Mattel Films Executive Vice President Robbie Brenner has not one but two Magic 8 Balls in his office. As a mom, she’s always been drawn to Barbie, but admits the little black plastic orbs have a strange hold on her.
“To this day, I still shake it and think somehow it’s going to tell me what’s going to happen,” Brenner explains, “and usually I get a ‘Try again later.’ “
But the producer of Oscar nominee “Dallas Buyers Club” and Sundance player of this year “Call Jane” aren’t waiting to take her first steps at Mattel, the 77-year-old toymaker with some of the most iconic brands. and recognizable in stores. (including Barbie, Hot Wheels, American Girl and Thomas & Friends). Three years ago, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz tapped Brenner to help transform the company into a content powerhouse. Since then, she has directed over a dozen feature films, all using her connections and her pedigree as an artist above all else.
“We don’t want to make movies to sell more toys – that would be great, but you have to tell stories with authentic voices. Ones that feel original, tacky and exciting, and do their best to serve individual brands” Operating entirely in the feature film space at the moment, Mattel has projects in studios and streamers all over Hollywood, with superstar talent attached.
Warner Bros. is in the works for “Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling and directed by Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with partner Noah Baumbach. They are also in the script stage of a Hot Wheels movie. In July, Netflix will film the highly anticipated “Masters of the Universe” comeback, starring Kyle Allen as the buff, blond He-Man. Universal Pictures is working on a Magic 8 Ball-based horror franchise with Blumhouse, and the studio is bringing Vin Diesel’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots to life. At Paramount, Tom Hanks will play his childhood favorite, Major Matt Mason, the astronaut figurine, with “A Beautiful Mind” screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and MGM will present Polly Pocket with writer-director Lena Dunham and star Lily Collins.
Variety can exclusively report that the division has also tapped “Borat Later Moviefilm” co-writer and prolific feature filmmaker Dan Mazer to develop a movie based on the ’70s strongman action figures, Big Jim. Jason Bateman’s Aggregate Films is also working on films based on Mattel Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy dolls.
“That pipeline is rolling, and we’re really starting to produce these amazing movies that were just ideas three years ago. Ynon has empowered us, and we have great energy as a company,” Brenner says.
In turn, she says, the toymakers taught the studio unit everything from supply chain to sourcing doll hair.
“There is so much history. Take Barbie: There is a team that does her hair, her clothes. There is a team that takes care of his social networks. You need those dips,” Brenner says. “You ask really big questions like, what’s the play pattern of a toy? Why do girls like princesses and boys like Hot Wheels loop? The psychology is fascinating.
Mattel Studios has a lot more in the works that has yet to be announced – including a big creative partner to adapt Matchbox toys and cars for the screen, and the rumored all-star supporting cast behind Robbie and Gosling. in “Barbie”. But Brenner won’t reveal the details.
“Try again later,” she said.