How Steven Spielberg Helped Save The Child's Play Franchise

Child's Play

There are a few names that must be included in any discussion of horror icons: Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and with the most terror per pound, Chucky. The killer doll has spawned seven movies in the Child's Play franchise and will soon be returning to prominence in a major way. Not only are creators Don Mancini and David Kirschner are developing a TV series, but a separate feature film reboot is also in the works. However the Child's Play franchise almost didn't make it past MGM and United Artists' successful first film, though ultimately director Steven Spielberg had a hand in helping the sequel see the light of day. As David Kirschner recalled:

They immediately ordered a second film because it had done so well and was received so well. We were in pre-production and getting everything ready, and I'm on a plane to Cincinnati when Richard Burger (head of production for MGM and United Artists) called. 'There's a guy by the name of Christopher Skase at Quintex, they're buying the company and don't want to make horror movies,' he said. I was enraged.

You can certainly see why David Kirschner would be enraged at this, like he told Bloody Disgusting. In the middle of gearing up for a sequel, he had to hear that a corporate change and someone's antipathy toward horror movies was going to stick a knife in the heart of the franchise. This must have been especially frustrating given the performance of the first film. The first Child's Play in 1988 made $33 million domestically, which would be $74 million in today's dollars, which is pretty good for an R-rated horror movie. They had to feel like the rug was pulled out from under them by this decision.

Despite that, even though the money wasn't speaking loud enough to get the sequel done at the previous studio, other studios were interested in those Chucky bucks. David Kirschner's legal team reassured him that everyone was bidding on the sequel, so Child's Play was far from done. He received many phone calls, and one was none other than the man himself, Steven Spielberg who offered some advice. David Kirschner recalled the conversation:

Steven said, 'Look, you made your first film with Universal, just give them your wish list of what you want and I would have done my job in giving them the first crack at it. I owe my career to him and that's still the case today -- I went back to them and said, 'Because of Steven, we're bringing it to you first,' and they met almost all of the demands. That's how we got into the relationship with Universal when five other studios were bidding on it.

Steven Spielberg and David Kirschner had executive produced An American Tail together at Universal, which was a success for the studio. So Steven Spielberg helped guide David Kirschner in the right direction to put Child's Play in the best position to be a success going forward. Probably in part because of the existing relationship and Steven Spielberg's influence, Kirschner was able to get most of what he and Don Mancini wanted for the sequel from Universal. You can tell how grateful he is too, saying that he owes his career to the esteemed director.

Chucky has gone on to become a horror icon in the years since and poetically, this year, Steven Spielberg actually used the character himself for the edgiest joke in his Ready Player One. This isn't the first time Steven Spielberg's influence has justifiably carried a lot of weight. For Ant-Man and the Wasp, he actually wrote to director Peyton Reed to recommend Hannah John-Kamen for the role of Ghost in the film. So Steven Spielberg is clearly a very good friend to have.

In our current horror renaissance with legacy properties like Halloween coming back in a big way, there has never been a better time for Chucky to make a bloody splash. We'll keep you updated on all the upcoming Child's Play projects, and for all the latest in movie news, stay tuned to CinemaBlend.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.