Is the Polly Pocket movie still happening? Lena Dunham’s exit explained

Trudie Graham
Lena Dunham next to Polly Pocket.

Lena Dunham has pulled out of directing the Polly Pocket movie, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Barbie chaser is a no go.

One of Mattel’s prized ponies being turned into a new movie following Barbie’s success, Polly Pocket will inevitably struggle to live up to the bar set by Greta Gerwig.

The film’s development kicked off with strong hiring to give it the best chance. Lily Collins was brought in as the leading actor and producer, and Lena Dunham was tapped to write the script and direct.

However, the landscape around stories concerning childhood toys and their pop culture legacy has shifted drastically. Announcements have slowed since the summer of 2023, and Dunham exited the project in July 2024 after investing three years into it.

The film is still happening

Despite losing its director, Warner Bros. and Mattel have not canceled the Polly Pocket movie.

Lily Collins's Polly Pocket Instagram post.
“I am partnering with the most inspiring powerhouse team – Robbie Brenner, @lenadunham, @mattel and @mgmstudios – to reintroduce Polly to the world in a fun, modern way” – Lily Collins on Instagram

The project was conceived before Dunham was onboarded, so it wasn’t her original idea. That means the studio will shop around for a new filmmaker to helm it.

It’s not shocking to see some creative stitches tear behind the scenes during pre-production. After all, what audiences expect from a movie about dolls is remarkably different in a post-Barbie world.

Before Robbie delivered her best work – pop culture iconography and platinum blonde locks personified – the idea of a Mattel movie about nostalgic plastic seemed a sure misfire. Now, a Polly Pocket movie carries the weighty expectation of subversion or a meta script that transcends the hollow-sounding conceit.

Perhaps executives are discussing what approach will yield the greatest box office returns: a self-aware interrogation of the Polly Pocket brand, or a summer flick aimed at children that doesn’t attempt the same feats Barbie did?

Why Dunham left

Lena Dunham exited because “the next movie I make needs to feel like a movie I absolutely have to make. No one but me could make it. And I did think other people could make Polly Pocket.”

“I wrote a script, and I was working on it for three years. But I remember someone once said to me about Nancy Meyers… that somehow her taste manages to intersect perfectly with what the world wants,” she told the New Yorker.

“I don’t think I have that in me,” the Girls creator admitted. Her comments suggest the studio might have tried to fit her vision into a Gerwig-shaped box.

Studios undoubtedly want ‘the next Barbie’, just as they wanted the next MCU. We’re in an era of tentpoles cycling through directors before finally being shot because their outline was defined by changing Hollywood minds in advance.

Perhaps that wrinkle didn’t align with Dunham’s creative process, forged by working on more fluid projects (Girls, Catherine Called Birdy, Sharp Stick).

Additionally, Barbie’s achievements cast a large shadow, leading to uncomfortable pressure if the Polly Pocket buck stops with you.

Who could take over

A replacement director hasn’t been announced, but it’s almost certainly going to be a woman.

The trendy thing is to nail down a comparatively cheap indie director (Disney did this for Blade, The Eternals, and The Marvels) instead of someone with a blockbuster filmography.

Presumably, Warner Bros. will also search for a screenwriter to refine what Dunham delivered or write a new script entirely.

We’ll have to wait to see if this film, or Barbie 2, goes ahead.

Elsewhere, check out our team’s lists of the best movies of all time, new movies streaming. Or, find out how to watch Barbie.

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