Hasbro's Stephen Davis on transforming toy brands into box office gold

Billy Langsworthy

By Billy Langsworthy

July 7th 2015 at 11:52AM
UPDATED July 10th 2015 at 10:15AM
Hasbro's Stephen Davis on transforming toy brands into box office gold

Since launching in 2009, Hasbro Studios has transformed some of firm’s biggest properties into smash hits on both the big and small screen. Executive VP/chief content officer at Hasbro, Stephen Davis, tells Billy Langsworthy about the firm’s approach to bringing its toys to life in this way.

Back in 2007, Hasbro dipped a toe into the world of live action movies when it licensed Transformers to DreamWorks.

It became the fifth highest grossing film of that year, and a penny dropped.

So, in 2009, the LA-based Hasbro Studios was formed to develop and produce high impact content based on the firm’s portfolio of brands.

“Our mission is to build those brands globally through immersive storytelling across multiple platforms, and to reach kids and their families anywhere they are consuming content,” Stephen Davis, executive VP/chief content officer at Hasbro, tells ToyNews.

In the following years, the studio (in collaboration with the likes of Paramount, DreamWorks, Universal and MGM) launched further Transformers movies and films based on the G.I. Joe and Battleship brands.

With 2014’s highest grossing film under its belt in Transformers: Age of Extinction, Hasbro Studios altered how it handles its properties with the launch of Allspark Pictures.

“The Allspark Pictures feature label is an evolutionary step in our entertainment strategy that will allow us to take greater control of the film process, including financing, marketing and scheduling of certain Hasbro-produced films,” continues Davis.

“2015 is poised to begin an unprecedented era of new entertainment, which will continue to build over the next several years. We’re definitely in a position of growth, but it’s critical that we continue to grow at the right pace. We look forward to great success with Jem and The Holograms this year and My Little Pony in 2017.”

Others movies on the way include those based on Monopoly, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Play-Doh, Tonka and Magic: The Gathering, and the firm is pushing ahead with new TV content this year in shows like Littlest Pet Shop.

Despite boasting a busy slate, the studio is well aware of the risks involved in dabbling with much-loved toys and games.

“We’ll only tell the story if and when the timing is right,” says Davis.

“When the timing is right, we seek out and collaborate with best in-class talent and the brightest creative stewards in the industry to work alongside Hasbro’s creative team to develop great stories and characters, delivering high quality films.

“For properties that do make the leap, we work closely with the brand and design teams to make sure we deliver consistency across entertainment and product lines. Having the incremental buzz and increased visibility around the properties with on-screen entertainment leads to expanded interest, which can certainly drive merchandise sales.”

A brand that stands out in both Hasbro’s product portfolio, and Hasbro Studios’ usual offering, is Ouija. Yes, Hasbro owns the rights to ouija boards, and last year’s horror film was a major shift in gear for the studio.


“Producing a thriller like Ouija provided us with the opportunity to broaden the brand’s image and appeal, and ultimately reach an older demographic,” adds Davis.

“It lends itself to telling a different kind of story from our other brands, and let us deliver on the current trend of more suspenseful themes and scary stories that tweens and teens really gravitate to.”

So following a string of box office hits, why are Hasbro toys proving such a good fit for the big screen?

“Powerful storytelling and rich characters really form the foundation for these much beloved brands,” adds Davis.

“Our ability to bring out the amazing stories, strong characters, and iconic moments that are inherent in the DNA of our brands and translate that to the big screen allows us to create deep connections that resonate with a wide audience of kids and families.”