Barbie’s Success Means More Mattel Movies

A host of other Mattel properties are getting ready to go party with Barbie. Variety exclusively reports that, upon Barbie’s massive success, Mattel is preparing fourteen of their IPs for the movie treatment. CEO Ynon Kreiz, who took over Mattel in 2018, has had a vision for a “Mattel Cinematic Universe” since he began. Variety says that the films are already in active development at various studios. Mattel also wants Barbie sequels, with Kreiz talking about exploring other parts of Barbie’s world, like her family. Director Greta Gerwig isn’t sure if she wants to do another Barbie, but I’m sure Mattel and Warner Bros. will throw as much money at her as it takes. Here are the fourteen films being developed:


I didn’t realize Mattel owned the big purple dinosaur, but apparently, they do, and they’re developing a movie about him. This one is described as being in the vein of Being John Malkovich or Adaptation, a “surreal” and “adult” story about identity and alienation. (It’s going to be a trans allegory, isn’t it?) Unless this is made on an extremely small budget, it sounds like a bad idea to me; adults don’t want to see a movie about a silly dinosaur singing to kids about how much we all love each other, and kids don’t want to watch the guy in the costume go through an existential crisis. Is this intended to be Mattel’s prestige picture, the one that nets them an Oscar? Good luck with that. (Unless it really is a trans allegory; then, get ready for all the Oscars.)

Polly Pocket

This one, being developed at MGM, has a director in Lena Dunham and a star in Lily Collins. There isn’t much to go on with this one, just a lot of claptrap about how great the two women involved are. A children’s toy movie as told by Lena Dunham already sounds like hell on Earth. (Also, the optics of this director-property pairing are not good.)

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels is being produced at Warner Bros. by JJ Abrams, who says it will be “grounded and gritty,” with producer and head of Mattel Films Robbie Brenner promising “three-dimensional characters” with “emotional journeys.” I assume this will be some generic race car movie because that’s really all Hot Wheels toys are. It doesn’t sound interesting to me.

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots

Based on the head-popping robot boxing game, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots is being developed at Universal from a script written by Ryan Engle, with Vin Diesel set to star. Ryan Engle wrote two of Liam Neeson’s better post-Taken action films, The Commuter and Non-Stop, so maybe this will shake out well.

American Girls

No studio is mentioned, but this movie will be “based on the world of dolls” and “help girls grow with confidence and develop character.” I didn’t see it, but wasn’t that the point of Barbie? Whatever the case, I’ve never heard of this brand, so I assume it’s just a generic doll movie.

Magic 8 Ball

All Brenner says about this is that it will be a thriller rated PG-13. I can see some potential with this one; they could do it almost as a horror story, like the toy actually works, but it damns those who use it to unwanted futures that work out in a monkey’s paw fashion.

Masters of the Universe

A He-Man movie was going to be produced by Netflix, but it lapsed after it became too costly and Kevin Smith soured everyone on the property. Mattel is currently shopping it around, but they hope to turn it into a franchise. One can only hope they come to their senses and decide to make it a long-delayed sequel to the 80s film featuring a rematch between Dolph Lundgren’s He-Man and Frank Langella’s inimitable Skeletor.

Major Matt Mason

This was an astronaut toy from the 60s “who lived and worked on the moon.” Tom Hanks will star as the major, with Akiva Goldsman and Michael Chabon writing the screenplay. I guess they could do something with this. “It’s The Martian, but for kids!”


If they weren’t reaching before, they’re practically elastic now. The card game popular among junior high schoolers and below will be a movie written by someone named Marcy Kelly. I expect a lot of groans when the trailer for this eventually plays in theaters.


I had to look this one up, but the pictures of a Jack Russell terrier dressed up like Sherlock Holmes jogged my memory, if only of commercials. This Universal production will be a family film produced by Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers. It doesn’t interest me much, but this seems like the way to go with a lot of these: fun movies for kids, as opposed to deep, dark explorations of the soul aimed at people who see right through this nonsense.


They’ve got to be gearing up (yep) for a crossover between this and Hot Wheels, right? Why do both of them if that’s not happening? Matchbox is going to be an action movie at Skydance written by David Coggeshall.

Thomas & Friends

This is the Thomas of Thomas the Tank Engine, and the film will be a fantasy movie from director Mark Forster, director of Monster’s Ball, Christopher Robin, and Quantum of Solace. I assume it’s Christopher Robin that got him this gig more than, say, Monster’s Ball (which is a great movie, but not the stuff kids’ adventure films are made of), and I get that. Christopher Robin was exactly the movie it needed to be, charming, heartwarming, earnest, and in love with the classic characters and their world. That’s the kind of sure hand these movies need.

View Master

This will be an adventure film based on the red binoculars through which you can see pictures of various locations. They could make something out of this, especially if they delve a bit into fantasy; perhaps the View Master has magical properties and transports whoever uses it to the locations they view, and some bad guy wants it for nefarious purposes. It’s a better start than most of these.

Christmas Balloon

This last one is one of the most interesting ideas. It’s based on the true story of a girl who tied her Christmas List to a balloon, which was “found by a grieving couple who worked with [Mattel] to fulfill the girl’s wishes.” It’s maybe a bit self-serving for Mattel to make a movie about how they’re basically Santa Claus, but in the right hands, it could be a nice Christmas story, and I’m a sucker for those.

None of these are going to be on my most-anticipated list of whatever year they’re released – unless they really do that Dolph Lundgren version of Masters of the Universe – but I don’t blame Mattel for striking while the iron is hot. It would behoove them to calm down a little bit and be more judicious in which toys they bring to the screen, but they’re on a post- Barbie high and see everything coming up pink.

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