Magical Universe

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Magical Universe
Magical Universe theatrical poster.jpg
Directed byJeremy Workman
Produced by
Edited by
Music byKaren Altman
Distributed byIFC Films
Release dates
  • April 16, 2013 (2013-04-16) (Athens)[1]
  • October 31, 2014 (2014-10-31)
Running time
77 minutes
CountryUnited States

Magical Universe is a 2013 documentary film directed by filmmaker Jeremy Workman about reclusive outsider artist Al Carbee who created elaborate dioramas and collages featuring Barbie dolls. The title of the film is taken from Carbee's own voluminous writings about his wondrous art.

The film grew out of Workman's short film Carbee's Barbies and encompasses the final years of Carbee's life, a period in which Workman became Carbee's closest friend and his only link to the outside world.

First presented at numerous film festivals, Magical Universe was acquired by IFC Films and released theatrically on October 31, 2014.[2]


Al Carbee is a true American original. An 88-year-old recluse living in Maine, he devotes nearly all his time to creating extraordinarily elaborate works of art from Barbie dolls. This captivating documentary, filmed over the course of the director's decade-long friendship with the artist, goes inside the mind of the enigmatic Carbee to reveal his rich, wondrous, and sometimes heart-wrenching inner-life. An eye-opening portrait of an all but unknown artist and an inspiring testament to the triumph of the creative spirit, Magical Universe is a moving tribute to a one-of-a-kind visionary.


After winning several film festival awards,[3] Magical Universe was acquired by theatrical distributors IFC Films and was released in theaters on October 31, 2014.[4] It was subsequently made available on Netflix in May 2015[5] as well as on the IFC Films Unlimited streaming platform on Amazon Prime.[6]

In the summer of 2016, Magical Universe was featured at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris at the Louvre as part of their Barbie exhibit.[7]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 63% based on 8 reviews, with an average rating of 6.12/10.[8] In the Los Angeles Times, Michael Rechtshaffen described the film as "whimsical... affectionate...A tender portrait of the artist as a weirdly gifted, wildly prolific, and strange man" and made the film a Los Angeles Times Critics Choice.[9] Lauren Wissot of Filmmaker magazine suggested that the film is "crafted in a style that brings us practically inside the brain of the 88-year old outsider artist."[10] And during the film's national theatrical run, the Village Voice made it a Critics Pick with film critic Abby Garnett saying that Workman "captures the poignancy of Carbee's drive to create ideal images...This story is about tenderness and empathy."[11]



  1. ^[bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ "IFC Films Magical Universe".
  3. ^ Gómez, Edward. "Al Carbee's Art of Dolls and Yearning: "Oh, for a real, live Barbie!"". Hyperallergic.
  4. ^ "IFC Films Magical Universe".
  5. ^ "Netflix Magical Universe".
  6. ^ "Amazon Magical Universe".
  7. ^ Bender, Silke. "Widerlegt! Die 10 größten Irrtümer über Barbie". Welt. Welt.
  8. ^ "Magical Universe". Rotten Tomatoes. Rotten Tomatoes.
  9. ^ Rechtshaffen, Michael. "'Magical Universe' enters one man's world of Barbies". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Wissot, Lauren. "Gangsters, Baseball, Bathhouses and Bill: The 22nd Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival". Filmmaker Magazine.
  11. ^ Garnett, Abby. "Magical Universe Explores the World of Al Carbee, the Late Barbie Doll Photographer". Village Voice. Village Voice.
  12. ^ "Woodstock Film Festival 2013: 'The Forgotten Kingdom' the audience favorite". Daily Freeman. Daily Freeman.
  13. ^ "Woodstock Film Festival 2013 Maverick Awards".
  14. ^ "Awards | Salem Film Fest". Salem Film Fest.
  15. ^ "Magical Universe Awards". Magical Universe Film.

External links[edit]