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Movies Based On Toys That Never Happened

Movies based on toys aren't as common a subgenre as movies based on books, comics, or TV shows, but that doesn't mean they can't drum up big business. The live-action Transformers movies, for example, have grossed $4.8 billion worldwide, while the LEGO movies have grossed $1.09 billion worldwide. For every hit movie based on a toy, however, there is a legendary box office bomb. The likes of Dungeons & Dragons and Battleship linger in the public's mind, reminding everyone that making movies based on toys is not a foolproof concept. Even the most lucrative franchises of this type, like Transformers, can end up producing installments that lose money.

Simply basing a movie on a familiar toy isn't enough to grab the attention of moviegoers. Transformers and The LEGO Movie had marketing on their side, as well as premises that attracted people who weren't even fans of the source material. Battleship, meanwhile, had nothing but a familiar title to lean on. The precarious success of these adaptations means that a number of potential toy-based movies have been left to gather dust on the shelf — and we're here to explain why.

The director of Bridesmaids almost made a Play-Doh movie

Over the years, Play-Doh has proven itself to be a uniquely versatile toy. So adaptable is it, in fact, that at one point, Hollywood planned to make Play-Doh into a feature film. In April 2015, news emerged that 20th Century Fox was making a live-action Play-Doh movie, with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig set to write and direct. Feig explained to Collider that his vision for a Play-Doh movie was to make something "big in scope." Though Feig mentioned "Claymation" when talking about the film, it's unclear if his Play-Doh movie would have utilized that medium, nor did he provide any clarity over what kind of tone the production would take.

Feig's ambitions were lofty, but in the years since, little has emerged in the way of news on this project. In September 2018, Feig provided an update by saying the film was "in heavy development," due to uncertainty over its script. Though Feig still expressed excitement for the project in this interview, the Play-Doh movie suffered a major setback when Feig exited his first-look deal with 20th Century Fox for one with Universal Pictures. No further updates have been provided for this project since. It looks like a lid has been placed on Play-Doh's dreams of cinematic success.

Adam Sandler almost visited Candy Land

The sugary-sweet world of the board game Candy Land has proved popular for decades. Similarly enduring in their mainstream popularity are the comedies of Adam Sandler. Like peanut butter and chocolate, these two beloved entities were paired up in January 2012, when it was announced that Sandler would star in and write a live-action movie adaptation of the classic board game. Enchanted director Kevin Lima would have helmed the project, which planned to follow a family trapped in the sugar-coated realm.

Sounds like a match made in marketing heaven, right? But the project was quickly sidetracked. Landmark Entertainment Group filed a July 2014 lawsuit against Hasbro over ownership of the Candy Land characters. Then there was the film's $200 million budget, which apparently made Sony executives nervous. Then came the news of Sandler signing an exclusive deal with Netflix in late 2014, which put his projects at Sony, including Candy Land, in jeopardy. Though reports surfaced in the summer of 2015 that Sandler had taken Candy Land to Warner Bros., the film has never seen the light of day. The combined popularity of Sandler and Candy Land just wasn't enough to make this concoction a reality.

Monopoly almost played Ridley Scott

Hasbro's post-Transformers fixation on turning toys into movies drew widespread skepticism. How do you combat such dubiousness? You hire an Oscar-winning director. Ridley Scott, the filmmaker behind Alien and Gladiator, was hired in October 2008 to direct a live-action movie based on the board game Monopoly. A year later, it was revealed that the film would focus on a Monopoly-obsessed real estate agent who gets transported into the world of the game. Scott would later explain that the concept of greed and how it can change people would have been the crux of the film, which was intended to be a comedy. As late as March 2011, Scott was still attached to direct the Monopoly movie, with the production hiring screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to pen the film's script that September. However, once the creative partnership between Universal and Hasbro fell apart in early 2012, Scott's Monopoly went kaput. 

