Inside Mattel’s headquarters just south of Los Angeles International Air port, Christine Kim grabs a shield and fires a plastic disc from it across a conference room. “I’m going to be playing with all my boys, deflecting their bullets and then be like, `I’m going to shoot you,” says Kim, one of Mattel’s top toy designers. Kim has in her possession what Mattel sees as a groundbreaking idea, one that could help end the years of malaise that sunk its sales and stock price and sent the company’s last chief executive packing.
But even more important is that this may mean the toymaker has reconnected with its most important customer: little girls. For the shield is not Captain America’s -it belongs to Wonder Woman. And it’s a Wonder Woman designed by women for girls, not one crafted by men for boys. To show what a huge difference that makes, Kim picks up examples of the top-heavy Wonder Women and Batgirl action figures found on shelves. “Beautiful, but really sexualized,” Kim says.
“There’s a very direct emphasis on a womanly part.”
The new Mattel characters, created through a partnership with Warner Bros.’ DC Comics, are aimed at a 6 year-old girl.The DC SuperHero Girls line, which launches this spring, will include 12-inch dolls, 6-inch action figures, and gadgets such as a Batgirl utility belt.
Some of the products will be unveiled for the first time this week at New York Comic Con. The two companies joined forces last year after seeing a hole in the market, one Warner Bros. wants to help fill with girl-oriented books and animated Web series. The studio also is pushing female superheroes into the mainstream with Supergirl, a television show airing this month on ABC, and a Wonder Woman movie slated for 2017.Mattel’s research has found that girls already purchase about 9%of action figures–and that’s despite the fact that most movies, TV shows, and toys aren’t made with them in mind.