Expert Alert

The iconic toy behind the big screen in 'Barbie'

Image of Barry Kudrowitz, Ph.D. Credit: University of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (07/20/2023) — The highly anticipated “Barbie” film hits movie theaters this Friday, inspiring people of all ages to reflect on the iconic doll and what it  means to them. 

Barry Kudrowitz, a professor of product design and department head in the College of Design, is available to provide expert commentary on Barbie, toys, play, designing for children and innovation. 

Barry Kudrowitz, Ph.D.

“Barbie is more than just a toy, it is a major brand, icon and transmedia property.  The upcoming live-action movie has been highly anticipated and this is not just because of strong childhood nostalgia. This is the first time we are seeing the physical Barbie products represented as real people with real accessories, vehicles, clothes and locations on a screen after years of discussion about the idea.

"Unlike when video games or novels are transformed into a film, Barbie does not come with a specific narrative or plot and there have been many different Barbie dolls and accessories over the years. Similar to the Lego Movie, curiosity of how a well-known toy property is going to be transformed into a movie, a strong cast and writer/director, and (what seems to be) embracing self-referential humor are major factors driving the excitement around the movie.”

Barry Kudrowitz is a product design professor and a department head in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Kudrowitz studies creativity and innovation with specific research interests in play, humor, toys, food and design education. He has years of experience working with the toy industry and has taught toy design for over a decade. Dr. Kudrowitz co-designed a Nerf toy, an elevator simulator that is in operation at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and a ketchup-dispensing robot that was featured on the Martha Stewart Show. His recently published book Sparking Creativity: How Play and Humor Fuel Innovation and Design encourages a playful approach throughout a design process to produce truly innovative solutions.

About the College of Design
Located in a major design city and in one of the largest research universities in the U.S., the University of Minnesota's College of Design encompasses a full range of design disciplines. Faculty, students and staff aim to advance the quality of manufactured objects and our natural, built and social environments through sustainably resilient, socially responsible, civically engaged and human-centered design collaborations. Learn more at

About “Expert Alert”
University of Minnesota experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Find selected experts on the University’s Experts Guide or send requests to [email protected]

Media Contacts

Amelia Narigon

College of Design, Twin Cities