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Can Mattel emulate the Barbie Movie’s success?


The release of Barbie wasn’t something that came “out of nowhere,” an adaptation was in the works since 2009, only for it to fall through and be picked back up then fall through again. Basically, that’s to say the film was in Production Hell, no one really thought making a live-action adaptation of this legacy Mattel toy brand was going to take off, and frankly, I can’t blame them.

Barbie was a cultural phenomenon, but with that huge success came detractors in the form of people who felt the toy was setting unrealistic standards. It wasn’t until it was finally picked up by Greta Gerwig, who put her nose to the grindstone and pulled double-duty, acting as the film’s director and a co-writer. Meanwhile, with Margot Robbie by her side as the starring Barbie and producer.

Now, though, we know Mattel Films is working hard on tons of new adaptations of more of its popular toys like Hot Wheels, UNO, Polly Pocket, Monopoly, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, and the list goes on.

One of the things I fear when it comes to the next film in its library is the high expectations Mattel is probably going to have — Barbie was this runaway success that net the the company a billion and then some, it might not want a movie that just “does fine” at the box office. Personally, it’s a hard sell that the next movie under its division’s umbrella is going to be as much of a success as its rebrand debut picture.

Barbie wasn’t just successful on its merits, either. It was successful because of the hard work put into it by the crew and the happenstance nature of the internet being the internet and tying it into Oppenheimer, which debuted the same day in theaters. I know, internet culture is weird. So, really, this is more likely a dime-in-a-dozen situation.

Starting off with a billion-dollar baby

I’d wager that whatever film hits theaters next will make a decent enough profit because of not only the studios behind it making Barbie, but also the established toy brand. Most likely, it’ll be enough to recoup production costs. I doubt, however, it’ll find so much success that it’ll surpass Barbie.

Mattel, in this instance, has accidentally started off strong with no clear path to ensure a strong future. None of the other movies are based on a toy brand that is as established and as much a household name as Barbie. Hot Wheels is the only toy-turned-movie that I can imagine could potentially come close to the movie’s success, but not necessarily nail it.

In the end, Hot Wheels as a brand are just cars, flashy, flashy cars, and while that works for toys, in an industry that’s got the likes of the Fast franchise, spy films, and racing flicks, it’s not as easy to carve your own distinct path here. I’d speculate that should Hot Wheels actually make it to the theaters, it’ll probably make half a billion without a super strong ad campaign and maybe closer to $700 million with a strong campaign.

We’ll have to wait and see if the film’s success actually got to Mattel’s head and if it’ll remain realistic for its next film or if it’s expecting another billion-dollar baby.

Posted in Opinions