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After Barbie, These Are The Mattel Toy Movies We Want Next

About a third of the way through Greta Gerwig's "Barbie," we meet Weird Barbie, portrayed by a delightfully unhinged Kate McKinnon. Within this absolutely perfect universe of Barbieland, she's hidden away in her dreamhouse — the one Barbies whisper about behind pastel plastic doors for being too strange and discombobulated (see: the paper-scissors-cut hairdo). That is her fate for being a doll played with too much: She becomes a twisted and crayon-smeared version of who she was in the spirit of representing everything she could be for her playmate.

Sure, McKinnon's Weird Barbie leans into the laughs amidst Sterotypical Barbie's (Margot Robbie) existential crisis in the film. But Weird Barbie's sacrifice for her child is nevertheless deeply moving. Dolls and playthings are tools that unlock limitless potential in our young lives — gifting us an invitation to wonder and shape entire worlds. On the playing field, we make the rules and, by doing so, express our desires and frustrations at the real-life limits placed upon us and others.

If you take a closer look at America's current turmoil, it's no wonder that Mattel is pivoting its focus to open up its entire toybox to imagine new terrain in cinema. "Barbie" is a film that asks us to learn self-acceptance and celebrate inclusion amidst a time when the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe V. Wade, struck down affirmative action in college admissions, voted that businesses can discriminate against the LGBTQIA2+ community, and denied student loans forgiveness. Gerwig's blockbuster hit only proves that we're ready, waiting, and eager to dream up something different. Here is Looper's look at the Mattel creations we'd like to see gain the spotlight and shed some light on our humanity, joy, fears, passions, and hopes. 

-Cass Clarke

Mattel has a lot of films in the works!

Ahead of the release of "Barbie," The New Yorker released an eye-opening article titled: "After 'Barbie,' Mattel is Raiding Its Entire Toybox." The piece shared that there are forty-five Mattel movies coming our way in the future. Out of those projects in development, only thirteen are confirmed (as of this writing). But the ones we know about are wild. J.J. Abrams is working on a "Hot Wheels" movie, which may or may not contain a "gritty" mystery box. (It almost certainly will.) "Masters of the Universe" is getting its first live-action adaptation based on the toy line set to release in late 2024. "Emily in Paris" star Lily Collins will play the titular role in a "Polly Pocket" project, which will be written and directed by "Girls" auteur Lena Dunham. If the phrase "Lil Yachty's 'Uno' heist movie" doesn't make any sense to you, you should probably spend more time online. 

Blumhouse is doing a "Magic 8 Ball" horror movie! There's going to be a "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" film and there will eventually be an "American Girl" movie. Somehow (don't ask me) "View-Master" is receiving a feature film. "Thomas the Tank Engine," "Big Jim," "Matchbox," "Major Matt Mason," and "Chatty Cathy & Betsy Wetsy" will all become full-length movies. Perhaps the strangest and most fascinating, though, is Daniel Kaluuya's "Barney" adaptation, which has so far been described by the filmmaker as "surrealistic." 

-Nina Starner

Polly Pocket should be a dystopian hellscape

I know there's a "Polly Pocket" movie in development, and I am certain Lena Dunham's idea for it is better than anything I could ever dream. I cannot and will not go toe-to-toe with the person whose mind devised the idea of Allison Williams singing a slow acapella version of "Stronger" on "Girls." That said, I can offer a humble suggestion: Polly Pocket should be a dystopian hellscape.

I loved Polly Pocket when I was a kid, but consider life from the perspective of these teeny, tiny people. You're living your life in your brightly colored houses when all of a sudden a giant hand swoops down from the sky and grabs you. It moves you to and fro without talking to you and makes you exist in the way it wants — not in the way you need. It's like "Toy Story" if all the toys were a thousand times smaller. Each day, the Pollys of Pocketland live in terror, waiting for an all-powerful hand to snatch them up and make them act out the entire plot of "The Little Mermaid."

In this scenario, Collins will lead a revolt as the Pollys try and escape the tyrannical hand's rule. The floor is yours, Lena! Feel free to build on this idea if you want. If I'm being honest, though? I'm a lot more excited about whatever dark and twisted idea yours turns out to be. 

-Nina Starner

Pictionary is destined to become a horror movie franchise

"Century," the card reads. Cursing under your breath, you grab the pen and start drawing, hoping against hope to illustrate the intangible concept of 100 years within a far more limited time frame. Droplets of sweat begin to form as your team screams increasingly far-fetched guesses with each drawn line. "Lamborghini?" Seriously?

As time runs out, you realize that you're not going to win this round. And then there's no more time, and the death trap is triggered.

Has there ever been a better IP for a "Saw"-style horror franchise than "Pictionary?" Even without any blood and guts, this so-called fun family game runs on low-key terror, and humanity has just somehow managed to convince itself that playing is fun. This is a charade that reduces great artists to panicking scribblers. Nobel laureates lose every ounce of their academic cool as they scream, "Is it a cat? A donkey? Switzerland?" at an image that clearly depicts a trash can. If you're unfortunate enough to play with your family, you will hear about your flailing attempts to translate the concept of "landscape" into the pen-and-paper medium for the next umpteen Thanksgivings until you start Googling ways to bring forth the heat death of the universe.

