Formed in 1945, Mattel is the world's largest toy company. It owns some of the most popular and longest-running franchises in the industry, most notably American Girl, Barbie, Fisher Price, Hot Wheels, Masters of the Universe, Monster High, and See N Say.
Mattel was also one of the first toy makers to get involved in other parts of the entertainment industry. As far back as 1959, it was the sole sponsor of Matty's Funday Funnies, which brought the shorts featuring Harvey Comics characters to television.note It then pioneered the concept of Merchandise-Driven Animated Shows with a 1969 Saturday Morning Cartoon based on the pre-existing Hot Wheels line.note The show got in trouble when Mattel's corporate rivals complained to the FCC, proving that the world wasn't quite ready for half-hour toy commercials—yet. However, by The '80s, times had changed. Mattel spun off a successful action figure line into He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983); the result was a smash hit that not only retains a loyal fandom decades later, but spawned a whole genre of toy-based cartoons that continues today. The company also had a profitable licensing deal with DC Comics, and was Disney's preferred toy partner for many years.
Mattel once had a subsidary website, MattyCollector.com, which sold to adult collectors. The site offered new versions of Masters of the Universe characters, as well as DC heroes not available at retail. They also had the Ghostbusters license for a while, and added ThunderCats (1985) to the roster in 2015. It closed in December 2016 with a clearance sale, and Mattel ended all of their specialty collector lines. Remaining stock has been shifted to their own online shop, their eBay store and their Walmart online store, with the Masters of the Universe Classics line passed onto boutique toy company Super7.
George Lucas approached Mattel to produce Star Wars toys when the first film was in production. They turned it down, as like many in the industry, expressed little faith in the film being a success. Ahem... Kenner obtained that license instead and Mattel ultimately regretted the decision. They attempted to cash in on the success with their own Battlestar Galactica (1978) toys but they did not prove to be anywhere near as popular. One reason behind the creation of Masters of the Universe was due to Mattel's experiences with licensed toy properties, feeling they could ultimately invest less money and avoid licensing fees with their own brand. This proved successful as the Masters brand lasted for several years, and Mattel would later achieve similar success with the original Monster High brand.
Of note is that Mattel also had a chance to produce Spawn action figures and even created prototypes, only to lose the license when Todd McFarlane decided to run his own toy company. Similarly, in the early 1980s Mattel was contacted to create toys for Conan the Barbarian (1982), only to pass when they saw how violent the film was. They were also working on MOTU at the time, which led to a lawsuit claiming that MOTU was a direct ripoff of Conan—a case that Mattel eventually won when the judge ruled the properties were only similar in Broad Strokes. (Remco eventually made figures for the Conan movie.)
Between 1977 and early 1984, the Mattel Electronics division produced handheld electronic games, the Intellivision console and the Aquarius computer. Mattel's association with video games continued with their distribution of the European and Canadian models of the Nintendo Entertainment System and the now-infamous Power Glove accessory.
For a period between 1998 and 2001, Mattel actually owned the The Learning Company (and by extension, Brøderbund Software), which they rebranded into Mattel Interactive. The division ran at a loss and was quickly resold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. To date, this acquisition is often quoted as Mattel's worst move.
In 2006, Mattel attempted to re-enter the console market with the Hyperscan. However, it had a questionable CPU and GPU (an off-brand SoC from Sunplus, a notoriously shady semiconductor company, with an equally obscure architecture called S+Corenote ). The RAM- 16MB of it- was in line with other sixth generation consoles like the Sega Dreamcast and PlayStation 2. But by then the industry had shifted to the seventh generation. This left it severely underpowered and at a disadvantage- which, ironically, was the very same problem that plagued the Intellivision. Also, the selection of games was small, and they tended to be poorly programmed and have Loads and Loads of Loading (not helped by the fact that they sourced a really slow CD drive), which did not sit well with both the target and periphery demographic. All these problems led Mattel to call the Hyperscan a flop and leave the market again the next year.
In early 2016, Mattel bought Fuhu Inc—the company that makes the Nabi line of kids and family-oriented tablets—when said company filed for bankruptcy, showing that Mattel's interest in the computing market hasn't waned one bit despite the failure of the Intellivision and HyperScan, though it too ran on borrowed time and silently wound down a few years later, closing down its Facebook and Twitter pages and announcing through email that they will be shuttering all Nabi online services on March 2019, effectively killing off the children's smart device line.
Franchises created and/or owned by Mattel:
- American Girl (acquired from Pleasant Rowland in 1998)
- American Girl 300 Wishes (2004 board game)
- Angel Bunny (short-lived toy range that ran from 1984-1985, has nothing to do with Fluttershy's pet rabbit).
- Diva Starz
- Ever After High
- Fisher-Price (acquired from Quaker group in 1993)
- Fuhu inc. (maker of the Nabi line of childrens and family-oriented tablets).
- HIT Entertainment - see their page for a list of franchises they own/are involved in.
- Hot Wheels
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
- Lady Lovely Locks (toys only)
- The Learning Company - sold in late 2001
- Masters of the Universe
- Max Steel
- Mighty Max
- Monster High
- My Scene
- Peppermint Rose
- Pictionary (board game; acquired from Hasbro)
- Polly Pocket
- Purple Moon (computer CD-ROM game company, possibly sold off alongside The Learning Company and it's assets in 2001)
- Radica (including Girl Tech)
- Scrabble (international rights only (after the acquisition of JW Spears in 1994); US/Canada rights rest with Hasbro)
- See N Say (later handed over to subsidiary Fisher-Price)
- Street Sharks
- Teen Trends
Games published in the early 1980s by Mattel Electronics:
- Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure Of Tarmin
- Adventures of TRON
- Armor Battle
- Frog Bog
- Night Stalker
- Space Battle
- Star Strike
- TRON Deadly Discs
- TRON Maze-a-Tron
Works that Mattel created toys for:
- Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Back to the Future
- A Bug's Life
- Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
- Cartoon Network
- Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys
- Clueless (the 1996 TV series)
- DC Comics:
- Demolition Man
- Disney Animated Canon:
- Disney Princess
- Doctor Dolittle (the 1968 film)
- The Flintstones (the 1994 film)
- Flash Gordon (1979)
- Jurassic Park
- Generator Rex
- Harry Potter
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
- Hey Arnold!
- Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
- King Arthur & the Knights of Justice
- Kung Fu Panda
- Lady Lovely Locks (1987)
- Last Action Hero
- Mary Kate and Ashley in Action!
- The Mighty Ducks (the 1996 animated series)
- Mork & Mindy
- The New Adventures of He-Man
- New York Minute (the 2004 film)
- One Piece
- The Penguins of Madagascar
- Phantom 2040note
- Pokémon (as PC CD-ROM games)
- Popples (a franchise created by Those Characters from Cleveland, Inc., later lost the rights to Saban Brands, LLC.)
- Rainbow Rangers
- The Real Ghostbusters*
- The Ren & Stimpy Show
- Scene It (DVD board game)
- The Secret Saturdays
- Secret Wars
- See N Say
- She-Ra: Princess of Power
- Shogun Warriors
- The Simpsons note
- Sofia the First
- So Little Time
- Space: 1999
- Speed Racer (the 2008 film)
- SpongeBob SquarePants
- Teddy Beddy Bear (a franchise created by Morgan Inc., later lost the rights to Applause)
- ThunderCats (1985)*
- Toy Story
- Turing Mecard (Worldwide rights excluding South Korea and Mainland China)
- Welcome Back, Kotter
- The Wild Thornberrys
- Winx Club
* Available only through the Matty Collector site