Hasbro. Kenner. Mattel. These manufacturers of toys have been in the merchandise business and finally decided their classic toys would make good movies. They were right.
We have seen Transformers, G.I. Joe, and The Lego Movie just to name an eclectic few. Toys have also come from movies as a way to further market the brilliance we saw on the screen. Ask George Lucas how that panned out the next time he’s on the way to the bank.
Did you know it was an actual doll, as in Raggedy Ann and Andy, that was the debut of a consumer toy becoming the actual movie star? It was 1977 and their “musical adventure” paved the way for toys to leap off the shelves and into our homes through the screen.
Some movies of toys have become instant classics (or, at least, joyous forms of entertainment) and must-own material (e.g., Toy Story, Smurfs, Mars Attacks!). Others were big on hype but hell on viewing (e.g., Masters of the Universe, Ouija, Bionicle).
In case you haven’t noticed, there seems to be a rush on prequels and sequels, remakes and reboots coming out of Tinseltown. They may need some inspiration to create some semi-original movies. Fortunately, for casting directors everywhere, we think we have some amazeballs ideas that would be made for the silver screen. Not only the movie pitch, but also who would be the sage behind the camera.
Here are 10 classic toys that could make great, modern movies…
If you had this game, you know how addictive hitting each color can be. It was a memory game. The music was made just to drive you insane, and it worked like a Pavlovian charm. Four colored buttons. Random patterns. And no hope to master. Among the classic toys of board games or digital tools, this is a must in any collection.
Movie Pitch: A sinister toy maker refuses to kill people of his own volition, so he creates a contraption that sets up to random choice. Each pattern of his diabolical algorithm tells him what to do…and to whom to do it. And he’s the only one who understand what “Simon Says.”
Suggested Director: Mike Flanagan (See? You’re thinking about it already.)
9. Micro Machines
If you were a child of the ’80s or even ’90s, you would pack as many of these tiny trick cars in your backpack and make them into money. Whether it was trade, contraband, or home room fun, these classic toys were made for collecting and imagination. Designs as great as Hot Wheels. Size of stocking stuffers your parents found at the dollar store. So great.
Movie Pitch: A world beyond our solar system called Microscopia where size-changing technology allows both people and their vehicles to evolve into massive vehicles or devolve into incognito specks of destruction. Imagine if anyone and their tricked-out cars had the same Hank Pym tech that Ant-Man possessed? Fast and Furious would have nothing on this.
Suggested Director: Michael Bay (Please…you know an Autobot crossover is guaranteed.)
8. Hungry, Hungry Hippos
The neighbors had Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, and maybe Operation. Families like mine had the GOAT of cheap-ass board games — Hungry, Hungry Hippos. The winner has a wrist with wicked reflexes to make his or her hippopotamus gobble as much as possible. Now imagine if those hippos were real, ravenous, and mutant evolutions of civilization destruction.
Movie Pitch: Unknown to the U.S. government and the United Nations, top secret Alpha, Beta, and Gamma radiation weapons were being tested in the deserts of Africa. From those tests came mutant hippos that ravaged the land searching for ways to quench their insatiable appetite…for blood.
Suggested Director: Gareth Edwards (He is the scale master, see Godzilla and Rogue One)
7. Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
The endless battles of the Red Rocker and the Blue Bomber were legendary in the 1980s because kids (usually guys) loved beating the hell out of each other. These classic toys were their proxy. Aggression management in the form of literally knocking each other’s heads off — and it all happens inside the squared circle. Of all the classic toys made back then, this was the “most violent”. Ish.
Movie Pitch: Think about a murky world under the siege of androids. Sure, it sounds like The Terminator but humans aren’t involved. This dystopian era involves only robots gearing up for a civil war. Red Rockers against the Blue Bombers. The winner creates complete sectarian domination. The only way to kill each robot is decapitation.
Suggested Director: Alex Proyas (Put three of his movies together–Dark City, I Robot, and The Crow–and you’ll envision this modern movie’s potential.)
Back in the days before the Internet and skilled CGI, there were Claymation movies. And they were fantastic for kids. Walking creations of art that any five-year-old could make before they destroyed them with Dad’s ball-peen hammer. LEGO proved a stop-motion film would work and become profitable beyond belief. The same could happen for Play-Doh. Why hasn’t this happened already?!
Movie Pitch: Much like The LEGO Movie, everything is made from Play-Doh. The typical model of a children’s to young adult movie would work — hero, heroine, villain, life lesson, and catchy-as-hell theme song. What’s not to love about that. Creativity is limitless.
Suggested Director: Tim Burton. (Who else? That frenzied imagination of his would make Play-Doh a fortune.)
5. Atomic Energy Lab
A.C. Gilbert, inventor of the Gilbert Glass Blowing Set and the perennially popular Erector set, hoped he developed the next big thing in classic toys: the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab. The problem for budding chemists back in the early 1950s was this Geiger Counter and Electroscope was only available for one year. And it was $50! Back then?! Of course, there’s that whole “allowing grade-school kids playing with radioactive material” thing. (Like real Uranium ores.)
