Amazon has inked a multi year, multimillion dollar production deal with Mattel subsidiary American Girl to produce four live-action specials based on the company’s popular American Girl line of dolls and books and to be streamed on Amazon Prime. The deal also comes with the option to produce multiple seasons worth of episodic content. The first American Girl special will premiere on Amazon Prime Video in the US, UK, Germany and Austria later in 2016.
The agreement represents a huge expansion of Amazon’s kids programming, as the American Girl line is one of Mattel’s most profitable brands for girls, with sales of the books, dolls, and various adaptations earning the company a combined $659 million in 2013 alone. Created in 1986 by Pleasant Company (purchased by Mattel in 1998), the dolls and a connected series of books were designed to empower young girls and educate them about socio-political issues including slavery, child labor, poverty and racism, from the perspective of similarly-aged girls who would have experienced them. American Girl was expanded in 1995 with a line of contemporary dolls and products, American Girl of Today, that present stories of modern girls as they overcome challenges and learn about the world at large. That line later received its own spinoff, the Girl of the Year series.
The original lineup of historical dolls and books were rebranded in 2014 as BeForever and today the line’s main focus has been on the contemporary dolls. Nonetheless, two of the Amazon specials will be based on the BeForever line. One of the other specials will be based on Girl of the Year, and the other on the contemporary line.
This won’t be the first live-action American Girl production, of course. An ongoing, loosely connected series of successful direct to video films have been released since 2004 and have featured the likes of Mia Farrow, Virginia Madsen, Abigail Breslin, and Shailene Woodley, among others. The line has long been praised for its educational and multicultural focus, potentially making the Amazon specials as attractive to prominent actresses as the films have been. The American Girl specials join Amazon’s growing slate of kids programming, among them Just Add Magic, the Emmy-nominated Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, and the Emmy-nominated Annedroids.