History

Mattel is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020. Our mission to inspire, entertain and develop children through play is more relevant than ever.

It all began in a garage in 1945, as a collaboration between Ruth and Elliot Handler, and Harold “Matt” Matson. They were designers and engineers, whose collective focus on creativity and innovation changed how kids play forever. In the decades since, Mattel has grown into a leading global toy company and creator of franchises beloved by children and families around the world. A key to our success has been our ability to lead and respond to popular culture and play a key role in it. Creating iconic toys and brands, shaping style and having societal impact. Below are a few of our favorite moments.

1945

Our founders, Ruth and Elliot Handler, join Harold “Matt” Matson to form Mattel.

1946

We meet Thomas! The most famous of Wilbert’s engines arrives in the second book of the series, “Thomas the Tank Engine." Thomas and his friends would go on to star in 24 more books by the Rev. Awdry, selling more than 50 million copies.

1947

The Company’s first big hit is the Uke-A-Doodle, a child-sized instrument designed to make music more interactive and accessible.

1948

Mattel is incorporated with headquarters in Los Angeles.

1950

Magic 8 ball is released, inspired by the inventor’s mother, a clairvoyant. An average of 1 million are sold annually.

1955

Mattel begins television advertising through the Mickey Mouse Club, revolutionizing the way toys are marketed.

1959

Barbie is born. Ruth Handler is inspired by observing her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls for hours, and recognizes the opportunity to champion and inspire girls by introducing a three-dimensional doll that shows them that they can be anything.

1960

Mattel becomes a publicly traded company.

1960

Chatty Cathy is introduced with the voice of June Foray. She is the second most popular doll during the 60s behind Barbie.

1961

Ken is introduced as a boyfriend for Barbie. 

1962

Mattel launches the first Barbie Dreamhouse. Barbie represents women in new ways, becoming a symbol of independence and empowerment. With its mid-century modern décor, girls can imagine entertaining friends or relaxing in their stylish living room.

1965

Barbie Astronaut goes to the moon four years before Neil Armstrong.

1967

Major Matt Mason is introduced, His spacesuit is inspired by NASA prototypes released in the 1960s.

1968

Mattel introduces Christie, the first Black doll, to the Barbie world.

1968

Hot Wheels is invented by a team of Mattel creators, which included a rocket scientist and a car designer. Sparked by Elliot’s idea for miniature die-cast vehicles that paired cool designs with speed, power and performance, Hot Wheels launches with a focus on igniting the challenger spirit in every child.

1970

Hot Wheels brings drag racing back into pop culture with Snake & Mongoose. The re-creations of the rivalry between racecar drivers Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen encouraged kids to act out their own side-by-side racing battles. 

1971

Malibu Barbie launches to reflect the updated fashion style reflecting California culture with a forward-face glance reflecting women’s empowerment.

1971

Uno is invented by a a barber shop owner from Reading, Ohio.

1978

The Mattel Children’s Foundation is formed as a private corporate foundation in the state of California.

1979

With music at the forefront, the Fisher-Price Phonograph is able to withstand the roughest of play.

1980

Mattel introduces the first diverse line of dolls carrying the Barbie name.

1982

The first He-Man and the Masters of the Universe line of action figures is released. The Masters of the Universe franchise would become a $2 billion cultural phenomenon throughout the 1980s across toys and licensed products. 

1984

Beatles star Ringo Starr joins Thomas & Friends series in 1984 as narrator, the first of many famous storytellers.

1985

“We Girls Can Do Anything” campaign is launched. Girls everywhere hear “We can dream dreams and make them come true because nothing’s worth doing that we girls can’t do, your moms know it too. We girls can do anything, right Barbie?”

1985

Day-to-Night Barbie breaks the glass ceiling as a CEO. She celebrates the workplace evolution of the era and shows girls they can have it all.

1986

American Girl enters the large doll space with a novel concept to help girls learn about pivotal periods in American history and the role women played in the shaping of our country via three 18” character dolls and books.

1986

Andy Warhol made his mark by creating images of American icons. Barbie is added to that esteemed list when Warhol paints her. The first Barbie portrait was reportedly inspired by Warhol’s muse, Billy Boy, a jewelry designer and member of New York’s downtown scene in the 1980s, who owned a vast collection of Barbie dolls.

1989

Thomas & Friends makes its US debut on PBS. Thomas & Friends now airs in 180 countries around the world in 55 languages.   

1989

The world meets Polly Pocket, at 1-inch tall she lives in a miniature world all her own. Inside each small case an entire world waits to be discovered – a world that can fit right in your pocket! 

1990

Mattel moves into its current headquarters in El Segundo, CA.

1991

Thomas & Friends’ 3rd season features George Carlin, who took over the role of Thomas & Friends storyteller for US audiences.

1992

American Girl debuts the premier issue of American Girl magazine, an advertising-free publication that features stories of girls’ lives today.

1992

Barbie first runs for president. She’s goes on to run 5 times and debut an all - female ticket in 2016. 

1993

Fisher Price is acquired by Mattel, adding the brand’s incredible catalog of pre-school toys to Mattel’s portfolio.

1995

Bitty Baby, the American Girl line of nurturing baby dolls is introduced. At 15-inches tall, they are infinitely huggable and easy for young children to handle.

1995

American Girl introduces one of the first contemporary doll lines (American Girl of Today) that allows girls to choose a doll that looks like them from various skin tone, eye and hair color/texture options.

1997

Little People goes through a design transformation to look more like real kids - bringing diversity and inclusion to the toys. 

