Other than its relationship with China’s factories, there is no more important relationship for the toy industry than the movie industry. Movies are a significant source of intellectual property and revenue.
So, it is intriguing that at the same time Mattel is investing in Mattel Films; Hasbro has sold off its movie production arm, Entertainment One. Why the seeming contradiction between two of the toy industry’s most prominent companies?
Management in both companies sees the world of movies and toys very differently. Mattel is in the Greater Los Angeles area, a city dominated by the movie industry. Hasbro is located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the birthplace of the American industrial revolution. Two very different cultural environments.
Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz has a media-heavy background. Hasbro CEO, Chris Cocks, has spent years successfully running Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast division. He is a game and product guy: two leaders, two cities: different visions, cultures, skill sets, and visions.
Who is right? We are going to find out. Let’s start with Mattel.
Mattel is planning a series of movies based on its brands: Polly Pocket, Hot Wheels, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Uno, View-Master, Thomas the Tank Engine, and some vintage Mattel products (Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy), to name a few, are in the production schedule.
Barbie has rung up over one billion dollars so far. Can Mattel expect the same level of success from these new movies that they have enjoyed with Barbie? Does another Mattel movie even have to be that big?
Let’s pull out three of these franchises and analyze the prospects for a Polly Pocket, View-Master, or Hot Wheels Movie.
Discontinued in 2012 and resurrected by Mattel in 2018, Polly Pocket is a doll many contemporary adult women enjoyed as children. She was, however, no Barbie, not in terms of revenue, not in terms of longevity, and not in terms of controversy. She never rose above being a toy, so though a movie may have some success, she will not provoke the intensity of interest of the Barbie movie.
A Hot Wheels movie – now we’re talking. Hot Wheels has deep roots with adult males going back generations. Racing, kinetic energy, and collecting make for a vital childhood memory. In fact, like Barbie, Hot Wheels has a hold on all four active generations: Boomers, GenX, Millennials, and GenZ. A Hot Wheels movie with a great marketing campaign could be a significant box-office winner.
And then there’s View-Master. View Master was an analog toy that allowed a child or adult to collect the reels and, by popping them in, watch anything from a Bugs Bunny cartoon to the Taj Mahal (Yes I had a Taj Mahal reel, I have no idea why). It’s hard to imagine a movie about the View-Master itself, but easy to see how View-Master could be the portal to take us to other worlds (think Jumanji).
Mattel has the brand franchises and the marketing team to produce a successful series of movies. There will be misses and some ho-hum results, but over, all With Ynon Kreiz running the company, I would bet on Mattel.