Here we have a detailed history of the rivarly between Hasbro and Mattel, with speculations on Equestria Girls' nature as competition to Monster High, by FIMBronystories of Reddit. Check it out below the break!
Since Equestria Girls premiers in theaters this month, I thought I'd take some time to research what brought us to this point.
In order to understand Equestria Girls, you need to understand the rivalry between Hasbro and Mattel.
In 1923, three brothers, Henry, Hilal, and Herman Hassenfeld, founded Hassenfeld Brothers, in Providence, Rhode Island. The company, which would later come to be known as Hasbro, started out by selling pencil cases and other school supplies. In the 1940s, the company gradually-shifted towards toy manufacturing. Their first big success came in 1952, with the release of Mr. Potato Head.
It's worth noting that Mr. Potato Head was the first toy commercial on television. Before Mr. Potato Head, commercials were exclusively targeted towards adults. Hasbro was the first company to use television as a means of marketing directly to children.
Hasbro turns 90 this year. Since their founding, they've been responsible for some of the most iconic toys and games on the market today, including Monopoly, Transformers and My Little Pony.
Which brings us to their rival, Mattel. As hard as it may be to believe, Hasbro is the underdog in this story.
Mattel was founded in 1945 by Harold "Matt" Matson and Elliot Handler. After the release of the Barbie doll in 1959, Mattel revolutionized the toy industry with its talking dolls and toys. Major successes in the 1960s with the talking Chatty Cathy doll in 1960 and See 'N Say toys in 1965 moved Mattel to its position as the number one toymaker in America.
In the mid-1980s, the success of My Little Pony and Transformers helped Hasbro to move past Mattel and become the world's largest toy company. In 1994, Mattel purchased Fisher-Price and retook the top spot in the toy industry, which it still holds as of this writing.
Mattel attempted to buy Hasbro in 1996 for $5.2 billion. Mattel wanted to purchase their main rival in order to create a super company that would dwarf the competition. This offer was quickly withdrawn, after Hasbro made it clear that they had no intention of selling.
Mattel boasts several popular brands which have stood the test of time, including Hot Wheels, American Girl and Barbie.
Lauren Faust recently spoke out on Mattel's American Girl doll line, saying that it had been "homogenized for money."
The article Faust referenced showed how the American Girl brand has changed over the years.
American Girl used to cover controversial topics from American history. The initial focus of the brand was on the historical characters, starting with the original three from 1986—Scandinavian farmsteader Kirsten, Victorian aristocrat Samantha, and World War II patriot Molly—who were soon joined by Felicity, a tomboy from colonial days, and Addie, who bravely escapes from slavery on the eve of the Civil War. Each doll came with their own storybook, in which they had to overcome complex issues like slavery, child labor, the Great Depression or World War II.
American Girl underwent an incremental but noticeable shift after their acquisition by Mattel in 1998. In 2008, the historical dolls that were previously considered core to the brand were "archived," which is a nice way of saying retired. American Girl became focused on more trivial issues of modern day. Instead of the characters contemplating the moral implications of manifest destiny, this new line of American Girl dolls would hold bake sales to help save their school's music program. In an effort to make the dolls more modern and relatable, Mattel removed what made the American Girl toy line unique.
So that brings us to today. Two toy titans slugging it out for our hard-earned dollars. In the one corner, you have Hasbro, with Transformers, Monopoly and My Little Pony. In the other corner, you have Mattel, with Hot Wheels, Monster High and Barbie.
The question is, which company is better poised financially? While Mattel's Barbie and Cars 2 toys have seen a slight decline in sales since last year, some of their other brands are going stronger than ever. The aforementioned American Girl doll line saw an increase in sales of 32% since last year, garnering $100.5 million. Monster High helped boost sales of Mattel's total girls' brand category by 56%. Monster High dolls are the second most popular doll line in Mattel's portfolio, after Barbie.
