History

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 forever changed how kids play. 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 some of our favorite moments from our rich history.

1945

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

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 who was 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.

1957

The classic Snap-Lock Beads, Corn Popper, and Xylophone are introduced. The iconic toys still thrive in the Fisher-Price line today.

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.

1959

The Safety School Bus is introduced. Evolving over decades to our modern-day Little People version that encourages kids to explore and discover.

1960

Mattel becomes a publicly traded company.

1960

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

1961

This soon-to-be classic Chatter Telephone is introduced, calling out to toddlers to pull it along as it chatters and rolls its eyes. When rotary phones gave way to push button, a stylistic change to a mirror that reality is rebuked. Dialing is still the preferred method of phoning home. 

1961

The Rock-a-Stack is introduced. Nearly 50 years and several design changes later, it continues to be a best-selling item within the Fisher-Price line.  Can you name five skills children will build when playing with the Rock-a-Stack? 

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. She gets there four years before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first people to land on the moon.

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 of California culture with a forward-face glance to represent women’s empowerment.

1971

Uno is invented by Merle Robbins, a barber shop owner from Reading, Ohio. The Robbins family loved card games, specifically crazy eights. In an effort to make the game easier for the whole family, Merle wrote each card's action right on the card. In the process he created a whole new game that everyone in the world could play.

1978

Mattel Children's Foundation is created, with a vision of making a difference in the lives of children in need around the world. Since then, the Foundation has supported thousands of organizations and millions of children. 

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 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

Barbie joins an esteemed list of American icons painted by Andy Warhol. 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 U.S. debut on PBS. Since then Thomas & Friends have aired 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, California.

1991

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

1992

Barbie first runs for president. She’s goes on to run 5 times.

1993

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

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

1998

Mattel acquires American Girl. That same year, American Girl unveils its first experiential retail store in Chicago, with additional stores opening in major U.S. markets over the next decade.

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. New characters follow each year to give voice to a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds.

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). Two other television movies follow based on Felicity (Shailene Woodley) and Molly.

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 Entertainment is acquired by Mattel, adding Thomas the Tank Engine, Barney, Bob the Builder, Wishbone and many more to Mattel’s catalog of brands.

2012

The Mattel Children’s Foundation partners with Barbie 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. It's the number 2 player in the overall construction building sets category and the number one player within the pre-school construction category.

2015

View-Master gets a virtual reality reboot when Mattel partners with Google to use Google's Cardboard technology to bring everything from dinosaurs to historical monuments alive.

2016

With 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, to further expand on its diverse and inclusive product offerings.

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 United Nations to introduce Sustainable Development Goals in content.

 

2019

For the first time ever Mattel launches its own comprehensive monster truck franchise, Hot Wheels Monster Trucks, with a full line of die-cast vehicles, playsets, consumer products and a national live-event tour called Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live.

2019

Barbie celebrates her 60th anniversary by honoring global role models and lighting up major landmarks in 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 75th anniversary 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 gives every child the best possible start.

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.