Mattel creates new film division to turn toys into movies

Mattel has hired producer Robbie Brenner to head a new division focused on developing movies based on its toy brands. (Richard Drew / Associsated Press)

It’s not exactly a “Toy Story” sequel, but Mattel is redoubling its efforts in the entertainment industry by launching a new film division.

The El Segundo-based toy maker announced Thursday that it is launching Mattel Films to focus on developing and producing motion pictures based on the company’s toy brands.

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The group will be led by producer Robbie Brenner, who was previously a partner and president of the film division at the production and talent management company The Firm, as well as president of production at Relativity Media.

She was a producer on the 2013 movie “Dallas Buyers Club,” receiving an Academy Award nomination for best picture.

Mattel Films, which is based out of the company’s headquarters, won’t be a full-fledged studio. The division intends to use third-party sources for producing and financing as a way of limiting risk.

Mattel isn’t new to the entertainment business. The company launched Playground Productions five years ago to turn its properties into movies and TV shows across multiple platforms. But the division flopped badly with “Max Steel,” the 2016 feature based on the Mattel action figure.

Playground was eventually absorbed into Mattel Creations, a division intended to centralize the company’s content production.

Mattel Films is a new division of the company focused on developing and producing motion pictures based on the company’s iconic and globally-recognized franchises, which include “Hot Wheels.” Mattel Creations will continue to focus on animated shorts.

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The company said Brenner will report to Chief Executive Ynon Kreiz.

Kreiz was named CEO of Mattel in April as part of an effort to turn around the toy maker, which has been struggling with weak sales. He previously headed YouTube’s Maker Studios, a producer of short-form online video content.

The company said in June that it was cutting more than 2,200 jobs, or 22% of its global non-manufacturing workforce. The layoffs came after Mattel reported lower-than-expected second-quarter earnings as revenue fell for a fourth straight quarter.

Mattel has so far failed to emulate the success of Hasbro, which turned its Transformers action figures into a multibillion-dollar movie franchise. A movie based on Mattel’s Barbie has been in development for years, most recently at Sony.

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