Mattel, the Company Behind Barbie, Has 45 More Movies in the Works

Everett Collection / Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Greta Gerwig‘s “Barbie” has become a bona fide hit. Since premiering on July 21, the film has grossed over $774 million globally. Only two weeks into its theatrical run, “Barbie” has already outdone the latest Fast & Furious, Mission: Impossible, and Transformers installments at the box office. Since it’s pulling in bigger numbers than long-standing film franchises, it’s no wonder Mattel is eager to make even more movies inspired by its popular toy brands. Its upcoming film slate is being dubbed the “Mattel Universe.” While the success of “Barbie” has certainly helped push the company to begin development on these films, the Mattel Universe has actually been years in the making. Let us explain.

How Did the Mattel Cinematic Universe Begin?

According to The New York Times, talks of a Mattel Universe first began when CEO Ynon Kreiz took over as Mattel’s new chairman and chief executive in April 2018. Kreiz was the company’s fourth CEO in just five years, and he came on board when Mattel was in desperate need of change. In the years leading up to his appointment, Mattel’s revenue had been steadily decreasing, and its stock also experienced a 73 percent drop, hitting its lowest point in 10 years. In March 2018, the company also suffered a huge loss when toy retailer Toys “R” Us announced it would be filing for bankruptcy and either closing or selling all of its stores.

In order to bring Mattel back to the top, Kreiz signed on to help the company expand outside of just toys. He kicked off the initiative that September by launching Mattel Films – its first project being “Barbie” starring Margot Robbie. “My thesis was that we needed to transition from being a toy-manufacturing company, making items, to an I.P. company, managing franchises,” Kreiz told The New Yorker on July 2.

Considering other toy companies like Lego (“The Lego Movie”) and Hasbro (Transformers) have found success with making huge blockbusters, it was only a matter of time before Mattel tried to do the same.

What “Barbie”‘s Success Means For the Mattel Cinematic Universe

During the 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference, Kreiz told Yahoo Finance Live that “Barbie” being a success would be a “catalyst” for Mattel Films and its expanding universe. “This is the first time that Mattel is putting a movie out based on any of our [intellectual property], any of our franchises,” he said. “Barbie is clearly an important brand. It’s one of our three power brands, and it will be in many ways a showcase for the quality of the movies that we’re looking to make, the type of partnerships we’re formulating with lead talent in Hollywood, working with major studios.”

Now that it’s been weeks since “Barbie” premiered, it’s clear Mattel made the right choice in venturing into movies. The film has broken several box office records since its release, including having the biggest box office debut by a woman director, Greta Gerwig. Its success came down to several factors. Besides the fact that Barbie is a well-loved figure by people of all ages, the film also drew interest due to its over-the-top marketing campaign, which included a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse and Robbie replicating the doll’s most iconic looks. The fact that the film’s release lined up with “Oppenheimer” also encouraged viewers to do a double feature known as “Barbenheimer.”

Will There Be More Mattel Movies?

So, what does Mattel have planned now? Of course, Kreiz is hoping to see more of Barbie in the future. “Barbie, as a brand, has many different iterations. The product lines of Barbie is a very broad brand,” the CEO told Variety on July 26. “In addition to the main Barbie figure, she has family, she has a lot of elements around in her universe. It’s a very rich universe… It’s a very broad and very elastic brand, in terms of opportunities.”

However, it appears Mattel isn’t in a rush to launch into any “Barbie” sequels just yet. “At the outset, we’re not saying, ‘Okay, let’s think already about movie two and three.’ Let’s get the first one right and make that a success. And if you do that, opportunities open up very quickly, once you establish the first movie as a successful representation of a franchise on the big screen,” Kreiz explained.

Naturally, Mattel also wants to see more of its properties on the big screen. According to The New Yorker, the company has confirmed that it has 45 films in development that are inspired by its various toy brands. Following the success of “Barbie,” Mattel has officially announced 14 of these films, including a Polly Pocket movie starring Lily Collins directed by Lena Dunham. A Barney movie starring Daniel Kaluuya is also in the works.

Mattel Movies in the Works

Here are all 14 movies Mattel has publicly announced to be in development so far.

  • “American Girl Doll”
  • “Barney”
  • “Christmas Balloon”
  • “Hot Wheels”
  • “Magic 8 Ball”
  • “Major Matt Mason”
  • “Masters of the Universe”
  • “Matchbox”
  • “Polly Pocket”
  • “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots”
  • “Thomas & Friends”
  • “Uno”
  • “View Master”
  • “Wishbone”
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