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The Making of the BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE™ Dolls!

Blockbuster season begins early with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice™ debuting in March 2016! With the movie come three new dolls from The Barbie™ Collection, unlike any super hero dolls we’ve ever created. To learn more about them, we interviewed Designer Bill Greening about the two-year process to bring these heroes to life.

When did you first find out you’d be involved in this project?

I think I first found out about it in late spring of 2014. Needless to say I was extremely excited. I love the DC Super Heroes, and I’m so thrilled that this is finally the springboard to launch the Justice League™ team! Not to mention that classic comic book debate - Who would win in a fight, Batman™ or Superman™? I think this movie is going to be epic. It has been long awaited for many DC Comics fans.

How personally connected are you to the world of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman™?

These characters are such a part of my childhood. As kid growing up in the 1970s, the ‘60s Batman series was in syndication, and I’d race home from school to watch it. Wonder Woman was on prime time TV, Superman was in the movie theaters, and the Super Friends were my Saturday morning cartoon favorite. Literally my childhood was all about these DC heroes.

What was it like to work with the Warner Bros. team on the dolls?

Working with the WB team was great and a very smooth process. They were very thrilled to have the Barbie team on board, and could not have been nicer. It was great to partner with the Mattel boys team as well. Mattel has a very unified statement for this movie across all divisions. I think we all have super hero fever!

Did you get to see the actual movie costumes, or did you work from design sketches and photos?

Probably the biggest thrill of the project was an actual set visit. I remember Robert Best telling me that I would be flying directly from Barbie Convention 2014 to Detroit to see the set and the costumes. It was really hard not to geek out and keep my professional game face on!

We got to see concept art, the actual costumes, the Batcave™, and the Batmobile™. I even got to hold Wonder Woman’s golden lasso! It kind of gave me the chills to hold such an iconic piece of pop culture.

I also had a great conversation with costume designer Michael Wilkinson. Because I work on fashion dolls, I had a lot of questions on the fabrics and construction of the costume. He revealed things about each character’s costume that I believe make these dolls even more authentic. He specially brought out Wonder Woman’s hooded cloak and her shoes for me to see. He also shared costumes for Bruce Wayne™, Diana Prince™, Lois Lane™, and Clark Kent™. 

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Here are some details on each character:

Batman’s costume was inspired by the '80s Frank Miller version of the Dark Knight™. The costume looks more like “fabric" versus previous Batman movies. It was like Bruce Wayne constructed it himself, and it’s a bit battle worn. I love the patchwork quality to the suit, and the small wrinkles built into the movie costume.

Since Batman is a regular guy and Superman is an alien, Michael wanted Batman to feel taller and more imposing going into battle. There are details in the suit to make him feel broader, and a thicker sole in his boots. Ben is a tall guy, too, so that helps. We actually counted the points on Batman’s cape. I wanted to know!  We incorporated some of these details into the doll. The Batman doll has a chest plate under his costume to make him look bulkier than Superman. 

Superman’s costume had a cool rubber texture applied to the fabric. It was inspired by the look of chain mail armor. We had to achieve this with a print on the doll. I think we were successful with the final look to mimic the texture. Michael also revealed there was Kryptonian language woven throughout the costume! It was such a cool insight to know how meticulous he was in his design process.

I was really blown away with the reveal of Wonder Woman's costume - I think he really nailed it. It has all the essence of her Amazon warrior roots. It also looks awesome on Gal Gadot. When we were looking at her heels, Michael revealed she has three different heel heights for her shoes in the movie: A flat, a two-inch, and a four-inch. (Naturally, I picked the four-inch heel. Haha!)

Her shield has symbols of Phrygian script embedded in it. Michael also showed me a beautiful hooded cloak, but at the time it was unclear whether it would be featured the movie. It was gorgeous deep blue, with a beautiful metallic gold lining that he said was inspired by Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra movie costume. So many mind-blowing details and deep thought truly went into each character’s costume.

The facial sculpts of the dolls match the real-life actors. How was that achieved?

We have an amazing and talented sculpting department at Mattel. Sean Olmos worked on Superman/Henry Cavill. Ray Cavalluzzi worked on Wonder Woman/Gal Gadot and Batman/Ben Affleck. Warner Bros. provided us with 360-degree shots of the actors in costume. This way you can see the hair and makeup for reference. We also used web searches for additional images of the actors to see multiple angles, jawlines, eye shapes, etc. I think they really nailed the actors' likenesses.

The doll bodies themselves are unlike any other super hero bodies done in the past by Barbie Collector. Can you tell us more about them?  

The male bodies have 15 points of articulation. The female body has 13. They have a nice range of motion too, with more of a kneecap and elbow joint. You can actually crisscross Wonder Woman’s arms to show off her bulletproof bracelets when she’s ready for battle! The new male hero body is amazing. We didn’t have a Ken body muscular enough, so it was time to do a new action hero body. The dolls come with doll stands as well, to help achieve some really dramatic poses while on display.

Would you say these dolls are less like traditional Barbie Collector dolls and more like large-scale action figures? 

I think these dolls are a nice hybrid between action figure and fashion doll. I think there will be a lot of crossover appeal with doll collectors, comic collectors, super hero fans, and those into pop culture collectibles as well. They’re at a nice price point for the level of detail you’re getting, too.

I’m very proud of these dolls, as well as the entire Barbie team involved in this project. It took a super team to bring these iconic super heroes to life. It was one of the most rewarding design experiences in my 17 years here at Mattel. I hope collectors enjoy them just as much as I did working on them!

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It takes a super team at Mattel to build a super team of dolls! Shown here along with Bill Greening are his colleagues from product development, sculpting, hair and face design, pattern making, seamstressing, packaging, photography, engineering, and marketing at the Mattel Design Center in El Segundo CA. 

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and all related characters and elements © & ™ DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s16)

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