After a few weeks of hiatus, it's back!
Believe it or not, today is Malibu Barbie’s 50th anniversary! Yeah, I had no idea either, mostly because Mattel isn’t really doing press releases for this kind of thing any longer.
Introduced in 1971 and using the Stacey face mold rather than one of the more traditional Barbie molds, Malibu Barbie and her blue tricot one piece bathing suit quickly became the epitome of Southern California beach babe glam. Featuring centered eyes and visible teeth for the first time, this was her most dramatic makeover since 1967 when the TNT was introduced. Other dolls in the original Sun Set line included Ken, Skipper and Francie who also switched head molds and now sported a far more tanned version of Casey’s face. P.J. joined the line the following year in 1972 using the Steffie mold and Christie the following year in 1973 with the traditional Christie mold.
To support Barbie and her beach lifestyle, Mattel made a store display shelf’s worth of accessories including the Sun n’ Fun Buggy, a Beach Bus, a Country Camper, a Camping Out set, a Ten Speeder, and a Pool Party, just to name a few. Mattel was clearly going all in on the Malibu line which, to be fair, was reflective of the times. Long prairie skirts and floral peasant dresses looked better with Malibu’s subdued makeup, golden skin and painted on lashes rather than the rooted lashes that the Barbies before her featured.
Even with the introduction of the Superstar era, Malibu Barbie carried on, changing and adapting as she went. During what some collectors call the “pure” Malibu years (meaning before Superstar Barbie was introduced), variations appeared based on where she was manufactured, what arms were used, whether or not she had a wrist tag and other small changes. She was Sun Lovin’ and Sunsational and Sun Gold, her title changing as the years went on until the line finally ended in 1984.
In 1979, Mattel even combined all of the things people loved most about Barbie and introduced the Malibu Barbie Beach Party set including a case, extra play pieces and a Malibu Barbie in a new pink and purple swimsuit and featuring a wrist tag.
Despite being seen by some as “plain” and not glam enough to be Barbie, the Malibu look and that turquoise bathing suit are now pretty iconic. She’s been a Hallmark ornament twice – both in 2003 on an KOC (Keepsake Ornament Club) member exclusive metal lunch box ornament and in the regular Keepsake Ornament line as a full 3D ornament complete with sunglasses in hand.
She’ll be reproduced again this year as a regular line Keepsake Ornament in a box featuring the iconic Malibu artwork.
She was reproduced as doll in 2002 and was given as Mattel’s gift to conventioneers that summer in Denver, CO, during the Rocky Mountain Mod-themed convention, along with a cool plastic Malibu Barbie drink tumbler. Those things never show up online for sale and I count myself fortunate to have one.
She’s been featured on the cover of the now-defunct Barbie Bazaar magazine. She’s had her legs ripped off over the years so they could be bleached and donated to the Color Magic torsos that were discovered in an old Los Angeles warehouse and then sold to the public, mostly via Barbie dealers.
In 2009, Malibu Barbie was featured heavily in Mattel’s year-long promotion of Barbie’s 50th anniversary, along with the classic zebra-striped ponytail, the mod TNT, Superstar Barbie, and the 1980s Rocker Barbie. She was both reproduced again as a doll (and came packaged with a reproduction of the vintage fashion, Lemon Kick) and shown beside other iconic images of Barbie in Dylan’s Candy Bar products, Toys R Us exclusive puzzles, drink coasters, wall clocks, sticker sets, tote bags and just about anything else Mattel could slap a picture on and sell.
Dylan’s Candy Bar chocolate bars:
She’s also been copied over the years. The 2013 “Malibu Barbie by Trina Turk” doll designed by Bill Greening was inspired by the original California beach babe. Bill has said many times over the years that, as a California native himself, she was the definitive doll of his childhood.
When the Unique Vintage clothing brand of California decided to release human-sized reproductions of Barbie clothing, they chose two swimsuits for their collection. One was the immortal black & white zebra stripe. The other? Malibu’s turquoise blue one piece.
Now in 2021, she’s back again in a repro gift set to celebrate her 50th anniversary. There are also tie-ins with make up lines and a retro swimwear line. So who knows what else might crop up later on in the year? I know we won’t see the kind of merchandising that we have in the past but a little something extra close to Christmas would be much appreciated – just in case anyone from Mattel is listening.
Oh, and here are links to the “Barbie x” affiliations that are launching today…
Barbie x Colourpop: https://colourpop.com/pages/malibu-barbie-signup
Barbie x L Space: https://www.lspace.com/blogs/blog/introducing-malibu-barbie-x-l-space
Barbie x Funboy: https://www.funboy.com/products/funboy-x-malibu-barbie-vintage-convertible-pool-float
So, kick back, relax and enjoy a Malibu Barbie cocktail (yes, there really is such a thing, probably much to Mattel’s annoyance) while you celebrate Malibu Barbie’s 50th anniversary today!
Also, for those wondering, here’s the recipe for a Malibu Barbie cocktail courtesy of the Stirred, Not Shaken website, rumored to have been developed by a bartender at Moonshadows in Malibu, CA, in 2009 around the time that Mattel had an actual Barbie Dreamhouse set up in, you guessed it, Malibu.
- ¼ malibu mango rum
- ¼ malibu pineapple rum
- ¼ malibu coconut rum
- ¼ pineapple juice
- a splash of cranberry juice
Pour all ingredients into a glass with ice, add a splash of cranberry juice. Stir and enjoy!