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Sony goes back to the nostalgia well for Tonka trucks movie

Just when you think Hollywood has learned the folly of basing films on children’s toys, some wily Tinsel Town exec looks up from the 1987 Sears holiday catalog and screams, “Eureka!” before immediately dashing off a 30-word script treatment and leaving for lunch. We imagine that this is exactly the scenario that preceded this morning’s announcement of an upcoming film based on Hasbro’s iconic Tonka line of toy trucks, because unless those things have been wildly altered since we were kids, they never included anything that could even remotely be considered “useful plot points.”

Regardless, Sony Pictures and Happy Madison Productions have signed an agreement with Hasbro to create an animated film based on the toy truck line. You may know Happy Madison Productions as Adam Sandler’s film studio, or as the firm responsible for the upcoming Candy Land movie adaptation. Neither of those points really offer any reassurance that this still unnamed Tonka trucks movie will be a bastion of cinematic quality.

So why create a film based on the property? Sony Pictures Digital Productions president Bob Osher offered this explanation in this morning’s press release:

In its 65 years, TONKA has become more than a toy or a brand – TONKA trucks are a rite of passage for kids all around the world. Time spent with these toys creates memories that last a lifetime as kids are inspired to play using the boundaries of their imagination. We look forward to creating a family friendly motion picture that brings the TONKA experience to life.

Hmm … if the goal here is to create an animated film aimed primarily at children, then it could actually work. We doubt it will be anything objectively good, but it could serve as viable kids entertainment. Alright, we’ll get behind that idea, but that still leaves the question of how you create a script based on a collection of largely anonymous faux trucks. According to Sony Pictures Animation president of production Michelle Raimo-Kouyate the producers have created “a truly inventive take on what it means to be ‘TONKA tough’ that will translate the multi-generational appeal of this world-renowned brand into a fun animated adventure for the whole family,” which, while a pleasant enough thing to say, doesn’t actually mean anything.

Fortunately for the people behind this flick, it looks like they have tons of time to get this thing right. No release window was offered in this morning’s announcement, nor any word on when this movie might enter production. Not that this wealth of time will turn the film into an Oscar contender — it is still a movie based on a toy from the people responsible for Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star — but it does offer a glimmer of hope that somebody involved in this thing will suddenly realize what a terrible idea it is, cancel the production and re-direct the millions of dollars that would have gone into it toward starving orphans. One can only hope.

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