Even before the Barbie movie became one of the biggest films of 2023, it was clear Mattel was going to use that as a jumping off point to bring more of its toys to the silver screen. The company’s never been shy about what toys are getting the movie treatment, with the most well-known of the bunch being one focused on Barney the Purple Dinosaur that will star Nope’s Daniel Kaluuya.
Recently, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz touched on that film, currently titled Barbie & Friends. In an interview with Semafor Business, he said it was “too early” to talk specifics for that film, but claimed it would be less existentially meta than Barbie was. “It will not be an odd movie,” he said. “I can tell you we are taking a fresh approach that will be fun, entertaining and culturally oriented.”
Kreiz’s comments on Barney & Friends clash with ones previously made by Mattel Films’ Kevin McKeon. Back in July, the executive claimed to The Wrap this movie would “lean into the millennial angst” of the property, calling it “really a play for adults. Not that it’s R-rated, but it’ll focus on some of the trials and tribulations of being thirtysomething, growing up with Barney — just the level of disenchantment within the generation.” That same month, fellow executive Robbie Brenner described it as being akin to Being John Malkovich or Adaptation—”Any movie that has Barney is not certainly going to be straightforward,” she told Variety. “We’re not making Ted.”
Whatever Mattel ends up doing with that Barney movie, McKeon does have a point in highlighting the oddness of growing up with the dinosaur. As highlighted in the 2022 documentary I Love You, You Hate Me, there was a period of time in the early 2000s where teens and adults genuinely hated the character, with the former making up songs about killing him and the latter sending death threats to those involved with the show. The movie may not fully address that kind of overblown ugliness, but it wouldn’t be surprising if that were acknowledged in some fashion.
Of course, all of this depends on the actual Barney & Friends movie getting made and released, and we’ll see how that goes.
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