Mattel Ventures into the Mattel Cinematic Universe (MCU): A Toy-Based Film Franchise

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By Black Widow

The intersection of toy making and movie making has led to both successes and failures in the past. Hasbro has found success with the “Transformers” franchise, while others like “Battleship” have struggled. Now, Mattel is capitalizing on the potential success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” film to launch their own Mattel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

With a plethora of toy properties under their umbrella, Mattel is developing feature films based on various beloved brands like Hot Wheels, He-Man, Polly Pocket, and more.

Mattel Cinematic Universe: The Legacy of Toy-Based Films

In the 1980s, properties such as Masters of the Universe, Transformers, My Little Pony, and The Care Bears gained popularity on the big screen. Hasbro’s “Transformers” franchise has been successful, although recent installments have not reached previous box office heights. However, films like “Battleship” have failed, affecting plans for more toy-based films.

The Mattel Cinematic Universe

Mattel Ventures into the Mattel Cinematic Universe

Mattel aims to emulate the success of the MCU by creating their own interconnected film franchise. Leveraging the popularity of “Barbie,” Mattel plans to attract top creative talent in the industry. The company is currently developing films based on properties like Hot Wheels, Magic 8 Ball, He-Man, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Polly Pocket, View-Master, American Girl, and Uno.

The Phenomenon of “Barbie”

“Gearing up to be the breakout hit of the summer,” “Barbie” has generated significant advance ticket sales and sold-out screenings across the country. The challenge lies in replicating this phenomenon consistently with other properties. Nevertheless, Mattel is determined to build a new era of live-action movies using the success of “Barbie” as a foundation.

Mattel’s Approach: From Barbieland to Total ‘Brand Immersion

Mattel Ventures into the Mattel Cinematic Universe

Margot Robbie, both producer and star of “Barbie,” has been involved in the project for years. Collaborating with Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, they sought to create a film that balances artistic satisfaction and commercial viability while staying true to the brand. Mattel’s immersive “Barbie Boot Camp” experience at the Design Center in El Segundo has inspired filmmakers and helped shape the direction of the film.

Expanding the Universe

Mattel Films, under the leadership of Robbie Brenner, is responsible for identifying properties with potential for cinematic adaptation. The company aims to attract top talent and capitalize on pre-awareness of the toy brands. With projects like a Barney film produced by Daniel Kaluuya and potential films featuring Tom Hanks and Lena Dunham, Mattel Films has over 45 projects in development.

The Future of Mattel’s Cinematic Universe

With upcoming projects like a live-action “Masters of the Universe” film, Mattel aims to revive the ’80s toy line. CEO Ynon Krieiz envisions “Masters of the Universe” as a franchise on par with Marvel and DC. However, while interconnectedness has worked for Marvel, replicating it for a diverse range of toy properties may be more of a marketing strategy than a storytelling one.