CNN  — 

The name “Barbara Millicent Roberts” may not ring a bell, but say her nickname — Barbie — and people of all ages know her. Created by Mattel in 1959, Barbie doesn’t look a day over 19.

And now she is getting new life in “Barbie” the movie, distributed by CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. The movie, out next Friday starring Margot Robbie, allows Barbie to question her own reality. Something consumers have been doing for decades.

“Back in 2014 and 2015, we hit a low and it was a moment to reflect in the context of, ‘Why did Barbie lose relevance?’” said Ricard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel. “She didn’t reflect the physicality, the look, if you will, of the world around us. And so we then set a course to truly transform the brand with a playbook around reigniting our purpose.”

Mattel was slow to diversify Barbie and friends. As a result, sales at Mattel started to slump in 2014. But during the pandemic Barbie saw a resurgence as parents looked for ways to keep kids busy at home. In the first quarter of this year, Mattel’s sales fell 22% from last year’s first quarter, primarily due to declines in Barbie and Enchantimals dolls and merchandise.

“There’s been a lot of decline in that differentiation and that relevance that keep a brand fresh and top of mind from a purchase perspective. And when that happens, brands go into a place of fatigue,” said Katie Mancini, general manager of Landor & Fitch — a branding, strategy and design agency.

Now Barbie and friends have many different skin tones and shapes. Mattel produces Barbies in wheelchairs and Ken dolls with the skin condition vitiligo.

Mattel hopes the new movie, which was 4 ½ years in the making, will give the brand and Barbie the boost they’re looking for.

That may already be happening. AMC Theatres reports they’ve sold more than 20,000 pre-sale tickets to Barbie and the new movie Oppenheimer. And at HomBom Toys in New York City, ‘movie Barbie’ is sold out.

“I think I had 24,” said Ilene Gayer, owner of HomBom Toys. “They were gone within 48 hours.”

But even a new movie may not be enough to draw up enough nostalgia for Barbie.

“I wouldn’t want my granddaughters to grow up and be like Barbie,” said Patty Steffen from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who played with Barbies as a child. “I don’t know how much she has evolved – does she have a college degree now?”

She’s been around longer than Barbie

Carol Spencer is too old to have played with Barbie as a child, but she’s arguably spent more time with Barbie than anyone.

Spencer became a clothing designer for Barbie in 1963. She spent 53 years transforming Barbie’s looks throughout the years.

“I grew to think of her as my muse. I thought of every child who played with a Barbie doll as my child. So let me tell you, I have a big family. And I love it!,” said 90-year-old Spencer, surrounded by Barbies in her Los Angeles home.

Spencer says Barbie was more successful in some years than others and it was often hard to keep up with the times. But she says Barbie has always been a steady brand.

“Barbie really carried Mattel for great many years,” she said.

Spencer was so influential at Mattel the company made a Barbie in her honor. And she still has “Barbie #1” in her dining room. She says plans to see the new movie with her Barbie Club — wearing pink, of course. She’s thrilled to see Barbie break out of Barbie Land and out of her heels, a sign Barbie may be keeping up with the times.

“The new audience is Barbiecore pink. And that introduced a lot of fun and introduced I think people into the world of Barbie that hadn’t been there before,” she said.