Although it was announced a while back, the forthcoming Playmobil movie now has a director in Lino Di Silvo. The latest in a rash of toyetic animated films to be put into production, there has to be some trepidation surrounding this particular movie as it comes in the (very large) wake of The Lego Movie, and has more than a hint of similarity to it.
While original ideas continue to find success in all sectors of the industry, in features, the enormous risk associated with them is now seen as preventing all but the largest studios from taking that great leap into the unknown. The result is that smaller studios or those without a track record are seeking out ideas they can adapt instead. The Lego Movie was perhaps the most obvious example from recent times, and it allowed Warner Bros. Animation, a hitherto spent force in features, to come roaring back to astounding success.
That particular film managed to overcame the armchair critics with an excellently-produced tale and some rather innovative animation techniques to boot. It also successfully skirted the fact that it was essentially a 90-minute advertisement for what was then the world’s second-largest toy company.
Nevertheless, it’s success has emboldened others, and Playmobil has decided that they should have a film as well. This European competitor to Lego is very much a smaller company, and it’s brand recognition is not near as strong as the Danish company’s. Yet the toys themselves are similar in form and function, and have entertained kids for over 40 years. The question is, can such a company produce a film that treads the thin line between crass commercialism and high art? The hiring of Lino Da Silvo certainly suggests that they are going to try, but whether they will succeed or not is still uncertain at this point.
By far the bigger indication of how things could go will be the Angry Birds movie that will be released later this year. Despite being well past the height of its popularity, the ability of the film to revive the franchise’s fortunes will be an important test of how well audiences are willing to give old toys a second chance.
The Playmobil film’s release year of 2018 also appears at this stage to be the theatrical equivalent of the sporting ‘group of death.’ Sequels to both the Lego Movie and Toy Story are currently pencilled in for release then, and there is a considerable risk that parents and kids in general are worn out of toy films, and competition from more well-known competitors is simply too much for Playmobil to overcome.
That said, two years is a long time in the movie business, and events in the meantime could have a profound influence on the Playmobil film. The firm itself is robust, and not facing near the problems that Angry Bird’s maker Rovio is. So I will be curious to see if Da Silvo can take an inoffensive product like Playmobil, and turn it into something work caring about.