Mattel’s Windfall From ‘Barbie’

When I saw the Barbie film it was the week after seeing Oppenheimer in the same theatre.  It was one of those multi-theater complexes showing many films at the same time. We had been struck repeatedly by how sparse the audiences had been, along with barely any waiting time to get one’s requisite popcorn and drink. But walking in to see Oppenheim was a revelation, with the large lobby full of movie-goers and long lines for those refreshments. However, it was only a preview of the “Barbie” phenom that came next! Girls of every age decked out in pink, literally jammed the place even more.

Tardy as usual in securing seats, as there had never been a problem getting two together, we luckily ended up with two of the last few available, way to the side against the far wall.

Many of the articles chosen for this blog are about why things don’t work out well for people, because of ego dysfunctions and the bad choices made by participants. It is instructive to read how this juggernaut was given wings for a much more rewarding outcome. The point being that, “The Law Of Cause & Effect” embodied in the current vernacular of those words, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” is a law of physics that is active in every person’s life and certainly reflective in the success of Barbie. Good for them!

Find Rob’s book & ebook “What Goes Around Comes Around – A Guide To How Life REALLY Works” at  Amazon or Audible
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Kirkus Reviews says:
A stable, nonpreachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes of real human experiences to reveal powerful truths about life.

Wall Street has been reluctant to give much credit to one hit, on the theory that such success is hard to replicate. (“Barbie” has had no discernible impact on Warner Bros. Discovery’s stock price.)

But for Mattel, the positive impact of “Barbie” goes far beyond just one film. The company’s yearslong strategy to become a major film producer, using its vast storehouse of toys as intellectual property, had been met in Hollywood with skepticism, if not outright mockery. A-list talent wasn’t lining up to direct a plush purple dinosaur like Barney. But now the perception that Mattel’s leadership is willing to trust and support an unorthodox creative team that delivered both a box office bonanza and a possible awards contender has radically altered that.

And Mattel’s surprising willingness to make fun of itself was one of the elements that mostly delighted critics and added to the buzz that roped in many more moviegoers than the “Barbie” fan base.

That Mr. Kreiz was willing to laugh at his own caricature came as something as a surprise to some acquaintances and former colleagues. An Israeli military veteran with dual Israeli and British citizenship, a former professional wind surfer, an avid kite surfer and a fitness buff, with more than a passing resemblance to a younger Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 58-year-old Mr. Kreiz comes across as more of a square-jawed G.I. Joe action hero than a Barbie fan with a sense of humor.

Mr. Kreiz’s entire career was in media and entertainment, not retail. His longtime mentor, the Power Rangers entrepreneur and billionaire Haim Saban, hired him fresh out of the University of California, Los Angeles, to launch Fox Kids Europe, a joint venture with Fox. He later ran Maker Studios, a YouTube aggregator, which Disney acquired in 2014. Mr. Kreiz left in 2016, and Maker was folded into the Disney Digital Network in 2017.

That “Barbie” even got made was no small feat. It had languished at Sony for years, with Mattel routinely renewing the option, as various writers struggled to adapt the doll for the big screen. Although one of the most popular toys ever, Barbie was the subject of intense controversy, seen both as a symbol of female empowerment and as an impossible standard of beauty and femininity. The only feasible approach seemed a parody. The comedian Amy Schumer was once slated for the part. But scripts came and went.

Weeks after becoming chief executive in 2018, Mr. Kreiz refused to renew the Sony option, according to multiple people interviewed for this article. He called Ms. Robbie’s agent and asked for a meeting. Ms. Robbie was among the most sought-after young actresses in Hollywood, fresh from acclaimed performances in diverse roles — as the ill-fated ice skater Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”; in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”; and as a fixture in Warner’s DC Comics universe as Harley Quinn, the Joker’s former girlfriend. And while no human could replicate Barbie’s exaggerated dimensions, Ms. Robbie came reasonably close, while also radiating wholesome beauty.

Ms. Robbie was simultaneously reaching out to Mattel and Mr. Kreiz after learning that the “Barbie” option hadn’t been renewed. She was looking for a potential franchise to take to Warner, where her production company, LuckyChap, had a first-look deal. But she wasn’t looking to star in the film herself.

Over breakfast at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the plush entertainment and celebrity hangout not far from Mattel’s less glamorous El Segundo headquarters, Mr. Kreiz shared his vision: He didn’t want to make movies in order just to sell toys. He wanted something fresh, unconventional, bold.

“Our vision for Barbie was someone with a strong voice, a clear message, with cultural resonance that would make a societal impact,” he said, recalling his message.

Mr. Kreiz’s obvious enthusiasm and determination, and his pitch for creative integrity make him hard to resist, as Ms. Brenner, a producer, discovered when he recruited her to run the newly created Mattel film division during another meal at the Polo Lounge. Ms. Brenner, a respected producer and an Academy Award nominee for “Dallas Buyers Club,” was attracted to his idea for the movie. In Mr. Kreiz’s vision, Mattel would be as much a movie company as a toy company. The two bonded after he asked her who should play Barbie, and she, too, volunteered Ms. Robbie.

At their first meeting, Ms. Robbie suggested Ms. Gerwig for the director. The two were friends and had talked about working together. Mr. Kreiz loved the idea in part because it was so unexpected — Ms. Gerwig had directed and written acclaimed but offbeat independent films like “Frances Ha,” “Lady Bird” and a new take on the classic “Little Women,” but no big-budget fare.

