You Knew This Was Coming: Universal Plans a Barbie Movie

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I’m so glad that on the same day we get to report that the likely to be extra-silly Masters of the Universe movie may be a go at Columbia, I also get to cover Universal’s plans for a film based on the Barbie toy line. But, really, how is there not already a Barbie movie? (One that isn’t porn?) How has Mattel failed to make a whole damn series of these movies? There are direct to DVD animated things, sure, but nary a notable or forgettable feature. According to Mattel, the time is now!

Variety reports that Universal’s deal with Mattel will now make a Barbie movie into reality. Mattel claims a 99% global brand awareness, says the line is the top girls toy property and top doll property in the US, and that “Barbie is the most famous doll in history, a unique cultural icon in the world of brands.” Which isn’t far from the truth; ‘Barbie’ is certainly synonymous with a specific image.

The problem with making a Barbie movie is that there isn’t a story. Most toys designed for boys are created so that the toys can be packaged with a storyline ready-made for expansion into other media. Barbie, on the other hand, reflects trends in popular culture and fashion; her look has changed over the years as popular standards of what is attractive have changed. (Which, it must be said, doesn’t mean that storylines based on toys for boys are at all better; they’re a different sort of crap.)

In other words, Barbie is more about reflecting what girls see in movies, TV and magazines than it is about creating something to be featured in those media. So while ‘Barbie’ connotes a specific image — pretty, blonde and fashionable (and possibly shallow and anorexic) — it doesn’t actually suggest a character.

Mattel’s senion VP Richard Dickson, an executive producer on the film, says “The brand wasn’t ready for a movie.” He says, “the utmost concern is to make sure every detail is right.” He’ll work with Universal to hire a writer capable of delivering a family-ready story, but what that will be is completely up in the air.

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