Warner Bros. and Mattel will be parting company on “Masters of the Universe,” the live-action reinvention of the signature Mattel toy line that WB and producer Joel Silver have been developing since 2007.
Mattel and WB didn’t see eye to eye over the direction of the project and made a mutual decision to let the option lapse this month. Story revolves around He-Man, a prince who becomes a warrior battling the evil Skeletor for control of his magical homeland.
Mattel will take back the property and set it up elsewhere. The expectation is that director John Stevenson (“Kung Fu Panda”) will remain with the project, but not Silver, who is exclusive to WB.
As Disney’s Marvel Entertainment acquisition and WB’s overhaul of DC Comics and its movie output shows, branded properties are important commodities. The owners of those brands now have more direct involvement — and higher expectations.
The situation is reminiscent of Paradox Entertainment’s decision several years ago to decline an option renewal on the Robert E. Howard “Conan the Barbarian” franchise, after WB made numerous attempts to reinvent the franchise with major filmmakers. Paradox aligned with Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films, with Marcus Nispel directing. That deal has strict progress-to-production stipulations.
Mattel, which still has “Hot Wheels” with WB and Silver Pictures, has become proactive in setting properties for films since aligning with CAA. Among the deals: one for Universal and Playtone to turn “Major Matt Mason” into a star vehicle for Tom Hanks, one with Paramount for “Max Steel” and one with Universal deal for a live-action musical to be based on a new toy line that aspires to add a fresh twist to monster lore, with “Hairspray” producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.