10 Upcoming Movies Trying To Be The "New Barbie" (2024)

Summary

  • Hollywood is looking for the "new Barbie" after its success, with many movies based on toys announced by Mattel.
  • New movie adaptations may try to capture the surrealism and relevance Barbie offers thematically.
  • Movies about toys and games including Polly Pocket, Monopoly, and Monster High are in development.

Barbie proved to be a thematically profound and extremely profitable pop culture phenomenon, leaving Hollywood scrambling to find the "new Barbie." Other movies based on toys and games have entered development, although none are based on products as iconic as Barbie. More than likely, many of these movies will turn out to be unremarkable uses of IP. Making a movie about an anthropomorphized toy isn't all that difficult; the challenge is recapturing the surrealistic and relevant story Barbie tells.

Barbie's unique story plays fast and loose with world-building rules to show Margot Robbie's "stereotypical Barbie" moving back and forth from Barbieland and pondering the nature of humanity and womanhood. If new movies just repeat the concept of toy land vs. the real world, everyone will know exactly what they are doing and it will likely lose its appeal. Supposedly, each new movie will want to do something thematically with what the toy represents in the cultural zeitgeist, but it is again difficult to accomplish this without being a carbon copy of Barbie.

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10 Polly Pocket

Screenwriter & Director: Lena Dunham | Starring & Producer: Lily Collins

The live-action Polly Pocket movie is setting itself up to follow what Barbie has established as a formula for a movie about toys marketed towards girls. A seasoned female writer and director is on board and is currently working on the script, while a popular actress is set to star and follow in Robbie's footsteps by also acting as a producer. Polly Pockets are, in many ways, the smaller counterparts to Barbies, although their design was revamped in the 2000s to be slightly bigger than their namesake suggests.

Early clues about Polly Pocket's story imply that it will follow a literally pocket-sized woman in the real world, heading in the direction of an even wackier narrative than Barbie.

Early clues about Polly Pocket's story imply that it will follow a literally pocket-sized woman in the real world, heading in the direction of an even wackier narrative than Barbie. The initial description is that it will be about a “young girl and a pocket-sized woman forming a friendship," seemingly focusing more on themes of girlhood than womanhood. However, Polly Pocket runs the risk of being too strange and especially too similar to Barbie.

9 Monopoly

Producer: Margot Robbie

Outside Mattel, Hasbro is working with Lionsgate to make a Monopoly movie. The Monopoly movie has been in development for many years, with things only recently picking up again following the success of Barbie. In 2019, Lionsgate announced that Tim Story would direct Monopoly while Kevin Hart would star, but it is unclear if this is still true for the project. More recent news indicated that Robbie will be producing it.

Robbie's involvement is something of a vote of confidence, as it seems unlikely that she would get involved in another adaptation of this nature if it wasn't worthwhile. There is some potentially thematically weighty material involving capitalism and consumerism in a Monopoly story, which will be very difficult for the writers to handle. It will be a long time before the structural nature of this movie is revealed, but it could go either direction in terms of quality.

8 Chatty Cathy & Betsy Wetsy

Producer: Jason Bateman

Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy are each a line of Mattel dolls whose defining feature is said in her name. Cathy is a pull-string talking doll, Betsy is a "drink-and-wet" doll. They fall within the broad category of Mattel-owned, feminine dolls that are getting a movie adaptation in the future. The Chatty Cathy & Betsy Wetsy movie is set to be produced by Jason Bateman's production company Aggregate Films — and this is where the loose Barbie formula has the potential to get really weird.

Chatty Cathy and Betsy Wetsy were most popular in the 1950s/60s and 1930s respectively, so there is something there concerning a story about becoming defunct and forgotten. Both dolls had one strange, defining feature that a team of executives managed to figure out was marketable, as children enjoyed the dolls because they were more "real." However, Cathy and Betsy are not as well-known today as Barbie, Polly Pocket, or American Girl, showcasing how Mattel is turning over every stone rather than handling one project at a time.

7 Monster High

Producer: Akiva Goldsman

The Monster High dolls are Mattel's slightly edgier alternative to Barbie, based on new conceptualizations of famous monsters (i.e., the franchise's main characters are Clawdeen Wolf, Frankie Stein, Draculaura). This line of dolls has already spawned a series of graphic novels, video games, and animated movies. Mattel has now also entered a collaboration with Universal for a live-action Monster High movie.

The Monster High characters are probably the best suited to carry their own story of any of Mattel's products. They are teenage versions of legendary monsters, which is already a plot on its own. Universal and producer Akiva Goldsman face less of a challenge to create a reality-bending story about the status of these dolls when they are essentially action heroines. However, making a straightforward adventure story with these characters could come across as meaningless when there are too many movies like that.

6 The Sims

Director: Kate Herron | Screenwriters: Herron & Briony Redman | Producer: Margot Robbie

The Sims movie has the potential to be very interesting as the basic concept of the game already invites philosophical questions about virtual realities. The Sims is a video game where the player makes their way through a virtual life, but one that bears much more resemblance to reality than games about fighting monsters or surviving the apocalypse. People are already speculating that The Sims could be a very intellectual and very meta movie commenting on games of this nature.

