EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures has found what the studio believes will be its next global franchise. The studio has closed a partnership with Mattel and Parkes+MacDonald/Image Nation on a live-action comedy built around Barbie, the top-selling fashion doll. This is no development deal, it’s all moving very quickly. Studio chief Amy Pascal oversaw this deal herself, along with production president Hannah Minghella, and this movie is getting made. Jenny Bicks is writing the script and the intention is to begin production before year’s end.
The film will be produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, who are also rebooting Men In Black for the studio. The exec producers are Parkes+MacDonald president Marc Resteghnini and Julia Pistor for Mattel’s Playground Productions.
Studios prize franchises more than ever, and it is particularly a priority at Sony. The key to turning these brands into successful films comes down to execution, as was particularly evident in the way that Warner Bros turned The Lego Movie into something with a high cool factor for kids. The plan for Barbie is also clever. Some of the doll’s appeal has been cool clothes and of course Ken, but beyond accessorizing, the toy has always been about female empowerment. Barbie has been part of merchandise packages that span over 150 careers, and Bicks and Parkes and MacDonald won the rights from Mattel when they plugged into that with their pitch for a contemporary tale. It allows the character Barbie to use her personal and professional skills to step into the lives of others and improve them, almost like a modern-day Mary Poppins. That storyline allows for the discovery of a young actress to play the title character, and young cast to play Ken and Barbie’s best friend, putting stars around them that can change in subsequent movies. Much the way that Marvel has managed its costs with deals that call for options on future films as they create stars with their superhero movies, this seems a way to keep costs manageable for another live-action series meant to span multiple films. Read More »
Universal Pictures has set Fake Empire‘s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to write and produce their live-action Monster High movie, based on the Mattel doll franchise. The brand is centered on the imperfect teen children of the world’s most famous monsters with characters like Frankie Stein (daughter of Frankenstein), Clawdeen Wolf (daughter of the Wolfman), and Deuce Gorgon (son of Medusa). The franchise, created in 2010, has already yielded several Nickelodeon TV specials, YA novels, webisodes, and an animated direct to DVD movie. Schwartz and Savage will produce the big screen adaptation for Fake Empire with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Mattel’s Playground Productions is exec producing the project. Zadan and Meron are the ones who first brought the global $1.4B entertainment, publishing, games, and apparel brand to Universal. VP of production Maradith Frenkel and creative executive Chloe Yellin will oversee for the studio. Schwartz and Savage are repped by WME and attorney Joel McKuin. Zadan, Meron, and Mattel are repped by CAA.
Paramount was once set to adapt Mattel‘s popular Max Steel toy line into a live-action pic with Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner to star. Instead Mattel will now team up with Dolphin Entertainment and Open Road to bring the action figure franchise to the big screen. Max Steel centers on teen Maxwell McGrath who with his alien companion Steel combines forces to become the eponymous superhero. Christopher Yost (Thor: The Dark World) will script. Stewart Hendler (Sorority Row, Halo: Forward Unto Dawn) is attached to direct after helming and exec producing the award-winning digital series H+ for Dolphin Entertainment and WB. Read More »
Mattel and The Gurin Company are teaming up to create UNO: The Game Show, based on the popular card game. Players will match colors, numbers and wits for a shot at a big cash prize — but only if they play their cards right. The format will be available as a half-hour daily game show with a $100,000 jackpot and an hour-long primetime version in which players compete for $1 million. The Gurin Company has secured worldwide television rights to the game and will be distributing the format for the first time at MIPTV in Cannes, France. The card game UNO was developed in 1971 and is available in 80 countries. UNO: The Game Show was created by Caleb Nelson and Tim Sheridan and developed for TV by Phil Gurin. It will be produced by The Gurin Company in association with Mattel.
A Max Steel movie still hasn’t gotten off the ground, but the brand is making a comeback. Mattel is set to relaunch the action property in March with a 26-episode animated series premiering in the U.S. on Disney XD, and a worldwide rollout in over 100 territories. Mattel is co-producing with FremantleMedia Enterprises which will handle overseas rights. The Max Steel line of action figures was originally introduced in the U.S. in 1999, but Mattel pulled back on the brand domestically following 9/11, EVP for global brands, Tim Kiplin, told the NYT. It nevertheless became a huge hit in Latin America and the toymaker now sees an opportunity to establish a major new franchise grounded in multimedia. The reboot will include the Disney TV series, a live-action short movie, an online content hub, mobile games, graphic novels, toys and other products. The original concept of the brand has also been tweaked to make Max younger and more relatable to boys who see the teen hero and his alien companion, Steel, combine their turbo energy and heightened intellect to create the ultimate superhero. If the reboot clicks, perhaps it will light a fire under the bigscreen version that was originally set up at Paramount in 2009. Hit the jump for Mattel’s press release: Read More »
U.S. toy manufacturer Mattel has bought HIT Entertainment, the debt-laden UK children’s toy licensing company behind Thomas the Tank Engine, for $680 million in cash. That’s around $20 million less than owner Apax Partners had wanted for it, I understand, and around $200 million short of the $890 million that Apax paid for the company back in 2005. The deal gives Mattel a foothold in the television business as the Thomas & Friends TV show airs in more than 20 languages worldwide. Rival toymaker Hasbro already has its own production and distribution arm, Hasbro Studios, and owns joint venture kids network The Hub with Discovery Communications. Given the tight regulations governing toy manufacturers making TV shows in Europe, it remains to be seen how Mattel will fare if it pitches new programs featuring its toys to public broadcasters. Read More »
Luke Y Thompson is covering the Con For Deadline:
WEDNESDAY PM: If there’s a recession going on, you wouldn’t know it from the looks of Comic-Con. While last year’s exhibit hall featured recycled set-pieces and props we’d seen a time or two too many, this year sees the big show-offs back to spending money again. Massive ads adorn the sides of skyscrapers. Fox, which isn’t promoting much more than an ALIEN Blu-Ray set, has nonetheless created a full-scale replica of the cryo-sleep pods from the first movie. Stan Winston studios has both a full-sized AVATAR armor suit and multiple IRON MAN costumes. Hasbro has the hammer of Thor and the shield of Captain America, promoting those upcoming movies we’ll be getting a look at shortly. Warner Bros has the body of Abin Sur, the alien who gives Green Lantern his power ring in the upcoming film. Not to be outdone by anyone, Marvel has the full-scale golden throne of Odin, Thor’s father. Way to rub it in that most of us are broke, Marvel.
Prices are in that same spirit of entrepreneurial optimism – I didn’t find anything at a must-have price as yet, though the exclusive toys from Hasbro and Mattel still generate large lines. The smaller retailers offer prices that generally would not be considered competitive, per se…let’s see if those hold through Sunday, shall we?
But not ALL toys are overpriced. Remember back in the ’90s when everyone hoarded … Read More »
I’ve just heard that CAA is signing QVC as a client. That’s after WME already signed HSN. So add home shopping to what already is the toy warfront when CAA signed Mattel. But after WME signed Hasbro.