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Mattel 0pens Its vault to revitalize dormant brands

July 18, 2022 Updated Mon., July 18, 2022 at 9:54 p.m.

Three action figures that have not been on toy shelves in decades and are being reintroduced by Mattel: Pulsar, Big Jim and Major Matt Mason.  (New York Times )
Three action figures that have not been on toy shelves in decades and are being reintroduced by Mattel: Pulsar, Big Jim and Major Matt Mason. (New York Times )
By Gregory Schmidt New York Times

Barbie is about to reunite with some old friends. Mattel, the maker of the popular fashion doll, is dusting off three dormant lines that have not been on toy shelves in decades: Major Matt Mason, Big Jim and Pulsar.

The reappearance of three action heroes is part of a strategy hatched by Ynon Kreiz, Mattel’s chief executive, to capitalize on the company’s intellectual property by reviving old brands for new generations.

Mattel will reintroduce the toy lines under an umbrella label called Back in Action this week at Comic-Con International, the pop-culture fan fest in San Diego.

“This is our toe in the water,” said PJ Lewis, vice president of global marketing at Mattel. “Back in Action helps us maintain the validity of our IP and decide what’s next.”

Kreiz’s strategy has helped Mattel turn around its sagging fortunes since he took over in 2018.

The company reported a 19% jump in sales in 2021, to $5.5 billion, and despite supply-chain bottlenecks and the rising costs of raw materials, it has forecast growth of 8% to 10% this year.

Part of the toymaker’s recent success derives from the expansion of legacy brands.

Barbie will feature in a live-action movie starring Margot Robbie, one of a dozen films in the works for various Mattel brands, including a live-action Hot Wheels movie produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company and one for Masters of the Universe, in partnership with Netflix.

Other brands headed to the big screen include Thomas the Tank Engine, Magic Eight Ball and Polly Pocket.

But how will Mattel generate interest in brands that have been off toy shelves for decades?

Major Matt Mason, an astronaut action figure, was introduced in 1967 and saw success until children began to lose interest in space exploration.

He resurfaced in pop culture in 2019 when Tom Hanks signed on to produce and star in a forthcoming movie about the spaceman.

Big Jim arrived in 1971, followed by Pulsar in 1976, but they too have been out of the public eye for decades.

Mattel’s strategy for reviving a dormant brand is to engage hard-core fans first, said Richard Dickson, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

If they take to it, the next step is to come up with tie-in content and create a toy line for children.

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