In 2019, Chucky will be the star of both a Child’s Play movie reboot and a network television series, but, unfortunately, the character is being torn in different directions by two different studios. A complicated production and distribution history leaves a lot of confusion over who truly owns the rights to Chucky and what kind of authority it gives them over the character.
In 1988, MGM released the original Child’s Play, an American supernatural horror film that introduced the now-iconic Chucky. The film is based on a story by Don Mancini, and produced by his long-time collaborator David Kirschner. In the lead role, Brad Dourif plays voodoo serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who manages to transfer his soul into a “Good Guys” doll. As a result, “Chucky” comes to life and wreaks havoc on a Chicago boy named Andy Barclay and his mother Catherine, along with a homicide detective named Mike Norris. Made for $9 million, Child’s Play earned over $44 million at the box office, thus kicking off a franchise full of home media and merchandising potential. Chucky may be a killer doll, but he’s entertaining.
Over the years, Mancini has written six Chucky sequels, with Kirschner producing each one. The franchise has been taken in different thematic directions, but it’s always been guided by the same creative team, and featuring a villain that fans have come to know and love. In 2019, Chucky has an identity crisis, though, as Mancini and Kirschner don’t own the movie rights to the original 1988 film, or the upcoming reboot. As a result, there are going to be two different Chuckys on the prowl at the same time. Here’s everything you need to know about the Child’s Play movie rights.
THERE’S A CHUCKY MOVIE AND AN (UNRELATED) CHUCKY TV SHOW IN DEVELOPMENT
If you’ve been hearing about a Child’s Play TV show, the important thing to know is this: Child’s Play: The TV Series is being developed by Mancini and Kirschner, the original creative team. So, an authentic version of Chucky will indeed appear on network television, complete with all the personality traits that fans are familiar with. The series will be produced by Universal.
The Child’s Play: The TV Series will also be executive produced by Nick Ancosta. For those unfamiliar with his work, he’s the creator of the popular yet recently-canceled SyFy series Channel Zero, of which previously aired for four seasons. Child’s Play: The TV Series will also air on SyFy, suggesting that Mancini and Kirschner are fully committed to a high-quality Chucky production.
While Mancini is a big part of the TV show, but turned down an executive producer credit on the movie, citing frustration with MGM’s decision to make it at all.
“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 percent 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.”
CHUCKY’S MOVIE AND TV HISTORY AT MGM AND UNIVERSAL
Since 1988, various studios have distributed the seven Chucky films. For the original movie, MGM had distribution rights. Throughout the ‘90s, Universal Pictures distributed Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3, and Bride of Chucky. As previously mentioned, Universal will distribute Child’s Play: The TV Series.
For the fifth franchise film, Seed of Chucky, Rogue and Relativity Media replaced Universal as the film’s distributors. But Mancini and Kirschner returned to Universal this past decade for the sixth film, The Curse of Chucky, and the seventh film, Cult of Chucky. While the franchise hit some rough spots over the years, in terms of critical reception and fan feedback, the latest Mancini/Kirschner movie has an 81% Rotten Tomatoes rating, suggesting that it’s much more than just a throwaway franchise flick.
Cult of Chucky premiered at the London FrightFest Film Festival on August 24, 2017 and was released on Home Entertainment the following October. In February 2018, Child’s Play: The TV Series was announced.
MGM OWNS THE ORIGINAL CHILD’S PLAY MOVIE RIGHTS
Five months after Mancini unveiled the news about a Chucky TV series, fans received some troubling news. MGM would be rebooting the original Child’s Play film, and without the main creative team, Mancini and Kirschner. Of course, Universal obviously wouldn’t be producing, either. Plus, Chucky himself – Dourif – wouldn’t be involved. How could this happen? Because MGM owns the original Child’s Play movie rights, so they’re allowed to make their own version, and with their own team.
What this means for potential sequels isn’t clear. MGM doesn’t own the rights to the existing sequels, but it’s possible they’ll be able to make sequels to this new reboot, should it prove to be a hit. If that’s the case, it could mean a complicated situation where two separate Chucky continuities are playing out simultaneously on the big and small screen.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM MGM’S CHILD’S PLAY REBOOT
MGM’s Orion Pictures released the first teaser trailer for their Child’s Play reboot; a 75-second clip that doesn’t reveal much about the central villain. Instead, the trailer suggests that technology will be a crucial part of the storyline, allowing Chucky to find more innovative ways to terrorize the Barclays. It’s worth noting that Chucky, or “Buddi” as he’s now being called, will have a reimagined look in the MGM reboot, evidenced by the first-look image released last December.
MGM also released a poster, which has a retro visual aesthetic. On one level, that may indeed appeal to fans of Mancini’s original creation, but it doesn’t vibe with the new techno Buddi branding. Incidentally, it’s not hard to see why some people are scratching their heads. The visual effects studios MastersFX is reportedly behind the new-look Chucky, with the official release statement offering a rather vague description of what fans can expect:
“MastersFX has brought the new Chucky doll to life on screen like never before in a mixture of practical on-set puppet work and digital FX enhancements. Todd Masters, founder of MastersFX, and his team took six weeks to prepare and assemble seven practical animatronic puppets, each with interchangeable arms and heads that perform a variety of required actions on set. The FX team, led by ace puppeteer Keith Arbuthnot, along with Mike Fields, Jason Ward and Josh Raymond each controlled a different part of the doll.”
Long-time Chucky fans will be seeking quality over quantity in terms of the Child’s Play franchise moving forward, which makes Mancini’s new SyFy series so intriguing. If MGM’s reboot flops at the box office, then maybe the 2019 Chucky identity saga will come to a close. For now, techno Chucky/Buddi is indeed a real thing.