning or receiving lay off. [50] In January 2016, Mattel acquired Fuhu, makers of Nabi tablets and other technology-driven hardware, in a bankruptcy proceeding for a sum worth $21 million. [74] On March 30, 2016, Mattel formed a senior head division named Mattel Creations (now Mattel Television) to centralize its multi-platform content output. In the process, the production teams and operations of Mattel Playground Productions, HIT Entertainment and American Girl were absorbed into Creations in the following day. [75] On July 19, 2016, NBCUniversal announced Mattel acquired the license to produce toys based on the Jurassic Park franchise after Hasbro's rights expired in 2017. [76]

Hasbro's failed takeover and Mattel163: 2017–2018

On November 10, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Hasbro had made a takeover offer for Mattel. [77] [78] At the time, Mattel worth was $5 billion, while Hasbro was about $11 billion, [78] but 5 days later, Reuters reported that Mattel rejected the offer. [79]

Mattel formed with Chinese internet technology and video game company NetEase on January 29, 2018, a joint venture, Mattel163, a mobile publishing and development studio. [80] The company announced on December 24, 2018, that they lost the DC Comics boy toy license to Spin Master starting in the spring of 2020. With the news, company share reached an 18-year low at $9.25 a share. [81]

Reorganization of Media/Property Franchising and Production Partnerships: 2018–present

Ynon Kreiz was named company chairman and CEO in April 2018. Two months later, the company laid off 2,200 employees partially due to Toys "R" Us' liquidation. [82] Kreiz started reorganization of Mattel which included new board of directors and added that executives having entertainment backgrounds and a global franchise management group charged with finding new opportunities in existing markets. [83] On September 6, 2018, Mattel announced the launch of a film division, Mattel Films , that will make films/movies based on the company's toy brands. Mattel's prior incarnation of its film division, Mattel Playground Productions, was absorbed into Mattel Creations after its Max Steel live-action film flopped, both in box office earnings and reception. [84] On August 30, 2018, Mattel indicated the formation of its global franchise management division head by Janet Hsu as chief franchise management officer. The division was mandated to seek out new commercial opportunities plus to bring to together consumer products, content development and distribution, digital gaming, live events and partnerships. Hsu was previously the CEO of Saban Brands, [85] where Frederic Soulie last worked before being appointed as senior vice president of content distribution and business development in the franchise division on September 28, 2018. [86] Mattel reorganized Mattel Creations and renamed it to Mattel Television on February 5, 2019, which would be headed by former Disney Channels Worldwide (now Disney Branded Television) programming executive Adam Bonnet. [87] Soulie in turn was "role-tripled" to general manager and senior vice president of the new division. [88]

Warner Music Group's Arts Music division arranged to become the distributor of Mattel's music catalog on May 1, 2020. Arts Music planned to make available hundreds of never-before-released songs and new songs for existing properties with first up the digital launch on May 8 of Thomas & Friends’ birthday album [89] which would by managed by ADA Worldwide under the pseudonym label: "Mattel–Arts Music".

Mattel Television

Mattel Television
FormerlyHenson International Television (1982–1989)
HiT Entertainment (1996–2016)
Mattel Creations (2016–2019)
TypeTelevision division/subsidiary
Industry Television production
Predecessor Mattel Playground Productions
FoundedMarch 30, 2016;5 years ago (2016-03-30)
Area served
Key people
  • Adam Bonnet (Executive Producer, Division Head)
  • Frederic Soulie (General Manager and Senior Vice President)
  • Christopher Keenan (Senior Vice President, Content Development & Production
  • Phil Breman (Vice President, Scripted and Unscripted Live-Action Series Development
Products Television series and films
Parent Mattel
Footnotes /references

Mattel Television is the television production division of Mattel headed by executive producer Adam Bonnet; previously or formerly known as "Mattel Creations", HiT Entertainment and the American Girl content creation team in Middleton, Wisconsin. [75]


In May 1970, Mattel teamed up with producer Robert B. Radnitz to form a joint venture film production company, "Radnitz/Mattel Productions". [33] Masters of the Universe had a cartoon series back in the 1980s followed by a live action film in 1987. [90] In 1986, Mattel launched a television syndication unit MTS Entertainment, headed by John M. Weens, whose main purpose was to distribute the television syndicated show Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future . [91]

Mattel agreed to purchase HiT Entertainment without the Sprout TV channel (formerly PBS Kids Sprout and now Universal Kids) from Apax Partners on October 25, 2011, for $680 million, which closed on February 1, 2012. [67] With Lionsgate, Mattel had its flagship Barbie brand launched into a series of successful computer-animated direct-to-video films, which then moved to Universal in 2006. Monster High followed Barbie just months after its launch in 2010 [92] and many “American Girl” films were made. [71]


Mattel Creations

Previous logo as Mattel Creations. Mattel Creations.svg
Previous logo as Mattel Creations.

