Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz says Daniel Kaluuya’s Barney film is not a “surrealistic” A24-type project and will not be “odd.”
I love you, and you love me, but do you know what Mattel doesn’t love? Misconceptions about Daniel Kaluuya’s forthcoming Barney film. After the success of its Barbie movie, Mattel is eager to bring multiple properties to screens, and rumors about the tone and tenor for each project have been making the rounds. Speaking with The New Yorker in July, Mattel Films executive Kevin McKeon described Kaluuya’s Barney film as an A24-type endeavor, with a script that finds the purple dinosaur occupying a “surrealistic” space. However, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz says McKeon’s description of the Barney project is inaccurate.
“That one is getting a lot of reaction,” Kreiz recently told Semafor. “It’s too early to be specific, but I can tell you we are taking a fresh approach that will be fun, entertaining and culturally oriented. It will not be an odd movie.”
Kreiz’s words could disappoint those who thought Kaluuya’s version of Barney would “get weird.” Part of what makes Greta Gerwig’s Barbie so appealing is that it’s out-of-the-box and does unexpected things with a legendary property. Hearing Barney won’t go in that direction is dispiriting.
“We’re leaning into the Millennial angst of the property rather than fine-tuning this for kids. It’s really a play for adults,” McKeon told NYT in July. “Not that it’s R-rated, but it’ll focus on some of the trials and tribulations of being 30-something, growing up with Barney—just the level of disenchantment within the generation.”
If McKeon is mistaken about Mattel’s approach to Barney, what do you think the studio has in mind for the child entertainment icon? Will Kaluuya take a more wholesome approach to the material? Will he stay on the project if Mattel insists on a more family-friendly angle? It’s too early to know for sure, and the development process has only just begun. Hopefully, Mattel will look hard at what made Barbie a runaway hit and produce something unexpected. While not every film in Mattel’s slate needs to be an existential crisis and commentary on society like Barbie, it would be great to reinvent Barney for an audience of fans, old and new.