If you were ever a six-year-old girl, you probably loved Barbie. Sure, there were tomboys (and now, Katniss/Merida wannabees) among us, but for a lot of kids the fantasy world that went along with Barbie will always have a special place in their childhood memories.
Great news for today’s kids: While the original doll is going on her 54th birthday, today marks the release of the 25th Barbie movie, going back over the past twelve years. Barbie in the Pink Shoes takes elements of Swan Lake and Giselle and combines them with a story featuring an evil queen, magic shoes and, well, the stuff princess dreams are made of. EW called up Rob Hudnut, executive producer and vice president of Barbie Entertainment at Mattel, to get the inside scoop on this anniversary milestone (they’ve sold over 110 million Barbie DVDs to date!) and find out what’s next for the woman who has done it all.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the inspiration behind Pink Shoes?
ROB HUDNUT: We’ve had great success with ballet movies, among the 25 movies we’ve done so far. We know that girls love to do ballet and imagine themselves as prima ballerinas. So we wanted to tell a story that took a contemporary girl into a magical world of ballet, in which she has an adventure and learns some things about dancing from her heart. And she comes back to the real world changed.
Barbie has had so many occupations. How do you decide what she’ll do next?
A big part of Barbie’s connection to girls is the way she teaches them that they can do anything and be anything. So throughout her 54 years Barbie has been everything from an astronaut to mermaid to a movie star to a president. In our DVD movies, we focus on roles that girls love to imagine, that have more fantastical elements. So we have princess worlds that have a lot of magic in them, magic worlds, and fairy worlds.
What’s the time frame on making one of these movies?
It generally takes about two years. We start with the story and figuring that out. It’s an internal team of producers working with our design and research and marketing partners. And we talk about what girls love, and how we can connect with them and tell a new story that makes their lives better.
Why do you think Barbie has continued to connect with young girls?
Well, when girls watch our movies, they see the world through Barbie’s eyes. And by seeing Barbie act courageously and act kindly and seeing how she wins the day through her creativity and her inner strength, they come away from the movies feeling those same things about themselves. It helps girls no matter what their background is to feel like they can do anything.
What does the future hold for Barbie?
There are several things. We continue with our movies, doing two or three per year since they continue to be so successful. We also have expanded into a web series called Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse, and that’s for older girls. We’ve been delighted to see that get a lot of interest from teens and young adults even. Lots of extensions on Tumblr and wonderful comments on Youtube. In nine months we’re up to 350 million views worldwide.
I’m not surprised older girls are latching onto something Barbie-related. It seems like so many young women have such fond memories of Barbie from when they were younger.
I think so. And I really feel like it’s because we help girls feel that optimism and sense of possibility of their future. We really have this message and we mean it that a girl can do anything with her life.
What are some of your favorite Barbie movies that you’re most proud of?
The one I hear about the most is called The Princess and the Pauper. It was our first musical, it was in 2004 and Martin Short sang in it. He was a villain. The theme of the movie was that every person has a gift and in that gift lies their destiny. And I find that lots of people say that’s their favorite. It’s based of course on Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper. And we did a new version of that just this last fall called The Princess and the Popstar which was a modern version [of the story] and that’s been a phenomenal success as well.
So many girls worship pop stars, or just love music in general. Are there plans for more musicals?
Yes. Each one seems to do really well and we find, every year we sell we’ve been averaging 12 million units a year and we find that the musicals tend to sell more highly than other titles as they begin to sell out past the initial year. People just love the story. We find that girls watch them an average of 12 times.
What Barbie movie is coming up next?
After Pink Shoes we have a movie called Mariposa and the Fairy Princess and that comes out this fall. Since stories are proof of an idea, the idea we’re proving in this one is that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend. This Mariposa movie is a sequel to our very successful 2008 Mariposa title. Mariposa is a butterfly fairy. She’s also a big reader, and girls and parents love that we support that. We also show that the most beautiful thing you can be is yourself. And that [theme] kind of shines throughout that story. This movie picks up where that movie left off. …We think it’s a privilege and a responsibility to tell great stories to girls and we’re just really grateful to be able to do that.
Barbie in the Pink Shoes is available on Blu-ray and DVD today.