Mattel is broadening its horizons in a new partnership with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket-ship company that aims to launch civilians into outer space.
The multiyear partnership is being unveiled on July 20, the day humans first set foot on the moon in 1969. According to Mattel, its collaboration is designed for worldwide markets and will begin releasing SpaceX-inspired toys next year under the brand Matchbox (a one-time competitor to Hot Wheels, before the toy giant scooped up the franchise in the late ’90s).
Mattel did not provide any further details about the forthcoming toys, although given Matchbox’s origins as a manufacturer of mini race cars, tow trucks, war tanks, ocean liners, and other modes of transport, one might expect the SpaceX collection to include tiny replicas of its Starship, Falcon, and Dragon rocket fleets—the last of which has shipped astronauts back and forth from the International Space Station, and also blasted the first-ever all-civilian crew into 3-day orbit in September.
Mattel and SpaceX will also release “astro-inspired collectibles” through Mattel Creations, its platform for luxe, limited-edition toys and trinkets. (Examples on the website include the hero clownfish from Pixar’s Finding Nemo and the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.)
“We take pride in our ability to create products and experiences that honor cultural moments and inspire humankind,” Nick Karamanos, Mattel’s senior vice president of entertainment partnerships, said in a statement. “As space exploration advances more quickly than ever before, we are thrilled to work with SpaceX and help spark limitless play patterns for the space explorer in all kids.”
“At SpaceX, we believe that a future in which humanity is out among the stars is fundamentally more exciting than the one in which we are not,” Brian Bjelde, a SpaceX vice president, added.
While this collaboration marks SpaceX’s first deal with a global toymaker, Mattel has a long history of celebrating our earthly reach for the cosmos as a space toy pioneer. During the height of the lunar space race in the 1960s, it launched a line of astronaut Barbies and an action figure named Major Matt Mason, Mattel’s fictional all-American space cadet, who landed on the moon with his jetpack and space sled three years before Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Apollo 11 touched down.
Nearly 50 years later, Mattel released a line of Hot Wheels commemorating Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. And most recently, in April, the company sent two Barbie dolls into space in a campaign to encourage girls in STEM.
Meanwhile, SpaceX’s journey continues: Its next mission will be to launch another crew of civilian travelers into 5-day orbit around the Earth in late 2022, on a flight dubbed Polaris Dawn that could include the first-ever civilian space walk.