10 Minutes With … Mattel About Celebrating Anniversaries and Growing Franchises

With less than a week before Licensing Expo, License Global spoke with Aimee London, vice president of franchise marketing, Mattel, about anniversary celebrations and how the company grows its new and existing franchises.

Jane Neal, Content Editor

May 14, 2024

7 Min Read
Aimee London, Mattel
Aimee LondonMattel

License Global: Mattel is celebrating its 80th anniversary next year, what plans are in place to mark that milestone?
Aimee London: As a standalone brand, Mattel has been steadily evolving from a storied toy company into a full-fledged, IP powerhouse. During this full-year celebration, we release limited-edition products, exciting brand partnerships, new content and digital and live experiences, all supported by Mattel’s award-winning marketing. All this excitement will culminate in the fall, when we create a 360-degree campaign that will carry the 80th through the holiday season. The release of the “Barbie film last year demonstrated the potential of the Mattel brand, and we’re now using that success as a blueprint for our next stage of growth.

Are there other milestone anniversaries you’re particularly excited about?
I certainly must mention Barbie’s 65th anniversary, which we are currently celebrating. This year, we’re unveiling 40 brand partners across fashion, food, location-based entertainment and publishing for fans to enjoy during Barbie’s 65th anniversary celebrations. Collaborations include 1-800-Flowers.com, Aldo, Alex and Ani, Funko, Hallmark Cards, Homesick, Impala Skate, Innovative Designs, Keds, Lionel Trains, Loungefly, Love Your Melon, MakeUp Eraser, Nettie, Posh Peanut, Roots, SmartSweets, Stacey’s Pita Chips, Ukonic and so much more. We’re also turning the literary world pink with “Barbie: The World Tour,” a new illustrated book created by Barbie star/producer, Margot Robbie, and her stylist, Andrew Mukamal, in partnership with Rizzoli to capture the glamor and high style of the most popular doll in the world. Last but not least, immersive experiences around the world such as Barbie: A Cultural Icon (U.S.), Barbie Dream Lounge (MX), Barbie: The Exhibition (U.K.), Malibu Barbie Café (U.S.) and Barbie Bahamas Beach Vacation at Atlantis will each offer fans of all ages unforgettable experiences this year.
Thomas & Friends, one of Mattel’s longest-running franchises, is also turning 80 in 2025. In addition to rolling out an all-new season of the animated series, “Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go,” which will soon include Thomas’ first-ever 60-minute holiday special, we recently launched a purpose-driven mobile app for children ages two to four, fostering problem-solving and creative thinking. Created under the guidance of neurodiversity consultants, the app launched in April during Autism Acceptance Month.

Thomas & Friends Lets Roll, Mattel

The opening of a second Mattel Adventure Park, Mattel Adventure Park Kansas City, in 2026 was recently announced. Can you share any details?
Thanks to our partnership with Epic Resorts Destinations, Mattel Adventure Park Kansas City is the second installment of our exciting venture into theme parks and will give consumers a truly immersive experience with our incredible brands on a grand scale. We plan to break ground in Bonner Springs later this year and are excited to share more news on the park’s forthcoming attractions in the months ahead.
Our first Mattel Adventure Park will soft-open later this year in Glendale, Ariz. Highlights from our Glendale location will include fully themed Hot Wheels roller coasters, five family-friendly experiential attractions and rides, including a dedicated indoor play space for little adventurers and a larger-than-life Barbie Beach House featuring an interactive retail experience plus its own theater and rooftop restaurant and bar. Mattel Adventure Park Glendale will additionally offer a mini-golf experience featuring 18 holes inspired by Magic 8 Ball, Pictionary and other beloved Mattel games, plus a larger-than-life custom climb UNO structure that delivers nostalgia and adventure for all ages. Finally, the park will also offer a massive laser tag arena in the likeness of the Castle Grayskull fortress from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Mattel Adventure Park

What are some of the ways that Mattel builds franchises? What are some examples of things Mattel is doing across the entire franchise to strengthen and expand the company?
Mattel is the owner of one of the most iconic brand portfolios in the world, and we build our franchises by tapping into these heritage brands and creating entire universes around them that speak to a global, multi-generational audience. From expansive toy lines and innovative products, to live-action and animated films and television series, to immersive experiences and consumer products, we ultimately seek to show up for our fans wherever it is that they are.
One example of this is Hot Wheels, the No.1-selling toy in the world. Hot Wheels is on track for a staggering, seventh consecutive year of growth and boasts thriving lines of business across toys, live events, digital gaming and more. The animated series, “Hot Wheels Let’s Race,” launched on Netflix in March, debuting as a Top 10 TV title in 69 countries. Also in development is our Hot Wheels live-action feature film, in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. We look forward to chatting with partners at Licensing Expo about the endless product and experience opportunities at hand for Hot Wheels.
Yet another example of our franchise efforts is Mattel’s relaunch of Barney, the beloved purple dinosaur. Barney poses a huge licensing opportunity spanning all touchpoints and is emblematic of Mattel’s strategy to mine the incredible breadth of our IP. The revitalized Barney brand will span television, film and YouTube content, music and a full range of kids’ products, including toys, books, clothing and more. Barney will be at the Mattel booth during Licensing Expo next week if you’d like to come by and say hello.

Hot Wheels Lets Race

What are your goals for the Licensing Expo show this year?
We’re looking forward to another great year of networking with best-in-class partners that will help us take Mattel’s 80th anniversary year to new heights. Of course, we’ll continue to celebrate Barbie’s theatrical success and all the exciting activity taking place across the entire Mattel portfolio.

Barney

What can we expect from Mattel for the remainder of this year and into 2025?
We will continue to offer innovative products and experiences for our fans as we greatly expand our entertainment offering. In 2023, we launched five standalone digital gaming titles and seven integrations through licensing partnerships with top-tier gaming platforms and developers. In TV, we have 13 series and specials currently in production, and over 35 titles in development with much more to be announced soon. We are excited to chat with partners about these exciting initiatives and various points of entry for them to collaborate with us.

Beyond “Barbie,” we have well over a dozen other films in development based on Mattel’s iconic brands. Mattel Films just announced a live-action film for Masters of the Universe, an action-packed franchise with a passionate fanbase that we currently serve with everything from toys and content to gaming, collectibles and much more. With a theatrical release of summer 2026 set for the film, we look forward to engaging a whole new generation into the Masters franchise and connecting with our partners at Licensing Expo to discuss the many opportunities at hand.

Finally, we are hyper-focused this year on positioning Mattel as its own standalone brand in celebration of our 80th anniversary. Particularly in a post-Barbie world, we know that recognition and excitement for Mattel is at an all-time high and we plan to have a lot of fun making the most out of this milestone opportunity. We pride ourselves in authentic, creative excellency when it comes to activating our brands, and we will continue showing up for our fans across all touchpoints whether that means iconic toys, one-of-a-kind live experiences, premium TV shows for the whole family, innovative digital gaming experiences, blockbuster films and everything in between. Our mission is to empower generations to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential.

Find Mattel at booth R180 at Licensing Expo, which takes place May 21-23 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Register for Licensing Expo 2024.

About the Author(s)

Jane Neal

Content Editor, License Global

Jane Neal is a Content Editor for License Global. Working remotely in the great state of Wisconsin, Jane specializes in retail and pop-culture trends.

She has worked extensively in the communication field as a managing editor, advertising copywriter, technical writer and journalist. She detoured for several years into academia where she taught journalism, English and humanities at the college level.

A complete Marvel nerd, she enjoys food, films, fishing, friends and family … and alliteration.

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