Daniel Kaluuya’s ‘Barney’ Movie Is ‘Surrealistic’ and an ‘A24-Type’ Film, Mattel Films Exec Says

“We’re leaning into the millennial angst of the property,” Kevin McKeon says ahead of the release of Greta Gerwig’s meta take on “Barbie”

Barney the Dinosaur
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Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s clever spin on “Barbie” isn’t the only feature film based on a toy in the works at Mattel – far from it. But as audiences gear up to see how the Oscar-nominated director brings an artistic touch to the story of a toy doll, Mattel is also working on a “Barney” movie that one exec describes as “surrealistic” and not unlike the work of “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich” duo Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze.

“We’re leaning into the millennial angst of the property rather than fine-tuning this for kids,” Mattel Films executive Kevin McKeon told the New Yorker in a profile on the studio’s many projects that they have in development. “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 thirtysomething, growing up with Barney — just the level of disenchantment within the generation.”

The executive went on to say they’ve been selling the “Barney” movie to prospective partners as “an A24-type film,” a nod to the studio behind Oscar-winner “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and bold endeavors like Ari Aster’s “Beau Is Afraid.” This approach is certainly a surprise given that the source material is a children’s show about a giant puppet dinosaur who sings songs and plays with children.

Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya is attached to produce the project, which he described as “heartbreaking” in a 2020 interview with EW.

“Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking,” Kaluuya said. “I have no idea why but it feels like that makes sense. It feels like there’s something unexpected that can be poignant but optimistic. Especially at this time now, I think that’s really, really needed.”

Mattel Films is also in active development on films based on toys ranging from Major Matt Mason to Hot Wheels, but next up is a “Masters of the Universe” reboot from “The Lost City” filmmakers Adam and Aaron Nee.

After “Barbie,” of course, which opens exclusively in theaters on July 21.