Nintendo and Sega. WWE and WCW. Coke and Pepsi. The greatest corporate rivalries of the 80s and 90s have been well-documented, proving time and time again that competition often brings a company’s wildest ideas to the forefront. Maybe it’s something about the American dream (Canadian dream?) that makes these stories resonate — hard work and original concepts win the heart of the “free market.”
With WWE’s Monday Night War documentaries, AMC’s fictionalized Halt and Catch Fire, and the upcoming film adaptation of Blake J. Harris’ Console Wars, these stories are starting to move from books to screen. According to a report from Deadline, Amazon is the latest to enter the mix, having optioned a limited series based on the rivalry between Hasbro and Mattel.
The miniseries will be based on Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between GI Joe, Barbie, and the Companies That Make Them, a book written by nonfiction author G. Wayne Miller back in 1998. Like Console Wars, the book focuses on an outsider being brought into the #2 company in the hopes of turning things around. (It also has an ending spoiled by history — we all know what happened to Sega’s now-defunct console business, and Hasbro still remains the #2 toy company in the world to this day, unable to compete with the insanely popular Hot Wheels and Mattel’s acquisition of preschool toy manufacturer Fisher-Price)
The currently untitled Amazon show will star Frozen‘s Josh Gad, who will be co-writing the show with Josh Schwartz, Chuck co-creator and co-showrunner for the upcoming Marvel’s Runaways Hulu-exclusive series. Horrible Bosses and Baywatch director Seth Gordon will be directing the show, and screenwriter Ryan Dixon is attached as a co-writer.
Toy Wars is a historical fiction constructed from interviews Miller conducted with key Hasbro personnel. The novel follows Alan Hassenfeld, a member of Hasbro’s founding family, who took over as the company’s CEO in the wake of his brother’s death and under the shadow of a potential merger with rival Mattel.
It is currently unclear if Amazon will produce a pilot based on the show for its Amazon Pilot Season program, where viewers can vote on which shows they would like to see fully produced, or if the show will go directly to series. The show was initially pitched by Gad, Dixon, and Gordon, with Schwartz joining the project after Gad learned that Schwartz’s father played a role in the original novel.
Fun fact: I grew up in East Aurora, New York, where Fisher-Price is headquartered. They used to run something called ToyFest every year, where they basically put a bunch of toys in a park and let kids go crazy. Nobody ever stole anything, because it was that kind of small town. Fisher-Price collectors and fans would set up in the middle school and sell toys. It was delightful, and I’m curious if the show or book makes any mention of it, considering the Fisher-Price acquisition was instrumental to Mattel regaining the top spot.