This certainly isn’t going to ease concerns that Hollywood is running out of ideas. Studios have always preferred building their franchises around established brands rather than developing original material, so it’s no surprise that we’ve witnessed an exponential growth in the number of films based on preexisting material over the last several decades. Forgotten action figures, classic board games, old chewing gum wrappers… if it has name recognition, it’s a pretty safe bet that a producer has optioned it.
It might seem ridiculous, but thanks in no small part to the wildly successful Transformers series, there’s a particularly strong interest in crafting films based on popular toy properties – and Mattel’s Hot Wheels line has been one of the company’s most recognizable and resilient brands since its introduction in 1968.
Back in 2003, Columbia Pictures acquired the rights to make a live-action Hot Wheels feature film with McG attached to direct. Three years later, McG decided he was only interested in producing the film. The project never gained much momentum after that and in 2009, Warner Bros. picked up the rights and Joel Silver was brought on board to produce.
As early as last year, Silver Pictures producer Alex Heineman was still talking up the film and discussing how Hot Wheels would be a marked departure not only from other toy-based films, but also similarly-themed franchises like The Fast and the Furious.
Flash forward to Fast Five making over $587 million worldwide and there’s suddenly a very different attitude. Silver Pictures is no longer involved with Hot Wheels, but Legendary Pictures is now in early negotiations to take over the project. According to Variety, the film will not be targeted at children. Instead, it will be “an edgier pic along the lines of Universal’s box office success Fast Five.”
There aren’t many words that get tossed around Hollywood as needlessly as “edgy” these days – and it’s such a subjective concept that it doesn’t actually tell us very much about which direction the film will ultimately take. Legendary is obviously chasing a different demographic than past incarnations of the Hot Wheels movie, but we’ll have to wait and see how they actually attempt to accomplish that.
Hot Wheels is still a children’s toy first and foremost, but the last decade has seen a substantial increase in the number of adult collectors. There are numerous web pages related to buying, selling, and showcasing these collections – and Mattel is very aware of the impact this has had on their sales.
Regardless, one of the challenges in developing an “edgy” Hot Wheels movie is going to be convincing a general audience that it’s not kiddie fare. On the flip side, the thought of a parent explaining to their child that the film isn’t appropriate for them is slightly amusing. The other challenge the filmmakers face is basing this on a property with absolutely no established mythology – no background, no storylines, no characters, no concept… just props.
In addition to Hot Wheels, Mattel also has Monster High and Major Matt Mason set up at Universal, a Magic 8-Ball movie at Paramount, and the new He-Man film Grayskull at Sony.