Following Barbie’s box office success, Mattel, which controls the Barbie brand, is apparently planning to expand its IP with 14 new feature films, all of which are in various stages of production. According to Variety, they include a surrealistic Barney film, Lena Dunham’s take on Polly Pocket, a J.J. Abrams-produced Hot Wheels film, and others. Mattel executives are also interested in doing sequels to Greta Gerwig’s candy-coated film, however the filmmaker isn’t considering one for the time being, claiming, “At this moment, it’s all I’ve got.” However, given its opening weekend gross of $337 million (about Rs. 2,763 crore), it’s easy to think that Warner Bros. and Mattel will want more.
According to Variety, producer Robbie Brenner, who currently oversees Mattel Films, hoped for Barbie’s success so that they could bank on prospective sequels and new projects based on established IP. This is similar to newly-appointed CEO Ynon Kreiz’s idea from 2018, when Mattel’s sales were declining, to turn the toy corporation into a franchise comprised of films, TV programs, and theme parks, similar to Disney. Their first effort toward that goal appears to have paid off, with the Barbie film outselling Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer on the same day.
Earlier this month, it was reported that Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya would produce and appear in an adult-oriented ‘A24-type’ picture based on Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur from the children’s TV show Barney & Friends. Mattel officials said that it will not be R-rated, but that the topics will be better suited to an adult audience, with a ‘surrealistic’ twist comparable to films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation — both from the genius brains of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman. According to producer Brenner, the film would be about ‘identity and identifying who you love and who feels estranged.’
Polly Pocket is another toy brand that Mattel intends to make into a film, albeit it does not have the same brand recognition as Barbie. Lena Dunham will write and direct the film, which will star Lily Collins. The project is still in its early stages, according to producer Brenner, who claims that a ‘fantastic’ draft was submitted. Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) will direct a film based on the Hot Wheels toy line that will be “grounded and gritty,” with emotive characters to which the audience will be able to relate. Warner Bros. will distribute it, and because Abrams is involved, some lens flare should be expected.
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Vin Diesel, the star of Fast & Furious, is planning a feature film adaptation of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, a tabletop boxing game from Mattel that sets a red and a blue fighter against each other as you hammer away at joysticks linked to the ring. The script is being written by Ryan Engle, well known for his work on Rampage. A live-action He-Man adaptation has long been in the works, with Netflix canceling ‘Masters of the Universe’ just last week. However, Mattel is still looking for a new buyer for He-Man, which it feels has the potential to become a “mega-franchise.” The now-cancelled film was to be directed by Aaron and Adam Nee and starred Kyle Allen from West Side Story.
Tom Hanks (The Terminal) is scheduled to play Major Matt Mason, a Mattel astronaut figure who lived and worked on the moon, which has piqued the interest of screenwriters Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon (Star Trek: Picard). The project will be delayed for some time due to the ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood. The studio is also creating a PG-13 thriller based on the Magic 8 Ball, which was popular as a fortune-telling toy in the 1950s. As if that wasn’t ludicrous enough, Mattel is also developing a film based on the UNO card game, which will be scripted by Marcy Kelly.
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Mattel does not appear to be finished with dolls and wishes to develop an American Girl film for its vast ‘Mattelverse’. According to Variety, the film would be a family comedy aimed at assisting young girls in ‘growing with confidence and developing character.’ Marc Forster, who rose to popularity with World War Z and Finding Neverland, is directing a fantasy film adaptation of Thomas & Friends. In addition to this extensive collection, Mattel is adapting a genuine story for the big screen. The film, titled ‘Christmas Balloon,’ depicts a small girl who ties her Christmas present list to a balloon and sends it up into the air, only to be discovered by a mourning couple who collaborate with the toy maker to grant her desires. The screenplay will be written by Gabby Lugo.
Here is the entire list of movies Mattel has planned for the near future. Keep in mind that due to the ongoing actor and writer strikes in Hollywood, production may take some time.
Barney — produced by and starring Daniel Kaluuya
Polly Pocket — from Lena Dunham, starring Lily Collins
Hot Wheels — produced by J.J. Abrams
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots — starring Vin Diesel
American Girl — a family comedy
Magic 8 Ball — a PG-13 thriller
Masters of the Universe — previously cancelled by Netflix
Major Matt Mason — from Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon, starring Tom Hanks
UNO — written by Marcy Kelly
Wishbone — produced by Peter Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber)
Matchbox — written by David Coggeshall (Orphan: First Kill)
Thomas & Friends — from Marc Forster (World War Z)
View Master — an adventure film based on the classic picture-viewing toy
Christmas Balloon — from Gabby Lugo; based on a true story