In other words, Pictionary is a game that breaks people. In this upcoming Mattel movie, someone who enjoys the concept a little too much has set up a Pictionary game to end all Pictionary games ... as well as the players. Oh crap, one of them just drew an All Play card. The word is "Sun." Are ... are those flamethrowers in the walls?

-Pauli Poisuo

Uno... as a heist movie?

Uno is a popular card game where you try to get rid of all the cards in your hand by following a distinct placement based on numbers, colors, and actions. Its popularity stems from its simplicity, which is why it's hard to envision any kind of movie outside of a "Yu-Gi-Oh!" inspired anime, which YouTuber JelloApocalypse graciously did. Aside from that, if you're going to make an Uno movie, a heist flick starring Lil Yachty set in Atlanta's underground hip-hop scene also makes just as much sense.

That's the story that broke in 2021 of the ever-expanding Mattel cinematic universe with a script penned by Marcy Kelly, according to Deadline. It sounds absolutely chaotic in the best way. Yes, give the world a heist movie where rappers take on code names based on Uno cards. Lil Yachty can be "Yellow 5." Waka Flocka Flame can be "Red 7." 6lack's name is already a combination of a number and a color, so that's fun. But if this movie is really going to combine Uno with the Atlanta rap scene, there's one inclusion that's desperately needed.

Ludacris was a pioneer in being one of the first Dirty South rappers to achieve mainstream success. He also just so happens to be part of "The Fast and the Furious" franchise. He has other film credits, but honestly, it's time for him to have another major project. Make Luda the big bad of this heist flick, or make him a member of the team who betrays everyone else. When the team is so close to victory, Luda enters the picture to drop the dreaded "Draw Four" card. It'd be like in a real Uno game where "Draw Four" tests friendships and ends alliances, and that's all the movie needs for a dramatic transition into Act Three.

-Mike Bedard

Boglins could be the next Gremlins... but creepier?

From the planned "Barney" film for disenchanted millennials to J.J. Abrams' gritty "Hot Wheels" movie, Mattel Films aims to attract a mature audience with its future cinematic output. The toy company wants to make bona fide art that pushes the envelope — and what better way to do that than by bringing some pint-sized goblins to the screen?

Mattel unleashed the "Boglins" toy line in the 1980s, presumably to capitalize on the buzz of "Gremlins," "Critters," and other tiny creature movies of the time period. However, while "Barbie" and other Mattel lines spawned their own multi-media franchises, "Boglins" has only ever produced toys. This is a shame, as they're groovy little monsters who could provide spooky entertainment in a lighthearted horror romp.

With "Boglins," Mattel has an opportunity to create a cinematic franchise for the Halloween season. The good news, however, is that the company's executives are considering this idea. While speaking to The New Yorker, the vice president of Mattel Films, Kevin McKeon, revealed that they have a vision in mind for a "Boglins" movie. "We're thinking 'Gremlins'-ish, but with a twist," he said. Who doesn't want to see that?

It remains to be seen if the company will go through with the "Boglins" movie. However, the fact that these creatures are even in consideration to receive their own adaptation is a great start. For too long, the goblins were relegated to the shadows while Mattel's other creations hogged the spotlight. They are long overdue a chance to torment humans and cause some havoc in a multiplex.

-Kieran Fisher

A surreal Barney film?

As "Barney" fans likely already know, Mattel is preparing the singing purple dinosaur for his big-screen Hollywood treatment. The currently untitled film will be co-produced by Mattel and Daniel Kaluuya ("Get Out," "Black Panther," and "Nope") and will feature a "surrealistic" narrative based on the ever-growing disenfranchisement of Millennials. In other words, Barney is getting a movie for the kids who grew up with him — just like Barbie.

With that framework in mind, what should Barney's blockbuster outing be about? He arrived on the silver screen with 1998's "Barney's Great Adventure," but can a project steeped in Millennial dread tonally balance with gigantic rainbow eggs revealing magical, dream-knowing koala bears?... Now that you mention it, that sounds exactly like the kind of thing Millennials would enjoy.

For years, Millennials have been turning to gentle fantasy as their preferred coping mechanism. Steve Burns, of "Blue's Clues" fame, recently made a public resurgence on TikTok as the guy who helps '90s kids cope with adulthood – and all he's doing is quietly smiling and sharing words of encouragement. The upcoming Barney film seems to be questing a little deeper into the darkness than that, but the thematic foundation appears to be similar. After the societal upheaval, economic depression and recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bloated student loan bills, Millennials just want to feel safe and valued. If neither of those assurances can be found in reality, then sharing that idealogy with a fictional favorite is definitely a close second. Hopefully, Kaluuya and company understand all we really want from Barney is to hear his iconic song and support. But magic koala bears can't hurt!

-Cameron Roy Hall

Move over Hot Wheels...

