New Talking Barbie Can Have 2-Way Conversations With Kids

Mark Lennihan—AP Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City on Feb. 14, 2015.

Big Sister is listening

Imaginary conversations with dolls are so 20th century. A new Internet-connected Barbie arriving on store shelves this fall will let kids have two-way conversations with the doll.

The new Hello Barbie, showed off at the New York Toy Fair on Saturday, will actually be able to listen to kids’ words and change its own language to adapt to their preferences, BBC reports. Tell Barbie you like dancing, and she’ll mention dancing in a later conversation, for example. A speech-recognition company called ToyTalk is programming Barbie’s speaking and listening capabilities.

The necklace on the doll will feature both the microphone and the speaker that help enable the conversations. Hello Barbie will retail for $74.99 when it launches, likely in time for the holiday season. The doll requires a Wi-Fi connection to talk, though kids can of course continue to use Barbie the old-fashioned way when the Internet’s down.



TIME Body Image

See How One Artist Dramatically Changes Bratz Dolls to Look Like Real Girls

Artist Sonia Singh is giving them a much needed make-under

Tree Change Dolls

When examining a Bratz doll, you might notice the toy resembles a weirdly sexy lady-alien with plumped-up lips rather than the 12-year-old girl she is marketed to.

Frustrated by this trend, Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh went to local thrift shops with a mission to find dolls that were in need of a very necessary make-under.

“These lil fashion dolls have opted for a ‘tree change,’ swapping high-maintenance glitz ‘n’ glamour for down-to-earth style,” Singh writes on her Tumblr.

Singh repaints their faces, re-conditions their hair, molds them new shoes and then dresses them in clothing sewn and knit by her mother.

The change is dramatic:

Tree Change Dolls
Tree Change Dolls
Tree Change Dolls
Tree Change Dolls

In the spirit of supporting positive body image and women’s rights, Singh tells TIME she is asking supporters to donate to the International Women’s Development Agency. She’s also planning to start selling the “rescued and rehabilitated” dolls on Etsy. And if the recent success of realistic Barbie alternatives is any indication, she will be very successful.

In November, artist Nicolas Lamm began shipping out the Lammily doll, which is essentially a Barbie recreated with the CDC’s measurements of an average 19-year-old woman. More than 13,621 backers contributed more than $500,000 to his crowd-funding campaign, ordering more some 19,000 dolls.

“I wanted to show that reality is cool,” Lamm told TIME.. “And a lot of toys make kids go into fantasy, but why don’t they show real life is cool? It’s not perfect, but it’s really all we have. And that’s awesome.”

See the updated Bratz dolls here.

MONEY stocks

The Best and Worst Stocks of 2014

It was a good year to be in the stock market -- but the spoils were not evenly shared. Here's a look at the hottest and coldest stocks of 2014.

It was a good year to be in the stock market. With the economy finally seeming to hit its stride, the S&P 500 — comprising the 500 biggest U.S. companies — has so far returned about 12%, compared to an annual average of just above 5% over the past decade.

Of course, the spoils weren’t evenly shared. Factors like falling oil prices and America’s continuing infatuation with gadgets and social media meant some stocks were big winners, while others actually left shareholders poorer — on paper — than they were in 2013.

Here’s a selective look at some of the year’s hottest and coldest S&P 500 stocks, with a focus on companies that many consumers interact with every day.

  • Hot: Southwest Airlines

    The wing of a Southwest commercial airliner during a flight over the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles, California, November 19, 2014.
    Mike Blake—Reuters

    From cramped seats to hidden fees, consumers loathe airlines. But a strengthening economy and the recent sharp drop in oil prices — fuel typically accounts for a third of airline operating costs — mean airline investors have been flying high.

    The best performing stock in the S&P 500 this year: Southwest Airlines SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. LUV -0.95% , whose price has climbed 120%. (Delta DELTA AIR LINES INC. DAL -0.48% was another example, shooting up 74% in 2014.)

    To cap it off, in December, a woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy on a Southwest flight from San Francisco to Phoenix in December. “I can’t think of anything else that’s going to top that,” Captain John Gordy told ABC.

