The latest "American Girl" doll seems like the kind of kid more interested in exploring brave new worlds than, well, playing with dolls. Mattel (MAT) describes the latest doll in the popular toy line, which launches today, as a "creative, confident 11-year-old girl and aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars."
The company said that "Luciana Vega," described as being of Chilean descent, is meant to help girls defy gender stereotypes and embrace risks in pursuit of their goals.
Luciana comes with a back story courtesy of two books published by Scholastic. Our heroine wins a scholarship to "space camp" in Alabama and becomes a fledgling astronaut. Along the way, she "must find the courage to embrace the unknown with bravery, curiosity and wonder," Mattel said in announcing its latest American Girl.
Mattel consulted with an actual female astronaut, Megan McArthur Behnken, and other NASA scientists in developing the doll. That included American Girl designers visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston to see what life is like for aspiring astronauts.
Parents, meanwhile, should be prepared to embrace the American Girl app. That lets kids unlock augmented reality features, videos, space simulations and other content.
Mattel's marketing campaign includes an educational program geared toward third- through fifth-grade students that focuses on space exploration. Critics might note that the effort, which the company said will use "Luciana-inspired content" for classroom activities, is also a way to put its products in front of schoolchildren.
Mattel has previously used its doll line to push boundaries. One American Girl that, "Logan Everett." The company also recently introduced a Native American doll and a figure described as a former child slave who has escaped to freedom.
The new doll is available starting Monday through the American Girl catalogue, at American Girl retail locations around the U.S. and at specialty boutiques in Canada. The Luciana books can be purchased through retail and online booksellers.