Ever since I was a kid, I liked collecting toy cars. Given my inclination of rooting for the underdog, I gravitated to the Matchbox brand — the oft-overlooked sibling of Hot Wheels that is 15 years older. In 1953, the popular line of die-cast miniature car models was established by Lesney Products. But in 1968, Mattel created Hot Wheels, a direct competitor that ultimately outran its predecessor. Mattel acquired the Matchbox brand in 1997, keeping it alive (like some sick joke) as Hot Wheels spun donuts over the entire tiny toy car market.

My pitch is simple. Mattel is already developing a Hot Wheels movie with J. J. Abrams — a project the esteemed filmmaker called "emotional and grounded and gritty" in an interview during the previously mentioned interview from The New Yorker. Considering the toy company's expanding mission to create a bizarre cinematic universe, I believe a spin-off is in store: a similarly gritty but more emotional tale about those toy cars forgotten on the Walmart shelf. 

See, everybody wants fantasy these days. Kids cry for superheroes, kickflips, and a planet that won't be burnt to a crisp by the time they're 40. But if Mr. Abrams wants actual realism, he should embrace the brand that's always prioritized real-world accuracy in its models over cheap gimmicks. The Hot Wheels movie? Well, that's "Iron Man." The Matchbox movie will be "The Dark Knight."

-Rick Stevenson

It's time for Mighty Max!

After kids were going wild for Polly Pocket and her clam shell world, Mattel decided to make Mighty Max. While the pocket-size toy seems based on the same principle, Max had a tougher time in his universe, facing various monster heads that homed dungeons, ancient tombs, and deadly jungles. With this plethora of playgrounds, Mighty Max feels fitting to star in his franchise — and maybe a crossover with Polly's rainbow-colored world, too!

All things considered, It wouldn't be that much of a push creatively. Mighty Max" had his animated show, which ran for two seasons from 1993 to 1994. Within the series, he fought various monsters, with a recurring villain (voiced by Tim Curry). In live-action, "Mighty Max" could echo the classic kid-friendly family films like "The Monster Squad," "Gremlins," and the original "Jumanji." Give Max a new frightening foe to take on with each installment and when he's at the height of his powers alongside Polly, go full "Trading Places" with the pair of them!

Since Polly will have spent her time in an overly pink and bubbly world, what better way to mix their storylines up than by having her become a monster and treasure hunter? While he's living the life at parties, unicorn stables, and beach houses, Polly would be fighting for her life against all manner of beasties and returning as an incredibly peeved-off Buffy-type hero to put things right. Both of these were sold separately back in the day. Now would be a better time than ever to bring them together as a dynamite double act.

-Nick Staniforth

American Girl

You can't make a movie out of the Barbie IP... some would say. However, Greta Gerwig surely proved the haters wrong. She showed a "Barbie" film could showcase actors delivering solid performances backed by a compelling and believable storyline. But you can't make a movie out of any toy. Can you?

The adaptive creativity going into game IPs has never been hotter, which makes any game-to-movie adaptation possible. And yet, in the midst of all of the strangely endless potential of the Polly Pockets and Matchboxes of the world, there's still one Mattel property that stands out as the easiest and most straightforward adaptation of them all: the American Girl Doll franchise.

The classic IP is dripping with nostalgia, especially for millions of millennials who grew up as girls in the '80s and '90s and remember paying an exorbitant price for the latest character in the franchise and its array of overpriced accouterments. 

But the interesting thing with this option is that there is already a lot of viewable American Girl Doll material out there. From direct-to-video movies to web and streaming specials, the ground has already been laid for a legit mainstream screen adaptation. Now all we need is a big-budget studio to take on a full-fledged theatrical project that lands one of the American Girls on the silver screen. However, one question remains: Which doll would get to have their story told in the cinematic format first?

-Jaron Pak

Let's bring Elvira into Monster High!

Mattel has plenty of properties with dense narrative backgrounds, but none of them could be adapted to the big screen with ease the way the Monster High universe could be. The fashion doll line took flight in 2010 and has a strong and passionate fanbase of kids, teens, and adults alike. The toys' mythos centers around a group of teenagers attending the titular high school. Naturally, they, the staff, and their friends are all monsters in some way — whether they be were-humans, frankenpeople, or vampires. But the whole crew still has to deal with normal day-to-day conflicts — even though they must face them down in unusual ways.

"Monster High" has been subjected to multiple adaptions since the line became a phenomenon; it's spawned video games, book series, a manga, and 15 films. While that number includes a live-action television movie, it was a direct-to-TV adaption broadcast on Nickelodeon. Much like their American Girls series, Monster High has never made much of a big screen impact — in spite of having a solid narrative and winning characters. Worse, a live-action movie was announced for theatrical release in 2015 but was never made.

But there's no time like the present to correct that error! Also, thanks to their Skullector series, characters from other media — like Elvira — could be imported into the "Monster High" world as supporting players. Overall, that sounds like a spooky good time and one that Mattel could debut during the Halloween season.

-Melissa Lemieux