In the world according to Barbie, the Mattel doll met and fell in love with Ken in 1961 on the set of a TV commercial. Over the decades, Ken has held some 40 jobs, including Olympic gold medalist and hair stylist. The two even broke up because of Ken’s reluctance to tie the knot — but according to Barbie’s blog last year, this legendary couple has reunited.
It’s a different history, though, in Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” which opens June 18 and presents Ken as a swinging bachelor who lives in a day-care center where Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Mr. Potato Head and the gang come to live after their beloved owner, Andy, heads off to college.
Michael Keaton supplies the voice of the tanned, short-shorts-wearing Ken, who is looking for love. Keaton couldn’t keep from laughing during a recent phone interview when he talked about playing the iconic doll.
SK: So is there a back story to Ken? How did he end up in the day-care center?
MK: It’s so great to have these conversations with a straight face. I’ll challenge anyone to talk about this and not start to, like, grin. You have to shoot your face up with Novocain to have these conversations. Ken actually serves as kind of a concierge — somewhere between a tour guide, a concierge, maitre d’ and ambassador. He’s not only alone in his dream house but probably alone in the dream.
SK: Watching the clip of his introduction in the film, Ken comes across as a pretty cool dude.
MK: He’s fantastic. He is a really, really swell fellow, let’s put it that way.
SK: I’m not so sure, though, about his shorts.
MK: You don’t like the hot pants! I’m shocked. You have to say this for the man, he’s bold.
SK: I Wikipedia-ed Ken, I had to read up on him … I had a Barbie as a kid but not a Ken.
MK: Did you ever think in your life would complete a sentence saying “I Wikipedia-ed Ken?”
SK: You had six siblings. Did any of your sisters own a Ken?
MK: The only one who would have had one was Pam. And I seriously doubt that Pam would have had a Barbie. To be real honest, they probably really didn’t care to have a Barbie. We weren’t the richest of people, so toys were spread around and shared and passed down. Believe me, I would have seen something like a Barbie pass around the house. If it was up to my brothers and I, she would have been part of a ceremony….We were rough on toys.
— Susan King
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