TOY REVIEWS: ‘Barbie’ and other hit movies inspire a spike in toy sales

Red and green might be the traditional colors for the holidays but this year toyland will be lit up in pink.


Care Bears.

Moosh-Moosh plush buddies, miniature cats and pink slime.

The blockbuster hit movie starring Margot Robbie as America’s iconic doll has not only been a smash hit for Mattel but has helped to boost the sales for other toymakers offering something in Barbie pink.

“It’s always that way with toys,” said Julie Everette, co-owner of the Whistle Whistle Stop Hobby and Toy shop in St. Clair Shores. “If they really love the movie they want to immerse themselves in it.”

Darrin Winkler concurred.

“I remember loving the movie ‘Gremlins’ when I was younger. I saw the movie in the theater when I was 8 years old and in third grade,” said the fourth-grade teacher from Pierce Elementary in Birmingham. “Immediately after I became obsessed with Gizmo, and wanted anything associated with the character. For Christmas that year, I received a Gizmo toy that was like a stuffed animal, but had a sound maker inside of it. When I shook it, it would make an obnoxious squeaky sound. I remember the home video of when I received it, and how excited I was to have my own Gizmo.”

Winkler said it was his favorite toy for a long time.

‘I’m not sure when or how it disappeared from my childhood, but it vanished,” Winkler said. “To be honest, I’m still looking for a Gizmo toy that’s similar to it to add to my pop culture toy collection.”

One toy pop collectors are likely to be looking for this year is the Barbie version of Robbie and even Ryan Gosling (Barbie’s Ken).

Barbie Pop Reveal Doll from Mattel (3-up, $19.99).

“Mattel’s strong third quarter performance reflects the successful execution of our strategy to grow Mattel’s IP-driven toy business and expand our entertainment offering,” Ynon Kreiz, chairman and CEO of Mattel said, in a news release. “Consumer demand for our product increased in the first quarter, and we continued to outpace the industry. Our results benefited from the success of the ‘Barbie’ movie, which became a global cultural phenomenon, and marked a key milestone for Mattel.”

And for the toy industry itself.

“There’s a big trickle down when the $1 billion Barbie brand does well,” Jay Foreman, chief executive of Basic Fun said, in an article published in the New York Post

“There’s an entire ecosystem that the pink tide is lifting in toyland,” added Foreman, whose company makes Tonka Truck (3-up, $26.82), Lite Brite (4-up, $30.99) and Basic Fun’s Care Bear’s Cheer Bear Buddy (6-up, $44.99). “Our pink Care Bears are flying off the shelves or three times as fast as they dif four weeks ago.”

James Zahn concurred.

“The strength of ‘Barbie’ has brought a lot of people back into the toy department,” said the senior editor of Toy Insider, known for its coverage of toy industry trends. “Barbie’s Dreamhouse (3-up, $199), that consistently is one of the top toys every year.” 

This year’s version has also been redesigned to provide a lot of play value.

One toy that’s not pink but green and already seeing great sales inspired by its movie is Playmate Toys TMNT Mutant Mayhem Pizza Fire Van (4-up, $39.99).

Zahn remarked they were not only able to capture the air of the movie at an affordable price point but came up with an award-winning toy.

“This is a free-wheeling vehicle that holds all your TMNT figures and it shoots pizza,” Zahn said. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Pizzafire Delivery Van (4-up, $39) from Playmates Toys
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Pizzafire Delivery Van (4-up, $39) from Playmates Toys

“That toy is a big hit,” added Zahn, who witnessed consumer’s reaction at the annual Toy Fair in New York City.

Other movies such as “Lady Bug & Cat Noir: The Movie,”and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” and even popular television series like Netflix’s “Gabby’s Dollhouse,” are also helping to boost sales for an industry that was impacted dramatically by the fallout of the pandemic.

Zahn said looking at the history of the industry you can see these spikes in toy sales are related to the world of licensing and entertainment, going back as far as the trinkets, gizmos and gadgets inspired by TV’s Batman, Howdy Doody and the Lone Ranger.

“What really changed the business was ‘Star Wars’ movies,” Zahn said, remembering a unique toy rollout in the 1970s.

Maya Patel and Kate Schroeder, fourth-graders at Pierce Elementary School in Birmingham hug their favorite Barbie dolls. Mattel, Inc.'s Ruth Handler debuted Barbie on March 9, 1959 at the American International Toy Fair in New York City. The toy has always been a star but this summer's release of the "Barbie" movie has propelled it to the forefront once again, along with other Barbie-like pink toys. Photo courtesy of Darrin Winkler
Maya Patel and Kate Schroeder, fourth-graders at Pierce Elementary School in Birmingham hug their favorite Barbie dolls. Photo courtesy of Darrin Winkler

Before the toys hit the shelves licensing and entertainment marketing geniuses came up with the idea for an early-bird kit. Parents could order their kit, which was an empty box with a certificate saying once the action figures were out they would be the first to get one.

“It showed the figure in the box and a few months later the kid would receive an action figure,” Zahn said. “Marketing genius. That’s where we first saw a movie brand get a full aisle at the store.”


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