Q&A: Mattel Television’s Frederic Soulie


With venerable brands such as Barbie, Thomas & Friends, Polly Pocket, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder, there is a true trove for Mattel Television to mine from. The television production division of Mattel has been bringing these beloved, well-known properties to the screen in TV series and specials, telling new stories and introducing fresh characters along the way. It is also delivering brand-new, original IP and building out its slate beyond animation into broader live-action offerings. Frederic Soulie, senior VP and general manager of Mattel Television, tells TV Kids about the latest developments.

TV KIDS: What’s the strategy for mining Mattel’s vast IP portfolio for characters and franchises ripe for episodic programming and TV specials?
SOULIE: At Mattel Television, we believe the best stories have universal themes that transcend generations and languages. Our various franchises are each built on a strong purpose, which creates universal appeal. We also make sure that our storytelling is visually dynamic.

Barbie inspires the limitless potential in every child. Masters of the Universe encourages each of us to become the best version of ourselves. Thomas & Friends is all about the importance of friendship. These broader brand purposes are threaded throughout each piece of content we create.

TV KIDS: How have audiences embraced the new-look Thomas series in 2D animation?
SOULIE: Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go premiered last fall on Cartoon Network and is now available on Netflix in the U.S. and with linear broadcast and streaming partners globally. The new series introduces an entirely new look and feel to Thomas & Friends content and features new art direction, more physical comedy and a greater range of character expressiveness. It is crafted to appeal to contemporary audiences’ sensibilities while maintaining Thomas’s core brand ethos about the importance of friendship. Cartoon Network saw strong performances across various regions, as did Milkshake! in the U.K. The series was also number one in its slot in Canada on Treehouse TV.

We also debuted Thomas & Friends: Race for the Sodor Cup on Cartoon Network and with additional global distribution plans to be announced. The action-packed adventure introduces new characters, a collection of new songs and plenty of train-racing fun. We are already at work producing new seasons and specials.

TV KIDS: What are the latest developments in the Barbie programming franchise?
SOULIE: In 2021, we premiered two Barbie specials on Netflix: Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday and Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams, both of which debuted in the top ten. Both specials also debuted on broadcast internationally. We have barely scratched the surface of the stories the Barbie brand can tell, and we have a variety of scripted and unscripted Barbie projects in production and development. We look forward to sharing the upcoming Barbie content with some all-new and returning faces in 2022.

TV KIDS: What is the approach for producing outside of known IP?
SOULIE: Mattel Television is focused on engaging audiences through timely and compelling episodic content and TV movies. Mattel’s purpose across all our franchises is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential. As part of that commitment, we continue to find ways to represent the diverse world we live in through the content we create. It is a priority for us to tell diverse stories authentically, making sure to include subject-matter experts through all areas of production, in order to design content that reflects the world around us.

TV KIDS: Is live action going to be more of a focus as you look ahead?
SOULIE: At Mattel, we have a treasure trove of brands that offers numerous opportunities to create great television across both live action and animation. Live action is definitely a priority for our overall television slate. We are also developing a robust unscripted slate, including a game show based on Pictionary that was recently picked up for a full season on all FOX-owned stations.

TV KIDS: What else is coming down the pipeline?
SOULIE: We have an all-new animated series and live-action television-movie musical based on Monster High with our partners at Nickelodeon. We also will debut new seasons of Polly Pocket and Fireman Sam on linear TV and streaming platforms around the world, and Deepa & Anoop, a new preschool series and the first piece of Mattel Television content based on all-new IP.