Watch CBS News

"Out of touch" Barbie doll gets a major makeover

The normally blue-eyed blond bombshell is changing her look with varying body types and more ethnically diverse dolls
Mattel gives Barbie a makeover with more diverse looks 04:36

Since 1959, Barbara Millicent Roberts - better known as Barbie - has been a household name.

At 11 and a half inches tall, Barbie has had more than 180 careers and has become a pop culture icon, leading the toy industry as a billion-dollar business.

But after decades of dominating the doll world and just weeks short of her 57th birthday, Barbie is getting a major makeover.

Toymaker Mattel is announcing that the normally blue-eyed blonde bombshell is changing her look. The company is adding tall, petite and curvy body types to a new line of more ethnically diverse dolls, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

"We were hearing that many thought that Barbie was out of touch," said Evelyn Mazzocco, Mattel SVP and global brand general manager.

As a typically white doll with unrealistic proportions, some parents thought Barbie was sending the wrong message about beauty.

"There are people who are turned away from Barbie because they want dolls that more resemble themselves, more in terms of their body type and more in terms of their skin tones," said Jim Silver, CEO and editor-in-chief of Toys, Tots, Pets and More.

Competitors mocked Barbie's seemingly perfect appearance while promoting a new line of action figures for girls.

Last year, Mattel recently introduced 23 new dolls with different skin tones and hair colors. Now, they are also adding three new body types - curvy, tall and petite.

"I actually think this is one of the most exciting times for the brand, broadening girls' choices," said Mattel President and COO Richard Dickson. "What Barbie looks like -- her body type, her ethnicity, her career - this is all part of the evolution of the brand and what we believe is the right conversation around the world to have with kids today."

How Barbie's makeover is modifying her entire world 00:36

Mattel's counting on it. Barbie not only faces challenges in an increasingly competitive market -- she's also up against technology-driven toys. The company took some heat last year from parents and privacy advocates after introducing "Hello Barbie" - an interactive doll that responds differently based on conversations with your child.

Mattel said the recorded conversations are securely stored.

But in their last earnings report, Barbie sales were down 14 percent, marking the eighth straight quarter of declining sales.

"There were various mistakes that were made in the Barbie line," Silver said. "I think this was a change that was absolutely necessary."

Mattel also wants to remind customers it's not just about what girls see, but what they learn and imagine while playing with Barbie.

The toymaker introduced the new dolls to a group of four- and five-year-olds. The girls immediately noticed some changes.

"They don't look like Barbie," said one girl.

"Some of them have brown skin and white skin," said another.

But her new body type wasn't one of them.

The next step for Mattel is changing parents' perceptions.

"We're going to continue to work hard at being responsible and a better reflection of the world that girls live in today," Mazzocco said.

It's a risk for the plastic doll that Mattel is hoping will result in a real connection.

"It would be more of a risk if we don't continue to evolve Barbie -- if we stayed stagnant, if she looked the same, if she did the same thing. She's got to evolve with the times," Dickson said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.