“Transformers: Age of Extinction” is currently dominating at theatres.
The Michael Bay-directed sequel is now the top-grossing movie of the year with more than $US750 worldwide, and that’s only after two weeks of release.
It’s one of a few Hasbro brands that has been adapted to the big screen alongside G.I. Joe and Battleship.
With several more brands set to get the movie treatment in the next few years, we spoke with Hasbro Chief Marketing Officer John Frascotti to find out exactly how the company selects which of its toy lines get adapted to the big screen and how you can possibly turn a board game into a movie.
“We look for those brands that have story and character at their foundation because inevitably for any type of storytelling format, whether it’s a movie, a television show, a digital comic … it has to have great story and great characters at it’s foundation,” says Frascotti.
That’s why Hasbro has chosen brands like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and My Little Pony which have all resonated with audiences for generations.
All together, the “Transformers” franchise has brought in more than $US2.5 billion worldwide. The two “G.I. Joe” movies combined have generated more than $US600 million at the box office.
“When you look at brands like Transformers and G.I. Joe they actually have a lot of lore and storytelling behind them already. So, in the case of Transformers, it’s a 30-year-old brand and it had a long history of storytelling,” said Frascotti. “Very similar, G.I. Joe who was founded in the ’60s. Since then there’s been a lot of storytelling and development in terms of comic books and television shows and movies and all types of rich storytelling. In those cases, where there’s already a lot of storytelling in place, I think the roadmap is a little more evident.”
After the success of “Transformers” in 2007, Frascotti says Hasbro continued to pitch other brands while studios began approaching them as well.
According to Reuters, it’s low risk strategy for Hasbro. The toy company pays around $US1 million to develop script ideas and if a studio wants to go through with a film, Hasbro gets paid back the developing fee. After the film is in theatres, Hasbro reportedly receives 5% of the money a studio makes from theatres.
“We talk to our many relationships in Hollywood about ideas that we have for our brand and we also get approached by many creative stewards for ideas that they have for our brands,” says Frascotti. “What’s most important; however, is that we work collaboratively once that initial contact is made so the creative process is very much a collaborative process between our brand people and creatives here along with the creatives in Hollywood.”
Since joining the company in 2008, Frascotti says he can’t recall a Hasbro movie idea a studio has turned down.
Next in line is a live-action adaptation of ’80s children television series “Jem” which will be directed by Jon Chu. Hasbro is also working on bringing its popular card game Magic the Gathering to the big screen.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the company is just pitching whatever brands come to mind.
“We’re very selective. It’s not a shotgun approach,” he says. “We don’t throw a bunch of things at a wall and see what sticks. We do a lot of creative development ourselves before we even have discussions with third parties.”
Not all of Hasbro’s blockbuster ideas have churned out box-office gold. Just look at 2012 board game adaptation “Battleship.” Despite a huge cast of characters in Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, and singer Rihanna along with a well-known game, the $220 million movie (without ad costs) made $US300 million at the box office, receiving mostly poor reviews.
While “Battleship” sunk the reality of other board game adaptations for a while, it hasn’t halted them all together. Hasbro has plans to bring at least two more of its board games to life: Ouija, with Universal which has continued to get its release date pushed back, and Candy Land at Sony with Adam Sandler.
The idea of bringing a board game to life may not seem like a hit movie, but Frascotti points out how inspiration for films can come from just about anywhere.
“In cases like Ouija for example, what’s essential is that there’s a brand beneath it that has a lot of potential for storytelling,” says Frascotti. “So you have brands like Harry Potter that come from books. You have other brands that are founded in movies like James Bond. You have ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ which started out as a theme park ride and you have other properties that come from either comics or brands.
“It really is a wonderful opportunity to give our fans yet another opportunity to experience the brand in another format,” he adds. “Today’s generation of consumers expect multi-platform multi-screen opportunities to go deeper in the brands they love.”
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