Sony Pictures has jumped aboard the Hasbro bandwagon that Universal jumped off of. Sony is developing the animated film Tonka, based on the 65-year-old kiddie car brand. The studio announced the arrangement in a press release, with Sony Pictures Animation and Happy Madison Productions producing the movie with Hasbro. Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo’s Happy Madison is also producing a movie version of Hasbro’s Candy Land for Sony, and the studio is separately developing Hasbro’s Risk.
Conspicuously absent from the press release is Hasbro’s most recent credit, Battleship, the Universal Pictures summer tentpole wannabe that bore little resemblance to the board game and sank loudly at the box office. Universal has put the majority of Hasbro properties into turnaround — including the priority project Stretch Armstrong as well as Clue; Monopoly; and Magic, The Gathering — a disappointing result for a strategic alliance between the studio and the toymaker’s film production arm made when brands were considered big for studios. It has been hit or miss for Hasbro in Hollywood. While Battleship was a failure, the Hasbro toy line Transformers turned into a billion-dollar franchise by sticking close to the core appeal of the toy and then creating something very watchable onscreen.
Can Sony succeed in the Hasbro brand game where Universal failed? The studio must be getting a better deal than the rich first dollar gross pact that Hasbro got paid by Universal (the film Ouija was dropped by Universal over its $100 million budget, and then was brought back at the studio when it was reconfigured at a $5 million budget). Paramount is going through some turmoil on the other major Hasbro property, G.I. Joe, which had its release date pushed as the studio tries to solve problems on the film. All this means that playing the branding game is perilous for studios, unless there is a definite loyalty to that brand, and a filmmaker like Michael Bay who really knows how to make the movie equivalent of a theme-park ride with the spectacle and the humor. Peter Berg is just not that director. Here’s Sony’s release:
CULVER CITY, Calif., June 11, 2012 – TONKA, the Hasbro brand that for 65 years has stood for its line of toy trucks for children, will bring its TONKA toughness to the big screen in a fully animated motion picture to be produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Hasbro and Happy Madison Productions. The announcement was made today by Bob Osher, president, Sony Pictures Digital Productions, Michelle Raimo-Kouyate, president of Production for Sony Pictures Animation and Brian Goldner, president and CEO of Hasbro. The film will also be produced and developed by Goldner and Hasbro’s senior vice president and managing director of motion pictures, Bennett Schneir and will be written by Fred Wolf.
The new TONKA project strengthens the growing ties between Sony Pictures and Hasbro, following the announcements that Sony Pictures is developing motion pictures based on Hasbro’s RISK and CANDY LAND brands. CANDY LAND is also a Happy Madison project.
Commenting on the announcement, Osher said, “In its 65 years, TONKA has become more than a toy or a brand – TONKA trucks are a rite of passage for kids all around the world. Time spent with these toys creates memories that last a lifetime as kids are inspired to play using the boundaries of their imagination. We look forward to creating a family friendly motion picture that brings the TONKA experience to life.”
Raimo-Kouyate added, “Fred and our friends at Happy Madison and Hasbro have a truly inventive take on what it means to be ‘TONKA tough’ that will translate the multi-generational appeal of this world-renowned brand into a fun animated adventure for the whole family.”
“We’re thrilled to be working with Bob, Michelle, and the amazing team of artists and storytellers at Sony Pictures Animation,” said Schneir. “Together with Happy Madison, we’re excited to bring TONKA trucks to life in a terrific story for audiences around the world.”
One of the most recognized brands in Hasbro’s portfolio, TONKA has been the bestselling toy truck globally since 1947. Giving children real-life, relatable experiences, TONKA trucks help kids learn the confidence to get the job done.