Days of Malibu living are long gone for Barbie. The iconic doll has moved to South Florida and is inviting people to step into her life-size dream house, the first one now open worldwide.
Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience, a 10,000-square-foot building with an "endless closet," elevators, a kitchen, bedroom, and everything pink, opened this week at Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise.
The life-size house is already drawing squeals of joy from little girls who've toured Barbie's happy world, and enthusiasm from lifelong fans like Lynn Mulvaney-Japes, 51.
"It's a big deal," said Mulvaney-Japes, a member of a local Barbie collector club. "In fact, we all want to go work there."
The Lauderhill resident said she has more than 3,000 Barbie dolls in a room in her house devoted exclusively to the fashionista and multicareer role model. Mulvaney-Japes now plans to visit Barbie's own house early next week, along with other members of the Fashion Queen Doll Club.
"We are really excited about the opening here in Florida, and hope that this new destination gives tourists a reason to visit and residents a reason to return," said LeAnne Hackmann, Barbie Global Experiences Licensing director at Mattel.
The house was a two-years-in-the-making project for Mattel and EMS Entertainment, an Austria-based company helping design and build the Sunrise and Berlin properties. (Watch the video above to find out how many gallons of glitter -- and pink paint -- went into the making.)
"Making sure children and parents actually feel like they are in the Dreamhouse has always been our goal," said Christoph Rahofer, president of EMS. "We wanted this to be an immersive experience that visitors would never forget."
On Wednesday, groups of girls ran around the house, frequently jumping with excitement and often pointing and screaming, "Oh my God, did you see this?!"
Several walls throughout the house are lined with Barbie dolls, and among the interactive features are buttons, which, once pressed, can either make flowers rise, Barbie's dog walk out of his doghouse, or a pink dolphin pop-up from a toilet seat. Visitors also can get glammed up by Barbie staff, walk down a runway and strike a pose.
"It was really cool," Elizabeth Torres, 11, said after the fashion show. "We saw the whole house, the big closet; it was really awesome."
Not everyone was impressed. Some parents were upset because some staff members were giving tours without looking up from scripts, and interactive computer screens had glitches along with other technical difficulties. Mattel said the hiccups would be a top priority to correct.
Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst, said Barbie's new house will likely serve as an experimental project for the company to determine whether it can replicate the concept with its other brands.
"I think what a lot of consumer companies are coming to realize is that there's an opportunity to make the retail experience more immersive," said McGowan, of New York-based research firm Needham & Company. "If it can be done in a way that doesn't cost much, then it becomes an effective way of extending their brand."
The Dreamhouse tour, however, is probably a type of venture that won't draw frequent visitors, because after a while the experience will just become repetitive, McGowan said.
For Mattel, launching this type of retail experience with Barbie is a logical approach because the Dreamhouse is already an iconic feature, he said.
"It's always been an essential part of the Barbie line," McGowan said.
Mulvaney-Japes, who's been a Barbie fan since she was a child, said it's not just the doll's fashion sense that's kept her engaged, but also the "I Can" message. Barbie has had more than 100 careers over the years, from president to teacher to astronaut.
"People say the word 'Barbie,' and women smile," Mulvaney-Japes said. "To me, that's what it's about."
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Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience is at The Oasis at Sawgrass Mills mall, across from Regal Sawgrass Cinemas 23.
Sawgrass Mills is at 12801 W. Sunrise Blvd., Sunrise
Admission tickets are available on site and via Ticketmaster. Weekday and weekend prices vary.
Prices range from $14.84 to $29.95 on weekdays, and $16.84 to $31.95 on weekends.
The $29.95/$31.95 VIP Megastar Ticket includes access to a "Fashion Runway" activity and, with a $5 deposit, a bracelet.
For more information, visit barbiedreamhouse.com ___
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