Drone-flying, hoverboard Barbie is here
Mattel recently made a huge step toward refreshing Barbie’s old-fashioned image with a lineup of new Barbies with a variety of body types, skin tones and hairstyles.
Now, Barbie is flying into the future. Literally.
Mattel revealed at the 2016 International Toy Fair in New York the latest incarnation of Barbie — clad in pink, yes, but also riding a hoverboard that’s actually a real drone. The new doll is called Barbie Star Light Adventure RC Hoverboard (RC stands for remote controlled).
The drone uses a joystick and sliding lever to adjust flying height. Four propellers lift the toy into the air with an automatic feature that allows the drone to take off and land with the press of a button. The toy will arrive in stores fall 2016 and sell for $59.99.
The toy could encourage more young girls to have an interest in robotics and aviation.
“This will certainly attract young girls, but also parents who want to buy a toy for their daughters that would interest them in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) realm but aren’t sure what type of toy would inspire that,” said Rhianna Lakin, founder of the group Amelia Dronehart, a group for female drone pilots.
The drone industry has long struggled with sexism. Women in scantily clad outfits (sometimes referred to as “booth babes”) are common at drone conferences and races. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)’s annual conference in Brussels next month initially was going to have a lineup of more than 20 speakers, none of them female. One female speaker was later added.
Women aren’t buying drones, either. DronesPlus co-founder Mike Thorpe told BuzzFeed that 99.2% of his company’s sales are to men.
Some say the lack of diversity in the drone world boils down to a lack of women in the spotlight to look up to.
“There aren’t many role models in drones, so automatically it is hard for parents to figure out how to interest their daughters in STEM without any specific instruments marketed toward them,” Lakin said.
In recent years, the Barbie brand has embraced the idea of “girl power” marketing. A recent video advertisement asks “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?” and then shows girls “playing” professor, veterinarian, soccer coach and jet-setting business professional. Barbie herself doesn’t make an appearance until the very end of the ad.
“Everyone knows Barbie,” Lakin says. “If your daughter likes Barbie and she likes the drone, then that may encourage her to pursue STEM. And the next drone she flies won’t necessarily be pink.”
Mattel said that sales of Barbie dolls rose 1% in its latest quarterly earnings report, compared with a 12% decline a year ago. Stifel analysts called the 2016 through 2018 Mattel forecast “the best the company has had since 2011.”
Mattel stock is up 11.7% year-to-date, compared with a 8.8% decline on the S&P 500.