LOS ANGELES -- Barbie's going through a midlife crisis.
After splitting with longtime boyfriend Ken this year, she has sought refuge in shopping, surfing, and partying with a crew of trendy pals in Jamaica. At 45, she made a bid for the White House.
Then there was a new set of Paul Frank fashions, her own fragrance, a new musical, and a new man -- spiky-haired surfer Blaine.
While the Barbie brand generated $3.6 billion in global retail sales this year, according to manufacturer Mattel Inc., sales have slid over the past seven quarters. Rivals, including the edgier Bratz dolls, have upstaged Barbie.
To re-energize its flagship brand, the world's largest toy maker set out to cast Barbie and her pals in a series of books, magazines, and animated films, hoping the story lines would drive sales of the doll and her accessories.
For girls 6 to 9, Mattel crafted stories with preteen scenarios -- dance parties, dating, and shopping. Barbie's look now better reflects current fashion trends. And Mattel signed "tween" diva Hilary Duff to promote the brand.
Only about two-thirds of the new toys will be in stores this year, with the rest arriving in 2005.
"We need to make progress in regaining the confidence of retailers, and that takes time," Robert A. Eckert, Mattel's chairman and chief executive, told Wall Street analysts last month.
Mattel's design touches are meant to give Barbie a hipper look. There's Cali Girl Barbie -- an update on Malibu Barbie -- and the Jammin' In Jamaica series for the My Scene Barbie line intended to be direct competition for Bratz.