Barbie: The Rise of Transmedia Storytelling and Quality IP

Jul 19
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The Rise of Transmedia Storytelling 

The resurgence of Mattel IP not only marks a new wave of repurposed IP, but a massive shift in ideation, production, and creativity. Games and toys have evolved from simple interactive experiences to complex narratives with vast and intricate worlds, primed for transmedia storytelling. By expanding their IP beyond their initial intent, these franchises have been able to reach a wider audience and delve deeper into the lore and mythology of their respective universes. 

As gaming and toy companies continue to embrace the potential of transmedia storytelling, we can expect to see more immersive experiences that blur the boundaries. This convergence of mediums not only expands the reach of these IPs but also creates a vibrant and interconnected entertainment ecosystem which allows for more focus on innovation rather than building up interest.

With the release of Barbie on Friday, July 21, 2023, and the subsequent releases of their other projects over the coming years, time will only tell if Mattel’s gamble on their vast IP will pay off; early signs point to yes. Still, Mattel has managed to solidify its position as a frontrunner for this new media frontier, and they’re just getting started.

Mattel is Building Something Different

In the realm of entertainment, few brands have been as influential and beloved as Barbie. For decades, the iconic doll has captured the hearts of millions, inspiring generations of children to dream big and embrace their individuality. Now, in a world hungry for nostalgia and meaningful storytelling, Mattel is reigniting the magic with the release of the highly anticipated Barbie movie. The revival of Mattel's intellectual property promises to transport audiences to a world of wonder, breathing new life into the cherished franchise.

Barbie is quickly becoming one of the must-see movies of the summer, and, behind the scenes, Mattel is building up its slate of projects. It was recently announced that Daniel Kaluuya will be producing a Barney film (Variety) among the 45 projects in development (Forbes). 

Barbie is a launching point - let’s dive deeper into what Mattel is doing.

Barbie is an Established IP Brand

Legacy Past a Toy

Barbie has long been celebrated as more than just a doll. She has become a symbol of fashion, empowerment, and imagination. For decades, Barbie has held a special place in the hearts of individuals across generations. The franchise legacy extends far beyond a mere plaything, as Barbie has influenced trends with her pervasive pink and blond hair - she is recognizable and ingrained as a staple in our pop culture. 

A Beloved Franchise with Nostalgia

The revival of Mattel's intellectual property through the Barbie movie signifies a strategic move by the company to tap into the power of nostalgia while reinventing the brand for a new generation. By leveraging the strong emotional connection that many individuals have with Barbie, Mattel aims to reintroduce the iconic doll and her universe to appeal to a wider audience. The plights of today, saturated with digital technology and unprecedented current events, create a romanticization of the past - fond, simpler, better times. When were you truly last carefree? It was probably when you were a child playing house with your Barbie. 

Growing the Barbie Brand, an Evolution

Embracing Diversity and Inclusivity

To stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, the Barbie brand has undergone significant transformations. Mattel has taken a proactive approach by embracing diversity and inclusivity in its doll lineup. By offering dolls with different body types, skin tones, hairstyles, and professions, they have empowered children to see themselves reflected in their toys, fostering a sense of acceptance and self-confidence. Mattel has learned throughout the years that to create a meaningful and relatable product, they must adapt. 

Shifting the Narrative to a New Story

This shift towards storytelling with substance positions Mattel's IP as a source of inspiration and introspection. This expansion into mainstream media presents a new, exciting opportunity for Barbie fans. It allows them to experience something they know, understand, and love presented in a new and captivating way, connecting on a level they’ve yet to experience. The consumer eats up anything they can get, thrilled by the possibilities of a new narrative. 

A New Frontier for Toys: Mainstream Entertainment Media

In recent years, we have witnessed a remarkable shift in the entertainment landscape, as gaming and toy intellectual properties have made their way into mainstream media with resounding success. This convergence of different mediums has created a dynamic and immersive experience for fans, expanding the reach of beloved characters and worlds beyond their original platforms. Mattel's revival of the Barbie franchise through a movie is just one example of how gaming and toys IP are making waves in the world of mainstream media.

The Toy to Media Model Already Exists 

The success of this approach is evident in the numerous franchises that have successfully made the leap from toys or games to other mainstream media. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which originated from comic books to the Pokémon franchise, which encompasses games, animated series, and movies, the trend of expanding IP has reshaped the entertainment landscape. By capitalizing on the emotional connection fans have with these beloved characters and worlds, companies like Mattel can create a multifaceted universe that offers something for everyone. This year alone has featured films from iconic brands including Super Mario Bros, Transformers, and even Tetris. 

After a restructuring of their in-house production, Mattel is coming onto the scene and they are coming fast and furious. Mattel is starting strong with arguably the most recognized toy of all time to create momentum while using this model. They are doing an all-out blitz and taking bets on their IP.

A New Dimension of Fan Engagement 

The expansion of gaming and toy IP into mainstream media has given rise to a new dimension of fan engagement. Fans can now immerse themselves in their favorite worlds through a variety of mediums, from playing games to collecting newly released toys and merchandise and experiencing the stories through movies, TV shows, and books. This multifaceted approach fosters a sense of community and allows fans to connect with these brands on a deeper level. The ability to engage with beloved characters and worlds through various media forms creates a more comprehensive and enriching experience for fans, strengthening their emotional attachment and loyalty. Mattel is bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds, creating an immersive and interconnected Barbie universe.

Opening Doors to Collaboration and Innovation

IP in new forms has opened doors to exciting collaborations and innovations. Companies are exploring new ways to expand their reach through partnerships with filmmakers, animators, and storytellers from different mediums. This cross-pollination of talent and ideas leads to fresh perspectives and inventive storytelling techniques, but monetarily speaking, new streams of revenue. New partners mean new markets and audiences, further changing the landscape of mainstream media. 

Mattel is Capitalizing on Quality IP

Mattel's success in reviving the Barbie brand showcases the value of investing in quality IP. Established brands that have been fostered over time like Barbie provide a strong foundation and loyal fan base that can be leveraged for growth. By capitalizing on existing IP, companies like Mattel can minimize the risks associated with launching new properties and tap into a connected audience that is already invested in the brand's current narratives and characters.

The upcoming Barbie movie is more than just a nostalgic trip down memory lane. It is a testament to the impressive way in which video games and toys have found a way to expand their intellectual property by creating films and other forms of content such as podcasts, TV series, books, and apparel. 

As we eagerly await the release of the film, it is clear that the Barbie movie and the revival of Mattel's intellectual property represent a remarkable evolution in the way toys and video games are embraced by audiences. By expanding their IP into various forms of media, these companies are not only maximizing their reach and potential profitability but also providing fans with immersive experiences that transcend traditional playtime and foster a deeper connection while building a sense of community.

Mattel is aiming for longevity. Their production undertaking is monumental, but as previously stated, they are taking the models out there already and forging their path. Back in April, Mattel and Hasbro inked a licensing agreement for Monopoly: Barbie Edition, Transformers Hot Wheels, and Transformers UNO, indicating that they’re just getting started.

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