  • Cold: Transocean

    Transocean Drilling Rig, undergoing maintenance in the harbour of Valletta, Malta.
    Trevor Chriss—Alamy

    Chances are you’re loving low gas prices. But chances are you also aren’t stuck with a fleet of drilling rigs you’re looking to lease. The lower oil goes, the harder it is for marginally profitable wells to stay in the black. That in turn means more and more drilling equipment sitting idle. It’s added up to a terrible year for rig owner Transocean TRANSOCEAN LTD. RIG 0.3% . Shares are down 58%, more than any other stock in the S&P 500.

  • Hot: Allergan

    A syringe rests alongside a vial of Allergan Botox, produced by Allergan Inc.
    Jason Alden—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    The Botox maker’s stock just about doubled in 2014. The company’s October earnings release beat analyst expectations, but it’s the year-long bidding war over Allergan ALLERGAN, INC. AGN -0.78% that’s really juiced the stock price. After spurning an attempted hostile takeover by Valeant Pharmaceuticals and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, the company finally agreed in November to be purchased by drug-maker Activis for $66 billion.

  • Cold: Avon

    An Avon Products Inc. lipstick.
    Scott Eells—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Years of attempted makeovers haven’t prevented the steady decline of Avon AVON PRODUCTS, INC. AVP -0.06% , the iconic cosmetics brand best known for its legions of “Avon Lady” representatives who make sales calls in customers’ homes. The key to this direct-sales model are the reps themselves — keeping them motivated, well-supplied, and growing in number, that is — but the size of Avon’s U.S. sales force has in fact declined by about half since 2007. Domestic sales fell 21% in the first half of 2014 alone. A new website and overseas growth are reasons for optimism. And in December, the company did finally settle (for $135 million) Justice Department and SEC charges over allegedly improper payments to Chinese officials that had been dogging it for years. But with the stock ending the year down around 43%, the market appears skeptical.

  • Hot: Electronic Arts

    Gamers wear headsets as they play Electronic Arts Inc.'s "Battlefield 4" video game on Microsoft Corp. Xbox One games consoles.
    Matthew Lloyd—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Video game maker Electronic Arts ELECTRONIC ARTS INC. EA -1.54% has had it’s struggles — consumer blog Consumerist named it Worst Company in America two years running in 2011 and 2012. But the maker of titles like “The Sims” and “Battlefield” named a new chief executive in 2013. With help from the arrival of new Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox consoles, the company posted a profit in its latest quarter after losing more than $270 million a year ago. Shares have doubled year to date.

  • Cold: Coach

    Coach designer handbag store, New York, USA.

    The leather-goods maker seems to have over-indulged on discounting, especially at factory outlets, undercutting its upscale aura. To turn things around, Coach COACH INC. COH -2.2% brought in a new star designer and is attempting to redefine itself as a broad “luxury lifestyle” brand (like competitor Michael Kors) not just a handbag maker. Meanwhile, it’s also closing a fifth of its North American stores to focus on urban flagships, and that cost sales. For 2014, the stock is down about 32%.

  • Hot: Keurig Green Mountain

    Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. Products Ahead Of Earns
    Scott Eells—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    There are few stocks hotter than Keurig Green Mountain KEURIG GREEN MOUNTAIN, INC. GMCR -0.64% , the K-cup coffee pod maker, up more than 80% in 2014. What’s the secret to that success? Like Monster Energy, another 2014 top performer, the company earned an important vote of confidence from Coca-Cola, which in February paid $1.25 billion for a 10% stake in Keurig and then upped it to 16% a few months later. As the Motley Fool points out, Keurig has also done a good job keeping its older partners (like Starbucks) happy and courting new ones like Kraft’s Maxwell House Coffee. The company’s shares were buffeted in November by a departing CFO and somewhat modest earnings forecast, but that hasn’t put too much of a damper on the company’s extraordinary growth.

