Mattel went through three chief executives in four years before Ynon Kreiz took the job in 2018. He stood the test of time in part because of a big bet: taking Mattel’s toys to Hollywood. The toy giant is partnering with Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie to bring Barbie to life on the big screen, and creating films based on everything from UNO to Magic 8 Ball. It’s a strategy that draws on Kreiz’s past experience at entertainment companies like Maker Studios and Endemol, and one that draws inspiration from franchises like Transformers and companies like Lego, which Kreiz says was able to make “great movies out of bricks.”
In this conversation, Kara Swisher stress tests Kreiz’s strategy, asking whether these potential movie franchises are any more than glorified marketing and what a movie based on the Magic 8 Ball may look like. (Reply hazy, try again.) They also discuss the future of play in an age of video games and smartphones, and when Mattel might introduce a transgender Barbie. Oh, and Kara pitches her own media franchise mash-up: a Teletubbies movie directed by Martin Scorsese.