Mattel CEO rebuts ‘surrealist’ description of Daniel Kaluuya’s Barney movie

Mattel’s CEO has disputed his colleague’s description of the company’s forthcoming Barney movie.

In a July interview with The New Yorker, Mattel vice president Kevin McKeon said that the Daniel Kaluuya-produced film, based on the Nineties kids’ series, Barney & Friends, would be a “surrealistic”, “A24-type” project.

McKeon drew comparisons with the work of esoteric filmmakers Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Spike Jonze (Her).

“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 30-something, growing up with Barney – just the level of disenchantment within the generation,” he said at the time.

However, in a new interview with Semafor, Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz negated McKeon’s original description, assuring that it “will not be an odd movie”.

“That one is getting a lot of reaction,” he said.

“It’s still too early to be specific, but I can tell you we are taking a fresh approach that will be fun, entertaining and culturally oriented.”

The Barney film adaptation was first announced in 2019, with Mattel Films’ Robbie Brenner saying that working with Nope star Kaluuya would allow the studio “to take a completely new approach to Barney that will surprise audiences and subvert expectations”.

Barney (left) and Daniel Kaluuya (Getty Images)
Barney (left) and Daniel Kaluuya (Getty Images)

“Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood,” Kaluuya said 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.”

It’s since been suggested that there are currently a total of 45 movies under development at Mattel, with the Barney movie being among 17 previously announced titles.

Given Mattel Films’ recent blockbuster hit, Barbie, it’s no surprise that Mattel is looking to replicate that triumph with its other toys, games, and brands.

Greta Gerwig’s summer release, starring Margot Robbie as the popular children’s doll, dominated the box office, grossing over $1bn worldwide.

It made Gerwig the highest-grossing female director in history while shattering several other records.

It also became Warner Bros fastest film to join the $1bn club, it had the biggest opening weekend of 2023, and was Robbie and co-star Ryan Gosling’s biggest global hit yet.