Barbie to come in seven races and Lego unveils wheelchair user as toys embrace diversity

Lego and Mattel, the world's biggest toy companies, both announced their updated toy lines featuring a broader spectrum of people

Barbie, Lego, wheelchair, race, ethnicity, sizes

[Twitter/Mattel]

After almost 84 years, Lego has finally released plans to create one of its Minifigures that uses a wheelchair to get around. At the same time, Mattel, which was overtaken by Lego as the world’s biggest toy manufacturer, has unveiled a new line of its classic doll Barbie, who will now come with three different body types and seven different skin tones.

At the Nuremberg and London toy fairs this week, Lego showcased for the first time its wheelchair-bound adult. Duplo, the range of toddler toys designed by the Danish company, has previously featured a figure using a wheelchair, though this was a point of controversy as the character was an elderly man. Critics accused Lego of attempting to pander to disability activists.

The wheelchair-using Minifigure is the first to enter mainstream production in the company's 84-year history [YouTube]

But now the Lego Minifigure is a content, beanie-wearing adult, much to the delight of the founders of the Change.org petition which challenged the toy brand to design characters that better represented the full spectrum of ability.

“We’ve got genuine tears of joy right now. Lego has just rocked our brick-built world!” one of the site’s administrators wrote.

Meanwhile Barbie, long the source of derision for her unrealistic body proportions, has undergone some changes of her own. Mattel announced in TIME Magazine that the perennial favourite would become available in a variety of races and body sizes, including ‘petite’, ‘tall’, and ‘curvy’.

"By introducing more variety into the line, Barbie is offering girls choices that are better reflective of the world they see today. The new 2016 Barbie Fashionistas collection includes four body types, seven skin tones, 18 eye colours, 18 hairstyles, and countless on-trend fashions and accessories," Mattel writes on its website.

The new Barbies will be sold on the website and in limited supplies in toy shops, with the traditional doll still expected to dominate the units sold in the billion-dollar industry.

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