Since then, two different attempts have been made to bring the game to the silver screen. The first was announced in June 2015, and saw Andrew Niccol penning the screenplay. The second was announced in early 2019 and had Tim Story and Kevin Hart attached as director and star, respectively. Despite attracting top-tier talent, neither iteration has managed to pass go.

Taylor Lautner could have traded werewolves for Stretch Armstrong

There wasn't much to the original Stretch Armstrong doll. He didn't belong to a wider universe, or inspire a beloved cartoon. He was just a doll whose arms could be stretched — but that was enough to garner Hollywood's attention. After Disney was the first to try and turn Stretch Armstrong into a movie in the 1990s, Universal and Hasbro made a serious attempt to get it off the ground in the 2010s. 

In 2010, Universal announced that Taylor Lautner would star in a big-budget adaptation of Stretch Armstrong. The project, which apparently carried a comedic tone, never saw the light of day. It would later be picked up by Relativity Media, who ditched Lautner and began aiming for an April 11, 2014 release date. Breck Eisner was eventually hired to helm Stretch Armstrong, but that was as far as the production got. In October 2013, Relativity announced that they had dropped Stretch Armstrong from their slate. Their only excuse for the development was a desire on the part of both Relativity and Hasbro to focus on other projects.

Since then, the Stretch Armstrong movie has remained dormant. It currently seems like a stretch that this movie adaptation will ever see the light of day.

Hollywood refused to take a bite out of Hungry Hungry Hippos

Even by the standards of kids' board games, Hungry Hungry Hippos has a simple premise: A bunch of marbles are unleashed in a circle and the players manipulate their hippos to see who can gobble up the most. Once the circle is empty, whoever has the most marbles win. It's a decent way to kill a few minutes with a five-year-old, sure. Fodder for a feature-length movie, though? That seems far more unlikely. 

But in the fall of 2012, it appeared that the thin mythos of Hungry Hungry Hippos was headed to the big screen. As part of a deal with Hollywood production company Emmett/Furla, Hasbro announced that they would be turning Hungry Hungry Hippos into a movie. The head of Emmett/Furla did not dilvuge many details on the project, beyond that it would be made at a modest price compared to then-recent Hasbro game adaptation Battleship. The Hungry Hungry Hippos movie never got farther than a press release announcement, however. Meanwhile, a subsequent partnership between Hasbro and Paramount Pictures has seen a number of movies based on Hasbro properties enter development — but none of them star those marble-famished beasts. Perhaps the people at Hasbro realized what so many parents have known for years: There's just not enough material in the Hungry Hungry Hippos game for a major motion picture.

A View-Master movie went unseen

Popularity begets imitators. That's true in every medium, but it's especially true in the world of movies. In 2009, just days after Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened to massive box office numbers, another film adaptation based on a popular toy was announced. The toy being adapted for the silver screen this time was none other than the beloved View-Master.

Screenwriter Brad Caleb Kane was announced to be writing the View-Master project for DreamWorks. What kind of movie could you make out of such a simple toy? Well, Kane noted that it would adhere closely to the tone and style of Amblin movies from the 1980s, with The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes being used as specific examples. But it appears the project never got farther than Kane's involvement. No director was ever attached to the View-Master movie, and no further details were ever revealed for this iteration of the project. While no concrete details were given for why it never went forward, DreamWorks' subsequent financial troubles likely played a part in the View-Master movie's demise.

DreamWorks' take may be kaput, but that doesn't mean the toy has been dubbed off-limits for a film adaptation. A new incarnation of the project, spearheaded by MGM and Mattel, was announced in February 2019, though no updates have been provided since.

Risk proved too risky of a proposition

It might not shock you to learn that adapting a board game called Risk into a movie proved to be, well, risky. That's what Sony Pictures found out when they committed to a Risk-based feature film, hiring John Hlavin to pen the screenplay two years after acquiring the property. No word ever emerged on what kind of film Sony and Hasbro were planning on making here, though initial statements indicated that the production would have fallen into the action and thriller genres.