Mattel Creations was formed on March 30, 2016, bringing all three of Mattel's internal content production units: Mattel Playground Productions, HiT Entertainment and the American Girl creative team in Middleton, Wisconsin under their auspices and absorb them. Mattel's then-chief content officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber was named to head the unit, while Christopher Keenan was moved up out of HiT to be the division's Senior Vice President of content development & production. Two pacts with DHX Media (now WildBrain) and 9 Story Media Group were placed into Mattel Creations. [93] The DHX partnership with Mattel included HiT properties (Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam) and direct Mattel properties (Little People and Polly Pocket); the partnership included new multi-platform content development and production and distribution of the new and existing content. [94] The 9 Story deal was directly with HiT for 2017 revivals of Barney & Friends and Angelina Ballerina ; there were originally reboots of both which were announced, but as at now, those plans are/were either scrapped or nothing was heard of in terms of greenlighting them. [95]

Mattel Creations and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Content Group had agreed to an exclusive worldwide SVOD rights agreement for the Barbie film library. This deal started on October 17, 2016 for the next seven years and includes the next two releases; Barbie: Star Light Adventure and Barbie: Video Game Hero. [96]

With Balsam-Schwaber taking the general manager position at Craftsy, Mattel's president and chief operating officer Richard L. Dickson took over responsibility for Mattel Creations and was not planning to fill the chief creative officer post. [97]

Reorganized as Mattel Television

Mattel hired former Disney Channels Worldwide (now Disney Branded Television) programming executive Adam Bonnet as executive producer and head of a reorganized Mattel Television on February 5, 2019, which effectively replaced Mattel Creations. [87] A week later, Mattel TV announced a slate of 22 animated and live-action TV programs. [98] This division works with the franchise management division's senior vice president of content distribution and business development, Frederic Soulie, who would also triple as the new division's general manager and senior vice president. [99] On August 30, 2021, with the Universal deal expired, Mattel struck a deal with local home video releasing powerhouses, Mill Creek Entertainment and NCircle Entertainment, for the newer Netflix-based content for DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD distribution to certain geographical regions where streaming platforms have activation, launch and censorship issues. [100] [101] [102] [103] [104] On September 7, 2021, following the debut of the streaming television film Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams on Netflix, Mattel hired former NBCUniversal vice president of current programming, Philip "Phil" Breman, to be the division's vice president for scripted and unscripted live-action series development. [105] [106] [107]

Production output

TitleRelease Date(s)TypeProduction UnitProduction partner(s)Distributor(s)Notes
Thomas & Friends: The Great Race
  • May 21, 2016 UK theatrical
  • September 2016 (DVD)
  • early 2017 (TV)
AnimatedMattel Creations Arc Productions National Amusements (UK theatrical)
Multiple (TV)
Max Steel August 26, 2016 [108] Live action filmPlayground Productions Dolphin Entertainment
Ingenious Media
Open Road Films [92]
WellieWishers September 8, 20162D-animated seriesMattel CreationsSubmarine Studios Amazon Prime Video (US)
Tiny Pop (UK)
2 seasons: 26 episodes x 11 minutes; American Girl doll franchise [93] [109]
Barbie Dreamtopia film June 26, 20162D CGI-animated filmSnowball Studios
44 minutes [110]
Monster High: Great Scarrier Reef February 12, 2016CGI-animated film DHX Media Vancouver

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (home video formats)
61 minutes [ citation needed ]
Monster High: Electrified February 12, 2017Flaunt Studios64 minutes
The Toy Box April 7, 2017November 19, 2017Reality series Hudsun Media
ABC (US network)
Electus International [110]
2 seasons [111]
Barbie: Dreamhouse Adventures May 3, 2018January 15, 2020 CGI-animated streaming television series
  • Mattel Creations (Seasons 1 & 2)
  • Mattel Television (Seasons 3-5)
Mainframe Studios Netflix 5 seasons, 52 episodes [110]
Barbie: Princess Adventure September 1, 2020CGI-animated filmMattel Television Streaming television series
Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday April 16, 2021
Masters of the Universe: Revelation July 22, 2021 – present2D-animated series Powerhouse Animation Studios 2-part animated series
Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams
  • September 1, 2021 (US Launch)
  • August 28, 2021 (UK Launch)
CGI-animated Television film Mainframe Studios
Thomas and Friends: All Engines Go! September 13, 2021 – present2D-animated series Nelvana Cartoon Network (US) Treehouse TV (Canada)Reboot of Thomas & Friends
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe September 16, 2021 – present CGI-animated streaming television series Netflix

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Further reading