Other than superheroes, two of the hottest trends going in Hollywood right now are horror and nostalgia. Thus classic horror characters are getting rebooted in a big way to capitalize on that trend, and Chucky is next. But unlike this year’s Halloween, which involved John Carpenter, Chucky creator Don Mancini will not be involved in the Child’s Play remake, in fact, he was offended by it, as he explained:
MGM retained the rights to the first movie, so they’re rebooting that. They asked [producer] David Kirschner and I if we wanted to be executive producers. We said no thank you, because we have our ongoing thriving business with Chucky. Obviously my feelings were hurt. Ya know, I had just done two movies… forgive me if I sound defensive, [they] were both at 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even though they didn’t get theatrical releases, they were well regarded. And I did create the character and nurture the franchise for three fucking decades.
As you can tell, this is a tricky situation thanks to the somewhat complicated rights of Child’s Play and the Chucky character. Child’s Play creator and franchise writer Don Mancini still has a business with the Chucky character, but MGM owns the rights to the first film, and that’s what it is remaking.
This offended Don Mancini and hurt his feelings because it’s not like Chucky and Child’s Play have been gone since the 1988 original. While MGM is remaking the first film, Don Mancini has been continuing the franchise with Chucky movies and recently too.
The movies Don Mancini referred to in his conversation with Mick Garris on the Post Mortem podcast are 2013’s Curse of Chucky and 2017’s Cult of Chucky. Both of those films, while not theatrical releases, do indeed have 83% fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, albeit from a small number of reviews.
As you might expect, Don Mancini has a very personal connection to the character he created so he naturally feels a sense of ownership over him and has a vested interest, personal and financial, in what is done with him.
Don Mancini and series producer David Kirschner were asked to executive produce the new film, but they weren’t interested, with Don Mancini seeing the offer as something of a hollow gesture. He elaborated:
So when someone says, ‘Oh yeah, we would love to have your name on the film’… it was hard not to feel like I was being patronized. They just wanted our approval. Which I strenuously denied them. I hesitate to say too much about it because I don’t want to sound like I’m belly-aching too much. But the producers of that movie are the producers of IT. How would they feel if there was some legal loophole that allowed David Kirschner and I to swoop in and make our own IT movie with our own version of Pennywise and say, ‘Hey guys, we would love to put your names on it.’ I imagine they wouldn’t like it. That’s how I feel. The people who are making that movie, they don’t know how that’s going to affect my livelihood. It’s not just a paycheck. It’s very personal.
Putting it like that and offering that hypothetical situation as an analog, you can definitely see why Don Mancini was offended. He took the offer to be an executive producer on the new Child’s Play as a case of MGM not asking for his blessing or wanting his creative input, but just wanting his endorsement.
MGM was going to make the movie regardless, and is, but the way he saw it, MGM wanted his name and that of David Kirschner as a way to legitimize this upcoming remake by slapping on the names of the original creators. Don Mancini and David Kirschner denied MGM this.
More than just being offended, Don Mancini takes this personal because he created the character of Chucky and he sees the Child’s Play reboot as something that could potentially undercut his business. With competing Chuckys out there, one may cannibalize the other and as a theatrical movie with major stars, the MGM one will certainly get a leg up in the awareness department.
Unfortunately, while you never want to see a situation like this, that is the nature of the business and sometimes creative ownership and legal ownership are not one in the same. Nevertheless, for fans of the characters, there will be multiple options to get your killer doll fix. While MGM is working on a remake of the first film, Don Mancini is bringing Chucky to the small screen in a new TV series.
MGM’s Child’s Play remake stars Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry, and is directed by Lars Klevberg. Child’s Play slashes its way on to theater screens on June 21, 2019. For all of next year’s reboots, remakes, sequels and maybe even an original film or two, check out our 2019 release schedule.