With all of the excitement bubbling for director Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a meta-comedy that brings the iconic Barbie doll to the human world, Mattel's discovery of the gold mine that they had at the factories in El Segundo, CA could be taking over Hollywood for the next decade.
Barbie’s history is undeniable, but she isn’t the only IP Mattel has that could become a new hit sensation in the entertainment industry. At the moment, J.J. Abrams is set to create a movie based on the line of Hot Wheels toys, and Vin Diesel has slated a movie version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots as his next creative endeavor.
So how did the toy giant find its way into Hollywood?
The answer is more simple than you think.
'Hot Wheels Unleashed'Credit: Milestone
Intellectual Property is Leading the Industry
Intellectual properties reign supreme in the current industry. From Willy Wonka to the seemingly endless Marvel films and TV shows that come out almost every week of the year, companies and audiences enjoy watching something that they are already familiar with.
“The brand immersion is the everything moment,” Richard Dickson, the President, and Chief Operating Officer of Mattel, told The New Yorker.
Mattel, with its endless amount of toy brands that have shaped the culture of childhood play-dates and imagination, understood that they had to find a way to adapt to the culture after Toys R Us had bankrupt, causing Mattel to suffer a loss of three hundred million dollars.
Ynon Kreiz, the head of Mattel, had a children’s entertainment catalog that was “second only to Disney.” To pivot from the financial loss the company was facing, Kreiz created a thesis that would lead Mattel into creating an IP machine that managed franchises.
This idea wasn’t new for Mattel, but Kreiz’s new approach would reduce any catastrophe that followed like the incidents from 2008 when the press mocked the potential for Monopoly and Candy Land to be adapted into a movie (although the press seems to have relaxed since the recent news of Tim Story's development of the Monopoly board game with Kevin Hart).
Mattel was now in the game of managing IPs that would reflect on the brand. Films that were created with Mattel products would now be under the control of Mattel rather than Warner Bros. or Sony.
'Battleship'Credit: Universal Pictures
What’s Next for Mattel?
While Barbie already seems to be a success for Mattel, with the endless memes and an entire hashtag still dominating TikTok, Mattel is looking at how to “engage with filmmakers in a friendly way” (according to Gerwig’s and Noah Baumbach’s agent at U.T.A. Jeremy Barber) while creating stories that people want to see.
With nostalgia high, a film based on Hot Wheels and memorable toys seems like a safer bet that an original concept.
The Lost City directors, Adam and Aaron Nee, are in talks to start production on a new Masters of the Universe movie, toys that the brothers played with and seemingly made short films with on their neighbor’s camera.
Aaron Nee told The New Yorker, “Other braided IP can be very rigid, dogmatic, and inflexible … Part of the attraction is that it’s not like we’re making, you know, the tenth of the series. It feels like ours.”
Mattel’s “Eternia Room.”Credit: Mattel ToysFor many directors looking to make the jump from indie directors to studio directors, working with IP and taking bold risks that still respect that brand is what Mattel is looking for.
“One of our big goals–the same as Mattel’s–is to be building a huge, world-building franchise,” Adam Nee said in The New Yorker.
Other toys with endless lore (both in childhood nostalgia and current meme culture) include UNO, Cabbage Patch Kids, American Girl Dolls, and Lego.
Mattel has always prided itself on connecting its toys with what is happening in the world. Right now, IP stories on the silver screen are dominating. It would be a massive miss if Mattel didn’t take the risk with up-and-coming filmmakers that love the toys they are creating stories about, and make films that have the potential to fill theater seats with adults and kids who know these toys and want to see them brought to life in new and exciting ways.
Which Mattel toy would you want to make a movie about?
Let us know in the comments below!
Source: The New Yorker