LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Elliot Handler, founder of the toy giant Mattel and creator of Hot Wheels, has died, the company announced today. He was 95.
Handler died Wednesday of heart failure at his home in Century City, the website Westwood-Century City Patch reported.
Handler, his wife Ruth and Harold “Matt” Matson, an industrial designer, founded Mattel Creations in 1945, initially headquartered in the Handlers’ garage in their suburban Los Angeles home, according to information supplied by the company.
The company’s name came from the first names of Matson and Elliot Handler. The first Mattel products were picture frames. Elliot Handler soon developed a side business in dollhouse furniture made from picture frame scraps.
The first product developed by Mattel was the Uke-A-Doodle, a child- sized ukulele. Matson sold his share of the business following its introduction in 1947.
The Handlers soon shifted the company’s emphasis to toys, with a popular jack-in-the-box following the Uke-A-Doodle.
Mattel was then boosted by becoming a sponsor of ABC’s “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955, with annual sales growing from $5 million to $14 million in three years.
In 1959, Mattel introduced the Barbie doll, named for the Handlers’ daughter Barbara, which would become one of the world’s most popular and enduring toys.
In the 1960s, Mattel was seeking a toy that would capture boys imaginations like Barbie did for girls. Elliot Handler conceived Hot Wheels, the miniature die-cast vehicles that would incorporate speed, power and performance. The toy was introduced in 1968 and became a No. 1 selling toy brand.
Elliot Handler was named Mattel’s chairman of the board in 1973, a position he shared with Ruth until 1975 when they left the company.
In 1989, the Handlers became the first living inductees into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 1989.
Elliot Handler is survived by his daughter, now Barbara Segal. His wife Ruth died in 2002 at the age of 85. Their son Ken, who the Ken doll was named for, died in 1994 of a brain tumor.
Information on funeral services was incomplete. Elliot Handler is expected to be buried at Hillside Memorial Park, where his wife is interred.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)