Toy History! How Barbie Helped Redefine Action Figures!

Javier SerranohobbyDB super user Javier Serrano, aka Fjaviserr shows us how Barbie not only inspired generations of little girls, but boys as well. Read more of his wonderful guest posts here!

Since its launch in 1959, Barbie has crossed all the borders to become one of the most recognized toy brands worldwide. And of course, these days it is not difficult to talk about it, considering that its movie could be the blockbuster of 2023.

However, beyond its fame, the impact of the doll created by Ruth Handler in the toy industry is much more relevant than we think, and its influence probably could be part of its successful and endless career. The truth is that Barbie not only revolutionized the world of dolls, but also changed the toy soldier industry as well.

In the early 60’s, all the toy companies wanted to dethrone Mattel’s fashionable doll from the podium of sales, and I assume it would be a serious headache for toy designers to find the formula.

After five years, Hasbro adapted the Barbie idea to the toy soldier segment, creating G.I. Joe (1964), which included not just the concept of clothing, complements, sets and vehicles, just the same scale (30 centimeters, 12 inches or 1/6). From that moment the very first action soldier ever made came up on stage, renaming toy soldiers as action figures since then.

This trend went on in the 70’s too, and the new action figures market brought us another best-selling series implementing the same Barbie notion such as World’s Greatest Super-Heroes (Mego), Big Jim (Mattel) and The Six Million Dollar Man (Kenner).

Those figures were designed in 8, 9.5 and 12 inches respectively. However, sometimes those canons were not necessarily synonym with success, as we can see with the underrated and wonderful series of Pulsar (Mattel 1976 – 1978), but thinking in general terms, it was. Traditionally, the scale 1/6 is one of the most used by toy brands until today.

During those years we can find another action figures produced in smaller scales, they were more a cause for pity than for glory, and the unwritten rule around 12 inches was a staple of the toy market until 1978, when another revolution shocked the foundations of the toy industry, the Kenner’s Star Wars action figures, but that is another story.

Barbie is a living legend of the pop culture, and it has been adapting at various times since its creation to the new times, and the impact that the Queen of dolls has had on the toy industry is a fact, and it would be crazy thinking the contrary, in the end without its pink magic, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about action figures.

I hope you find this information helpful. Have an excellent week. Let me know if you’d like to know more in the comments below.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x