Mattel’s CEO Ynon Kreiz is here to set the record straight on the new Barney movie.
“It’s too early to be specific, but I can tell you we are taking a fresh approach that will be fun, entertaining and culturally oriented,” Kreiz told Semafor magazine in a Saturday, September 30, interview. “It will not be an odd movie.”
Kreiz’s comments come after Mattel Films executive Kevin McKeon claimed that the new Barney movie — which is set to debut in 2024 — would be “surrealistic,” revealing that he sold the movie to partners as an “A24- type of film.”
“We’re leaning into the millennial angst of the property rather than fine-tuning this for kids,” McKeon, 55, told The New Yorker in July. “It’s really a play for adults. Not that it’s R-rated, but it’ll focus on some of the trials and tribulations of being thirtysomething, growing up with Barney — just the level of disenchantment within the generation.”
The Barney movie was initially announced in October 2019 with Daniel Kaluuya serving as producer and star of the project.
“Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood,” Kaluuya, 34, told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. “We’re excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of ‘I love you, you love me’ can stand the test of time.”
One year later, Kaluuya opened up about why he wanted to bring Barney to life in the new Mattel film.
“Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’” the actor explained to Entertainment Weekly in October 2020. “That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking. I have no idea why but it feels like that makes sense. It feels like there’s something unexpected that can be poignant but optimistic. Especially at this time now, I think that’s really, really needed.”
In June, Kaluuya gave an update on the film that has been in development since 2019.
“The script’s gotta be good, you know what I mean? It’s in development,” he told Yahoo UK. “I ask for high standards on anything that I work on, and I’m producing this one, so it’s still in development.”
The original children’s television series Barney & Friends initially aired on PBS in 1992 and ran for 18 years until 2010. The show received tons of praise including being nominated for 14 Daytime Emmy Awards. Mattel’s interest in bringing the purple dinosaur back to the big screen is likely due to the success of the Barbie movie, which premiered earlier this summer.
Greta Gerwig’s Barbie — which starred Margot Robbie as the titular character alongside Ryan Gosling as Ken — brought in $162 million on opening weekend, making it the biggest opening weekend of 2023 and the most successful three-day opening for a movie based on a toy.
Following the success of the film, Mattel has plans for several upcoming films based on their brand, including J.J. Abrams Hot Wheels — which will release in June 2025 — Lena Dunham’s Polly Pocket starring Lily Collins, Akiva Goldsman’s Major Matt Mason, Dan Mazer’s Big Jim, Marc Forster’s Thomas & Friends and Robbie Brenner’s American Girl.