In what seems like an April Fool’s Day prank spun wildly out of control, Daniel Kaluuya (star of Get Out, Queen & Slim and, of course, Skins) is co-producing a gritty reimagining of Barney and Friends, the 1990s TV show about a purple T-Rex who teaches children life lessons about friendship –rather than attacking and eating them, as would be realistic. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kaluuya revealed more details about what we can expect.
Kaluuya said: “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. 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.”
The film, which will be a co-production between Kaluuya’s own company 59% and Mattel Films (the cinema division of the world’s second largest toy brand after Lego), was first announced last October. Back then, Kaluuya told Hollywood Reporter, "Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood. We're excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of 'I love you, you love me' can stand the test of time."
As unusual as this idea might seem, it’s not an outlier. In good news for children – along with adults who want the cultural landscape to resemble a “Things You Only Remember If You’re A Nineties Kid” listicle – there are a whole host of toy-related films in the pipeline. Indie darlings Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig are collaborating on a film version of Barbie, with Margot Robbie playing the titular doll. I look forward to seeing Quirky-Ennui Barbie tackle an existential crisis at an elite liberal arts college. There are also going to be films based on Magic 8 Ball, Hot Wheels (which seems redundant when The Fast and the Furious franchise already exists), Beyblade, Monopoly (would love to see Ken Loach take a stab at this one) and Furbie (which would only really work as as an A24-style psychological horror).
If you like Daniel Kaluuya but consider films about toys beneath you, another upcoming project of his might be more up your street: Judas and The Black Messiah tells the story of Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton and his assassination at the hands of the police. It looks good.