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Home > Screenings > Abacus Media Rights > Barbie Uncovered: A Dream House Divided

Director: Eddie Hutton Mills

Producer: Two Rivers Media

Executive Producer: Ross WIlson

Cast: Gemma Arterton

Genres: Documentary


1 x 90 minutes

Barbie Uncovered explores the unknown creation story behind one of the world’s most iconic brands today – Barbie.
Narrated by Gemma Arterton (Culprits, Quantum of Solace), this is the surprising true story of success and excess which fuelled the Barbie phenomenon. The battle and betrayal between the co-creators Ruth Handler and Jack Ryan. One, a poor Polish Jewish immigrant, who built the largest toy company in the world from nothing, despite never having owned a doll as a child! The other, one of the foremost inventors of his era, a rocket scientist, not content to design missiles for the Pentagon at the height of the Cold War, he made Barbie “twist and turn”.

The film charts their amazing rise, Barbie sales of 300,000 dolls in the first year to over 2 billion before Ruth died. The financial rewards for both parents were huge, multi millionaire Ruth bought Renoirs and Picassos, Jack built a medieval castle in the heart of LA, which hosted 150 parties a year full of Hollywood celebrities and created a sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll world before Hugh Hefner. But as in all family dramas, jealousy and greed grew, sales figures were massaged to keep the share price high, costs had to be cut so Ruth targeted Jack’s royalties.

A legal battle followed, the fiddling of the books led to Ruth being sacked by the Board of the company she founded, and Jack had to sell his beloved castle. Then the US Government took an interest and threatened Ruth with a 41 year jail sentence. She claimed she was innocent until on the court steps admitting guilt. Having married and divorced Zsa Zsa Gabor within a year, Jack continued marrying until his fifth wife, a young Polish immigrant 30 years his junior. Ruth survived breast cancer to use the experience to make another fortune from a breast prosthetic company. Eventually she was brought back into Mattel and her statue is in the entrance hall. And she got to walk hand in hand with Margot Robbie at the end of the Barbie movie and be seen so far by 1.4 billion people worldwide, as Barbie’s mum. Dad Jack had quintuple heart surgery, was diagnosed as bi-polar, suffered a paralysing stroke and committed suicide. Written out of Barbie’s creation story, his family still battle to have his role honoured as Ruth’s has been. And all this based on a 11 and a half inch sex doll for men that Ruth found by chance in a shop window while on holiday in Switzerland, and copied to bring Barbie to life.

The film features, exclusive unseen archive of Jack Ryan, as well as a plethora of rich archive of Ruth Handler, anchoring the film’s historical importance. The documentary also features in depth interviews with those closest to the story. Ann Ryan (Jack’s daughter), Annie Contantinescu (Former employee and lover), Tom Kalinske (Former CEO of Mattel) and Jill Barad (Former President and CEO of Mattel). The film also looks to explore the surprising hold Barbie has on society today, through verité vignettes with the likes of Bettinna Dorfmann (the world's largest Barbie doll collector), Sandi Grayson (World record holding Barbie Auctioneer) and Marcela Iglesias (World famous human barbie doll).