IP Push contributes to Mattel’s transformation

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Mattel Television will release “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” on Netflix this summer.

At the recent Virtual Citi Leisure Day investor conference, Mattel Inc. Managing Director Ynon Kreiz touted the El Segundo-based toymaker’s transformation since taking the helm in 2018.

“There is no doubt that the new Mattel is very different from what the company was just a few years ago,” Kreiz said in a June 2 webcast. “The biggest change is that we have gone from a toy manufacturing company to a high performing, intellectual property based toy company. “


Kreiz also cited Mattel’s latest financial metrics, including substantial EBITDA growth and gross margin improvements.


The toy maker reported net profit of $ 126.6 million on sales of $ 4.6 billion in 2020, reversing a loss of $ 213.5 million the year before. The upward trajectory continued in the first quarter of 2021 when Mattel recorded $ 874 million in revenue – a 47% increase from the same period a year ago and a 26.8% increase from 2019 .


“Mattel is doing really well these days,” said Linda Bolton Weiser, analyst at Montana-based DA Davidson & Co. “Their performance at the point of sale has always been strong. … The leaking bucket holes have all been plugged, so they don’t have any really bad areas that are in decline right now. … I follow all the toy companies, and the whole toy industry has developed very well in the last few quarters. So they’re all growing, but Mattel has gained the biggest market share. “


Kreiz’s focus on content development, often done in conjunction with its partners in the film and television industry, translates into increased demand for complementary toys.


“The idea is that you are supporting PI, which in turn drives toy sales,” Bolton Weiser said. “You continue to ensure that your brands retain their relevance in pop culture by delivering them in media, movies, TV and other digital content. … Spin Master does it, Hasbro does it, so it’s pretty common among the big toy companies.


Making movies

Mattel first formalized its approach to content in 2013, when it formed Playground Productions, a division dedicated to the creation and development of cross-platform storytelling, including script development, storyboarding, and theatrical productions. ‘green lighting.

His early projects included “Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome”, an animated series produced in collaboration with Canadian company Mercury Filmworks.


Three years later, the division was consolidated into Mattel Creations. And in 2018, that unit transferred to Mattel Films and Mattel Television.


The toy maker hired producer Robbie Brenner the same year to head the film division. His credits include “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Burden”, “Mirror, Mirror” and “Immortals”.


One of Brenner’s first assignments at Mattel was to co-produce a film based on Barney, the adorable purple dinosaur, with actor, writer and producer Daniel Kaluuya and his production company 59%.


The film, which is yet to be released, “will speak to the brand’s nostalgia in a way that resonates with adults while entertaining today’s kids,” Brenner said when Mattel announced the project in 2019.


Next came “Wishbone,” a film based on the 1990s television series about a Jack Russell terrier. Announced in July 2020, “Wishbone” is Mattel’s first film in partnership with Universal Pictures and the ninth Mattel Films project in development at the time, according to the company.


In April, Mattel announced a collaboration with Universal and actor Vin Diesel’s production company, One Race Films, to produce a film based on Rock ‘Em Sock’ Em Robots, the classic tabletop game starring fighting robots.


Mattel’s film pipeline also includes “UNO,” a film based on the popular children’s card game, which Mattel Films will produce alongside rapper Lil Yachty.


Connect the television

Adam Bonnett, a 21-year Disney Channel veteran, joined Mattel in February 2019 as executive producer of its television division. His list of assignments during his first year at Mattel included 22 animated and live television programs.

And Bonnett’s pace shows no sign of slowing down.


In August, the division announced the release of “Barbie Princess Adventure,” an animated musical that began airing on Netflix a month later. A complementary soundtrack is also available on all digital streaming platforms. In February, the toy maker announced the upcoming launch of the hour-long TV movie “Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday”, hosted by Mainframe Studios in
Vancouver.


The feature will be available on Netflix in the US as well as Cartoonito in Italy, Pop in the UK, 9GB in Australia, Carousel in Russia and iQIYI in China.


“This year, we are expanding the universe of Barbie content in several ways, starting with a fantasy story centered around Barbie’s little sister, Chelsea, an incredibly popular character in the Barbie family,” Bonnett said in a statement. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of the stories the brand can tell, and this is the first of many scripted and unscripted Barbie projects we have in production and in development.”


Then there’s “Barbie Fashion Battle,” a reality TV show produced in collaboration with Mission Control Media Inc., where 12 designers will compete for the chance to create a fashion collection for the popular doll.


Bonnett’s team, in partnership with Nelvana Studio of Corus Entertainment Inc., are also working on “Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go”, a 2D animated TV show.


In addition, his team is developing a new animated series and a live-action television musical based on the “Monster High” franchise. The storyline focuses on the children of famous monsters – Clawdeen Wolf, Draculaura and Frankie Stein – and will be available on Nickelodeon platforms in 2022.


“This is… a great opportunity for us to bring one of our most successful franchises back to Mattel,” Kreiz told investors at the Citi Leisure conference. “It came out in 2010, and we didn’t support it at the time. We think we’re getting there now with a much better strategy, a more holistic approach. “


“Monster High is about diversity, belonging to inclusiveness, representation and acceptance of uniqueness… and given the cultural relevance, we think this is arguably the best time to present and share this great ownership with today’s consumer, ”he added.


“This time it will be supported by high quality content. … The product looks great, and we’re seeing the first signs of collection demand through our Mattel Creations website, and we’re excited to bring it back. The collector’s fan base product will be released this year, and the expanded product offering (to follow) in 2022, ”Kreiz said.


Mattel Television is also releasing “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” which will be available on Netflix this summer. The animated series, which will feature a complementary line-up of toys, is a nod to “fans who followed the adventures of He-Man and his friends in the ’80s (and who) will feel like they’re taking over the movie. story where the characters left out, ”wrote Rob David, the show’s executive producer, in a blog post.


The toy manufacturer’s partner on the project was Powerhouse Animation Studios Inc. in Austin, Texas.


The digital game is growing

Mattel also takes care of the players. The toy maker is working with Milestone, an Italian racing game developer, on “Hot Wheels Unleashed,” an arcade-style racing game that launches September 30 on PlayStation and Xbox and Nintendo Switch consoles.

“Our intellectual property uniquely positions Mattel to bring immersive digital games to gamers around the world and to capitalize on the rapidly growing digital gaming industry,” the company said in its 2020 annual report. “We continue to see the success of our games launched through Mattel163, our mobile games joint venture with (Chinese internet company) NetEase, and our digital game licensing business continues to grow with several exciting new games launched on multiple digital platforms. “


Mattel163 was launched in 2017 and has around 100 employees in El Segundo, Shanghai and Hangzhou, China. Its current portfolio of games – Uno and Phase 10 – has attracted over 200 million users.

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