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: (more…)