Will The Mattel Cinematic Universe Take Off After ‘Barbie?’

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

Barbie and Ken from the latest Barbie trailer

Credit: Warner Bros.

It looks like the world is getting another MCU. No, not a second Marvel Cinematic Universe – we’re talking about a Mattel Cinematic Universe.

Buckle up, because it looks like Barbie might just be the beginning.

The upcoming, ultra-hyped Barbie movie is part of the vision of Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz, who came into the position in 2018 with a revolutionary idea: Turn the company’s extensive intellectual property into one of those new Cinematic Universes that seemed to be gaining popularity.

The Mattel Cinematic Universe Is Really Happening

will ferrell as mattel ceo barbie movie
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Margot Robbie Thought “They” Would Never Let Her Make ‘Barbie’

This move is already underway, even beyond Barbie. Mattel has already announced Mattel Films, which is partnering with other studios to produce 14 more toy-based movies, including: a Hot Wheels film to be produced by J.J. Abrams; a Barney film that will involve Daniel Kaluuya; a Magic 8 Ball movie; and, of course, the Masters Of the Universe film at Netflix, slated to come out on July 23, just two days after Barbie.

There are also apparently going to be streaming shows, video games, and even a Mattel theme park – which is currently under construction in Arizona.

Kreiz sees Mattel as “transitioning from being a toy-manufacturing company that was making items to becoming an IP company that is managing franchises.”

This is an excellent idea right now: As audiences are growing more tired and frustrations with the limitations and follies of superhero franchises, many companies, hungry for the quick, easy bucks that come with already-existent franchises, have begun searching for other options – hence the recent boom of fandom-related films like Super Mario Bros.

Kreiz has assured the public in the past that “it’s not about making movies so that we can go and sell more toys.” As he recently told TIME Magazine about the Barbie movie, “We’ve been doing well selling toys without movies.”

The Future of the Mattel Cinematic Universe and Mattel Films Is in Our Hands

issa rae as president barbie in greta gerwig barbe movie
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Is ‘Barbie’ a Feminist Movie? Mattel Says ‘No.’ Actors Say Yes

They may not be explicitly making movies to sell toys, but they’re still doing it to make money, and the Barbie movie is kind of a litmus test for how far they’re willing to take it – if things go well, we could be looking at one of the next big players in the entertainment game.

There are a few complicating factors with this. First of all, it’s a little harder to imagine how they could all possibly connect – is it like The Nightmare Before Christmas, where they all have their own little pocket dimensions? Or is it more subtle? Will they connect at all, or is “Cinematic Universe” just a phrase that means “group of loosely connected films” now?

Second, because Mattel Films has no distribution arm, this Cinematic Universe is actually owned by multiple studios, and untangling them could logistically prove very tricky. They could very well create one in the future, if all goes well – but what that means is that the future of Mattel as a company is very much up to moviegoers.

Of course, even if Barbie goes as well as it’s projected to, the question remains:

Would The Hype Extend Beyond Barbie To Other Toys?

margot robbie barbie land
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Greta Gerwig Says She Played With Barbie Dolls “Too Long”

Barbie isn’t just exciting because it’s a film about a beloved childhood toy. It’s way deeper than that.

First of all, it’s a film aimed directly and loudly at women, and not only that, but hyperfeminine women especially. That is not only a rarity, it’s also a guarantee when done right: Other, similar films have gained cult followings and proved profitable long after the initial hype was over and done with.

(Semi-recent examples include Mean Girls, Clueless, and Legally Blonde, the latter two of which have been directly cited as similar by those who have already seen the film.)

The excitement for this film is already following the same pattern, as social media has snapped up any and all news about the film, and Barbiecore fashion has been on the rise.) It’s undeniably going to be one of the biggest films of the summer, and probably of the year too.

The thing is, the hype is undoubtedly only happening because of who is attached to the film: Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie are well-known for their cleverness and grace when it comes to exploring deep and complex issues like the ones presented by Barbie, a doll that has been woven into the American consciousness for over 60 years.

Kreiz knows that. “We’re looking to create movies that become cultural events,” he told TIME. “If you can excite filmmakers like Greta and Noah to embrace the opportunity and have creative freedom, you can have a real impact.”

There is no telling whether excitement for Barbie would translate to whatever the rest of the Mattel Cinematic Universe would be, because Barbie is such a singular property, and the film almost never got made in the first place.

Would Margot and Greta Even Make Another ‘Barbie’ Movie?

Margot robbie as barbie in barbie movie cowboy outfit
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice Breaks Records in Less Than a Day

There is always, at the very least, the possibility of expanding the Barbie universe – CEO Kreiz has apparently broached the subject multiple times – but LuckyChap producer Margot Robbie isn’t so sure.

“It could go a million different directions from this point, but I think you fall into a bit of a trap if you try and set up a first movie whilst also planning for sequels.”

Greta Gerwig, too, seems as though she would be hesitant, warning that “sometimes these movies can have a quality of hegemonic capitalism.” The two seem to be of the mind that they’ll only be the ones to do a sequel if the idea comes to them and seems natural – they’re not going to be beholden to the dream of a Cinematic Universe.

If Mattel can pull this off, though, using as much genre-specific care as they did with Barbie, they’ll be the architects of something truly great. It will certainly be interesting to watch it all unfold.

As Margot Robbie so eloquently put it:

“It’s like sneaking in humanity to something that everybody thinks is a hunk of plastic.”

What do you think of the idea for a Mattel Cinematic Universe? Is it a good one? Can you figure out how they might connect? Inside the Magic would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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