  • Cold: GameStop

    An Electronic Arts Inc. Battlefield 4 video game advertisement is displayed as a customer browses at a GameStop Corp. store in West Hollywood, California, U.S.
    Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Electronic Arts may have been one of the year’s top stocks, but not all video-game-related companies had a good 2014. The industry’s transition from in-store sales of game disks to digital distribution allows publishers to circumvent brick-and-mortar retailers like GameStop. (Electronic Arts itself, in fact, recently inked a deal with Microsoft to provide some of hits through an online subscription service.) The problem is compounded because GameStop long made a significant chunk of its profits on used game sales, which depend on the existence of physical game disks — customers generally can’t re-sell digital copies. Meanwhile, Amazon and other online retailers are brutal competitors on hard-copy sales. All told, GameStop GAMESTOP CORP GME 0.31% was down about 33% in 2014.

  • Hot: Royal Caribbean

    The world's first smartship, Quantum of the Seas, sails into New York Harbor.
    Jonathan Atkin—Royal Caribbean International

    President Obama’s surprise announcement that he would end restrictions on travel to Cuba sent shares of Royal Caribbean ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES RCL 0.67% spiking, along with the stock of practically every company with a Cuba connection. But the cruise line’s stock was already well on its way to a banner year. Declining oil prices has dramatically cut one of its primary expenses. Meanwhile, demand for berths has been growing in the U.S. as consumer spending picks up; and Royal Caribbean was the first major line to send a state-of-the-art ship — in this case, the $1 billion Quantum of the Seas — to China, where it will cater to the country’s burgeoning leisure market out of its new home port of Shanghai. The stock is soared 80% in 2014.

  • Cold: Mattel

    Barbies on shelves
    Richard Levine—Alamy

    Barbie may have met her match in Anna and Elsa. Disney’s princess duo — not to mention longer term trends like computer games — have taken their toll on Mattel MATTEL INC. MAT 1.41% . While results aren’t yet in for the all-important Christmas season, Barbie sales have fallen four straight quarters. “Girls have a lot of other choices,” toy analyst Sean McGowan recently told the New York Post. Mattel’s stock has fallen by nearly a third so far this year.

  • Hot: Monster Beverage

    Cans of Monster Beverage Corp. energy drink are displayed for sale at a convenience store in Redondo Beach, California, U.S.
    Bloomberg—Getty Images

    Shares of Monster Beverage MONSTER BEVERAGE CORP. MNST -0.78% jumped 30% in August on news that Coca-Cola planned to buy a 17% stake of the company. The Wall Street Journal suggested Coke might have bought the concern outright if Monster — whose drinks carry names like “Assault” and “Khaos” — didn’t contrast so starkly with Coke’s more classic image. Investors don’t seem to mind. Overall shares are up about 70% in 2014.

  • Cold: Amazon

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone at a launch event, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Seattle.
    Ted S. Warren—AP

    For years Internet behemoth Amazon AMAZON.COM INC. AMZN -0.47% seemingly defied stock market gravity. While shareholders usually punish a stock when company managers prove unable — or unwilling — to produce profit, that rule never seemed to apply to Amazon. CEO Jeff Bezos always managed to persuade investors to funnel would-be earnings back into growth. Indeed, sales have exploded, growing more than tenfold in 10 years, from less than $7 billion in 2004 to more than $80 billion today. But after a $400 million loss in the first half of 2014 and a big miss with the much-hyped Amazon Fire phone, investor patience may finally be running out. So far this year shares are down 23%.

  • Hot: Under Armour

    A detailed view of the Under Armour basketball shoes worn by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry #30 against the Utah Jazz at ORACLE Arena on November 21, 2014 in Oakland, California.
    Thearon W. Henderson—Getty Images

    Under Armour UNDER ARMOUR INC UA -0.88% took the sportswear world by storm in 2014. The stock is up over 60% since January 1, 2014, a performance worthy of a company that took home both Yahoo Finance’s Company of the Year award and the title of Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year. Revenue is on track to increase by 30%; its women’s brand has emerged as a success; and it’s set to add tennis star Andy Murray to its growing list of athlete endorsers.

  • Cold: General Motors

    2015 Cadillac Escalade
    General Motors

    Falling oil prices have re-ignited Americans’ appetite for cars, particularly the super-sized ones GM GENERAL MOTORS COMPANY GM -0.08% is known for, like the Cadillac Escalade, which saw sales jump 75% in November. Unfortunately, booming sales in North America haven’t quite made up for weakness in foreign markets like South America and Europe, where GM lost nearly $400 million last quarter. Factor in months of controversy following the company’s February recall of faulty ignition switches — now linked to more than dozen deaths — and the year has been a grim one for GM investors. Shares are off 21%.

