Bratz: A Retrospective (Part 2: Everything Changed When the Fire Nation Attacked)

Does anyone get the title reference? I’m a big fan of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. It’s one of my favorite lines to reference and I believe there’s actually a meme or sorts based upon it as well.

Title tangent aside, let’s get back to discussing Bratz. Today’s topic begins with a rather unfortunate matter that remained an underlying tone of the Bratz brand success until one day, it became their untimely demise. Fret not, for the team at MGA was able to resurrect the girls not just once, but twice; these Bratz will simply not go down without a fight. There’s something about the Bratz brand that’s admirable, but at the same time one can only re-create and re-brand so many times…right?


[Concept art for Bratz done by doll designer Carter Bryant, source: WSJ]

       So what exactly happened that led the Bratz to disappear off of toy shelves (if only for awhile) ? The answer lies in the origins of the Bratz concept. The concept of the Bratz dolls is in due thanks to doll designer Carter Bryant, who formerly worked at Mattel. The whole legal controversy behind it all is that, allegedly, Bryant came up with the idea Bratz on company time and facilities while he was working at Mattel. With the Bratz brand exponentially growing in success and the Barbie brand dropping in market sales, the relationship between the two fashion dolls was anything but friendly and this little grey area would serve as the basis for the ultimate legal battle.


[My Scene Initial Release of Madison/Westley, Barbie, & Chelsea]

       It’s quite the tangled web, really. MGA decided to fire back on allegations that Mattel had created the My Scene brand, released a year after the Bratz came about, by duplicating the looks, styles, packaging, and the basis of multi-diversity in the line-up of core characters. MGA additionally claimed Mattel had released My Scene with an intent of confusing the consumers and unfairly staking a claim in the market. Hm. Perhaps if MGA hadn’t fired back with a lawsuit of their own, the mess may not have lead to where it did? Who is to say as the past has already happened…and the My Scene brand no longer exists today, although more on behalf of Mattel discontinuing the line than MGA doing any serious damage.

Let’s jump forward to…2008? The incessant little pointing of fingers between the two toy companies had made it to court and the ruling? If I were to paint it in black and white, then Mattel stepped out as the victors. At least in the initial ruling. It was determined that there was infringement on MGA’s behalf. However, this only applied to the initial collections of the Bratz; everything else that had been subsequently created and whatnot were MGA’s. If anything, the companies were told to settle their dispute outside of court…because really, finger pointing. Here’s a more in-depth excerpt on the matter from Wikipedia:

Mattel sued MGA Entertainment for $500 million, alleging that Bratz creator Carter Bryant was working for Mattel when he developed the idea for Bratz.[17] On July 17, 2008, a federal jury ruled that Bryant had created the Bratz while he was working for Mattel, despite MGA’s claim that Bryant had not been employed by Mattel at the time and Bryant’s assertion that he had designed the Bratz between two separate periods of employment at Mattel. The jury also ruled that MGA and its Chief Executive Officer Isaac Larian were liable for converting Mattel property for their own use and intentionally interfering with the contractual duties owed by Bryant to Mattel.[18] On August 26, the jury decided that Mattel was to be paid just US $100 million in damages, citing that only the first generation of Bratz had infringed on Mattel property and that MGA had innovated and evolved the product significantly enough that subsequent generations of Bratz could not be conclusively found to be infringing.

On December 3, 2008, U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson granted a permanent injunction requested by Mattel against MGA.[19] Subsequently, on December 10, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted MGA an immediate stay of the injunction, thereby halting the impending recall of all Bratz products, ensuring that retailers would be allowed to continue to sell MGA-produced Bratz product through at least the Court’s final ruling on the matter. In their initial statement, the Court suggested Larson’s previous ruling was “draconian” and had gone too far in awarding ownership of the entire Bratz franchise to Mattel. The Court of Appeals also ordered MGA and Mattel to resolve their dispute out of court.[20] In a statement from MGA, Isaac Larian states that “the Court’s stay is good news for all Bratz fans and for anyone who cares about fair competition.”[21]

On July 22, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declared that ownership of the Bratz franchise belonged to MGA Entertainment. The Court Of Appeals rejected the District Court’s original ruling for Mattel, where MGA Entertainment was ordered to forfeit the entire Bratz brand – including all registered copyrights and trademarks of the Bratz name – to Mattel. The panel from the Court of Appeals said Judge Larson had abused his discretion with his ruling for Mattel, concluding that Bryant’s employment agreement could have, but did not necessarily, cover ideas as it did designs, processes, computer programs and formulae, which are all more concrete.

        For awhile, Bratz dolls actually dissapeared off shelves while the legal disputes were coming to an end. I remember being distinctly melancholic about not being able to find a Bratz doll in the aisles of Target anymore…well, that is, until Fall 2010.


[Bratz 10/10/10 Liliana, Tyla, Joelle, Adri, Shira, Leora, Lydia, Carrie, Shadi, & Ashby]

       The Bratz girls rose like phoenixes from the ashes of that unsightly lawsuit just in time to celebrate their “10th anniversary” on October 10, 2010 – 10/10/10. To commemorate the occasion, the Bratz relaunch gave us a deluxe collection titled “Party” and introduced us to ten new characters! How exciting. Although MGA wasn’t able to capture the same edgy spark the Bratz formerly carried, it was a good run. The dolls went through some changes and slight rebranding to help bring something new to the table, but the girls weren’t performing as well on the market as MGA had hoped. Thus, lines that had been planned for 2014 were to be scrapped for the U.S. market as the team prepared once more to re-create the Bratz brand to better take on the ever-changing, tough doll market. Since they’ve been introduced, the Bratz have seen the world be introduced to other brands like LIV and Monster High – the formula was no longer simply being about “this is anything but Barbie and her pink fantasy world” because, honestly, even Barbie was beginning to step up her game.


[Bratz Hello My Name Is Sasha, Cloe, Yasmin, & Jade]

        In Fall 2015, the world were re-introduced to the Bratz once more. Literally, the budget re-introduction series is titled Hello My Name Is! Although the essence of what makes the dolls Bratz remained, the branding had shifted to what appeared to be a more youthful market. It seems like the focus was directed towards a new mantra of “CIY” – create-it-yourself.


[Bratz Hello My Name Is Raya]

       Joining the core four in the line-up was not Dana, Fianna, or even Meygan (although we’d be re-introduced to her soon enough), but a “new” girl by the name of Raya (I say “new” because the Bratz have had a friend by the name of Raya before although her appearance was slightly different and she had never really developed a persona). The fifth Bratz member is a tanned, golden blonde haired, grey eyed, retro-loving, punny girl who, if I actually think about it, is pretty much the face of the Bratz re-relaunch.

       So there we have it. A little historical background, with Part 1 focusing on the heyday of Bratz and Part 2 discussing the lawsuit that nearly stopped them of up to the point of where they are now. I’ll be delving into the physical differences and whatnot in a follow-up  Part 2.5 post as I’ve just realized it’s best to keep the timeline and an examination of the physical attributes separate for the sake of brevity (ha!) and distinction. Stay tuned! 🙂


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