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Barbie, He-Man, And Hot Wheels Could Become Feature Films With Launch Of Mattel Films

Mattel, the 73-year-old toy company that owns brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and Thomas & Friends, announced this week that it is launching a new division, Mattel Films, focused on developing and producing motion pictures based on its toy lines.

The company has appointed film producer Robbie Brenner (Dallas Buyers Club, Burden) as executive producer, reporting to Mattel’s new chairman and CEO Ynon Kreiz, who himself is the company’s fourth CEO in the last four years.

Brenner, a two-decade veteran of the film industry, had previously been partner and president of the film division at The Firm, as well as president of production at Relativity Media. She has also held senior v-p roles at both Twentieth Century Fox and Miramax.

“Mattel is home to one of the world’s greatest portfolios of beloved franchises, and the creation of Mattel Films will allow us to unlock significant value across our IP,” Kreiz said in a statement. “Robbie is a gifted storyteller and a highly respected filmmaker with deep relationships in entertainment. She is the perfect leader to bring our celebrated brands to life.”

Mattel will likely take a page from the playbook of other toy makers which have already launched successful movie franchises, like Hasbro’s The Transformers films and The Lego Group’s Lego Movie franchise. Mattel has struggled to keep up with its competitors in recent years – its stock value has more than halved since 2014 and its revenue has fallen for four straight years. The company said in July that it would lay off 2,200 employees, 22% of its workforce, and would shutter all of its factories in Mexico.

The toy company does produce entertainment content; for example, its direct-to-video Barbie cg franchise has resulted in 36 animated films since 2001, but those films are disposable cash-grabs aimed at the children’s market and arguably don’t create much long-term value for the brand. It appears that Mattel, under Kreiz, a former tv network executive, will seek a more entertainment-focused approach, treating each of its brands not just as toy lines but as entertainment franchises, similar to the strategy that the Walt Disney Company uses to develop its brands and franchises.

According to Bloomberg, a new live-action Barbie feature is expected to be one of the first projects produced through the new Mattel Films, as well as a film based on He-Man and Masters of the Universe. Mattel had previously been working with Sony Pictures on a live-action Barbie pic set to star Amy Schumer (and later, Anne Hathaway), but the project was scrapped last year.

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