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'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' writer joins 'Ouija,' as Hollywood continues to roll the dice on board games

June 15, 2011 |  7:53 pm

Ouija

EXCLUSIVE: "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" looks to continue that franchise's winning streak when it comes out in a few weeks. It's an open question whether movies based on other toys or board games will do as well. There's been plenty of skepticism on another Hasbro-derived film, Pete Berg's 2012 release "Battleship," but a third Hasbro title is pushing ahead just the same.

"Ouija," the supernatural board game that's being turned into an action-adventure by McG ("Terminator Salvation") and Michael Bay's production company, is getting a boost from Simon Kinberg.

The A-list Hollywood writer -- he's written scripts for "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Sherlock Holmes," among others -- is coming on to do a polish of the script for the Universal film, according to two sources with knowledge of the project who asked not to be identified. (A previous version was written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, veterans of "Lost" who also wrote "Tron: Legacy.") Universal confirmed the hire.

The move does offer an interesting window into the direction of the film. Although some were quick to assume the movie would have a supernatural bent, Kinberg's specialty is big, upscale -- and sometimes comedic -- action pieces.

Kinberg and McG have a history together: They collaborated on the director's upcoming romantic comedy "This Means War." More to the point, when you hire a writer like Kinberg it means you're serious about developing the movie, not letting things stagnate. With "Risk" bringing on a writer last week, the board-game renaissance keeps pushing its pawns forward.

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: The Ouija board game. Credit: Hasbro


 
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I think movies about toys and games are a good thing. I think play and the creators of playthings are both undervalued in this Country.

My colleague, Tim Walsh has written, “If you sell a million books, you’re on the NY Times Best Seller List. If you sell a million CD’s, you’re on the cover of Rolling Stone. If you create a toy or game that sells over 200 million copies, no one has heard of you.”

Hasbro’s Game of LIFE, Operation, Jenga, Transformers and more have accounted hundreds of millions in sales each and hundreds of millions of hours of entertainment, but who invented them?

When I asked a magazine columnist why the media didn’t write about toy and game inventors, I was told that people didn’t care about them, that they weren’t any different from plumbers (not that plumbers aren't important)! Well, I think they are very different. Toy and game inventing combines a little invention, a little art, a little design and a lot of passion. The result is the transformation of an idea, a dream or a vision into a form for everyone to enjoy, just like any other mass market piece of entertainment like movies, TV shows, songs, or books. Those artists are celebrated but the innovators in my industry are not.

It is not like this everywhere. In Europe, games are often bought based on who designed them. Klaus Teuber, the creator of the hugely popular Settles of Catan series has a following in Germany like John Grisham does for his books.

Playing can have a big effect on a child’s future. Think about the dolls, and cars and blocks, and games of your youth and the memories they conjure. The first purchase a child makes is probably a toy or game. Reuben Klamer, the inventor of the Game of Life, shared with me that his heart surgeon told him he chose his occupation because the only time he won playing Life was when he was a doctor.

Play is vital to our well being. There is research to show that play can increase one’s IQ and improve math and reading scores. Play improves our ability to reason and to understand the world. In China, Japan and Finland especially, play is emphasized in their kindergarten curricula much more so than here and their children consistently receive the highest scores on the international PISA exams. We have more electronic network friends these days but fewer close friends and family to turn to in times of trouble. There is no better time to promote face-to-face play than now.

Someday I would like to see that old Coke commercial based on the song, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” with the word sing replaced with the word play. I envision our inventors on stage singing the song with other celebrities along with clips of adults and kids of every ethnic group playing together. That song has a way of sticking in your head, so I want it in every head that we should all be playing together.

We need to teach the world how important play is in our society and how their inventors have made a difference.

Bring on more movies that promote toys and board games!

Mary Couzin
President and Founder
Chicago Toy and Game Fair, www.chitag.com
Toy and Game Inventor of the Year Awards, www.tagieawards.com


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