Barbie is the most diverse doll you can buy, says Mattel boss

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Before Kreiz joined in 2018, Mattel cycled through three chief executives in four years. Now, three years after taking the helm and returning the company to profitability, his focus is shifting to a new challenge: turning the toy maker into a toy company.

For Kreiz, it is an important distinction. 

“We now think and operate much more as an IP company,” he says. Mattel’s brands – the likes of Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price and He-Man – should not just be toys, but franchises. 

“Here we are with this incredible offering across different genres and legacy heritage brands that everyone knows, that have not been part of film and television or online games or theme parks. We have an opportunity for Mattel to do just that.”

It is unsurprising he is diving into this realm. After all, Kreiz’s background is in entertainment – he co-created Fox Kids Europe in the 1990s before later going on to head up Endemol, the maker of Big Brother and Deal or No Deal reality shows.

They are roles that have led the Israeli set up roots in London. While he now lives in Los Angeles, California, his four children with two-time Olympic sailor Anat Kreiz were all born in the UK capital and the family still own a house in the city. 

“Yes, TV is very much my background,” Kreiz says, “but in many ways, it’s a move that’s almost obvious”. 

“We’re not the first ones to try to take a franchise to the big screen or television.”

In fact, many would argue Mattel has been too slow to seize the opportunity. Disney and Lego have well-established theme parks and huge film franchises. Even toy-maker rival Hasbro has the Transformers and My Little Pony films.

“Look, we can learn a lot from Disney,” says Kreiz. “A good analogy is what they did with Marvel, which was a catalog of comic book properties that they were able to reimagine.

“No one necessarily knew some of those properties when they acquired that company. I imagine no one looked at Guardians of the Galaxy or Black Panther, and knew from the outset that this could be what it became.”

In his view Mattel’s line of brands, headed up by one of the best-selling toys ever – Barbie – has the potential to be even more popular. Thirteen films are in development. Among the first is a Barbie movie to be directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. 

The following ones won’t just be pegged on better-known brands such as Hot Wheels, but also “based on brands that we haven’t commercialised for decades”. 

“It’s hard to find such a collection of legacy heritage quality brands that have that global recognition and awareness. And people have a very emotional connection with toys,” the 56-year-old says.

“Children touch and hug toys and they go to bed with toys. And, for parents, well, we all remember our favorite toys.”

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