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Move Over ‘Little Mermaid,’ ‘Barbie’ Movie Will Also Cast Minority Actors, Mattel CEO Says

Following Disney's recent decision to cast a black actress in the lead role of its live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, Mattel will also look to cast actors of color in its forthcoming films such as Barbie.

Since launching its movie-making division Mattel Films late last summer, the toymaker announced that Margot Robbie, a Caucasian actress, will play the titular role of Barbie in its first live-action film. But Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz pledged Monday that Barbie, as well as the company's other planned films, would feature diverse cast members.

"Barbie is the most diverse brand in the toy industry," Kreiz said on stage at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, noting that the company now sells more than 100 different variants of Barbie, including dolls of minority backgrounds and ethnicities. "It’s very important for us, it's part of our DNA, to represent consumers whoever they are, wherever they are, and you’ll see that also in our movies," Kreiz continued.

Robbie Brenner, the executive producer of Mattel Films who spoke on a panel alongside Kreiz at the conference, underscored that point. "Obviously, we want to cast the right actor for the role, but I think right now there’s so much opportunity in the world, especially as we’re seeing with Black Panther," she said, referencing last year's hit Marvel film that featured a predominantly black cast.

Brenner also confirmed that Greta Gerwig, who directed the critically acclaimed film Lady Bird, and her partner Noah Baumbach will write and direct the Barbie film. "She loves Barbie, she's so passionate about this, she grew up with Barbie, and it’s going to be a very very exciting collaboration," Brenner said of Gerwig.

Still, Mattel is looking to break stereotypes associated with its toy franchises like Barbie, and the executives hinted that the big-screen portrayals of its iconic toys could diverge from how they have been represented in the past. "We are looking to reimagine the brands and tell a story....There are different ways to imagine Barbie, or Masters of the Universe, or Bob the Builder," Kreiz said, referring to other Mattel franchises.

"For us, the Barbie movie should definitely have a message of female empowerment, and that you can dream and be anything you want," Brenner said, adding that Mattel was prepared to take risks in bringing their vision to life. "I do think it's important to push the boundaries and push the limits," she said. "And I think people are really ready to see something different."

The co-starring role of Ken in the Barbie film, meanwhile, has yet to be cast. Who Mattel chooses will be a telling measure of its willingness to push beyond stereotypes.

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