Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Mattel's IP Toybox


New Yorker - "After “Barbie,” Mattel Is Raiding Its Entire Toybox"
By Alex Barasch

"When the Israeli-born businessman Ynon Kreiz became the head of Mattel, in 2018, he was its fourth C.E.O. in four years. Toys R Us had recently gone bankrupt, causing a slump in sales; Kreiz’s predecessor had resigned after Mattel suffered a loss of three hundred million dollars. Kreiz, whose résumé includes a stint at Fox Kids Europe, saw an opportunity for growth. Mattel, he argued, had a children’s-entertainment catalogue “second only to Disney.” Just as Marvel had gone from ailing comic-book publisher to Hollywood behemoth, the toymaker could leverage its intellectual property at the multiplex. Kreiz told me, “My thesis was that we needed to transition from being a toy-manufacturing company, making items, to an I.P. company, managing franchises.”


At the start of the “Barbie” process, Gerwig decided to write the screenplay with her partner, the writer-director Noah Baumbach. Mattel and Warner Bros. insisted on seeing a preview of the script’s contents. The couple balked—they needed the freedom to experiment. Jeremy Barber, an agent at U.T.A. who represents Gerwig and Baumbach, is close with Brenner, so he could be blunt. “Are you crazy?” he told her. “You should’ve come into this office and thanked me when Greta and Noah showed up to write a fucking Barbie movie!” In the end, Gerwig presented executives with a poem in the style of the Apostles’ Creed. They agreed to take their chances—and, after the script came in, the budget was set at about a hundred million dollars.

The gamble now looks like a smart one. The hyper-saturated trailers for “Barbie” have sparked endless memes, and interest in the film’s aesthetic sensibility, which mimics the look of Mattel play sets, is so intense that the hashtag #Barbiecore trended on TikTok for months. The movie, which opens in mid-July, is tracking to be one of the blockbusters of the summer. Meanwhile, Mattel has amassed a long slate of other projects. Daniel Kaluuya, for example, has agreed to produce a feature about Barney, the purple dinosaur. Thirteen more films have been publicly announced, including movies about He-Man and Polly Pocket; forty-five are in development. (Some of the projects have an ouroboros quality. Tom Hanks is supposed to star in “Major Matt Mason,” which will be based on an astronaut action figure that has been largely forgotten, except for the fact that it helped inspire Buzz Lightyear—one of the protagonists of Pixar’s “Toy Story” franchise.)"

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