My son likes to watch kids’ shows on TV, which means I have to watch kids’ shows on TV. I’ve had plenty of time to form opinions on these shows, and now you get to read them. Today: Thomas & Friends.
I like the idea of Thomas & Friends. I dig trains and I’m a bit of an Anglophile. I also enjoy reading the books to my son. But the show in its current format is frustratingly formulaic, even for a program aimed at young children. My main issue has to do with the storylines. The basic plot of every latter-day Thomas & Friends episode I’ve ever seen boils down to this:
The Sunday New York Times published an article describing how Doc McStuffins was a financially successful “crossover” toy – popular equally with minority children and non-Hispanic white children. The article talked about how “minority” children make up just over 50% of children in this country, and this growing demographic is influencing the sale of merchandise on a wide scale.
It wasn’t always like that. African American children had their dolls, white kids had their dolls, and never the twain shall meet.
I remember when Christie was introduced as the first African American Barbie doll. Christie was actually the second in the line of minority Barbie dolls, as a year prior, Mattel manufactured Colored Francie (yep, you read that right). The problem with Colored Francie is that she was basically tan Francie (Jersey Shore spray tan color), complete with top knot pony tail and slightly darkened Caucasian features. But I digress. None of my white friends had Christie dolls. I was about five when she came out, fully into Barbies, Barbie cases, Barbie houses – the whole ordeal. But I didn’t have a Christie doll. Because she was African American.
Mattel, long king of the toy aisle, has dethroned its CEO Bryan Stockton just a few months after it was reported that the maker of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars is no longer the world’s leading toy maker.
That honor now belongs to Lego Group, the Danish-based maker of plastic bricks, which last year became the world’s biggest toymaker by sales, knocking Barbie-maker Mattel off its perch thanks to the huge success of “Lego: The Movie.”
Mattel has struggled lately as its iconic Barbie doll has fallen out of favor with young girls, who prefer electronic today and dolls based on Disney’s hit animated movie “Frozen.” In defenestrating its CEO Monday, the toymaker named former PepsiCo executive Christopher Sinclair chairman and interim CEO, and took the opportunity to warn sales fell 6% in the holiday quarter.