Hasbro is mostly thought of as a toy company, but for 40 years, toys and entertainment go hand-in-hand. Which is why the company entered negotiations to purchase Canadian media company Entertainment One. The deal closed for around $3.8 billion, an all-cash transaction for the toy company. The reason why Hasbro bought Entertainment One suggests that they are looking to become a force for entertainment the way the early Marvel Studios was. For the first few years, Marvel Studios was able to produce their films, but they still needed a distributor. They had deals in place with Paramount and Universal before Disney purchased them. (In fact, it’s because of a deal with Universal that the Hulk hasn’t headlined a film since Ed Norton’s The Incredible Hulk in 2008.) With Entertainment One’s resources, Hasbro moved the film and television production part of the business in-house.
Brian Goldner is the CEO of Hasbro, meaning current president and CEO of Entertainment One Darren Thoop will report to him. However, the guy to watch is president of film and television, Steve Bertram. He came to Entertainment One from Dreamworks, where he helped grow the studio with Jeffrey Katzenberg. He will likely serve as the “Kevin Feige” of their properties. Now this doesn’t mean that G.I. Joe and Transformers will cross over (though, it seems inevitable at some point). Rather, Bertram will oversee current and forthcoming projects. And for the Hasbro and Entertainment One merger to work, they will need someone with Feige’s sensibilities.
Take Goldner’s statement to the press, via Deadline:
“We are excited about what we can do together and see tremendous opportunity for shareholder value creation through this acquisition. Our businesses are highly complementary with substantial synergies and a great cultural fit. The addition of eOne accelerates our blueprint strategy by expanding our brand portfolio with eOne’s beloved global preschool brands, adding proven TV and film expertise, and creating additional opportunities for long-term profitable growth. We are pleased to welcome the incredibly talented eOne team to our Company.”
Image via Paramount
In between all that investor jargon, he never said the words “character” or “stories.” Bertram, or some other executive, needs to look at Hasbro’s roster of “properties” as what they are. Sure, they are toy lines meant to generate profit from children and collectors. However, what makes those folks want these toys are the stories that are around them. My Little Ponies are cute, sure. But kids go bananas for them because they immerse themselves in the story and characters of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. While Hasbro and Entertainment One don’t need to build a shared universe necessarily, they do need to find storytellers who understand what makes people love the characters the toys are based on.
Along with the franchises we know, they are developing new takes on Clue, Micronauts, M.A.S.K., and Dungeons and Dragons. The raw materials are there to create more than a few popular franchises there. For example, M.A.S.K. is a ridiculous 1980s cartoon where “agents” drive cars that transform and have to wear elaborate masks for some reason, and fight a group called V.E.N.O.M. A straight adaptation would be a disaster, but the raw sci-fi elements in there could make for an interesting and “original” story that will help stave off movie fatigue for these genre stories.
What’s Next for Hasbro and Entertainment One
Image via Paramount Pictures
So far, Hasbro is responsible for three major franchises. The aforementioned Ponies, Transformers, and G.I. Joe characters. However, with the exception of the magical equine friends, those franchises are in precarious places. The last few Transformer films failed to land with audiences in the way that original two did. The spin-off Bumblebee was a more of a success though it didn’t earn what the studios wanted. There are also two G.I. Joe films in production, a standalone Snake Eyes story starring Henry Golding and another ensemble G.I. Joe picture. While many fans remain hopeful, the question is whether or not audiences will respond to them.
This is where Hasbro hopes the talent and resources of Entertainment One will help. The company has a partnership in place with Universal Studios, and they are very interested in the franchise universe business. They recently abandoned plans for their own shared Dark Universe of their classic monster characters. All everyone needs is a good story idea to make audiences excited about these characters in a box office landscape saturated with nostalgic, genre favorites like Marvel heroes, DC characters, and the Mission: Impossible franchise.
What do you think? Will the folks brought in from Entertainment One be able to help Hasbro realize their big box-office dreams? Should they “reboot” the properties? Share your thoughts, ideas, and reactions in the comments below.
Featured image via Paramount Studios
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.