Mattel appears to be in a stronger position than Hasbro, due to the popularity of Mattel's Barbie, Monster High and American Girl doll lines. Hasbro's strength has always been with action figures like G.I. Joe and Transformers, or board games like Battleship and Monopoly. In fiscal 2012, Hasbro's largest division, its boys segment, saw a decline of 13%, bringing it to $1.6 billion. In contrast, the sales of Hasbro's girls segment rose 7% in 2012, to $792.3 million.
The information from Hasbro and Mattel indicates a long-term trend. Boys are abandoning traditional toys, as evidenced by declining sales of both Mattel and Hasbro’s boys’ products. Boys are now generally more interested in video games. Both companies are trying to adapt to the changing market by making digital-versions of their popular board games.
In contrast to the declining sales of action figures, girls' dolls are on the rise. Considering that Hasbro’s strongest growth segment last year was its girls’ segment, it stands to reason that it would try to pursue a similar strategy to Mattel, by boosting its offerings of dolls and other toys for girls. However, if this is to succeed, Hasbro must find a hit girls’ product line like Mattel’s Barbie or Monster High dolls.
Which brings us to Equestria Girls.
Hasbro would love to take some of the market share away from Barbie, but that doesn't appear to be Equestria Girls' main focus. With their colorful skins, animal ears and huge heads, Equestria Girls seem designed to give the Monster High dolls some stiff competition. (Forgive the pun.)
Monster High is a highschool drama with classic monsters.
In later iterations, the tone of Monster High shifts to some weird X-Men knockoff, where all the monsters exhibit super powers and are persecuted by regular humans, called "Normies."
Equestria Girls is hoping to tap into the market for Monster High, by being a more mainstream and less creepy alternative to Mattel's line of dolls.
Mattel seems to be one step ahead of Hasbro, though. It was recently revealed that Mattel is making their own "more mainstream and less creepy" spinoff series of Monster High called "Ever After High."
It's trying to be a more "Disneyfied" version of Monster High. Instead of edgy dolls based on monsters, the dolls of Ever After High are based on familiar fairy tale characters.
What's really funny is that many of the fans of Monster High aren't happy with this spin off.
Sound a little familiar?
I now have more sympathy towards Monster High. It seems like Hasbro and Mattel are distorting their popular brands in the interest of beating the competition to the next big thing.
It's like today's toy market is the Roman coliseum. Mattel and Hasbro send their respective gladiators out to fight, while augmenting their warrior's armor in an attempt to garner favor with the crowd. In spite of feeling betrayed, I believe that beneath the humanized shell of Equestria Girls beats the heart of Friendship is Magic. My Little Pony has been chosen as Hasbro's champion to fight against the superior odds of Mattel. At first, I was confused by the decision to make Equestria Girls, but in light what's happening in the toy industry right now, it makes sense. Hasbro has faith in the My Little Pony brand. Why else would they choose Twilight Sparkle to be the face of their new line of girls dolls?
Those who disparage Equestria Girls are looking at the situation all wrong. Don't think of it as Hasbro whoring out MLP to make a quick buck. Equestria Girls follows the mantra of "ponify all the things."
Can we all agree that ponies makes everything better? I watched some episodes of Monster High. They weren't very good. It made me appreciate how much effort seems to have gone into Equestria Girls. This movie appears to be fusing girly highschool "drama" with the heart of Friendship is Magic.
Do I think Equestria Girls will be as good as Friendship is Magic? No, but let's try looking at it from another perspective.
What did Friendship is Magic do? It elevated a whole genre of children's entertainment. Suddenly, "programs for girls" were no longer synonymous for "programs that suck." My Little Pony changed that.
Now, the same creative team aims to do something similar with another maligned genre: The highschool drama.
Much like what Friendship is Magic did for shows targeted towards young girls, I believe that Equestria Girls will elevate the mediocre genre of highschool drama into something new and wonderful.
TL:DR Mattel owns Barbie, Monster High and American Girl. Hasbro wants their own line of dolls, so we're stuck with Equestria Girls. My hope is that the humanized versions of MLP are able to revitalize the stagnant genre of Highschool drama. Hopefully, this new series will cause people to change their perspectives, in a similar fashion to how Friendship is Magic redefined what cartoon shows for little girls could be.