“Lady Bird” was one of Ms. Brenner’s favorite movies. But would Ms. Gerwig consider such a mass-market, commercial proposal?

Ms. Gerwig, it turned out, had played with Barbie dolls and loved them. She even had old photos of herself playing with Barbie. Ms. Brenner met with Ms. Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach, also an acclaimed screenwriter and director, at an editing facility in New York. They kicked around a few ideas, but nothing concrete emerged. Anything seemed possible.

A deal was struck, and Warner signed on as co-producer. Once Ms. Gerwig was on board, Ms. Robbie agreed to star.

At which point Ms. Gerwig and Mr. Baumbach retreated. “I know it’s not conventional and not what you’re used to, but we have to go into a room for a few months. That’s how we work and want to do it,” as Ms. Gerwig put it, Mr. Kreiz recalled.

When the script did land in Ms. Brenner’s email, it was 147 pages — the length of a Quentin Tarantino film, epic by Hollywood standards. She closed her office door and started reading. “It was like going on this crazy ride,” she recalled. It broke rules, including the so-called fourth wall, addressing the audience directly. It poked fun at Mattel.

New to the company, Ms. Brenner didn’t know if this would prove too much for Mattel executives. But she believed it was a great script. Ms. Brenner’s first call was to Mr. Kreiz. “I’ve read a lot of scripts, and this is so different,” she told him. “It’s special. You don’t get this feeling many times in an entire career.” Mr. Kreiz read the script twice, back to back. “It was deep, provoking, unconventional and imaginative,” he said. “It was everything I was hoping it would be.” Ms. Brenner was pleasantly surprised. “Ynon is a very confident person,” she said. “He can laugh at himself.” At one point Mr. Kreiz flew to London, where “Barbie” sets were being built at Warner’s studio outside the city. He and Ms. Gerwig spent a half-hour discussing the perfect shade of pink.

Mr. Kreiz and Ms. Brenner knew they had a potential hit. “It was our secret that we couldn’t talk about,” Ms. Brenner recalled.

The original budget target of $80 million jumped above $120 million once Ms. Gerwig was signed. But even that wouldn’t realize the director’s full vision for the film. For Warner executives it was a struggle to find what are known as “comps,” similar films that had grossed enough to justify such an outlay.

Would “Barbie” be another “Charlie’s Angels” from 2019 — which was budgeted at $55 million but grossed only $73 million and, after marketing costs, lost money? Or another “Wonder Woman” from 2017, budgeted at over $100 million, with a worldwide gross of $822 million?

Eventually the budget hit $141 million and, with some reshoots, ultimately topped $150 million.

On opening night, July 21, Mr. Kreiz took his 19-year-old daughter to the Regal cinema complex at Union Square in Manhattan. As they neared the theater, droves of moviegoers — and not just young girls — were heading to it in pink outfits. Five screenings were in progress. All were sold out.

Mr. Kreiz and his daughter dropped in and out to gauge audience reactions. People laughed, applauded and in a few cases shed tears.

Of course the success of “Barbie” has drastically raised the bar — and expectations — for Mattel’s movies in development, starting with “Masters of the Universe,” written and directed by the brothers Adam and Aaron Nee. Twelve more films are in various stages of development, including a “Hot Wheels” produced by J.J. Abrams, also at Warner. Some of these may need to be rethought.

And there will no doubt be “Barbie” sequels, perhaps even a James Bond-like franchise, which would be Mr. Kreiz’s ultimate fantasy (although he said it was too soon to discuss any such plans).

Mr. Kreiz acknowledged that in a notoriously fickle and unpredictable business, future success is hardly assured. But “Barbie” has given Mattel momentum — the beginning of what he calls “a multiyear franchise management strategy.”

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.  

The stable, positive, non-preachy and objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
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“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Mattel’s Windfall From ‘Barbie’

Mattel’s Windfall From ‘Barbie’

U.S. Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Connecticut between 1988 and 2006, including the revelation of leaders who discouraged disclosure. Those cases do not include at least 42 more that have been identified as not having been properly investigated. That is not to mention new Pentagon published statistics showing student-reported assaults at West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy.

So after all the accusations and denials, the truth is finally revealed about Bill Cosby’s lifetime of raping young women, who were unfortunate enough to cross his path. The answer as to how he got away with it for so long, lies in his skill of slipping a Methaquolone pill, otherwise known as a Quaalude, into a drink he would give them. It would render them helpless to escape his subsequent sexual assault. Of course, he had also built a persona of America’s Grandpa, that was the ultimate deception.I first heard about quaaludes (‘ludes) in college in the 60’s. Apparently, he did as well! The word was that if you could slip one into a girl’s drink, she would be more compliant than otherwise. The records show that Cosby had multiple prescriptions filled at least throughout the 70’s, then apparently, subsequently found other sources. It became his “MO” and many women his victim. But that game is over now, most likely for the duration of his life! As with most abusers, Cosby felt he had a way to evade the light from shining on what he was up to. He thought he was safe and would never get caught, but If accused, he could claim it was consensual. It is what all abusers think, regardless of the form that abuse takes, and sometimes it can work for a long while. But when the light finally does shine and reveals the truth, the rule is that the longer the perpetrator got away with their nasty deceptions, the deeper the hole they will have dug for themselves. Epstein escaped via suicide. I think they’ll be keeping a close eye on Bill!