  • Hot: Apple

    Apple CEO Tim Cook wears the Apple Watch and shows the iPhone 6 Plus during an Apple event at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, September 9, 2014.
    Stephen Lam—Reuters

    Apple APPLE INC. AAPL -0.1% started the year as the most valuable company in the world, with a market value of just over $500 billion. Since then a well-received new iteration of the iPhone has helped put to rest doubts about whether CEO Tim Cook can fill the shoes of the late Steve Jobs. So far this year, Apple is up 42% and is now worth a whopping $712 billion. Not that it can rest on its laurels: Investors and Apple fans are anxiously awaiting the company’s attempt to re-invent yet another everyday item — the wristwatch. How that fares could help determine whether Apple becomes the first $1 trillion company.

  • Cold: Whole Foods Market

    Customers shop in the produce section of a Whole Foods Market Inc. store in Dublin, Ohio, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014.
    Ty Wright—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Kale isn’t just for hipsters any more. Sales of organic and natural foods are booming, and no company deserves more credit than Whole Foods WHOLE FOODS MARKET INC. WFM -0.78% . But with these once niche products going mainstream — even Walmart carries a line of organic food now — the Austin, Texas-based supermarket chain risks becoming a victim of its own success. Walmart’s sales pitch: It claims to undercut the competition on price by 25% or more. “For a long time Whole Foods had the field to ourselves,” founder and co-chief executive John Mackey told investors in May, according to The Wall Street Journal. “That was nice, but we don’t anymore.” Shares are down 18%.

  • Hot: Facebook

    silhouettes of people using mobiles in front of FAcebook logo
    Dado Ruvic—Reuters

    Honestly, how could Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB -0.72% continue to grow so fast, when everyone you know is already on it? Amazingly that’s just what it managed to do in 2014: The company logged third-quarter revenue of more than $3.2 billion, a 50% jump over the year-ago figure. The secret? Facebook appears to have cracked the code in terms of helping advertisers reach consumers on their smartphones — mobile adds represent about two-thirds of advertising sales. That’s a big deal when fewer and fewer of us are relying just on our desktops. Overall shares are up 40% this year.


MONEY Shopping

Barbie Is No Longer the Most Popular Girl at the Toy Store

Disney Frozen Snow Glow Elsa and Disney Frozen Sparkle Doll
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images

Princesses Elsa and Anna will now share the crown

For the first time in over a decade, Barbie is no longer the most popular girls’ toy of the holiday season, the National Retail Federation reports. This year, that honor will go to the stars of Disney’s blockbuster movie Frozen, princesses Elsa and Anna.

One in five parents say they plan to buy Elsa and Anna merchandise for their daughters, the NRF’s survey found. Just 16.8% plan to buy Barbie dolls.

“It is no surprise that Disney’s Frozen has taken the top seat as children have had it on the mind as far back as Halloween,” saidPam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at Prosper Insights & Analytics.

MORE: The new “normal” Barbie comes with an average woman’s measurements—and optional stretch marks

For decades, critics have suggested that Barbie dolls promote negative body image and sexist stereotypes. Disney’s Frozen, on the other hand, has been praised for its strong female leads.

The latest reason some parents might prefer the Frozen sisters? Controversy over Barbie’s career. In a recent book, Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, Barbie was portrayed as an incompetent worker who needed boys’ help with everything. VP of Barbie’s Global Brand Marketing Lori Pantel told TIME that the book was published in 2010 and that “since that time we have reworked our Barbie books.”

For now, Elsa is queen. Barbie’s just going to have to let it go.


TIME society

Mattel Apologizes for Making Barbie Look Incompetent in Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer


The sexist picture book has been slammed online

One of Barbie’s future careers should be in damage control.

Mattel and Random House found themselves at the center of an online firestorm this week when the Internet lampooned a book called Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer. A more accurate title would be Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer… If the Boys Do All the Work For Me.

