So, they’re making a Playmobil movie. Spearheaded by Monsters vs Aliens and Shrek 2’s Bob Persichetti, the film will be made by French production companies ON Entertainment and Wild Bunch. Now I wonder where they got the idea of a film based on plastic interlocking toys…
Yes, after the success of block blockbuster The Lego Movie, it was inevitable that a few other toy companies would jump on the bandwagon – and who more appropriate than Playmobil, which is essentially warm-up Lego for kids too young to hit the bricks.
In fairness though, it’s not like The Lego Movie invented the concept of using successful toys to launch films – in fact, the Playmobil movie might be in surprisingly good company if we look at what came before…
The Lego Movie (2014)
Genuinely an excellent film, you almost forgive the fact that the whole thing is a cynical attempt to make children buy little plastic blocks. In fairness, the film does acknowledge this with a vaguely anti-corporate message, and it’s funny enough that it can get away with a multitude of sins. Also, the songs are amazing. All together now, "Everything is awesome..."
Over the last few years the Transformers films have become a watchword for CGI excess and bloated filmmaking, as well as epitomising the overblown style of director Michael Bay. But people forget that the original Transformers is actually pretty good – if anything, it’s a mystery how Bay managed to make cool cars turning into giant robots that punched each other anything LESS than a critical sensation.
This attempt to harness the aesthetic and money-making style of the Transformers franchise unfortunately fell flat despite some cool visuals – really, the introduction of alien attacks, pitched battles and Rihanna detracted from the board game’s central joy of cruelly sinking the fleets of close friends. Ah, memories.
G.I. Joe (2009, 2013)
Although they’re more based on the cartoon series that was in turn based on the toys, the G.I. Joe films (Rise of Cobra and Retaliation) still do pretty well out of the toy-based film world. Sure they’re kind of stupid, but they at least boast Channing Tatum (most of the time) and some fun battle scenes (the cliffside ninja fight in Retaliation is actually pretty great, if ridiculous).
Bionicle: Mask of Light (2003)
For those not in the know, Bionicle is a Lego series based around legendary heroes who get their abilities from magical masks. As I’m sure you’ve realised it’s pretty badass, and this direct-to-video film did a better-than-average job of translating the appeal of the toys to screen, with some impressive (for the time) visual effects.
The Care Bears Movie (1985)
One of the very first films based on a toy line, The Care Bears Movie also helped revive the market for films aimed at children in the US despite critical unease at its mercantile nature. Still, without it (or its less successful sequels) we might not have had films like Toy Story or even Frozen, and the film has good points of its own. As one critic put it at the time: "[It] has a lot going for it if you can tolerate the Bears."
SO MUCH Barbie (1987-2012)
There are more than 20 direct-to-video Barbie movies out there, which by sheer volume alone merits some sort of admiration. I can also personally vouch that Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow definitely grows on you – though it’s no Barbie Fairytopia: Mermaidia.