Mattel creates Thank You Heroes toy line of frontliners—donates some of profits


Toy manufacturing giant Mattel joined the fight against Covid-19 by doing what it does best: Rolling out a special edition Thank You Heroes toy campaign to introduce kids to the heroes on the frontlines.

Matt Flesher, a lead toy designer at Mattel, helped create the new line and discussed it in an interview.  Once Covid-19 hit, Flesher said Mattel immediately wanted to address the situation and help with the relief in the best way possible.

“The company as a whole was looking at the situation we are in with Covid-19 and wanting to figure out ways to show gratitude to our frontline workers and finding a way to give back and contribute,” he said. “The Thank You Heroes campaign is part of a larger Play it Forward plan and platform.”

There are many frontline worker toys, including Fisher-Price nurses, doctors, delivery drivers and emergency medical technicians, as well as Matchbox vehicles and Little People sets.

“They can be given as a gift to recognize someone,” said Flesher. “They can also be used as a tool to help children have conversations about what’s going on now. We hope that these toys will be used during difficult times to help kids and adults.”

Each of the individual figures is $20, and through May 31, Mattel donated $15 per toy to the First Responders Fund, which benefits frontline healthcare workers and their families.

Flesher said that designing the line was a large project and used the existing Rescue Hero toys as its base. “We had to work out the color schemes, the look of them, and we worked with varieties of hair and skin tones,” he said. “We (made them) as diverse as possible because we want people to connect with these.”

He explained there were many aspects to the roll-out. Mattel had to be sure the accessories, like the nurses’ face shields and masks were “not going to be a choking hazard.”

Flescher said the response to the campaign has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“One of the most challenging things was trying to make sure that we could represent the widest spectrum of individuals and heroes that we could,” Flesher said, saying that “just trying to make it have as broad of an appeal as possible is probably one of the most challenging things.”

Flesher’s background made him the perfect candidate to work on the product line. He studied film and animation at the University of The Arts in Philadelphia because of his love of “Star Wars” from the age of six. “It changed my world,” he said.

“I was always fascinated by how the stuff was made, how it was built.” He didn’t realize it at the time, but “all that kind of stuff…is very similar to toy design and how things function and interact.”

From there he had the opportunity to freelance with Mattel and has now been with the company for almost eighteen years, at which point he was able to work on what Mattel calls “a new kind of hero.”

On its website, Mattel calls the frontline workers the “brave souls who carry on doing their jobs despite the risks in order to keep the rest of us safe, secure and healthy. We salute these heroes, and we think they’re pretty amazing role models for kids. Let’s play their heroism forward by lending a helping hand and sharing a little gratitude.”