Although Amazon lists the book as being published in July 2013, VP of Barbie’s Global Brand Marketing Lori Pantel told TIME that it came was published in 2010 and that “since that time we have reworked our Barbie books.”

On Monday, comedian Pamela Ribbon found the book at a friends house and ripped it to shreds on her blog, inspiring major backlash.

So what did the Twitterverse get in a tizzy about? Although the book’s title would indicate that its fights stereotypes against the tech industry’s gender gap, readers only need only get it to the second page to find out that Barbie is completely incompetent. While she’s capable of conceptualizing a game about a cute robot puppy (gender cliche, but we were ready to go with it — who doesn’t like robot puppies?), Barbie needs boys to actually do the computer programing for her. When Skipper asks if she can see the program, “Barbie says, laughing, ‘I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!'” Silly Skipper and your high expectations!

The rest of the book involves Barbie crashing her computer (duh), passing a virus to Skipper (a pillow fight ensues… I mean, really), ignoring her female computer teacher’s advice on how to fix the virus (because if we’ve learned one thing, it’s that ladies should not be trusted with such things), and finally letting brogrammers come to her rescue. While Steve and Brian seem like nice enough guys, they don’t even teach Barbie what to do on her hot pink laptop.

“The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for,” says Pantel. “We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.”

In case they were in need of inspiration, people have been tweeting funny rewrites of the text so that it actually empowers women.

Barbie has been derided for a lot of things — her anatomically impossible figure, for example — but her career goals seemed on track if not admirable. She has been to space and business school But success involves more than just dressing the part. If you pair a doll with a hot pink laptop, she better know how to use it.

Maybe we should all just stick to GoldieBlox, a toy that teaches and encourages girls to do engineering themselves.

Read next: Watch Little Kids React to a Realistic-Looking Barbie Alternative

TIME Body Image

Watch Little Kids React to a Realistic-Looking Barbie Alternative

"She looks like a regular girl going to school."

The dolls kids are used to playing with are often nipped and tucked to have impossibly big eyes and a ridiculously small waist. So when Nickolay Lamm presented a Pennsylvania class of second graders with his Barbie alternative, his newly created Lammily doll which has the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman (according to CDC data) rather than an anatomically impossible mutant, he didn’t know how they were going to react.

Most of the kids thought the doll, available for purchase Wednesday, looked kind of familiar.

“She looks like my sister!” one girl exclaimed, smiling. “She kind of looks like my aunt Katie,” said another.

“She looks like a regular girl going to school.”

“She looks like she would help someone if they were hurt.”

“She’s not like other dolls… she looks real.”

That reality check didn’t prove to be a bad thing. When presented with a blonde and busty Barbie, the children said that they’d rather have the one who, if real, “would be able to stand.” A very apt observations, considering previous research showing Barbie wouldn’t be able to lift her head fully if she were an actual human.

Of course unrealistic looking dolls are still very popular whether it’s Barbie or the Monster High collection with their mini-skirts and platform-heeled thigh-high boots. In 2012, researchers asked 60 girls, ages six to nine, to choose one of two paper dolls: one dressed in a tight “sexy” outfit and the other wearing a “fashionable” but loose and covered up outfit. Sixty-eight percent of the girls wanted to look like the sexy doll and 72% thought she would be “more popular” than the conservative looking paper doll. That study had a limited sample size, and paper dolls are no match for 3D toys, but the results are an indication of how difficult it is to change cultural trends.

But perhaps after a decade during which dolls have gotten ever more racy, perhaps parents and kids are ready for an appealing alternative to the bug-eyed, wasp-waisted creatures that now populate the girls aisle. At least that’s what Lamm is betting on.

Read more about the Lammily doll — and her strange accessory packs — here.

Read next: Mattel Apologizes for Making Barbie Look Incompetent in Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer

TIME Body Image

The New ‘Normal Barbie’ Comes With an Average Woman’s Proportions — and Cellulite-Sticker Accessories

"I wanted to show that reality is cool," says the creator of the Lammily doll

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 3.57.10 AMIt’s a month before the holidays and you’re grappling with a serious toy buyer’s dilemma: 0n the one hand, you kind of just want to get your kid a Barbie; on the other hand you’d rather not perpetuate the peddling of anatomical ideals that are so impossible to achieve — and impractical. (Were Barbie human, she’d have to walk on all fours because of her tiny feet and because she would only have room for half a liver.)

