Barbie has lived in Malibu since the 1971 introduction of Malibu Barbie. But now she has made a bold move, from the sun and sand of California to 25,000 square foot Berlin townhouse.
Of course, the bold move is really by Mattel, owners of the Barbie brand. The Malibu mansion was listed with real estate website Trulia for $25m and a member of a real estate realty show’s cast has been hired by Barbie to handle the listing. Since Barbie retains the number one position for dolls, companies and brands were eager to collaborate with Mattel’s stunt. Not only was it a bold, creative marketing move, but you have to admire the chutzpah required to put a $25m tag on a one-room house with a wall missing.
But the Berlin Barbie Dreamhouse is entirely real, at least in the sense that it will occupy 25,000 square feet of Berlin real estate. The multi-storey mansion, bright pink throughout, is expected to open in March.
According to promotional material ‘dreams will come true’ – ‘You want to be a model or a pop star, we will show you how.’
Visitors will have the opportunity to make customised digital cupcakes in Barbie’s kitchen, visit Barbie’s walk-in closet and digitally try on clothes, check out the enormous four-poster and parade in a Barbie fashion pageant. Each room will feature themed activities.
The Barbie Dreamhouse is intended to cement Barbie’s place in the doll firmament. When she was created in 1959, Barbara Millicent Roberts was modelled on a German doll, Lili, whom her creator had seen while on holiday. She swiftly acquired a dominant position in the doll market. Fifty years on, 90% of girls between three and ten years old own a Barbie, but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. ‘There are so many toys for girls today, and the Dreamhouse is about bringing Barbie to life,’ said Sarah Allen, a spokeswoman for Mattel in the UK. ‘We’re constantly trying to reconnect.’
In 2009, Barbie’s 50th birthday celebrations saw a lifesize recreation of one room, in California, but the Dreamhouse is on a different scale from that.
And the Barbie brand faces stiff competition from rival dolls Bratz €“ literally; prior to 2013 Bratz dolls had no arm joints. In 2013 Bratz owner MGA Entertainment will attempt to build up the 40% market share of Bratz by increasing their height to match Barbie’s. There may be records, movies and spin-offs, but as yet there is no Bratz house. Barbie is the queen of plastic real estate.
The event agency behind the house itself is EMS Entertainment, whose Christopher Rahoffer told Das Spiegel that ‘we want to allow fans to spend an entire day in the fantasy life of their icon.’ It’s likely that the house will go on tour, spending time at other German destinations, but EMS are ‘very pleased that we have the Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin for the first worldwide opening,’ according to company director Thomas Ladicke.
The news follows on the heels of other Barbie promotional stunts. Not only has Barbie sold her Malibu home to move to Berlin, but she’s added to her portfolio of careers by trying out in Silicon Valley, and Mattel announced in December that Barbie would be taking those nails to construction sites in the near future as she takes up the building trade.
Barbie is expected to take a hands-off approach to the construction of the Dreamhouse, which is planned for one of three areas in Berlin with no final decision yet. It’s possible that it will be built on the site of the old Berlin Zoo ferris wheel.