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A look back at Barbie's history

Before Barbie, young girls were more likely to be playing with baby dolls — toys that encouraged them to aspire to raise children.
A look back at Barbie's history
Posted at 7:47 PM, Jul 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-21 07:36:06-04

It's a hot pink summer at the Malibu Barbie Café in Chicago — an official pop-up done in partnership with Mattel. 

Over 60,000 tickets have already been sold so far for the pop-ups in Chicago and New York City, and it's fueled by the anticipation surrounding the "Barbie" movie. 

Written by indie darlings Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach and starring Oscar nominated actors Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, "Barbie" depicts the iconic doll with a bit of an existential crisis. 

The film pays whimsical, dreamy homage to the many eras of the Barbie brand — to the point where the production used up one company's worldwide supply of pink paint. 

The original teaser for the film depicted Robbie dressed as the original Barbie doll, which debuted more than six decades ago. 

Created by Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler in 1959, Barbie was a toy trailblazer. 

Before Barbie, young girls were more likely to be playing with baby dolls — toys that encouraged them to aspire to raise children. 

SEE MORE: 'Barbie' is hitting the big screen, but is the movie meant for kids?

Handler noticed that her young daughter, named Barbara, was interested in womanhood beyond motherhood. And so Barbie was born — modeling careers as astronauts, CEOs, doctors and presidents. 

Between the hyper-feminine décor, the immediately recognizable logo and the signature pink plastered throughout, the Malibu Barbie Café — based on the beach-y Barbie collection that debuted in 1971 — is like the inside of a toy set. 

It's iconic, even if you didn't play with the dolls growing up, and it shows just how well the brand has grown up and evolved with its audiences. 

Beyond the pop-ups in Chicago and New York City, the marketing and brand partnerships surrounding the "Barbie" film has also included real-life furniture, athleisure, luxury goods and an actual "Malibu DreamHouse" Airbnb — all things you wouldn't necessarily find on a child's wish list. 

One group you won't find promoting the film is the actors and writers themselves, who are on the picket lines for the Writers Guild of America and actors' guild SAG-AFTRA. 


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