Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated Barbie film may just be a mere glimpse into the vast and exciting universe that Mattel has in store for its toys. A recent extensive report from the New Yorker reveals that the company has an astounding 45 toy-centred films currently in development. Although only 13 of these projects have been officially announced, including Daniel Kaluuya’s Barney the Dinosaur and a Hot Wheels film with J.J. Abrams involved, it’s clear that Mattel is determined to bring its entire toy lineup to life on the big screens.
The lineup features an exciting roster of films, each promising a unique toy-inspired adventure. Among them, Daniel Kaluuya is set to star in the much-anticipated Barney movie, while J.J. Abrams takes the wheel for the thrilling Hot Wheels adaptation. Vin Diesel is also stepping into the ring for the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots movie, and Lena Dunham is set to direct the Polly Pocket film. While Kyle Allen, known for his role in West Side Story, leads the charge in the sure-to-be-epic He-Man: Masters of the Universe movie. Additionally, Tom Hanks is set to portray the forgotten astronaut action hero Major Matt Mason, a character who inspired Buzz Lightyear, in his own standalone film. But the list doesn’t end there.
A View-Master project, based on the beloved handheld slide show toy, is reportedly also in the works. However, not much is currently known about the project. While different production companies are involved in making these movies, Mattel Films, the in-house production arm of the company, will spearhead all of these creative projects.
The New Yorker report also delves into the efforts of Robbie Brenner, a seasoned veteran from Miramax, who now leads Mattel Films. Brenner’s primary responsibility is assembling a team of development executives who will go through Mattel’s vast toy collection and identify intellectual properties (IP) with potential for Hollywood studios.
Collaborating closely with writers, actors, and directors, Mattel will play a crucial role in matching these properties with the right creative talent. In the New Yorker article, Brenner talked about the general influence of IP in today’s entertainment landscape, highlighting the significance of pre-awareness. “In the world we’re living in, IP is king. Pre-awareness is so important,” Brenner commented.
Among all the different projects Mattel has in development, Kaluuya’s Barney movie stands out as one of the most interesting ones. The film is being pitched to potential partners as an “A24-type film” with “millennial angst.” While talking to the New Yorker, Kevin McKeon, an executive at Mattel Films, shared that the upcoming Barney movie will take a slightly more mature approach and have an “A24-type” quality.
Rather than solely targeting a young audience, the film will explore the intricacies of adult life, delving into the challenges and disillusionment faced by those who grew up with Barney. “We’re leaning into the millennial angst of the property rather than fine-tuning this for kids,” McKeon said. “It’s really a play for adults. Not that it’s R-rated, but it’ll focus on some of the trials and tribulations of being thirtysomething, growing up with Barney — just the level of disenchantment within the generation.”
If Gerwig’s Barbie manages to make a splash at the box office (and all signs point that it will), it could very well be the game-changer for Mattel. The success of the film might just be the spark Mattel needs to kickstart its own cinematic universe, similar to Marvel and DC. With an extensive lineup of beloved characters and IPs already at their disposal, Mattel has the necessary foundation to weave a unique and expansive world of storytelling on the big screens.
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