That’s why graphic designer turned toymaker Nickolay Lamm created the Lammily doll — what the Barbie would look like if she actually had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body (based on CDC data). And brown hair. (She also comes with a sticker-extension pack, complete with cellulite, freckles and acne, but we’ll get to that later.)

What started as an art project in July 2013 became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday. “Parents and their kids were emailing and asking where they could buy the ‘normal Barbie’ — but they didn’t exist,” Lamm, 26, tells TIME. And so he decided to crowdfund his creation, raising $501,000 for his $95,000 target goal. “To be honest, I knew it was either going to bomb or blow up, there was no in between,” Lamm says.

Lamm also created a video that transforms a Lammily doll into a Barbie to really get his point across:

“I wanted to show that reality is cool,” Lamm says. “And a lot of toys make kids go into fantasy, but why don’t they show real life is cool? It’s not perfect, but it’s really all we have. And that’s awesome.”

But real proportions and movement weren’t enough. Before putting the $24.99 dolls on sale — 19,000 dolls are going to backers, but 25,000 more are ready to be shipped before the holidays — Lamm decided to take things a step further.

Enter the $5.99 sticker-extension pack, available in January. Lamm says it took four months to find the proper sticker material, that gives the doll’s face acne, freckles, moles and the ability to blush:


Lamm also decided to include scrapes and bruises. “Some people were like ‘Oh my God,’ as if I’m promoting domestic violence or something,” says Lamm, before assuring TIME that that was far from his intention. “Look, we all get boo boos and scratches. Life isn’t perfect, we all sometimes fall down but we get back up.”


Lamm’s aunt recommended he add scars, he says, “because, you know, some kids have scars and are really shy about them.”


But then there’s the cellulite and the stretch marks:


Unleashing a doll with stretch marks on the Internet is basically asking for trouble. But Lamm insists that it came from a sincere place, and that some people will welcome the option. “Demi Lovato even tweeted about it,” he says:

“You know, people were saying this whole project was a joke from the beginning, so I have no doubt some people will take it as a joke,” Lamm says. “But I hope there are enough people who believe what I believe. I think 25% to 30% will think the stickers are stupid and the rest will think it’s good.”

The Lammily will have other fashion options in January:


“This is the doll people have been waiting for,” Lamm says. Stretch marks and all.

See More: Watch Little Girls React to the Realistic Barbie Alternative

Read next: New GoldieBlox Doll Takes Aim at ‘Barbie’ Beauty Standards

TIME Appreciation

The 13 Most Influential Toys of All Time

As the holiday season approaches, we interviewed toy historians and experts (hello, dream job!) to rank the playthings that made the biggest impact on the toy industry—and the world at large.

  • 13. Cabbage Patch dolls

    Cabbage Patch dolls
    Vince Talotta—Getty Images

    These dolls were the first toys not tied to a popular TV, movie, or comic that “everybody had to have and nobody could find,” says Jim Silver, editor of TimetoPlayMag.com. A December 1983 TIME article described parents knocking over display tables, grabbing, and shoving each other just to get one for their kids. By billing each doll as unique (each one came with adoption papers and a birth certificate), the makers of Cabbage Patch dolls were able to create an urgent sense of demand—a strategy mimicked by Beanie Babies, ZhuZhu pets, and more.


  • 12. Leap Pad


    Introduced in 1999 to help kids master reading, this talking book was the first toy that aimed to make learning fun. “Kids thought they were playing,” says Silver. “And they could do it on their own without their parents.” It also paved the way for VTech’s orange and purple V.Smile, which debuted in 2004 to help preschoolers hone motor skills through a Winnie the Pooh game, as well as countless other educational gaming consoles (including a new launch of its own). But still, “if you go down the learning aisle, LeapFrog and VTech dominate it,” says Silver.

