It was fifty years ago this past March that American businesswoman Ruth Handler and toy maker Mattel introduced the world to the fashion doll that would become beloved by little girls (and a few guys) the world over - Barbie. Since that time, Barbie has been dressed (and undressed) millions of times in thousands of outfits; she has been in 16 direct-to-video movies (all of which my 7-year-old daughter owns) and has more shoes than Imelda Marcos.
If you are a parent of a girl under the age of 10 (or the embarrassed parents of a socially inept, adult son), then you might as well clear your schedule in the next couple of years because Universal Pictures announced yesterday that they plan to make a live-action Barbie movie. I thought this idea was done once before with Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan in the 2000 Disney movie Life Size... I suppose Universal will have to take a different approach on their Barbie film.
As is typical with these announcements, no writer or director is attached to the untitled project, but Laurence Mark (Julie & Julia) is on board to produce. I wonder what Universal Picture chairman Marc Shmuger had to say about snagging the movie rights to Barbie?
"Barbie is the most famous doll in history, a unique cultural icon in the world of brands. So many representations of Barbie frequent pop culture, but never before has she been brought to life in a motion picture. We're grateful to Mattel for entrusting us with this extraordinary opportunity."
In other words, "Hot damn! We got us a money making brand name. We'll sell tickets on the name Barbie alone!" And what did Mark have to say about his upcoming work with the mega-toy Barbie?
"Barbie may be the most popular girl in the world, and has always been a wonderfully inspirational figure, so we must do her proud."
In other words, "Hot damn! I'm going to make so much money off this it doesn't matter what I do."
And because no producing team would be complete without the addition of two or three people with no movie background, Barbie general manager/ Mattel senior vice president Richard Dickson and vice president of Entertainment for Barbie Rob Hudnut will "act" as executive producers. I'm sure they will be heavily involved during the "casting couch" sessions.
So with Barbie just turning 50, and all those DVD movies out, why has it taken so long for Mattel to milk their fashion doll cash cow? I'll let Dickson answer that question:
"The brand wasn't ready for a movie. In the last 10 years, Barbie has evolved from a toy into an intellectual property. We've already had enormous success in the entertainment industry. Barbie has a proven track record in home entertainment, there have been live stage shows, live symphonies and other non-traditional forms of entertainment. There is a flagship store in Shanghai. There are a lot of ways we are already communicating with Barbie's audience, and there is a richness to the brand as an entertainment property."
After telling us how good Barbie is and how much the world should love her, Dickson let loose this little quip:
"The utmost concern is to make sure every detail is right. Rather than a timetable, I'm more interested in making sure we deliver the right product."
Well said Mr. Dickson - perhaps you will make a good executive producer after all. By good I mean "a micro-managing Barbie zealot". His statement screams "I WON'T LET YOU HURT BARBIE!" Remember that guy living with his mom... I'm not saying... Just saying.
Universal and Mattel want to move ahead on a fast track of sorts with the Barbie movie, but with the recent announcement by Universal to hold back funding on new projects for the remainder of 2009, I would imagine nothing more will come of this until early-to-mid 2010.
If you have young girls then I already know you'll be watching the Barbie movie but is anyone else interested in this project?
The Barbie Project is still in development and has no release date.