Enchantimals is a 2017 franchise owned, developed, and promoted by Mattel. It follows in the footsteps of Monster High and Ever After High as a franchise designed to be a multimedia franchise from the get-go. Its central themes are animals and nature, with the titular enchantimals being animalistic humanoids with matching animal companions.
Development is thought to have begun in Late 2015 following the problems Ever After High gave Mattel that necessitated that franchise to be brought to an end. The exact origins of Enchantimals lie in Ever After High's 2015 pixie lineup, which the enchantimals are an upgraded version of in the sense that their animal features are more pronounced. The franchise was announced on October 12, 2016 and hit the market in June of the following year. It was met with lukewarm reception.
The climate in which Enchantimals was thought up has its roots in 2001 when MGA Entertainment introduced its Bratz lineup. Bratz was the first time Mattel's Barbie received noteworthy competition, which Mattel was not too happy about. In 2002, they countered with My Scene, which MGA Entertainment sued them over in 2005 for being too similar to Bratz. In 2006, Mattel responded by suing MGA Entertainment for stealing Bratz, as it was claimed their creator was employed at Mattel at the time of thinking up Bratz. Up until 2008, Mattel seemed to come out victorious, but the tide turned in 2009. In need of a franchise that could compete with Bratz, Monster High, a doll series featuring the descendents of well-known monsters, was developed for 2010. It was a smash hit that inspired many if short-lived other doll series. Notable among these is Bratzillaz, a 2012 franchise by MGA Entertainment that took the concept of Bratz and horror-themed it up by starring a cast of witches. Around this time, Mattel was looking to expand on its success with Monster High by creating a new franchise using the same core concepts. The initial thought was to make this new franchise centered on witches, but due to Bratzillaz that idea could not go through. Instead, 2013 saw the introduction of Ever After High, a doll series featuring the descendents of fairytales. Like Monster High before, it was an instant hit, leading Mattel to declare a longterm plan "to launch a new global franchise every one to three years starting in the spring of 2013". Although popular, one consequence Mattel failed to foresee was Disney's reaction, for whom the company had long produced dolls based on Disney's interpretation of fairytales. There were other annoyances between the companies regarding the Disney Princess brand prior, but Ever After High was the final straw that made Disney hand over the license to Hasbro when the contract with Mattel came to an end in 2015. The financial loss signified by the license loss, combined with Disney's own "children of fairytales" 2015 franchise Descendants, higher material costs, Barbie's continuously waning popularity, and marketing issues with Monster High and Ever After High brought Mattel to the decision to reboot Monster High and close the book on Ever After High while looking for new ventures. In line with their 2013-expressed desire to launch a new doll brand around every two years, the first of these was DC Super Hero Girls in 2015 in cooperation with DC Comics. It combines DC's roster of superheroes with the high school setting of Mattel's earlier franchises. It would take until 2017 for Mattel to return with a themed franchise of their own once more, this being Enchantimals.
Enchantimals has its origins in the pixie sublines of Ever After High, which were animal-themed dolls utilizing a smaller mold with less articulation than the regular dolls. On January 14, 2016, a trademark was filed for Pixie World, which sounds like it would've expanded on the franchise's setting with a pixie-centric arc that was to follow the introductions of two groups of pixies in Mid December, 2015 and Early June, 2016. With Ever After High's cancellation, this never happened, but the idea would be the basis for Enchantimals. Nonetheless, the latter's heritage speaks only from its core concepts and is thus farther removed from its predecessors than Ever After High was from Monster High. The marketing of Ever After High was strong on emphasizing that it shared a universe with Monster High, working up towards a crossover that eventually never occurred. Enchantimals has not received similar marketing, being only recognizable as part of the greater whole due to similarities. It is unknown it this is intentional as a means for Mattel to start afresh, which is suggested by the avoiding of the high school setting, or a consequence of the cancellation and rebooting of the older two franchises.
Like its predecessors with Bratz and Disney Princess, Enchantimals takes a cue or two from competing doll franchises. Influence of Hasbro's 2010 Friendship Is Magic edition of My Little Pony, 2013's Equestria Girls in particular, and their 2012 version of Littlest Pet Shop is visible in Enchantimals's incorporation of their themes of nature and group-based friendship. Likely, these were looked into by Mattel in response to Disney's decision that Hasbro made a better partner for the production and marketing of dolls. Mattel itself has pointed at the "popular animal aesthetic [as seen in] social media filters" as a direct inspiration for the franchise, though whether this means the earlier pixies were based on the filters or if the filters account for the design difference between the pixies and the enchantimals is not specified. The choice for the small size of the Enchantimals dolls has been ascribed to the market influence of the 2014 franchise Shopkins with emphasis on its 2015 doll spinoff Shoppies.
Enchantimals has been received with enthusiasm, but less so than DC Super Hero Girls, Ever After High, and Monster High did at their launches. There appear two main causes of this. For one, Enchantimals is a low price point doll series that flirts with being a figurine series. This market is more occupied than the one of luxurious, large dolls, thus making Enchantimals stand out less. The quantity over quality approach, wherein each unsold product represents a lower loss, is intentional, hence why Enchantimals started out with fourteen different dolls, one large playset, six small playsets, a three-doll starter pack, and a six-doll starter pack, whereas Monster High only had six dolls at first and Ever After High launched with four.
For two, compared to its predecessors, Enchantimals is conventionally themed. Monster High stands out for marketing monsters to girls, DC Super Hero Girls for marketing superheroes to girls, and Ever After High marks one of the few times a company challenged Disney's hold on the fairytale market. On top of that, Ever After High was presented as an expansion on its popular predecessor and thus could tap in the pre-existing fanbase. Enchantimals is not afforded brand-linking nor does it stand out on its own theme. This has consequences for its appeal to the older Monster High and Ever After High fanbases, which view Enchantimals as a replacement to the latter and as an affirmation to the former's reboot that removed a lot of the original spice. If Enchantimals is meant for a new audience, that audience cannot form as quickly as it has done for the predecessors.