If you’ve never heard of Mattel, you’ve been living a sheltered life. Mattel are one of the biggest, most successful toy manufacturers in the world based on their revenue. The company was founded in 1945 by Harold Matson and Elliot Handler, who combined their names to come up with the name for the company. The first toy Mattel produced was doll house furniture. It was Handler’s wife who came up with the idea for a new doll which changed the history of Mattel. In 1959, the Barbie doll was born, and thousands of little girls had at least one in their home. The Ken doll came on the market soon after. The dolls were names after Handler’s children.
After the enormous success of Barbie, the sixties saw Mattel branching out into different doll designs, specifically ones that talked. Chatty Cathy was one of the talking dolls, and with this new success, Mattel looked into having other types of talking toys. In 1965, the See ‘N Say range was introduced to consumers, and their success mean that Mattel became the top toy manufacturer in the USA. These days, there are no more Mattel factories in the US. Most production takes place in Chinese factories.
When Barbie started to go out of favour with little girls, Mattel almost went bankrupt. However, Barbie was constantly re-invented, and new toys were released. In the eighties, Mattel was also a big producer of video games consoles.
Other products available from Mattel include Fisher-Price toys, Hot Wheels, Polly Pocket, Power Wheels, Matchbox cars, Pound Puppies, as well as board games. Their products are an incredible success, and are available to buy in almost every country across the world.
One of the worst crises to hit Mattel was recalling certain lines of their Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer. They had been coloured using lead-based paint. Some circumstances found the paint to be one-hundred and eighty times over the safety limit. If children ingest too much lead, it can cause poisoning, which can lead to behavioural issues, and in the worst cases, death. In 2007 the company were also forced to recall a Polly Pocket toy due to a detachable magnet being ingested.
Other recalls have included a character from Cars (Sarge), again due to high levels of lead in the paint, Barbie and Tanner Playsets, and Batman Manga toys because of the detachable magnets. All of this was between May and July in 2007. 2007 was a bad year for Mattel. There were so many product recalls in the space of one month it led to the company being fined $2.3 million. The situation got so bad that one of the factory owners who produced toys for Mattel committed suicide in the August of the same year.
Despite the millions of product recalls, Mattel continue to do very good business over the world. In 2006, their total revenue was over $590 million. One the whole, their toys are incredibly popular, but if you are concerned about a certain product, check on the company website or search the web for more information.