It’s no secret that studios are high on branded IP. When you make a movie out of Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or He-Man, there’s the assumption that you’re already starting with a built-in audience, plus audiences immediately know what a Transformers movie entails as opposed to something wholly original like the upcoming sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending—introducing that to audiences is tricky. And as evidenced by this February’s The LEGO Movie, it’s possible to make genuinely great films out of material that has zero backstory or mythology.
Which brings us to Barbie. Sony Pictures is currently moving forward with a live-action feature film adaptation of the 50-year-old toy, and they’ve got big plans for the property with their eye on jumpstarting a new franchise. Hit the jump for more, including what the Barbie movie entails.
Per Deadline, Sony Pictures has closed a deal with Mattel to produce a live-action comedy built around the Barbie brand, which the studio hopes will kick off a new franchise. Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City, The Big C) is penning the script for producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald (Men in Black), and the intention is to have this before cameras by the end of the year.
Though various animated, direct-to-DVD iterations of Barbie have been produced over the years, Mattel has been wary of a big screen adaptation for a long while. It was the pitch by Bicks, Parkes, and MacDonald that finally convinced the toy maker to lend Sony the rights.
The idea for the Barbie movie is to take advantage of the chameleon-like nature of the character while also emphasizing female empowerment. The contemporary tale “allows the character Barbie to use her personal and professional skills to step into the lives of others and improve them, almost like a modern day Mary Poppins.” A young actress will play the title character and a young cast will step in to play Ken and Barbie’s best friend, but the premise allows Sony to fill the rest of the movie out with known stars in supporting roles, switching them out in subsequent movies.
With yesterday’s news of It’s a Small World and Peeps movies also in development, this may feel like IP overload. However, the possible silver lining is that Barbie can provide Sony with an opportunity to bring a solid female-led franchise to the screen. With recent megahits like The Hunger Games and Frozen (and, to a lesser extent, Divergent), Hollywood is finally starting to clue in to the fact that female-led tentpoles are no less lucrative than male-fronted ones, and in fact can oftentimes be even more successful than the latest testosterone-fueled actioner.
Moreover, films like The Hunger Games and Frozen underline the fact that a “strong” female character doesn’t mean simply making a girl “one of the guys” and “kick-ass”. Sony’s quite keen on getting Barbie off the ground as quickly as possible, so hopefully the project gets filled out with a talented filmmaking team that can elevate the material and provide a solid role model for young Barbie fans the world over. Just please, let’s keep pretending this song never happened.