Fresh off Barbie’s box office success, manufacturer Mattel, which owns the Barbie brand, is reportedly looking to expand on its IP with 14 new feature films, all in different stages of production. As per Variety, they include a surrealistic Barney movie, Lena Dunham’s take on Polly Pocket, a Hot Wheels movie produced by J.J. Abrams, and more. The Mattel executives are also keen to do sequels to Greta Gerwig’s candy-coated film, though the filmmaker isn’t thinking about a follow-up for now, claiming, “At this moment, it’s all I’ve got.” Then again, seeing the impressive $337 million (about Rs. 2,763 crore) it made during the opening weekend, it’s not hard to imagine that Warner Bros. and Mattel will want more.
The Variety report notes that producer Robbie Brenner, who currently leads Mattel Films, was hoping for Barbie to succeed, so they could bank on potential sequels and new projects based on established IP. This echoes the newly-appointed CEO Ynon Kreiz’s plan from 2018 when Mattel’s sales were dwindling, where he wanted to turn the toy company into a franchise composed of films, TV series, and theme parks — much like Disney. Their first step towards that goal seems to have paid off, with the Barbie movie outselling Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, both having released on the same day.
Reports from earlier this month confirmed Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya (Nope) would be producing and starring in an adult-oriented ‘A24-type’ film based on Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur from the children’s TV show Barney & Friends. Mattel executives claimed that it won’t be R-rated, but the themes would lean more towards an adult’s taste, featuring a ‘surrealistic’ take that’s similar to films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation — from the brilliant minds of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman. Speaking to Variety, producer Brenner claimed that the film will be about ‘identity and finding who you love and who feels alienated.’
The miniature-sized Polly Pocket is another toy brand that Mattel plans to turn into a movie, albeit it doesn’t have as big of a brand recognition as Barbie. Lena Dunham (Girls) will write and direct the movie, which stars Lily Collins (Emily in Paris, Mank) in the lead role. The film is still in its early stages, with producer Brenner claiming that a ‘great’ script was turned in. Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III) will produce a movie based on the Hot Wheels toy line, which is being described as ‘grounded and gritty’ with emotional characters that the audience will be able to relate to. Warner Bros. will be distributing it and since Abrams is involved, you might as well factor in some lens flare.
Fast & Furious star Vin Diesel is looking to delve into robots soon, with a feature film adaptation of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, the tabletop boxing game from Mattel that pits a red and a blue fighter against each other, as you mash away at joysticks attached to the ring. Ryan Engle — best known for Rampage — is writing the script. A He-Man live-action adaptation has been in the works for a long time, with Netflix cancelling ‘Masters of the Universe’ just last week. Mattel is still looking for a new buyer for He-Man though, which it believes has the potential to explode into a ‘mega-franchise’. The now-cancelled film was to be directed by Aaron and Adam Nee (The Lost City) and featured West Side Story’s Kyle Allen as the lead actor.
Tom Hanks (The Terminal) is set to appear as the Mattel astronaut figurine Major Matt Mason, who lived and worked on the moon, attracting screenwriters Akiva Goldsman (I, Robot) and Michael Chabon (Star Trek: Picard). Thanks to the ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood, it will be a while before the production moves forward. The company is also planning a PG-13 thriller surrounding the Magic 8 Ball, which was used as a fortune-telling toy back in the 1950s. And if that wasn’t absurd enough already, Mattel will also make a movie based on the UNO card game, which is being written by Marcy Kelly.
Mattel doesn’t seem to be done with dolls yet and wants to explore an American Girl movie for its expansive ‘Mattelverse.’ As per Variety, the film will be a family comedy that’s aimed at helping young girls ‘grow with confidence and develop character.’ Even Thomas & Friends is getting a fantasy film adaptation, directed by Marc Forster, who rose to prominence with World War Z and Finding Neverland. Amidst this exhaustive list, Mattel is also adapting a true story for the screen. Titled ‘Christmas Balloon,’ the film follows a young girl, who tied her Christmas present list to a balloon and sent it up into the air, only to be found by a grieving couple who work with the toy company to make her wishes come true. Gabby Lugo (A Million Little Things) is attached to write the screenplay.
Here’s the entire list of movies Mattel has planned for the foreseeable future. Bear in mind that production might take some time, given the ongoing actors’ and writers’ strikes in Hollywood.
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