April 9, 1916|
July 21, 2011 (aged 95)|
Los Angeles, California
|Cause of death||Heart failure|
|Alma mater||Art Center College of Design|
|Known for||Co-founder of Mattel and inventor of the doll Ken|
Ruth Handler (m. 1938–2002)
Elliot Handler (April 9, 1916 – July 21, 2011) was an American inventor, businessman, and co-founder of Mattel. With his wife, he developed some of the biggest-selling toys in American history, including Barbie, Chatty Cathy, Creepy Crawlers, and Hot Wheels.
Handler was born to a Jewish family in Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1916, and grew up in Denver, Colorado. He studied industrial design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In 1929, he met his future wife Ruth Mosko at a B'nai B'rith dance for teenagers. They later married and had two children: a daughter, Barbara, who was the namesake of Barbie dolls; and a son, Kenneth (who died of a brain tumor in 1994) who was the namesake of Ken dolls. While a struggling art student and designer of light fixtures, Handler partnered with Harold Matson to design a realistic-looking miniature piano that received roughly 300,000 orders; however, they mispriced the product and lost a dime on each one produced.
Mattel introduced the talking Chatty Cathy doll in 1960. The Handlers had made a tradition of naming their toys after family members, and when Barbara Handler married Allan Segal, they came out with Allan, Ken's friend. The 1965 talking doll Baby Cheryl was named after the Handlers' first grandchild, and the Todd doll in the Barbie line was named for their grandson.
Elliot Handler holds credit for developing the first talking doll, Chatty Cathy, using a pull string talking mechanism, revolutionizing the toy industry. Mattel continued to develop a number of talking toys, including Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Baby, and Charmin' Chatty. Toys were made for cartoon favorites such as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, and for television characters such as Herman Munster and Mr. Ed.
Handler was primarily responsible for two additional Mattel product lines. In 1966, Mattel introduced smaller dolls called Liddle Kiddles. Handler claimed he wanted them to resemble little children in neighborhoods across America. They were sculpted by doll artist Martha Armstrong-Hand. Kiddles were a great success and continued to be produced in different versions until the early 1970s. Another product line was Hot Wheels, introduced in 1968, which gave rise to 10,000 different models.
First called Mattel Creations, the company has become the largest toy maker in the world in terms of revenue. In April 2008, Mattel honored Handler with a 90th birthday party at its headquarters in El Segundo, California. Guests included his daughter Barbara Segal, the namesake of the Barbie doll.
Handler died of heart failure at home in Century City, a district of Los Angeles, California, at age 95 on July 21, 2011. He was survived by his 70-year-old daughter Barbara. Ruth Handler died in 2002.
- Miller, Stephen (July 23, 2011). "Hot Wheels' Driver And Barbie's Dad". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- Chang, Andrea (2011-07-24). "Elliot Handler, co-founder of toymaker Mattel and inventor of Hot Wheels, dies at 95". Los Angeles Times. Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-08-15.
- Jewish Telegraph: "The Eulogizer: Elliot Handler, Barbie’s ‘dad,’ and more on alleged mobster Francois Abutbul" By Alan D. Abbey August 9, 2011
- Chang, Andrea (July 23, 2011). "Elliot Handler dies at 95; co-founder of Mattel, inventor of Hot Wheels". Los Angeles Times.
- People: "As a Tiny Plastic Star Turns 30, the Real Barbie and Ken Reflect on Life in the Shadow of the Dolls" By Michelle Green and Denise Gellene March 06, 1989
- Noland, Claire (July 22, 2011). "Elliot Handler, toy maker and Mattel co-founder, dies at 95". The Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- Duhigg, Charles (July 22, 2011). "Elliot Handler, Co-Founder of Mattel Toys, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2011.