1997

After delighting parents and kids alike for almost 60 years, Mattel welcomes View-Master into the fold. 

1997

Hot Wheels & NASCAR bring racing legends to the brand by partnering with NASCAR drivers Kyle Petty and Jack Baldwin and putting NASCAR-themed vehicles into kids’ hands for the first time. The Hot Wheels - NASCAR partnership lasted for the next decade. 

1998

Mattel acquires American Girl.  

1998

American Girl unveils its first experiential retail store, American Girl Place – Chicago, featuring a live theater performance; a dining experience for girls.

1998

Mattel begins a landmark collaboration with UCLA Health and becomes the proud namesake of UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. 

1998

Barbie is inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

1998

Alec Baldwin narrated the 5th and 6th seasons of Thomas & Friends for the US audiences.

1998

The first Thomas & Friends theme park, ‘Thomas Land,' opens in Fuji-Q Highland Theme Park in Japan.

2001

The first life-sized Hot Wheels car, the Twin Mill, is unveiled at the SEMA custom auto show in Las Vegas. Over 20 life-sized Hot Wheels are now in the Hot Wheels Garage of Legends. 

2001

American Girl debuts its first contemporary Girl of the Year character, Lindsey Bergman. The line gives voice to a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds through inspiring, relatable characters that give girls confidence, understanding, and a broader worldview toward others. 

2001

American Girl Place, the company’s second flagship store, opens on Fifth Avenue in New York city. 

2004

American Girl launches its first made-for-TV movie based on historical character Samantha Parkington, played by Anna Sophia Robb. (Mia Farrow plays Samantha’s grandmother.)

2005

American Girl’s second made-for-TV movie launches based on historical character Felicity Merriman, played by Shailene Woodley. (Marcia Gay Harden plays Mrs. Merriman).

2008

American Girl’s first feature film debuts based on historical character Kit Kittredge, played by Abigail Breslin. (Cast also includes: Julia Ormond, Chris O’Donnell, Joan Cusack, and Stanley Tucci).

2010

Mattel launches Monster High, a new fashion doll line centered around the perfectly imperfect teenage children of the world’s most famous monsters.

2011

Hot Wheels smashes the world record for longest ramp-to-ramp distance jump at the 100th Anniversary of at the Indy 500, at a length of 332 feet. 

2011

HIT is acquired by Mattel, adding Thomas the train engine, Bob the Builder, and Barney to Mattel’s catalog of brands.

2012

The Mattel Children’s Foundation partners with the Barbie brand to create Ella, Friend of Barbie dolls to donate to organizations working with children experiencing hair loss from cancer, alopecia or any other medical condition.

2014

Mattel acquires MEGA Brands, the No. 2 player in the construction building sets category.

2015

Viewmaster gets a virtual reality reboot when Mattel partners with Google to use their Google Cardboard technology to bring everything from dinosaurs to historical monuments alive.

2016

American Girl introduces younger girls to the whimsical world of the WellieWishers. With 5 fun-loving characters—Willa, Kendall, Ashlyn, Emerson, and Camille—kids can imagine and play in a whimsical backyard garden while learning timeless life lessons on empathy, kindness, and the importance of being a good friend.

2016

In 2016, and against the background of the first woman presidential candidate, Barbie releases an all-female ticket with a president and vice president doll set to inspire girls to believe they can be anything—including leader of the free world.

2016

Barbie Introduces New Body Types to better reflect the world girls see today, Barbie introduces three new body types: curvy, petite, and tall. The launch of the new body types lands Barbie on the cover of Time magazine.

2018

American Girl launches Create Your Own, the ultimate experience in customization through millions of combinations.

2018

Hot Wheels turns 50 and celebrates its continued status as the #1 selling toy in the world with the Hot Wheels Legends Tour. 

2018

The Mattel Children’s Foundation launches the 1st Annual Global Day of Play.

2018

Thomas & Friends Partners with the UN to introduce Sustainable Development Goals in content.

 

2019

Mattel launches Hot Wheels id a digital+physical mixed-play racing track system, featuring uniquely identifiable, NFC-enhanced die-cast cars to track speed, distance traveled, and races won. 

2019

Barbie celebrates her 60th anniversary by honoring global role models and lighting up major landmarks pink.

2019

Mattel launches Hot Wheels ID, the first-ever digital+physical mixed-play racing track system, featuring uniquely identifiable, NFC-enhanced die-cast cars.

2019

Mattel launches Creatable world, the worlds first line of gender-neutral dolls.

2020

Hot Wheels marks two major milestones, producing its 8 billionth die-cast vehicle and topping $1 billion in annual revenue. 

2020

Timed to World Art Day, Barbie launches a Basquiat doll featuring the art of the esteemed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The detailed homage highlights his prolific body of work that elevated street art and gained well-deserved acclaim in the upper echelons of the art world.

2020

Thomas & Friends: The Royal Engine launches with a special on-camera introduction from Harry, The Duke of Sussex. This Thomas & Friends animated special features Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales as a child and has been produced as part of its 75thanniversary celebrations this year. 

2020

Fisher-Price turns 90. From humble beginnings during the great depression, it has gone on to become a staple in the lives millions of kids. From the first pull toy to modern toys that teach kids how to code, Fisher Price is primed to grow with kids for generations to come.

2020

Play it Forward is launched as a response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Its first campaign, "Thank you Heroes" pays homage to the front line and medical workers that carried on bravely for the duration of the crisis.