Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel

Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel

4.3 9
by Jerry Oppenheimer
     
 

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From Boise to Beijing, Mattel's toys dominate the universe. Itsno-fun-and-games marketing muscle reaches some 140 countries, andits iconic products—Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Chatty Cathy, toname a few—have been a part of our culture for generations.

Now, in this intriguing and entertaining exposé, NewYork Times bestselling author Jerry

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Overview

From Boise to Beijing, Mattel's toys dominate the universe. Itsno-fun-and-games marketing muscle reaches some 140 countries, andits iconic products—Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Chatty Cathy, toname a few—have been a part of our culture for generations.

Now, in this intriguing and entertaining exposé, NewYork Times bestselling author Jerry Oppenheimer places theworld's largest toy company under a journalistic microscope,uncovering the dark side of toy land, and exploring Mattel'soddball corporate culture and eccentric, often bizarre, cast ofcharacters.

Based on exclusive interviews and an exhaustive review of publicand private records, Toy Monster exposes Mattel'stake-no-prisoners, shark-infested corporate style. Throughout thisscrupulously reported, unauthorized portrait, you'll discover howdangerous toys are actually nothing new to Mattel, and why itsfearsomely litigious approach within the brutal toy business hashelped their products dominate over potential rivals such asBratz.

But this is only part of the story. Along the way, you'll alsobecome familiar with the larger-than-life personalities who haveshaped Mattel's eccentric world. There's cofounder Ruth Handler, a"one-woman sales-merchandising-promotion-administrative force, asort of industrial Orson Welles," who becomes a white-collarcriminal. There's Jack Ryan, the "Father of Barbie," whose secondof five wives calls him "a full-blown seventies-style swinger intowife-swapping and sundry sexual pursuits as a way of life." Anddon't forget CEO Robert Eckert, who came from the worlds ofprocessed cheese and hot dogs to lead Mattel—only to getgrilled by the U.S. Congress, and the world press, in thelead-paint-and-dangerous-magnets cause célèbre.

The phenomenal Barbie brand's 50th anniversary arrives in 2009,hot on the heels of the China Toy Terror recall scandal that hastarnished Mattel's image in the hearts and minds of millions ofpeople worldwide. Toy Monster takes you inside the manyscandals that have been a part of this company, and shows you whytoday's toy business isn't always fun and games.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jerry Oppenheimer, best known for mordant biographies like "Just Desserts" (about Martha Stewart) or "State of a Union" (on Bill and Hillary Clinton's marriage), has now trained his sights on the world's biggest toy company — its egos, scandals and flawed products. In his toyland, nothing is cute." (The Wall Street Journal)

Oppenheimer (Just Desserts) takes a tour of Mattel’s seamier side, highlighting its dubious corporate practices and kooky cast in this scathing portrait to be published to coincide with Barbie’s 50th anniversary. Drawing on personal interviews and public sources, Oppenheimer paints a bleak picture of the peculiar practices of the adults running the toy company—including the “playboy” Jack Ryan, known as the “Father of Barbie” and rumored to be sexually obsessed with his creation, and Mattel cofounder and white-collar criminal Ruth Handler, who took credit for Barbie’s invention. The author chronicles the “Doll Wars”—the fierce competition and eventual litigation between Mattel and the creators of the rival Bratz line, as well as 2007’s “Black Friday the 13th,” when potentially deadly magnets and lead paint in the company’s most popular toys led to two massive recalls. Executive scapegoats and backpedaling resulted in public lashing from the media and intense public mistrust. Fast-paced and engaging, this exposé will absorb readers until the last page and will forever change the way they think about the company. (Mar.) (Publishers Weekly, January 26, 2009)

Publishers Weekly

Oppenheimer (Just Desserts) takes a tour of Mattel's seamier side, highlighting its dubious corporate practices and kooky cast in this scathing portrait to be published to coincide with Barbie's 50th anniversary. Drawing on personal interviews and public sources, Oppenheimer paints a bleak picture of the peculiar practices of the adults running the toy company-including the "playboy" Jack Ryan, known as the "Father of Barbie" and rumored to be sexually obsessed with his creation, and Mattel cofounder and white-collar criminal Ruth Handler, who took credit for Barbie's invention. The author chronicles the "Doll Wars"-the fierce competition and eventual litigation between Mattel and the creators of the rival Bratz line, as well as 2007's "Black Friday the 13th," when potentially deadly magnets and lead paint in the company's most popular toys led to two massive recalls. Executive scapegoats and backpedaling resulted in public lashing from the media and intense public mistrust. Fast-paced and engaging, this exposé will absorb readers until the last page and will forever change the way they think about the company. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Journalist and pop biographer Oppenheimer (e.g., Front Row; Anna Wintour) here covers the more sensational side of the toy industry with this unauthorized company history of Mattel. He begins by focusing on Jack Ryan, who was hired by Mattel for research and development and who claimed to be the "Father of Barbie." Much is made of Ryan's sexual peccadilloes, including requiring his wives and girlfriends to hew as closely to Barbie's physical characteristics as possible, going so far as encouraging them to have plastic surgery and take diet pills. The book continues through the history of Mattel, including the rise and fall of Jill Barad (CEO from 1996 to 2000) and her replacement by Robert Eckert, former Kraft CEO. It also outlines the changing marketplace, including the creation of the He-Man action figure, the uproar caused by the emergence of the competing Bratz dolls, and the recent liability suits brought by parents of children tragically injured or killed through lead paint and tiny magnets in Mattel products. Marking the dark side behind the decline of yet another iconic American company, this is a tabloid-style book covering tabloid topics. Purchase only where there is interest.
—Susan Hurst

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470371268
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
02/24/2009
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,468,232
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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