Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse began in 2012 and was cancelled abruptly in October 2015. Why did this happen? Let’s explore.
I believe one of the key reasons the series ended was it no longer aligned with Mattel’s vision for the future of the brand. I was going through a company presentation from 2014 (as you do), and there was one slide that particularly interested me.
I’m sure we all remember these campaigns! We have:
- ‘See what happens when you play with Barbie,’ which featured on a lot of television advertising, encouraging girls to use their imagination when playing with dolls.
- The ‘Barbie is moving’ promotion, which introduced the new Dreamhouse toy. There were lots of events around the United States.
- The #unapologetic movement, following Barbie on the cover of Sports Illustrated cover.
- The Fifth Harmony ‘Anything is Possible’ music video, which was used as a promotional tool, and on television advertising.
- Barbie and the Secret Door (film).
- Barbie in the Pink Shoes (film).
- And of course, the web series Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse.
A few slides later, the Mattel’s plan for 2015 is unearthed. Firstly, we have the “Be Super” campaign. This one was really big! There was a comic book series on YouTube (in my opinion, this was not at all interesting), and lots of other advertising surrounding ways you can “Be Super,” like standing up for others, or being kind to the environment.
Personally, this reminded me a lot of the 2012 “I Can Be… President” campaign a few years earlier. Anyway, the whole “Be Super” thing was just to promote the new film Barbie in Princess Power.
The next campaign was for the new diverse line of Fashionistas, the beginning of The Doll Evolves line. There was a stop-motion video on YouTube to promote the dolls, as well as many news articles and a hefty amount of social media posts.
Then we have the final element for 2015, the “Superstar” part. This was to promote the Barbie: Rock ‘n Royals film.
An early promotional image for the film.
With this film, we saw the arrival of a new app for iPhone and iPad, and lots of posts on social media. There were lots of videos on YouTube encouraging children to “raise their voice,” and a really cool music video.
But what about Life in the Dreamhouse?
Unfortunately, Life in the Dreamhouse was not mentioned in this presentation, so we can assume that when “The Great Rebranding of 2015 / 2016” hit, Life in the Dreamhouse did not make the cut.
Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse might be a funny show full of unique characters and inside jokes about the brand, but at the end of the day, it’s everything that Mattel is trying to move away from. In the series, Barbie is depicted as a fashion-loving, do-everything-perfect doll whose greatest accomplishments are “having a big, pink wardrobe” and “having lots of careers.”
As mentioned in the 2014 presentation, there were a lot of mixed messages about Barbie, as a character. It was creating too much brand confusion.
If you ask me, the reason why Life in the Dreamhouse was not renewed after October 2015 is frankly, this version of “Barbie” simply does not fit in with the Mattel’s new and improved image of “Barbie.”
In comparison, the “Barbie” that is depicted in the vlogs and in Barbie: Dreamhouse Adventures aligns better with the current brand image.
In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Mattel shows Barbie living an over-the-top doll life, with a bathtub as big as a pool, a huge mansion and a personal robot closet organiser. The show made jokes about unarticulated fingers and sand in the doll’s joints.
In comparison, Barbie: Dreamhouse Adventures downplays Barbie’s achievements -it shows her living “a regular life,” as a “human” (not as a doll). This version of Barbie isn’t a “doll with 120+ careers,” she’s just a sister, a friend, a neighbour. She’s still the same blonde icon we know and love, but now she’s much more relatable.
Am I sad that Life in the Dreamhouse is over?
Sure am. I think it was a really good, funny series, and I felt as though every single episode was entertaining. I loved the references to Barbie’s history, and I loved how fleshed-out the characters were. With at least one million views on every episode (plus more, if you include the videos that were reposted on different accounts), I’m sure it made Mattel lots and lots of money!
However, after seven seasons, we all knew the show had to end sometime or another.
Do you think “Mattel wants to change the brand image” was the reason behind the show ending? Or do you think it was something else?
Also -if anybody wants to go through the brand presentations (they are super interesting!) here is the link: