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Years Later, Mattel Embraces ‘Barbie Girl'

Stuart Elliot
The New York Times
August 26, 2009

Maybe it’s because Barbie is a doll and not a person, but it seems she doesn’t know how to hold a grudge.

Twelve years after the hit pop tune “Barbie Girl” raised the hackles of the toymaker that sells Barbie, Mattel, the song is being adapted for Barbie advertising.

Mattel has uploaded to YouTube a video clip of a dance called the Barbie, which is danced to a rerecorded version of “Barbie Girl.” The video is also scheduled to be shown on “Today” on NBC on Thursday morning.

Television commercials featuring the new version of the song are scheduled to start running in mid-October. The hoopla is all intended to promote a new variety of Barbie called Barbie Fashionistas.

The new version of “Barbie Girl” is not the hit version by Aqua, a Danish dance-pop band. The lyrics are more inspirational, including lines like “You can be a star, no matter who you are.”

But some lyrics are the same as they were in the Aqua version, including Barbie’s lines like “I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie world” and “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.”

The new version also features Barbie’s companion Ken singing lines from the 1997 version like “C’mon, Barbie, let’s go party.”

The new version ends the same way as the old: Barbie says to Ken, “I’m having so much fun,” and Ken replying, “Well, Barbie, we’re just getting started.”

In the new version, dolls and humans, separately and together, perform the new Barbie dance, which Mattel had created for the video by the choreographer JaQuel Knight.

The new version is also minus some of the innuendo of the 1997 music video by Aqua. There’s no reference to “hanky-panky” and Ken does not wink at the camera.

Mattel sued Aqua and the band’s label, MCA, claiming trademark and copyright infringement. Courts dismissed the lawsuits. In 2002, a judge ruled the Aqua song was protected as parody and also tossed out a defamation suit against Mattel filed by MCA.

The ruling included a sentence rarely found in legal opinions: “The parties are advised to chill.” Now, it appears, Mattel has taken that advice.

“We were not always in love with one another,” Stephanie Cota, senior vice president for marketing of Barbie at Mattel, acknowledged in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

But a new management team for Barbie — brought in to help turn around a sales slump — has a different attitude about the famous song and its video, which has more than 29 million views on YouTube.

The new managers recognized that “Barbie has always been a part of pop culture,” Ms. Cota said. “The beauty of Barbie,” she added, is that she gets “to kiss and make up.”

The idea behind the dance called the Barbie is that the Barbie Fashionista dolls have 12 points of movement, so they are more flexible and can strut their stuff on the dance floor among other places.

If you want to learn the dance, try moving like a doll, then add what Mattel calls “a signature point, twist, snap.”

The loosening up over “Barbie Girl” is among several steps Mattel has taken to update its approach to marketing the brand. There have also been live events, retail promotions and presences on social media like Facebook and Twitter.







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