Barbie gets life-size Dreamhouse in Florida

Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel - Visitors leave a life-size house at "Barbie The Dreamhouse Experience" at Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise, Florida.

Barbie is no longer a California girl. The hugely popular doll has moved to Florida and is inviting people to step into her life-size dream house, the first one to open worldwide.

Barbie the Dreamhouse Experience — a 10,000-square-foot building with an “endless closet,” elevators, a kitchen, bedroom and everything pink — opened this month at Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise, Florida.

(Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel) - Aubrianna Robledo, 4, of Chicago, above, smiles at her mother after her “makeover” in Florida’s life-size Barbie the Dreamhouse Experience.

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The house already is drawing squeals of joy from little girls who have toured Barbie’s happy world. Earlier this month, groups of girls ran around the house, frequently jumping with excitement and often pointing and screaming, “Oh my God, did you see this?!”

Several walls throughout the house are lined with Barbie dolls, and among the interactive features are buttons, which, once pressed, can either make flowers rise, Barbie’s dog walk out of his doghouse or a pink dolphin pop up from a toilet seat. Visitors also can get glammed up by Barbie staff, walk down a runway and strike a pose.

“It was really cool,” Elizabeth Torres, 11, said after the fashion show. “We saw the whole house, the big closet; it was really awesome.”

Lifelong Barbie fan Lynn Mulvaney-Japes, 51, was also excited about the Dreamhouse.

“It’s a big deal,” said Mulvaney-Japes, a member of a Barbie collector club. “In fact, we all want to go work there.”

The Lauderhill, Florida, resident said she has more than 3,000 Barbies in a room in her house devoted exclusively to the doll. Mulvaney-Japes was planning a visit to Barbie’s house along with other members of the Fashion Queen Doll Club.

But not everyone was impressed. Some parents were upset because some staff members were giving tours without looking up from scripts, and interactive computer screens had glitches along with other technical difficulties. Mattel said the hiccups in visitors’ experience — tours cost $14 to $29.99 — would be a top priority to correct.

The house was a two-years-in-the-making project for Mattel and EMS Entertainment, an Austria-based company helping design and build the project.

“Making sure children and parents actually feel like they are in the Dreamhouse has always been our goal,” said Christoph Rahofer, president of EMS. “We wanted this to be an immersive experience that visitors would never forget.”

A visit last week to Barbie’s second Dreamhouse, which is in Berlin, Germany, may have been memorable in a not-so-positive way. Protesters showed up at the opening and shouted “pink stinks.”

But Florida visitors shared upbeat views of Barbie.

Mulvaney-Japes said it’s not just the doll’s fashion sense that’s kept her engaged, but also the “I Can” message. Barbie has had more than 100 careers over the years, from president to teacher to astronaut.

“People say the word ‘Barbie,’ and women smile,” Mulvaney-Japes said. “To me, that’s what it’s about.”

— McClatchy-Tribune and staff reports

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