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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

MATTEL = Toy Monster ?

Five Questions for Jerry Oppenheimer, author of Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel

Mattel is a beloved and iconic toy company – what first inspired you to write an expose of the “secret side” of the company?

All of my previous books have been about iconic people and dynasties – The Kennedys, Clintons, Hiltons, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, Jerry Seinfeld. But for my ninth book I decided to write about an iconic institution, one that was a household name whose products had a profound impact on generations. Mattel fit the profile – especially since it was in the headlines for the massive toy recalls in 2007, and with the iconic Barbie doll’s 50th anniversary looming this year.

How did you gather all the information that you discuss in the book?

I gathered everything that was in the public record about Mattel, going back to its earliest days to the present, more than 60 years worth. That kind of organization is important for a biography such as the one I planned to write about Mattel. Then I began doing the legwork, tracking down former and present Mattel employees and executives, and interviewing them on the record about their experiences at Mattel, about the company’s corporate culture, and cast of characters. Then came the immense job of organizing all of that material and research and writing what I hope readers will enjoy and from which they will learn.

What was the most shocking revelation you uncovered in the course of writing Toy Monster?

There were many jaw-droppers and shockers that surfaced during my research. One especially was the vicious feud between Jack Ryan, the Father of Barbie, and Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, over who conceived and developed the company’s best-known and biggest-selling toy, Barbie.

The book reveals many little-known facts about the company history of Mattel and the odd corporate culture. What, in your opinion, is the most misconstrued assumption in popular opinion that you address in Toy Monster?

During the course of my research, I discovered that Jack Ryan was the key person to bring Barbie in to the world, but that Handler, after Ryan’s death, dismissed and denigrated his major contributions, taking all credit for the iconic doll. After Ryan committed suicide, Handler wrote an autobiography and etched her story in stone that Barbie was all her idea from start to finish, and that myth has since been perpetuated. For the first time Toy Monster gives Ryan’s side of the previous untold story, and flips the birth of Barbie 180 degrees.

What’s the one thing you’d like readers to take away after reading Toy Monster?

Don’t be fooled by those wonderful playthings. Behind the scenes the big business of toys is a highly competitive battleground, and is far from fun and games.

Source : Amazon.Com

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