Mattel and Warner Bros. are partnering up to bring the toy company’s Hot Wheels to theaters in the first ever live-action feature film for the beloved racecar franchise.
This will mark the second partnership for the two companies following the news of the “Barbie” feature film starring Margot Robbie.
“We are excited to bring the thrill of a Hot Wheels live-action feature film to the big screen in partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures,” Ynon Kreiz, Mattel’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mattel Films has great momentum as it continues to execute on our commitment to bring global audiences new ways to experience the brands they love as we transform Mattel into an IP-driven, high-performing toy company.”
Hot Wheels debuted in 1968 and has sold more than six billion individual cars during its storied 50-year history. With more than 500 million Hot Wheels being sold annually, it’s the number one selling toy in the world. Legendary had most recently been developing the rights to the project with Justin Lin, but after the option expired, Mattel took the rights back to the market.
“Hot Wheels has been inspiring the imagination of kids around the world for over 50 years,” said Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros.’ chairman. “We couldn’t be more excited to be bringing the adrenaline, adventure, and excitement of Hot Wheels to the big screen.”
The deal comes out of Mattel’s newly established Mattel Films, led by producer Robbie Brenner, as the company looks to take control of its IP as it has begun reacquiring the rights to various properties. Along with Barbie and Hot Wheels, Mattel also recently renegotiated a new deal with Sony on “Masters of the Universe.”
With all of these facts in mind, what are my personal opinions on this? Thank you for asking, I would love to share them.
I think a lot of Mattel’s sudden race to the box office (count it, we’re at three announced movie projects now in the last thirty days) has to do with their plummeting stocks. They took a big hit not only from the loss of Toys R Us, but they recently lost their DC action figure toy licensing deal to SpinMaster. Clearly, this affects branding. Now granted, they’re making hella bank off licensing Masters of the Universe to Super 7 and many other apparel and toy companies. So, it’s not to say that money isn’t coming in. But with the success Hasbro has had with their toy to screen and screen to toy brands, someone at Mattel likely got the hint that they need to have more big screen visibility other than the occasion direct to video Barbie cartoon.
Now, as for the Hot Wheels license itself? Maybe Mattel is hoping for a Thomas and Friends (for which they actually own the license, whether alone or still in a deal with HIT Entertainment) meets Pixar’s Cars. Possibly, they are trying to compete with Hasbro’s animated Micro Machines trademark. If the movie will be live-action, perhaps they’re hoping for more a Transformers vibe (Michael Bay or otherwise, doesn’t matter).
If the story is strong and the narrative is tight, a movie can be made from clearly anything. A toy line, a video game, or even a Disneyland ride. Sure, we didn’t want that Battleship movie. I argue that really, we don’t need that Dance Dance Revolution movie, thanks. Ghost in the Shell, Dragonball: Evolution, and Street Fighter: The Story of Chun Li were all unnecessary clusters. And truthfully, that Tetris movie will likely never happen either.
But these Mattel movies? There’s a good chance there will be follow through.
As for Hot Wheels in and of itself; the source material isn’t always the problem– it’s a combination of respecting that source material, understanding who and what the fans are and are not, and making efforts to have a concrete and gripping story arc that feels fresh, yet contains familiar elements of what makes the Intellectual Property lovable to its fans. But who are the fans of these $1 toy cars? Are they asking for a movie starring their favorite zippy little toys? Or is it because no one is asking for this that makes it a possibility for success?
With low expectations comes no responsibility.