It was shocking news to many when Hasbro initially won the right to produce Walt Disney’s Frozen and Disney Princess brands back in August of 2014. The deal, set to begin with 2016, formally took the reins away from Mattel ending their long running partnership with Disney on this front.
It was a blow to Mattel and highlighted an expansion of Hasbro’s target demographic, which I would argue began with their rebirth and expansion of the My Little Pony franchise. Prior to that point Hasbro had been seen by many as a “boy’s toy” company, focusing on brands like G. I. Joe and Transformers. Since Disney already had a good feel for how a working relationship with Hasbro would function (given their work on Disney’s Star Wars and Marvel properties), the change feels like a logical one.
Now, it is 2016, and we’re seeing the very first dolls and toys emerge. Interestingly enough, the look and style of the Hasbro line feels very fresh and takes the Disney Princess dolls, especially, in a decidedly new direction. Gone are the cookie cutter days where all of the Disney Princesses looked almost interchangeable with Mattel’s Barbie line. Now the Princess dolls have personality and shapes that better reflect the Disney characters they are charged with representing.
To show what I mean, let’s begin with the classic Cinderella doll from Mattel…
With a simple wardrobe exchange and some hair restyling, this doll would be interchangeable with any of a number of other Barbie dolls we’ve come to expect over the years. The clothing makes the doll most certainly, but there is a lack of definition in the body and head sculpt that would make a Disney fan say, “that’s clearly Cinderella.”
Taking a look at the 2016 Hasbro unveils, there’s a lot more life and design present to mark each doll as different characters. Those differences may be subtle, but for the fan they are significant.
The differences in height, unique facial features, minor body variation and realism are important here. Personally, I applaud Disney for moving to a company that doesn’t view these female characters as cookie cutter, one size fits all toys. There should be room for different female role models and body types and it breathes life into a franchise that looked dated at Mattel. This is a solid first step toward showing a younger generation that it’s not just okay to be different, it should be celebrated in life and in their toys. Body imagery matters and Hasbro has taken a great first step here.