It’s Hollywood Barbie’s Moment (and She’s Bringing Her Friends)

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“UglyDolls,” tailored from a line of plush toys, was a smaller-scale box office disaster for STX Films in 2019. Mattel itself bought bruised in 2016 when “Max Steel,” a modestly budgeted movie primarily based on an motion determine, arrived to near-empty theaters. It obtained a zero percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregation web site.

Daily Business Briefing

July 8, 2021, 3:31 p.m. ET

“Unless you can make something that feels really sticky and really interesting and really authentic, there’s no point in doing it,” stated Robbie Brenner, who heads Mattel Films, which was created in 2018. (Mattel’s earlier film division, Playground Productions, was began in 2013 and folded in 2016.)

Ms. Brenner stated she had approached all of Mattel’s properties with the identical question: “How do we flip it on its side a little bit while still respecting the integrity of the brand?”

Mr. Kreiz stated he was not involved in making thinly disguised toy commercials. In a shift from the Mattel of the previous, “we want to give our filmmaking partners creative freedom and enable them to do things that are unconventional and exciting,” he stated. “Focus on making great content and the rest will follow.”

He added, nonetheless, that Mattel didn’t “sign a deal and disappear.”

The message seems to be resonating in Hollywood, permitting Mattel to draw A-plus expertise. The “Barbie” group is one instance. Tom Hanks has agreed to star in and produce an adaptation of Major Matt Mason, an astronaut motion determine launched by Mattel in 1966; Akiva Goldsman, the Oscar-winning author of “A Beautiful Mind,” is engaged on the screenplay. Marc Forster (“World War Z”) is directing and producing that “Thomas & Friends” film. And Daniel Kaluuya, who received an Oscar in April for his position in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” is concerned with a Mattel movie project primarily based on Barney, the interminably perky purple dinosaur.

Even Ms. Brenner has a complicated movie pedigree. She produced the AIDS-medication drama “Dallas Buyers Club,” which obtained six Oscar nominations in 2014, together with one for finest image. (It received three: actor, supporting actor, and make-up and hairstyling.) Before that, she was a senior govt twentieth Century Fox and Miramax.

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