Mattel’s new “Video Girl” enthusiastically embraced by UCLA Film School – in its first annual Barbie Film Festival
This is a story about a great marketing idea and the completely unexpected ways it can go viral. More on that in a moment, but first a little background:
Mattel recently launched the new “Barbie Video Girl” doll targeted for girls ages 6 – 10. A toy designed for girls to tell stories through Barbie’s eyes — uh, rather, chest. At least that’s where you’ll find the miniature lens and all the necessary recording tools in the iconic bombshell.
Check out Barbie’s “specs” to the left. Mattel designers cleverly conceal a digital camera inside her necklace — and an LCD video screen on her back (above) that allows a little moviemaker to record and view movies instantly. The doll includes a USB plug-in cord, and is Windows-and Mac-compatible. Her batteries are built into her sleek supermodel thighs.
According to the Director of Marketing for Barbie, Rosie O’Neill, the idea emerged out of a brainstorm session where Mattel’s most creative minds “mashed two ideas together” — just because. They had also noticed on YouTube, that there were countless examples of “Barbie at play” videos, and Mattel needed to ask “how can we enhance their storytelling?” The company’s Product Design and Engineering teams made it happen. “Video Girl” was born. Bottom line, says O’Neill — “Video Girl is a fun tool to inspire girls to become filmmakers.”
Apparently the plan worked. Girls as young as 6 are entering their own short films in a Barbie video contest on line, and learning to edit their films on downloadable Barbie software.
Here’s where the unexpected part comes in. Amused by the new product, a visual artist named Brandon Bloch posts on YouTube a tongue-in-cheek review, comparing the high-end Canon 7D digital SLR (retail price $1800.00) with the high-concept Barbie Cam (retail price $50.00). That caught the eye of UCLA Professor/cinematographer Tom Denove, who also vice chairs the Department of Film, TV, and Digital Media at the school. His reaction was simple “Let’s get Barbie Cams for our students and staff.”
Tom bolted over to the nearest toy store to evaluate the merchandise. Would the camera really work? Could his students make decent short films with a Barbie Doll? He began to “inspect” the doll’s parts in the store, and had to field questions from onlookers. “It was weird” said DeNove — “I had to shout back — It’s okay, I’m a cameraman!” He tested the camera, and it worked. While he said the resolution wasn’t great, it would be an important lesson for his young directors to learn — “It’s not about the equipment. It’s what you do with the story.” He then called Mattel to see if the the company would sponsor his idea for a Barbie Film Festival. Mattel jumped on board — and agreed there would be no censoring of content.
The task was simple: Students had one week to produce and direct their 2-minute films on any subject they wanted — but they had to be shot with a Barbie cam. Typically, with a fast assignment like this, “they stress out.” But with “Video Girl,” he said, “they were totally into it.” The affable prof said he sensed that the task “brought out the kid in all of them.”
The films covered all the genres…horror, comedy, animation, and “Barbie Noir.”
I saw all 31 entries. They were refreshingly good. I never know what awaits me in the theater –especially when the event is billed as “The First Annual” anything. But Barbie pulled through. Doesn’t she look proud sitting in the seat across from me? (Pic #4). To her left there, is Scottie Bookman, who directed her in a short called “A Barbie For All Of Us” — which won the festival’s “Barbie Bruin Spirit Award” that night.
Check out the festival’s Best Comedy — “Audition For Barbie” — directed by MFA Director/Cinematographer Judy Phu. It’s a slice of everyday Hollywood casting, where this time, the auditioning actor (Justin Wescoat Sanders) is asked to play a scene opposite an actress who comes off — “a little plastic.”
Click here to view clips from the UCLA Barbie Film Festival shorts.
This just in: Mattel Inc. reported its quarterly global sales of Barbie products UP 14 %. This is the first time the Barbie brand has had double-digit sales growth in the first quarter since 1997.