Barney Movie Starring Daniel Kaluuya Could Be a Hit with Angsty Millennials, Says Mattel

Daniel Kaluuya

Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya, known for his role in “Get Out,” is venturing into a new project as he produces a forthcoming movie in collaboration with Mattel. The movie, titled “Barney,” may initially seem like a children’s feature, but it’s actually targeted at angsty millennials, setting it apart from the traditional perception of the beloved purple dinosaur.

Mattel, the renowned toymaking conglomerate, envisions “Barney” as a unique and surrealistic film, drawing inspiration from the style of A24 productions, such as “Being John Malkovich” or “Adaptation.” Robbie Brenner, the Oscar-nominated producer leading Mattel Films, expressed that the film won’t necessarily be darker, but it will be distinctive and cater to a more mature audience.

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The success of the “Barbie” movie, which recorded the highest domestic opening weekend of 2023, grossing around $155 million in the United States and Canada, has encouraged Mattel Films to explore the potential of its rich toy line in the realm of blockbuster cinema.

Under the leadership of Ynon Kreiz, who became the new chief executive of Mattel in 2018, the company is determined to expand its presence in the film industry. Building on the triumph of “Barbie,” Mattel Films is actively developing a slew of new projects, with A-list celebrities attached to various ventures. Alongside “Barney,” other iconic Mattel properties like “Thomas and Friends,” “Hot Wheels,” and “Polly Pocket” are also in the works. Additionally, the possibility of “Barbie” sequels remains open.

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Despite the long-standing perception of “Barney” as a children’s character, Kevin McKeon, an executive at Mattel Films, asserted that the movie will lean into millennial angst and explore the disillusionment prevalent in the lives of many thirtysomethings who grew up with Barney. Rather than tailoring the film for kids, the team aims to craft a narrative that resonates with adults. McKeon views this project as daring and an opportunity for Mattel to showcase its commitment to creating artful storytelling.

The collaboration between Mattel and Daniel Kaluuya for “Barney” was announced in October 2019. Kaluuya expressed excitement about revisiting the ubiquitous figure from the childhood of many millennials, presenting a modern-day interpretation of Barney’s iconic message of “I love you, you love me,” and examining whether it remains relevant in contemporary times.

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“Barney” is currently in the development stage, with Lee Sung Jin, the creator of “Beef,” onboard as the writer. Mattel’s ambitious foray into the world of cinema includes the announcement of thirteen more movies, including an American Girl film blending the essence of “Booksmart” and “Bill & Ted,” a Magic 8 Ball horror comedy, a Hot Wheels movie directed by J.J. Abrams, and a Polly Pocket film starring Lily Collins and helmed by Lena Dunham.

Robbie Brenner, a pivotal figure at Mattel Films, hinted that any movie involving Barney would undoubtedly be far from ordinary, delving into themes of identity, love, and feelings of alienation. The film will take a fresh and off-kilter approach, appealing to adult audiences while offering a unique perspective on this iconic children’s character.