  • 11. Rubik’s Cube 

    Rubik's Cube
    Pat Greenhouse—The Boston Globe/Getty Images

    More than 350 million have been sold worldwide since it was invented 40 years ago in Budapest by architecture professor Erno Rubik, making the cube one of the best-selling puzzles of all time. (There are a maddening 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different ways to twist and turn it.) Today, there are annual tournaments held to reward the fastest solvers, and the Transformers toys have adopted a similar mechanism. “People love play that involves mastery,” says Richard Gottlieb, CEO of Global Toy Experts. “The harder you work at it, the better you get at it.”

  • 10. View-Master

    Steve Russell—Toronto Star/Getty Images

    Invented by Harold Graves, president of Sawyer’s Photographic Services, the stereoscope was unveiled at the 1939 New York World’s Fair as a way to view photos of tourist attractions in 3D and got its big break when it landed a licensing agreement with Disney. Think of it as a precursor to the Internet, says Tim Walsh: “People who couldn’t get to New York City to see the Statue of Liberty could feel like they were standing in front of it.” The old-school device still exists in some form—Mattel’s Fisher-Price makes a version—but its lasting impact is more visible in gadgets like the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

  • 9. Star Wars figurines

    Star Wars
    Darron R. Silva—AP

    Ever wonder why every summer blockbuster seems to come standard with a line of toys? Credit Star Wars‘ 1977 marketing campaign, which encouraged people to buy empty boxes with coupons redeemable for collectible Star Wars-themed toys. That “opened up the collectible category and made collecting cool,” says Silver. Likewise, the popularity of Marvel toys can be traced back to Mego, which helped license action figures for Marvel and Star Trek characters.

  • 8. Doc McStuffins

    Doc McStuffins

    The toy line based on the Disney Junior animated TV star who is doctor to her stuffed animals was the first black figure to become popular among kids of all races, boasting $500 million in sales last year. “This is a big statement about how the world is finally changing,” says Silver, “because it means kids are buying the doll not because of the color of its skin, but because of the character of the person.”

  • 7. Super Soaker

    Super Soaker
    John Blazemore—AP

    This pump-action water gun literally blew its competition out of the water, so to speak. Before NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson invented and licensed it to the Larami Corporation (later acquired by Hasbro) in 1989, “water pistols were cheap throwaway toys that you gave to somebody at a birthday party,” says Tim Walsh, author of Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. “The Super Soaker changed the summer toy aisle, so now there’s an aisle of Super Soaker-esque water pistols that shoot 30-50 feet of water into the air.”

  • 6. Easy Bake Oven

    Easy Bake Oven

    Cooked up in 1963 by Kenner Products (now part of Hasbro), it was the first toy that allowed kids to make edible food, a brand new category of play. Now stores feature devices that make s’mores, sno cones, cotton candy, cupcakes, and most recently, cake pops.

  • 5. Chatty Cathy

    “The fact that dolls talk started with Chatty Cathy,” says Silver. She was the first portable, interactive doll that said things like “Let’s play house” or “I love you” when children pulled her drawstring. Mattel made it from 1959 to the mid-1960s, paving the way for the 1986 launch of Teddy Ruxpin, the first interactive stuffed animal or plush toy—kids inserted a cassette tape in its back, and it would talk—and mega-popular talking plushes like Furby, Tickle Me Elmo and Hasbro FurReal Friends.

  • 4. Nerf Bow and Arrow

    Nerf Bow and Arrow
    Mark Lennihan—AP

    The NERF “Bow ‘N’ Arrow” launched the toy blaster market when it was introduced in 1991. “Up until the 1980s, NERF had always been the hoop and basketball, so the bow and arrow changed NERF’s entire brand to where it is today, which is more of a blaster with foam darts,” says Silver. Today, the brand (owned by Kenner Products and now Hasbro) counts on the popularity of The Hunger Games’s bow-hunting heroine Katniss Everdeen to sell blasters, especially to girls, while its influence market-wide can be seen in the emergence of Zing Toys, a line of foam darts and slingshots, and the “secret” line of blasters Mattel revealed in April that are designed to fire more accurately than NERF ones.

