How Mattel Ruined the Diana Doll


For two years prior to 1997 , Jill Barad and her top marketing people have pushed unsuccessfully to get authorization from Diana her self. To grant Mattel permission to produce a beautiful doll in the Princess’s image . For the Barbie collector line. She refused to be associated with Barbie or commercially exploited as doll. After her death in 1997 Mattel considered producing an unauthorized  doll. How ever The Franklin Mint beat them to the punch by rushing two unlicensed Diana dolls to the market. However the memorial fund sued Franklin Mint charging the company with expoliting the Princess’s name , “Like vultures feeding on the dead. ” While trying to avoid the legal entanglement Mattel began waging a major campaign to to get permission from the memorial fund and the Late Princess’s Sister Sarah McCorquodale for mattel to produce a beautiful doll that had the fund’s approval. Mattel viewed the Franklin mint Diana as “annoyance and derision and ugly”. In March of 1997 five months after Diana Died Anne Zielinski -Old had appiled fora job at Mattel . She was put in charge of designing the Diana doll. She found her self designing Diana’s face and trying to keep it within looking like a Barbie product. She picked up bad vibes from from those involved in working on putting   likeness of Diana  together from the time she was given the Di Project. She said years later I was made aware of the general sour feeling in the Design Center about creating this doll. It had every thing to do with accelerating the project when the princess had died suddenly, and essentially exploiting her death for profit, after she said she did not want to be a Barbie doll. A lot of time was spent on designing the dress and making sure Jill liked it and if she had changes that had to be done . Jill had the last say . If she wanted the sash turned a different way we did it if she wanted her to be coiffed different in her eyes we did it. Jill might have been obsessed but that’s pushing it. A person of that status to have a doll by Mattel would have been a coup , It would have meant we did it. We all wanted it to happen , and Jill had a great desire to see it happen. In one of the early meeting Zielinksi- Old  Brought in the first of eight Princess Diana Designs that she did and Barad and the marketing team studied it closely then Barad turned to the nervous designer and stated ” Couldnt you Mackie it up a bit? ” When Zielinksi _old heard that she knew exactly what Jill wanted and she did in the end it was a very complicated process but in the end she came up with the doll that got Jill’s approval. In early Feburay 1998 presented the doll to Barad and it was billed The Ultimate Princess Diana Gown Doll. Jill’s response was Oh! She’s lovely and Zielinski replied “She sparkles when she turnes Jill” . Barad saw dollars signs once again. Barad was so sure that the Diana doll would be approved by the Diana memorial Fund. She was  in for a shock when she picked up the Wall Street Journal and saw the headlines , “Oh you Doll: Princess Diana could be Immortalized by Hasbro. The story that was printed stated that Hasbro was in talks with the fund’s trustees about creating a collectible Diana Doll and other Diana Collectibles. The Journal emphasized “Both sides are eager not to appear to be captializing on the death of the princess,” and the Fund’s trustees stated they would be senstive to the ” public feelings and the sentiments about the dead Princess. “It is the duty of the trustees to ensure that the fund rasies as much money as possible for the causes that Princess held dear.” “However they added that “they would be absoulutely wrong not to consider a doll”. While Franklin Mint and Hasbro  had taken the heat, Mattel efforts to get in to the Diana action had managed to stay under the media radar and had never been dsiclosed. But there would be no approval for the doll because Some one at Mattel screwed up A lack of Mattel etiquette killed the relationship with the fund. Some one had sent Zielinksi_Old’s Diana doll to to the Fund with out and prior notice where it was opened by Diana’s Siblings. Sarah opened the box and sees her Sister, it is the most beautiful Princess Diana doll but she was horrified She was shocked  that something could be so close to her sister in miniture . The Diana project was immediately killed. Mattel never managed to recover from that . They never got the approval  they did it the wrong way. Never one to give up Barad persisted . She personally showed a copy of the orignal doll – only two were in existence – At Toy Fair to special customers behind closed doors. But told buyers that the doll wouldn’t be produced with out the Diana funds approval. Shockingly The fund favored the Hasbro version of Diana and in the end no Diana doll would ever be authorized.


My Thoughts:

As Diana  Doll collector I would have like to have a Mattel version of Diana.  But after reading this and finding out the fact that Diana did not want to be a ” Barbie” doll I am glad they did not succeed in thier endevor.  A side note though  The Franklin Mint’s version  is one of the most popular Diana doll among Diana’s fans and one of the Mint’s top sellers.

Hasbro Doll Article


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