Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The right man for the job

Tom Hanks circles 'Major' toy story

Universal will develop "Major Matt Mason," a live-action feature based on the vintage Mattel action figure. Pic will be developed as a star vehicle for Tom Hanks, and Graham Yost will write the script.

Playtone partners Hanks and Gary Goetzman will produce.

The toy line originated in 1966; Mason led an astronaut team that worked on the moon and lived in a space station. The toy was a hit in the buildup to the first manned moon mission. Mattel retired the line in the 1970s.

When Mattel execs Tim Kilpin and Barry Waldo came to Playtone for a meeting, they brought an arsenal of the Matt Mason figures. Hanks came armed with his own.

It might be difficult to convey how huge this is unless you were seven years old in 1969, in which case it doesn't require explanation. The toy line was iconic. I would ordinarily be pretty upset at the thought of someone unearthing a bit of my personal mythology and turning it into a Hollywood project all these years later. I mean to say, it's not like someone taking a book or comic you loved and turning it into a crappy film. It's more like someone stealing your favorite childhood toy and making you watch while he plays with it clumsily and breaks it. Right after taking twelve dollars from you.

However...if there's anyone in the world who could do this right, it's Tom Hanks. He might just pull it off and produce a film that conveys what space travel -- and space travel-based toys -- meant in the Sixties, up until we actually landed on the Moon. After that happened, it suddenly became boring and a waste of money and a distraction from the serious business of ending the war in Vietnam and campy and hopelessly naive and a relic of Cold War thinking. When it was no longer fantasy, nobody wanted to hear about space anymore (other than sad nerdy kids) and Major Matt Mason sales plummeted. But for a while there, this was the future.

(I do hope he puts in a female astronaut, though, because that's been waiting 40 years to happen. And Matt's space buddy Jeff Long damn well better be there too...)


  1. I had Matt and the "jetpack" with the two strings and the double spool that I busted and could never put back together.

    I will see this movie.

  2. I hear you.

    I must confess a particular fondness for the almost Segway-like Space Sled and the Reconojet...but I anticipate a fan revolt if we don't see the Space Crawler!

  3. Wasn't there a space capsule as well? I vaguely remember one ...

    Anyway, I used to have cross-over adventures with Major Matt and GI Joe. Ah ... memories.

  4. Possibly this one, Keeper? I never even saw this one in the old days and only learned of its existence online years later.

    When I envision a MMM/G.I. Joe crossover I keep thinking "Major, who are those freakishly huge soldiers?" "Stay calm, Sergeant Storm, we'll call in Captain Lazer to deal with them." "My energy weapons are useless against their lifelike fuzzy hair!" As usual, I've thought about this way too much.

  5. Since we're revealing details, I'll contribute that I had a set of fatigues that I took off some generic supermarket toy solider that fit Matt perfectly. He would wear them when he was on-planet and then take them off to reveal his spacesuit when he was back on the job.

  6. I think that is the space capsule I remember.

    By the way, the life-like fuzzy hair probably could repel lasers!


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