Barbie has long been considered the gold standard of dolls in the toy industry, but in 2001, the debut of Bratz dolls by MGA Entertainment created a true competitor for Mattel, the maker of Barbies.
Following in Barbie's footsteps, the Bratz line includes much more than just the dolls alone—it also includes playsets, outfits, a clothing line for girls, DVDs, video games, movies, and a 2015 stop-motion web series, to name a few. Over the years, the dolls have earned several toy industry awards, including Character Brand License of the Year from Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association (LIMA), as well as several Toy of the Year and other awards from Family Fun and the Toy Industry Association (TIA).
Original Bratz Characters
The original Bratz line featured four multi-ethnic dolls: Cloe, Sasha, Jade, and Yasmin, all of which have rooted hair that can be combed for play value. The dolls featured over-sized heads, resembling some of the big-headed, big-eyed dolls of the 1960s. The dolls are also known for having detailed accessories and playsets, reflecting a cool (and somewhat materialistic) lifestyle. Playsets depicting discos, karaoke, and sushi bars, salons and spas, limousines, retro cafes, and malls are all available.
Bratz dolls are 10 inches tall but have a "chunkier" feel than Barbie dolls, which are 11.5 inches. Pocket-sized "Lil' Bratz" dolls debuted in 2002. A new set of dolls that included the original four, plus the addition of Raya, launched in 2015.
Bratz dolls are made of two types of vinyl: hard vinyl for the head and body with softer, bendable vinyl for the arms and legs. Bratz dolls also have a unique feature that when you change their shoes, you actually change their feet, as the shoes and feet pop off as one. This obviously isn't very realistic, but it is fun for play and it does solve the problem of tiny doll shoes being lost and vacuumed up all over the house.
Following the success of the original Bratz dolls, two spin-off doll lines debuted. Bratz Babyz featured the original characters as babies, and Bratz Kidz resized the dolls to 6 inches tall. However, the Babyz line was criticized by parents for being overly sexualized. The Big Babyz line specifically came under fire for coming with a garment that strongly resembled a thong, which the company maintained was meant to keep the dolls skirts from riding up.
Bratz Boyz Kids were produced in 2007 with four dolls. The Be-Bratz line in 2007 included a USB key to use to give the doll an online social profile and to play online games. The Bratzillaz witch-like Bratz was introduced in 2012.
The producer of Barbie dolls, Mattel, and MGA Entertainment were involved in lawsuits for over a decade as to whether Bratz creator Carter Bryant was working for Mattel when he developed Bratz. After an initial 2008 ruling that awarded the Bratz franchise to Mattel, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 2010.
Bratz dolls are somewhat controversial because of their heavy makeup, perceived attitude, and skimpy outfits. The American Psychological Association raised concerns in 2007 about the influence Bratz dolls, among others, might have on the body image and over-sexualization of young girls. The brand has gone through a lot of production halts, relaunches, and rebranding in the 2010s. The change in the body style of the dolls in 2013 resulted in a significant drop in sales. The line ceased production in 2016 due to low sales.