Is a Fungus Among Us?
In 1998, Carter Bryant decided he needed a hiatus from Barbie and the fast life in Los Angeles. He returned to his roots in Springfield, Mo., and moved in with his parents. Driving by a local high school, Bryant claimed that he saw some local high school girls “wearing kind of, you know, oversized clothes, big, baggy jeans ... just got me to kind of thinking, you know, wouldn’t it be cool if there were some characters that kind of accurately represented today’s teenager.”
He dashed home and made sketches for a new doll to compete with Barbie. Its name was Bratz, described by Margaret Talbot in a 2006 story in The New Yorker titled “LITTLE HOTTIES: Barbie’s New Rivals,” as a design that “showed a face in which the lips and eyes were cartoonishly prominent and the nose was vanishingly small: it was as if the doll had undergone successive rounds of plastic surgery.”
Back to L.A.
In 1999 Bryant returned to Mattel as a Barbie wardrobe designer but continued to refine Bratz, which he presented to Isaac Larian, president of MGA Entertainment—a minor, money-losing electronic games company located in the San Fernando Valley of northwest Los Angeles.
The story gets murky as to who did what when, but a Mattel phone record paper trail indicates that Bryant was working on Bratz and talking to Larian from his Mattel office until he handed in his notice in October 2000 and went to work for MGA.
Bratz was launched in 2001, caught on big and began generating $1.25 billion a year in sales while the Barbie business declined some 12.5%. In 2006, Mattel decided it had been ripped off and instituted a lawsuit. Among the charges made by Mattel was that former employee Bryant’s 3% royalty on Bratz brought him $30 million.