Movie Pitch: Two words — “Mad Scientist.” Of course, we saw Dr. Frankenstein play God on film. That worked out okay. Fast forward to today and we could have a young adult become terrorist. His chemical concoctions kill millions. Were they harmless accidents or something much more diabolical?
Suggested Director: Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys blew many nerds’ minds. What he could do with this sci-fi twist on terrorism would be something to see.)
Wouldn’t this be another Transformers film? Not really. These are the Zoic Androids, or “Zoids.” When these came out in the early ’80s, kids freaked and these populated all Christmas lists. There were mechanical mammals, dinosaurs, bugs, and even the rare Technozoids (imagine Dinobots but cooler). This series of classic toys inspired a Manga series and even a Spider-Man and Zoids crossover comic, but only in the UK.
Movie Pitch: The gruesome and baleful Death Saurer is threatening all civilization on planet Zi. (Think Mechagodzilla with much more nuclear toys.) Armed with the Charged Particle Cannon, it is destroying everything in its path, including posing a menacing threat to the Republic’s Ultrasaurus. The Republic goes dark, looking to lure Death Saurer away from Zi. A black hole leads them to Earth and our planet is doomed unless we get involved.
Suggested Director: Steven S. DeKnight (Between Pacific Rim and Jupiter’s Legacy, that man’s imagination could envision something between technozoids and humanoids on Earth.)
In the land of classic toys, there are a few that has a cult-like following. Sectaurs, the Warriors of Symbion, still has a website. And these things were made in 1985! These toys were actually debated against conservative mothers when they hit toy shelves because of their appearance: Weaponized humanoid/insect people with multiple eyes, fangs, and even fur. Marvel published a comic. Taft Entertainment even made a cartoon series. The love is there. A movie should be next.
Movie Pitch: Symbion was a peaceful planet, then a failed genetic experiment of men trying to be God created giant mutated insects. (Yes, you should already know who the director will be.) Now that humanity has developed insect characteristics, some have learned to live in the Shining Realm of Prosperon. Others have learn to kill in the Dark Domain of Synax. Ancient civilization has secrets waiting in the wings in the Hive and they need to be protected.
Suggested Director: Brandon Cronenberg. (Allow the man to bolster his dad’s legacy. David gave us the classic, The Fly. His son can expand that vision in monumental ways with Sectaurs. And the kid already has shown he likes the eerie stuff, so win-win for us all.)
Kodak was a company that created cameras. You remember those things you could take pictures with before smartphones were invented? Back in 1939, Kodak created the View-Master — a photo slideshow about anything that fit in your pocket. One moment, you’re looking at outer space, thanks to NASA. The next, you are staring at America’s national parks, thanks to National Geographic. This was an amazing toy that took owners anywhere in the universe.
Admittedly, there are already talks of a movie, but who knows when that could happen. That was February 2019 and we haven’t heard a thing since. Here’s a quote to get us all lathered in expectation:
“Since the 1940s, View-Master has inspired wonder and joy in children of all ages, creating huge opportunities for storytelling. MGM Pictures has tremendous expertise and a proven track record in capturing audiences’ imagination through film, and we’re proud to be partnering with them to bring another Mattel franchise to theaters. This marks another important milestone as we transform Mattel into an IP-driven, high-performing toy company.”Robbie Brenner, Mattel’s head of film via THR
Movie Pitch: Since there is no story suggested in the trades, how’s this… View-Master is not a toy, but a person. A sardonic creature who created a device to see into the past or future. With his vision (through the View-Master that can look like something from Ready Player One), he can manipulate anything in his grasp, including the lives of anyone connected in this vision. His goal is to create a universe that kneels to only him, which will happen if some intergalactic force doesn’t interfere quickly.
Suggested Director: David Fincher. (Gone Girl, Zodiac, Mindhunter, Se7en…the guy knows how to screw with your head and suck you in to a mesmerizing and morose storyline. This would be fantastic for him or GDT.)
How this hasn’t become a movie is beyond any nerd who collected this great series of classic toys in the late ’80s. Many believed it was a Masters of the Universe knock-off (and to a point, they’re right). But there was an entire universe of feline fantasy to unfold. Thundercats were giant, feral warriors with some sweet names like: Cheetara, Tygra, Panthro, Pumra, and any other variation of the Felidas family.
This line of classic toys is begging for a movie; maybe an entire trilogy . After seeing what Marvel did with Black Panther, someone can look like a wild, swole Thundercat mastering a sword without looking like a sloppy Halloween outfit from Cats.
If you don’t believe, ask James McAvoy:
Movie Pitch: Watch the cartoon. Start with the origin story and build the epic battle between the mischievous Mumm-Ra and the inhabitants of Third Earth, protected by Lion-O and his brave group of catnip champions. The entire series is anime-inspired magic that would lure all fans from fantasy to Manga, sci-fi to animal lovers. “Thundercats” would be a fantastic movie or series if placed in the right hands.
Suggested Director: Joss Whedon.
Hear me out: The man clearly knows how to create solid action out of imaginary characters. His ability to make those characters reach beyond genre is excellent. And after his debacle with Justice League, he needs a start to put his capable stamp on a new series. Despite how he is rumored to treat people, dude can make an action movie with plenty of levity. Thundercats would be his own litter box.