Which is why they might run into the same roadblocks as Barbie, which had to work with Mattel to strike a balance between making fun of the brand and romanticizing it. Robbie is also involved with The Sims; it is one of the upcoming movies that LuckyChap, the production company Robbie co-owns, will be producing. A director and writers are named, but the casting is what could take The Sims to a new level.

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5 Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots

Screenwriter: Ryan Engle | Starring & Producer: Vin Diesel

The Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots movie will reportedly be about “a father and son who form an unlikely bond with an advanced war machine.” It is certainly leaning into the more typical action and sci-fi genre, but may still be trying to find some surrealism by blending it with the familial storyline. Announced star and producer Vin Diesel is well-versed in ludicrous action movies where family is a major theme from his decades of experience with the Fast & Furious franchise.

Screenwriter Ryan Engle is also no stranger to the action genre, with his claim to fame being the scripts for Non-Stop, The Commuter, Rampage, and Beast. These movies received mostly average views but showcased the beginning of deeper themes amid generic action. Engle's work on Rock Em', Sock Em' Robots cannot be written off just yet, but the movie is still unlikely to be as good or impactful as Barbie.

4 Magic 8 Ball

No Confirmed Cast Or Crew

The rumored Magic 8 Ball horror movie would probably be as mysterious in plot as the status of its production currently is. It has the potential to be a creepy and enigmatic story hinging on the iconic toy determining the fate of the heroes. The Magic 8 Ball's simple fortunes are good fun when the reader can choose whether to take them seriously. However, it seems likely that in a Magic 8 Ball movie, these predictions would become far more literal.

The resulting movie could be interestingly harrowing, or it could be a complete joke. It is dependent on getting the audience to accept the Mattel toy as an evil, perhaps omniscient device that drives the story. The deadly item could be anything in a horror movie; it is only a Magic 8 Ball in this case for marketing reasons. However, the Magic 8 Ball movie has also been stagnant for years. Blumhouse Productions was supposed to be behind the project but has since exited it.

3 Barney

Producer: Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya's adult-focused Barney movie is sure to be an interesting experiment. Given Kaluuya's association with horror director Jordan Peele and the recent repurposing of Winnie the Pooh for horror, rumors circled that the new Barney movie would also be a horror. However, it has since been clarified that Barney will not be rated R, even though it will be live-action and will tell a more adult story, largely focusing on some existential questions of the generation that grew up with Barney.

This is slightly new territory for Kaluuya, but with the right writer and director, it could work. Barbie managed to showcase the nostalgia of a generation who grew up playing with Barbie dolls and are now questioning what that toy (no matter how seemingly insignificant) represents in their lives. Barney could hopefully do something similar with the friendly purple dinosaur.

2 Thomas The Tank Engine

Director: Marc Forster

Thomas the Tank Engine has a significant history as a TV staple, the main character of a show that ran for nearly 600 episodes. A movie blending live-action and animated elements based on Thomas & Friends is also in development. World War Z director Marc Forster is attached to the project. was announced in 2020 but has not moved forward since then.

Like with some other dormant projects, studios are probably revisiting the possibility of movies such as Thomas & Friends in the wake of Barbie. The anthropomorphic trains present a conceptual problem for the creators; people also wouldn't think what the movie needs is Forster's experience as the director of an (average) zombie apocalypse movie. So little is known about the new Thomas the Tank Engine movie that it is not yet clear how they will present these characters on screen so that they may be taken seriously.

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1 American Girl Doll

Screenwriter & Producer: Lindsey Anderson Beer

The last of Mattel's dolls on the road to their own movie is the American Girl Doll brand. The movie is confirmed, with a writer and producer, and has also been characterized as an unofficial follow-up to Barbie. The various American Girl Dolls do have compelling stories, spanning centuries of history and showing many different experiences of growing up in America. The dolls' stories have previously been related in companion books and live-action movies.

However, the potential for a powerful commentary on what these dolls represent is substantial.

The challenge for Mattel's new American Girl Doll movie is tying together all these stories into something coherent. However, the potential for a powerful commentary on what these dolls represent is substantial. Barbie utilized the fact that the dolls are supposed to be inspirational to tell an interesting story about how this is both true and false. American Girl Doll has some of the best opportunities to do something profound with its brand in cinema, more so than some of the other would-be Barbie replacements.

10 Upcoming Movies Trying To Be The "New Barbie" (4)
Barbie

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Barbie is a film adaptation of the generational iconic toy directed by Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script with Noah Baumbach. The film centers on Margot Robbie's Barbie who is expelled from Barbieland and travels with Ken (Ryan Gosling) to the real world in search of happiness. The film also stars Simu Liu, Will Ferrell, and several other famous celebrities in cameo roles.

Director
Greta Gerwig

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Studio(s)
LuckyChap Entertainment , Mattel Films , Heyday Films

Distributor(s)
Warner Bros. Pictures
Writers
Noah Baumbach , Greta Gerwig
Cast
Margot Robbie , Ryan Gosling , Simu Liu , Ariana Greenblatt , Helen Mirren , Nicola Coughlan , John Cena , Will Ferrell , Ritu Arya , Michael Cera , America Ferrera , Alexandra Shipp , Kate McKinnon

Runtime
114 Minutes
10 Upcoming Movies Trying To Be The "New Barbie" (2024)
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