Unfortunately, the project never got farther than hiring Hlavin as screenwriter. No official reasons have been given for why Risk stalled, but it seems likely that Battleship's box office failure gave Sony second thoughts about turning a Hasbro board game into an expensive blockbuster. Hasbro shifting gears to focus on film adaptations of toys with major pre-existing fanbases (like the My Little Pony movie) also kept Risk from coming to life. In the end, any potential strategies for bringing Risk to the big screen ultimately went unused.

Happy Madison almost took Tonka Trucks for a spin

Adam Sandler's Happy Madison company has mostly produced mid-budget comedies.  However, the company made a bid to join the world of animation with an announcement in June 2012 that they were entering into a partnership with Sony Pictures Animation and planning to make a film based on Hasbro's Tonka trucks. Not only was the project an indication of Happy Madison stepping outside its comfort zone, it was another example of Sony committing to Hasbro properties.

However, that splashy announcement was the last real piece of news to emerge about the project. No other plot details were released and there was never even a screenwriter attached to the project. Perhaps Tonka Trucks could have gone further if Happy Madison's leader, Adam Sandler, had continued his long-time relationship with Sony Pictures: In October 2014, Sandler signed a long-term deal with Netflix, taking the Happy Madison production company with him. A number of older projects, including Tonka Trucks, were left in the dust. Tonka Trucks was also hurt by the fact that Sony and Hasbro's partnership never ended up delivering any finished movies — it was all PR and no action.

A G.I. Joe: Retaliation sequel never got taken out of the packaging

With G.I. Joe: Retaliation making $73 million more worldwide than its predecessor, Paramount Pictures and Hasbro turned their eyes towards a sequel. Retaliation director Jon M. Chu was recruited to helm the sequel in June 2013 and a 2016 release date was confirmed a year later. Shortly after, it was announced that somebody new would be taking over directorial duties on the project, with Disturbia director D.J. Caruso eventually being picked to helm the blockbuster. Per Caruso, this G.I. Joe adventure would have ended with Hasbro worlds colliding as the Joes would have crossed paths with the Transformers.

Despite promising such a high-profile crossover, this new G.I. Joe movie began to stall out because of Retaliation star Dwayne Johnson's insanely busy schedule. Eventually, everyone else involved, including Caruso, began to take a cue from Johnson and tackled different projects. While rumors briefly circulated that Paramount wanted Johnson back for another G.I. Joe movie entitled G.I. Joe: Ever Vigilant, the franchise ended up going in a different direction: A Snake Eyes spin-off movie was announced in 2018. While it was initially referred to as a prequel, Snake Eyes star Henry Golding eventually confirmed it will reboot the G.I. Joe franchise entirely.

With further spin-offs of Snake Eyes in the works, it looks like Paramount is leaving the original G.I. Joe movies, and the unrealized G.I. Joe: Retaliation sequel, in the rearview mirror.

Amy Schumer's Barbie never got played with

In the world of direct-to-video movies, Barbie is queen: The famous doll has managed to headline 37 animated films. In live-action movies, though, Barbie has struggled. One attempt to bring Barbie to the big screen came in the spring of 2014, when Sony and Mattel teamed up to create a live-action Barbie movie. Amy Schumer, fresh off her hit movie Trainwreck, was attached to star, with screenwriter Diablo Cody also in the mix. The plot would reportedly have concerned a Barbie who is exiled to the real world for being imperfect.

From here, Barbie struggled to retain talent. Schumer dropped out of the project in early 2017, while Cody would later reveal in 2018 that she had never even written a script for the project. Attempts to revive the project with actress Anne Hathaway and director Alethea Jones went nowhere. By September 2018, when Mattel started up its own independent film division, it was noted that these attempts at a Barbie movie had been "scrapped".

While these Barbies never made it off the shelf, there's still hope for the property to make it to the silver screen. Warner Bros. has commissioned a Barbie movie set to star Margot Robbie, with Greta Gerwig in talks to direct.