  • 3. G.I. Joe

    G.I. Joe
    William A. Rice—MCT/Getty Images

    No one thought boys would play with a doll—until Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe in the middle of the Cold War as an “action figure” named after Government-Issued Joe, the World War II nickname for regular soldiers. “He’s an everyman, but he’s a hero—a singular individual who gets things done,” says Patricia Hogan, curator at the Strong Museum of Play. Joe paved the way for other action figures, specifically spies like the female private detective Honey West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as people were fixated on espionage during the Cold War. But his most enduring impact may be his bendable frame. “You couldn’t bend Barbie’s knees or her elbows—she just sort of stood there while you explained what she was doing,” Hogan says. “But a kid could pose G.I. Joe doing almost anything. There were a lot of action figures that came out after Joe that didn’t have that kind of articulation, and they did not sell nearly as well.”

  • 2. Barbie

    Stan Honda—AFP/Getty Images

    Sales may have dropped recently, but Mattel still claims a Barbie doll is sold every three seconds, which would make the billion-dollar brand the world’s most popular doll for girls. And she’s a pretty good role model, having held more than 150 careers—including doctor, scientist and lawyer—since her debut in 1959, and always keeping an active lifestyle. “Barbie was the first incarnation of the adult version of a doll that would allow girls to envision, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ besides a mom,” says Walsh. She also embraced cultural diversity before many Americans did. Barbie’s first African-American friend debuted in 1968, and the first African-American version of herself debuted in 1980. “She has staying power because she’s changed and grown with the times,” says Hogan. And she has even surged ahead of them: Barbie has, after all, become President of the United States.

  • 1. LEGO

    Kazuhiro Nogi—AFP/Getty Images

    Never mind that LEGO is the world’s biggest toy company—bringing in $2.3 billion in the first half of 2014 compared to Mattel’s $2 billion—and that it has spawned action-figures, TV shows, a fan conference and, most recently, a hit film. Since its debut in 1958, LEGO has also redefined the potential of playthings, allowing kids to build permanent structures from scratch, in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and “take them anywhere they want,” says Silver. That has had a massive impact on the toy and gaming industry—Minecraft was born from its creator’s experience playing with LEGO—and especially its younger players. As Walsh puts it: “I hear more stories about people who have become architects and engineers because they had a love for building with LEGOs” than I have heard people say, ‘I became a lawyer because I had a lawyer Barbie.'”

MONEY Shopping

Why Barbie Is Stuck on the Shelf

Mattel's iconic Barbie doll is in a sales slump as kids increasingly look to electronics and other toys to occupy their time.


Lego Is Now The Largest Toy Company In The World

After the success of 'The Lego Movie,' the company plans to double down on using motion pictures to drive sales.

After stacking on another six months of rapid growth, Lego is now the largest toy company on the planet.

The Danish block-maker on Thursday announced that revenues increased 11% in the first half of 2014. Total sales hit $2.03 billion, narrowly beating out Mattel’s $2 billion in revenue over the same period.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Mattel missed expectations earlier this year as interest in its flagship Barbie doll waned. In contrast, Lego earnings have soared on the strength of products related to its wildly popular movie. The film, released in February, received rave reviews and spurred new interest in the company’s products.

In a press release announcing earnings, Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp said he wasn’t sure how long the movie’s line of toys will continue their momentum. But, as the Journal points out, the company has doubled down on using motion pictures to drive sales. A movie based on Lego’s Ninjago line of ninja-themed toys is planned for 2015, and The Lego Movie 2 is scheduled for a 2017 release.

While success at the box office has surely helped spur Lego sales, the block-maker’s earnings should come as no surprise considering its other recent victories.

As MONEY’s Brad Tuttle previously reported, Lego is experiencing strong growth in China, and Knudstorp is on record as predicting his company would quadruple its revenue in less than a decade. This comes during a time when competitors like Mattel have struggled to keep up sales. Even Lego Friends, a girl-focused line of toys that was widely panned for promoting stereotypes, has been a smash hit, with sales to girls tripling in the wake of its release.

Looking forward, Lego plans to continue its growth by turning multicolored building blocks into a global icon. “We have been investing and we will continue to invest significant resources in further globalising the company,” said Knudstorp. “Ultimately this is what will ensure the future success of the Lego Group.”

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